Oops…I did it again!

I’m so sorry for falling off the radar again!  A wise friend once told me that a “but” in an apology smells as bad as your own…but…school has started up again and I have been super busy trying to get ahead, in anticipation of the time consuming high mileage marathon training weeks ahead.

When I last wrote, I discussed my doubts and fears about being able to finish the marathon and my scheduled 18 mile long run after a failed half marathon race.  Thanks to a week and a half of good training runs, I’m happy to report that my confidence level is improving, but I still fear, and am awed by the distance that lays ahead of me.  I started a countdown to marathon day, which caused more anxiety than excitement, so I have since stopped looking at it.  My goal in the next few weeks is to work on the mental aspect of my training.  I need to train my brain to power through, to not give up when the going gets a little tough and to stop worrying about how fast everyone else is running.  I need to keep reminding myself that this is for me, this is my goal…I am not doing this to keep up with anyone or to beat anyone…I’m doing this to prove to myself that I CAN do this…and I WILL do this…even if it takes me 6.5 hours to do it.  Here is how my training runs have gone recently:

Tuesday, September 3rd (Easy Run – 4 Miles):

The first Tuesday of every month is my run club’s monthly meeting and I wasn’t missing this one for anything.  This month, Cary Pinkowski, Executive Race Director for the Chicago Marathon, came to speak with us and answer any questions we might have about the race.  Since this is my first marathon and first time even experiencing the awesomeness that is the Chicago Marathon (or so I’m told, and I tend to believe), I was excited to get a behind the scenes look and learn as much as I could about the race.  Not wanting to fall behind in my training, I decided I would run to the meeting and then run home.  Not exactly a true 4 mile training run, but I figured if I ran each half fast, it would make up for the rest time in between runs.  My run to the meeting was great.  I was surprised at how good I felt coming off of a horrible half marathon experience the day before.  I was expecting to be sore or tired, but surprisingly, I felt great…I’m sure the cooler and drier air helped.  The meeting was great and I left feeling both excited and incredibly nervous about “the big day”.  It might seem crazy, but I’m more nervous about this race than I was about my wedding day!  My run home was also good.  Here are my stats for these runs:

9.3.13

Wednesday, September 4th (Mid-Week Long Run – 9 Miles):

This run went reasonably well, considering my lack of enthusiasm and severe longing to vegetate on the couch instead of run.  By the time I got home from work, I was exhausted and the thought of running 9 miles seemed like the worst idea in the world.  Guilt got me out the door and soon I was looking at the silver lining…at least I didn’t have to do this mid week long run on a treadmill!  🙂  I felt sluggish for the first few miles of this run, but my legs started to wake up a bit into mile 3 and I finished the run feeling strong and accomplished.  Of course, after a quick shower, I went to vegetate on the couch for the rest of the night!  Here are my stats:

9.4.13

Friday, September 6th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

After Tuesday and Wednesday’s confidence building runs, I ended up being really disappointed in this run.  Right from the get go, I knew it was going to be mediocre at best.  Everything felt off.  My breathing was off and my legs were sore and felt like they were made of lead.  After suffering through the first three miles without my legs waking up, I decided it was time to run/walk the remaining distance.  Let’s just chalk this one up to a bad day and move on, shall we?  Here are my stats:

9.6.13

Sunday, September 8th (Long Run – 18 Miles):

My alarm went off at 3am and I rolled out of bed to eat before heading out for my longest run EVER.  While eating and staring blankly at the digital clock on the cable box in my living room, I contemplated the craziness of the situation.  There were days, not so many years ago, that I would just be going to bed after a night out on the town, but now, I was waking up (after going to bed at 9pm the night before) to go run…for several hours, because I WANTED to.  Perhaps my friends were right, maybe I am crazy!

Either way, knowing that this run would take a while, I wanted to get out early to get the bulk of the run in before the sun came up and things heated up.  It was a nice and cool morning, super humid, but at least the temperature was lower.  The first 9 miles of the run were great.  I felt awesome and my legs were cooperating today, unlike a few days ago.  The sun was starting to come up into mile 10 and I could feel it start to heat up.  After my third CLIF shot, I was starting to feel a little twinge of a stomach cramp, but I trudged on.  Things started to get a little harder around mile 11 and I had to give myself a little pep talk (“you can do this…don’t let your mind win…you’re not tired…quitting is not an option”).  Thank goodness it was so early in the morning and nobody was out, I felt crazy enough without having others hear me talking to myself!  I ate my fourth CLIF shot at mile 12 and immediately felt my stomach cramp up.  I was fine on my walk breaks, but as soon as I started running again the cramps were back.  I suffered through the next 3 miles and knew I had to eat another shot.  I pulled it out of my Fuelbelt at mile 15 and barely choked it down.  That’s it, no more Mocha CLIF shots for me.  The thought of them makes me nauseous.

Anyway, the last 3 miles of the run were a battle between my mind and muscles.  It was sheer determination that got me through.  The bottom line is, I didn’t quit, I just ran REALLY slowly those last few miles.  When my Garmin beeped at mile 18, I wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry because I was so happy that I had completed the 18 miles and that I hadn’t given up.  I wanted to cry because my body physically hurt so bad (my hips and quads were screaming).  I wanted to cry because I was mentally exhausted.  I wanted to cry because negative Nancy reared her ugly head yelling, “if 18 hurt that bad and was that hard, how in the HECK am I going to be able run another 8 miles”?!  But I didn’t cry.  I just flung my Fuelbelt off and walked limped the quarter mile back to my house where I promptly took a hot shower and collapsed into a heap on the couch for the rest of the day.  Looking back, I think I started out way to too fast for this type of mileage.  I need to start off much slower than I’m used to so I don’t burn out on the back half.  My strategy for the 20 miler and for marathon day is to stick with a much slower pace group for the first half of the race.  If I’m feeling good at the half way point, I can consistently pick up the pace a little for each remaining mile.  Here are my stats for my longest run yet (this includes traffic stops and “fueling” stops.  I wanted to get a better idea of how I would do on simulated race timing):

9.8.13

Wednesday, September 11th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

It was another hot day in Chicago (high of 93°F with a heat index well over 100°F), which meant I would be spending some quality time with my friend the treadmill again.  The run went surprisingly quickly and I felt good for the last three miles.  My legs were a little tired and sore for the first two miles, mainly my shins, but that could have been a result of the surface change.  Either way, it worked itself out and the rest of the run felt good.  Here are my stats:

9.11.13

Thursday, September 12th (Mid-Week Long Run – 9 Miles):

The weather was finally starting to cool off a bit, and the fact that I got a later start than usual helped quite a bit.  There is just something about running at dusk and in the dark that makes it seem so much easier for me.  I’m sure it has to do with the lack of sun beating down on me, helping to keep me cooler.  Also, for some reason, running in the dark makes me feel like I’m running super fast (even if I’m really not).  I have no idea why this is, but I’ll take it.  Of course there are downsides to running in the dark too.  Obviously, it isn’t the safest thing in the world for a woman to do, especially by herself; and if you’re a klutz like me, extra caution has to be taken to ensure those darn sidewalks don’t jump up and bite you.  🙂  Anyway, this run was great.  I felt good from start to finish and even managed to stomach another Mocha CLIF shot.  Here are my stats:

9.12.13

Friday, September 13th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

What an absolutely perfect evening for a run!  The hot and humid weather had finally broken.  By the time I got home from work, it was a beautiful 60 degree evening with a slight breeze.  I knew I had to hit the grocery store in preparation for a mini road trip to cheer some friends on at The North Face Endurance Challenge at Kettle Moraine State Park in WI on Saturday, so I made a deal with my husband – I would run to the grocery store and meet him there so we could get our shopping done and he could give me a lift back home.  Since I started running to my in-laws house earlier this year, I find that I end up feeling like a slug if I drive to any store (unless I’m doing some serious damage) or meeting in town, instead of running or riding my bike.  Why waste gas when I can kill two birds with one stone – get to where I need to go and get some miles logged too!  The run went well, surprisingly well, actually.  This was the first 5 mile run I have completed outdoors, in what feels like months, that didn’t require at least a few short walk breaks.  Everything just seemed to click and I was almost sad when the 5 miles was up.  I felt like I could have gone on forever…another confidence boosting run.  Score!  Here are my stats:

9.13.13

Sunday (Long Run – 14 Miles):

Well, as much as I feel guilty for missing a “long” run, there was no way this run was going to happen.  After spending a fun day with friends in WI, I thought my allergies were really kicking up.  I had a tickle in the back of my throat all day, but I figured it was nothing that a Claritin couldn’t fix.  Hours after I took said Claritin, my throat was killing me, the tickle was still there…and I had no voice.  Yup…I managed to go and get myself sick again, and of course, it would have to be on arguably the most important week of my marathon training (boo, hiss)!  I’m not really surprised though.  I tend to get sick easily when my body is run down and the high(er) mileage I have been putting in these last few weeks surely has my body begging for mercy.  Add crazy Chicago temperature swings to the mix (upper 90’s to mid 60’s in two days) and…BAM…I’m sidelined with a lovely head/chest cold.  Hoping for a miraculous recovery, I opted to skip my 14 mile long run and rest Monday night.

Tuesday, September 17th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

It is now Tuesday and I’m still congested, my voice is making only a slight comeback and my cough is enough to make someone cringe.  Since most of my symptoms are above my neck (above the neck = run;  below = no running), and not wanting to let a little cold derail my training, I decided I would do my 5 miler tonight, but keep it nice and easy, and reassess my training for the week depending on how I felt afterward.  The run went surprisingly well.  Again, everything just seemed to click.  Even though I’m sick, I still managed to comfortably hold a nice pace, took no walk breaks and finished feeling really strong.  I didn’t cough at all during my run, but as soon as I stopped…oh boy, I didn’t think I would ever stop.  About 15 minutes after I used my inhaler the fit finally ended.  I have a 10 miler on tap for tomorrow so we’ll see how I feel in the morning.  Here are my stats for the run:

9.17.13

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Halfway There

Well friends, I have made it to the half way point of my training schedule!  As the mileage keeps increasing, I am getting more and more nervous and excited for “the big day”, but I am also becoming more confident that I will be able to complete the distance. 

Unfortunately, this week was a rough week for me and I stumbled a bit yesterday, allowing an opportunity for Negative Nancy to come out of her corner yelling and screaming that “I’m crazy, I can’t do this…I’m so slow, I should just give up…I’m crafty, not athletic – I should just stick to running (jogging) for fitness and stay away from races”.  Thank goodness for my awesome husband, he was able to talk some sense into me and make me realize that it’s not about how fast and how far others go, it’s about bettering MYSELF and achieving the goals I set for myself.  Occasionally I need to step back and focus more on the progress I have made in the last two years and stop comparing myself and my abilities to others.  The bottom line is this…like a Greyhound, I was born to be a sprinter not an endurance runner.  I have never been “fast” when it comes to running long distances (my old high school 5K PR is 27:46…just 10 seconds faster than my current 5K PR) and I have overcome bad habits and a serious injury to get where I am today.  The fact that I have gone from not running at all to tackling a marathon (something only 0.5% of the US population has done [Source]) in only two years is something to be proud of.  I also have a passion for running, I really do love it.  Through running I have been able to shake off a bad day, make awesome new friends, live a healthier life and give back to the communities I am a part of.  Just because others are faster than me or can run farther without needing a walk break doesn’t mean I should quit.  In fact, I have so many more reasons to keep going than I do for quitting…so staying the course is what I will do, for as long as I can, for as fast as I can, and for as far as I can!

Now…here is how my training went this week:

Thursday – 8/1/13 (Easy Run – 6 Miles):

We are nearing the end of the CARA Beginning Running program and I couldn’t be prouder of my 5K running buddy.  She is gaining confidence in her abilities and is happy to push the envelope with every run.  After last week’s 5.5 mile run, I was hoping I didn’t push her too far too fast and that she would recover quickly.  I was happy to hear that she wasn’t sore at all and was willing to try a 6 mile run tonight!  The 5.5 miles we ran last week was the farthest she has ever run, so she was a little unsure of herself and her ability to run 6 miles, but was able to complete the run easily.  We kept to a nice and easy pace and finished the run strong.  It was pretty hot and humid, but carrying a water bottle helped us to stay hydrated and the slower pace helped me to get through without expending all of my energy and bonking after mile 4.  The stats for our run are sandwiched between my bike ride to and from The Foot below:

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Friday – 8/2/13 (Rest):

In an attempt to prepare for my scheduled long run the following day, I took full advantage of my rest day today and made sure I carbed up!  For lunch, I ordered a pizza to share with some coworkers and even indulged in an ice cream sandwich for my late afternoon snack.  After work, I had the pleasure of visiting with my favorite furry babies (my in-law’s kittens) and on the way home I stopped for my favorite carbo loading meal – Noodles & Co. Wisconsin Mac & Cheese with Rice Krispie Treat for dessert.  Overall, it was a day full of rest, indulgence and calories, but I didn’t feel too guilty knowing what was in store for me the next day!

Saturday – 8/3/13 (Long Run – 13 Miles):

Ah, the dreaded long run.  Lately, I have been feeling anxious before my long runs, but after last week’s failed Saturday attempt I was especially anxious.  When the alarm went off at 4:45am I groaned and seriously considered just going back to sleep, but knew that I wouldn’t have the luxury of a fallback run on Sunday because we already had plans.  I rolled out of bed, ate my CLIF bar and promptly passed out on the couch.  When I finally woke up at 6:30am, I panicked, got dressed, gathered my gear and was out the door in record time. 

The run itself went well.  I finally received my box of energy gels so I made sure I was armed with 4 gels this time, along with 2 bottles of Gatorade and my handheld full of regular water.  I felt great through the first 10 miles of the run, stopping to eat my gels at mile markers 3, 6 and 9.  By mile 11 I felt fine, but was just mentally spent and just wanted to get the rest of the run over with, so I ate another gel and moved forward.  Because I have been doing my long runs under my interval plan, I set up a workout on my Garmin, figuring 23 reps would be enough.  Wrong!  My Garmin started singing me a happy song indicating that my workout was complete at 12.89 miles, but I wasn’t so happy…I still had a bit to go!  I reset my watch and decided to give it another quarter mile, just to see what my half marathon time (and subsequently full marathon time) would be if I ran a race like this.  Under 2:30:00 for the half…another goal achieved!  I’m hoping to be able to just finish the marathon, but I have a “goal” time of 5:30:00 in mind, which I should be able to achieve if I keep training at this pace.  I’m keeping my expectations low to avoid disappointment in case I hit “the wall” hard, suffer a mental roadblock, the weather is hot/humid, or some other variable derails my race.  Anyway, I was happy with this run and didn’t feel nearly as sore afterward as I did last week.  Here are my stats (the calories burned is off because I had my Garmin set to cycling and had to manually change it to running after uploading the data…I burned WAY more than that!):

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Sunday – 8/4/13 (60 Mins of Cross-training):

Yeah, I did absolutely NO cross-training today (unless a brief panicked swim to catch my camera before it floated downstream counts), but I did have a lot of fun!  Today I went on a really fun Living Social Adventure, the BYOB River Tubing and Taco Bar, with my husband, brother-in-law and a few friends from work.  What a blast!!  We did this adventure last year too, but that is a really long and funny story for another time (there was a torrential downpour and a redneck wedding – horses included), but this year was a thousand times better.  The weather was perfect and the company was even better!  I can’t wait for next summer to do it again…without Living Social and the internal eye rolling it induces though.  The only plus to doing this through Living Social is that transportation to/from is included, which makes the BYOB part a little more enjoyable (unless someone on your bus decides that drinking champagne in the sun and then eating tacos is a good idea…yeah, not so much).  Oh, and next year I will wear sunscreen (ouchie)!

Monday – 8/5/13 (Rest Day):

According to my training plan, Monday’s are supposed to be a rest day so I wasn’t too upset when I realized I had an appointment after work, meaning I wouldn’t have time to run when I got home.  The only downside to not running today was that I was guaranteed to miss yet another week of speed work at the track with my run club.  😦  At least I’m not going to miss my actual training runs, I guess!

Tuesday – 8/6/13 (Easy Run – 3 Miles):

Oh boy, I don’t know if it was due to Saturday’s long run, the beer and junk food on Sunday or the extended “rest” I had by not running on Monday, but this run was absolutely horrible.  My legs were tight, tired, sore and it felt like I had two cement blocks strapped to my feet.  It took everything I had in me to get through this run.  I tried stopping a few times to stretch out my legs but nothing helped.  I ached from my toes to my hips, and oddly enough, my shoulders were sore too.  The time wasn’t too terribly bad (I’ve run a lot slower), but the effort it took to go this slow made me feel like an absolute failure.  I think my disappointment in this run was a huge factor in my Negative Nancy episode on Wednesday.  Here are my stats:

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Wednesday – 8/7/13 (Mid Week Long Run – 7 Miles):

After Tuesday’s failure of a run and my Negative Nancy episode Wednesday morning, I was looking for ANY excuse to skip my training run and give up on training all together.  When the rain clouds rolled in during my lunch hour, I secretly prayed they would turn to thunderstorms by the time I got home from work.  No such luck…they burned off by mid-afternoon and I turned my attention to the heat and humidity for excuses.  The high for the day was in the 90’s and the heat index was 96 at 4pm…surely it was too hot to run.  I mean, if I did, it was sure to end up like the epic failure of a run during the heatwave a few weeks ago, right?!  Luckily, my husband saved the day again.  His encouragement, along with the encouragement of a co-worker armed me with the confidence I needed to face this run, no matter how slow I might go.  I started the run feeling pretty good, but knew I was in trouble when I wanted to quit as I rounded the corner to Washington Boulevard at the 2 mile marker.  I ate an energy gel at mile 3.5 and knew I had to push through, and push through I did.  It may have been slow, and it may have been ugly, but I did it.  Here are my stats:

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Tonight is the last night of the CARA Beginning Running program and I have a 10K coming up this weekend.  Stay tuned for some recaps and more training tales in the days to come.  Have a great week, everyone!

TGIF!!!

We made it friends – HAPPY FRIDAY!!! 

This is the first weekend in about a month that I have not had a race, and that means – no 5am wake-up (except to take the dog out)!  I’m really looking forward to sleeping in a little bit tomorrow.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to sleep in too long, since this is the last week of the quarter and I have two papers due (one by 9pm tomorrow and the other by 11:59pm on Sunday)…then I’m off for the summer!!! 

The timing couldn’t be any better since marathon training officially starts on Monday.  I’m also looking forward to spending some quality time with my husband since my race calendar clears up significantly over the summer.  That being said, I am a little worried about how I’m going to get through late August and September with work, school and the highest mileages of the training program on my plate.  Any words of advice are greatly appreciated!!

Luckily, I think my compromise to save my legs and keep my marathon dreams and streak alive is beginning to work.  I used Icy Hot last night (oh the burning…I really need to get to the store for a different brand) and rested my legs as much as possible during the day today.  Wearing heels to work was still a challenge, but the office was pretty quiet today so I was able to go shoeless for a while (we have a really nice super plush carpet at the office).  When I got home I immediately changed into flip flops to take the dog to the vet, which I think helped a bit.  There was definitely still some soreness during my run tonight, but nothing too terrible.  I tried to keep it slow, but still managed to keep my pace between 10 and 10:30 min/miles (I know this is slow for most runners, but it is fairly average for me lately).  I was really shooting for 10:30 to 11 (goal training pace for easy runs), but found it hard to get my legs to slow down that much…a great problem to have I guess!  Hopefully that is a sign that I am continuing to get faster. 

Regardless, my cool-down was super painful, as was the next hour after the run, but I’m happy to report that after some stretching and walking the pain has subsided to an annoyance at best and is no worse than it was all day today.  I plan to slather up with Icy Hot again (despite the burn) tonight before bed and keep my long run nice and slow tomorrow.  The goal is to get at least 6 miles in, but 10 would be ideal.  We’ll see how my legs feel.  Until then, here are my stats for today:

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Lastly, my #RWRUNSTREAK update for today:

Miles to Date: 23.79

Consecutive Days:  12

Miles to Goal:  106.21

Days Remaining:  27

#@%&$ Legs!!!

OUCH, enough of this leg pain already!!!  I thought I was on the mend after feeling pretty good during the day yesterday, but apparently the two miles I ran yesterday were too much for my legs to handle.  Wearing high heels to work today was unpleasant, to say the least, but that didn’t stop me from getting at least one mile in tonight.  I’m not saying that it was a “smart” decision to run tonight, but I’m determined to keep the streak alive.  I know that this pain is just sore and/or overworked muscles and rest will solve the problem, but I don’t like to give up on goals.  As a compromise, I plan to keep my runs slow and easy for the next few days (at my current long run training pace, instead of my goal training pace).  I can get back to training for speed next week.  After all, I have a half marathon coming up in a two weeks and marathon training starts next week, so healthy legs are more important than time or pace right now.  Now for a little R-I-C-E!

Here are my stats for today:

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And now for my #RWRUNSTREAK update:

Miles to Date: 21.79

Consecutive Days:  11

Miles to Goal:  108.21

Days Remaining:  28