Friday, October 1, 2010

Fighting for seconds...

I did it!! I qualified! The short story - I finished the Quad Cities marathon in 3:44:15. The long story as follows...

As I wrote before the race, I was very nervous and somewhat doubtful going into my marathon that I would be able to qualify. My legs had felt tight and heavy all during taper week and I just couldn't seem to find much confidence. My nerves finally started easing a little on our drive to Quad Cities. Just having the race day closer and being surrounded by other runners made me feel better.

Once we picked up our packets and walked around the expo a bit, I had wanted to do a quick "shake out" run. I thought if I could move my body, I could help keep myself calm and focused. Sadly, the "shake out" run never happened. Partly because we were cutting it close to the pasta dinner and also because Eladio advised against it. The weather was cool and there was a light rain. He thought it would do more harm than good. Against my wishes, I followed his advice and went to the pasta dinner instead.

We got our assorted pasta dinner provided by "Noodles and Co." and settled down to listen to the keynote speaker, Dane Rauschenberg. He shared his experience of running 52 marathons in 52 consecutive weeks. At times it seemed like he was just bragging about his running abilities, but in the end, he shared some helpful words of inspiration. He said something to the effect of testing our boundaries and finding out what is impossible - since we usually already know what IS possible, why not see what is impossible. Those words came in handy the next day.

Finally, after dinner, we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Radisson right at the start/finish line. The room was very nice! It was like a mini suite complete with a sitting room, refrigerator and microwave, two TV's and a sleep number bed. I set out my race clothes and gear and got into bed by 10:00 (still early for me). I read a little and watched some TV before turning out the lights around 10:30. Thankfully, I was tired from the road trip and stress of the week and was able to get to sleep quickly.

I slept soundly until the alarm rang at 4 A.M. Eladio got up while I stayed in bed for another 30 minutes. (I like waking up slowly). By 4:30, I was up and eating my pre-race banana and drinking water. I took a quick shower and then got dressed. I was pretty much ready to go by 6:00, but didn't have to be anywhere until 6:30. I was amazed at how many times I could use the bathroom in those short 30 minutes! My running buds (Ann, Mallika, and Renea) came to my room to drop off their bags and take some fun pre-race pictures. Finally, we headed out to the lobby to meet up with my dad and our other running buddies.

I had seen the weather forcast all morning, but I finally got to feel for myself the wonderful, cool fall weather we were going to have. Starting temp was 50 degrees and no rain! A couple more bathroom breaks, then at 7:10 my friends and I started our warm up. I don't know if we just went out too fast, but after 10 minutes, I started feeling hot and my legs were starting to work hard. I stopped and walked. We shed our warm up clothes and with 5 minutes to go, lined up at the start. I was getting panicked because I don't like cutting it that close in a marathon. I'm usually lined up no later than 10 minutes before the start. I ran and left my friends to find my spot. Thankfully, they were close behind and found me.

At last, standing at the start with minutes to go, I felt calm and ready. I still wasn't 100% confident, but at least I wasn't nervous anymore. I wished my friends good luck since I wasn't sure we would stay together for very long. Most of them were doing the half so they were going to take off sooner. The gun (or cannon, it sounded like) went off and within 45 seconds, I was across the starting line. The first mile was great! I bid my friends farewell as they got right into their half marathon groove and I took in the crowds as I let runners pass me by. I had my pace strategy down and planned to follow my pace band as closely as I could. My first mile was to be a 9:20. I kept glancing at my Garmin and had to keep slowing down until I got there. More runners passed by, but I didn't care. I ran with a smile on my face, happy that I was finally running my race and all the months of hard work led to this moment. No more waiting, no more worrying. I was going to do what it took (or so I thought). In those first few miles, I was passed by two pace teams, the 3:45 and 3:50 groups. My friend Mallika was following the 3:50 pacer closely. As we climbed up the large hills on the bridges, I reminded myself that the race isn't won in the end, but in those first precious miles. I was confident that as my pace increased, I would eventually catch the 3:50 group. I prayed that at some point I could also catch up and hopefully pass the 3:45 group too.

By mile 5, I was in my goal pace zone - 8:24 minute miles. But really, using the LapPace feature on my Garmin (which I highly recommend as the most accurate way figure out your pace), I knew I needed to be running between 8:15-8:19 minute miles. Having served as a pacer in the Kansas City and Hospital Hill half marathons, I knew that my Garmin would hit the mile mark before I got to it in the race. It has to do with the slight inaccuracy of the Garmin and the exact measurement of the course using all the tangents. Anyway, I knew where I needed to be. So far, so good. I was either right at or slightly below my average pace the first 10 miles. I don't know exactly what happened after that. Maybe there was a large hill/bridge crossing and/or I took a little too long at one of the not so well manned aid stations. Whatever the reason, I started falling behind pace after mile 10. By 13.1, I was 3 seconds behind my overall pace. (I was supposed to be at 1:51:53). I had my pace bands made to help me finish in 3:44:59. I wanted to do everything I possibly could to make sure I was under 3:45. I didn't want to have to rely on those extra 59 seconds. That would be too stressful. But now, I was starting to worry that I had hit a slowing trend and every mile was going to be a struggle from that point on.

It was! Not only was I slightly behind pace for silly reasons, but I also started noticing my legs were feeling tight and stiff. Thankfully, I didn't have any specific pain, but it felt like the start of cramping all around my quads and hamstrings. I was worried I wasn't getting enough electrolytes, even on this cool day. I have few complaints about this race, but they need to improve their aid stations! More volunteers are needed in the beginning miles where the 5K, half, and full are still together. And, they need to provide more Gatorade in those middle miles. At least I was prepared for this though. I had noticed on the website where fluids would be provided along the course. Gatorade was fairly abundant early on, but nothing, just water and GU, was provided between miles 13 to 21. I had brought 4 Hammer Gels with me and made sure I took some of the GU's they were passing out. Because of my fears of slowing down and my already tight legs, I took more gels than I ever have in a race - 6 total! I drank at every aid station except the last one. Although I never got the "jolt" I normally do from taking gels, I think they helped me tremendously, if not physically, than mentally. Just knowing I was doing something for my body made me feel better.

I wish I could tell you more about miles 13 to 22, but I was fighting the urge to slow down with every step and it took every ounce of mental energy I had to stay focused on my pace. Somewhere around mile 14 or 15, I saw a person carrying a pace sign not far ahead of me. I thought, Finally, I'm catching up to the 3:45 pace group! If I can just catch up to them or even pass them, I'll feel better about my slight slow down. It took about a mile, but I finally caught up to this small group of 3 or 4 runners. The woman carrying the sign was not the pacer I had met the day before at the expo. I had trouble reading the handwritten sign, so I asked if she was in fact the 3:45 pacer. She said she was running 8:35 minute miles and her plan was to finish in 3:45, but she was not the official pacer. I didn't have much energy to talk, but I mustered out, "You're behind pace." Recalling this now, I know it sounds rude and blunt. It's not something I would normally say. I just was frustrated that I was behind pace and here was this unofficial "pacer" carrying the pace sign and not even doing her job! I think pacing a few races has made me a little critical - (ya think?!). :-) A guy running with her thanked me for letting them know. He said his watch had stopped working a while back and he wasn't sure what they were running anymore. I decided they didn't know what they were doing and not to trust them the rest of the way. I had to rely on myself, my pace band, and the Good Lord to see me through.

Little by little, I began inching away from the unofficial 3:45 pacer and her chatty crew. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how she had so much energy to actually carry on a conversation with people she just met. She acted like she was on a long training run! It was driving me bonkers, so I pulled away from the noise. I needed to get back into my head and into my pace. Somehow, the miles were clicking by. It wasn't easy and I still felt unsure that I would reach my goal, but I was reassured knowing that I would see Eladio, Ann, and my dad at mile 22. I thought if I can just hold on until then, I'll have one of them jump in and pace me in if I need help. I wasn't desperate yet, but knew I might be after 20.

Around mile 20, I got a little burst of energy and was able to get back down under my mile pace. I was still slightly over my overall time, but at least I wasn't losing any more ground. I noticed I was starting to pass other marathoners who had slowed, as well as some half marathon walkers and relay runners. It felt good to be the one passing and receive their encouragement as I went by.

At mile 22, we hit (ran through) "The Wall." It's literally a large wooden wall all the runners have to pass through. We had seen it on our warm up run and it was funny then. Not so much now. I was just relieved to know I would be seeing Eladio soon. There was no question now, I was going to need his help. I couldn't afford to slow down those last 4 miles. As soon as I went through the wall, I saw my crew cheering me on. I couldn't speak, but pointed at Eladio and moved my arms in a fast running motion. He said, "You want me to run with you?" I nodded and he jumped in. In that moment, he became my hero, my angel!

Over the next mile, I told him how I had been feeling and that I was struggling to make up some lost time. I asked him to pace me at 8:30 and to do whatever it took to keep me at that pace. Even though my pace band allowed for some slow down at the end, I didn't want to take any chances. Normally, I have issues running with Eladio. He likes to talk and make silly jokes, but he knew better than to do that now. I even told him to yell at me if I started to slow down. I needed to get angry if I had to, anything to keep me from slowing down. I didn't know, until later, just how badly Eladio was hurting at that point. He wasn't talking and joking just because I asked him not to, he couldn't! I didn't know that his calves had cramped up on him right after he finished the half. I did learn that he had reached his goal and broke 1:30. He ran a 1:28! I was very happy for him, but couldn't relax and be completely joyful just yet. I needed to stay focused and finish my race.

Just having Eladio by my side took off a lot of pressure. I no longer had to be so strong on my own. With him running next to me, I finally tried to talk a little. I started sharing how hard this race had been from the halfway mark and how surprised I was by that. The more I shared, the more emotions started flooding out. I about broke down at mile 23 when I told Eladio that I couldn't slow down. All my thoughts and feelings came out. I kept saying, "I'm fighting for seconds! I can't believe it's coming down to seconds! Seconds...seconds...seconds..." gasps, and tears... Eladio's response - "Don't do this now! You can't think about this now. Just work, focus, breathe! You can tell me about it when it's over. Keep going." I shut up and just thought about how many Saturdays I gave up with my kids, how long I had dreamed of this day, how many people had helped me get to this moment. I couldn't let them or myself down. I had to fight. Fight for every second! Make every second count! How would I feel if I missed qualifying by mere seconds?! No, it wasn't going to happen! I fought back. The tightness in my legs never ceased, but I didn't stop pushing back. Mile 24...just keep running. Mile're almost there! My Garmin beeped at mile 26 when I was at mile 25.5 on the course. I ignored it and looked straight ahead. Eladio pointed out the finish line. I looked down at my watch. It read 3:43 something with about a quarter mile left. I had two minutes to finish under 3:45. There was no juice left in my legs. I so badly wanted to sprint, but couldn't go any faster. Miss "Unofficial Pacer" came racing by me in the last 100 yards. I didn't care. There was no fight left in me. I just kept my pace and focused on not falling or cramping so close to the end. Eladio pulled off and I ran, no LEAPED, over the finish line. I did it!!! I threw my arms up in the air and yelled "Boston Baby!!" Official time - 3:44:15. (Consequently the exact same time as my KC 1/2 co-pacer, Stacy Scalfaro, when she ran QC at 35 and qualified for Boston too! How amazing is that?!!)

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing about all of this. It was a good day, but a tough race. I firmly believe God answered so many of my prayers that day. He gave me physical and mental strength when I was weak, He gave me peace at the start, and He enabled Eladio to be able to pace me at the end. I'm so thankful and humbled by God's grace and provision.

I learned a valuable lesson I'd like to share with you from this race:

If you have a time goal, you have to really want it, to go for it. At some point, you might have so much pain, you feel like you can't hurt anymore and you want it to stop - stop moving forward, stop putting your feet down, just stop.

At one point, I thought, "I'm already hurting. Going slower will just prolong the pain. I might as well keep up this pace and get it over with sooner." I've run marathons slower, much slower. In fact, most of my races have been above 4 hours. But what I have found, in all but one of my marathons, is that it's going to hurt at some point and I'll think about stopping or slowing down a lot in those last 6-8 miles. The goal and desire have to be big enough to get you through this pain. You also have to have faith and rely on more than just yourself in those moments.

Now that the hard work is done, I'm looking foward to pacing the KC 1/2 and then taking it easy the rest of this fall. I will be signing up for Boston 2011 when registration opens on October 18th. I can't wait to make it official!

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me and supporting me along the way!!

I'll consider posting more as I train for and then run Boston next April. Until then...Adios!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Marathon time!

It's two days before the big race. I've got major butterflies in my stomach and have had a hard time controlling my nerves this week. I'm trying to rest and find peace in the fact that I've done all I can and if I'm going to succeed, I have to trust in my training and let God do the rest.

After my last post, I ran a 5K and didn't do so well. Granted, I was tentative from coming right off my back injury and the course and weather weren't ideal, but I was still very disappointed. I ended up with a 23:10. That didn't do anything for my confidence! I sulked around for a few days, but then decided not to give up on all that I had worked for. I kept seeing my chiropractor and little by little, my back started getting better everyday. Thankfully, I was able to keep up with my workouts and do all the speed and goal pace that was on my original schedule. We had phenomenal weather the Tuesday after my race and I remember running my tempo pace at 7:30's and feeling comfortable. I was even able to talk some! That gave me a little boost of confidence and helped me realize that I hadn't run the 5K at my best. I started focusing my energy on doing well at the Labor Day 5K in a couple of weeks.

Everything finally seemed to fall into place for Labor Day. I woke up ready to race and my body was finally cooperating. Eladio told me I needed at least a 22:30 to make my marathon goal so I was shooting for a minimum of 22 minutes. Anything beyong that was extra. I decided not to hold anything back and just race without much concern for my pace. The gun went off and I went for it. My first mile was right at 7 minutes and my second mile was 7:10. Not willing to give in to slowing down, I fought back and finished under 22! My watch read 21:52, although my official time showed 21:55. I was very happy! I had reached my goal, and then some. Now my job was to stay healthy as I headed into taper mode for the marathon.

Taper is an interesting time. While it's nice to run fewer miles, the workouts don't necessarily get that much easier. I was still working on speed and doing even more goal pace miles during my runs. I wanted to make sure that I knew without a doubt what 8:24 felt like. (That's the pace for most of miles in my marathon).

Even harder than the physical part is the emotional/mental aspect of tapering. Every workout feels so important at this point because you're running out of time. There is no cramming or playing catchup at the end of training. You have to accept that you've done most of the work. Now you're just staying sharp until race day.

This week has definitely been the hardest mentally. I did some goal pace miles this week, but no real distance or speed. I can't do anymore work that will benefit me on race day. My legs and body need rest. While I try to give my body what it needs, my mind starts going crazy. I start obsessing about race day, the weather, and my strategy. All sorts of questions float in and out. Have I done enough? Will it hurt so bad I won't be able to carry on? Will I be strong enough? Can I do this?

I think some self-doubt is helpful, even necessary to run a smart race. It keeps me from feeling so confident that I'll do something stupid, especially in the early miles. But, too much self-doubt and it can backfire big time in the race. I need to have enough confidence that when it starts to hurt, I know, I TRUST, that I can handle it. That is my hope. I don't expect it to be easy, I just don't want to crash and burn.

So far the weather prediction is looking promising. The temps couldn't be better, 46 to 65 degrees. It's the 30% chance of rain and possible strong wind that makes me nervous. I like it on the cool side, but if it rains and there's a wind, that can cause some problems. I guess I'm going to have to pack extra to be on the safe side. I want to be prepared for whatever type of weather comes my way. I have no control of it, but I can control my response.

With no more work to do, there's nothing left to do but pray. I know my God is a God of mercy, a God of might, and a God of miracles. He can do anything! I've seen Him work minor miracles in my own life. Perhaps there will be another one for me on Sunday.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Never give up!

It's been a long time since I've posted and a lot has happened this training. This summer was way busier than I anticipated with daily activities with the kids and keeping up with my runs. That's no excuse really, but the time I did have to get on the computer was so little and I just didn't have the energy to write all about what I was doing. I'll recap for anyone interested.

In mid-June I started training for the Quad Cities marathon. I decided to go all out with this training in an attempt to get in the best shape of my life and hopefully requalify for Boston in my new age group and time division. During the first weeks of training, I radically changed my diet. I had gone from allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted to being very strict about what I put in my mouth. I stayed within these guidelines - no sweets, no excessivly salty foods, no fried foods, and little red meat. I cut off eating after 9:00 and was in bed no later than 11:00. I drank only water and the occasional juice with my breakfast. No coffee, no caffeine. For a couple of weeks, I did really well. The next few weeks, I slid just a little, but only to accomodate celebrating my mom's and son's birthday.

My running started tentatively because I was still nursing a sore ankle from my 1/2 marathon training in May. I figured I had a few weeks before speed work started, so no need to push the pace right off the bat. I kept to my weekly miles and kept the pace comfortable and relaxed. Finally, speed sessions started in early July. We did our first 2 mile time trial in unbearable heat - it was the first summer day in the 90's with high humidity. I didn't quite hit my goal of 14 minutes, but didn't do terribly either. I ran 14:21 and my ankle held up okay. Little by little, I did more goal pace miles on my Thursday runs and saw my chiropractor and massage therapist regularly to help with the tendonitis in my ankle. I knew I wasn't running at 100%, but did the best I could and felt blessed that I was still able to push hard and meet most of my daily goals.

The "diet" started paying off after a couple of weeks and I finally started noticing some weight loss and definition in my abs and arms. I added in core and upper body strength training on my off days. I was feeling good about my running and eating and felt right on track to hit my racing goals in August and September. I had wanted to do the Freedom Run 5K, but decided against it to give my ankle more time to heal. Plus, the time trial was a good indicator of my starting point anyway.

With things running smoothly and feeling like I was getting stronger, I finally felt confident enough to sign up for the marathon the first week of August. My ankle was still getting tight after my runs, but it didn't really bother once I was warmed up and running. I knew it was something I would have to keep addressing during this training, but didn't feel like it was stopping me from reaching my goal.

Then, we went on vacation. I guess I didn't think about how it might be a challenge to do my runs while away from home. I just thought I'd find a place and get it done somehow, someway. We drove to Chicago to visit my sister-in-law and her family and take the kids around downtown. I had talked with my nutritionist before I left and shared my concerns about not eating well while on vacation. She advised me on healthy snack foods for the car and reminded me to stay hydrated. I think I did pretty well on the drive, even though we stopped for ice cream by the end of the evening. I had run 15 miles that morning, so I didn't feel too guilty. Little did I know, that was the beginning of my downfall.

This was specifically the reason I wasn't going to allow myself any sweets. Once I start "cheating" on my diet, it makes it easier to cheat again and again. The next day, my sister-in-law took us to IKEA. I have always heard great things about that store and have never gone. After shopping a couple of hours, we worked up a little appetite. If you know anything about IKEA, you know their stores have a dining area and their specialty is Swedish meatballs. I couldn't resist trying them! I was on vacation, after all. That night, Eladio and I went to a movie and I scarfed down most of a dark chocolate candy bar I had bought at IKEA earlier. I was already up to 3 strikes against my diet and there wasn't any turning back from that point. The rest of the trip, I indulged in flautas, Haagen-Daaz ice cream, and IKEA's cinnamon rolls, among several other off-limit items.

Even with all this gluttony, I still got in 2 quality runs. I did my speed workout on Tuesday and ran goal pace on Wednesday night. By the time we got back on Thursday, I felt bloated and just knew I had gained several pounds. On Friday, I went right back into my core/upper body exercises with full force. I did more crunches than I normally do and focused heavily on the reverse crunches to try to help with the new pooch I had formed on vacation. The next day, I did my 22 mile long run with goal pace miles. It was a tough run!! I was tired still from vacation and sitting in the car a long time. I was dehydrated and just not ready for a long run in the heat. It was a relatively cool summer day, only in the 80's, but there was little shade on the rolling course. I made it through, but it didn't leave me feeling very confident about my marathon goal. On Sunday, we got up to go to church and everything seemed fine. I was a little tired, but nothing hurt out of the ordinary. At the end of the church service, I bent over to fix my shoe and when I got back up, my lower back was extremely tight. It felt like it just locked up on me. I could barely walk and definitely couldn't bend over to pick anything up.

I was like that the rest of the day and woke up on Monday not feeling much better. I called my chiropractor and saw him that afternoon. He examined me and took an x-ray. The news was not good. I've had lower back problems before, so I wasn't really suprised by what he found - disk degeneration and compression, and slight curve in my spine. I've been told all that before, but it's never really affected my running. I thought, I still have 24 hours before my speed workout Tuesday night, hopefully I'll be better by then and can still go. I went back to the doctor on Tuesday for a treatment/adjustment. He did his thing and my back was gradually feeling less tight and painful. I was about to leave his office without talking about my running plans, but then decided I should at least tell him what I was wanting to do and hope he went along with it. He did not. Instead,what he told me next floored me - no running this week. What?!! No way! I have to run this week. I'm in the middle, almost end, of training for my marathon. Every workout counts!! I can't miss a speed workout, I can't miss a goal pace run and long run this weekend. Plus, I had a 5K race scheduled on Sunday. Nontheless, he didn't want me running. I left the office after agreeing to hold off on the speed session that night, but secretly planning to run the next morning if I felt okay.

I came home defeated. A part of me was ready to just give up and call it quits. Thankfully, Eladio and some good friends talked me off the ledge and I decided to try to remain hopeful and take it one day at a time. Not wanting to miss a workout, I went for a swim. That helped a little. Against my doctor's recommendation, I went for a short, easy run on Wednesday. My back didn't hurt, at least not any worse than when I was just standing. I took it easy the rest of the day and iced and stretched like my doctor said. I saw my chiropractor again on Thursday and my back was feeling much better. Not 100%, but still about 80% better. After he worked on me, I went for a short run around his office. The only pain/tightness I noticed was in my ankle. Same as it has been, maybe a little more. I came back to the office and he worked on that too. Finally, he said I could run again and could possibly even do the 5K. I would just have to listen to my body and stop if I felt pain. Yesterday, I was able to run 8 miles with 2 at goal pace. It wasn't perfect, but I had no back issues and just some tightness in my ankle. I can tell my cardio and heat acclimation has been weakened some by my lack of running this week, but at least I'm not giving up on my goal just yet. I have this 5K tomorrow and I'm going to see how my body responds. I don't expect I'll set a PR or even come close, but if I can run a sub 23, I'll feel pretty good.

I'll try to do better at updating this blog. I no longer think I need to post all my goals and aspects of my training to help keep myself accountable. Even though I haven't done absolutely everything I had hoped to this training, I'm proud of what I've done so far. I'm not perfect, but I'll keep trying. One of my favorite sayings - "Fall down seven times, get up eight."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Livin' it up, baby!

Pick your poison, mine is running. Life is hard, that's an obvious fact. But, how we choose to cope with it makes all the difference. I won't lie, I use all sorts of "self medications" to get through each day. Sometimes, I use more sleep, more alone time, more comfort food, but more often than not, I use running. I'll pick a race and focus my energy on training hard to reach a specific goal. This is the healthiest of self medicating methods I've tried.

I'm about to start my quest for attempting to requalify for Boston. I'm now 35 and I have five more minutes to reach my goal. The target race: Quad Cities, the target time: 3:44:59. I really just need 3:45:59, but I don't want to give myself that extra minute leeway.

I plan to train harder than I've ever trained in my life. This is going to require all the dedication and determination I can muster. There are going to be lots of changes coming up soon. No more late night TV, no more alcohol (scaling back from just a few times a month anyway, so I don't think this will be that difficult), no more late night snacking, and no more high-fat foods. I was thinking I would gradually get to this point starting this past winter, but that hasn't happened. So now, it's all or nothing. I will workout 4-5 times a week, I will stick to a healthy diet, and I will get enough sleep. That's it. No if, ands, or buts!

My start date for all of this...June 12th. Until then, I'm "living it up," so to speak. I'm mostly eating whatever I want, I'm staying up however late I want, and not feeling guilty about it. I figure my guilt-free days are few and I don't plan on wasting them. Funny thing about me "living it up" is it's not really that much different from what I'll be doing. It turns out, I reach an enough point with food and staying up late. I'm realizing how bad I feel the next day if I eat too much "bad" food, drink too much, and don't get enough sleep. I want to feel and look better, so there's incentive to be proactive and do the right thing.

Still, I see some meals with bacon, steak, some wine and a chocolate-ey dessert in my near future. Just a little over a week to go before the seriousness begins. More to come soon!

(Are you hungry now?)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Humbled by hills

I did it! I finished my 13th marathon in St. Louis on Sunday. It wasn't easy, but I persevered through lots of prayer and got through it. I'm not great at remembering too many specifics about my races, but there are definitely some things that stand out. I'll do my best to share as many details as I can recall.

After meeting up with several Runner's Edge folks before the start, a small group of us lined up near the four hour pace team leader. Just in case I caught up to him, I asked him about his pacing strategy. He said he was going to run even pace throughout, even up the hills and through aid stations. I figured that would be his response, but was hoping he might employ some of our "Smart Pace" strategies. I just wanted to start with him so my starting chip time would be the same if I should happen to catch him.

After the National Anthem, we slowly started moving towards the starting line. With the large crowds (around 12,000 for the half marathon and 2,000 for the full), it took us a little over three minutes. Once we crossed, the road opened up and we were able to start running. Eladio began pacing Ann, Lauren, MeLissa and I to a 10:20 first mile. With all the surrounding buildings, Eladio lost the signal on his Garmin so he had to start going by feel alone. I was worried at first, but once we passed mile one just right, I figured he proved himself capable. He brought me into the second mile close to 9:45. In those first first few miles, we passed Busch Stadium and the Anheuser-Busch brewery. I remember the brewery because that was when I started noticing I was getting hot. I peeled off my long-sleeve warm up shirt and passed it off to Eladio to carry for me. By mile four, we were running close to 9:15-9:20. I was hoping to keep it here for a while, until close to the half-marathon mark and then if I felt good, I would take it into the high 8's.

From miles four to seven, I remember running through the downtown area and just talking with Eladio, Ann and MeLissa. We lost Lauren going through the first aid station around mile two. It was pure chaos to get my fluids. There weren't enough volunteers and they were having a hard time just keeping the cups filled. I had to stop to take my own water off the table and I completely missed the Gatorade. The next few water stops weren't that much better, but I started anticipating the lack of volunteers and would take Gatorade and water from one of the first tables (or volunteer, if there was one).

Around mile eight, Ann pulled away to finish her half marathon. MeLissa and I continued running together and taking in the sights of downtown before heading into Forest Park. Once we lost the half-marathoners around mile ten, it got really quiet. This was not a good time for it to get quiet with so many miles left and getting into the more challenging part of the course. MeLissa and I chatted a bit, but I think we were both starting to go more inward to deal with the heat and the hills. I kept drinking at least a cup of water and a few sips of Gatorade through every aid station. I already had to make a quick pit stop once and I didn't want to have to stop again, but I also didn't want to risk dehydration. I was taking my gels about every other aid station starting at mile five and it seemed to be helping. I was also splashing water over my head and neck to stay cool.

Somewhere betweeen mile eleven and twelve, I started pulling away from MeLissa. It wasn't intentional, I just started taking advantage of every downhill and I seemed to be picking it up a little. Plus, I wasn't needing to take that long through the aid stations. We did a short loop in the park and on my way back around I saw MeLissa about a quarter mile behind me. I waved and smiled thinking she may catch back up to me soon. Right after that, we began climbing...and climbing and climbing. We had driven this part of the course the day before so I knew to expect these hills. I didn't push too hard going up. I simply leaned in, put my head down, and went with the terrain. I checked my watch at mile thirteen and I thought I was at 2:02 (my actual split was 2:04:42). I knew I had passed the 2:05 half marathon pacer before we split off so I figured I was pretty close to where I wanted to be. (Remember, I wasn't wearing a Garmin). Occasionally, when I remembered, I would hit the 'lap' button on my watch to get an idea. Even with the rolling hills through the park, I stayed around 9:15-9:25 pace.

Between fourteen and fifteen, we finally got out of the park. I was ready for the course to flatten out some although I couldn't exactly remember what I saw from our drive the day before so I wasn't really sure what was ahead. While there were some decent downhills I could cruise down, they were, of course, also accompanied by constant rolling uphills. I don't remember any hill being so steep or long that it took my breath away or killed my legs, it was just the fact that they seemed relentless. I tried to keep my focus on staying cool, running in the shade when possible (following "Miss Blue Shirt" - a woman who ran on concrete medians with broken glass, but held a good pace and was one of the only other runners near me who also kept passing people) and awaiting Eladio's and Ann's arrival on the course.

On one of the nice downhills, I looked up and saw a man running in front of me with a Runner's Edge shirt on. Once I caught up to him, I looked up and said hi. We chatted for a few minutes and then he asked if I knew who he was. I didn't know his name, but I knew I had seen him before. His name was Ken Tomlen and he told me he knew my dad from working the Kansas City aid stations together. As we started back up another hill, I pulled away and wished him luck. He said he was falling off pace and was getting warm, but I still thought he would probably catch back up to me soon. For some reason, the heat wasn't getting to me the way it seemed to be getting to a lot of other runners. I didn't process it much right at that moment, I just kept chugging along up and down, up and down mile after mile.

Finally, by mile 19, Eladio and Ann showed up. (It was right after an aid station where I had splashed water all over my head, face, and torso. That became par for course in the second half. I would grab a cup of Gatorade, take a couple sips, then drink a whole cup of water and take a second cup to give myself a shower. I can only imagine how funny I must have looked to anyone watching. I wasn't delicate about it at all. After I dribbled some water on my hat and neck then took the rest and splashed it on my face so I could maximize the drippage. Sometimes I splashed so hard I got a little water up my nose! I didn't care at that point. I wasn't after proper dousing etiquette. I just wanted to stay as cool as possible). Back to my support team. So here I was, dripping with water and feeling sufficiently hydrated and Eladio was yet offering me more water. I appreciate that it was cool water, but I couldn't drink anymore and I didn't want to get more wet. He also had a cup of ice that he put in my cap. I protested at first, but then figured it couldn't hurt. It did help my head stay cool. The only down side was when it started melting a few miles later and water was dripping into my eyes.

It was great to see Ann and Eladio at that point. It gave me a great boost to head into the final six miles. Eladio said he would meet me up ahead in a couple of miles. I happily ran on past mile twenty thinking I would be seeing him soon. No such luck. Miles twenty-one through twenty-four passed by in a blur. Not that I was going extremely fast, just that I can't remember much but looking up at each mile marker and seeing another hill in front of me. I was SICK of hills at this point. I just wanted it to be flat!

Eladio and Ann showed up again around mile twenty-four. More water and ice were offered. I passed and kept moving forward. I was beyond whooping and hollering and down to politely smiling and waving as they cheered me on.

During mile twenty-four, I felt my legs starting to die. I just couldn't get them to move any faster than a ten minute mile. I wasn't cramping and wasn't really that sore, my legs just felt tired. Like they had lost all their glycogen so I had no more firing power. My right foot starting speaking to me more. It had already been noticable starting around mile 16. At first, it wasn't anything terrible, but by the end my toes were tingling and they were having a hard time gripping the ground. It's like I had to start thinking about how my toes worked when my foot landed. It was a strange sensation. I just kept praying that God would get me through it and would help it stop hurting so I could finish strong and without injuring myself long-term. Without firing power, I just couldn't move that fast. All I could do was focus on my form and my breathing.

Mile twenty-five wasn't much faster, but with one mile to go, I knew I could dig deep and find the energy to finish strong. I waited to push it until the first downhill. I looked up and saw the finish was going to be another uphill. Arghhhh!!! We were heading back towards the arch and it was a glorious sight. The American flag was strung across to appear right inside the arch. I appreciated it's beauty for a few seconds, then put my head back down to get up the final hill. Somewhere near the top, I saw Eladio. I had a few choice words about the hills on the course, but I had trouble getting them to come out right. Eladio just cheered me on and told me "it's okay, you're almost done." We made a turn and finally, I could see the finish line. The crowds were cheering loudly and I decided it was time to make my move. I went to straight hands (think "sprinters" hands) and pumped my arms hard. I heard the crowd cheering for someone named "Stacey" close by me. I imagined she was right behind me and I pushed even harder. I had no idea who Stacey was. I had nothing personal against her, she was just my motivation to move to the finish as fast as I could. As I crossed the line, I heard the announcer congratulate Stacey. I was about to feel slighted, but then I heard him call my name too. I looked around and saw a smiling Stacey right behind me. I shook her hand and thanked her for helping me finish strong.

I checked my watch and saw it was 4:08 something (my official chip time was 4:08:07). I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a sub four, but given all the conditions of the day, I was also very thankful that I made it in at that time and was able to finish strong. I got my medal, went through the finish line chute and made my way to the family reunion area. Within minutes, I found Eladio and he gave me a big hug. I was still angry about the hills and my feet were hurting badly, but after changing clothes and shoes and scarfing down some pancakes, I felt much better.

It wasn't until I got home that night that I was able to check my official results. When I told Eladio my first half and official finish time, he noted that I had run a negative split. It's by a mere thirty-five seconds, but it's still a negative split. That was one of my goals (along with finishing strong and running injury-free), so I'll take it! I forgot to mention that three days before the race, I had to change my shoes. I had been training in Nike Lunar Glides, but in the couple weeks prior to the race, my feet and left calf and shin were having problems from the shoes. After my last easy run last Thursday, I decided I should not run the marathon in them. I went back to my old shoes, the Asics Nimbus, for the race. My last training run in them was in January. I had no idea how they would hold up and how my body would respond in them for the marathon, but I felt like I had no other choice. I attribute my weird toe pain to the shoes, but I'm still very thankful they got me through.

So, there it race recap. A few more things I want to add before wrapping it up. Here are some key things I did differently that I think positively affected my race:
1. I got adequate sleep the days leading up to the race.
2. I hydrated well the day before.
3. I took my chia seeds right before the race in hopes of helping with hydration and recovery afterwards. I think it worked! (more on chia later)

I'm now enjoying a break from training and am looking forward to cross training. My friend, Theresa, and I will soon be working towards our goal of doing one pull up! First, she's got a little race called Boston to run on Monday.

A few days post-marathon, I feel really good. My legs aren't sore or stiff anymore and I think I'm ready to head back out for another run tomorrow morning. See ya on the road!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Marathon preparation

Race day is almost here. In four days I will cross the starting line and attempt to finish my 13th marathon. You might think this should be routine for me by now. I've been here before and know the drill, so why do I feel so nervous? More nervous, in fact, than I remember feeling the days leading up to the race. Have I just forgotten in the year and a half I haven't done a marathon? Or, maybe it's because of the different training and race plan this time around.

As I mentioned in my last post, this has been a very challenging training session with the extreme cold temps and all the snow. Now it's finally spring and it's been beautiful outside the past couple of weeks. As much as I don't want the snow to come back, I'm not sure I'm quite ready for this warmer weather. I've barely trained in it! Added to that is the crazy wind and violent thunderstoms we've had this past week. The forecast looks good as far as rain is concerned this weekend in St. Louis. But, it could possibly get up into the upper 60's/low 70's and is supposed to be a beautiful, sunny, slightly windy day. Great for spectating, not so great for runners, especially in the last half of the marathon.

Since I have no control over the weather, I'm just trying my best to prepare myself mentally (and a little physically too). The past few runs, I've purposely overdressed to try to help my body acclimate to warmer temps. It may be too little,too late, but I figure it can't hurt. I've gotten the tight spots worked out in my legs by Brian and Barb, so no excuses there. The hardest part of this for me is to fully let go of any time goal. That's different for me this time. Normally I have a very specific goal and have worked diligently to reach it. By now, I usually have my goal pace down and it feels relatively easy. I've been saying "no time goal," but in the back of my mind, I keep wanting to shoot for four hours. There's really nothing magic about that, other than to prove to myself that I can do it. It would be a great confidence boost.

I should tell you that my last marathon, New York in 2008, did not end well. I had started the race with Ann and was trying to help her run 3:50. After eight miles, I knew I couldn't hang with her, so I let her go. Each mile got progessively slower and harder and by mile 23, I had forgotten all about my time goal and even thought about quitting. With Eladio's urging, I pulled myself together and ran in the last few miles as hard as I could. With two miles to go, I thought I might still have a chance to break four hours. Sadly, I crossed the finish line and my watch read 4:01:08.

I would just hate to get that close again if there's any chance I could run that fast. I just really don't know. Other than my time trials, I don't know if I have built up enough strength and endurance to get there this time. I know it shouldn't really matter, at least not by the goals I had originally set for myself. It's just hard to stop my innate competitive drive. I will pray a lot between now and Sunday that God will help me stay strong and true to my plan. More than anything, I want to walk away from this race feeling like I ran smart and staying healthy for my summer training. Regardless of my time, I would love to finish feeling strong and be the one passing in the end. Those are the things I will have to constantly remind myself of this week and during the race.

Even though this week has been kinda nerve-wracking for me, I am comforted by the support of my family and friends. When I step back and look at the bigger picture, I know that I am exteremly blessed. I am so thankful that I've been able to experience this training with my wonderful running buddies. Thanks Adina, Theresa, Ann, Mallika, and Jackie! You're the best!! I have so many great memories of our runs together this winter. You helped get me out of bed on so many dark, frigid mornings. I know I wouldn't have even run those days if it weren't for meeting you guys. I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey during this training and look forward to running with you again once I'm recovered. I'll be thinking of you all during the race and imagining you're right there beside me. :-)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hello again...

It's been a long time since I've posted -- too long. I have no excuse really, life just got busy and during my little "down" times, I've just wanted to veg or sleep. Lots have happened. I'll briefly recap:

  • Time Trial #1 - done on Woodland Rd. early in the morning. It was around 20 degrees with a windchill in the teens. My friends and I ran along the side of the road and had to dodge traffic on our makeshift track. It was quite the adventure and not one that I want to repeat. Even still, I ended up running two miles in 14:26. I felt pretty good about that.

  • First family trip to Disney - the very next day, my husband and I took our two young kids to DisneyWorld. We hoped for a big break in winter, but instead got just a little sun, 50-60 degree weather, and some rain. We spent three fun-filled, jam-packed days at the various parks - Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld, and Hollywood Studios. I took a variety of running clothes, but didn't run once over the five day trip. There simply wasn't much time, let alone excess energy for a workout. I'm guessing by the throbbing in my legs when I got into bed each night, that we probably walked at least a few miles a day. At least that's what it felt like and what I had convinced myself to feel less guilty.

  • Long runs, speedwork, tempo runs, and goal pace - after coming back, I settled back into my three day a week running routine. Tuesdays were speed, Thursdays were tempo or goal pace runs, and Saturdays were long runs. I did two 20 milers in March and stepped up the intensity in my other workouts. There were many crazy cold, snowy runs -- more than I wish to recount. With the winter we've had, I think it's safe to say this has been the most challenging marathon training I've ever done.

  • Time Trial #2 - This Tuesday, I did my final time trial to help gauge where I'm at and help me determine a realistic finish time goal in St. Louis. I ran 14:22 - just slightly better than before and with better weather conditions. My only complaint was the headwind we faced on one side of the track. But, that also meant we had a nice tailwind on the other side, so it probably evened out and didn't affect my time that much.

That's pretty much it. Now I'm very much in the taper side of training and am trying to get my head ready for the race. The rest of my workouts will be easy. I'll still do some goal pace miles (around 9 minutes) between now and the race for extra practice.

My only obstacle is some foot/calf pain I've had the past couple of weeks. It's on my left side, not typically my "injury" side and it's something completely new. I'm seeing my ART chiropractor, Brian Holdeman, and massage therapist, Barb Rinne, to help loosen things up before the big day. The good side of this is that it helps keep the pressure off of feeling like I need to push it during the race. I'm sticking to my original game plan of starting slow and going by feel during the race. Still planning on running without my Garmin, but I will have Eladio pacing me in the first six miles so I don't start out too fast. I'll post more specifics on my race plan soon. I'm still processing it all.

I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather. What a change from the winter we've had! Praise the Lord, Spring is here at last!! Happy Running!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Committed, at last!

Well, I did it! I finally committed to my spring race. I signed up for the St. Louis marathon yesterday. Everyone running with me lately knows that I've been struggling to make this decision. For a number of reasons, I just couldn't commit. I even contemplated doing another race - the Kansas marathon in Lawrence on April 18. After much soul searching and having completed my 18 mile run on Saturday injury-free, I decided it was time to go for it.

I have some peace about it now that I also have given myself an alternate backup plan. St. Louis is my Plan A, but if any number of things should happen to change that, I have the Kansas marathon as my Plan B. Since it's just a week later, it won't affect my training. I'm even going so far as to say if I'm just not feeling it while I'm running St. Louis, I'll back it off and just do the half there and do Lawrence the following week. One way or another, I will be doing a spring marathon and will get number 13 off my back! The main thing is that I stay healthy and get my body ready for the intense training this summer, as I will attempt to qualify for Boston in the fall.

I'm looking forward to starting speed work this week and getting ready for my 20 mile run in a couple of weeks. Now I really know I'm training for a marathon when I have 20 mile runs on the schedule. 18 was long and hilly on Saturday, but keeping the pace slower made it manageable and relatively pain-free. Slow and steady, increasing step by step - that's my strategy this spring. So far, it's working pretty well.

2-mile time trial on the schedule for tomorrow. With all this snow and ice, we'll see if we can get it done. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Running with God

God is so Good! If I really stop and look at my life, this seems an obvious fact, but too often I forget to acknowledge all the good things.

I'm dealing with my nagging sore hip again and it's made me change my training strategy already. This past week, I've been doubtful of my ability to even do mediocre marathon training. Even with no specific time goal, I've been frustrated that I even have to deal with this right now, at this early stage of my training. Basically, I've been in a complaining mode and feeling very ungrateful.

I've been doing my shorter, mid-week runs on my own which has allowed me to run at my own pace and really listen to my body. Today, I was also able to use my solo run to help me spend some alone time in prayer with my Lord.

Once I had found my rhythm and had run about a mile, I started praying. At first, I was selfishly making all sorts of requests. Once I couldn't think of any more, I started listening and responding to God's spirit. I felt like I was really talking with God. I felt His Spirit was guiding my prayer and reminding me of all the things that He has already blessed me with in my life. My husband, my kids, my family and friends, and my health. All of my basic needs and then some are taken care of. I should want for nothing really.

For the rest of my run, I felt satisfied with all I have right now, not what I still want or feel I need. It was all Good!! By the grace of God through His Son, I have been forgiven and saved. I never want to forget that and remember this incredible blessing. It's for all of us. We are all God's children.

It was so nice to spend my running time with God this morning. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." I always took that so literally. While I believe it's good to stop what we're doing and have our daily quiet time with God, sometimes running is the only time my mind can be still.

Just wanted to share this experience with you and encourage you to pray (and listen) sometime on your solo runs. God can work in our lives at all times if we simply remember He is there.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Marathon training commences

It's official!! As of last week, I started training for the St. Louis marathon. So far, I don't feel like the mileage is much different than what I was doing over the winter, other than my long runs. Last Saturday, I ran 15. It was supposed to be 14, but we took a couple little detours and then missed a turn which added another mile. It wouldn't have been so bad, but it was kinda hilly at the end and that's the longest I have run since last spring. I felt it at the end. My legs were starting to feel heavy, my energy was low (I didn't take any gels), and my right hip was tightening up. Later that day, I started feeling some soreness in my hip, similar to the start of my injury last year. Nervous that my hip pain would worsen and fearful that it will eventually affect my training, I did some light stretching and foam rolling. That helped some.

I also bought new shoes last Saturday and have run in them a few times this week. I moved away from the heavy cushion and light support of the Asics Nimbus and have opted for a more minimal shoe, the Nike Lunar Trainer. I really like the lightness of the shoe and surprising cushion-ey feel without such a high heel as the Asics. If you've read my previous posts, you know I have been working on changing my stride and doing some strengthening exercises to prevent my hip problems from becoming chronic and debilitating. These shoes are part of the plan to keep me injury free. So far, I like the Nikes, I'm just a little unsure of how they will hold up on a long, long run. I did 6 miles today and I felt fine. I have a bit of a leg length discrepency and my left foot is slightly bigger than my right. This causes my left foot to overpronate more than my right. I always feel like I need to buy two different sizes and types of shoes. The only problem I have had with the Nikes so far is some rubbing on my right ankle. I'm going to put in some thin Spencos and see if that helps for my 10 mile run on Sunday.

Another part of my injury-free marathon training plan needs to include running smarter. I have several great running buds who run in the 9:30 pace group so I tend to run with them, even though my body would prefer a slower pace. As much as I will miss running with them, I have to listen to my body and slow it down if I really want to prevent injuries. It's difficult to know my pace as it always seems to be changing. Right now, my warm up pace is around 10:30-11 minute miles. After a couple of miles, I tend to get down to the low 10's/upper 9's. Eventually, if it's not too hilly, I can maintain around a 9:30 pace. I just can't be strict about it.

My plan for St. Louis does not involve a specific finish time. I simply want to run a smart race and finish feeling strong. I'd love to do a big negative split. I'm tempted to run without a watch. I'll just need to be careful not to start too fast, so I'll need to hook up with the official marathon pace groups and figure out their strategy.

Sometime in February, I'll do a two mile time trial to assess my current speed. That will help me know where to set my goal pace and tempo pace runs. It will also give me an idea of what pace group I should consider lining up with at the marathon.

I think it will be most difficult this training to not run with my faster training buddies and stick to my "A" goal for the marathon. This blog is to help keep me honest and stick to the long-term plan. The hard training for Boston qualifying will be here soon enough. Now is the time to hold back, build a good base, and have a positive marathon experience. More to come...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Surviving the treadmill

I did it!! I finally ran past 4 miles on the treadmill! You've heard all my complaining about treadmill running and how I miss running outside. There was just no way I was going to pump myself up enough to do another long run in bitter cold temps. After that 10 mile run with the group, I just couldn't face the single digits and sub zero temperatures last week. All of my runs were inside on the treadmill, including 12 on Saturday.

As much as I really don't like running on the treadmill, with a little more "practice" last week, I've learned to not hate it as much. There are ways of making it interesting. Here's my Top Six list of surviving the treadmill. Some of them need a little 'splaining...

6. Headphones!!! - This may seem obvious, but it's always bothered me to run with headphones. They never stay in my ears and I can never seem to get the volume right. I spend most of my time and energy playing around with them rather than focusing on my workout. But, I have found that if I can get them in place even just for a few minutes and I find just the right song, I can crank away on the treadmill. FYI - "Single Ladies" by Beyonce has the perfect cadence for a good tempo run. For me, that's a 7:30 minute mile.

5. Watch all the muscle heads on the weight machines

4. Stare off into space. (This is only good for a minute or so and you have to be careful not to accidentally stare directly at someone. They might get the wrong message!)

3. Watch T.V. with closed captions. Again, there's my issue with headphones, so CC is really my best option when it comes to watching T.V.

2. Run with a friend and talk loudly over the machines and music. You may annoy everyone else around you, but hopefully they're tuned into their headphones and will hadly notice you practically screaming to be heard.

1. Play with the buttons and numbers on the display. I think I'm kinda freaky about this. Here's a little example. If I'm running 3 miles on the treadmill, I like to be done by 30 minutes. You think that would be easy, just run a 10 minute mile pace the whole time. But no, I can't make it that easy. I can't warm up that fast. I usually start off around an 11 or 12 minute pace for the first few minutes. Somewhere in that first mile, I'll get down to mid 10's. Because of my slow start, I usually don't hit a mile until 11 minutes or more. Now I've got to make up some lost time. During the second mile, I usually stay somewhere in the 10's. I'll hit mile 2 around 21 minutes. The last mile, I go all out. I keep increasing the speed a little at a time. I'll eventually try to get it so that I'll be at 2.5 by 25 minutes. The last half mile, I may also start playing around with the incline. Normally I stay at zero, but if I'm feeling good, I'll increase it to 4 or 5 incline for a minute or two. Then I come back down one number at a time until I'm back to zero with a couple minutes left. The end is all out. I try to go as fast as I can for those last couple of minutes. Ideally, I'll finish my 3 miles before I get to 30 minutes. It doesn't have to be exact, but it can't be under 3 miles (except if I'm going longer). Anyway, it's something like that. I just like playing around with it and changing the pace often. It mimicks outdoor running, without the downhills of course.

Even with all these survival techniques, the only way I made it through 12 on Saturday was running with Ann by my side the whole way and breaking it down into smaller segments. After every 4 miles we either switched 'mills or took a short break and restarted our displays. We talked most of the way, but by the end we needed to just hunker down and get it done. We got our iPods going and cranked out the last 4-5 miles. I'm so happy I got through it and that Ann was with me. It's probably the longest I'll ever want to go on the "dreadmill," but at least now I know it's not impossible!

With the warm up this week, I expect to enjoy running outside again. St. Louis marathon training will officially commence in 12 days. I'm going to enjoy my last couple of weeks of non-structured workouts.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year!!

There's no better way to start off the new year than by doing a long run with friends. Yesterday, I got to run with Runner's Edge. It's been since November that I've joined the group. I've forgotten how it feels to wake up early to run on Saturday mornings. It was difficult leaving my warm, cozy bed at 6:30 to get ready to run in sub zero temperatures, but the alternative of having to run ten miles on a treadmill got me going. (I detest treadmill running and will only run on it for up to four miles). As I got dressed in several layers, the Weather Channel was reporting the current temp at four degrees with a wind chill of one below zero. Even still, I was undeterrred from going outside. Our group run started at 68's Inside Sports which left me with the option of turning around early and finishing my last 3-4 miles on a treadmill if it really got unbearable outside. I figured I would just take it a mile at a time and turn around if necessary.

I started out with the 11 minute group. The pace was just right for an easy warm up and navigating some of the slick roads. The group wasn't very big, but everyone who came was also thankful to finally be running outside and seemed determined to get in their miles together. With 6-7 of us staying together the whole way, I was able to get in all of my ten miles outside. At times, I couldn't feel my fingers or my legs, but nevertheless, it was worth risking frostbite just to get in my long run and get back on track with my training. The last time I ran that long was early December!

With the new year underway, I'm ready to start committing to running long every weekend and getting ready for my marathon training in a couple of weeks. In order to do that, I have to have a decent base of at least a 12 or 14 mile long run. I'm going to have to start getting tough with myself and sticking to my long term plan if this is going to happen. No more late nights, poor planning, or even arctic weather to take me off my schedule.

I'm nervous because this will require some big changes in my life. I'm worried about how much dedication this goal will require and still being able to find some balance with my life. The last time I qualified for Boston, I didn't have kids and my schedule was pretty light. Now, I'm juggling so many things, I'm concerned that something important will be sacrificed. My constant prayer is that by God's grace I can accomplish this goal and still be a good wife, mother, teacher, and friend. I pray that this goal will inspire me to make some changes that will have long lasting positive effects beyong my marathon goals. I always want to remember and be thankful for God's gift of being able to run, for keeping me healthy, and the enjoyment running brings to my life. If I forget to glorify God for these things, then these goals mean very little and have no eternal impact. I don't expect the road to be completely smooth. I just hope I can be smart about my training and do my best to find a good balance. This is going to be an interesting journey and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you.

Here's to a great 2010! Hope it's a healthy and happy one!