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...