Friday, April 19, 2013

2013 Boston Marathon

It's hard to know what to say about the Boston Marathon - something so good that ended so badly. Suddenly talking about the race itself and my running of it seems insensitive in the face of so much brutality and tragedy. I didn't know what to post on this blog because I figured, who cares about my first marathon when people were maimed and killed? However, with a little time, reflection and feedback from friends and family, I've realized that that is the wrong way to think about what happened. We can't and won't ignore the horrific events that occurred or pretend not to see the incredible grief and loss resulting from the attack. 
However, nor can we let the cowards who did this take the marathon (and everything that it stands for) away from us. The city of Boston embraces the marathon and every runner and spectator that it attracts. The marathon itself is such a wonderful event and symbolizes incredible devotion, persistence, strength, support and dominion. These things cannot be taken away from the Boston Marathon. The marathon belongs to it's runners, spectators, supporters and to the city of Boston. The finish line doesn't belong to the terrorists. I think it's important to remember more than the horror of the explosions. We need to remember the awesome weather, the incredible crowds, the excitement, the funny/encouraging signs and the running. We need to remember all the good things that happened too because those things are what the Boston Marathon is all about. 

I was very grateful to have finished the race about 30 minutes before the explosions happened (I came in at 3:37 and the explosions happened around the 4:09 mark) and was well clear of the area when they did. I'd been in the women's changing tent when the explosions happened and me and some of the ladies in the tent thought it was a freak thunderstorm. Some others thought it was celebratory fireworks. I was able to eventually get it touch with Graham and meet up with him as well as my father-in-law, my sister-in-law, her husband (and their baby), all of whom had come out to watch me run. Graham filled me in on the horrific events that had happened as we walked (and I hobbled) quickly to our car. For the first 30 minutes of our drive home, the car was essentially silent as we tried to absorb what had happened and send out texts and social media updates to our friends and family, letting them know that we were all safe and leaving Boston. I didn't know what to say about the race even though I was proud of my time. It didn't seem appropriate. We had some disjointed conversation about what we knew (which wasn't much) and listened to reports on the radio, which eventually began to repeat the same information. So, we turned off the radio and drove in silence. 

My splits
A little while later, my husband broke it by saying that he didn't mean to be insensitive to any of the events that occurred but that he wanted to hear about my race. Everyone concurred and I started to talk, admittedly a little awkward at first. I recalled how I'd felt fantastic for the first 16 miles, okay from 17-21 and infinitely worse from 22-26 :) It was really fun to talk about the race itself and to reel off all of the extremely good experiences I had throughout the event. From meeting amazing people while waiting for the buses to take us to the Athletes' Village before the race, to laughing with said amazing people as some of them had to use the trashcan on the bus en route as a makeshift bathroom, to seeing all of the charity runners lined up and excited to run for such amazing causes. 


Bathroom lines at Athletes' Village
When the race began, seeing the spirit and determination on all the runners' faces and the genuine support and joy of the thousands of spectators was a truly incredible experience. While trundling up Heartbreak Hill, I passed a woman who gave me a literal pat on the back as I went by and told me to "keep pushing, don't stop" and yelled at my back that I was "kicking this hill's ass!" When I finally, finally, FINALLY got to the final stretch of the race, the atmosphere was electric with happiness and accomplishment and gratitude. Even though I was in serious pain at that point (my final mile was at an 11 minute pace) and was intently focused on not stopping, the deafening sound of all of those spectators cheering and applauding cut through my discomfort. Although I didn't pick up my head and look around much on that final stretch, I could hear and feel the love booming out from the crowds. 

Sorry MarathonFoto, I'm illegally posting this proof
When I stumbled across the finish line, the race volunteers gently ushered me through the assembly line of goodies, making sure each runner was covered in a blanket, eating and drinking and decorated with a finisher's medal. The wind was whipping through the buildings and in my fatigue-induced incoordination, I couldn't get the blanket to stay around my shivering shoulders. A bubbly race volunteer swooped in and wrapped it around me while another taped it closed so that I wouldn't have to hold it in place. Both were smiling and laughing and congratulating me and the first said that she loved being at the finish line of the race because she got to "mother all of the runners that have just worked so hard and performed so beautifully." She gave my arm a squeeze and gave an encouraging nudge in the right direction. Every runner and race volunteer I interacted with on race day was happy and supportive and the spectators screaming at the top of their lungs for hours on end were the reason why so many runners were able to keep going. The race belongs to all of them.

A lot of people recognized and have voiced this sentiment much better than me; an article on Bloomberg.com sums it up well: "Bombings Heighten Runners’ Commitment to 2014 Boston Marathon". Click here to read the article. I also really liked the intro segment on The Colbert Report on 4/16/13 saying that "what the Boston Marathon terrorists really don't get is that they attacked an unshakable group of people who run 26 miles until their nipples are raw on their day off." Damn right. Click here or on the picture to the above to watch it. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Boston, running capital of the world?

Being here in Boston for a few days before the big race has been a blast and getting to soak in all the pre-race excitement has been inspiring. We went to the expo on Saturday and the environment was electric. There were hoards of people all milling around the massive convention center creating a happy, anticipatory buzz. Runners and their support crews filled the different stores and exhibits and it seemed like everywhere you looked people were smiling and enjoying themselves. 
Graham and I visualizing my start...

Then my father-in-law and I watched my husband, sister-in-law and her husband rock the 5k run this (Sunday) morning. The whole race was incredibly cool to watch. The wheelchair racers kicked things off, leaving the Start line only 2 minutes before the elite racers. Then the elites stormed off and the leaders knocked out a 4:24 first mile and finished up their second mile at 9 minutes even. They came in with a total time of 13 and a half minutes for the 5k (or 3.1 miles)...impressive. Watching them basically sprint/run hard for three consecutive miles was pretty awesome, but I kept thinking about the elite marathoners who run 26.2 MILES with just over a 5 min/mile pace. Yeah, that's a tiiiiiiiny bit faster than what I'll turn in tomorrow :) The winner of the 2012 Boston Marathon, Wesley Korir, finished the marathon in 2:12:40, which is an average pace of 5:04 min/mile. That is flat out amazing.

All in all, I have been massively impressed with the way that all of Boston gets hyped about the marathon weekend. There are signs everywhere welcoming runners and offering words of encouragement. Adidas, New Balance and Nike paraphernalia decorate the city and the streets are flooded with people clad in the yellow and blue 2013 Boston marathon official jacket. Porta Potties line the course and each mile is permanently painted into the double yellow lines on the roads of the course. I always wondered how and why my sister-in-law and her husband got so into running while residing in a city that endured such intense (aka crappy) weather. Running seems like one of the last sports that would thrive in Boston, but it has...and now that I've been here and witnessed the incredible enthusiasm and support that the city throws behind the marathon and sport in general, I totally get it. Is Boston perhaps the unlikely running capital of the world? I think you could make a case for it. 

Anyways, tomorrow's big race will be a lot of fun. I'm honestly not sure how well my still-ailing granny hip is going to hold up for the full distance (bursitis and IT band issues), but even if that goes to h*ll and I have to walk, who cares? The experience of being here and being a part of it all has exceeded any of my expectations and simply completing the marathon will be an awesome feeling. Now, would I love it if I turned in a solid time? YES. Will I be disappointed if I don't? Sure. Do I wish I was coming in totally healthy? Absolutely. But like Graham said, that's sports for you and you just do what you can when you can. So that's my plan tomorrow...and I'll let you know how it goes!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

So Much Love

Excuse the admittedly sappy title for this blog post, but I can't help it! There IS so much love! I have been supported everyday by Graham and consistently buoyed up by the CrossFit, running (both virtual and what, real?) and blogger communities. I have overwhelmed by the support and well wishes of people who read my ramblings and still have the energy to supply advice, encouragement and inspiration.

I had reached out to a fellow blogger named Crystal, aka Carpe Diem Crystal, to ask her for any tips she might have about dealing with the hip/IT band issues I was having. I thought I had remembered reading something along those lines in her blog. I was expecting a short reply (if I got one - come on, people are busy and I was a stranger) with some link to a YouTube video. Instead a I received an incredibly heartfelt (and helpful), lengthy response where Crystal detailed her experience and retold similar experiences of people she knew. She offered some tips, asked me more questions and managed to convey, through one Facebook message chain, so much genuine support for me and what I was attempting to do even though she didn't know me from Adam...well, okay from Eve. She has since sent me a couple check-in messages, hoping the hip is feeling well and that taper time is wonderful. Remember, we've never met! I barely remember to stay in touch with my best friend (I'm a lazy communicator) and Crystal remembers to check up on my taper time! That's awesome!! Check out her blog, as it's fantastic (www.carpediemcrystal.com and www.facebook.com/CarpeDiemCrystal)

Babies playing soccer our freshman year of college (2003)
And if we're going to go ahead and talk about my best friend, CD, it's definitely worth mentioning that SHE IS THE BEST! We trained and did the San Francisco Half Marathon together a couple years ago and both agreed that there was no way in Hades that either of us would ever even consider running a full marathon. Ha! We were both soccer players since forever and in college tended to view running as conditioning as opposed to a sport in it's own right. Safe to say in the near six years since graduation, we've taken a different view of running, but still, marathons were out...

Best Maid of Honor ever!! (2012)
...until Boston wasn't :) When I decided to give this whole marathon thing a try, CD was so supportive and has showered me with compliments and encouragement throughout my training process. Then today, I get home and am flipping through the mostly junk snail mail when I grasp a thicker than usual envelope. Inside is a card from CD that referenced a statement I'd made in one of my blog posts about not looking forward to beer at the end of the marathon, but Lululemon. Enclosed with the card was a gift card for Lulu. She said that she was so excited for me and the achievement of running my first marathon that she wanted to show her support for my "awesome-ness" with a contribution to my post marathon Lulu shopping spree. She went on to offer encouragement and the reassurance that if I didn't crap my pants during the race, that was a victory in her books. How freaking awesome is that?? 

Yeah, admit it...you want her to be your best friend too!!


To all the awesome people that have offered me so much support along the way, THANK YOU! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

22 miles done...and exhale :)

The 22 miler has been completed! It started off slow, but I eventually found my groove. It was hot and I drank way more water than I had expected...like every other long run. Yeah, I never claimed to be the most observant person in the world. Stubborn? Yes. Single-minded? Yeah, that too. Determined? You bet your a$$ I am.
The beginning of Heartbreak Hill

And I was determined to get through the 22 miler with gusto. I don't know that I necessarily would have given it that descriptor post-run, but I got through it and that my friends, it what matters. The run was made infinitely better when Graham joined me for the final 3 miles home. I always make myself run up this one uphill canyon near my house as my final 1.5-2 miles of every long run - not because I'm a masochist, but because like anyone who has heard anything about the Boston Marathon, I'm terrified of Heartbreak Hill.

Heartbreak Hill is the last of the four Newton hills which begin at around the 16-mile mark. Heartbreak Hill only rises 88 vertical feet to just outside Boston College, but it comes at a point in the race (between miles 20 and 21) where any incline at all will likely seem an impossibility. From what I've heard and read, the hills leading up to the final one aren't exactly pieces of cake either. So with that in mind, I run up the terrible canyon every run, hoping to prepare myself for greatness (or at least completion) when it comes to Heartbreak. We shall see :)

Thinking about the race is still nerve wracking and exciting at the same time. I think I'm prepared, though I'm currently battling hopefully my last of the many common overuse injuries I've had the pleasure of dealing with throughout my training (runner's knee, plantar fasciitis, and now hip bursitis). It's always an inner battle to give your body rest when the mind still wants to go, but I suppose every athlete has to deal with that. So, I'll do what I can from now until April 15 and see where the chips land!

...and eat plenty of burritos along the way :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

The taper is in sight...and Graham is awesome!

It's getting close to taper time...well, relatively close anyways. This was my  last 20 miler (there were 3 total) and the only long runs left are 22, then 18, then 12...then RACE DAY. Figuring that it had been two weeks since my last 20 miler, I decided to repeat the route I'd run for my first 20 miles and see if I couldn't cut off a little time. I felt a hell of a lot better this time around, due largely in part to figuring out some fuel sources that didn't make me cramp up etc. and ended cutting off about a minute and a half. So, though I was hoping that I would have dropped tiny bit more time, I was happy with it. Here's the run-down:

THE GOOD

  • Took a minute and a half off of my previous time for this route
  • Didn't sh*t my pants or yell at anyone
  • Rachael Way is a genius and salted, peanut butter-filled pretzel bites are an awesome mid-run snack (I had bought the un-salted ones the first time I tried them and that was a huge mistake...it's all about the salt)
THE BAD

  • Almost got eaten by an angry dog tied up to a trailer parked by the end of the Boardwalk
  • Was straight up hungry two miles into it...wtf, digestion system?
  • Tasked with preparing my own ice bath or waiting until Graham came back (he had parked his car by the ocean so he could meet me for the last three miles...then he had to run back down to the car solo), I decided to be a super self-sufficient runner and go get my own ice etc. I went to 7-11 instead of Safeway and finding that they only sold 7 pound bags of ice, opted to buy two and call it good...that was instead of the two 20 pound bags that Graham usually gets. I knew what I was doing, I wasn't confused...I just didn't want to try and carry any more than those two, tiny bags. So I made my bath with 14 pounds of ice instead of the usual 40! And uh, yeah, let's just say that by the end of the 10 minutes I spent soaking in the tub, the paltry 14 pounds was long gone. That will probably be the last time I'm allowed to buy the ice unsupervised.

THE AWESOME

  • My kick ass husband ran the last three miles with me, encouraging and pushing me to maintain my pace as we made our way up the final mile and a half uphill canyon trail. Particularly mile 19 of this run smashed my previous split and happily contributed to the slightly faster finish. 
  • Drank hot chocolate during the cold bath (realistically can't call it an ice bath) and read the Sunday comics...not too shabby.
  • Ate my customary post-run shrimp burrito and chips, then went and saw Warm Bodies with G, then got delicious Verve coffee flavored ice cream from the Penny Ice Creamery kiosk downtown, then went home and had cereal for dinner like a little kid. It was frickin' awesome.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fartleks...terrible name, amazing results!

You know when you go on a run and it just feels kind of blah? Kind of like you're slogging through knee deep mud... Well, that was my Sunday 13 miler, my Tuesday 11 miler and my Wednesday 6 miler. Not only was each less than inspiring, but I had the same average pace for all of them...seriously. The pace was okay for the 13, not great for the 11 miler and pretty poor for the 6. I finished the 6 miler thinking that my quads had turned to iron and that I would probably never run again if I could help it.

But then Thursday came and with it, the waffling commenced. Would I do the 8 mile fartlek that I was supposed to or push it off for a day and wallow in my three woeful outings? I decided to push it off and wallow. But then my sagacious husband reminded me that oh yeah, I was running 5 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday and that having a rest day in between the fartlek and the weekend fun was a pretty good idea. He urged me to just get out there, have fun and knock it out. Somewhat bolstered by his rationality and certainty that I would not die if I had to run one more step, I slumped out the door.

Fartlek Definition: A fartlek is similar to interval training in that you alternate short bursts with your regular running or slower jogging recovery intervals. There's no predetermined schedule to follow and you set your own interval speeds and lengths in response to how you're feeling throughout the run. It dramatically helps me concentrate on feeling my pace and my physical response to it...thereby better developing my own self awareness and pace judgement skills.

I'd struck a bargain with myself that if I did the fartlek on Thursday as opposed to delaying until Friday, I'd allow myself to do it on a flat route. Resigned to "knocking it out", I decided to run along the end of West Cliff Drive and into Lower Wilder Ranch. It's a gorgeous (see below) run and mercifully flat. The relatively smooth course, combined with the variety of a fartlek run successfully broke my streak of crappy runs. I finally had some fun running again! I love fartleks for that because their structure puts the onus on you and so you're constantly tuned in with your body, seeing if you're ready to go hard again. The run was some of the most connected I've felt to my own running in a long time.

Thank god for Fartleks...and for Graham who is my constant sissy barometer.

West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
Lower Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz, CA

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's Hammer Time!

Though I didn't hit the time I'd been shooting for by a long shot, the 13 miles this Sunday felt decent. For some reason, I insist on picking routes with significant elevation gain/loss, which is a good thing...I think. The main issue though, is that I expect times that, for me, probably require a flat course. Oh well. If we're being frank, I'm sure I won't change my ways or adjust my expectations. Fortunately there were some good parts about the run as well :)

1. Hammer Gel
I'd heard so many positive reviews from runners with sensitive systems, but had kind of shrugged it off as just another gel that would give me cramps. While at my favorite running store, Running Revolution in Capitola, I queried the seriously badass employees (one was a marathoner many times over and the other had recently completed his first Ironman) about Hammer products. They both gushed and I had liked the Hammer Endurolyte tablets (electrolyte mid-run replenishment), so I somewhat grudgingly bought an Espresso Hammer gel. It was AWESOME! Seriously awesome in fact! Not only did it taste good (imagine that!), but it wasn't nearly as thick or slimy feeling as the Roctane GU I'd barely been able to choke down on a run weeks ago. And the best part of all being that it didn't trigger cramps, aches or sh*ts. All good in my book. 

Thus far, Hammer gels join a diced up PB sandwich on my short list of fuels that work for me. A friend also recommended those little pretzels filled with peanut butter as an alternative to the sandwich. She said that the added salt and crunch were great on the run; makes sense to me and since those things are delish, I'll be trying those soon too.

2. KT Tape
I got a freebie sample from Running Revolution of KT tape, which is similar to Rocktape. I'd been having some pain in the arch of my right foot since it developed around mile 18 of my first 20 mile run...greeeeeeeat. They showed me how to wrap my foot with the KT tape to support my arch and it was awesome. I didn't have any discomfort on the 13 miler and the tape didn't move an inch. 

I'd discussed my arch issue with a Running Rev employee who also happens to go to the same CF gym I do and he gave me an awesome tip. I'd been attacking my arch with a lacrosse ball at night to try and massage the pain away and not really icing it. He said that an overuse injury like that needs a lot of icing and a little compression, but not a lot. So he recommended that I fill a plastic water bottle with water and a little rubbing alcohol and stick it in the freezer. The alcohol keeps the water from freezing solid, making it an awesome icing tool. I would roll it underneath my foot with enough pressure to depress the malleable ice in the bottle while I moved; this provided enough compression on my arch while still icing the crap out of it. Highly recommend it!

The run down:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Graham's Recipe for the Perfect Ice Bath

As promised, this is G's recipe for the perfect ice bath. Don't get me wrong, ice baths are horribly, terrifyingly awful while you're in them...and yeah, I'll admit that during my first one, I cried...but just a little. I'd thought that my toes were going to explode in a frostbitten fury, though fortunately for everyone, they did not.

WOO HOO ice baths!!!

But before I give ice baths too great of a sell (ha), here's the recipe:


  1. Buy A LOT of ice. We go with two 20 lb bags and that's proved to be plenty.

  2. Fill the tub with cool water. We've found that it doesn't have to be freezing cold yet and if you make it cool water as opposed to straight up cold water, it's infinitely easier for the victim, ahem (cough, cough), I mean athlete to get into the tub and keep the process moving along. I try to chug water (or whatever recovery liquid is your fav) and eat something...perhaps a banana, isn't that right @SkyHighTrails? :)

  3. Get into the tub and get ready! This actually isn't bad because you're still nice and sweaty from the run. As a quick side note, I've read that not everyone does the ice bath immediately after a run, but I do for a couple reasons. Mainly I just want to get the ordeal over with, but also I find myself thinking about the ice bath for the last couple miles of the run...and more astonishing still, actually looking forward to it. Crazy. Also, at the end of a run drenched in sweat, I want to get the ice bath over with so I can get in the shower and go to town with the body wash.

  4. Add the ice! Yeah, not going to lie, this is the sh*tty part. I've found that if you adequately fill the tub - so that the water level is significantly above the top of your thighs when you relax them - it greatly lessens the discomfort of actually adding all the ice. The first ice bath we did didn't have quite enough water in it, so the ice was basically just heaped on top of my legs, which felt as terrible as it sounds. So make sure the water level is nice and high and don't worry, it will still get cold enough! :)

    Also, I've found that keeping my socks on for the bath helps tremendously; I kept them on this last Sunday and voilà, no toes threatening to explode with cold AND no crying. I also read that some people like to sip on hot drinks while in the tub, but I haven't tried it yet; it stands to reason and sounds lovely!

  5. Try to relax :) I know, I know, sounds impossible, which is exactly what I fussed to Graham. But if you can convince yourself to relax into it, even a little, it's way less painful.

  6. Sit tight for 10 minutes. I force Graham to stay in the bathroom and entertain me (aka, please god, just distract me!) for those long ten minutes. The last ice bath included G hand feeding me tortilla chips out of the deliciously greasy paper bag from my favorite taqueria - a good preview of the burrito to come - a pretty well established post long run routine now.

  7. CAREFULLY get out of the tub. I almost did a face plant getting out of the tub the first time. You're pretty much numb from your waist down, so take it nice and slow.

  8. Shower and stretch/roll. I do a little stretching in the shower, then get out and get to pounding that burrito I might have mentioned earlier. Once I'm fed, I stretch a little more and try to do a thorough job of the foam roller on my legs. For an interesting and informative article on foam rolling (instructions how to as well as the reasons why), check this out.
All in all, I have to say that ice baths rock. I've read a few articles that advise that ice baths shouldn't become a routine after every long run as sometimes you should allow your body to restore itself - essentially forcing your body to recover from your training and ensuring the continued efficacy of that training. That makes sense, but as I prepare for Boston, I'm absolutely allowing myself to take an ice bath on any run 20 miles or longer because it feels good...okay, fine and because I like all the attention and praise from G during the process.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

20 miler round 2

Woo hoo, another 20 miler in the books! I decided to up the ante a bit this time around and made my route include about four miles of basically UP at the very beginning. It was tough and not surprisingly, did take a toll on my legs and time, but I was glad that I went that way. I also made two decisions that made my run fun...amazingly enough.

1. Book tape
For all of my training up until this weekend, I had been listening to music - A LOT of 2Pac, Snoop Dogg (excuse me, Snoop Lion), Method Man & Redman mixed with Papa Roach, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Alien Ant Farm - and that had worked well for the last few months. I kept my runs gangsta and rocked my way up the hills. However, I finally reached a point where I'd heard every song on the ipod too many times. I knew I'd hit this point when if I ever heard a song that was on my ipod while not running- on the radio, in a store, etc. - I immediately got tired as though I had been running and wanted to take a nap. So, I switched to a booktape and voilà, the time passed in warp speed.

2. Peanut Butter Sandwich Bites
So, I've been struggling (and whining) about my fruitless search for a fuel source that didn't plague me with stomach cramps or side aches and/or inspire a case of the urgent shits. I'd tried sports beans (they were the best, but still gave me a side ache), honey stinger energy chews (wowza, those combined with the pressure of a waterbelt...yikes) and Roctane GU. None really worked and I still hit the wall on long runs. However, taking a suggestion from my sister in law's husband, I made half a peanut butter sandwich, cut it up into little squares and stuffed them all into a plastic bag and that into the tiny pouch on my handheld water bottle  Fortunately peanut butter sandwiches are delicious smashed or not and best part of all, I felt GREAT after eating them on the run. I pounded all the squares and probably could have brought more! This was seriously exciting as I didn't hit the wall and I felt good eating...I'd feared I'd never find anything that worked. 

Those two changes made this run leagues better than my first 20 miler...particularly at the end. G met me along the run numerous times with his replenishment suite: chapstick, gum, lotion, snacks and water refills. As has become our tradition after the really long runs, he got me into the ice bath and rewarded me with a fat shrimp burrito after the ordeal. I hate to say it, but ice baths totally work. They help wildly with leg soreness and the "dead" feeling post long run; don't get me wrong, my legs were still extremely tired, but after the bath, they didn't ache or feel all that sore...just tired. 

I'll detail Graham's recipe for the perfect ice bath on the next post :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One and done?

I've been frequently asked and periodically query myself whether or not I would attempt another marathon after I run in Boston this April. It's funny that my most common answer is 'probably not', considering I'm running the insanely prestigious Boston Marathon. When someone says they're running the Boston Marathon, that in itself immediately conveys the impression of an intensely serious, accomplished runner who was able to nab their BQ. But of course I didn't get to Boston the way that everyone assumes - aka, I didn't have to qualify to run it. Even still, I'm hoping for a good showing and a respectable time and if by some miracle I could hit the requisite time to qualify for next year's race, that would be staggeringly spectacular.

After my 15 mile run...after this
shot I promptly flopped to the ground.
 So, now I ask myself again if I think I'll attempt another marathon and I'd give it a 'maybe'. I'm definitely intimidated of the race itself and though I ran 20 miles a week ago, the 26.2 still seems really, really daunting. So maybe my opinion will change (I have been known as a biiiiiiit of a flip flopper) after the race and I'll decide to do another. But right now, that doesn't feel likely. 

I tried to pin down exactly what is making me so nervous about the race itself and I finally got it: I'm worried about hitting the storied marathon wall. I hit a wall on my 20 miler a little over a week ago around mile 18 and damn, that thing was solid. My legs, pace and attitude did not exactly recover from the impact and I struggled through the last two miles having to stop twice and not having much fun anymore.

The idea of running more than 6 miles further than that sounds impossible and the environment of the race itself is intimidating. I chatted with some marathoner family members and they diagnosed that I probably hadn't eaten enough and hit the wall as a result. An article on Running Planet confirmed it: (see the whole answer here)

"There is no barrier that drops down in front of you at mile 20. The marathon wall is really just a generic term that describes the effects of running out of fuel in your body."


So, okay, that takes some of the terror out of it. I just have to eat and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I forget that a marathon is just running...granted, for a really long time, but it's just running. I know how to run...and if I hit a wall in Boston, then I'll just walk through it.

I've heard a lot of runners say that they do it for the beer. Well, I don't like beer, but I do like Lululemon. Graham has assured me that he will be right there on the sidelines (at one point along the race anyways), donuts in hand, supporting me and reminding me that there is going to be a shopping trip at the end of that long, long 26.2 miles. I suppose I'll just do it for the clothes then.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Respect the Bib!

Inspiration can arrive in many ways and when running long distance, I at least, damn sure need A LOT of it!

For me, inspiration and motivation has come from a myriad of sources: my husband's unfailing encouragement, the lure of a fat burrito at the conclusion of a run, the accomplishments of other incredible athletes I've read about, the vision of crossing the finish line in Boston pleased with my performance and the CrossFit community...wait, what? Yeah, I typed it - the CrossFit community.

Two of my awesome CF supporters,
Kaitie (left) & Sarah demonstrate what
their third eyes were telling them...we
think that Kaitie's might be blind :)
The onslaught of marathon training and my 5-6 days of running per week has forced me to seriously cut back on my CrossFitting; I'm happy if I can get in one or two CF sessions a week now. However, there has been no dip in the support I've received from the CF community. If anything, I feel even more supported in my athletic endeavors, even though they have taken me out of the gym and onto the pavement. I still swing by the gym a lot and often end my runs at the gym to watch Graham and my CF peeps sweat through a WOD. People always inquire about my training and offer WOD-sweat soaked hugs. Even more impressive, out of the goodness of their hearts some read this blog! I feel like the whole gym is behind me and it's a great feeling.

Kaitie and Sarah have taken up yoga with me as I endeavor to stay somewhat pliable throughout this marathon. Tan has offered, countless times, to run sprints with me on a notoriously steep hill in Santa Cruz - I just have to name the day...which I, uh, *cough, cough* haven't exactly done yet. And then there's Carol.

Carol: "Respect the bib!"
Carol is a badass. She does CrossFit (extremely well in case you were wondering) during the week and then gets in an "easy" (her words) long run on the weekends. She is modest to a fault and after substantial prodding, she revealed these "easy" long runs are at least 12-13 miles! After much digging, we finally learned that her marathon PR is 3:03!! Like I said, BADASS! She loves running and CrossFit and makes the two of them work together.

She has also become my marathon Jiminy Cricket of sorts. A few weeks ago, I was struggling for balance between running and CF was finding that I was just too sore and tired to give either their proper dues. Carol broke it down for me, affirming that a marathon is a big time commitment and this opportunity to run Boston is something you drop everything for and dive into wholeheartedly. She reminded me that I can do CrossFit whenever, but that my Boston training is only for a relatively short (in the scheme of life) time and that you don't mess with the Boston Marathon. She urged me to "Respect the bib!" and to put my marathon training first - in other words to respect the distance, the prestigious race, my conceivable finishing time and my physical well being. All solid advice from an extraordinary athlete.

Now whenever I ponder letting other activities, events, (sour) moods bump my marathon training down on the priority list, I hear Carol Cricket reminding me not to "respect the bib" and do the marathon right! 
(For any concerned readers, please notice that I do not include my husband in the above list as he is allowed to come before training...I've kept my Selfish Runner Syndrome (SRS) in check decently well lately :) 


Yesterday's training run below. I'm happy with the pace and still trying to settle on a goal pace for the marathon...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ice, Ice Baby

If I had to create a haiku to describe my 20 mile run, it would be this:

Oh the thighs they burn
No fuel and I hit the wall
Thank god I have Graham!

Granted that makes the run sound terrible and it wasn't...well, the whole thing wasn't anyways. The route was stunning with practically all ocean vistas -for Santa Cruzians, I ran down to the water then did the Wharf to Wharf course and back (with one deviation where I missed a turn) and up the canyon home. Yes, my thighs burned and I hit a distinct wall with two miles to go...okay, and I was pretty sure that someone had slipped a small dagger in my shoe that was stabbing into my arch for the final mile...and I got side aches any time I attempted to eat the gummy chews I dutifully toted along...all true...

...BUT, there were two major high points:

1. I ran 20 miles for the first time ever
2. (and much more importantly) My husband, Graham, was my onsite medic/trainer, cheerleader and mobile support crew

If anyone has been reading my blog for a while now, you might recall my blog entry "Selfish Runner Syndrome (SRS)", which detailed my not insignificant slide from proper perspective into "the world and my husband especially, must revolve around my marathon training" mindset. I won't rehash it (mainly because it's embarrassing for yours truly), but suffice it to say, my off-kilter viewpoint made me a bit of a witch and Graham didn't have much interest in getting involved with my long runs in particular. I really couldn't blame the guy.

So maybe it wasn't quite like this...
but it was close!
So with that background taken into account, his awesomeness on the day of my 20 miler was even more endearing. He met me at three different points along the run (probably around miles 9, 12 and 17) with water and Gatorade in Dixie cups, anti-cramping lotion, chapstick, gum (anyone who has worked out with me knows I MUST have gum while completing any kind of physical activity...I don't know why), sports beans (not that I was able to f-ing eat them), bananas, my backup water belt and goodies that we didn't even get to. It made the run so much more fun and particularly his final aid station location was a frickin godsend. I was beyond parched and had downed the water I was carrying with me and with at least three miles to go, I saw "my wall" looming. Then *ta da* I see my glorious husband set up with another surprise aid station...it was awesome. I slogged up to him and he immediately starts rubbing the lotion on my knees and calves while offering up encouragement, hydration and snacks. Besides maybe letting me get in the car and be driven home or running the damn thing for me, he did everything to ease my pain and up my fun.

When he informed me that I was going to be taking an ice bath when I finally fell through the front door, I decided that yep, no one was that nice after all. While I fussed, moaned and complained my way through 10 minutes in the bathtub of ice (no wonder I was b*tching!), I decided that my husband wanted me dead. I thought my toes were going to explode with cold and whenever I wrenched my legs up out of the ice, Graham would kindly, remind me "put them the hell back in the water." After the requisite 10 min had dragged to its conclusion, I hobbled down the hall and into the shower, where incidentally I thought my toes were going to explode again. When they finally adjusted to the steamy temps, I took stock and realized that my body felt, amazingly...pretty good. 

I had just gone through 2 hours and 44 minutes of being fairly uncomfortable followed by 10 minutes of really bad (damn ice bath) and now, I felt good? This was weird. The two days of happy legs since the 20 miles has without question, proven the merits of the Graham-enforced icy dip and I've had to retract my assertions that G was trying to give me frostbite...or death. :) It helped that he had a fat shrimp burrito from my favorite taqueria waiting for me after I showered. The way to any woman's heart is definitely a forearm-sized burrito.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

By The Numbers

18: Number of miles I ran today!
1: Number of packets of Gu Roctane consumed on run
5.5: Number of miles it took me to get the one damn packet of Gu Roctane down
3: Number of times I almost got lost (thank you to the two guys running who kept yelling ahead to me to 'make a left there!')
55 (and sunny): The glorious, beautiful, perfect temperature while I was running
2: Number of times that I genuinely thought I was going to have to squat behind a shrub
0: Number of times that I actually had to squat behind a shrub (thankfully)

So I ran 18 miles today - granted on trails that are pretty damn flat -  but I was really happy with my time and simply the fact that I didn't have to stop. When I got home my legs were jelly and I am currently in bed with my only plans of moving being to the kitchen to eat more. 18 miles is the longest I've ever run and a lot longer than I ever thought I would and that in itself is exciting.

Before I started the run, I checked my email and saw I had a new follower on Twitter (check out my tweets here if you're interested). His profile had a blog link in it, so I clicked through (I'm interested in anything if it means delaying a long run). The top entry was titled: "Pinhoti 100M. 4 weeks away. Oh boy..." I read on and yep, the guy is running a 100 miler! Jesus! His blog (right) is hilariously self deprecating and entertaining and my favorite line was this: "I will not wait the two or three years I should wait and train to do my 1st 100. I clearly believe like I can control the outcome of this race with simply the power of my mind, regardless of overall physical ability." I kept thinking about it while I ran and was continually grateful that the very furthest I have to go is 26.2, not 100! I saw a car drive by that had one of those distance stickers on the back window - yeah it said 140.2! Suddenly 26.2 seems manageable...in theory anyways. Both are great reminders that it's all about perspective and that people can do incredible things when they put their mind to it. Ultra runners are still batshit crazy in my book though... :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

CrossFit & Running: Oil & Water or the Perfect Marriage?

In an attempt at hardcore, after the 15 mile trail on Sunday, I dragged my somewhat recovered body to CrossFit on Monday. The WOD, like they so often are, proved more taxing than expected. It was "Dede", which is 5 rounds of 5 power cleans, 10 ball slams and a 200m run. I was already anxious about the running portion as the 400m warm up at the beginning of class had nearly done me in. Before we started, one of the trainers, Sam, pulled me aside. He told me that I needed to crush this WOD, that I could handle the weight and that he wanted to see me sprint the 200s - no jogging sh*t. This is one of the many reasons why I love CrossFit. The trainers push you and because of it, you surprise yourself with what you can handle. I made a last minute decision before the WOD to not completely go for broke and dropped down to 93 lbs for the power cleans as opposed to the prescribed 100 lbs. This was a good decision as the runs were rough and each 200 meter sprint felt like triple the distance. I finished with bright red shoulders from the power cleans and bruised legs shaky with exhaustion...it was awesome.

After CF, I was pretty worked. My legs felt heavy and for the rest of the night had that funny buzzing sensation that I always get when my muscles are truly tired. But come Tuesday, I had another run on the docket: 1 mile easy, 4 miles fast, 1 mile easy. I got it done in the morning and besides the fact that I did come perilously close to dumping my pants, it wasn't horrible. However, I could definitely feel the CF from the night before and my arms and legs were achy for the majority of the run. I came back to the house and decided I would go to a yoga class that evening to help balance everything out.


But then later in the afternoon as Graham was getting ready to CrossFit, the CF bug bit me. Not only are the workouts insanely hard and somehow equally fun, but the CF community is AWESOME. Yeah, I was interested in trying the scheduled WOD for the day, but mainly I wanted to go and see everyone at the gym. My favorite ginger trainer, Chris, was teaching and I wanted to see the 4:30 crew. So I tossed my yoga mat aside. The strength: 5x2 snatch (see this video if you think I'm referring to a woman's...nevermind) was fine and I kept it light. Then the WOD: "Freddy's Revenge" 5 rounds: 5 shoulder-to-overhead @ 125 lbs and 10 burpees was rough! I didn't even come close to the 125 lbs prescribed weight, but it was enough. I was really, REALLY tired.

But today (Wednesday), I had to run...7 miles in fact. Fortunately, it was a slow recovery run, but even going slow, I felt like hell doing it. My legs felt wasted and I felt blah. So it got me thinking about the sagacity of using CF as my cross training. Is it too intense and will it leave me too sore after every post-CF run? Will putting on any additional muscle mass be a detriment to my endurance and speed? Should I just be running and when I'm not pounding pavement, should I stick to doing yoga or gentler activities? I could see an argument there.

But on the flip side, it is so fun and challenging and I have gained so much strength since I started CrossFit. I love all the people there and going literally makes me a happier girl. Plus, all the running books and websites say that strengthening exercises like squatting and lunging are crucial in building up all the support muscles in your legs to reinforce the joints and big muscle groups that take a beating when you run.

"For" Argument!

So, although my Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday miiiight have been a little much, I think that FOR ME, CrossFit works as cross training for marathoning. I do think that I'll have to pick my CF workouts carefully and continue to make my training runs the priority. I will have to drag my inflexible butt to some yoga classes too. Anyone in Santa Cruz want to hit up DiviniTree with me??

Monday, February 4, 2013

Longest Run of my Life...literally

15 miler done! 

Was it painful? Yes. 
Was the route choice intelligent? No.
Did I get lost? Yes, but only once or twice. 
Did I yell at anybody (Graham included)? No! :)
Did I have fun (at least a little)? Yes, a couple times anyways.
Did I sh*t my pants? No!!


With a total elevation gain of 1,868 ft, this run was rough.

All in all, I'd call it a success. The first seven miles were basically UP, followed by 5 or so miles of DOWN and finally featured a mix of both in the final three miles. As you can imagine, the first half was terrible and I wondered why the hell I had signed up for something as tortuous as a marathon. The first half the downhill was fantastic and I figured I would probably win my age group at Boston - okay, I wasn't high enough to think that, but I was sure I'd definitely survive the race and maybe even finish with a little umph. Then as I got into the second half of the downhill section, I was pretty sure that my legs were splintering and started dictating the phone call I was going to have to make to my sister in law "Hey, yeah, I'm really sorry but I won't be able to take your Boston bib because my legs are two shattered lumps that no longer function." Fortunately, the trail finally evened out a bit and nothing shattered. My long run next Sunday is 18 miles (shudder) and I plan on picking out a much more even route. 
One of my wrong turns landed me in a massive
kairn garden in Pogonip...cool, but weird.

I LOVE my sister in law's garmin GPS watch though there were a couple times on the run when I was convinced that the watch was lying to me about my decreasing pace. One time I told it that it was an asshole...out loud. No, I'm not proud of it, but hey, I was just trying to survive out there. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Just Run?

I'm a casual, though decently competent runner. I know the basics: put one foot in front of the other and repeat...and repeat and repeat...you get the idea. So, alright got it. I go out and I run, putting one foot in front of the other. Is that it? Nope, definitely not.

 After a couple sunny runs...is this going to be standard now??

After I decided to accept my sister in law's bib and attempt her marathon, I started some running research. Not only is there an unbelievable amount of information about running via blogs, books, stores and websites, but there is so much stuff out there about marathons specifically. I have been slightly overwhelmed by the amount of information and trying to remember all the crap I'm supposed to be doing, eating and thinking. Eat pasta before a run and rice & beans after. Go vegetarian. Do ice baths. Follow your plan and take rest days, but also cross train 2-3 times per week. It's all a little exhausting, especially considering the fact that with all the running I'm doing, I just want to cash it out on the couch when I'm not pounding the pavement...not cross referencing running advice. 

Click here for a Top Ten Tips for First
Time Marathon Runners that is actually
feasible and helpful. I especially like 
#2 Get Real, #5 Eat Up and #6 Be Tough.

I've come to realize that your running is yours and (light bulb on!) you have control over it. I talked to a guy I met in a coffeehouse who had qualified for and run Boston a number of times and he confirmed it. His advice: do what you can during the mid-week runs, but get your focus face on for the long Sunday run. Don't make any excuses for that one - just do it. He said one of his marathons was during a particularly busy part of his life and he only got one or two short runs during the week, but that he was consistent with his Sunday long runs. Granted I'm pretty sure that running is easier for him than for the rest of us, but still, I'll take his advice. 

In addition to the epiphany that my training is my own, using my sister in law's GPS watch has made training dramatically more fun and less daunting. I wore it for the first time yesterday and loved it! I did a 7 mile fartlek and it was awesome to have my pace immediately available to me - though there were a number of times were I was SURE I was running really fast only to look down and see, well...maybe not quite as fast as I thought. I guess information can be encouraging and defeating. Regardless, for once having more information available to me, felt empowering and not overwhelming, which was a really nice change. Then the info that the watch (and garmin online) provided post-run was incredible! Check it out below:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hamm Wisdom

Monday, January 28, 2013

Selfish Runner Syndrome (SRS)


Considering a marathon requires a lot of running in preparation for the feat, it's unfortunate to realize that running makes me a real a$$. Yesterday was the big 13 miler and I technically accomplished the goals I had set out for myself. I didn't dump or puke, pass out mid-run or yell at any strangers and finished it at an 8:22 pace, which was better than what I'd expected. I did, unfortunately, yell at my husband. I bitched at my supportive, funny and kind husband. To make a long embarrassing story mercifully short, he came up to meet me for the middle section of my run and I lashed out at him...on the run and then again at the house when I got home. Why you may ask? Good question.

I had gotten irritated that Graham hadn't shortened his own run so that he would be fresh and ready to push my pace. I had gotten majorly pissy over the fact that he hadn't re-routed mid-run, cutting his own workout short, so he could meet up with me and run the remainder of the trail as I was finishing. I justified as I ran, asserting that he should have done all of these things to help me, because I was the one running a marathon. I failed to hear all the me's or notice the fact that my worldview had unfortunately slid out of perspective...and suddenly revolved completely around me.

Oh gosh, it really is real isn't it?

After the run, the aforementioned second hissy fit at home and a pretty quiet lunch, all the me's were finally starting to sink in and it had become painfully evident, even to me, who was at fault. Graham then gave me a candid, un-sugar coated, kick in the ass, dose of reality that only someone who truly loves you will care enough to do. He cited a skewed perspective and unfortunately I knew it was more than that. I realize that individual sports as opposed to team sports naturally have a more singular focus as you are the only participant. I recognize that you and you alone are accountable and responsible for your results...and you sure as hell want them to be good, so you work hard and sacrifice a lot. But with all that realized, it doesn't give you license to start thinking that the world revolves around you and your training. Unfortunately I had and bottom line, my training was becoming all-consuming and making me fairly selfish.

Does anyone else suffer from selfish runner syndrome (SRS)? More importantly, how do serious runners keep a balance with real life? I'm not even a serious runner - simply a runner who's trying for something that serious runners do - and I'm having trouble maintaining perspective. Running demands self-discipline, introspection and helps you achieve your personal goals while smashing internal barriers. But does the constant focus on one's own running give the sport the potential to breed SRS at an alarming rate? I fear it just might. Fortunately, Graham was very forgiving, though he has asserted that he will no longer be joining my long runs. I'll use this blog as my public proclamation that though I currently suffer from SRS, I will make a concentrated effort to change. I will try to remember that the world does not revolve around my marathon training and that my life shouldn't either. I will endeavor to get less uptight about my training and less furious if my results aren't precisely what I intended. I started this whole thing wanting to have fun with it; I will strive to remember that...concurrently making Graham's life little less taxing.

Maybe if I keep up my mantra, I'll reward 
myself with these! Wait, what???

Thus, my new goals for runs are these: 
1. Don't dump or puke in public
2. Don't pass out mid-run - stay conscious!
3. Don't get angry and yell at anyone (strangers, friends and spouses alike) 
4. Have fun! 

Feel free to remind me of that on heartbreak hill :)


Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Daunting Sunday

Sundays were usually a nice relaxing day for Graham and me. We'd sleep in, eventually waddle into the kitchen to make coffee and fight over the comics through bleary eyes. Once the caffeine kicked in, we'd fry up some bacon and whip up multi-grain pancakes and eggs with avocado. If we were motivated, we would hit up open gym at CrossFit West and if we weren't, we'd wander to Verve or The Abbey to drink some more coffee and read the afternoon away. Sundays were lovely days for us. They were.

Considering I'm already nervously mapping and re-mapping my long run tomorrow, it's safe to say that tomorrow will not be the languid, relaxed day that Sundays once were. And although I fuss, it's exciting too. After a few re-routes, this is the 13 miler I have planned out. This will equal the furthest I've ever run, so it will be interesting to compare to previous half marathon times. I'll post results after the run. As always, I'm shooting for a puke and dump free run, where I stay conscious the entire time and scream at zero strangers...fingers crossed!



Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyWalk

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Case of the Crankies

On the plane ride back to gloriously temperate California from snowy Saint Louis (I really will not miss seeing this temperature displayed on the dash when I get in a car), I had finished the book I brought and couldn't play any more games of Temple Run on my phone because my eyes were starting to cross. G was again engrossed in Hawking's "The Grand Design" and I feared if I asked any questions, he would start to weird out at me as he often does when whatever he's reading is bending his brain anew...so I left him undisturbed. 

As I often do these days, I began to think about running. Do I even like running? Why do I run? It started as a means to an end with the "end" being endurance for soccer. By the time I graduated college, it was basically a habit and a way to stay active. Okay, but there are plenty of others ways to stay active - most notably CrossFit - that I really enjoy...but I always still run. Why? I tried to come up with some profound reason, but it just boiled down to this: it makes me feel good. Obviously right now, I am running with a specific goal in mind (not dying on the streets of Boston), but in general, running is my go-to to get happy.

I'm pretty happy and easy-going, but like everyone, I can descend to a very crabby state. To put all my flaws on the table, I get fussy a lot and these are the main triggers:
 - when I'm hungry. Quick side note here that just a couple weeks of marathon training has caused a noticeable spike in my hunger levels and I've started carrying granola bars in my purse in an effort to stave off the rage and fury that hold hands with hunger pangs.
 - when I'm tired from lack of sleep. Contrarily, I'm a much better person when I'm bone tired from a workout.
 - when I haven't worked out, but wanted to. This usually comes with charming additions of indignation and  affrontedness for being so deeply mistreated (not sure who to blame when it's my own poor scheduling that precluded it...)
 - when I don't get enough "me" time
 - when I feel like I'm stagnant
 - when I feel like my husband is unjustly dividing his attention between me and something else (when he's insisting on doing something ridiculous like working...pssht)

As I write these things out, I'm struck by what a child I am and by how many temper tantrums running helps tame. When I run, I obviously get my exercise fix and my "me" time. But I also get a daily sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. When I'm following a training schedule (as I often do even if there is no race on the horizon), I have direction and motivation. Everyday that I attempt and complete a workout, I'm progressing. Working towards something big and scary like the Boston Marathon is even better because in addition to everything else, I get a little rush (one fourth pure terror, three fourths excitement) of anticipation that keeps me going every time I think about the race. Running manages my fuss factors beautifully. It also helps that G knows how to expertly toe the line between paying attention to me and giving me space, while being completely supportive. He even told me that he would probably stay married to me even if I dumped my shorts during the marathon. 


Bottom line, I'm grateful for running and for Graham. I'm also grateful to Brian Day for asking me if I was going for a sub 3:30 marathon...that made me feel awesome. To answer your question, that would be amazing and if we're being real, is probably also amazingly far from what will go down. Though I don't have a goal pace or time in mind (yet), you (Brian) asking me has endeared you to me forever. 

As of now, my goal is simply to live through it :)