Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nashville Greenway Marathon Race Report-- Marathon #14

A few weeks ago, I ran the Nashville Greenway Marathon on a chilly Sunday morning.  I had never been on the Nashville Greenway before even though I live only an hour or less from several trail heads.  I didn’t really know what to expect except a few hills.

My 13-year old caught a stomach bug on Tuesday of race week, and sure enough, it hit me on Thursday.  It wasn’t a bad one, but I wasn’t at 100% by the Sunday start.  Almost though.   I ran two easy miles on Saturday to test my tummy and to shake out my legs.

A small group of about 94 or so of us started at 7:30 a.m.  I knew about 6 or 7 runners and 3 volunteers.  It’s always nice to see friendly faces at races out of town!   I tried to hold back somewhat in the first few miles, averaging around 10:15 or so.  In hindsight, I probably should have run more like 10:25 or 10:30 per mile early on as a warm up.  (My best training run had been 18 miles at a 10:28 pace though.)  It’s just hard to know. 

Somewhere between miles two and three, I saw a runner just ahead whom I kind of “knew” through Facebook and Twitter and mutual friends.  I sped up and caught him and introduced myself.  As it turned out, he had also had a virus in the last few days and was not feeling very well at all.  He was considering turning around and running back to the start.  He said he’d decide for sure at 8 miles.   We chatted and the miles passed quickly.  I was aware that I was running more his (sick day) pace than mine, but I was enjoying the conversation.  There were a few spots where the course wasn’t very well marked, and I was glad to run with someone who knew the Greenway route.   Race-day buddies are always fun.  You find out things in common like you are both parents of three kids, you have run some of the same races in the past, and of course you share your philosophy of running and races you hope to do and tell race stories from ones you have run.   There is never a shortage of conversation (or maybe that’s just me!).   I have been blessed to pass many, many miles with a new friend in many of my 14 marathons. 

We were running somewhere around a 10-minute pace—sometimes 9:55, sometimes more like 10:10 for a long time.  The eight-mile-mark came and went, and my friend kept going.  Around mile 12 or 13, the pace really caught up to me—much earlier than it should have, honestly.  I began to fade.  Legs felt heavy.  Energy was flagging.  Ugh, that’s the PATTERN I’ve had in all of my recent marathons.  Things are hard earlier than they should be.  Yes, I often go out a bit too fast (but not crazily so), but that wall just keeps on moving earlier!   I’m hydrating.  I’m taking in carbs every 40 or 45 minutes.  But it is as if those carbs never make it to my muscles in the form of energy!  It feels much like the way I feel on a carb-depleted run.   However, on those runs, I am usually running slower.  Hmmm....

Finally, around 14, I had faded to a 10:30 or 11:00 min mile pace, and my friend was feeling better, so he went on.   My body was saying STOP and walk.  I began to run/walk.  It was as if my legs couldn’t run another step, but I forced them to keep moving.  I remember at mile 16 thinking I could just walk the rest of the way and trying to figure out how long that would take!

When I saw the mile 20 sign, though, it was as if the cloud lifted a bit.  There is something MAGICAL about seeing that 20-mile-marker.  You know you are going to be alright.   It may be painful, but you’ve come that far, and there’s just a 10K left.  I started running more and more.  I ran fairly well in the last two miles of the race, especially.  At that point, “running well” means an 11:30 pace, but not walking any or much at all.
I didn’t get really discouraged when things fell apart.  Things have fallen apart in my last 3 road marathons.  I think I’m getting used to it!   It happens and you just dig deep and FINISH.   Around mile 20, I knew I could probably come in under 5 hours if I didn’t walk too much.  For me, under 5 hours is still an OK day.  Under 4:45 is a good day.  Under 4:36 would be a GREAT day.   It’ll happen sometime…. Maybe.  I kept my emotions under control though and enjoyed the beauty of much of the course.  There were some really scenic areas along fields and the river.  I was really impressed with this beautiful greenway and plan to return to run there again!

This was my first full marathon since my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis on February 28.   It is an autoimmune disease in which my immune system is attacking my thyroid.  The thyroid gland regulates metabolism and energy and endurance.  I PRAY that falling apart around mile 13 isn’t my new normal.   I don’t want to run strictly half marathons.  I want to run marathons and ultramarathons.   I can let go of the idea of running fast a little easier if I get to run FAR.  I just have to adjust my expectations a bit, I’m afraid.  Maybe faster times are ahead of me, maybe they are behind me.   Symptoms of Hashimoto’s include muscular weakness and lack of stamina.  Another potential symptom is associated with malabsorption of vitamins, like B1 (Thiamin).   You know what B1 does?  It allows your body to convert carbohydrates to energy.   One studied showed that MONSTER doses of B1 made a big difference in the way Hashimoto’s patients felt.   When you take a monster dose, even if little is absorbed (the rest is excreted in urine), you are closer to getting a “normal” amount.   I started supplementing this week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Snowpocalypse: Land Between the Lakes Trail 23K Race Report

Six days before the LBL trail 23K, marathon, 60K and 50-miler, the Land Between the Lakes area in Kentucky received 3 inches of ice topped by 4 inches of snow.  Some melting had occurred on Thursday and Friday in areas that receive sun, leaving behind a MESS of some hard-packed snowy areas with about 4 inches of snow and ice, some soft snowy/slushy areas, and lots of runoff and mud from the melted snow. However, I hadn't previewed the trail prior to the race to see how much snow remained, so I didn't really know what awaited me!

I spent the night before the race in Grand Rivers and had a wonderful dinner with some very cool trail runners from all over.  I only knew two of the people at our table of nine, but we were all quickly friends. It is funny--meet a runner for the very first time and immediately have a thousand things to talk about.  I love the running community so much.  One gentleman at our table was one I had passed some miles with at my last trail race two weeks ago.  The trail-running community is fairly small!

I tossed and turned for maybe 3 hours in my very own queen-sized bed and then gave up at 3:55 a.m., an hour before my alarm was set to go off.  I rarely sleep well before races!   Our hotel was super race-friendly, and they started serving breakfast at 4:30 a.m.   I started with coffee.  Of course.  4:30 a.m. selfie:

I only had to drive five minutes to the race start.  As I parked my car at 6:00 in the morning in downtown Grand Rivers, I should have had an inkling of what was to come.  Walking the quarter-mile from the parking area to the start, I had to skate across solid sheets of ice and step across mounds of plowed snow.

The first mile or so was on a main road, so it was clear.  Then we turned onto a side road that was solid ice!  From there we turned onto the 11-mile Canal Loop Trail, and I was surprised it looked like this:

The hard-packed snow was runnable, but it was treacherous.  It would be very easy to slide off down that embankment!

Throughout the race, there were 10 stream crossings!   We'd slip and slide down a snowy embankment, wade through 4-5 inches of mud, attempt to jump across the stream (with varying degrees of success!), and then hike up the slippery, snowy other side in our now muddy and possibly wet shoes.  There was certainly no danger of getting lost.  Just follow the dirty snow!

I was pretty happy that my stream crossings were successful and my shoes stayed dry through mile 7.   However, after that, my left shoe and sock were soaked during a stream crossing.  Then a few minutes later, both were soaked.  Icy melted snow water is pretty darn COLD on your feet!

Somewhere after the 10K point, I ran into my friend Dawn and we ran most of the rest of the race together. She is from Toronto, and running in the snow wasn't foreign to her.  We chatted and made the best of a tough situation!  Somewhere around mile 9, I turned to say something to her, then when I turned back around, I lost my footing on an uneven snowbank and fell right over.  It wasn't a graceful or an epically cool fall.  I just fell over onto the snow.  It was my only fall of the day, shockingly!

Also about mile 9, the temp started heating up and the hard-packed snow was no more.  It was a soft, slushy kind of snow that your shoes sink deeply into with every step.

It was also around this point that I realized how tired I was from fighting the snow.  If you've ever run in sand, it was like that at times---except the sand was slippery and made your feet cold!   Dawn and I started hiking the uphills at this point.  I couldn't get any traction at all!

At mile 11, I realized something startling:  my feet were numb.  Both of them.  Completely.  I could not feel my toes.  Of course, they'd been wet and immersed in snow and mud for many miles at this point!  Getting pretty sloppy:

 I kept plugging along though, numb feet and all.  I knew we were almost done with the trail and waited expectantly to see pavement as the last 1.7 miles were on the road back into town.

PAVEMENT NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD!   I exited the trail and turned down the still ice-covered side road, then I was back on the main road.   We had to go up two long, gradual hills.  Last year, those hills disheartened me.  I had run a terrible race and felt awful at that point.  I basically walked the whole 1.7 miles.  This year, I EMBRACED those hills and made a deal with myself:  I will NOT walk on this home stretch.  And I didn't.  I also "chicked" four guys (passed them), but a girl also chicked me.   It does feel good to pass four men on the home stretch, I'm not going to lie!  

It took a while for me to get my road legs back, but finally by the end, I was able to get down almost to normal half-marathon pace.  My legs had taken a beating though!

Last year in my terrible race on the same DRY trail, I finished in 3:07, head down, spirit broken.  This year, I finished in 3:06:55 with a happy and determined smile on my face. That is a WIN in my book!

As it turned out, it was probably the toughest 14 miles I've ever run.  The Canal Loop at LBL is fairly challenging anyway, but fighting with snow, mud and ice certainly added to the challenge.  I will definitely remember my snowy run!

Post race with my friend Dawn and new friend Rob:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

26.4 Miles of Blue Sky: Dry Creek Trail Marathon Race Report

Last Sunday, I ran the Nashville Running Company's inaugural Dry Creek Trail Marathon at the Cheatham County Wildlife Management Area.  It is a hunting area, primarily, but it is open to hikers at various times of the year.

It was a GORGEOUS day.  The course was a mixture of dirt/gravel roads (about 21 miles) and technical steep hills covered in about a foot of leaves.  Some runners called it a "hybrid."   The course looked fairly flat on the elevation profile, but in reality, it was hill after hill after hill.  (And one mountain.)

I started the race with my friend Andrea.  We had trained together and hoped to stay together for most of the first half.  We started off down a long gravel road with large, loose gravel, then turned off onto a rutted dirt road.   Is this the BLUEST sky or what?  I really enjoyed the scenery.

Part of the fun of this course was avoiding all the giant mud puddles that were sprinkled all over the course.  We settled into a nice pace and chatted as we ran.  Around mile 3.5 or so, we turned onto the real trail portion and started going immediately downhill.  It was the steepest downhill I've ever attempted to run.  I used the "Ryan" (Ploeckelman) technique as I ran down the hill--arms out, airplane style.  He had showed me this technique once at Rotary Park.  I only slipped in the leaves once.  They were a little damp!  It got much steeper than this.  Here is one of the two trees down that we had to hurdle.

At the bottom of this steep, leafy hill was a creek and some feeder streams.  We had to hop across two tiny streams and the larger creek.  There was a small log on the edge in the creek, so we stood on it and jumped. Of course, it rolled on lift off, but that made it fun.  Dry shoes prevailed!  

After that, we ran across a large, open field.  See that hill in the distance??   Yeah....

Then it was time to go up, up, and up.  For what seemed like the next three miles, we climbed out of the creek bottom.  I power hiked the hill above.   Finally, we arrived at mile 7, which also happened to be race headquarters.  From there, it was just a 3-ish mile out and back down a gravel road.  This section was definitely the hardest for me.  It was a little boring, and I felt like I was fighting the rocks and loose gravel. This was a rare flat portion on the home stretch.  

Andrea and I stayed together for 12 of the 13.1 miles.  It made the first half so pleasant.  I finished the first half around 2:38 or so, but stopped to refuel at headquarters and drop some unneeded gear and hit the one bathroom.  I headed out SOLO for loop two at around 2:40 on the clock.  There was one runner way in front of me whose shirt I could see occasionally.

The first time around, I hadn't been paying attention and that first segment down the long gravel road made me sure I had missed the first turn.  (I hadn't.)  Just before panic officially set in, I saw the sign marking the right turn onto the dirt road.  Whew!   At that point, I knew I just followed the road to the trail.  During that stretch, a guy and a girl both passed me.  It made me feel relieved that I wasn't out there totally alone like in my first trail marathon last April, but I didn't try to strike up a conversation with either of them.  I was enjoying being alone.   

It was at that point, around mile 15 or so, that I noticed how BLUE the sky was and really began to appreciate the beauty of the day.  That first picture up above was taken then.  I just felt happy (though tired) and blessed to be out there in the country doing something I enjoy so much.  I enjoyed the leafy downhill once again (tripped twice but didn't fall!) and had fun crossing the creek and streams the second time around.  I passed one of the more cautious (smarter??) runners on the downhill.   At one point flying down the hill, I said, "I'm running like Ryan" and then realized I was talking to myself. OUT LOUD.  It happens.

I climbed out of the creek bed again--a little faster the second time-- and finally got to mile 20, which was headquarters.  I quickly refilled my two water bottles and headed out for that last portion.  I was still smiling though.  As I entered the aid station, someone said, "I love to see a runner still smiling at mile 20!"  I had on my Run Happy shirt, so I couldn't very well frown.  

However, soon after that, it hit.  THE WALL.  About mile 21, I just had a sudden loss of energy.  My legs felt heavy and wanted to walk, not run.  I was already power-walking all the hills, and I had to make myself run the flats and the downhills.  I always say, "Downhills are a gift from God!  Never walk them."   So, in 21-23, I had to dig fairly deep.  I caught up to one of the runners who had passed me earlier.  We chatted a little and he was struggling a little more than I was, so I went on ahead.   I got to the turnaround and knew there was just a bit over 3 miles back to the finish.   I was feeling very DONE.  I was tired of fighting the gravel.  My right shin hurt.  My lower back was tight.  I could tell that the longest training run I'd done on similar terrain was 10 miles.  I had outrun my trail fitness.  It was just up to mind over body.  But, honestly, when does it not feel like that at mile 23??   I was determined to get to the finish as quickly as possible.  

At mile 25.5 or so, I saw someone coming toward me on the trail, and it was my friend and neighbor Jeff, who had come out to run me in.  I appreciated that so much!   Jeff and I ran/walked that last uphill mile, and I finished at 5:26:50 officially for about 26.4 Garmin distance.   

I was proud of that time.  It got difficult (they always do), but I never got discouraged.   I made my time goal.  I enjoyed the day.

Overall, I'd say it was in my top 5 marathons.   It was my 3rd trail marathon, 11th marathon overall, and 13th marathon or ultra.  It is hard to beat the PERFECT day I had at the Kentucky Derby Marathon in 2012 and the perfect night I had at Run Under the Stars ultramarathon last June.  Might be 3rd though!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Respecting the Distance

I am officially in TAPER for the Dry Creek Trail Marathon in two weeks.   It has been a cold and dreary winter here in Tennessee (and basically EVERYWHERE except for my friends in So Cal--by the way, I hate you..... jk).  

It has been the kind of winter that makes you want to stay curled up in flannel pj's drinking a hot beverage instead of getting out and pounding the early morning pavement.  But if I've learned anything in my 6.5 years of running, it is that you must respect the distance.   Sheer respect (and fear?) of 26.2 trail miles has gotten my booty out the door on many a cold day this winter.  (Yeah, cold is relative-but this is Tennessee, and I'm a Southerner, and I find 5 degrees appalling.)  

All my runs this week were uncomfortably chilly--except maybe the one on the treadmill.  In a certain amount of wind, no amount of clothes makes you feel warm.  I ran 20 miles on a fairly mild day last Saturday, but Monday was a snow day for the kids, so I hit the treadmill for 3 miles.  My legs were still a bit tired.  On Wednesday, a friend and I ran 10 miles (in the middle of the week---what???) on an unpaved path along a river.  Legs were still tired.  It was very windy on this route by the river and snow pelted us in the face most of the miles. Real feel temp was about 17.   Hard to enjoy, but we tried.  On Friday, I did run an impromptu fun and fridgid two miles on a trail still covered in light snow.  That was actually kind of fun.  And short.  Short helps.  Today, I moved my training group's run (and my 14 miler) to midday.  I was hoping for 38 and sunny, but got about 34, cloudy, and windy.  I am OVER it.  And guess what?  My legs were still tired.

But it's TAPER, so it's all good.  Now I just need to rest them.  I've done all I can at this point.

I've run at least 3 X per week.  Long runs have been 14, 15, 17, 19, and 20.  I think that's a pretty good progression.  In the past 8 days, I've run 49 miles.  (No wonder my legs are tired.....)  I've run bunches of trail miles, but no more than 6 technical ones at a time.  I think I'll be fine though.  I was about equally or even less trained for my other two trail marathons last April and June.

As I lay on the bed typing, my legs are burning.  They do this sometimes. They didn't last week after 20 miles for some reason, but they are on fire tonight after only 14.  Wonder what that is???

I'm still really excited for the race.  I'm ready enough.  :-)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Distance Runner Problems

Distance Runner Problem #1:  Race Addiction
     It has been two months since my last race on December 1, and it feels strange.  I got into the habit (for better or worse) of racing often.  I'm craving a race, but I have to wait 3 more weeks!   However, that race is a full marathon on a new trail, so it will be worth it!  I'm looking at it as a day of adventure.  The beauty of the trails for me is that there is no real time pressure.  I'd LOVE to beat my previous fastest trail marathon time (excruciatingly slow!), but it's really comparing apples and oranges since trails can vary so much. Overall, I am stupid excited about this race.

Distance Runner Problem #2:  Trails Runners Are Made Not Born
     I have learned (the hard way) to respect a trail marathon.  My first trail marathon last year was a comedy of errors.  I really hadn't run enough long runs or trail miles.  This time, I'm still not getting in more than 5 or 6 miles on trails at a time, but at least I'm doing it often.  I feel like I've found my trail legs finally.  I'm not mincing cautiously down hills, I'm not tripping over rocks or roots every five seconds, and I'm feeling strong on climbs more often.  I think I'm finally a trail runner!! I also had my first trail fall a few weeks ago.  It was an epic, slow-motion, I'm-going-down-no-I've-got-myself-no-I'm-definitely-going-down kind of fall.  I landed in a pile of leaves and laughed about it for the next hour.   Another way I know I'm finally a trail runner is that if I don't get on the trails at least once a week, my soul misses it.

Distance Runner Problem #3:  Balancing Life and Running
    Due to some circumstances in my life last fall and a pretty tough training schedule, I began to experience diminishing returns.  Around October, my running just fell apart.  Running began to feel like the enemy.  I was tired all the time, but not sleeping.   I was stress-stress-stressing my body through tough workouts and a busy teaching and parenting schedule, not eating enough, and definitely not recovering enough-- it was no wonder things fell apart.  Now, I'm being kinder and gentler to my body, eating better,  trying to get close to 8 hours of sleep a night, and just handling stress better.  I'm also running less, but it feels right.  I'm not in any way overwhelmed by the training schedule I'm loosely following (that I wrote myself).  Running is low-key and is back to what it should be for me-- a pleasurable form of exercise, time with friends, and a bit of adventure.  It is adding to my life; it is not my life.  I still want to run further and faster (and forever!), but not at the expense of the JOY.

Distance Runner Problem #4:  It's Always Something
   That is one of my husband's favorite expressions, along with "Ain't nothin' easy" and "It is what it is."  I just realized all could apply to running!  While my joints and muscles held up pretty well through high mileage and tons of speed work in the fall, since reducing running volume, I've been having various problems.  For a few weeks, it was both IT Bands.  Then it was my right knee.  Now, it's my right foot.  It has hurt for four days! I wore dressy boots on Monday and noticed it was a little achy.  On Tuesday, I ran 5 miles on the treadmill in my new Altra Torins, and after the run, it began to hurt badly and has hurt ever since--as in limp-when-I-walk hurting.   "It's always something."   You'd think finding shoes that work well wouldn't be that hard. I had high hopes for those Altras.  The cushioning is incredible.  Maybe it's too soon to tell and wasn't their fault.  I've recently ordered some new Brooks Transcends.  Maybe they'll work.  Finding new shoes is a pain.  But, "Ain't nothing easy."  I came really close to cancelling or postponing tomorrow's 20-mile long run with all this foot pain.  However, today the foot feels a bit better.  I guess I'll attempt 20 and see how the foot feels.  If there really is a stress fracture or something crazy going on, "It is what it is."

Distance runners sure seem to have lots of little problems.  The key is to remember that in the BIG PICTURE, these are just tiny problems and issues that go along with a sport we LOVE and CHOSE and that gives so much back to us.  These minor irritations in no way overshadow the JOY we receive from the run.  Or at least they shouldn't.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

So Far, So Good: Running Happy in 2014

So far, I'm really enjoying 2014.  My running focus this year is to run happy, and I've had some pretty happy (and good) runs so far.

On New Year's Day, I rang in the new year with a 16-miler at the Bicentennial Trail with my good friend Andrea and several others.  Andrea and I always have fun on our runs, which we look at more as adventures than training runs.  "Look, a new trail!  Let's see where it goes!"   "Hey, we've never been down that road before.  Let's try it!"  That spirit of adventure and not taking ourselves too seriously both contribute to really enjoyable runs.   My mantra for 2014 is

My outer knee/IT band had been bothering me for a few weeks, and around mile 12, it was definitely unhappy.  We ran/walked the last miles, and I finished up with a good bit of outer knee pain.

I spent a few hours self-diagnosing myself on the internets with ITBS.  No, not IBS.  Wrong bodypart.  ITBS.  IT Band Syndrome.  It extends from the hip to the knee and inserts at the tibia.  It crosses a bony protusion on the outside of one's knee, and that area can get really, really sore.  IT band FRICTION syndrome is another name.  Based on my self-diagnosis, self-treatment would include stretching, foam rolling, running fewer miles, running fewer hills, running on a soft surface when possible, and maybe sports massage (not done by self, obviously).   Foam rolling the IT band is rather awkward as you lay on your side with your weight on your forearm and elbow and attempt to roll back and forth on the outside of your leg.  I netted a new and unusual running injury from it--- carpet burn on my elbow.

I think overdoing it on the hills in my neighborhood and nearby Savannah Subdivision plus hilly trail runs created this IT band problem, but it's not too severe.  I was just doing back-to-back-to-back hilly runs.

I'm definitely making a couple of training changes in the coming months.  One change I'm making is to crosstrain at least once a week for 30-60 minutes on the bike or elliptical.  It will just be a gentle way to increase endurance.  Another change I'm prescribing myself is to not run long EVERY week, just run long every 10-14 days.  That will give the old IT band a bit of a break.   The "Running Doc" website says you can can run through IT band treatment if you train smart.

I have a favorite flat, dirt/gravel trail that is just about the perfect soft surface on which to run.  I've visited a couple of times since January 1.  It follows along the Cumberland River, and I absolutely LOVE running there.  See why?

Unfortunately, it is duck-hunting season here in beautiful Tennessee, so my serene trail runs have been interrupted by the sound of gunfire.  One day, pellets actually rained down from the sky into the parking lot where I was standing after a long series of gunshots.  That wasn't the worst part though.  Last Thursday morning, my friend Kim and I were getting our gear ready for a run there when a man with a rifle slung across his back walked quietly toward us in the parking lot.  I said, "Kim, don't freak out or anything, but there is a man with a gun behind you."  Of course, I SHOULD have said, "Here comes a hunter" or something a little less alarming.  He was dressed head to toe in camo.  I was 80% sure he meant us no harm.  It unnerved me though.  Two unarmed women alone in a parking lot.  One armed man.  Scary.  

It is tough to find flat routes around here.  I had to resort to a treadmill run last Tuesday.  I hadn't done that in a long time.  I blame the Polar Vortex.  It was about 9 degrees here with a strong wind and a windchill near zero.  But, the treadmill IS considered a soft, flat surface.  I may have to utilize that more in the coming months.

Yesterday was the 10-day mark since my last long run.  I was due for a 17-miler.  The IT band was feeling great.  Due to scheduling issues, the hilliest route was also the only convenient one for such a long run.  I went into the run with no expectations.  I was curious to see at what point the old IT band would start talking.  My friend Kiki met me for the first 11.  We ran at a faster pace than I usually run my long training runs---about 30-45 seconds faster, but still a comfortable pace.  Then I met my husband for 6 more miles as he is training for his 3rd half marathon.  (I'm even coaching him!)   We ran more hills, but in these last six miles, I chose to walk up a portion of some of them.  Toward the very end, I could tell my IT bands were tighting up, maybe aching a little, but nothing like 10 days prior.  However, I felt stronger at miles 14-17 of that training run than I had in my last two marathons or any training run in recent memory.   I only took in real food during the run--1/2 banana, dried fruit, rice crackers, and an organic fruit puree.  I drank water and Nuun.

I finished that 17-mile run with a 10:26 pace average.  Hmmm.  That is faster than my last two marathons and any other 17-miler I've ever done as a training run.  I put it in a running calculator and was inspired to see it was a 4:33 marathon pace.  My PR is 4:36.  So, that was encouraging.  I didn't have 9 more miles in me at that pace by any stretch yesterday.  But my next road marathon isn't for 10 weeks.  There is TIME.   But, I'm not going to stress about it.  If a PR happens in the marathon this year, it is going to be because it just happens on one of those really good days.  

I am continually praying about being the athlete that God wants me to be.  I really want to use running as a way to encourage and inspire others and to glorify Him.  I haven't really been doing a very good job with that the last couple of years.  I want to follow God's will for my life, and I think that running is part of that plan.  I love this quote from the movie Chariots of Fire.  It resonates with me... except for the fast part.  

After I trained very hard in July, August, and September of 2013, my races in October, November, and December just didn't quite come together.  I was fatiguing in my marathons by mile 14.  I was struggling through training runs.  I couldn't run paces I could run just a few months earlier despite consistent training.  I was tired all the time but couldn't sleep at night.   At my December check up, my doc ordered a blood panel.  I thought maybe I had low iron or something.  As it turns out, I have hypothyroidism.   The thyroid regulates energy and metabolism and sleep.   I started a low dose of meds on Friday.  (It would be too soon to account for that awesome training run though!  Placebo effect?)   It runs in the family.  I'm not shocked.  I'm actually sort of relieved to know why I ended 2013 feeling and running the way I did.  

My endurance is growing.  My IT band is healing (hopefully).  I've got my priorities aligned better.  I'm feeling really encouraged and blessed.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!  So far, so good!  I'm looking forward to many adventures this year!

By the way, January is 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Running Goals

1.  To run in new races and places.  That's part of the adventure!
2.  To run happy and healthy.
3.  To tackle some long distances.
4.  To use running for stress relief and renewal.
5.  To enjoy each and every race, even when it's hard, even when I'm slow and to have gratitude for running.

Simple really.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Victories and Struggles in 2013: A Year in Races

Running is a metaphor for life.  Some runs come effortlessly while sometimes it is a fight just to breathe.

Personally, 2013 held many blessings as well as many challenges.  I went back to work as a teacher (part-time) after being primarily a stay-at-home-mom for 11 years.  My father had open-heart surgery and was in and out of the hospital for eight weeks.  My son also had a major surgery.  In the middle of all this, I had the opportunity to be coached by an elite marathoner, and I took it.  I trained harder than ever before.  Over the course of the year, I really struggled to balance maintaining my home, family, lesson plans, grading, coaching, friendships, and running.  Lots of plates were spinning and at any moment, I felt like some, if not all, of them might come crashing down.  

In 2013, I ran exactly 13 races.  Some were more struggle than victory and some were more victory than struggle.  More than anything, though, it was a year of LEARNING.  I learned a lot about myself as a runner, probably more than any other year in my 6.5 years of running.  I learned quite a bit about myself as a human as well.  :-)

I started January of 2013 with an injury---a sprained ankle from the Flying Monkey Marathon in November of 2012.  I cross trained and ran lightly for about 10 weeks before I could resume normal training and run without pain.  I planned my “comeback” race as the Race Judicata 10K—in the same park, on the same hills that had broken me.    
  •  Race Judicata 10K.  February.  Goals:  to run all the hills without walking (These hills are extreme!).  To run a 10:00 minute pace or better.   To not fall down.  Verdict??  Victory!  I met all my goals.  The course was actually short, but Michelle and I kept going until 6.2 on our Garmins.  Final pace was about 9:55.  I was happy.  It was a nice day with friends.  Andrea, Gena, Michelle, and I enjoyed the run.  


  • Re-Love Haiti 5K.  I helped set up this course this year.  It was mostly flat.  Race morning greeted the runners with snowfall—my favorite!   I just wanted a 5K baseline to see how much speed I’d lost with my 10-week injury.  Verdict??  Victory!   I ran well.  I enjoyed the falling snow. I got 3rd in my age group and won a gift card to the Runner’s Hub!  It was a good day.


  • LBL Trail 23K.  I was originally registered for the full trail marathon.  It was going to be my first trail full.  However, all that time off didn’t lend itself to being marathon ready by early March! I thought if I felt good, I might do the 2nd loop and complete the full (hiking if nothing else).  However, on race morning, I decided I’d rather PR the 23K than just finish the full.  So, I went out hard.   I must have temporarily forgotten that my longest trail run had been about 6 miles.  My legs wrote a check that my fitness level couldn’t cash!  Then, around mile 6, I rolled that left ankle that HAD. JUST. HEALED.  It had only felt good for a few weeks.  I lost the mental battle right there.   I had already begun to feel fatigued, so the physical battle was going downhill fast.  I hiked.  A lot.  Finally, I completed the trail and just had the 1.5 miles on the road left to finish. Then I saw ye olde racewalker, whom I’d passed in mile one, up ahead.  And I couldn’t catch him.  He looked to be around 80, but had a smokin’ walking pace.  Humble pie.  Verdict?  More struggle than victory. 


  •  Murray Half Marathon.  I was excited to run a new race in a new place!  I’d heard good things about the Murray Half, and it did not disappoint.  My goal:  2:10.  I even tried to run with the 2:10 pace group.   I was behind them, with them, and in front of them at various times.   I really enjoyed the course with its mix of country and city, hills and flats.   I ran every step of this race and finished just a few seconds over 2:10.   I’d have to call that a victory! 


  •  Backside Trail Marathon.  This was a rather spontaneous decision.  I saw this online one day and talked another runner into traveling with me.  I hadn’t put in anywhere near the trail miles I should have, but I did get in a few long road runs.   My first trail full will be forever memorable!  It rained and rained.   I skated through mud for about 20 of the 27 miles.   I crawled on my hands and knees up a muddy embankment.  I lost a shoe in the mud.  I pulled myself up an incline with a tree branch.  I tried not to slip down the embankment and fall in the river.  I ran probably 15-18 miles alone on an unfamiliar trail.  I kept thinking I was lost and backtracking to the last trail marker.  Then I actually got lost.  27 and change.   Almost, but not, the last finisher.  It was quite an adventure.  Many of those registered for the full dropped to the half due to the muddy conditions.  However, I was both determined and completely in over my head.  It took me over 7 hours, but I survived.   Victory!  


  • Run Under the Stars 9.5 Hour Endurance Event.  I ran a personal long of 38.5 miles.  I never sat to rest.  I just ran and walked all night long.   Relentless forward progress.  My secret goal was to place in the top 10 women.  I was #8!   Victory!   Favorite event of 2013.  


  •  Backass Jackal Trail Marathon.  I wanted another shot at a trail marathon.  This one was a loop course of around 3 miles.  It was a hot and humid June day.  The eventual winner lapped me.  TWICE!  But, overall, I enjoyed the adventure of it all and spent most of the day running alone in the woods.  I started my last loop really happy and having fun.  It didn’t exactly end that way, but it was a trail marathon PR nonetheless.   Hmmm….  Victory?  Struggle?   Somewhere in between.   This race qualified me for Marathon Maniac status (3 in 3 months), but I haven’t applied yet.  


  •  Loonies Midnight Marathon.   After two tough trail marathons, I figured this one would be a piece of cake.   It wasn’t exactly cake, but it was a fun night, and I made a new friend.  Tim from Houston and I supported and encouraged one another, told stories, and laughed often for the last 20 miles, all while trying to finish under 5 hours.  4:57.  Victory!


  •  Wild Thang 9-mile Trail Race.   Ran a long run of 16 on Thursday before this race.  That was a mistake.  Legs were good the first 4-5 miles.  Then…. Notsomuch.   Struggle.


  •  The Murfreesboro Middle Half.   Goal race I had trained so hard for.   I just wasn’t feeling it that day.   Angry with myself and my body for failing me.  Struggled both mentally and physically.  Self-doubt.  Disappointment.  It was a new half marathon PR, but I didn’t break two hours, and that was my #1 goal.   Should be a victory, but sure didn’t feel like one.  Struggle.


  •  Go Commando Half Marathon.  Just a week later.   Cold, pouring rain, big hills, but my soul was content.  Night and day in terms of attitude.   No self-doubt.  No negative self-talk.  8 minute PR over last year.   Ran every step of every hill.  Made a new friend to pass the miles with.  Finished strong.  Victory!


  •  Bowling Green 26.2.  Another goal race for which I had trained hard.   Went out way too fast,  then fell apart mile by mile in the second half.   Just.... tired.   Achilles hurt from mile 11 on.  Didn’t even make my C. goal.   Hated nearly every minute of miles 11-26. There were tears and a complete loss of perspective.  Utter disappointment.   Struggle for sure.


  • Walter White Memorial Marathon.   Ok race.   I would have liked to have run it faster.   My Achilles hurt again, and my legs just didn’t have much that day.  However, I wasn’t trying to PR, and I didn’t really care about my finish time.   Many miles of solitude.  Gained some perspective.   Victory or struggle?   Hmmm....  


More than anything, I end the year knowing this:  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Final race of 2013: The Walter White Memorial Marathon

On Sunday, December 1, I ran my final race of 2013, the Walter White Memorial Marathon.  According to the picture above, there were only 23 participants.  (See the lady in pink compression socks?  I'm behind her to the right.) I've never actually seen a single episode of Breaking Bad, so I didn't really get the clever costumes and cookies that a couple of participants contributed.  However, it was a Run It Fast Club event, I knew a lot of people running it, and it was a flat 2.9 mile paved trail through Pinson Mounds State Archeological Area that we would run NINE TIMES.  I felt like I didn't want my year to end with the Bowling Green Marathon, which didn't go well at all (there were tears).  I wanted a redemption race-- not a PR, but to finish the year running a race with a good attitude and with gratitude.  The flat part was appealing, too!  I snapped this as I rolled in about 10 minutes before the race start.  I've never cut it that close before!

Right after the group photo and with little fanfare, the race began.  I tried to just run relaxed.  The first two loops I had the good company of Sandy, new friend Donna I had just met that morning, and Anthony, with whom I'd also run the first loop of the Backass Jackal trail marathon in July.   I averaged about a 10:15 pace for the first 6 miles, smarter than the first six in Bowling Green, but still probably a bit fast. 

It was a pretty course on a cool, overcast fall day in West Tennessee.  This is one of maybe two tiny inclines:

Miles and miles of SOLITUDE.  This felt almost more like a solo training run!

I really enjoyed the scenery.  At least the first 4-5 loops.  Then, well......   I will say I got a little bored.  Perhaps lonely.  After the first six miles, I was a member of Run It Alone.  Honestly, it was a good time to do lots of thinking.  I had been dealing with some personal issues, and I really gained some nice perspective during that race.  I ran well the first 13.1 miles and hit the half-way point at 2:15.  However, fatigue hit about then as well as Achilles pain (again).  Starting in mile 14, I added some walk breaks.  Around mile 18, I really hit a wall.  Since I wasn't taking the race too seriously, though, I didn't  panic or beat myself up.  I started snapping pics and even posting on FB, running some, walking some.  I walked a TON between 20-23.  I spent time talking to God and focusing on being THANKFUL for being out in nature and for legs that could carry me 26 miles.  That was the epiphany of this race:   I need to be thankful that I can run marathons at all.  Even if my legs aren't carrying me as fast as I might like them to, I have no doubt I can finish.  And that is worth something.   I may be walking, but I look happy, don't I???
From what I could tell from looping, I was the 4th female going into my last lap.  (I think there were 9 of us, and two dropped during the race).  However, as I was leaving the turnaround, I passed the next female coming in, and she looked strong and was only about a minute and a half behind me.  That woke me up a bit.  I decided to try to run the entire last lap except those two tiny hills.  And I did!  It wasn't a stellar pace, but they were about 11:30 pace miles, and for me at the end of the marathon, that's not too bad!   I managed to roll into the finish at 4:56, about a minute faster than my Loonies Marathon (another looping course but much hillier and it was JULY in TN--HOT!!).  
So, out of 7 road marathons, it was the 3rd fastest.  I can live with that!  For me, anything under 5 hours is a pretty good day.  I WANT to break 4:30 badly, and I know it will come in time.   
December 1 was a turning point in my running life in many ways.  Perspective.  Understanding.  Epiphany.  Change in attitude and focus.  Who needs to wait until January 1? 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Running Free

I am happy to say I am running free these days.  A runner without a clue I mean plan.   Where am I going?  I don't know!  I don't care!

It is nice to run free again.  I go out my front door or meet up with friends and usually don't know how far, what pace, or even why.   I love it. 

I'm just running by feel, by mood, by weather.   Twenty degrees and 15mph wind?  Nothankyouverymuch. 

Training hard with a coach July 1- Nov 3 was fun and very challenging.  I learned so much.  My life was busy with balancing three part-time jobs, three kiddos, and mountains of laundry, but come hell or high water, I got it done.   Heck, I ran 160 miles in August alone.  Have you ever been to Tennessee in August?   It's not the ideal running month.   Let it suffice to say, there was much sweating and chafing and gnashing of teeth.

Now, I am enjoying the camaraderie of runs with old and new friends, the sound of leaves crunching under my feet on the trails, and the freedom to decide if I want (or need) a run that day.  It is glorious.

I love running again.  Thank God.  Honestly, I was kind of mad at it for a while.  But like all good relationships, running and I got past our differences and are moving on.  :-)