Category: marathon

Training Recap – Wk of Oct. 20, 2014 – and thoughts stuck in a loop

Here’s last week’s training recap. Recovery week post-Baystate! Slightly even more “recovery” than useful due to fighting off either allergies or DH’s cold. Actually took a sick day from work Wed and didn’t work out at all. I did not run for 5 days after the race, per past experience and suggestions from coaches. Never did get to the pool.

Run 10.02 miles 

  • Sat – 2.42 mile shakeout run with the Runner’s World Marine Corps Marathon Challenge group (kind of them to let me participate). More on that run in my Weekend Update post.
  • Sun – 7.6 mile recovery run on my treadmill, catching up on part of the Marathon Talk podcast from this week and the Another Mother Runner podcast ep detailing Sarah’s BQ at Victoria Marathon.

Bike: 1h Monday in hotel, 30 min Tues, 1hr Th, 1h Fri
Core: F AM 
Wharton flex: 6 (skipped Tues post-chiro)
Chiro exercisesWas able to do Ohnos Thursday, 4 days post-race! Full 6 set, jumping – not huge wide leaps, but real jumps nonetheless!
Coach Jay GSM routine: Thursday, LC #1 fine. Laterals a bit clumsy. Pedestals w leg raises! Laterals and front fine, back as usual tougher. L ham complaining a little, did Myrtls.
Calf stretches: Didn’t actually count it – did them  most days
Walk: Sunday, walked 15 min before run.
Drills: Didn’t wind up doing much in the way of drills Sat outside with other runners. Sunday, did normal drills but forgot my lunge matrix.
Other: Chiro Tues, massage Sat
Nutrition: Gave myself M/T to have extra treats at dinner/evening, then tried to get back to “normal” eating (vaguely controlled/regimented with uncontrolled periods). Ate like a weekday on Sat/Sun since I didn’t run much. Much nutrition stuff to figure out.

Looking forward:

I’m trying to figure out how to approach Richmond. Originally it was to be an “easy” (as in take it easy, not it will be easy!) training run for my ultra in Dec. per Coaches Tawnee and Lucho at Endurance Planet. Then, I started thinking that really, everything after Baystate is actually training for Boston, and less important on its own than for what it gives me in that regard. (I want to finish Richmond and the 50k well and may have a goal time for each – and then will submit Maniac forms.) Richmond has a good stretch of downhill around mile 6-7 and a good/nasty stretch of uphill around mile 16. Great Boston training.

THEN, my DH (as he is wont to do) put a bug in my ear, thought in my brain, etc….of wondering if I could do even better at Richmond than I did at Baystate. He suggested I go out with a faster pace group and see how it felt, see how long I could hold it. If I feel good, maybe I do better. If I’m not feeling it, drop back and finish. He tends to be more of the “go hard, see what you can do” type in races, where I will go hard, but I want to have a fair amount of confidence and training to back up the goal I’m after – and I try to want to stay even pace, not blow up. I guess I set goals that aren’t gimmes, but that I think I might be able to reach. (unless you count my super-ambitious goal for Baystate that I backed away from during training) On the other hand, he has always had more confidence than I have in my abilities, and so far, he’s been proven right. I’ve been able to do things I thought were only dreams, and I’m dreaming bigger (well, faster) now. Why NOT go for it, being willing to pull the plug at the first sign of any physical discomfort that might cause me problems in maintaining consistent, healthy training for Boston?

OR, I could just run however I feel, go with podcasts, start with a slower pace group or maybe find a tweep to hang with and take it very easy for those 26.2 miles……I don’t know what I want to do or what the “right” thing is to do – quite often that’s only clear in retrospect once you’ve done something that went well or awry.

And so my brain spins on the hamster wheel. I may only decide day of race or as I start the race – and may even change my mind then!

Thoughts?

The other main hamster wheel topic is my nutrition, diet, food, whatever you want to call it.

I still need to decide whether I’ll go back to gluten-free grain (and possibly goat cheese!) for a while to see if I note a performance improvement. (and if so, when) It’s an experiment I’m leery of, because I did well last year and at Shamrock and Baystate with the paleo-ish non-grain diet.

Looking at what I could eat before a late start race and still follow my current constraints leads me to maybe a cranberry Hammer bar but it’s pretty high fat and high sugar. Obviously, a GF bagel or oatmeal would be easier.

One part of me is really tempted to try GF grains again – the part that misses options and yumminess,and eating out with DH would be SO much easier if GF were the “only” constraint. It’s darned near impossible now, quite stressful except for one restaurant that’s a bit pricey for a regular visit and one where I have one or two things I can get but it’s limited. (ignoring our Chinese and BBQ takeout joints)

I almost think “keep the diet till after the ultra, then go wild in Arizona with GF and see what happens”. I would love to eat GF pizza, GF chocolate chip cookie and GF treats from some places there. (sadly one fave closed in Scottsdale but is open in Gilbert… and Tammie Coe still wouldn’t be an option) And would I dive into dairy? (goat cheese on pizza or maybe Sweet Republic, which didn’t make me sick the last time I ate it some years ago, maybe no additives is key?)  Do I want to get sick in Arizona and on the way home, and start the new year that way? Would i get sick? (wow, I’m really obsessing about food lately – and missing certain things, obviously…it’s hard because you have to eat, and it’s all choices, all the time)

My sister suggested I try going back to GF grain as an experiment, see how it goes, and that I didn’t have to eat everything all the time. My MT suggested maybe try 2 days a week of GF grain and see how that went. But it’s often easier for me to be an abstainer rather than a moderator, maybe because I’m so rule- and routine-oriented. (I think my sister is a moderator – she can eat a small bowl of something and stop. Sometimes I can do that, more often I get a second bowl! I envy moderators…..)

I just started reading Older, Faster, Stronger by Margaret Webb last week, and am finding it interesting. Trying to read a chapter a night. (keep reading, I do have a point here)

Description from her web site: Older, Faster, Stronger: What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer (Rodale Books, 2014) grew out of my midlife crisis. Forget the sports car, I wanted to achieve the seeming impossible: To enjoy the wisdom of a 50 year old but inside the body of a very fit 20 year old. So I set out on a quest to shake off my midlife malaise and get fitter after 50 than I was as a varsity athlete at university. My journey took me across North America to run with pioneers of the women’s running boom and uncover secrets as to how they manage to run well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s; to Africa to train with elite marathoners and reach back to the dawn of the human race to explore why women can live so strong and for so long; and, finally, to Europe where I tested myself in a race against some of the fittest 50 year olds on the planet. Along the way, I consulted with a team of experts, tapped the minds of leading researchers and delved into physiology and aging labs, all in my quest to understand how to live longer, younger and enter a glorious second act to my life.

Part of the advice she gets is on eating….and she winds up going essentially Paleo (she calls it “Cavemam”) with timed carbs/high carb before, during, and after races and specific runs. The book argues well for staying the course i’m on.

And then there’s dairy (goat cheese! whey protein! Arctic Zero!) and things to address my GERD like not eating after dinner, eating dinner really early and trying to get to bed by say 8:30. I don’t know which of these changes I *should* make for improved performance and recovery, which I can tolerate in my life – although I can pretty much do anything if I want it bad enough….but Boston is 6 months away (only or a long time depending on what I’m thinking of).

So many decisions! Almost too many, decision fatigue. And all I really want is to get back to training. I need to put my plan together for Boston. I need some hours to focus on that, figure out goals and work through my trusty YOU again to come up with the plan. I’m thinking hill and speed modules first, along with Richmond and the ultra, then the regular 12 week module starts in January. Need to figure out what additional core and strength work to do, and other tweaks (mostly adds, I think) to my training so I can give it my absolute best on April 20th. Also need to figure out if I’m going to Greg McMillan’s Boston training retreat in February – Valentine’s Day weekend – in Phoenix. Would be the first time I’ve run a half in training for a full. Would also be first V-Day away from DH since we got together many years ago….

And in random running/racing thoughts…I was having race envy with all the MCM vibe this past weekend, and that really hasn’t happened before. I like training more than I like racing, generally. I’m sort of thinking about a 10k on Sunday (someone reminded me that post-marathon or in marathon training, one can often set 5k/10k PRs, and my 10k is really old) and some 5ks in Nov/Dec. But Sunday is the NCYM (I plan to watch Deena and Meb after my run is over) and it’s also fall-back day….that extra hour of sleep is something I prize. Is a 10k – driving into DC early, walking a mile plus each way to and from my car, etc. worth it? I’d like a better PR, sure, but marathons are really my thing.

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on any or all of the above.

Note: I wrote this post Monday night. Tuesday morning, I was adding a few links when I got a (much-needed?) dose of perspective. Michael Csapo just posted an update on his fight with pancreatic cancer. He’s been having a very, very difficult time. Perhaps you could read his post and offer some words of support to him via twitter (or if you’re on tumblr maybe you can comment). Thanks!

 



Post-Baystate thoughts and musings

Some thoughts and musings post-Baystate.

IMG_0119

 

Baystate Marathon shirt (back) & medal

Baystate Marathon shirt (back) & medal

Your mind can be a bigger enemy – or ally – than your body.  I’ve read this, thought I understood it, and probably even RT’d some related quotes, but it really sunk in from this race. I have some experiences with physical aches, pains, niggles, past injuries and how the physical side of a marathon (and worrying about all the aforementioned things) can feel and can be in your head, both in the race and in training. Trying to hit new paces and get faster and stronger is also tough in both ways. But in this race – and, thinking back, in this training cycle – it was the mental aspect that was the most challenging. That was kind of a surprise to me, as I can be fairly driven and goal-oriented, and I like that and use it to my advantage. My mind turning into a balky horse that didn’t want to go anywhere wasn’t something I’d expected during the race. Sure, I’d had early morning speedwork/tough runs or long runs where it seemed like it was taking me longer and longer to get going or where I had to coax myself through it, but for my mind to chatter at me about stopping before 10k in the race itself? I didn’t see that coming, and I hadn’t spent time training for it. (I’m still feeling kind of surprised and battered by it, wondering what my own mind was doing behaving that way, seemingly out of my control.)

I hadn’t done as much mental training and visualization for this race as I had for Shamrock, preferring most nights to read and eat bananas and nut butter and Arctic Zero (aka lazy). So perhaps fear had gotten hold of me even in training – fear of not hitting my goal (and disappointment at adjusting my goal, followed by fear of not hitting THAT goal), fear of injury, maybe even fear of success? Whatever it was, it reared its ugly head for several hours on Sunday. But I beat it back. I may have had to do so ridiculously frequently, and with any and every means at my disposal (gel, music, watching people’s shoes), but I did it. And I kept the physical side of myself going while I did it, keeping my fueling on plan, my speed up and getting me a better BQ and new PR.

Though I wish it hadn’t happened, I am proud of how I handled it – the effort and the process – and I’m so lucky to be happy with the outcome and proud of that too. Beating BQ by 12:13 is awesome (sort of still in disbelief that it happened, AND a spiffy PR), and I’m looking forward to being in the second wave of registration for 2016. And someday I intend for that first wave to be MINE.

I am mentally even tougher than I thought. I thought I was fairly tough after the Fort Story miles at Shamrock, and after pushing myself through training basically since the end of last year. But I really showed up in the mental toughness game for this race. That said, mental toughness shouldn’t be taken for granted, and I plan to get back into the mental training aspect in this new training cycle. Improvement in all things if I can!

I wished at some point on the Tuesday after the race – driving to chiro and feeling fatigue hit – that I was one of “those people” who could finish a marathon so strong they would jump across the line, go out and tour around, etc. But then I thought, “that’s just not the way I do it”….if I had that much energy left, I probably could have done the race faster. When I’m going after a PR, or even just wanting to give it my best, I want to know that I left it all on the course and gave it all I had. If that means I cross the line spent, exhausted and a little incoherent, so be it. If that means I’m tired and low energy for a while after, so be it. I’m okay with that. I don’t want to be left wondering “what if I’d pushed myself harder?” or “did I really do all I could, was that my best?” I may not run every race full out (Richmond will be done as a training run) but when I do, I want to know that I gave it everything I had, whatever that was on the day. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of with both my marathons (both BQs!! and PRs!!) this year, and I think that’s my approach, at least for now.

All the strength exercises – from my chiro, from Coach Jay’s GSM or anywhere else – they mattered. They helped. I could feel it during the race. So every time I made myself do them, made myself late for something else BY doing them, or otherwise overcame whatever trivial barrier there was between me and strength training – paid off. Same with my Whartons.

Though I am much stronger than I used to be, I need some serious hill training for Boston as well as more strength work – core and leg, including single leg and balance. That said, I have told myself the story in the past that “I’m not good at hills” and I don’t think I’ve run enough of them to be able to say that. I think I did pretty well in this race! I never walked, tried to keep even effort on the uphill and take what I could from the downhill. Hills are an area I can really make some improvements in, which will pay off in strength, speed and my Boston times! I could also try to do some knee drive and more “gazelle” like form work to open up my stride and increase my speed. Up to now, I’ve been more of a glider by “nature”, and it works, but I’ll take improvements and benefits in any part of my running.

The regular chiro (weekly) and massage appointments (every couple of weeks) helped keep me healthy throughout the training and allowed me to get to the start line healthy, trained and grateful for that and the opportunity to race. I am so lucky to have the ability to take advantage of these professionals on my team, and I know it. Their support is needed and deeply appreciated.

All the focus on running goal pace or faster miles during long runs and at other times paid off.

I can’t say if adjusting my goal pace to be a bit, um, less fast, was the right thing to do, but given I got to the race and through the race healthy, uninjured, with good results, it probably was. It was a  tough choice, disappointing and upsetting. I’ll always wonder if I could have hit that other goal. (I plan to hit it eventually, haven’t let it go!) I’ll never know if it was just fear on my part or some internal warning signal that said “this is a lot harder than maybe it should be, you might be taking a risk here you don’t want to”. Would it have been “better” to push harder during training and wind up with an injury, or try to do something I wasn’t ready for and blow up in the race?  While there is some appeal – ok, a fair amount of appeal for me – in the hardcore push-it-to-the-limit approach, the problem is that you often don’t find the limit until you’ve passed it, with consequences that are unacceptable. I have to be able to train consistently to improve, and for my health and sanity. So what keeps me healthy and able to run consistently is the right thing to do. Sometimes that’s not pushing as hard as my ego wants.

All the decisions about eating this or not, sleeping or not, doing a workout or backing off….they were tough in the moment, and I second-guessed myself, but on balance, they worked out for me. It’s hard to know with any one decision or choice if you’re tilting the balance the “wrong” way and getting yourself into trouble. I was cautious in some ways and not cautious enough in others, and it’s a constant learning experience. Hopefully I will get better and “smarter” as time goes on, learning from others and sharing what I learn.

I was once again very lucky – my health, my training, my GI tract, the weather, the course and a host of other variables came together to allow me a great race. Perhaps not easy as I’d hoped, not necessarily fun, but in its own way – in what I learned and my results especially – great.

Last and by no means least:

IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

On to BOSTON!



Baystate Marathon Race Report (BQ #2, PR!)

The very short version:

BQ #2! Beat my BQ time for 2016 by 12:13!!

Being over 10 minutes faster gets me one wave earlier in registration if they do it the same way. I’m also told that I can submit my time to Boston and possibly get an earlier wave/corral for 2015!

 

And beat my Shamrock PR by 6:38!

Below is my long Baystate race report, crafted from a fatigued brain and notes I put into my iPhone on the flight home – so don’t be expecting the most polished and eloquent post ever written. I figured sooner was better than later, especially given MCM and those race recaps to come. Posts on Fri/Sat/Sun pre/post/non-race activities and a race assessment may come later in the week or next week, and possibly some recovery and lessons learned type posts. If there’s a question you want answered about my race, race gear, fueling, whatever, please ask in the comments and I’ll try to include it in another post!

Get yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and a snack, and settle in…..

Ready? Here we go!

SUNDAY MORNING

The forecast has been for cloudy, low 40s (real feel low 30s) with variable gusty winds 15+ mph. Last night I spent time freaking out over the possible cold, asking for advice on twitter, then trying on my short sleeve shirt and deciding it would chafe, so singlet is the way to go. Fortunately, it was a little warmer than they’d forecast – I think mid to upper 40s at the start – which helped, though it was COLD going over and waiting to start.

What I wore (same as Shamrock):
race kit

race kit

Champion yellow bra, The North Face Better Than Naked yellow singlet, gray/green The North Face Better Than Naked shorts, Feetures yellow light cushion socks (3rd wearing), The North Face visor. Nathan arm warmers, black toss gloves. Sunglasses.

 

Pre-race supplements and fuel I carried in UltrAspire Spry vest :
pre-race supplements, gels, vest for race

pre-race supplements, gels, vest for race

Two 5 serving flasks of EFS Liquid Shot vanilla (filled each Hammer flask with 4 servings plus water, combined the remainder in one flask with water that I took at start) plus a number of GU in case I needed more fuel. The winds at Shamrock had me burning a lot of effort and fuel, and I wanted to be prepared. Pre-race, my usual supplements, FRS chews and Beet-Elite. I took the pre-race stuff at 5:45 for an 8am race and that was the last fluid I took in until the bit of gel/water I took at the start.

 

At 6:30, I went down and walked 15 min on the hotel treadmill and did my drills. (glad I did as I didn’t get my mile warmup run as I’d wanted!) Felt fine. By 7 am I was hungry and thirsty, but that’s way too late to take in anything pre-race. Just after 7, I gathered my pre-packed gear bag (extra gloves, hat, Ultragen powder, bottle of water and empty Hammer bottle to create my recovery drink immediately post-race, a tyvec lab coat I’d planned to wear pre-race, my teal Yellowman shirt and a blue SportHill hoody DH loaned me). I wore nylon wind pants and an illuminate jacket over my race kit – it was a chilly walk of about a half mile to the finish/start area. I tried to jog a little on the way but tough with a gear bag.

 

(Aside: this race was incredibly well organized….there are no paid staff, ALL volunteers and most are runners who know what’s important to runners. There’s a reason the slogan for the race is “for runners, by runners”. May say more on that in another post.)

 

I went into the Tsongas Center hoping to meet up with Nicole and maybe see Colleen or Liza (warmth and indoor bathrooms, supposedly) No luck on finding anyone and only one bathroom was open. Waiting in a long line at 7:30 was out of the question. Plus I still had to check my gear. So, outside to the portajohns – plenty but somehow never enough. Met a young woman doing her first marathon and hoping to BQ – saw her after and she missed BQ’ing by about 3 minutes, but I’m sure she’ll get it next time. After that brief stop, needed to get to gear check and get in the corral. No time or place for a warmup mile at this point (something to work on in the future as I think it helped me at Shamrock).

 

Gear check was super-easy and located at the back of the marathon corrals. It was staffed by local high school XC runners who were efficient, cheery, and friendly. I made my way through people to try to get to my targeted spot ahead of one of the pace groups. My goal pace put me between two pace groups so I decided I’d start at my goal pace, hold it for as long as I could knowing I could tag on to the pace group behind me if needed. Talked to that pacer – bright orange shirt, carrying a big sign on a stick – asking him some Q like “how do you go through water stops, run or walk?”, “are you running even splits?” He appreciated that reminder as he’d forgotten to tell the group he was going to run through the water stops! He said he was going to try to run even splits a couple seconds faster than target (target splits were on the back of his shirt – brilliant!) and that a second pacer would join around halfway and he’d drop at 16, leaving the second pacer to get the group to the end. Again, brilliant on the part of the organizers – I’ve never seen a race rotate pacers through, everyone should do it.

 

We all huddled together for warmth (I was about midway between the sides of the corrals) and listened to the nicest Star-Spangled Banner performance I’ve ever heard at a race. There were multiple voices and harmony. It was lovely. Not sure if it was live or pre-recorded. Chugged my gel/water and got the nice guy next to me to pitch the empty flask out of the corrals as I was afraid I’d not get it far enough and hit someone.

 

Here’s a fun video of the start! (I love the guy yelling “GO GO GO” at the beginning) The right side of the road (as you watch this) is the full marathon, the left is the half. We’re on the same course for a while, but it does split – there’s plenty of signage. Here’s a video tour of the course.

 

Spoiler: this may have been the toughest race mentally for me of any I’ve ever run, including the Shamrock Fort Story wind tunnel and my 2004 injured marathon finish (walking last 6.2 in pain, in rain). It was so hard. I don’t know why, it may have been a reflection of my odd mood and mental state during this training cycle, all the stress I’ve been under and my weird feeling of detachment as the race approached. I don’t know if it had to do with changing my goal time during training – don’t think so, but I know that had affected my mood. My chiro (post-race) said that in the last couple of weeks pre-race, he thought I was really overthinking it and stressing. At my last appointment pre-race, he told me to “just have fun and do what you love to do, run!” That really made me think about when and how I love running. I will say that this race had its good moments, but it was not “fun”.

 

THE RACE
After the announcer’s yell to start us off, we crossed the timing mat and I started my music. Or so I thought. My iPod started with a song I knew in the middle of my specifically-ordered playlist – those of you who know me know how well I’d react to something like that – so I got briefly consumed trying to fix it. I thought of Sarah’s problems the night before her recent BQ, but I knew I’d checked the order of the playlist, so some sequence my gloved hand pressed screwed it up. I kept trying to fiddle with it and thought it might be on the shuffle setting, which requires fingernails to adjust and looking at the darned thing, partially hidden by my vest and singlet. I pulled off my R glove trying to fix it (and sent the expo-purchased pace band flying) and then gave up as I could see the leader of the pace group I intended to stay ahead of was now ahead of me! We were also running on half the road (middle divider) with cones between the lanes that kept getting knocked down. (the shouts of “cone” would ripple back through the pack) I decided I’d live with shuffle and try not to be too irritated, just go with it being a different race experience as my sister had said. But I was thrown, frustrated and worried about time loss already as I pushed around and through people to get ahead of the pacer. (FYI, the iPod DID play in order, just played the 2nd half of the list first, causing me to mess w forwards/back later to keep peppier songs going.)

 

I decided right away that I would take gel every 3mi starting at 3, which is more frequently than I usually take it. I often go more for 4-5 miles between, and tend not to take it until I feel a need. However, I realized that sometimes that might be too late to enable me to stay on a tough pace, and that the hills and gusts of wind were going to make me burn more energy as well. Also, from reading Sage’s Racing Wisely and my own experience, I recalled that negative thoughts can sometimes be an indicator of needing more fuel, and I needed to bat away negative thoughts any way I could. I got through mi 24 taking the gel every 3 miles on my 2 flasks of 8 servings of EFS mixed with water. Love that stuff. Only a couple of times did my stomach momentarily have an opinion, and it passed. I took water at aid stations maybe 4-5x on course, running through the stations yelling “water” to get matched up with a  volunteer. I took only mouthfuls, sometimes after my gel but sometimes separate from it, if it was just a desire to wet a dry mouth or some sense of “hey you might need some water”. I even purposely spilled some out of a cup that was too full to drink and ignored the splashes on my face. So I may be getting better at this aid station thing! It helped that the stations were well organized and fully supplied, with runners (high school mostly) staffing them, and that the race field wasn’t that big – no crowding. Also, this race doesn’t really attract lots of people running in pairs or groups or people who don’t know water stop protocol – no one cut across in front of me, came to a dead stop or any of those other issues you might encounter at other races.

 

So why did I say this race was mentally tough? Because from very early on in the race, the first miles, it just felt hard and I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do it. I thought “what if I just stop, walk off the course, DNF”. I wanted to walk. I can’t remember feeling like that in a race before at the beginning, and certainly not as often as I did during this race. It was hard and the effort hurt physically of course (I checked in on myself periodically physically but nothing was “wrong” – no odd pain, no tummy upset, nothing like that) and I knew I’d already done 18 miles at my goal pace as part of a 22 miler, so I probably could do at least that – but I just wanted to stop. I don’t know if it was the hills or the gusty wind or being on my own, which I was for the whole race. Yes, there were people in front of me and behind me, but because of the field size, the roads (we ran on the shoulder a lot, single file in something no wider than a bike lane), it was basically a solo effort. I fought myself for the whole race.

 

I paced myself with my Garmin and sometimes used the clocks (every 2 miles). I’d check my Garmin at every mile split buzz, looking at instant/average pace and how many miles covered. I’d think “x miles till the next gel”. I also checked the Garmin every couple of songs. I don’t think I’ve ever kept that close of an eye on my pace before, and I know I wasn’t accounting properly for hills/wind, though I did try not to get freaked about instant pace, coming up with explanations when it was weird, like “there are trees” or “you just took a gel” but always coming back to “speed up, keep going”. (DH tells me average pace is a lagging indicator….great.) That said, though my splits aren’t even pace, I think they were as even an effort as I could manage. I “took” what I could get on the downhills and tried to stay steady on the uphills. Every single mile was marked on the road, which was helpful. I was within 0.1 of the course markings for most of the race, but by the end I was off by 0.24 – all of a sudden in the later miles it jumped. I tried to stay close to the road edge and run the corners as efficiently as possible. There were few enough people that I didn’t really have to go around anyone or spend lots of time weaving in the early miles (yay – people self-seeded well too), though when we were mostly single file, you did have to go around to pass.

 

The course is mostly double loop, which has the advantage of letting you “learn” the course for the second loop, if you’re alert enough to manage it and be able to make any adjustments (I wasn’t, forward was the only thing I cared about). The first time though it was hard as you’d see the “marathon mile 14” mark just before the “marathon mile 4” mark, and that went on for many miles, making me think every time “oh, I have to do this part again”. There was one fun thing I noticed the first time – where mile 20 was marked on the road, someone had painted or chalked a small red brick wall (helpfully labeled “the wall”) and a few stray bricks marked on the road past that point, as if you’d broken “the wall”. Strangely though, I looked for it the second time when it actually would be mile 20, and didn’t manage to see it.

 

I don’t remember enough details to give you a mile by mile recap, so here’s more of “how I ran the race”.

 

I watched people ahead of me a lot. I tried to keep people in sight who seemed to be doing the right pace. I watched lots of shoes as I spent a lot of time looking down at the road – especially while we were on the shoulder – for grates or pavement problems in road. I watched people’s gait and looked at their clothes and how they carried fuel or water.

 

I looked at the trees and water as much as I could tried to express gratitude for the beauty – the fall colors were quite nice. I tried to take snapshots with my mind. I tried in the beginning and at end to be grateful and express it out loud (quietly) for getting to the start trained and healthy, for all the people who helped and supported me. I had my music up loud, breathed and sang along some if I felt so moved. I tried some tricks I read about in Kristin Armstrong’s book, like Kristin’s coach Cassie saying  “up and over” before some hills. I’m not sure it helped, but it gave me something to do momentarily. I used Kristin’s tough race mantra of “just run to the end of your hat” and also told myself to just follow the shoes of a runner I picked in front of me.

 

In the late miles, I followed a small muscular young woman with a ponytail wearing a race shirt with Montrail and some Hagerstown trail race info on the back. No headphones (maybe half the people wore them), no hat or sunglasses, not carrying fuel or water. She came up in the 20s and I hung with her for a while then she sped up at maybe 23 or 24. She looked really strong and steady, just clipping away but she obviously was going fast. I kept thinking “stay with the Montrail chick” and marveling at her ability. And how easy it looked, wondering if someday I could do as well. I decided she was probably more of a trail runner, maybe ultras, so this race may have been easy for her (or just may have looked that way).

 

At some point, I thought of Richmond in 4 weeks and laughed at myself for thinking it could be anything other than a training run, and how am I going to do even that in 4 weeks, how crazy must I be?

 

I refused to let myself slow down or stop or walk. I just kept moving my legs, pushing hard no matter what I felt. I don’t know how I did it.

 

Thoughts along the way (italics are thoughts as if you were inside my head, scary!):
  • Get to 6, 6.2 then only 20 miles to go, a long run
  • I get stronger as I go longer
  • Just get to 10
  • Get to 12, toss one flask, you’ll be lighter
  • Just get to 13.1, then halfway done
  • Run to the next gel, just run to the next gel
  • Get to 16.2 then single digits left
  • Get to 20, then it’s just another hour even if you slow down, don’t slow down, what’s my pace, how slow can I go and still hit my goal, can’t slow down
  • Do NOT let the pace group catch you! (I repeated this to myself MANY times)

 

Somewhere in the late miles after 20, on the first loop you turned but the second time through you go straight. Not only was that clearly marked with a sign, there were spectators several people deep cheering and blocking the turn so you couldn’t mess it up. Appreciated that!
  • mile 23 – could maybe still hit goal with 10s, no, have to stay below 9, no, don’t slow down, less than half an hour
  • mile 24 – take last gel, toss flask…… OMG are you kidding me with this hill?! Come ON! This is just MEAN! (I said this out loud several times….too tired to muster up anger but got irritation/crabbiness and used it to push myself on)

 

I knew there was one more water stop at 25.2 (I had the water stop list on my treadmill during training). I decided to take a GU and settled on vanilla bean GU – least caffeine and I’m still new-ish to that in hard running – just in case it would in any way – even mentally – help me push to the line. I ripped open the pack, got a little more than half in my mouth, swallowed it and grabbed a cup for a mouthful or two of water. I’m glad I took it. We turned a corner – and I lost 2 GUs, they bounced out – to be met with a nasty uphill bridge, slanted sharply down toward the outside of the road, and open to traffic in both directions. We had to run to the right of the cones again, and on the slant, every time my left foot struck the ground, I felt the pain of that slant all the way up that leg.

 

 

Come ON where is the turn?

 

Had realized I’d have to run to almost 26.5 on Garmin. Realized we were running opposite way than I’d run shakeout (but glad I watched video as I had recognized things and glad I ran it so I knew road pavement conditions were not good). Turn L onto main st, L again, see another L to go, hear announcer, try to speed up (trying to finish fast and alone…see guy on my L but think I dropped him). I hear them say my first name, mangle last name but get closer on the second try. I’m try again get closer, sprinting as much as I can…I can see the clock and arch, raise arms where is mat?

 

There! 
I cross, stop my Garmin and make sure to save, then see the time on my Garmin. I put my gloved R hand to my mouth and break into OMG “I did it” tears and sobs.
THE AFTER
Suddenly my legs stop working, lock up and I’m off balance. One volunteer cracks open a bottle of water and hands it to me. I’m still crying, can feel the tears running down my face. Someone tucks a mylar blanket around me. A female volunteer puts my medal on me and asks me if I’m ok. I tell her I beat my BQ, she excitedly hugs me. (these people understand what that means and how hard you worked to do it!) I’m still crying, ask her for Garmin help, she sends me toward the bag check & finish area.

 

The first tent I see is from the Marx Running store, they were at the expo. I recognize the founder/owner, Mark, and stop to ask for help with my Garmin, but he doesn’t know. I ask him again about the jacket I’d looked at the night of the expo. (I hadn’t wanted the colors they had and hadn’t wanted to jinx myself by buying it. The logo has “Bridge to Boston” on it, just like the medal, and I didn’t want to presume, kind of like not wearing the race shirt IN the race – he said I wasn’t the only one.) He says to call him, they’ll do whatever I want. I tell him I beat BQ by over 10 minutes and he grins, says “that’s FANTASTIC!” and gives me a huge hug. He then says they can even stitch “Boston Qualifier” and my time down the arm if I want.

 

I go stumbling along and see the girl from the portajohn line at the start who was running her first and trying to BQ (3:35). She had hard time with either hills or wind, got 3:38. I congratulate her on first and tell her she’s going to get BQ. See she’s got Garmin. Ask her for help and she is able to help me make sure I can see my results.

 

Everybody looks kind of dazed. I head to bag check. Nearby there’s a guy on ground with a girl rubbing his legs – he’s saying glad she’s there as he couldn’t possibly do it himself. I see two women bent over from cold & leg pain, speaking to each other in a foreign language. The nice XC kids quickly get me my bag, though I had to have one untie the strings. Everybody’s legs seem to fail in the same clumsy way, we’re all walking differently than other races I’ve been at. Maybe camber & turns in last miles? I take off the vest and visor (hey, conscious thought!) put on yellowman shirt (so glad I brought it), DH’s blue hoody, hat, illuminite jacket. Lean against pole to pull on wind pants, nearly fall over. Hard to make Ultragen – which requires opening a packet, putting it into an empty Hammer water bottle, adding water, putting the top on and shaking – but manage. I start drinking it.

 

Looking for trash bin, see a computer setup. You can check your results already! Absolutely fabulous setup, so cool. Shows you splits on a screen, you can compare yourself to women/men/everyone (shows bar chart by time). And if you’ve got someone with a camera (I don’t) you can get your finish time on a digital clock next to the setup and get your picture taken.

 

I walked past the medical tent through the finish food area – there was nothing for me due to dietary restrictions (and I wasn’t expecting there to be), but they had:
  • bottled water
  • bananas too green to eat for me (why is that always the case)
  • a selection of PowerBar Crunch items
  • homemade PB&J sandwiches in big boxes – this choked me up thinking of the volunteers making them for us all, wish I could have had one
  • homemade minestrone soup
  • homemade chicken noodle soup
My stomach handled the Ultragen fine, lurched a bit while drinking but finished it. I walked back to hotel very slowly, thinking about the race and tearing up along the way. As hard as it had been to believe it was coming, then here (that detached feeling), it was now hard to believe it was over, and that I’d achieved my goal of a faster BQ and a new PR. My brain kept making me repeat “that was SO.HARD.” out loud even to myself. I got back to the hotel and went into the bathroom to start cleaning up, saw myself in the mirror and burst into tears, saying “I did it” while smiling (grimacing?) and sobbing at the same time.

 

Even now, 2.5 days after, it’s hard to process and I’m not as coherent as I’d like putting this together. I think some of that is the fatigue hitting me now that I’m home and not having to care for myself on travel or be around other people much. The mental stress of training and getting myself through travel and then clamping down to get through the race is something I probably underestimated post-Shamrock (and even after the Heartbreak Hill Half), so while it’s unpleasant, it’s less of a surprise. The lack of sleep over the last few weeks and the physical effort of the day are also catching up with me, I’m sure. I’d say I’m surprisingly not too sore – parts of me might disagree depending on what I’m doing – but I had no problem negotiating stairs immediately post-race and I can feel things improving. The underlying fatigue is really the thing, and not doing a run before I’ve recovered more. (planning a short run Saturday, some folks in town I can’t miss seeing)

 

More thoughts about the race:
  • So many beautiful trees and leaves along the course. Fall is so beautiful in New England. I’m so glad I got to see it.
  • There were many great views of the water – you run with the Merrimack River on your right for a lot of the course. I have some postcard-level pictures in my head, I tried to burn in the views but am not sure how much stuck.
  • There was a waterfall/dam thing on the river near the end. It was loud and I tried to pretend the rushing water was pushing me on.
  • The dreaded wind gusts did happen. They were not insignificant, but mostly short, under a minute. They blew leaves across the road and once in a while tugged at my visor. It wasn’t every mile or all wind like Fort Story at Shamrock. The sun came out after 10am and then the wind sometimes felt good. I thought about taking off my arm warmers and gloves but decided not to because of the wind and some shaded portions. I will say when the wind and the hills combined, that was a bigger challenge.

I reminded myself at the start and multiple times during the race how lucky I was be able to do this, and to have gotten to the start line trained and healthy. It was a lot of work on my part, yes, but I also have a great team in my super chiro and great massage therapists.

Though I ran the race alone, I knew there were so many people thinking of me and rooting for me. Thank you all so much! My brain didn’t work well enough during the race to go through the list I’d made the night before (more names than miles!) but I know your energy helped, and I tried to send some to those of you I knew were running your own race on Sunday.

I also wouldn’t have gotten to the start line without the amazing, unfailing support of my DH for the last months and years. It can’t be easy being tethered – by choice yet! he’s a little nuts, yes? – to someone who’s as obsessed with running and my goals (as well as nutrition, schedules, routine,  and all my other quirks, neuroses, etc.) as I am. Words are inadequate to express how lucky and grateful I am.



Training Talk Thursday – The Taper

In every marathoner’s (and half marathoner’s) life, there comes the dreaded, feared, hated TAPER. Soon it will be that time for many of us. So, I thought I’d provide some resources, thoughts and tips to help you make the best/most of this critical period.

I hear there are some people who love the taper. I’ve never been one of them. Last race I started using a peaking approach (per Greg McMillan) which worked much better for me. I’m using that approach again this time.  Don’t Taper, Peak!

If you’ve got a taper approach that’s worked for you, I suggest you don’t change it because of something you read here! If your training plan has a taper included in it, it might be best to follow that approach and take any tips here that are different under advisement for use next time. If your taper approach hasn’t worked in the past and you’re looking for info or help, then I hope you find something useful here. Please remember, I’m not a coach or expert, just providing information I found and comments on what I’ve learned.

The taper is a tricky beast. The point of the taper is to give your body time to recover, absorb the last few weeks of training, and be prepared and rested/fresh for a great race day performance. In theory, it also gives you a little bit of a mental break, as training can wear you down.

However, reduced training time also gives you a bit more time and energy to worry, fret, etc. I suggest you use some of that that time for race planning/preparation. That helped me a lot for my last race, and I’m doing it again. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read Sage Rountree’s Racing Wisely and go through the checklists in the book, some of which are also on her site. I also suggest doing some other mental training – visualizations (including watching course videos), reading books like Running Within and The Champion’s Mind. (still reading other mental training books, not yet ready to rec).

Do NOT take on big projects at work or at home – it’s not the time to clean out your garage/closets, work 12 hour days, or otherwise load your system as it tries to prepare for race day.

Be prepared for little niggles to make themselves heard, and for you to be convinced you’ve got some injury/illness. Barring some pre-existing issue, it’s likely your body is just behaving a little differently because of the changes to your mileage/training load and that your mind is messing with you a little due to pre-race jitters. That said, don’t ignore anything that seems unusual, really painful or that is causing you problems. Get it checked out.

This is not the time to decide to throw in extra core work, extra stretching or weight work or that Bikram yoga class someone’s been telling you about. The risk/reward approach during taper is much like that on race day – do nothing new or different.

Get some extra sleep if you can while sticking fairly close to your regular routine. For some of us, the body loves routine and will complain about changes, even ones that should be good.

Carry and use hand sanitizer, and stay away from people with colds or the flu (even if you got your flu shot). Do this all the way through to race day – especially if you have kids or work with kids, and if you’re traveling before or for your race.

Know that your taper mileage may vary – literally and figuratively.  Some runners do better on more rest, some on less, some on big reductions of miles, some on reductions of miles but continued speedwork, etc. What taper approach works for you for any given race is part science and part art – and part luck (or lack thereof). Tapers can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on your race, your experience level, and other factors specific to your situation.

To quote a really cheesy but true phrase – the hay is in the barn. You’re about as fit and ready as you’re going to be. No workout you can do once you hit taper is going to have enough of a beneficial effect for your race to offset the risk of fatigue or injury.  And no single workout that didn’t go well or that you missed during training will, in and of itself, make or break your race.

Nutrition/Diet – By now, you’ve nailed down or dialed in what your nutrition and hydration strategy for the race will be since you’ve been practicing it on long runs. (right?) But there’s also the question of how to eat during taper. I suggest looking at the taper section of The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald for helpful tips. The book is a worthwhile read for your next training cycle (if you haven’t already read it) to understand more about race fueling and for suggested approaches. You may also be able to find him on podcasts talking about this topic.

If friends/family have a good sense of humor and “get” you as a runner, one of those “warning, tapering runner” signs, tshirts or mugs might not be a bad idea.

Here are some resources to help you have a successful peak or taper!

Podcasts

RunnerAcademy Mastering the Taper (go listen to this if you don’t do anything else…I listened to it multiple times during my taper)

MarathonTalk – they have taper tips (often the same ones) in their Training Talk segments around spring/fall marathon time, here are some

Episode 169 April 3, 2013 – also has Matt Fitzgerald as a guest

Episode 219 March 19, 2014

As your race gets closer, listen to MarathonTalk “race week” tips

Episode 65 April 6, 2011 – bonus of guest Greg McMillan

Episode 220 March 26, 2014

The MT boys even have specifics for race day!

Episode 227 May 14, 2014

Episode 205 December 11, 2013

There are many articles in the running magazines and online about tapering – here are a couple I like.

The Three Most Common Tapering Mistakes

5 Pre-Marathon Mistakes to Avoid

Other useful reads

How to Taper for Your Next Marathon or Half Marathon

The Art of the Marathon Taper

The Art of Tapering Like a Pro

The Art of Peaking for a Goal Race

(like I said, it’s a science AND an art…..)

How to Taper Correctly (not my title)

But in the end, you’ve got to keep a sense of humor about it. (look for tweets with #tapermadness or #eatallthethings to find fellow tapering runners)

The Five Stages of Pre-Race Tapering

One last thing….you can taper or peak exactly per plan and have things not work out. Or you can have a wrench thrown in your taper and still have a fantastic race.

For Shamrock, I was doing well following my peaking plan. Then the Monday night before the Sunday race, I got some food caught in my throat. Not enough to cause me problems, but enough to feel. Tuesday morning, it still wasn’t gone, so instead of my planned run/chiro appointment, DH and I made a trip to the local emergency room, where we waited for 6 hours for me to get an endoscopy (which requires twilight sedation). While we were waiting in the ER cube, I did some of my chiro exercises and Wharton flexibility work. (yes, I AM that crazy…plus it was something to do and helped my nerves) All was ok, and we were home before dinner – having spent about 10-11 hours in a hospital without food or water (hadn’t eaten in 24h), some of that unconscious with a tube stuck down my throat into my stomach. I think the whole incident was so freaky it put a stop to most of my regular taper and worry nerves. (and in theory I could always blame a poor race on the procedure/anesthetic though I would have been pretty devastated)

The next day (Wednesday), I nailed Tuesday’s planned cruise intervals workout, Thursday I nailed that planned run, Friday off for travel, Saturday a short, pleasant shakeout run. And you may recall, I PR’d and beat my BQ on Sunday. So the bottom line is – stay as calm as you can during your taper and roll with things that are out of your control. It may work out just fine in the end!

Wishing you the sanest, healthiest possible peaking period (aka taper)!

 

 

 



Training Tuesday: Recap, Week of Sept 8, 2014

Last week was a mixed bag, as you’ll see below. (and you’ll know if you follow me on twitter – thanks to all my tweeps for your support on Saturday!) Tuesday’s run was okay, but tough. Wed and Fri were recovery, so didn’t expect much. Thursday didn’t go the way I wanted, and neither did Saturday. Sunday was a pleasant-ish surprise. So it’s hard to tell what’s going on and how this week will be. Maybe I need to do double run days – add short recovery runs T/Th after work (not sure about Sat) to help with recovery and make the other runs a little better. I had started doing that last year right before I got injured (which I think was the effect of going from 50-80mpw in only a few months, not the adding on of easy 20-30 min runs a couple of times) and I noted that while the 2nd run itself was never that great, the next morning’s run was much better than if I hadn’t run the evening before. Fueling is an issue for me if it’s not first thing in the morning, but since T/Th are telework days, i could just eat lunch early then take some gel at the start.

(Reminder about that flu shot – there’s already a flu going around here, and the shots take 2 weeks to hit max effectiveness. If you’ve got a race in 3-4 weeks, especially with travel, it’s not too late!)

Run 60.53 miles this week. 2nd week above 60 in this cycle. I am sort of happy about this, wish I was happier. I’d wanted to have more weeks above 60, we’ll see how the rest goes.

  • T – 10.5 miles – The plan was 3-4 x 2mi tempo intervals, and I got it done! (took in as much gel as I did on my weekend long run, yeesh) 2mile warmup, then 3x2mi at (7sec slower than MGP, MGP, 6s faster than MGP) with 0.5 mi recovery after each set and 1mi recovery at the end. Hard physically and mentally, but I managed to hold out for each interval. Didn’t follow my whole routine after, as I had to go into the office after my chiro appointment. Then, the fridge/freezer died….so a little stress. Earliest tech appt late Thursday.
  • W – 6.2 miles, recovery pace. Kind of blah.
  • Th – 11.03 miles – today’s plan was either tempo intervals or easy. For the first time I can recall, I took the easy option. Ran 1.5mi warmup, 8.5mi at low end of ez pace zone, then the last mile did 0.25 faster, 0.25 faster, 0.5 faster, ending at the top end of the ez zone. No idea how I got through it – I feel like a weak wimp, but there must be some mental toughness because despite really wanting to stop a number of times, I got myself to keep going. Legs were kind of sore, and I was tired. Not feeling great. I’m starting to think some of my other physical/medical stuff – more than normal training fatigue and life stress – is affecting me, but not ready to talk about it and will require longer investigation than there’s time for right now. Still obsessing about what my goal pace should be or can be for Baystate. Today wasn’t encouraging.
  • Fri – 4.5 mi. I don’t usually run on Friday (do XT) since my long run is Saturday, but how could I not run before doing this? It was at a recovery pace and just fine. Legs felt looser after.
Boston 2015 registration

Boston 2015 registration

  • Sat – 21 miles. The best I can say is that I got it done, how I got myself through it is anybody’s guess. I’m both a wimp and mentally tough, apparently. (well, I’m very stubborn if nothing else) The PLAN was 10 miles easy pace, 10 miles goal pace, 2 miles faster than goal pace, with the last 0.25 as fast as possible. Actual: 10 miles increasing through easy pace one, 10 miles at (new, slower) goal pace (yes, I’m adjusting….) and 1 mile cooldown. Took plenty of gel. (~300 calories) I’m not sure whether I could have pulled off any more miles at goal pace, let alone faster, but one of the ways I got myself to get through the 10 was to tell myself I could cool down after – maybe you can only lie to yourself so many times to get through a run, then you’ve got to follow through. I think the goal pace was harder than it should have been given all the training I’ve been putting in and given that it wasn’t much faster than I trained for Shamrock – and that it was much slower than the pace I’d been trying. 10 at this pace, and I’d managed 8.5 at the faster goal pace some weeks ago. Truly don’t know what this all means. I am slowly realizing how much stress and poor sleep may be affecting my training, and how much stress I have been under in the last 4-5 months (much of it still present). There’s probably one or more aspects of my GI and related issues playing in as well. Not sure if I’m hitting diminishing returns on my no-grain diet (since Jan. 2013 roughly). I’d tweeted with Matt Fitzgerald and he said he’s seen athletes get great results from Paleo type diets for a while….lean out, better performance – and then it starts to go the other way (poorer performance, recovery, not sure about the weight/lean). But that’s the only data point I have on that possibility.
  • Sun – 7.25 miles OUTSIDE! Faster than I should have gone for a recovery run (I’m not very good at pacing), but less sore and bad than I expected after yesterday. Wore the below for the first time, comfy on the run.

Sustain the Pain tank from Reckless Running

Sustain the Pain tank from Reckless Running

Bike:  30 min after Saturday’s long run
Core: Skipped Monday as I didn’t get it in the AM and wanted to protect Tuesday’s run. Did it W AM, a bit modified. Skipped Friday. May need to move Core to T/Th/Sat along with other strength to give body a break…but no idea how to find yet more time on those days post-run!
Wharton flex: 6 days, skipped Tues 
Chiro exercises: Nope. No time on Tues, too sore on Th. Bleah.
Coach Jay GSM routine: 1 hard day T, 1 easy day Th (normally a hard day), easy day Friday. Sticking with wks 5-6.
Myrtl routine:  4 (days I do the Coach Jay GSM, there are some of the Myrtl moves in there)
Calf stretches: 6x 
Elliptical: None. 
Pool: none
Walk: pre-run 15 min warmups, plus 3 miles on Monday pre-interview (mind wanted to run but body didn’t feel like it wanted to)
Drills: before every run – lunge matrix, high knees, skips, butt kicks, butt kicks moving in reverse, karaoke, added front & lateral leg swings
Other: Chiro Tues, sports massage Sun.
Nutrition: Looking at nutrition again. Seem to be even more sensitive to volume with things like salads. Appetite weird, digestion slow. May not be eating enough carbs. Trying to use sweet potatoes for that. Controlling Arctic Zero early in week, as stress went up, started “treating” myself. (now I had someone tell me that xanthan gum, in all Arctic Zero, could be something I’m sensitive to – the symptoms are similar, but then again I get the symptoms without Arctic Zero too – think I’m sensitive to everything at this point….) Still avoiding nut butter, though not sure why. May just eat the darned stuff. (May do so tonight – Monday) Have been eating Terra original chips, putting extra salt on them. Had some good Taro chips (from Terra) Sunday, along with my yuca puffs. Those who worry I am not eating enough, no worries. I’d list all the food I eat daily or in a week, but you’d be really bored. It’s pretty healthy and very repetitive, since I can only eat certain things. And, if you read my Weekend Update post, you know that I tried decaf coffee made in an AeroPress over the weekend, first time in quite a while for coffee for me. Who knows, maybe the solution is to eat whatever the heck I want (except for the things that make me sick or in pain). I’m trying to only worry about the numbers on the treadmill, Garmin and chip – but you know it’s hard.

Life/work stress: You know how I thought this would get better? Yeah, that didn’t work out…doesn’t look like it will be decreasing soon due to stuff at work and in life in general. Not optimal for <5 weeks to Baystate.

My current struggles, challenges, whatever you want to call them are definitely making me appreciate how lucky I was in all areas in the buildup to Shamrock and a fairly magical race day (winds notwithstanding). I can still hope for best on race day and do the best I can to prepare, but I’m certainly not feeling the same level of readiness or confidence as I get closer to the race. I’m disappointed, deeply, that I may need to recalibrate my goals and expectations for Baystate (didn’t have many for Richmond or my ultra, but would look at those too). I also need to think about focusing on Boston. I wouldn’t say I’m giving up on my ambitious goals. I spent some time during one run thinking “well if I can do X at Baystate, maybe I can do Y at Boston and then Z at a fall marathon next year”.

I may have to think of Shamrock as my first marathon instead of my third – there was such a huge difference in my times and my training and race execution that Shamrock kind of stands alone. It may not be “fair” (to myself) or “reasonable” (not that I’m known for setting reasonable goals!) to try to cut as much time off in one training as I’d originally targeted. I ran Shamrock mid-March, recovery took a bit, ran a 10 mile race in April, the Heartbreak Hill Half in June, then started immediately with some extra training modules before the “official” 12 week cycle. It may take more of a progression – more time, more cycles – than that to get where I want to go.

It’s hard to think I may have just set up too ambitious of a goal for the time available and that that’s the real problem, not what the goal is, just when I can achieve it. But I learned the hard way in 2013 – by ramping up from ~50mpw to 70-80 in a few months and getting hurt – that trying to make the type of increases in mileage (or in this case speed) that would or “should” take years to do carefully and in a measured fashion can too easily lead to injury and having to take a break from running. I don’t want that. I’m in this for the long haul. But I DO feel like there’s a clock ticking, maybe because of my age/health, like I only have so long to do what I want to do. Wish I had some of the years back when I wasn’t training as much, but I was doing what I could then…and if wishes were horses, Wombles would ride! (anybody get that?) Certainly doesn’t lower the stress level. But it is what it is, and I will do my best to play well the hand I’ve been dealt.

Going forward, I’m not entirely sure how I’ll tweak my plan. I think I’m adjusting my goals for the race and thus the goal race pace, and will likely reflect that in my long runs. (I really don’t want to adjust, so I’m sort of dragging my heels and fighting with myself, but I think that’s what has to happen.) I’m of two minds of whether to try to continue to push toward my original goal pace in my T/Th long/speed workouts (tempo, intervals, etc.) in case I CAN actually do it – have a breakthrough or something – and because it might give me a little extra speed in the race. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

I’ve also got my first acupuncture appointment set for the 23rd, someone (who used to be a PT) recommended by my sports massage person. I want her to try to work on my posterior tibial tendon crankiness, sleep issues, GERD/hernia and some other health stuff. Apparently we’ll do an hour interview where she gets to hear all my concerns (should be fun for her, not) and then she tries to figure out how they hook together or don’t, we prioritize and then she starts treatment. I also am scheduling sports massage weekly if I can get it, and trigger point every 2-3 weeks (she’s much harder to get an appointment with) as well as my weekly chiro visits. At some point, I’ll return to my regular doc for annual blood tests and checks of things which may reveal underlying problems that are affecting me, but there’s no time to get that all done (tests, results, appointments) much less treat anything, before Baystate, so I’ll have to press on with what I’ve got.

Whew, that was a long one! If you’re still here, thanks for reading.

Hope you’re having a great week!



My Race Nutrition: Runners Tell All Linkup

I’m joining, at least this month, a linkup called Runners Tell All. Thanks to Deb at Deb Runs for posting as part of this linkup last month – gave me the idea to hop in and join. Wish I’d found it sooner, some fun topics I would have liked to have written about!

The linkup hosts are Amanda at The Lady Okie and Becka at Sunshine to the Square Inch. There’s a running-related topic provided for the post on the 21st of each month. That it’s a Monday means you get a two-fer, this post along with my regular Monday training recap.

This month’s topic is nutrition – “go-to nutrition to optimize training or what you eat to get you through races”. 

I’m not sure I’ve got my training nutrition optimized! I’m trying (sort of) Generation UCAN now, but I’ve had mixed luck with it. I recently heard there’s an adaptation period – 2 weeks where you can expect to not feel right, then 6 months to 2 years to get the best performance benefit. I’m not sure I want to spend that kind of time in this training cycle when I have other products that seemed to be working for me. Trying to optimize and get better brings some risk with it – but the old faithfuls could also stop working. It’s an ongoing experiment….like most aspects of my training, and really my life.

So, what about races? Here’s what I did for my BQ marathon at Shamrock in March. (Note to those who have read the blog from the beginning, this a re-pub of my March Shamrock nutrition post.)


Fueling is a very personal issue. It’s taken me quite a while and a lot of trial and error to get to “what works for me” and even then there are days where my very twitchy tummy has issues on the run.

As you’d expect, I race with the products and protocol I’ve used in training. For Shamrock, I got lucky – the day wasn’t warm so I wasn’t thirsty, and my stomach cooperated completely. Some days it all comes together, and it’s pretty amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.

Below is a LOT of detail. You may wish to skip to the “during the race” section if that’s your primary interest. Reminder, I link to products only for your information. If I’ve mentioned something in a prior post, I may not re-link here.

PRE-RACE

Let’s start with food before the race. Because of GI issues and food sensitivities, I’m even more set on eating EXACTLY the same things before, during and after long runs and races than your “average” runner (who might easily get labeled superstitious or OCD by those who don’t understand how the tummy affects your run).

At home, Fridays are Chinese takeout and snacks. I always eat the same thing (moment of pity/sympathy for my dear husband – DH – please). That’s steamed chicken and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, baby corn, mushrooms) from a local place, with some Coconut Aminos (fake soy sauce) and sunflower seed butter on top. Then I move into snacks like a few kale “salt and vinegar” chips and some kale “greenola”, some frozen organic strawberries, a pint or so of vanilla maple Arctic Zero with frozen organic blueberries, and my nightly snack of frozen banana chunks topped with a variety of nut butters and sea salt: pistachio, cashew, walnut, pecan, almond and Nuttzo peanut-free creamy. (my snacks deserve a whole post of their own)

I realize the above has a lot more fiber than most would recommend and doesn’t adhere to the carb-loading protocols many follow. But it’s what works for me, and what I’m used to. Since I don’t eat grain, I get my carbs primarily from sweet potatoes, which I eat daily, squash, and a variety of fruits/vegetables.

How to recreate this on the road? Enter PFChang’s, a restaurant with a reliable gluten-free menu and educated staff that serves just such a dish in the form of Buddha’s Feast with modifications. This time I brought my aminos and sunflower seed butter along with the rest of my food. (I don’t travel light when food’s involved and the stakes are high.) We ate both Friday and Saturday dinners from PFC – Friday to test their ability to provide what I needed and ensure my stomach didn’t have any problems, and Saturday (takeout) as a regular pre-race meal, a bit earlier than normal, around 5pm. I brought/created the rest of my evening snacks thanks to coolers, lots of space in the car and Whole Foods. For the entire trip, everything I ate was either brought from home, purchased at WF or from PFC. Also, while on travel, anything I haven’t brought and prepared myself gets eaten with a dose of Gluten Defense enzymes just in case.

RACE MORNING

I take a number of supplements daily (again, a post or two could be devoted to these). Do they do what they say? For some it’s hard to tell, and I may go through times of not using all of them, but once I find something that works and I’m in a training cycle, I won’t change it.

Among the dailies are Wobenzym, EndurolytesAcid-Ease and Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) as well as Prevacid for acid and Allegra for my allergies. I down two FRS Chews (a little caffeine and some taste).

On long run and race days, I add Endurance Amino and Anti-Fatigue Caps. I also take BeetElite beet root concentrate – I mix it with about 4 ounces of water and use it to get my supplements down.

Before runs, I take an Energy Surge. On race day, I took a second one right before the start while waiting in the corral (good suggestion by DH).

I can’t eat before running. Once my stomach starts processing solid food, it’s going to be very displeased with that level of activity, and bad things happen. However, I can usually manage just a smidgen of gel before I start a run, especially if mixed with water, and I did that for Shamrock (see below).

DURING THE RACE

I use EFS Liquid Shot in vanilla (we’ll call it gel). The taste, texture (runny) and electrolytes suit my palate, my tummy and my body. I thank Ray Maker at dcrainmaker.com for mentioning the product a while back when I was looking to get off other gel products due to some blood sugar spikiness.

I put my gel in Hammer flasks (because they fit in my fuel belt better) in this ratio: to the line marked 4 (4 ounces), then added SmartWater (which I drink) to the 5 line. So a flask had about 320 calories in about 80g of carbs with 1 ounce of water. I added the water to ensure I’d get some water along the way even if the aid stations didn’t work out and I’m glad I did! I made 4 flasks, carried 3 flasks in my belt, plus gave an extra to DH to carry and meet me along the way.

I made an extra flask of 1 serving of my gel with 1 ounce of water, brought it to the corral and downed it a couple of minutes before the start.

I had a plan going in to take some gel roughly every 3-4 miles, with more if I felt like I was starting to need it. I don’t really remember taking it except in the Fort Story section where I was trying anything to make the badness stop, but from what I had left and the fact I didn’t bonk, I must have been taking it about that right for the day.

When I finished the race – didn’t take the flask from DH – I had one full flask, had pitched one empty flask, and had a flask with contents to about the 1 mark left in it. I estimate I took in only ~700 calories pre and during race, and maybe 6 oz. of water in total.  I took somewhere between 160-180g of carbs from the gel, which works out to at least 40g per hour if you assume a constant rate of consumption…unlikely because I know I didn’t take gel early and sipped more late. (one benefit of the flasks is you can take as much or as little as you want) Supposedly at least 30g of carbs per hour is desirable, more up to 60 or so if you can tolerate it. (read The New Rules of Marathon/Half Marathon Nutrition for an interesting discussion and ideas)

I didn’t have any problems with dehydration during the race but I was probably dehydrated at the end. However, the more I read and hear about hydration, the less I worry about it during the race itself. If I go in hydrated, drink to thirst whether from aid stations or what I carry, and rehydrate well after, that seems to be a reasonable balance between health/safety and performance concerns, as long as I’m mindful of conditions.

POST-RACE

As I mentioned in a prior post, DH brought an empty bottle and a packet of Ultragen and mixed my recovery drink immediately after finding me at the finish. The packet is – to me – 2 servings. At home I’ll use the canister, which allows me to use 1 or 1.5 scoops instead (2 scoops = 1 packet), but the packets are great for travel and I figured I’d need all the help I could get. Ultragen is amazingly easy on my stomach, and seems to help recovery. I try to get it in down the first 10-15 minutes after long runs, usually when I’m cooling down on the bike (at home). I’ve also started taking SportLegs again. I’d take the product years ago and stopped when I started reading about how lactate is good for you instead of bad. But in this past training cycle, after particularly tough long runs, about 4-6 hours later I’d get what I called “screaming legs” when suddenly my legs would just ache horrible and that would last 4-5 hours. One day I decided to pull out the SportLegs (DH had a bottle) and took a dose with my Ultragen. No screaming legs! I’ve been using it since then and plan to continue.

It’s taken me years to get to the above, which is what works for me. Trial and error can be such an unpleasant process, but maybe something I’ve shared can help you. I hope so!

 

 

 



UPCOMING RACES & FUTURE PLANS

Boston 2015 is the “big dance” for me and everything will lead up to that, assuming I am fortunate enough to get a slot. My races and training between now and then (less than 13 months, less than 55 weeks) will be geared to at least not adversely affect Boston if not in some way support it and other ambitious goals I have.

So, here’s what’s up for the rest of 2014, starting with 2 races 4 weeks after Shamrock.

April 12
Marine Corps 17.75k

Why: It’s supposed to be a good race, a unique distance (automatic PR) and finishing gets you a slot into the Marine Corps Marathon. My husband suggested we do it for all those reasons, even though he’s running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler the weekend before, and I went with his idea. We both managed to get registered in the 9 minutes it took the race to sell out online. This is a very hilly course, which I’m not used to, so just completing it healthy is the goal. Getting some hill experience is a good thing for me, something I need to work on for Boston.

Late breaking as of Tuesday night: Looks like there’s a fair chance of rain for the 17.75k. If that happens, I will likely pass on the race. As you learned last week, I don’t like to run in the rain AND – not being experienced on a hilly course with some (potentially slick) trails – the risk/reward equation would be skewed the wrong way for me. One race – particularly not an A race – isn’t worth derailing my future training and racing.

April 13 (the next day)
George Washington Parkway 10 Miler

Why: It’s a really pretty race, the only time the Parkway is closed. I ran it last year and liked it. I’d forgotten it was the day after 1775 until after we’d registered. I was briefly bummed, then DH suggested “Why don’t you run both? You are interested in doing ultras and the training is often back to back long runs. Your long runs for Shamrock were longer than the two races combined.” His rationale seemed sound and the challenge caught my fancy. When I get one of those ideas in my head, it plants roots quickly. How I approach this race depends on how the race Saturday goes. If I can run it at a decent pace, I may try, or I may just take whatever pace my legs are willing to give and not push.

May-September: no races

It’s generally too hot here in the summer, for me, to race, and I’m not into 5ks or 10ks. So I’ll be starting my next training cycle in May, after recovering from the April races. That’s probably a good thing anyway as I may have some trips to make, we may need to move over the summer, and those efforts, plus training, my day job and blogging will keep me plenty busy.

October 19
Baystate Marathon

Why: I love fall marathons and I wanted to have a chance to BQ if I didn’t make it at Shamrock. Now I’d like the chance to better my time for 2016 and see what I can do. I’ve been looking at this race for a couple of years. It’s got a good reputation as a BQ race (25% of the field usually BQ’s) so it’s flat and fast, and it’s put on “by runners, for runners”. Also, runner tweeps I’d like to meet recommended it and my sister lives within a couple of hours of the venue, so I might get to see some folks while I’m up there. DH won’t be able to make the trip with me, so I’ll be solo. This would be an “A” race for me, as Shamrock was, so my training after the April races would be focused on Baystate, probably starting in May with a hill module then a speed module from Greg McMillan‘s YOU (Only Faster) book (which I used to train for Shamrock) before starting the 12 week marathon plan.

October 26 (one week later)
Marine Corps Marathon (MCM)

Why: Good question. DH is considering run/walking this (see rationale for 17.75k). Though we’re local, we’ve never done the race. Last year I was going to go cheer some of the runners but friends came in from out of town. It kind of seems like since we’re here we SHOULD do the race. It’d also be another chance to see and run with Bart Yasso at his shakeout run (only partially kidding). And, it would get me Marathon Maniac status! (2 marathons in 16 days is the one of the criteria for entrance into the “club”)

I haven’t run it before as it does have a little hilliness (when I want flat, I want really flat), it’s huge and I prefer smaller races, and (pet peeve) I run with headphones and MCM prohibits them. The big question is – what can I do, what should I do – the week after putting forth a big effort at Baystate? Thinking back to a week post-Shamrock, I did 6 miles fine at a slow pace, not sure I could do 26.2 at that pace. It would definitely be a “finish it” race, not done for time. Two weeks post-Shamrock, I did 11.5 miles Saturday and 10.35 miles Sunday. I was sorer than I’d like Saturday post-run and worried going into Sunday that I wouldn’t be able to get the run done due to soreness or injury concerns. The third week – day 18 post-Shamrock – was the first time I started to feel the training in my legs more than the race effects. Given the timing, unless I get my recovery to be faster or get fitter (both possibilities), I wonder if it’s wise to do two marathons so close together, especially when I plan to run Baystate at least as hard/fast as I did Shamrock.

I will have to decide whether or not to register for Marine Corps quickly as the 17.75 “access granted” only lasts a couple of days post-race. I could sign up and then transfer the bib if I decide not to run it, but that is money gone, of course.

Then, another suggestion of DH’s that burrowed its roots into my brain and won’t let go. I may try to do my first ultra in 2014! I’ve been interested in ultras for a couple of years now, but hadn’t chosen my debut race.

Because I’m not a trail runner (yet) and my goals for the next couple of years are road marathons, it makes more sense for me to look for road or track ultras. Many of the road ultras of interest to me, like Chicago and Mad City, conflict with other races or important segments of my training. But, as I learned more and more about ultras and the community, I started hearing about Aravaipa Running (the Coury Brothers) and the races they organize, including Across The Years (ATY).

ATY is a timed ultra (24, 28, 72 hours and a 6 day) run on a 1+ mile loop track at a baseball training facility in Arizona across days at the end of December into the New Year, hence the name. I’ve been in contact with the organizers, and they have no problem with me signing up for the 24 hour and only running 50k if I want, 50k being the shortest ultra race distance, 31+ miles. I plan to go for 50k (not sure if I want a particular time or not) and then see how I feel. I surely wouldn’t go more than 50 miles and probably wouldn’t go that far, keeping Boston 2015 in mind. But the Courys sound great, the race looks unusual and fun, and I’ve heard the community of runners at the race is fantastic. DH and I like Arizona, so there’s the potential for a vacation for both of us if things work out. Also, I could run it either in 2014 or 2015 (since it goes “across the years”). I think if I train for it and run it wisely, it could help me for Boston or at the least, not cause me any problems. It would help keep my mileage up, and taking a couple recovery weeks afterward wouldn’t affect the start of my Boston training.

Other possibilities for the fall…

One alternative that’s recently come to mind and would still get me Marathon Maniac status, since 3 marathons or more in 90 days is another way to get in at the entry level, is:

Baystate 10/19, then the Richmond Marathon 11/15, then Across the Years (minimum 50k distance)

Why Richmond? I’ve done the half a couple of times, and in 2013 I’d planned to run the full marathon and try to BQ. Then, in August 2013, I got injured because I’d ramped up my mileage too quickly (started the year at 50mpw, hit 80mpw just before injury). I pulled back and rehabbed and probably could have done the race “to finish” but that wasn’t what I wanted and I decided to retarget for Shamrock. Richmond 2014 would have the advantage of being 4 weeks after Baystate, and thus potentially less damaging to my body and a more pleasant experience. The disadvantage would be a 2 hour car ride each way, at least one night in a hotel, and the concerns about food I have away from home. Also, DH probably can’t make this trip either.

No matter what I decide about a second or third race in the fall/winter of 2014, Boston training starts in January. Eyes on the prize for 2015, which is a Boston I can be pleased with and hopefully proud of, so a strong race though I haven’t decided on a time goal. Keeping that in mind, I may not do MCM, may do Richmond (or not) and I may change my mind about trying to get Maniac status this year. I’d love to reach a lot of goals in one year, and am already planning to race more races than I ever have in one year, but I have to be wise about my choices. I need to be able to keep training to keep improving. Anything that puts my consistent and continued healthy training at risk is not a good idea, no matter how appealing it sounds.


Thanks for reading! If you have thoughts on the above, questions or want to share your plans, feel free to do so in the comments, by reaching out to me on twitter, or by using the contact form on the site.



Recovery & Return to Running Post-Shamrock (week 1)

POST-SHAMROCK RECOVERY 

Because I had already planned to run two back-to-back races in April (“for fun”), a few weeks ago I asked the coaches at the Endurance Planet podcast (a fave) for a recovery/training plan to fill the four weeks post-Shamrock. Lucho at EP said the first week post race was to be 4-5 days of NO running, then easy 3-4 miles on Saturday and Sunday to test my recovery. So that’s what I did, though it was awfully tempting to run a couple of those days, psychologically if not physically. I also used one of Sage Rountree’s books – The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery – for tips.

Workouts the week of 3/17:

Mon 3/17 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Tues 3/18 – bike 70 min.
Wed 3/19 – light core workout, bike 40 min.
Th 3/20 – bike 60 min.
Fri 3/21 – core workout, bike 60 min.
Sat 3/22 – run 4.35mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Sun 3/23 – run 6 mi at recovery pace on treadmill
Other: some use of Roll Recovery in the evenings, chiropractor appt, 3 massages. I’m fortunate to be able to have those appointments, and they really help.
Overall, noticeably better each day with no new complaints from my BQ body!

If you want more detail, read on….

Notes:

I was incredibly lucky to start the race healthy and with no more than niggles than the ones that I seem to have to live with. I was also incredibly lucky to finish the race feeling only the same niggles: no new ones and no injuries! (I don’t count the joint pain that’s just what happens after 26.2 miles of pavement impact — it’s expected and it fades.)

I mention products, coaches, podcasts, etc. only to be specific about what I do & use in case it’s of help to any of you. I’ve paid for these things (unless I say otherwise), I’m not shilling for anyone, I don’t have any affiliate store or get any benefit from you trying any of them. My use and mention of something isn’t necessarily a recommendation for you. But I know we’re all looking for new products to try, to help with a problem, to get improvement, whatever, so if you try something and it works for you, that’s great. I link to some items that might not be as familiar to you or easy to find, but I suggest you shop for best prices and at retailers you like.

Day of race/trip home — nutrition, gear & routine

When we left our intrepid runner (me), I’d finished the race, swigged my post-race cappuccino flavor Ultragen recovery drink within 10 minutes, gotten sweats on and gotten back to the hotel. I ate a sweet potato with some nut butter for the carbs and some protein/fat (though I wasn’t hungry pre or post Ultragen) and made hot decaf tea for the road. I also wasn’t thirsty, though I had to be dehydrated.

I cleaned up a little, stretched a little, and put some magnesium lotion on my shins/calves and Biofreeze on my quads, hammies & glutes. I layered my favorite recovery socks (SL3S) and 110% knee sleeves and shorts under sweatpants, and put on a wicking turtleneck under my race shirt (since I finished, I could wear it – I don’t wear a race shirt unless I’ve completed the race). I also did a quick pass over my legs with my Roll Recovery, which came with me in the car, easily accessible (and used) each time we stopped.

Knowing we’d be driving for a while, particularly if the weather hit before we got home, I packed a bunch of snacks in one of my many “front seat” bags, including bacon jerky (protein, fat, salt), another sweet potato w/nut butter (carbs, fat, protein and well tolerated by my tummy), some Terra chips for salt/crunch cravings, a Larabar and an applesauce packet for quick blood sugar hits if that became an issue. Along with tea I had Zico coconut water for electrolytes and hydration. As it turned out, I drank the Zico (11 ounces over maybe 3 hours) plus a few swigs of tea and ate the sweet potato. I was only briefly hungry, an hour or so into the drive (probably caused by eating the first sweet potato, how it works for me) and still wasn’t thirsty. I have a bad habit of dehydrating myself on car and plane trips though, so I was making myself drink.

We stopped three times on the way home — twice at gas station/convenience stores with restrooms, where I could walk for a couple of minutes to stretch my legs, which were pretty well locked in one position due to the amount of stuff packed in/around my legs in the front seat. After I walked, I’d take a moment in the cold outside the car to use my Roll Recovery on my legs, and it helped. I also sat on a trigger point ball for a while, trying to soothe an aggravated glute min that tends to act up sometimes and doesn’t like car rides. I was already sitting elevated on two blankets (our swag from a Valentine’s 5k) to keep my hips at a decent angle. My legs were sore and stiff, certainly, but some of that was probably from the cold they’d endured as much as the effort. The worst thing probably was that my knees seemed to stiffen up into a slight angle, and they didn’t like bending/straightening for things like stairs once we got home. But I was walking pretty well, considering the circumstances, and far far better than after the marathons I did years ago.

When we got home, my DH (angel!) told me to go in and start eating the food we’d picked up while he unloaded the car in the falling snow. I didn’t have much of an appetite though and wound up putting all that food away until the next day. What did I eat that night? A frozen dessert I’m fairly addicted to called Arctic Zero (it’s like a whey protein shake w/fiber, but tastes sort of ice cream like once you get used to it), plantain chips with extra salt and Terra sweet potato and apple chips. Hey, it was what appealed to me!

I got to bed not too late, but had a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I woke up multiple times during the night with snippets of my playlist songs in my head. (I must have heard the music after all!) I knew to expect this for one or two nights (turned out to be two) from reading Sage Rountree’s book Racing Wisely, which suggests mental/emotional excitement and the physical effects of hard racing may cause sleep disruptions. I was able to get to the bathroom and back during the night with no problem (and no pain-induced moans, hisses or profanity).

Monday 3/17 (the day after)

DH and I had both taken the day off work, since we’d originally planned to stay in Virginia Beach Sunday night. I slept in until about 7am. I did a shorter, easier version of my M/W/F core workout and got on my trusty bike up on the trainer.

trusty bike on trainer

trusty bike on trainer

I rode with about as little resistance as you can imagine for an hour. For the first 20 minutes or so, my knees (still probably the unhappiest part of me) weren’t thrilled. Then everything seemed to loosen just a bit and the next 20-30 minutes felt pretty good. After that I started to tighten up again, but wanted to make it to a full hour (I’m like that) so kept going. The inside hamstring behind both knees particularly didn’t like stair activity — so it wasn’t helpful that the downstairs toilet broke that day (still broken), causing a rehydrating runner a lot of trips up and down stairs. Thinking positively, maybe all the stair climbing/descending helped work out the kinks.

The rest of the day was spent online and hanging out with DH. We ate the yummy dinner we’d picked up Sunday and watched some TV. I didn’t want the day or the post-race glow to end!

Tuesday 3/1

I telework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I didn’t have to get myself to the office just yet (yay). I did 70 minutes on the bike, after another night of broken sleep. Some old familiar crankiness (L tendon behind the ankle, L glute min) made its presence known. I was still surprised at how good I felt and how mobile I was without real pain or significant problems. Tuesday I saw my chiropractor who did a “runner’s tuneup” (general focus) and some e-stim. Tuesday night, I saw one of my massage therapists for a light massage and stretch session.

Wednesday 3/19

Up and at ‘em — well, up anyway. Back to work after a light core workout and 40 minutes on the bike, less time than I’d wanted because I was a little poky. Had some GI trouble overnight that woke me for a while (this happens to me sometimes) so I was a little tired after 3 nights of broken sleep but otherwise physically better than the day before. My L hamstring (a known crank) was a bit sore at the point where it attaches to the glute, possibly from Tuesday’s massage. Other than that, the only thing I noted different was that despite a little less soreness and stiffness in general, my hips were tighter than they had been. I have a standing desk at work, but made sure to sit more than I normally would to help me legs out. I got a light sports massage Wednesday night, which felt pretty good.

Thursday 3/20

I started to feel even better. I was impressed with the other full and half marathoners from last weekend’s races who were tweeting about their quick return to running. I was tempted. Heck, it was day 4 and the coach said 4-5, and I was teleworking…but I told myself it wasn’t worth the risk to run yet. So, another hour on the bike for me, telework, and a light trigger point massage in the evening. Started having those “a week ago we were…” thoughts. Hard to believe I was packing for the race a week ago.

Friday 3/21

Back to the office after a core workout closer to my usual length & difficulty, and an hour on the bike. Wanted to run today mentally, legs probably would have managed it fine. But I decided to stick with instructions — they’d said 4-5 and since I wanted 4, I should go for 5 (it’s easy for me to overdo sometimes and restraint had gotten me to the race healthy, so I decided to stick with it). A relaxing evening of TV watching and carryout Chinese (if you consider steamed chicken and vegetables with no rice in that category – I do) part of our regular routine. I was getting a little nervous about my first run post-race the next day (how would it feel, would it hurt, was I sorer or more damaged than I’d thought). A week ago we’d been at the expo and I’d been getting ready to run with Bart Yasso!

Saturday 3/22

I slept in until 6:30 or so, then got up and puttered through my slow pre-long-run routine, though this run was to be only 3-4 miles. Got my podcast iPod set up and got on the treadmill. I do a 15 minute walking warmup before all my runs (5-10 minimum, 15 usual/preferred) as I read once that Amby Burfoot said the thing he did most to prevent injury was add that type of walk and warmup to his runs. (or as Lucho said, “Recovery starts with the warmup”) Then I ran 4.35 miles at a recovery pace (my usual recovery pace, per my feel and McMillan’s calculator, at the low end of the pace range). It felt okay, a bit sore, stiff and tight as I’d expected, but no surprises, which had been my biggest concern — something that wouldn’t show itself until I started running. I started feeling better toward the end of the run (typical, usually after 6 miles I start to feel good) but I restrained myself and stopped. Got on the bike for 30 minutes (still with laughably low resistance, just enough to spin the wheel) which is what I normally do after long runs to stretch my legs out.

Relaxed the rest of the day, read running-related stuff. (all I’m reading these days it seems!) Had  a scare when I was wearing socks in the kitchen and slipped and fell on my tailbones, tweaking tweaked my right knee a bit. I thought, “oh no, seriously?!” It was just a careless move on my part, lucky I didn’t get really hurt by cracking my head on something. My knee responded to some ice, Traumeel and my 110% compression knee sleeve. I probably just yanked something in it, but DH had to spend some time calming me down, asking me when it hurt, telling me it would be okay. What would I do without him?

Sunday 3/23

Another “sleep-in” day. I could have (maybe should have) run outside, but it was another rough GI night and I thought perhaps I should be close to facilities…though I turned out to be fine. Warmed up, then did 6 miles at recovery pace. I know, it was only supposed to be 4, but I really wanted more. As on Saturday, felt better toward the end of the run. My right knee was still unhappy about my fall (but less so, and not during the run at all) and my hamstrings at the attachment points made their presence known (but evenly on both sides, that’s good) but nothing that would make me stop running or inhibit other activity.

Overall, I was in pretty good shape to start with and every day got better and better. I never needed to take any painkillers (I can only take acetaminophen anyway) though I took some arnica and extra Wobenzym after I tweaked my knee on Saturday. I didn’t even need to ice anything from the race! I probably haven’t stretched enough as I was afraid of over stretching something that was still mending from the race. I haven’t gotten back into my Wharton flexibility routine (note there are free videos of him on youtube and info online) or yoga stretches yet, and certainly didn’t do any of my chiropractor-instructed leg strength exercises. I’ve used the Roll Recovery briefly most evenings, which has probably helped. I wear compression knee socks every day since I stand a lot for work, but hadn’t noticed any swelling even immediately post-race. During this week, I kept eating my regular diet (I eat the same things over and over on a daily/weekly basis) just less quantity since I figured I basically wasn’t burning any calories biking.

Excited for week two, when I will get to run more!

 



SHAMROCK 2014 RACE REPORT or HOW I GOT MY FIRST BQ!

RACE MORNING, PRE-RACE

I woke up around 5 on race morning (race start 8:30) and started puttering around the hotel room.  I went through my normal routine of taking supplements, making and drinking my Beet-Elite (beet root concentrate) and munching FRS chews. I also prepared multiple flasks with my gel and water combination (EFS First Endurance Liquid Shot in vanilla). Then I put on sunblock and got dressed in my race kit, which was laid out in the living room.

I’d pinned my bib on as part of race prep Saturday afternoon (thanks to Sage Rountree’s Racing Wisely book for suggesting me I do this ahead of time). However, I had to re-do it Saturday night after I realized I hadn’t written emergency info on the back. At least I wasn’t doing it now!

I spent some time looking out from the hotel room’s balcony at the ocean, at the race tents and setup, and watched the sun rise.It seemed warmer and less windy in the darkness than after the sun showed its face. (this turns out to be true later)

 

sunrise photo from hotel balcony

sunrise photo from hotel balcony

Around 7:00, I put sweats on over my race kit and went out with my dear husband (DH) to walk down and find the marathon start line and do a quick warmup. This was the first time I’d done a pre-race warmup, but I knew I couldn’t afford to start any slower than goal pace. We walked quickly in the cold – I was so cold after a few blocks I started running. I ran down to the start and back past my husband, warming up quickly and feeling pretty good in my sweats. Nothing hurt that doesn’t usually complain (tight hamstring, cranky tendon, etc.) so I thought that was good.

THE START

We went back to the hotel so I could have a few minutes to myself, use a real bathroom one last time, and get my fuel belt on. Put the sweats back on, and around 8:00 we headed off to the start. At the expo, we’d been told the pacer would be in the corral 10-15 minutes early to talk to the runners, discuss water stop strategy, etc. I was starting one corral back from my assigned corral to stick with a pacer instead of go with what I’d projected as my dream time. There was only one pacer for my group. We got to the corral and kept looking for the pacer, who didn’t show up until 8:20ish, making a few of us nervous. He showed up in the orange pacer tank, with his sign (the handle had already been broken in half by the wind) and a small water bottle filled with some kind of sports drink.

I handed off my sweats to DH, who melted into the crowd, and started talking to other runners. I met Natalie, who had the same goals as me (BQ but faster) and was from the area. She said she “owned” the hill we’d run around miles 2 & 10 and was very confident. (I lost her well before the hill.) I met Susan and Ella, who I also lost contact with early on, and a woman in a long-sleeved red shirt with a Camelbak (I’d originally planned to use one) who ran right on the pacer’s heels most of the early miles.

Just before the start, I knocked the velcro strap on my Garmin 620 apart and was lucky to catch it as it fell. (the original strap broke in the classic way earlier in the year, but I won’t be joining the lawsuit) I had a brief moment of panic getting my gloves off, the Garmin secured, and my gloves back on, but had enough time before the start. We listened to the National Anthem – nice job by the vocalist – and then the first corral was off and we all moved forward. I remembered to start my Garmin as we crossed the mat, but it was a minute or so more until I remembered to un-pause my iPod.

THE EARLY MILES

For the first few miles, I was running very close to the pacer. I spent some time chatting with a guy from the DC area in a Marathon Maniac shirt (wish I remembered his name, just know he’s a member of the VHTRC (Virginia Happy Trails Running Club), a member of the Pacers Old Town team and was running the HAT 50k the next weekend) and a guy named Sandy from DC who was new to VHTRC. We talked about running around DC, Marathon Maniac-ing and other chatty runner things. The hill – Rudee Bridge – wasn’t bad at all. My head said, “oh, the hill…yep, still the hill…how much long – it’s over” as we crested. So my incline treadmill training simulating the hills during long runs must have helped. I remember a woman saying to me “you look like you’ve done this a few times before” and I said, “a couple”.

I spent some time in the first miles after the bridge (maybe miles 3-4) trying to slow down as I could tell pacer was a few seconds fast. There were more elbows bumping and people stepping on my heels – we all REALLY wanted to stay with the pacer – than in much more crowded races I’ve run. It was definitely race pace or better, but I was holding it and reminded myself I’d trained for this, running 18 miles of a 21 miler at goal pace (which was 3 seconds faster than the official time the pacer was to be running).

From very early in the race, it seemed like every step was painful in my legs. Not in an injury way, just sort of an all over hurt. It was very strange, but since it was consistent, and not getting worse, so I just tried to make it into background noise and ignore it. I later figured out it was my muscles hurting because of the cold and wind. When I’d done my pre-race warmup in sweats, I didn’t have any of that kind of pain. DH later said it must have been like running in an ice bath.

I took water at an aid station around mile 7. The water was very cold & it took extra energy to get back to the pacer even though I ran through the aid station, so I decided I couldn’t do that again unless I really felt super thirsty. Thankfully the cold took care of that and I wasn’t thirsty at all, getting by on the water I’d mixed in with my gel in my gel flasks. I got really lucky – I probably only took in 4-6 ounces of water the whole race and while I was dehydrated at the finish, I don’t think it affected my race performance.

Most of what I remember in the first 6-9 miles, aside from chatting and trying not to run into/onto people, is being annoyed with my fuel belt, which kept trying to slide down my butt. I kept having to pull it up and readjust it. Because of all the chatting, I don’t remember hearing much of my music early. Oddly, later when I was by myself, I don’t recall hearing much of it either, until toward the end of the race.

Running through Camp Pendleton between miles 8 and 9, I appreciated the uniformed service members who came out to cheer us on, though I didn’t spare the energy to do more than smile or raise my thumbs. They were loud enough on both sides of the small road that I thought “oh, that’s what people mean when they talk about the wall of sound from the Wellesley girls at Boston.” It was a brief lift as we headed back toward the hill.

I think there was headwind from around mile 9 for a while. Someone asked the pacer how long the wind lasted and I remember him saying, “9 miles” and people groaning. “That can’t be right”, I thought. At some point after the hill, running back toward the hotels, the woman who’d spoken to me before saw me again and asked “how are you doing?” I just looked at her and said, “it’s HARD”.

HALFWAY

I saw DH on the sidewalk around mile 13. We’d pre-arranged where he’d be, and he was carrying an extra gel flask in case I needed it. I had put songs on my playlist for around that time into the race (estimated by goal pace) that reminded me of him to signal me to look for him. Thank goodness I actually heard them and remembered what they meant! He saw me, we made eye contact as he clapped and shouted support, but I didn’t need anything so I just nodded and kept going.

At some point after that, it seemed to get harder for me to stay with the pacer. I assumed I was slowing down, because that was what I was afraid of. (later DH would tell me, and I would figure out that pacer speeded up, maybe banking time against the wind) I felt like I couldn’t go any faster and didn’t want to risk trying and blowing up, so I tried to keep the pacer in sight as long as I could but eventually lost him. (Later I saw that at the mile 18.1 split, I was 50 seconds behind him when up till then I’d been within 2 seconds.) If I’d checked my Garmin, I would have felt better as my pace would have looked fine. But I didn’t think to do that, I was working hard and all my thoughts, if there were any, were about continuing to push.

At some point I realized we were past mile 16, so single digits to go. I’d thought about that point in the race miles earlier, thinking how good it would feel to have only single digits left, but now it just seemed like there was still a long way to go.

Running through the Shore Drive section (no wind! trees!) I appreciated the tip from Christine,  who I’d met on Saturday at the Bart Yasso shakeout run, to watch out for the camber of the road. I’d said, “I’ll run in the middle” and she said no, the shoulder was the best place, and she was right. I stayed on the shoulder except when I had to move off for a music vehicle or something else parked on the shoulder. The runners got a lot more strung out in this section and I saw other people who’d been in my pace group though the pacer was long gone from sight.

FORT STORY – aka THE WIND TUNNEL

Miles 19 to almost 23 were through Fort Story, and were the worst – very cold, hellacious wind right off the ocean, not enough people around to block or hang on to. Someone later said they thought the sustained wind was 15mph, with gusts to 25mph. So I was running into or across a 15mph wind or more the whole time. This was the very hardest part of the race, and I’m so proud that I didn’t give up here.

This section was brutal. I was so cold. My legs ached as they had the whole race. I kept telling myself “you’re not injured, that’s not what it feels like”. I watched the average pace on my Garmin tick up one second, then later another. I normally can’t do math at all during a race  and completely forgot I was wearing a pace band as a backup. Somehow my math brain worked and I  frantically calculated and re-calculated – can I make my goal time, can I make the BQ time, can I finish under 4?

I felt like I was watching my goals slip away. I felt like I was running as hard as I could but like I was no faster than walking, it was so much effort. My worst mile time per my Garmin was in this section, at 10:09 – I would have said it was 12:00 easily. I saw people walk, then try to start to run again. I was fighting with myself – a total head game – for a moment I wanted to cry but I told myself “NO!” I thought of what it would feel like to DNF, to disappoint myself and so many other people, everyone who believed in me, my family, friends and my running twitter friends. I’d taken the risk, unusual for me, of sharing my goals with people and being enthusiastic and vocal about them and soaking up their support, encouragement and belief in me. I told myself I couldn’t walk, I’d go hypothermic. I convinced myself it would be faster to keep running. There was no visible on-course support from the race organizers (or I didn’t see it). There were a few spectators near some military housing and momentarily my brain said, “I wonder if they would drive me back to the hotel, or would let me call my husband to come get me” then I thought, “no, no one could get through with the road closures, it’s faster to run”. I saw one or maybe two soldiers standing by vehicles blocking intersections and thought that it would be warm in the cars and they’d probably have to help me if I went over. But I kept moving.

I kept looking at the lighthouse so far away, knowing that the curve of the road to reduce the wind was around or after the curve (and that there were photographers there). It didn’t seem to get any closer for a long time. I saw the ocean off to the left. I kept thinking “the wind can’t keep up, it has to stop”. In a photo taken near the lighthouse, I can see the wind trying to tear my bib off, and I look like I’m slow-motion running.

I don’t remember any of the music that was playing through these miles. I thought about how I had only put a certain amount of music on my iPod, enough to get through my dream goal time, the pacer time, and the BQ time. I knew after that it would go silent or start over and wondered if I’d get to that depressing point. I couldn’t remember the mantras that I’d come up with during my long (treadmill) runs and repeated over and over on those runs. I only used the mantras once in the race, somewhere in the first quarter, way before I really needed them. I kept looking at my miles elapsed and what was left to run, trying to figure out “you’ve got this long to run this many miles so if you can just hold this pace, you can do it, just keep going” and doing that over and over every time I recalculated. I kept doing that periodically through the rest of the race, but in Fort Story it seemed like that was all I was doing, in some sort of continuous loop.

THE END OF THE WIND, FINALLY!  LAST MILES & THE FINISH

We finally got out of Fort Story and on to Atlantic Avenue – it seemed like forever, but that turn happens shortly after mile 22. At some point just after the turn, I remembered how long the stretch was on Atlantic, since we ran it outward and saw people heading the other direction toward the finish. It was strange to now be the person heading back, seeing people still heading out!

I kept calculating how long left to get what finish time, trying to make my legs go faster. I didn’t really feel them anymore except for the pain I’d felt for much of the race. I felt so clumsy and slow I wasn’t really sure if I *was* going any faster. I’d stopped looking at average pace, just elapsed time and miles mattered now. At some point, the 80s song Wild Wild West came on my headphones and it seemed to give me a good pace beat. I kept hitting the “back” and I think I played it at least 5 times in a row, and it’s long. I remember it all the way down Atlantic. As I saw the corner up ahead with cones where we’d turn left to finish on the boardwalk, I paused the iPod. I didn’t even want to hear the song I loved so much & had carefully chosen to be timed with my dream goal finish time. I knew I’d finish, and I just wanted to get to the line as fast as I could.

After the turn onto the boardwalk, I could see the Finish arch, but it looked so far away! I looked at my Garmin and calculated again and thought, “it’s gotta be half, maybe 3/4 of a mile, you’ve got x minutes, you could walk and still do it – but keep running”. I ran and picked up more speed. There were now spectators cheering the runners on, reading our names off our bibs and shouting encouragement. I started to smile and feel some emotion as the finish approached, but tried to just keep pushing faster. I looked for the mat and reminded myself not to hit my watch right then because of the photographers usually at the line so I hit it a second or two after crossing.

I started stumbling a bit then. No one was handing out mylar blankets and I sure could have used one. (I’ve never been to a half/full where they didn’t but perhaps they meant us to use the towels.) I looked at the people handing out medals, walked toward them stumbling a bit and said, “help” but they didn’t seem to hear me, as a young kid handed me a medal. There were two photographers in yellow vests (thanks to the organizers I was still able to process that yellow vest = photo) and I raised my arms and smiled, dangling the medal in one hand. I think I said, “I did it! I did it! I did it!” For the second photo, I even remembered to take my sunglasses off.  Someone also gave me a hat.

POST-RACE

I was so cold. I recognized the female runner, roughly my age, who’d spoken to me twice earlier in the race.  She had her back to me but I patted her shoulder and she turned around. I suddenly got emotional and with numb lips thanked her for her encouragement and support. She asked in a lovely accent how I did and I told her I BQ’d – she gave me a big hug and then asked if I was ok. I said something like “I’m so cold”.  She offered me Gatorade (no) then got me water and a banana, helped me get the race towel and asked if someone was meeting me at the finish. (DH later told me I looked pretty bad, and with the cold and exhaustion probably seemed in need of help.) I told her my husband was coming and happened to see him off to the side and pointed him out to her. She shepherded me to where he could get to me (and apparently told him I needed taking care of) and then melted away.

At the point where spectators could meet their runners (thank goodness I didn’t have to find some reunion area or remember a colored flag after all) while I was looking left at my DH, a petite person in a hood approached me on the right. I looked down to see Christine, a new friend from the Bart Yasso shakeout run the day before. She’d finished the half, heard from her mom who BQ’d at a different race, and then stood in the cold waiting for me to finish to find out how I did. Amazingly sweet, generous, thoughtful! When I told her I BQ’d, she got the hugest grin on her face and was so happy for me, gave me a hug and told me her mom (age 60) had BQ’d too. I asked about her race, which I think went well, then she left so DH could take charge of me.

He got my sweats out of the bag and found a bench and helped me get the sweats on as my hands weren’t working that well. He put together my bottle of Ultragen recovery drink which I got down in record time. I was excited trying to tell him things, but I know I wasn’t fully functional and my lips were still cold. I was insistent on going to the finisher tent so he had to find it (on the beach) as I was hoping for a shirt that said “I BQ’d at Shamrock” or “ I SHAMROCKed my way to a BQ” but no luck. I bought a mug and a tech shirt and we left as quickly as possible for the slow, cold walk back to the hotel, passing people still out on the course on the way.

As soon as we got in the hotel room, I started brewing hot tea and getting into my compression gear. I noticed in the bathroom mirror that my lips were blue! I had prepped some food (sweet potato w/ nut butter) the night before knowing we’d be short on time, and stuck it in the microwave. I did a little stretching and used my Roll Recovery device while I was eating. DH was looking out the window giving me reports on the people still out there. As soon as I could manage getting the rest of our gear together, we checked out and were on the road by 2:30. Only a couple of hours after finishing the marathon, I was in a car for 5+ hours. I wouldn’t recommend it, but sometimes it has to be done. We were trying beat the storm home, and we did. Getting out of the car on breaks and once we got home wasn’t fun, but also wasn’t the worst I’ve ever felt.

LAST (FOR NOW) THOUGHTS

Without the wind, the weather would have been darned near perfect. (yes, I’m thinking I could have hung with the pacer and done even better) I had originally worried about heat, then rain and truly, I think either of those would have been worse than the wind. The race organization and runner support was terrific. The size of the field was about right given the constraints of the course (sharing one side of the road); they could probably even cut back to 3500. The course is terrific, flat and fast (the hill is no biggie), not too many turns. Spectator and on-course support is minimal to non-existent in some parts of the course, so that has to be something you’re okay with, and I am. Would I do this race again? I’d certainly consider it, though the wind would be a concern. Would I suggest it to another runner? Definitely. But I’d try to convey the wind more concretely based on my experience. I had folks tell me it was windy, but I had no idea what they meant…now I do! But I also know that I prevailed. I didn’t give up, I didn’t give in, I fought back hard and gave all I had on the day – and I beat my BQ. I’m still grinning about it, days later.

I plan to write additional posts on the gear I wore, nutrition before, during and after the race, on my training, and other related topics. If there’s something specific you want to know, feel free to leave a comment, use the contact form or tweet me about it. Given the demands of the rest of my life, I may not get back to you immediately, but I do plan to try to be as responsive as possible. Thank you for reading!

One more thing….though I ran the race alone, I wouldn’t have gotten to the start line without the amazing, unfailing support of my DH for the last months and years. Words are inadequate to express how lucky I am, or how grateful I am every day for him.