Winter Willpower

December 24, 2010

In the wake of my 2nd marathon, I took a whole ten days off.  I mean totally off.  I didn’t cross train, I didn’t ride my bike to the grocery store when we ran out of milk, and I didn’t do a single sit-up.  It felt fabulous.  Perhaps best of all, I didn’t really gain any weight like I had anticipated.  All throughout marathon training I’d heard runners complain about packing on the pounds during intense training, and while I was pleasantly pleased to find this was not the case with me, I was fully prepared for the return of the bulge once my activity level came back down. 

As I said, that first week I fared pretty well, but then the Christmas cookies started arriving at the office.   And the cookies were quickly followed by Christmas truffles, and since my policy is to never say no to sweets, it was soon time to say so long to sedentary life!  That second week I hit the gym with full intentions to get back into the swing of things.  I left that first day feeling great and talking about how much I’d missed working out, but somehow that didn’t translate into me returning to the gym that week.  Whoops. 

A full seven days later I hit the treadmill again, only this time I had a plan.  Without races lined up to keep me excited and enthusiastic about the gym I, like most folks I’d assume, tend to slack off a bit.  Ok, more than a bit.  Step one of my plan was to come up with a workout schedule much like I would use during training.  There are modifications of course:  no weekly mileage higher than 23, and no significant distances or distance increases since I’m not planning on running another distance race until May.  This plan* is all about maintenance.  Well, not ALL about maintenance.  You’ve got to have a goal to strive for or there’s really no point, right?  My new goal for this winter is speed.  You see, a few weeks ago on The Biggest Loser, Ada ran a mile in 7:34.  Kirk looked at me with his eyebrows raised as if to say, “Dude, she’s got 65lbs on you.  Why can’t you run a mile in 7:34?”.   Well, I showed him!  I went out the next day and ran a mile in 7:30!  But you can’t stop there right?  So, I set up my winter training plan with speed intervals, tempo runs and decidedly faster paces overall.  Hopefully, come spring, I’ll have morphed from the Energizer bunny and into a jack rabbit.     

Step two of my plan involved accountability.  Without the fear of not being able to finish or set a PR at a race, I needed something external to keep me on track.   Enter Coach Coworker.   Actually, I call him Coach Bob, but to all of you Coach Coworker probably makes more sense.  I picked Bob because it’s not in his nature let me slide on anything–especially running, and he actually used to run marathons before a bum hip decided that wasn’t in his future anymore.  So, Coach now has my training plan tacked on the wall in his office down the hall, and each morning he stops me and inquires as to whether I did my workout–usually in front of everyone.  And, as I’m not about to lose face in front of all of my work peeps (how could I? I can’t even stand losing to Ada who doesn’t know me from Adam?), I’m pretty confident that I’ll  be able to stick to it.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

What are your tactics to stay on track this winter? 

*You can find my plan for this winter posted to my Training page, or click here: Winter Training 2010


Wrecked

December 19, 2010

You might have gathered from the past month of silence that my experience at the NCRT Marathon wasn’t the greatest.  In fact, as I told a friend this past week, those 26.2 miles completely wrecked me.  All things considered, I think I’ve rebounded pretty well–I didn’t stop running, I just ceased wanting to talk, think or blog about it.  I guess I just needed some time to get my head around everything I put my body (and mind) through.  It’s been three weeks and I’m feeling much better about the whole business … perhaps even well enough to tell you a bit about it.

ncr-trail-marathon

First of all, the organization of the race itself was amazing.  There were only 400 marathoners so we were all able to met up at Sparks Elementary School to wait in the heated school cafeteria prior to the race.  I’d picked up my race packet at Charm City Run a couple of days before (where I’d been handed my bib and a pretty sweet NCRTM sweatshirt as my race premium), but the day of we still needed to get our race chips and secure the timers to our laces.  There was also coffee and bagels, and easily accessible bathrooms which I took advantage of twice.

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I was flying solo at this race.  The course made it difficult for families to catch participants along the course as the trail only crossed the main roads a few times and parking was limited.  In hindsight, it would have been pretty easy for Kirk to drive to one of those points and park, but we anticipated those spots to be pretty crowded and more of a headache than it was worth.  Ultimately, he dropped me off at the school and then headed out to knock out some Christmas shopping before swinging back to pick me up in 5 hours.

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I was a little disappointed in this arrangement, but once I started running I realized that if I was going to finish this race, it was best that he wasn’t there.  Why?  I was cold.  Miserably cold.  Four miles in I began to lose feeling in my fingers. By eight miles, I felt like I’d been running for eight hours.  By the time I reached the half-way point I was fighting tears.  And by mile 14 I was having to ask volunteers to open my Gu packets because my fingers were so frozen that I couldn’t grasp the packets.

I picked this race because it follows my favorite trail.  The lush, green, Disney-like forest is usually bustling with wildlife and provides endless visual stimulation on long runs.  In November, however, any remaining leaves are brown and brittle and the forest gives way to ugly twigs and knotted branches.   The deer were hiding from our stamping feet and the other woodland creatures were likely warm in their dens – much like the place I would have preferred to be. 

NCR Mile 2 
From this…

ncrt winter
… to this. 

Each time I passed a main road I hoped that Kirk wasn’t there.   I knew that if I saw him, the tears would come and I would beg for him to take me home.  I think he would have done it too, as he’s not one to enjoy another person in such misery, even if he knew that I would regret it later.  And I would have, which I why I silently prayed he hadn’t come.

By mile 16 I knew that I had to get feeling back into my hands or risk serious health concerns.  I had worn running gloves, and within the first hour hand drawn my fingers out of the glove tips and into fists to retain more warmth.  This obviously hadn’t made much of a noticeable difference, if any at all, and I wasn’t sure what else to try.  First I tried rubbing my hands together, then clapping – neither of which are easy feats to accomplish for any duration while running.  What finally seemed to bring some sensation back was slapping my hands against my hips as I ran, but the tingling sensation soon became a burning one, and before I knew it the fire in my hands was overwhelming.  For  the next hour, my hands oscillated between freezing and an excruciating, burning thaw. 

I watched the clock.  In every other race I’ve run, and in every jog around the neighborhood, there’s always been a period where I’ve mentally checked out and gone on auto pilot.  Not this time.  I was fully aware of every step I took, every second that went by, every mile marker I passed and every one I had yet to meet.  I’m fairly certain that Dante erred in overlooking this particular circle of hell.

By mile 20 the 9:40/mi pace that I’d carried for the first half had slowed.  The crowd I’d been running with for hours began to pull ahead and I couldn’t keep up.  The course was amazingly flat and my hip flexors were screaming in opposition.  I began to look forward to the few inclines I knew were ahead–no matter how small–as I knew they would be an immense reprieve to the single muscle group I’d been working on those flat stretches. 

My goal for this race had been to finish faster than the Baltimore Marathon I’d run 6 weeks prior in 4:27:40.  Almost immediately, I began to lower my expectations.  I did not however, lower my effort.  I passed the mid-point right at under 2:10, right where I wanted to be.  Still, I knew that if I finished in under 4:30 it would be incredible.  Somehow I just knew that there was no way I was going to be able to keep it going.

With less than 5 miles to go I began to see my 4:27 goal slipping and I began to rework my splits to allow for a 4:30.  With three miles to go, I ceased to care about a goal time at all.  My hands were finally warm, but the rest of me was shutting down.  The snowflakes were falling faster than I was moving and all I remember thinking was that I could cry when it was over.

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With a half a mile to go, I saw our car, and just beyond that I saw my husband.  Seeing him gave me the pick-me-up I needed to get to that finish line and I passed a couple of runners in that final stretch.  Kirk grinned at me as I passed him and told me I looked awesome before turning and cutting across a field to catch me at the finish. Thirty seconds later and I turned the last corner and passed under the arch.  My final time was 4:31:10.  

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As I crossed the last timing mat I was surrounded by volunteers. They snipped the timing chip off my shoe, and draped a medal around my neck.  My husband stood by anxiously for his turn, and I know he wanted nothing more than to toss them aside to get to me.  And when he did, I fell apart.  I buried my face in his chest and bawled.  It was over.

Will I run another marathon?  I don’t know.  I can tell you that right now I have absolutely no desire to pursue another one.  I am glad to have my first marathon experience though–just 6 weeks earlier I’d had a far different impression.  That race was hard, but it was  wonderful.  I had been so happy when it was over–proud of my accomplishment and glad I’d endured the effort.  I’m not happy at the thought of ending marathoning on a negative note, but if it means I don’t have to do another one right now, I think I’m ok with that.

Distance running still intrigues me, but there’s something about those last 6.2 miles that can really take the fun out of it and I’m not sure that it’s worth it.  I think for now, I’m going to stick to half marathons.  I can even see getting excited about a 20 miler, but 26.2?  I won’t say never, but the bumper sticker on my car, just might have it right.     

26.2 crooped26.2 … Been there, Run  That.

Speaking of, stay tuned for my next post.  Blissful Runner bumper stickers are in the making and one could be yours!


From Tapers to Tornados

November 20, 2010

I won’t delude myself into thinking that more than a handful of readers even noticed my two-week hiatus, but to those of you who inquired as to my absence–thanks, it’s nice to be missed!

The unread blogs on my Google Reader may be encroaching on a thousand in number, and the overtime on my paycheck may have had me doing a happy dance in my kitchen this evening, but I assure you–my time these past few weeks hasn’t been entirely spent away from running.  I’ve been keeping to my back-to-back marathon plan, running work-sponsored 5ks, and even setting new PRs.

The 5k was an annual run/walk put on by Tuerk House.  My company sponsors me in it every year, so long as I go and shake hands with the program director and tout our company for their upcoming projects.  Last year’s race took place right after a bit of a health scare that ended in surgery and I ended up having to walk the last part of the course.  My time this year not only took almost 10 full minutes of my previous course record, but an unexpected 27 seconds off my 5k PR!  The funny part is that I actually ran the course once before the race in an effort to stay warm (it was 42 degrees out that morning), even though I knew that by doing so I was essentially saying goodbye to a shot at a competitive time.  Apparently not, though — I didn’t wear my Garmin so you can imagine how shocked I was when I crossed the finish line and saw the clock read 26:03.  Crazy!  Maybe I should race all 5ks going forward after running a 3 mile warm up?

While I missed my last long run last weekend, I made it up with a 20 miler on the treadmill after work on Monday.  I didn’t get home until after 10pm, but it wasn’t nearly as awful as it sounds.  In fact, thanks to my new work phone I spent most of the 3.5+ hours killing time on Facebook. Posting status updates every few miles really helps pass the time, and the kudos in the comments were great motivators!  Not that I recommend epic long runs on treadmills, but I’ve determined that not only is it a decent alternative to the trail when daytime runs aren’t an option, but it’s perfectly doable.

This week begins my taper for the NCR Trail Marathon on the 27th.  I’m not sure how I feel about stuffing myself full of turkey and pecan pie on Thanksgiving and not being able to run it off for three days, but I’m sure I’ll survive.  I’m excited for the race, but I’m also excited for the race to be over. I’ve been actively training for the past 6 1/2 months and my body is tired.  My brain is tired, too, and both can really use the reprieve.  I plan to keep running through the winter, but intend to drop my weekly mileage from 35-40 to about 15-20.  And, if Wednesday’s tornado (that hit just blocks from my house!) is any indication that this winter’s weather systems will be on par with last year’s Snowmageddon, I’m sure it won’t be too hard!


Marine Corps Marathon 10k

November 6, 2010

The Marine Corps Marathon 10k was fun, but I’m not sure that I’d sign up for it again.  Which is a shame, because like I said, I really did enjoy myself.  The issue is that I’m really not entirely confident any amount of fun to be had on race day can make up for the cluster that was packet pick up.  Perhaps it was a fluke that the race, held in our nation’s capital, fell on election weekend, or perhaps it was simply poor planning.  Whatever the cause, you can be absolutely certain that I will be researching the date heavily before shelling out my $45 again next year.

I can’t argue against the goodies though–if there’s anything the Marines can do, its provide for an army of people.   The expo was large and relatively uncrowded, and we were able to  snag our race bibs, packets and premiums without a hassle.  For that $45 we got a great long-sleeved, halloween-themed race shirt and a medal shaped like a dog tag.  We were also bestowed goodie bags chock full of edible treats (which came in handy on the 3 hour trek home) and coupons to use at vendor stations throughout the event. 

After our disastrous metro experience at packet pickup the day before, my sister-in-law Lauren and I (and our doting, cheerleading husbands) chose to ignore the advice issued by race officials and decided to drive into the city for the race.  This is where the fun began.  Or shall I say the potty adventures?  

Kirk and I had stayed the night at his dad’s place in Germantown the evening before, so as to avoid the 1.5 hour commute into DC two days in a row.  Lauren and Steve (and his mom– such a  trooper!) picked us up at 5:45 and we headed for the National Mall.  We found free street parking with such ease that it was laughable, and quickly went in search of a Starbucks on foot.  The first spot we came to was still closed, and showed no sign of life, but a small cafe next door had folks inside preparing for the day.  We decided to stick around and wait 10 minutes for them to open so that they guys could get breakfast and us girls could pee and avoid the port-a-pots.  Too bad life never works out the way you plan.

When the cafe opened, Lauren and I found that there we no public restrooms.  Fail.  Once the guys were fed, we headed back toward the start, keeping our eyes peeled for bathroom spots.  No dice.  DC is completely closed at 6:30 am on a Sunday.  At one point we passed a port-a-pot at an aid station along the marathon course, but it was occupied and the occupant was showing no signs of emerging any time soon.  Not wanting to waste time (and with our bladders about to bust) we decided to make a run for 2 pots we could see across the park.  Try again.  We quickly realized that not 12 hours before the massive crowds that had wreaked havoc on the metro lines, had done what I can safely argue was an even worse job on the potty’s in the park.  No way I was going inside that thing.  No way, no how.  Seeing a couple more johns lined up another few hundred yards down, we figured we’d see if they had fared the crowds any better.  Ummm…. no.  Lauren and I ran back to our group (and the orignal toilet we had spied), just as a Marine was emerging.  He told me I would have to hover, but hey, as long as I wasn’t in danger of falling onto feces-smeared walls I figured I could handle that.  Done and done.  Phew!  

The five of us headed to the start where our uncle Paul was waiting to meet up with us.  Turns out he’d been putting off his own urgent needs until he located us, and so he quickly hopped in a bathroom line after exchanging hellos.  And, of course, as soon as someone mentioned peeing again, Lauren had to go again, too.  Not wanting to waste time in the lines that were clearing not moving, she elected to head back to where we’d met with success the first time around.  Even though she had to run about 5 blocks there and back she still beat Uncle Paul by about 10 minutes.  Crazy.

By the time our little family had emptied our bladders (in some cases, multiple times) and re-grouped, the gun had gone off.  As we passed under the arch the clock time read over 5 minutes and the crowd was so thick we were barely moving.  Lauren had hurt her foot at the Baltimore Half two weeks before, so she was planning to take it easy and Uncle Paul was going  to be running with her.  I had planned to run all out, but seeing as the crowds were thick, I had family to run with, and I’d never run a 10k before (and thereby had no time to beat), I decided to join in the fun and just run without an agenda.

In spite of the crowds, our first mile wasn’t so bad.  We did a LOT of weaving, but managed to keep our time right at a 10:00 minute mile.  The first hill was a bust though.  I kid you not, as we turned the corner, the runners saw the hill and they just stopped.  Stopped!!  Seriously folks?  It’s a hill, not a blazing fire pit.  Jeeze.  At that point I knew for certain that my time was not something that I was going to be too concerned about.

The next few miles were pretty uneventful.  The three of us stayed together and chatted a bit here and there, but we were still keeping a pretty good clip.  Lauren is a pretty quick runner when uninjured, and her “easy” pace during recovery was right around my race pace!  She had mentioned she was shooting for 10:00/mi (I had originally been shooting for sub 9:30), but she was going much faster than that, which was great for me! 

The race course itself wasn’t anything exceptional.  We avoided most the monuments and ran through areas of DC I wasn’t familiar with.  However, DC is a surprisingly clean and aesthetically pleasing city to tour, so even though I had no clue where we were, there was plenty to look at.  My only complaint is that the crowds were crazy quiet.  There were a lot of spectators, but they weren’t cheering at all. I’m thinking maybe they were there to support the full marathoners, and didn’t want to waste their energy on us.  Booo….

The quiet crowds continued right up until we were a half mile from the finish line, at which point race officials had music stations bumping Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and the like.  That got me moving a bit and when I looked at my watch (for one of the very few times during the race) I realized we were dangerously close to the 1 hour mark.   Wanting to see if I could still finish in under 60 minutes, I started to pull ahead of Lauren and Uncle Paul in the last .25 miles.  The only challenge?  The insanely steep hill in front of the Iwo Jima memorial where we would finish.  And of course, what did the guy running ahead of me do?  He stopped.  What’s with that??  Anyway, I managed to bang it out in 59:32 and Lauren and Uncle Paul were hot on my tail right around 59:50.

We walked through the finisher’s shoot and a Marine hung a medal on our necks and congratulated us, while a photographer (the first I’d seen all day!) snapped a group picture.     

None of us we’re carrying cell phones, but we had our eyes peeled for Kirk and Steve and his mom.  After parting with us at the start,  they had gone back to the car with plans to drive across the bridge and into VA to be at the finish.  Lauren borrowed a cell phone to call Steve and learned that they were stuck in traffic and we had beat them to the memorial.  Point to point courses are a pain for spouses, but these guys handled it like champs and promised they were on their way.  While we waited, we headed to the Iwo Jima memorial for our finisher’s photo.

 

Turns out we didn’t have to wait.  There was a family meet-up area, but as we followed the signs we began to realize that it was ages away from the finish line.  Luckily the route was peppered with vendors giving away free samples.  We indulged in countless varieties of juices, teas, flavored chocolates, and recovery drinks.  We were also each given a bag with a banana,  a bagel and a fruit cup, and handed a bottle of water and Gatorade.   I’ll tell you one thing, I really liked they way each finisher got their own bag.  There were no crowds pawing  through the bagel bins, or lines for water.  It was super efficient.  As I said, the Marines know how to manage an army.

We met up with Kirk, Steve, and his mom a half hour later and I did a quick change out of my sweaty clothes.  Nothing worse that freezing after a run!  We debated stopping for brunch or going back to see the first marathoners finish, but decided it was best to try to beat the crowds out of the city.  And to be honest, even bundled in two sweatshirts, I was miserably cold.  So,with a new PR in the bag, we called it a day and headed for home.


Up in Smoke

November 4, 2010

Rather than blogging on my lunch hour lately, I’ve been perusing the housing market.  Frustration inevitably ensues when I invariably discover that, just like each day before,  it’s next to impossible to find a suitable home in a  suitable area that’s also at our price point.  And by suitable, I mean fabulous.  Obviously.

The fantasies that fill my head over the long hours spent on the treadmill this week (as rain + darkness + cold  = hypothermic twisted ankles) have at least managed to make the time go quickly.  No sugar plums here, just acres of land and plenty of historical charm.

So, imagine, if you will, the direction my thoughts fled when I detected a whiff of something burning on my run the other night.  No?  Not following me?  I’m going to pretend that’s not because I’m the sole evil mind among angels…

I smelled that tell-tale sign of rubber burning and I immediately began to worry if my treadmill was about to explode.  And then I started to wonder if I could sue the gym if it did.  And how hurt I would have to get to win big and buy the house of my dreams.  See?  Evil mind.  Don’t judge. 

Anyhow, just as I was 3 miles deep into building my new dream house (complete with a kitchen island and crown molding, of course) my fantasy came crumbling down.  Loudly.  You see, it wasn’t my treadmill that was ailing, it was my neighbor’s.  And you should have seen his face when his running surface stopped short, screamed a god-awful shriek, and burst into flames.

Lucky bastard.  


Metro Maddness

October 30, 2010

Thanks to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Insanity and Stephen Colber’ts March to Keep Fear Alive, the crowds on the DC metro system made packet pickup for the MCM10k a complete nightmare.  Adding to the mayhem were the Homecoming weekend celebrations for the University of Maryland and Howard University and thousands of exuberant Halloweeners. 

Enter all the crazies in the tri-state area.

We ended up walking past 3 stops until we found a station we could even get into, let alone a train with space for us to board it.  Need a visual? 

Yeah, it was kind of like that.  Ok, I may be exaggerating, but seriously?  Not by much.

Here’s to hoping that tomorrow’s second trek into our nation’s capitol goes a bit more smoothly.  If I can just get to the start line, the rest is in the bag.


Run Fast and Carry A Big Stick

October 30, 2010

Things I learned on last evening’s trail run:

1)  An emergency pair of gloves should be a staple in any gym bag for when it’s unexpectedly 50 degrees and windy.

2)  Running with your hands in your armpits for warmth makes trail running a bit more precarious.

3)  Hands can remain numb for 9 miles (or aproximately an hour and a half) and still regain feeling without medical attention.

4)  Wild  Agressive off-leash dogs are not deterred by cold weather.

5)  Teddy Rosesvelt may not have been a runner, but he was on to somthing with his “big stick” philosophy.

6)  Those dogs didn’t stand a chance.