Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Three months later...

I thought I'd drop in and post an update, three months after the marathon. It's fun because people are still talking to me about it. They haven't seen me since it happened and want to extend their congratulations, even if they had already done so on facebook. This is so humbling...that they have my accomplishment on their mind enough to remember to say something to me about it when they finally see me 2-3 months later? Wow!

The other fun thing about this is they pretty much always say the same things:

Well Wisher: How was it?
Me: Hard! The hardest thing I've ever done. But amazing.

WW: I could never do that.
Me: A year ago I literally laughed at the idea. I never thought I could, either. You'd be amazed what you can do with training.

WW: I hate running.
Me: I used to. I  made myself do it because I needed to. Now, I don't always love it while it's actually happening, but I love it all the rest of the time. How I feel after running, being in training, feeling fitter, getting faster.

So what have I been up to, running-wise, for the past three months? Well, I am still doing it. I hurt my foot two days after the marathon (dancing, ironically. No injury from running 26.2 miles, although perhaps the fatigue played into it). So, I took about a month off to recover from that, and once I started back to running I was amazed at how much fitness I'd lost. I got tired, I got winded, I was slow. So aggravating!

So I put myself back on a schedule and got back to work. Since I don't have an event planned until July (need to spend my money on other things), I'm keeping the distances shorter (2-3 during the week, 6 on the weekend) and trying to get my speed up. Now, I'm about back to where I was before which is great. Speedwise, anyway...for distance, I'll have to build up again.

I set some goals for myself:

1. I want to run CIM in 5:50, which is :30 off my time from 2014. 

2. I want to run a 10:00 mile. Just one, that's all I ask!

3. I want to do a half marathon in 2:45, which is about :20 off my best time from 2014.

4. I want to work on my general fitness to help with the above, so I've added weight training to my regimen twice per week. I also swim and hopefully I'll be getting some biking in at some point. Trying to be just a little more careful with the food choices...

I still want to do a triathlon, but the expense of the bike and associated accoutrement is holding me up. If I'm able to get one in time for a sprint distance in the fall some time, that may go on the list. 

So that's my update. Doing great!

Monday, December 8, 2014

So I ran a marathon yesterday...

What an amazing experience yesterday was! You've probably already seen my posts on facebook, so you know I finished. I'll give a little more detailed account of how it went for those who are interested.

I was up at 3:30AM as Sunny picked up Kim and me to take us to the shuttle bus that was to leave at 5AM. Surprisingly, I slept fairly well. I didn't even think about the race when I went to bed the night before--I guess I'd obsessed so much about it in the weeks previous I'd gotten it out of my system. I was wide awake the second the alarm went off and very excited about the day. The bus took us right to the start line, and we were able to sit there for a while before getting in line for the port-a-potties and then get in the mass of 10,000 or so people at the start line. We'd gotten warm-up clothes at the thrift store, and I took them off right before the gun went off. I was glad I did, because I warm up really fast and the temperature felt perfect by the end of our first run interval.

We had set up a pace schedule that had us gradually fading every 5-6 miles. I felt awesome and kept to that schedule for probably the first 8 or 9 miles (Kim used his Garmin watch for the pacing and interval timing so I can only guess. then we hit some hills in Fair Oaks and although they weren't as hard as they would have been a few months ago, they did slow me down and by the halfway mark I was already behind the pace. I decided to not obsess about it and just do the best I could.

I didn't have any real problems on the course, My right calf wanted to cramp for a while so I had to stop and stretch a couple times, but it worked itself out. I felt a little nauseous a couple times, but I talked myself out of it. In fact, whenever Kim and I weren't talking, I had a near-constant internal dialogue going. "This is f*ing hard" "It's fine. you trained for this. You can do it." "Maybe this is too hard for me. Maybe this was too much to take on." "Nope. You're strong. Just keep going."

When we hit the 20 mile mark, traditionally called The Wall because that's where a lot of people completely run out of energy due to the body's inability to store fuel for much longer than that (or something like that), I still felt really good. I was really happy to still be as strong as I was at that point, especially after my disheartening performance in the Clarksburg 20. My average pace at that point was about 45 seconds faster than Clarksburg and I hit that point 15 minutes earlier. That was a good confidence booster, and I only had 6.2 miles to go.

I did end up starting to get really tired around the 22 or 23 mile mark, and the last two miles were really hard. I had blisters and they hurt and my legs were just tired and didn't want to go anymore. However, one thing I'm really proud of (of many) is that the whole day we only skipped one run interval and didn't cut any short other than to walk for fuel/hydration, and that doesn't count because it's important to do that. At both Clarksburg and Urban Cow, I had to walk a lot the last few miles. So that was a huge improvement on a much longer run. This was one of my goals for this race so I was really happy to accomplish that.

There were spectators all along the way, holding signs, cheering, ringing cowbells. Two of our relay team members, Paul and Grace, were able to wait after their leg to cheer us on as we passed, two of my students met us near Sac State with a coconut water for Kim and a sign saying "Go Jennifer go!" and lots of other people shouted encouragement, and that was really cool. There's a lot of camaraderie on a race...people tell each other "good job! keep going!" etc. I love it. One guy even recognized us from running on the American River Parkway, so that was kind of funny. And being met at the end by Dana, Cathy, and Grace with hugs and congratulations was a sweet, sweet ending.

Some people report this course as being pretty flat. That is a lie. However, the hills are not too bad. Most of them are rolling. The steepest one is not long and it's right at the beginning. The longest one, near San Juan on Fair Oaks, is pretty long but not overly steep. Once you hit the halfway mark, the inclines are very gentle and there's a lot of downhill. The last hill is the H street bridge, and it's not even that bad.

There were plenty of aid stations that had water, nuun electrolyte replacement, and about every third one had Gu energy gel (which I used in training a lot) and oranges and bananas. Some had brownie bites, which Kim was all over, but I stuck to gel and fruit. I drank and ate at every opportunity to do so. I carried my water belt but only needed it a couple times.

We ended with an official official pace of 14:30, 45 seconds slower than what we'd hoped for, but we got in before they reopened the course so we didn't get pushed onto the sidewalk and I got my medal. It took 6:20:04...which is a long time to be on your feet and running!

I totally bawled at the end...a combination of exhaustion, relief it was over, immense pride in my accomplishment, and the outpouring of love and support from my teammates. That was the  hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and having that support system made a HUGE difference. Kim sacrificed his own training and goals to hang with me through the long runs and stay with me every step of the way on the big event. Having a group of people, or even one, to whom you've made a commitment to be at a certain place at a certain time to run is great motivation to get out there and do it.

I have to say, too, that another thing I'm proud of is this was not just about my efforts yesterday. It was a six month commitment of running three days a week and cross-training 1-3 additional days. I didn't miss a single run because I "didn't feel like" it, although I missed some due to illness or injury. Again, having that accountability of the group helped a lot. Knowing I'd told the whole world I was doing this marathon and not wanting to tell everyone I'd failed helped make sure I followed through, too (shame works well on me). Being self employed helped a lot, too, because I have a flexible schedule. However, I did get behind in my work because of it and that was not good.

Looking back at my first post on this blog, here are the reasons I gave for embarking on this journey:

1. Because I didn't think I could, and that pisses me off so I need to go do it.
2. To do something that supposedly less than 1% of people have done. How cool is that?
3. So the next time some slimeball looks me up and down and suggests I need his personal training in his home gym, I can say, "Screw you. I ran a marathon."
4. To improve my cardiovascular fitness, especially for dancing.
5. To lose some weight.
6. To get myself on a regular exercise regimen

I did all those things, although I didn't really lose any weight. Maybe a pound or two, and I definitely feel leaner and my clothes fit a little better. Guess I'll have to start watching what I eat if I want to do that.

So, that's it. This particular journey is at an end. Will I keep running? Yes. Will I run more races? Heck yes. I don't know for sure yet if I'll do CIM again next year, but right now I'm really leaning toward it because I want to improve my performance. If I did this well  with only 6 months of training from practically ground zero, how will I do when I start at a higher level? The time commitment is huge, so that's a mitigating factor. We'll see.

Regardless, I don't know if I'll continue this blog unless I use it to review races. I've disconnected Daily Mile from facebook so it won't keep posting my updates, but I'll still log workouts there. I'm still in my facebook running group, the current challenge for which is "135 miles til Christmas." I'm at 245...BOOM.

Thank you for following my journey. You've all been amazing!

Friday, November 28, 2014

So I'm doing a marathon next week....

The big day continues to draw closer. I have a tab constantly open on my browser with the home page for CIM. I've studied the course map, read all the FAQs, watched the videos, looked at past results. I go from being serenely confident in my probable success to scared to death of what will happen. I drive by the finish line going to and from the gym and picture myself running across it. Honestly, I'm pretty sure I got this. But, I can't help letting those little thoughts pop up...what if? What if I don't? What if something happens? What if it's too hard? My biggest goal for the day is just to keep a positive attitude, because that will be everything. Attitude will make or break me, and I'm choosing to make it!

Whatever happens, it's been an amazing journey and I don't plan to give up running once the marathon is over. I'll take some time off and start again in January, and maybe next year it'll be easier. I'll get stronger and faster and finish in 5 hours instead of 6.

I'm incredibly proud of my achievements. It's been difficult and I've stuck to it, thanks in large part to the support I've received from my family and friends, most particularly my running group, and most of all, my friend and coach, Kim. He's been absolutely amazing in getting me here and I'll be eternally grateful for that.

Here are some interesting stats from my training. This is just what I have tracked on DailyMile.com since I began official training on June 1 of this year:

  • I have gone 413 miles. This includes running, stationary bike (only a few times), and swimming. This is .02 of the distance around the world.
  • I have logged 100 workouts totaling 103.6 hours.
  • I have burned 28 pounds. Sadly I ate enough to offset it that I really haven't lost any weight although I do feel leaner.
  • I have burned 544.33 donuts
  • In the beginning, I was happy to break a 15:00/mile average pace. Now, my short runs are often faster than 12:00 and my long runs are regularly under 14:00.
  • In the beginning, 3 or 4 miles was tiring. Now that's a short training run and I have gone as far as 20.
How can I not be proud of that?

Just a little over a week until the marathon. Thank you all for your support. If you happen to be there and watch, feel free to hand me a piece of banana or a triple berry Gu. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'm tired!

This past weekend I did the Clarksburg Country Run 20 miler. The good news is, I finished and under the time allowed. The unfortunate things is it was really hard--harder than it should have been. At around 10 or 11 miles in, I started to get tired and slow down. However, even then we were still doing OK pace-wise until I started feeling nauseous around mile 15. My stomach wasn't upset, but I felt like I needed to throw up. This kept me from fueling like I needed to as well as forcing me to walk more, and I really lost my rhythm. I started the self-defeating self talk and it just spiraled downward from there. I even had a moment where I was staring at the shoulder of the road, which was raised a bit so if you stepped off the edge of the shoulder you'd fall a couple feet. I pictured myself tripping in my clumsy state and falling. I actually had the thought, "Well, if I fall, at least I can lie down for a while." It was not good. Kim and Dante pulled me through, though, and I got to the end. I cried a bit when I finally crossed the finish line.

There are several factors that probably led to this. First of all, I should have been carb loading and hydrating for two whole days before the event. I did some the first day, but ate for crap and drank hardly any water the day before the event. That will not happen again. I will be super diligent about that from now on! Secondly, the weather had cooled down and then was warm again on the day of the race. I don't do well in heat anyway, and I suspect I got a little acclimatized to the cooler weather. Finally, the nausea might have been because I ate a flavor of Gu I've never had before. That may be nothing, but you never know.

The final possibility, and a real one, is that I was just fatigued. I've asked a lot of my body in the past few months. It's responded to everything I've asked of it like a trooper, but I'm tired. I've also been cross training and dancing and it seems like there's just so much happening. I'm overwhelmed. Part of that will be when our dance studio's showcase that I've been practicing for happens this coming Sunday so I can stop thinking about that and take a break.

So we talked it over and decided to alter our training schedule. We were supposed to do 23 miles this weekend, but decided to start tapering now instead. Many people only run 20 miles before doing a marathon, so I know it can be done. I'm strong. I just need a chance to recover a bit and I'll come back even stronger and ready to go. Meanwhile, I'll work on my cardio while swimming and I'll still run of course. We'll do 6-8 miles on Monday with some hills, I have a half marathon next weekend, and the rest will be short runs.

I got this. I just need a break! I'm still sore from Sunday. It's never taken me this long to recover from a run. I'm getting there, though.

I'm glad I'm in such good hands!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

23 weeks in

Another month has gone by, and I'm one month closer to the CIM. I have to admit I'm getting tired. When this started, I had no idea the number of hours I would be spending on this! Not only the time spent actually running, but travel time, needing a nap after the long runs and losing most of the day, etc. Don't get me wrong--this is an amazing experience. But it is demanding!

Since my last entry, I have done a few really long runs. I did the Urban Cow Half Marathon and while I finished in decent time (for me--13:54) and had no real problems, I had hoped it would be easier since I'd done the distance several times before. However, it was hot and that really got to me. I do not do heat well.

Because I struggled so much with my 13 and 14-mile runs, I was a little worried about doing 16 a couple weeks later. However, we went out and did it, and I made the whole distance! Woot! Doing that was a huge mental breakthrough. It made me realize that even though the last distance was hard, that doesn't mean I can't keep going up because my body will just keep getting stronger and responding to the training. I was starting to have doubts again that I could do the marathon, but the day I did 16 restored my faith. Average pace was 13:56, so I'm starting to regularly finish in under 14. I'm a little worried about the marathon, which has a 6 hour time limit so we need to average 13:44.

The next week, we were supposed to do 18 but started in the wrong spot and it ended up being 17.55...close enough. There were a lot of hills that day, which I have not trained on very much. Yet, I had my fastest pace at the 10+ mile distance with 13:43, and it was faster than all but one of my 5-10 mile runs. So, I was absolutely thrilled. AND I had energy left at the end--I felt like I could do another mile without much of a problem. I still felt mentally sharp, which is not always the case after a long run, at least until I get food in me. So, that was another triumph. This is something I love about running: you keep going a little further or a little faster and it's a constant rush to see those milestones and evidence of improvement. The weather was much cooler that day, and I think that made a big difference. Good thing it should stay cool now until the big event!

Yesterday was a cool down week and we "only" did 14 miles. We pushed hard at first and my hamstring started bothering me so we slowed down, which did the trick (along with a little stretching at the bathroom stop). We ended up finishing with an average pace of 12:56. Wow! Of course this is because it was a shorter distance, but that's great. Again, it gives me hope. It was pretty cold and threatened rain...perfect running weather.

Next week the Clarksburg Country Run, a 20-miler. I'd love to hit that 13:30 pace, but as long as it's under 14 and I stay sound (don't injure myself) and finish, I'll be happy. I know I can do it because my training is paying off. This will be the first time I do an event where I haven't already done the distance. On the one hand, I don't have the assurance of having already done it (not that I'm worried), but on the other hand, I'll have all the excitement of the event spurring me on. Cheering crowds, people holding funny signs, and....ahhhh....a finisher medal. Ok, and the t-shirt doesn't hurt either.

After that, we do a 23-mile training run, and then we start tapering off for CIM. I'll do the Davis Turkey Trot Half Marathon and the Run To Feed The Hungry 5K as part of that tapering.

The marathon is just about all I think about and I'm nervous and excited by turns that our goal is almost  here. I worry about hitting the wall on course. Or getting sick/injured beforehand and missing out. But I also picture myself crossing that finish line, and that will be an extremely awesome feeling.

And now to put in some time with my foam roller!

Friday, October 3, 2014

19 weeks in!

I've now been in training for 19 weeks and things are getting difficult. My last post was right before my first attempt at the half marathon distance, 13 miles (well, 13.1 for the official distance). I "bonked" around the 10 miles mark--I ran out of energy. I had to skip a lot of run intervals and was absolutely exhausted after. I was in the car and I had no strength in my limbs. It was a really weird feeling, but getting some food and electrolytes in me fixed me up. The next week, I attempted 14 miles, and my achilles started bothering me on my right leg at the 12 mile mark. I had to walk the whole last two miles. I was pretty upset...what if 12 miles is as far as this body will go? What if it's telling me to knock this crap off?

So we had a cool down week and I got sick, so my body got a lot of rest. However, I realized that my feet were really hurting after every run, even the short ones, so I thought it might be time for new shoes. I went to Fleet Feet, and the salesman said there was no support left. I'm not really surprised. So he fitted me for new shoes, which was an educational experience, and I wore them this past Monday for a 14 mile run...and I made it through the whole thing! We did skip a couple of intervals--one so I could eat (Gu did the trick!) and one because we were on city streets and there were a lot of lights/busy intersections and it was just easier that way. Although they were welcome breaks, I didn't *need* them per se. So that was a much needed victory! I was very tired at the end, but I feel like I could have gone a little longer if I had to...so that means I should be ready for the next step up, which is 16...right? I hope so!

In other news, on Thursday of this week we tried 4:00 run/1:00 walk intervals for the first time. we had a good pace at about 11:58, which makes me happy. Poor Kim had to have the same conversation with me we always have when the intervals get harder:

Me: (having not done the math yet and thinking it was slower than that) shouldn't I automatically be faster since my run:walk ratio is higher?
Kim: not right away. At first you'll be tired because of running longer.
Me: it'll get easier, right?
Kim: yes.
Me: I hope so.
Kim: it will.

He's always right, of course.

This Sunday is the Urban Cow Half Marathon, my first official half, although now that I've done the distance three times it's not too big of a deal anymore. But still, I'm very excited! My first real finisher medal (cow bell, actually)! I'm looking forward to it. I've dreamed about it twice and both times I got through it with flying colors.I"m sure that's a good sign.

Only about two months until the marathon, and only a handful of long runs between now and then. I'm getting a little scared! On the other hand, my body keeps getting leaner and I feel good. I just have to keep on chugging.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Nearly 13 weeks completed

I have now been in training for nearly 13 full weeks. Hard to believe it's already been three months!
My finish picture from
Davis Moo-nlight 10K
Facchino Photography
The time has flown by. I haven't had much to report or say, so I haven't been posting here much. How many times can you say "I went running today" and have it be interesting?

Yesterday went out for a short run (which is now four miles--a distance I was concerned about when I first started) and for the first time I broke the 12:00/mile pace. In fact, we've been regularly running around 12:30 on the short runs, which is a fairly recent accomplishment and I was very happy about this--but beating that by :44? Wholly cow! I was listening to my favorite workout music on Pandora (Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Rage Against The Machine, etc.) and I just felt motivated to go fast...and I didn't seem to get too tired, so I just kept it up. Runkeeper's GPS jumped around a bit and told me I went 3.98 miles, but then I checked mapmyrun.com and discovered it was only 3.76, so if you saw my facebook post that said 11:07, blast it was actually 11:46. But damn...still very fast for me! It felt good to be able to run like that.

Tomorrow I run 13 miles, and we usually end up going an extra tenth or two, so it's basically a half marathon although not official. Pretty exciting. When I look back at my earlier posts and being nervous each week about going 4, then 5, etc., and now I know I can do 13 because I did 12 last week and 10 the week before that...that's pretty cool. I do worry that I'm going to reach a point where my body just says it can't do anymore, but so far it's been a trooper. Knees feel fine, I'm not overly sore the next day, etc., although of course I'm pretty tired after a long run. Knock on wood!

Monday I'm running a 5K in the Labor Day Races in Davis. It's part of A Change Of Pace's Tour de Fit, for which I'll get an extra medal after I do three of the designated races. This is one of my short runs for the week, and since it's only 3.1 miles I plan to push my speed as much as running conditions allow. There's only so much under my control so I can't get too obsessed about it, but I want to see how fast I can get it done. I have several races lined up for this fall and I'm looking forward to doing them (and getting the t-shirts and medals, ha!)

I far surpassed my goal of 100 miles for the summer as part of that challenge--153 as of yesterday. I'm going to continue tracking it to see how many I end up running by the time the marathon gets here. I don't think I'd run 153 miles in my whole life to this point, let alone in three months! Woot!