Saturday, December 20, 2014

Still Running

I took a little break from the blog while life things happened after the Marine Corps Marathon, but I'm still hitting the pavement.

I ran a Turkey Trot 5k with my brother-in-law on Thanksgiving day,

Our first race together! (And I have bed-head.)

the Brandon Half Marathon two weeks ago,

I cut that one a little too close!

the Let It Snow 5k for Girls on the Run last weekend,

I hijacked this pic of my friend Karen and her running buddy; I'm toward the back with mine.

I finally replaced my overly worn shoes with the newest Brooks Ghost (7),

At last, I get a wide shoe with good colors!

I went back to my bootcamp class this past week after a seven-month hiatus (ouch),

It's easy to smile when all the hard work's over!

I made a bike change that I've been wanting to do for a while--I sold both my road bike and my cruiser and bought a hybrid (if you ever want to know where NOT to try to sell, ask me),

I'm so excited to ride again!

and I ran (sort of) the Say No to Drugs 10k (a.k.a, the Scientology run) this morning. I was having a fantastic race for the first half, but then I started to feel a pain in my right-side abdominals, and all of a sudden I couldn't keep going. I had to pull over to the side and was practically doubled over in pain. I knew my abs were over-sore from the bootcamp workout, but I didn't think that pain would affect my run. However, I was also probably dehydrated, so I guess my muscles just seized up. I had to grab my right-side abs with both hands and stretch them vertically along my torso in order to keep moving. It was an awkward, painful, slow finish. But I had a great 5k and loved hanging out with friends afterward.

Just focus on those first three splits...

In one way, it's nice to not have a rigid marathon schedule to stick to; I can do whatever I want. But on the other hand, I struggle a bit more with accountability. Hence all the signing up for races. I'm actually surprised that I've kept up my weekly running, though my mileage is less, and I'm not running much in the mornings these days. It's been cold--like 40s--in the mornings for a while now. That's not tank-top running weather. But evening running is perfectly fine for me now. And in good news, my foot is bothering me less and less. 

With the holidays coming up and then a tonsillectomy scheduled at the start of January, I'm sure things will get off course even more, and I'll have to just accept the lack of structure and temporary break from running and working out. Mid-January, I should be rarin' to go and ready to train for spring races!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon 2014 Recap

Pretty steady race. I can't complain about my performance.

This is long enough overdue--I know. Life has been busy, and that's good. But before I wait too long and attempt a lengthy post that covers everything, here are the highlights from my first (and probably last) Marine Corps Marathon:

  1. I'm really glad I did it. I don't want to give the impression that I'm not. However, running in this race has made me want to cling even more to smaller races. I get a bit of social anxiety--or crowd phobia, or whatever you want to call it--when I'm squished among 30,000 other runners.
  2. I beat a Goonie. Yes, Sean Astin, the darling asthma kid from the Goonies (yay for asthma representation in the media!) ran this race, and I ran it faster than him. That doesn't mean much, but in a race in which I didn't PR, I have to claim something. His net time was 4:29:11, and his clock time was 4:30:56 (all in all, a great time). But this is significant because it means he had very little time between when the clock started and when he crossed the start line, which further means he started up front, which leads to my next observation about the race...
  3. "The People's Marathon." I guess folks at this race don't feel a need to align themselves in the clearly marked pace designations prior to starting. MCM is not a race for elite runners; that is, there is no cash prize for winning. This probably makes it more average-runner-friendly. And I'm an average runner, so I should appreciate that. But I still appreciate rules and organization, too. I started in my predicted finish time of 4:15ish, around a 9:30 pace, and I still spent about five miles just trying to get ahead of everyone not going that pace and seemingly not interested in going that pace. I spent a lot of energy trying to make up for my slower pace in the initial miles. That's not ideal. (Aren't we racing? Is this a giant group run? Am I doing it wrong?)
  4. Oh yes, there are hills. I heard very mixed reviews about the elevation of this race from others who'd run it. Some said hilly, some said not (all Floridians). Let me be the definitive voice on this matter: it's hilly. But--they are mostly in the first quarter of the race, and I felt them. Particularly because I was also trying to run faster than my goal pace during this portion, I really felt them. I did not hill-train, so that's my fault. But I also didn't feel any worse for the wear after the race, so it was a mild inconvenience, I would say. Nothing like what I did at Steamtown. And that last, cruel .2 of a mile felt like it was straight up to the sky. I was prepared for that mentally. But there was something I was not prepared for...
  5. "Beat the bridge." Some friends told me this prior to the race, but I didn't know what they were talking about, so I shrugged it off. Now I know exactly what they mean. There is a bridge at about the worst point in the race, around mile 20, and the evil of it is not in it's elevation; it's actually a flat overpass. What makes it awful is that it goes on pretty much forever, and all crowd support is suddenly gone, and all you have to look at is more bridge in front of you, while the sun beats down and tries to drain your energy from your worn-out body. I saw so many people give in to walking on this bridge, and I came pretty close myself--but I didn't do it. I knew it would only take me longer to get off the cursed thing.
  6. Emily. I don't know Emily, but I was really annoyed with her by the end of the race. You see, at some races, usually smaller ones, the race organizers print runners' names on their bibs, but not so at this one. So in order to ensure that crowd supporters would still call her name and cheer for her, a woman who unfortunately ran just about the same exact pace as I did wore a shirt with her name printed on it. This way, for the entire race, wherever there was crowd support, people would yell and cheer for Emily. And I couldn't escape her. It's not that I was jealous; I just found it obnoxious after the first couple of times. And then I was irritated that I was spending energy being annoyed at Emily. A couple times I passed her, but somehow she always reappeared, pumping a fist into the air each time someone called her name. She must have had a great race. Good for her.
  7. Candy from strangers. I've never seen so much kind offering of candy at a race. Supporters held out large bowls full of unwrapped, sticky candy--Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, gummy anything. All I could think about was the numbers of runners before me who must have clumsily stuck their sweaty hand in the bowl and grasped around for whatever they could grab while still trying to run. And how many other pieces they must have touched! And how our immune systems are low after such an arduous race. The germs; the horror! I didn't spend days prior to the race prepping with Airborne and Emergen-C just to get sick from a sugary treat. Thanks, but no thanks. 
  8. Friends. I knew going into this race that I would not PR. I was glad to just feel capable of running it, given some of my foot drama throughout training. So what made this race special was having such wonderful friends there with me. Tampa really represented at MCM. I knew at least eight Tampa runners going into it and met a few more afterward. And while I didn't really stick with my girlfriends for very much of the race (see #3), I was so happy to be able to meet with them beforehand and afterward. I knew they were going through what I was going through, and that made it feel more special. 
  9. The monuments. I'd be negligent not to mention the other special aspects of this race. As we walked toward the start area, we walked past the Arlington Cemetery, which really tugged at my heartstrings before anything had even happened. I already tend to get emotional at races, so why not bring it all out before the start? It's impossible to walk past that vast graveyard and not think about the numbers of military personnel who have fought and died for our country, imagined their reasons for doing so, and considered their lives before their deaths. It was at once spooky, touching, and thought-provoking for this self-proclaimed pacifist. I've always had a deep appreciation for and interest in the military--despite my feelings about war. Now that I think about it, I guess this is the only monument I really noticed; I'm sure we ran around other ones, but not close enough for me to have paid attention (I was too busy trying to win).
  10. Oh, and all those marines. Active-duty marines lined nearly the entire course. They were professional, gracious, and encouraging. But one too many of them called me "ma'am." I let it slide. At the very end, when I'd made my big push to finish, I was ready to collapse, and there just happened to be young, attractive marines at the ready. So I wobbled a little bit, as I usually do when I've finished a marathon, but I might have exaggerated when I got near a handsome marine, who was probably not even twenty years old. He held me up and walked me over to some steps so I could sit down. By then I was pretty much done with my stunt, but he was taking his job very seriously and asking a gazillion questions about my well-being. Then another woman--who actually had passed out--grabbed his attention and I got away. And then I felt guilty about my behavior. 
Shenanigans aside, the actual race went well, overall. I was aiming for sub-4:15, and I got 4:11. I'm slightly bothered that I got so close to 4:10 and didn't make it, but it really doesn't matter. I'm happy with my race performance; I pushed hard through a difficult course and through various pain (my foot became the least of my problems as pain from my hips and shoulders took over).

Not getting sick on the plane ride there!

The Washington Monument in distance, early race morning.

A very cool paratrooper stunt, pre-race.

Pre-race photo--we're cold! Wait, where's Nicole?
There she is! We're about to get trampled--the race started!

I finished! And I'm in pain. And the sun is in my eyes. But it's all OK.

We reunited! Wait, Nicole's missing again!

Bonus picture: the "Exorcist stairs" that we visited the day after.

And of course, a sweet reward from the famous Georgetown Cupcake.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MCM14 Training, Weeks 13 & 14

Week 13

Avg Pace
Monday, 10/6Regular Run69:34
Tuesday, 10/7Regular Run99:41
Wednesday, 10/8Rest0--
Thursday, 10/9Regular Run69:38
Friday, 10/10Rest0--
Saturday, 10/11Long Run149:52
Sunday, 10/12Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 35

Week 14

Avg Pace
Monday, 10/13Regular Run59:29
Tuesday, 10/14Regular Run79:47
Wednesday, 10/15Rest0--
Thursday, 10/16Regular Run69:31
Friday, 10/17Rest0--
Saturday, 10/18Long Run109:27
Sunday, 10/19Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 28

Oops. I fell behind on posting. I'm actually in my 15th (and final) week of training leading up to this Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon. The last two weeks have gone pretty well--with some on and off foot pain (and lots of rest, you might have noticed). At this point, I'm just going to go up there and give it my best effort. I don't think I'm going to do any major damage to my foot; I'm not trying to beat my PRMy last long run was a bit faster than the previous ones (and much shorter), and I think it has something to do with the cooler temperatures lately:

Not exactly speedy, but still improved.

I'm hoping to stay with my two girlfriends who run the same pace as me for much of the race. Ideally, we'll keep each other from going out too fast but also motivate each other when we start to drag. And then cross the finish line smiling and holding hands. Just kidding. (Sort of.) 

The temperature should be perfect--lows in upper 40s and highs in mid-60s. While I know I'll be wearing a tank top and shorts for most of the race, I'll probably want to start in a long-sleeved "throwaway" shirt. I had visions of wearing something very patriotic, or at least trying to match the colors of the marines' navy and white uniforms, but I don't have anything like that, and when I went to three different stores this evening to find something, I came away empty-handed. All of the Florida stores are stocked with long sleeves and pants. In Florida. And the prices! This is supposed to be an inexpensive sport. So I'll just have to wear something old and unpatriotic. It may seem like a silly thing to be concerned about, but sometimes wearing something special makes me feel like I'm doing something more special (than an ordinary run). But I imagine the large crowds and swarms of marines will indicate to me that I am in fact doing something special.

My body has felt surprisingly sore this week, when I've only run 5, 7, and 4 miles--and that's it for training. It almost feels as if it's just now absorbing all of the training. I just hope it feels better by Sunday! I'm looking forward to being in DC, but I'll feel better when all of the logistics of the race are taken care of--flying in, picking up packets, checking into hotel, mapping out the plan for race day. And then, of course, the race. But AFTER all of that, I think I'll be able to enjoy myself. Lots of folks from Tampa are going, so I'm hoping to see as many as possible, but that will be difficult with the masses. And if anyone is interested in tracking me, you can do so at It won't be very exciting. You'll receive five updates over the course of probably four and a half hours. 

That's about all I've got. I've been thinking about packing, but haven't made a move yet. Luckily I don't leave until Saturday morning. One more day to procrastinate.

Hopefully my next post will tell about my major, unexpected success at the race. Or at least that I survived it. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

MCM14 Training, Week 12: All Systems Go

Avg Pace
Monday, 9/29Regular Run69:41
Tuesday, 9/30Regular Run99:55
Wednesday, 10/1Rest0--
Thursday, 10/2Regular Run79:44
Friday, 10/3Rest0--
Saturday, 10/4Long Run219:57
Sunday, 10/5Yoga0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 43

Last week was the week I was waiting for. It was the peak of my training schedule, and my success or failure in getting through it would, I believed, determine whether I'd be able to go into MCM feeling capable. And I was successful! So much, in fact, that I ran one extra mile than I'd planned for my long run (but mostly because I misjudged the distance).

I didn't run the full distances on my training plan during the week, as I've still been hesitant about my foot, but I didn't feel my long run was negatively impacted because of it. For the first time in a while, I ran with two other friends who are also running the marathon. I'd gotten so accustomed to running by myself that I forgot how much I enjoyed running with others--others who run my same pace and whose company I genuinely enjoy. That factor definitely made the run go by faster, and easier. I think sometimes I let my social anxiety get in the way of running with others, but this was a good lesson for me to open up more to partner and group runs.

Trying to get more artsy with my watch photos. 

My recovery throughout the day was not too bad--thanks in part to a wonderful deep-tissue massage. But after that I felt utterly exhausted. I always have grand visions of celebrating long runs with a nice night out on Saturday evenings, dinner and drinks, but in reality I rarely have the energy for it. My weekends pretty much revolve around the long run. I got to bed early Friday nights so I can wake up pre-dawn Saturday morning to run long, and then I go to bed early Saturday nights because I'm just too tired to stay awake. Such is the cost of marathon training. And for the most part, that's just fine with me.

Now I'm in official taper mode, and I've returned to full mileage this week, since it's decreased anyway. I'm back to morning running, thanks to a partnership with my new place of work and the health club across the street, which I use solely for showering. This saves me lots of time in the morning and keeps me from having to drive back and forth across town. And the weather--folks, it's autumn in Florida! While that still may mean 89-degree highs, it also means less humidity and cooler temps in the mornings and evenings. This shift in the weather, though slight, is such a relief from the oppression of summer training.

I still have 16 miles on the books for Saturday, but after that the last long run is only 10 miles! That's barely a double digit. I'm finally able to look forward to the race and the trip. Thanks for sticking with me through this tenuous journey. Only a couple more weeks to go, and I promise more positivity!

Friday, October 3, 2014

MCM14 Training, Week 11: Get It Done

Avg Pace
Monday, 9/22Regular Run59:15
Tuesday, 9/23Regular Run810:28
Wednesday, 9/24Rest0--
Thursday, 9/25Regular Run79:57
Friday, 9/26Rest0--
Saturday, 9/27Long Run1810:01
Sunday, 9/28Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 38

Last week's theme was simply to "get it done." My runs have been slower lately, but I'm getting through them and my foot seems to me handling the mileage, so I'm OK with the decreased speed. I also ran most of my runs, except for the long one, in the evenings, which my body wasn't adapted to.

Monday's run was one of the last runs of my mini vacation (at home), and perhaps that had something to do with the better pace. I was also coming off of a pretty short long run a couple days back. I guess conditions were just good for that run, which I did once more at Upper Tampa Bay Trail, after visiting with my nieces.

On the Tuesday run, because I was on my last day of mini vacay, I was reluctant to get up early in the morning to run. I started at Four Green Fields Running Club and had a particularly rough time that evening (hence the 10:28 avg. pace). One friend even saw me running back and said he noticed I was "struggling" and thought he'd help run me back in. I'm glad he did--I might otherwise still still be out there. Because I started running in the evenings, which meant running in the sun--a thing I generally avoid, my body had a hard time adapting to the time change. On top of that, my stomach wasn't accustomed to running later in the day, so it was acting up during my evening runs.

I started a new job on Wednesday (I promise to post about that soon), and I had to begin work earlier than in my other job--like, by nearly an hour. So I continued my streak of evening runs, hoping they would get better. As an additional excuse for a poor performance week, I think all of the anxiety and energy that goes into starting a new job caused me to be a little more tired than usual, as I was just dragging through a couple of runs. 

On Thursday evening I accepted beforehand that I might not have a great run, so I just decided to get through it and not worry about pace. It wasn't as painful as Tuesday's run, though I still didn't want to make the evening runs a regular thing (which I was able to address this week at work). 

On Saturday I got through the 18 miler, in Flatwoods, just fine, thankfully. Although I've been feeling different types of pain in my foot, almost as if the pain is just shifting around, I think I can continue to run through it. I don't really feel as though it will cause a serious injury if I keep running. 

My stats for the week show a glaring lack of any cross-training activities--especially compared to previous years of training--and I blame that, too, on starting a new job. It's something I want to fix, but one thing at a time. This year has just been tough, for a number of reasons. I feel I'm accomplishing a lot by just doing my marathon training; perhaps I'll be able to get to a better place in the future when the running part feels like second nature and I can spend more energy on other activities.

For tomorrow, I have 20 miles--my first and last, since my previous effort didn't work out. I feel this will be the ultimate test on my foot. If I get through that, it's just a matter of tapering down for three weeks before the marathon, and I can truly look forward to the event.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

MCM14 Training, Week 10: Let It Rain

Avg Pace
Monday, 9/15Regular Run49:23
Tuesday, 9/16Regular Run79:37
Wednesday, 9/17Yoga0--
Thursday, 9/18Regular Run69:31
Friday, 9/19Rest0--
Saturday, 9/20Long Run12.459:56
Sunday, 9/21Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: 29.45

Last week was my cautious comeback to training. I cut back my weekly runs by a few miles overall, and I only had a twelve-mile long run on the schedule, which was very timely. Because this was my week off in between old job and new job, I was tempted, each morning, to sleep in and gave in to that temptation, each morning. So I ran in the evenings, which is doable at this time of year with the ever so slight shift toward cooler temperatures. 

I ran at the Upper Tampa Bay Trail on Monday, which I haven't run in probably a year. I enjoy this trail for shorter runs; it has several trailheads and is a little more than seven miles overall. Depending on where you start, it can feel like you're bouncing around from trailhead to trailhead, rather than running a loop or an out-and-back--and I prefer the latter two options for longer runs because I have fewer interruptions and can remain focused for more time. But the trail is enjoyable because it has lots of shading from trees, water provided at several locations, and restrooms at two trailheads. And there's also a bridge--an overpass that is steep enough for this Florida girl to feel as though she did some elevation training.  

My other two runs were on Bayshore, the default training ground. Then I ran once again with the Sharks for my long run Saturday. I felt pretty confident going into this run, as it was a shorter long run. But when I woke up early Saturday morning, I thought I heard rain. I asked Tim if it was raining (he's smarter than I am that early in the morning), and he in fact said that it was. We both thought for a second about going back to bed, but as we were already dressed, we decided to make the short drive over to see what the weather was like on Davis Islands. Often with these summertime rains, it will be raining in one neighborhood and not in another one nearby. But the rain was really just sprinkles, albeit annoying ones. And it was at our run spot, too. But seeing other runners out doing their warmup miles made us feel as though we had no excuse not to run. I actually don't mind running in light rain--it's getting started in it that's uncomfortable. And puddles. In the dark. I don't like those because my shoes get squishy and I can't do anything about it.

As usual, I ended up running at the back of the pack, solo (why does everyone always pass me?). Normally I prefer it that way, but there was something slightly eerie about running alone this time. Perhaps it was the added darkness from clouds that prevented the gradual lightening of the sky that I'd become accustomed to. Or maybe it was the smaller gathering of runners and knowing for certain that nobody was behind me. Nevertheless, I was getting my miles done with no serious pain. And right around the halfway point, after taking a water break, I started back running and noticed a few more rain drops here and there and thought they seemed a just little heavier than before. Before I knew it, I was full-on rain-running, puddles and all. My pace slowed, as there was wind, too, but I didn't really care. Granted, that's a tough way to finish a long run, but I'll take it over oppressive heat and swampy humidity, which is how I spent most of the summer training.

After successfully completing my run, I got to visit my family in Orlando for my sweetheart-niece's third birthday party. These trips always feel like the best reward after a long run.

Is she cute, or is she cute?

She insisted on pushing me on the swing, and I had to be very careful not to knock her over each time I swung back!

And now that the present week of training is coming to a close, I can report that I've had some very rough evening runs, but I've done the mileage. I'm not sure what this portends for Saturday's 18-miler, but my mindset now is to just get through it. Check back to see if I did ;)

Friday, September 19, 2014

MCM14 Training, Week 9: The Rollercoaster Continues

Avg Pace
Monday, 9/8Rest0--
Tuesday, 9/9Rest0--
Wednesday, 9/10Rest0--
Thursday, 9/11Yoga0--
Friday, 9/12Regular Run39:43
Saturday, 9/13Long Run159:41
Sunday, 9/14Rest0--

Total Weekly Mileage: a whopping 18

Last week was a rest week. I wanted to give my foot a chance to make up its mind as to whether it was going to do this race or not. It appears to be leaning toward yes--though the extent to which I'll actually be "racing" is very much in question. And that's OK. 

I learned last week that the deadline to defer or transfer a bib to another runner has passed. So basically I'm stuck being signed up for it. In a way, that's good; it means I don't have to make a difficult decision. Everything is booked--race, flight, hotel. Very worst case scenario--I am too hurt to run at all, and I spectate. But I don't think it will come to that. I've long abandoned the idea of running a PR, and that's perfectly fine for me. So now I just plan to carefully get through training and run or run/walk the race at a comfortable pace.

I was able to get through a 15-mile long run this past Saturday, and my foot felt good in the days following. I went to Davis Islands to run with the Sharks, thinking I'd at least do one loop (almost 10 miles) and then see how I felt from there. But before I even started, I heard a familiar, friendly voice. It was Beth! We live on opposite sides of the bay, so we don't often train in the same areas. She enticed me to run with her and her friend Megan, both of whom are training for a full-on, real-deal Iron Man. They're hardcore. I said I wasn't so sure about what I'd be able to do, but she said they were running 10s (10 minutes per mile), and that was good for me, so I decided to run with them and see how it went. When I'd gotten about halfway through and was feeling good, I decided to stick with them through their mileage of 15. Right before mile 13 I started to feel a sort of snap of pain in my foot, and I thought, that's it. But I kept running, slowing my pace, and it didn't get any worse. Beth and Megan went ahead of me to finish--they were finishing their last long run before their big race, so they had a lot more incentive to get it done! I trudged behind and made it back a couple minutes later, not too much worse for the wear. 

The rest of the day I felt fine. Granted, I'd taken four days off from doing anything that week, but still. Going forward into my training for the week, I decided to cut down the mileage in my weekly runs, hoping that would make a positive difference. So far I think it has. I continue to see Pete at UltraSports Massage Therapy every other week, and I think his sessions really help. 

I'm going into a weekend with only a 12-mile long run, so I think I should survive that just fine. What's a little more concerning is the next weekend, and the one after that, with 18- and 20-mile long runs, respectively. But that's in the future. I'm focusing on now, and right now I'm doing pretty good.