Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Project Breakfast: Basic Chia Pudding

Up until a few years ago, I didn't know a thing about chia seeds. Then I read born to run and have never forgotten the author's theory that "if you're stranded on a dessert island and can only bring one thing with you, you should bring chia seeds because, eventually, they'll make you strong enough to swim home".

Chia seeds are a so-called super food that are rich with omega 3 fatty acids, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants and calcium. I have bought into this for several years and eat chia seeds almost every day - usually sprinkled on my breakfast but I can not report any noticeable effect, good or bad, of the little seeds. Last week, I took it a step further and tried a simple chia pudding for breakfast. I combined chia seeds with vanilla almond milk and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, I added dates and almond slices. This was a good, simple recipe for a basic chia pudding breakfast. I am going to continue experimenting by adding oats, yogurt or other berries.

Here is my beginner Chia Pudding recipe:

2/3 c. chia seeds
2 c. almond milk
1/4 c. dried fruit
2 tbsp nuts
1 tbsp. honey

Combine chia seeds and almond milk in a bowl and stir. Cover and store overnight in the fridge. in the morning, sprinkle with dried fruit and nuts and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Inspiration: Your Health is Wealth

On Sunday night, at dinner with my parents, we talked about how lucky we are to be in good health. This is an obvious statement but I think it's something that many of us, including myself, take for granted too often. Today, on the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, we've been reminded how suddenly a person's life can change and how important it is not to take anything for granted.

I got a little bored on my treadmill tempo run this afternoon. I had chosen a machine right at the front of the gym so I could watch the rain pour down out the window - but I regretted not having a TV view or music in my ears. Then I remembered the news coverage I'd overheard in the locker room about victims of the bombing. About their prosthetic legs, the months they spent in surgery and the hard battle they're still fighting to recover. I realized how lucky I was to be pushing my body and sweating during my lunch hour.  Surely, there were too many people out there who would give anything to be in my shoes on that treadmill. So I changed my attitude and had a blast.

Today, and every day, let's be reminded to appreciate and embrace good health, if we're lucky enough to have it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Until the next 26.2...

It's funny... I left off my Vermont City Marathon (VCM) recap with "Until the next 26.2..." and apparently I wasn't kidding. I left you hanging for eight months and here I am picking back up while training for the same marathon a second time.

The 2014 VCM isn't until Memorial Day weekend but the fact that I'm running it is an important piece of information as I pick back up with this blog. Training for it is a big part of my life and it will motivate much of what I do for my health and fitness over the next two months.

Since this is my second marathon, I felt confident in my ability to run it and was a little less committed to my training early on. I was also nervous about increasing mileage too quickly and getting injured. I had spent the fall and early winter focused on getting a new husband, walking around Europe together and then settling into life as a married couple, which didn't change much. Either way, running was not a high priority of mine last fall and I probably began marathon training with too few recent miles under my belt. I've dealt with nagging IT Band syndrome, ankle pain and was sidelined for a few weeks (one week completely off, three until I felt 100%) with a bad cold and cough.

These disruptions have motivated me to try and take very good care of my body for the next two months. And forever. I am working hard to incorporate effective strength training, stretching and cross-training exercises. I am also eating better, while still maintaining an "everything in moderation" motto.

I hope to share with you the ups and downs of training, as well as new exercises, activities and foods that I try. It's go time!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Back to Blogging

It's pretty weird to begin a blog post for the first time in eight months. Before I could type the first word, I had to look back at all the posts I've done since Bike America to see where we left off. Sadly, there weren't many.

A lot has happened since I last posted and since I last posted regularly. I am a married woman now. There are things I could try to catch you up on, most notably my wedding and honeymoon, the most perfect days of my life. In time, I may do some flashbacks but, for now, it's time to move forward.

I have found myself busier at work since I started a new job in August of 2012 than I was pre-Bike America and that, coupled with wedding planning, made for less time to spend blogging. Now that one of those things is through, I feel ready to reignite the passion that I once had for this blog. I would like to be more deliberate about the things I share, focusing on living a fit, healthy and happy life.

There will be lots of sweating. I hope you'll join me!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vermont City Marathon Race Recap

It has been almost two months since I ran my first marathon and it was starting to seem like I might never blog about it. But this was too great a thing not to put into (written) words. I started this post (through about mile 4) the week after the race and wrote the remainder yesterday. Luckily, I still remember it like it just happened...

VCM: Sunday, May 26, 2013

Josh and I left DC at 5 PM Friday and drove about 5 hours in the rain to Middletown, NY. The next day we drove the remaining 5 hours to Burlington and I was constantly refreshing the hourly weather forecast on my phone. It was cold and raining and it wasn't supposed to get any warmer or dryer until after the race the next day. We arrived at my aunt and uncle's house for lunch, went to the expo and hung out the rest of the day. After my classic vace's pasta with ground turkey and red sauce, we played a game and then went to bed.

It was a cold and rainy day in Burlington, VT.

I slept well through the night and woke up before my alarm at 5:37. I ate oatmeal and changed my clothes several times. Nikki had made me this awesome marathon shirt with my name on it but it was a white tank top so, sadly, I decided not to wear it in the cold rain. We left the house a little after 7AM, an hour before the race was scheduled to start, and I was strangely not nervous. I couldn't really believe that we were driving to the race and that I was only minutes away from running my first marathon. Because we were late, parking was hard to find so Tony dropped us a few blocks from the start. We had just enough time to use the porta-potties once and get into our corral. I kissed Josh goodbye and we were off.

With Katy and Simon just before starting the race!

Katy, Simon and I started together, singing Sweet Caroline, by the 4:30 pace group. I didn't even realize we'd crossed the start line and started my garmin a little late. We ran together for the first mile or so and it was fun running together after talking about and training for this for so long. A mile or two in, I went to catch up with the 4:15 pacers. My goal was to finish the marathon in 4:15 but I wasn't sure whether to pace myself or to stay with this crowd. I ran down Church Street and loved all the spectators. There were girls on one corner, in pajama pants, singing Frosty the Snowman which made me laugh. We ran by Josh and Joann around mile 4 which was fun.

 Before Joann started her half

Those first few miles flew by easily and are a blur to look back on. I was feeling kind of clautrophobic with all the people running with the 4:15 group but the pace felt good so I stuck with them. Just before mile 5, we arrived at the belt line. This began a 4ish mile out and back which I expected to be challenging. It started with a long and steady downhill so I mentally prepared myself for what that meant on the return part. I kept entertained by listening to the conversations of other runners.

About halfway out, we started to see runners coming back the other way. Watching the fastest runners speed by you in the other direction keeps this stretch of the marathon really exciting at a time when it could feel monotonous. It occurred to me that I could see Nikki, who I knew would be running ahead of me, during this part of the race. I slowly moved away from the 4:15 pacers to the inside of the highway. In the process, I sped up and left the 4:15 group behind. This may have been stupid so early in the race but I was focused on looking for Nikki and it just happened. There was just a small stretch of grass between me and the runners coming the other direction. I constantly scanned the crowd of speedier runners but started to get dizzy. I saw the 3:30 pace group run by and knew that I probably still had a little time before I saw Nikki who I predicted would be between 3:45 and 4:00. Eventually, we saw each other and shared a quick high five as we passed. I got teared up in this moment, feeling sentimental about the marathon and about the fact that I was running the same course with one of my best running buddies who I had yet to ever see in the state of Vermont. I love that this was our first interaction on a trip that meant a lot to both of us.

Soon after I reached the turn around point, I passed Katy and Simon only a little ways behind me. Then I kept my eyes on the road and kept putting one foot in front of the other. Around mile 7 the tendon in the back of my left knee started to feel really tight. I had never had this feeling before and it made me nervous but there was nothing to do but keep running.

I got to the end of the beltline and ran another jaunt through the cool downtown Burlington. At mile 10, after a steep downhill away from downtown, my left quad started to feel really sore and I freaked out a little bit. I was only 10 miles in and had a long way to go. I worried that I'd made the classic mistake of going out too hard and that I'd slow down a ton over the next 16 miles. My pace for mile 10 was just under 9 minutes because of the downhill but I had been maintaining a steady 9:00 to 9:30 pace for the first 10 miles. I had run ten miles much faster than this so I was annoyed that I was already sore.

The next few miles were tough and I just told myself to run to mile 13 and I'd have some cheerleaders. At mile 12, we turned into a hilly neighborhood and I overheard a conversation between two people who either lived in Burlington or grew up in Burlington and hadn't seen each other in a while. They just ran into each other during the race and caught up for a little while before going their own ways (really the same way but at their own paces...). This happened many times along the course which I thought was so cool. The race had such a hometown feel while also feeling large, supported and organized.

At the half way point. 

At mile 12.5ish, we merged onto a bike path that would bring us to the half/relay transfer point. Josh was waiting nearby with his camera and I gave him a thumbs down. I have never done that in a race but I was worried about my legs and I told him I was feeling pretty tight and sore as I ran by. He said "you got this, just keep running" and that's what I did. Then I saw my uncle Tony, standing on a rock snapping pictures. Soon after, my name was screamed from the crowd of relayers. I didn't see her but I knew it was my aunt Joann waiting to start running.

Katy and Simon about to finish their half!

Passing the half gave me a mental boost and I believed I could finish the race. But it also took us to a bitterly cold and windy run right alongside lake Camplain which I knew would be perfect in the warm sun but, at that moment, was not. I mosied along the bike path, maintaining my 9:30ish pace and then emerged onto a street just before mile 15.

I'd heard more about this part of the race than any other- it was the beginning of the Battery Street Hill and it would be brutal. It turned out to be my absolute favorite part of the 26.2 mile course.

A few days after the race, taking a picture of my favorite part of the marathon.

I trained on a lot of hills and I enjoy running on hills in general. I don't like what they do for my speed but they seem to keep things interesting and almost always make me feel strong. I don't know if I've ever felt stronger running than I did while running up the Battery Street hill. The crowd support was insane and Eric, my friend and Nikki's fiancé, was right beside the course screaming my name which was hugely motivating.

In the top right corner, you can see the beginning of the Battery Street Hill.

I wanted to cry happy tears when I got to the top. And then things got ugly. Miles 16-20 were hard. My legs were really tired and I knew that ten miles was a long way left to run. I spent those 4 miles telling myself (over and over) that I just had to get to mile 20. I had run 20 before so I knew I could get there and, when I did, I'd have only 6 miles left. From there, I'd have my mile dedications to push me along. Just three miles to twenty, two miles to twenty, one mile to twenty... I could do it.

Miraculously, this strategy worked. I got to mile 20 and had a new burst of energy. There was a spring in my step and I felt myself speed up just slightly. And then the sun peeked it's pretty little head out of the clouds.

At the 21 mile sign, when I thought things couldn't get any better, a girl next to me said to the guy she was running with, "we just passed mile 21 in a marathon. I can't believe this moment is really here." Again, I felt like crying. What a surreal thing- to have worked so hard and so long for something and to be so in the midst of it. I felt this profound connection with these people who I had ever spoken to and will probably never see again in my life.

I had a little longer to ride out my high and then things were going to get tough again.

At mile 21.5, we began our final stretch toward the finish line back on the Burlington bike path. The problem is that a "final stretch" that lasts 4 miles, when you've already run 21.5, feels like a reeeeally long one. And, at a time when my mental toughness seemed more crucial than my physical toughness, the monotony of that bike path was brutal. Honestly, I might as well have been running on a treadmill. I felt ok for the first mile, and then just kind of bad. But from mile 24 to mile 26, it was all I could do not to stop and walk (or collapse). I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me to stop and I had to fight that urge so hard. I checked my watch constantly and couldn't believe I'd only gone .25 or .11 miles since my last watch check. You can see by my splits that I slowed down a lot in those final miles. My "dedication" thing didn't motivate me in the slightest and all I could think about was how far I had left. I kept comparing the distance remaining to runs I do at home. I'd think, just do your three mile loop up macomb street and you'll be done, then just run to work and back (.9 miles from my apt) and you'll be done, and then just run to work and you'll be done.

And then, eventually, I almost was. The bike path ended and my watch approached the 26 mile mark. Out of some very deep place within me, I found an ability to pick up my pace and I "sprinted"for the last .4ish (according to my garmin) miles. It turns out my sprint was really an 8:05 minute mile but I'm still quite proud I could even pull that out. I rounded a corner onto some grass and Josh and Tony cheered at me soon after. One more corner to round, a short straight away, and I was crossing the finish line.

Rounding the final corner of the race.

"Sprinting" to the finish.

I finished in 4:12:51 and I felt happy and exhausted. My legs had not stopped running in over 4 hours and it was strange to stop and walk. I grabbed a heat blanket, more than my fair share of chocolate milk and water and headed out to find my family. I saw Tony first, as he rushed to get the car. We hugged quickly, he said congrats and headed off. And then I started to cry. There is no explaining the tears that come at the end of such a great physical accomplishment. But they come for me every time and they always make me feel good. I found Josh quickly and cried some more as I hugged him. What a happy place to be.

We met Katy and Simon who were doing what they could to stay warm on the grass and ate some food they'd grabbed. They'd both finished the first half but then sat freezing in their sweat for the next two hours. Joann appeared and she had apparently finished only 30 seconds after me, completing her half with a PR just under two hours. She'd been trying to catch me for 13.1 miles and I think if she'd known she was under a minute away, she would have. What an even better ending that would have been!

We sat for a little while then went to stock up on the best post-race food I've ever seen: hot pizza, moe's chips and queso, Ben and Jerry's ice cream and all your typical fruit, bagels and granola bars. Then we walked up what Katy coined the "stupid ass hill" and piled in the car to head home.

It's hard for me to look back two months later and remember what it felt like to be in the act of running that marathon. I think your body and your mind are in such a different place when you're running for that long that you're kind of on a high the whole time- even when you feel like total crap. And it's impossible to describe why it feels so good even though it feels so bad at the same time. Before I even crossed the finish line, I knew that I'd want to run another marathon. And that I'd want to run another Vermont City Marathon. If they could just do something about that 4 miles on the bike path at the end, it would be perfect!

Until the next 26.2...

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Last 6.2

A long time ago, before I ever knew I'd run a marathon, I read a post from a DC running blogger about her mom's first marathon. Her mom dedicated each of the last six miles to different people and ran that mile for them. Then, she couldn't quit during their mile because she'd be letting them down. I have always remembered that story and I've decided to do it for the last 6.2 miles of my first marathon.

There is a lot of weight in those last 6.2 miles. Everyone says that they're the darkest part of a marathon, when your body really gets tested. Each of those miles achieves a distance that most first-time marathoners have never run before, myself included.

For the first 20 miles of the race, I'll have the confidence of knowing that I've run 20 miles before. And for the next 6.2, which is a long way even by itself, I'll have the people I love listed below on my mind and in my heart to make me keep pushing. I know I will not want to quit during any of those miles and have to say "I gave up during your mile". So it's easy... I can't give up.

Mile 21: Nathan, Ingrid and Inna
My brother and my two best friends, all of whom I have some running history with and all of whom I dream of running a long race with one day. Nathan is a great athlete and he runs but he also smokes so it's hard to convince him to run too far. We ran an 8k together two years ago and I know he's thought about running further. If not, he'll always be a fun person to play pick-up football and random games with. Ingrid is my original workout buddy. We have played soccer together since we were 5 years old. We attended sports camps, ran in our neighborhood and did intense training workouts at our local park. We both have a love of athletic adventures and one day I expect us to ride ragbrai and run a half marathon together. Inna is a strong and speedy little runner. She has never thought that the idea of running a ton of miles was fun but she is committed to exercising for health and fitness. For the first time last week, she revealed that she's recently considered running a half marathon one day. If I can't finish mile 21 for these people that I love, how will I ever be able to convince them that they should run a long race for fun?!

Mile 22: Nikki and Hadley
These are two of my dear friends in DC who I met through work three and a half years ago. On October 12, 2010, I joined them for an after-work run at a time when I had not been running often. They tricked me into running nearly 6 miles that day, got me hooked on frequent runs together, and eventually led me to register for and run my first half marathon. This series of events turned me from a person who ran for exercise into a person who runs for fun and to accomplish new goals. These girls are marathoners themselves. Nikki will be running VCM as her fifth marathon on Sunday and Hadley ran her first in October. I admire their strength and appreciate all the support they provide, in running and other life endeavors.

Mile 23: Katy, Joann and Tony
My cousin, aunt and uncle who I am so delighted to share in this experience with. They live/lived in Burlington and (with Emily) are the reason I fell in love with the idea of the Vermont City Marathon. Various teams of them have been running the VCM relay for years, before I even thought about running 13.1 miles. Aside from this race, they are the poster child of an awesome, outdoorsy, adventurous family. They go on canoe trips in the wilderness, hike, bike and run. I can't wait to spend time with them this weekend and will be incredibly motivated knowing Katy and Joann will be running somewhere along that course on Sunday morning and that we'll all get to celebrate together at the finish. I'll also run for Katy's boyfriend Simon, who will be running and who I've only met once but who I've e-mailed a bunch for running and training advice. In order to celebrate, I'll have to finish mile 23 for all of them.

Mile 24: Emily
Emily is part of the awesome, outdoorsy, adventurous family of Vermonters but, since she can't be there with us, I will be dedicating mile 24 to her alone. She has run the VCM relay more times than I know and she ran the marathon for the first time last year. She injured her hip during one of her last long training runs and didn't think she'd finish. But she finished it strong and has nothing but wonderful, positive things to say about her experience and about the marathon in general. Emily is studying abroad in Chile this semester so she can't be here this weekend. She is actually doing way cooler things than running races- backpacking and sea kayaking in Patagoina, hiking in Machu Picchu and playing on her Chilean University women's soccer team. If I can finish mile 24 for her, I'll only have 2.2 miles to go and then I'll be ready to run a marathon with her (and hopefully Katy) one day.

Mile 25: Mom and Dad
Growing up, my parents were at every single soccer game that I can remember. They left work early, gave up years of Saturdays and Sundays, and forked over lots of money to support my goals. They helped me over-analyze every game and gave me all kinds of constructive criticism. They didn't push too hard and left the decision up to me when I thought about quitting. And, as if that wasn't enough, they joined me, and helped make possible, one of the greatest adventures of my life- our bike ride across the country. I owe my athletic ability, determination and confidence to them. I will run mile 25 for my mom to help her understand why someone would actually want to run a marathon and for my dad who used to run and is working through knee strengthening exercises so that he can ride a bike and exercise for countless more years.

Mile 26: Joshua
If you're not a runner, you don't dream of a vacation in which you get up absurdly early to stand around in the cold, in crowds, or in rain for hours just to watch other humans run by. But if you're in a relationship with a runner who you care about, this is what a lot of your vacations look like. I feel so lucky and grateful that Josh cares enough to join me at every start and finish line and that he usually manages to take awesome photos along the way. Like my mom, he doesn't understand why a person would choose to run such an absurd distance just for fun. But it has never even been a question whether or not he'll be joining me in any racing adventure. I will be running mile 26, and that last .2, for Josh who has been so supportive and whose arms I know I'll be dying to fall into after I cross that finish line. I'll need to finish the mile, and the marathon, to see his face and that has to keep me going.

Last night, when I told Josh I was running mile 26 for him he said, "Why?! Why don't you run it for yourself?" That's an interesting point. But I'm running the whole race for myself. And for all of these guys. And for anyone else who has shown support of this adventure. Less than two days. Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Big Fat Marathon Training Catch- Up Post

I was enjoying writing a post about every week of marathon training. While I run, I think about what I would title a post about that run or about that week. I narrate posts in my head and I get really into them. But then the million other things going on in life take over and I never get around to actually writing down those thoughts and ideas. So here is a big catch-up post of weeks 10-16. I'll say just a few words about each week. For fun, I'll also include I would have titled a post about that week.

Week 10 (4.1.13 to 4.7.13): Go Long

Monday: 30 minutes weights, 4.19 miles at 9:23 pace  (rest)
Tuesday: 20 minutes yoga (CT Cardio)
Wednesday:  3.76 miles at 8:40 pace (3-4 miles)
Thursday: rest (rest)
Friday: 17.22 miles at 9:39 pace (17 mile long run)
Saturday: rest (yoga, strength core, run?)
Sunday: 4.29 miles at 8:29 pace (yoga, strength core, run?)
Total:  29.46 miles of running

I am really enjoying marathon training. I don't feel like I spend that many more hours a week working out than I otherwise would and it's fun to constantly push myself and test the strength of my body. But there is one thing I don't like: planning everything around running.

On Friday of week 10, I flew across the country for a conference in San Diego. Luckily, I knew I'd be training for the marathon when I booked my flight so I made it late enough that I could squeeze 17 miles in before I had to leave for the airport. The nerves before my run were in full force, though. It was my longest run yet, three miles longer than I'd ever run alone, and if I got stranded somewhere by the side of the road, I'd miss my flight. But everything went smoothly and it felt like a successful week of training.

Week 11 (4.8.13 to 4.14.13): The Weak Week

Monday: 2.52 miles at 9:05 pace  (3 mi speed)
Tuesday: 20 minutes planks/core (rest)
Wednesday:  3.93 miles (up and down the Hollywood Mountain) at 9:43 pace (3-4 miles)
Thursday: rest (rest)
Friday: 30 minutes weights (rest/weights)
Saturday: 12.21 miles at 9:18 pace (12 mile long run)
Sunday: 2.14 miles at 10:04 pace, 2 hour yoga for runners workshop (3 miles)
Total:  20.8 miles of running

It was a struggle to train while in California. My days at the conference were full from 7-7 most days. I actually only ran two days during the conference and was able to squeeze them in during a lunch break and before getting started one day. My cross training was pretty non-existent though- all I did were some planks and stretching in my hostel room. I took a red-eye home which it took me a few days to recover from and had a work event on Saturday which left me standing most of the time from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM. I did my long run on Saturday afternoon, after the day of work. I was really tired and had an upset stomach (first time I've had to take a bathroom break during a training run) but I powered through and was really glad to have it done. Overall, my training felt weak during these days but it was a cutback week so I didn't beat myself up over it.

The best workout of the week, by far, was my run from my friend's LA home up a small mountain to the hollywood sign. I will write more about this soon.

Week 12 (4.9.13 to 4.21.13): Resisting Burnout

Monday: 3.95 miles at 8:33 pace  (4 miles)
Tuesday: 40 minutes arm weights (weights/cross train)
Wednesday:  5.01 miles at 9:33 pace (5 miles)
Thursday: rest (rest)
Friday: 18.01 miles at 9:33 pace (18 mile long run)
Saturday: 3.8 miles at 10:09 pace (5 miles)
Sunday: rest (yoga)
Total:  30.77 miles of running

My first full week back from California was hard too. Up until the trip, I'd felt like I was rocking training. I felt strong and motivated. Going away and having an off week disrupted that a lot. When I got back, training felt harder than it had in the weeks before I left. On every run, I thought "is this what it feels like to get burnt out during training?"

Luckily, I got to do another long run with my friend Nikki which helped motivate me. Another friend and I took a bus up to NYC to surprise our BFF Inna for her birthday on Saturday morning. So I switched my 18 miler to Friday morning. It was definitely the hardest run yet. The last 4 miles, I felt totally spent and wasn't sure how I could possibly finish. During the last mile, I actually noticed that I was landing on my heel with every step I took. After so much training to change the way I run, I was reverting to my old way of running when my calves and quads got so worn out. When I got home, I laid on the floor drinking chocolate milk and eating bananas and cheez-its for nearly an hour before I mustered up the energy to shower and walk to work. Even though I felt weak, I knew that I was making myself stronger by powering through each challenging workout of the week.

Week 13 (4.22.13 to 4.28.13): Running takes the Cake?

Monday: 4 mile tempo building up to 7:19 pace (weights)
Tuesday: 40 minutes arm weights and core (5 miles)
Wednesday:  13.86 mile bike ride (Cross train)
Thursday: 5.27 miles at 8:22 pace (6 miles)
Friday: rest (rest)
Saturday: 14.04 miles at 9:25 pace (14 mile long run)
Sunday: 3 miles on treadmill at 9:58 pace (3 miles/frisbee)
Total:  26.31 miles of running

There seems to be a pattern in a lot of these weeks. I have too much going on and have to schedule a lot of my training around other commitments. This week, I was making a wedding cake and a groom's cake for a friend's wedding and rehearsal dinner. By Wednesday morning, I was a complete basket case with baking and decorating. My weekday runs were shorter than they were scheduled to be but I made the most of my time and got cross-training in by commuting to a dentist appointment by bike.

And my long run this week turned out to be fabulous! Again, Nikki and I did the bulk of it (12 miles of 14) together and I introduced her to my favorite long run route- the rolling hills of Massachusetts Avenue. By the end, I had some sharp pains in my foot and my ankle hurt. But I remember reading a blogger who said her running coach told her that aches and pains are just par for the course when you're training for a marathon. I'm usually a hypochondriac but that statement has helped me get past a lot of little pains during this training cycle.

Week 14 (4.29.13 to 5.5.13): 20 Miles or Bust

Monday: 40 minutes weights and core  (weights)
Tuesday:  4.04 miles at 8:53 pace (4 miles)
Wednesday: 40 minutes spin, 10 minutes arm weights (Cross train)
Thursday: 6.14 miles at 8:54 pace (6 miles)
Friday: rest (rest)
Saturday: 20.05 miles at 9:51 pace (20 mile long run)
Sunday: 2.92 miles at 10:45 pace (5 miles)
Total:  33.15 miles of running

This week was all about my 20 miler. It was on my mind a lot and it seemed like the summit of marathon training. Once I did it, it'd be all downhill to the marathon. As much as I could, I treated this run like a test for the race. I ate my usual pre-race meal and I bought a fuel belt to try out before race day. I let the nerves build up like they surely will the night before the race.

I changed the plan for my route about four times. Mapping a route was tough and showed me just how far 20 miles is. That is a LONG freaking way to run! I settled on a [paved] trail-heavy route that went down to the mall, around the mall a few times, across the river into Virginia for a few miles, and then home. When I started, I made a very deliberate attempt to run slower than normal. I maintained this pace and ran my first 13 or so miles around a 9:50 to 10 minute mile. I sped up a little bit over the last few miles, to simulate an ideal race plan. I intentionally finished a little under a mile from home, on the the trail by my weekly frisbee game. I walked about 20 yards and then rolled onto the grass beside the trail. I laid there staring at space feeling a total high. I knew I had a significant walk home and didn't want Josh to worry about how long I'd been gone. But I could have lay there for hours. I got up, walked to cvs for chocolate milk, and then walked home to keep my legs moving and break up some of their lactacte build up. 

As far as 20 miles goes, I couldn't imagine anything better. I was really happy with the route I chose, I felt strong and smart, and I finished feeling like I could run 6.2 more miles if I really had to. Finally, I truly believed I could do this thing.

Week 15 (5.6.13 to 5.12.13): The Mental Battle Begins

Monday: 30 minutes weights and core  (weights)
Tuesday:  4 mile tempo run on treadmill (4 miles)
Wednesday: 35 minutes spin (Cross train) 
Thursday: 3.76 miles at 9:36 pace (4 miles)
Friday: rest (rest)
Saturday: 12.02 miles at 9:53 pace (12 mile long run)
Sunday: 3.01 miles at 9:31 pace (5 miles)
Total:  22.79 miles of running

Week 16 (5.13.13 to 5.19.13): The Mental Battle Continues

Monday: 40 minutes weights and core (weights)
Tuesday: 3.78 miles at 8:33 pace (3 miles)
Wednesday: 30 minutes spin and 10 minutes core (Cross train) 
Thursday: 2.98 miles at 8:44 pace (3 miles)
Friday: rest (rest)
Saturday: 8.1 miles at 9:39 pace (8 mile long run)
Sunday :Rest (3 miles)
Total:  14.86 miles --- this seems like too few...

Once 20 miles was done, I just wanted it to be race day already. In terms of mileage and physical fitness, I was right that once I ran 20, it'd be all downhill to the marathon. But the biggest mental battle was just beginning. For me, the greatest mental challenge comes in the weeks before a big race and, in that sense, it's all uphill to the marathon. I'm hoping that the nerves will subside once I cross the start line, that the adrenaline will be like none I've ever felt before, and that I will be mentally strong every step of the way.

At this point, it is comforting to know that I've done all the training I can do and now I just need to keep my body healthy so that it can be it's strongest on race day. The race is only 5 days away and I'm desperately counting them down...