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: