marathon training

Trail Running & Brazos Bend 100

14884596_10154488233718564_6498371586880915198_oI’ve been running a lot of trails lately. Near our house are several miles of wooded trails that run through the flood zone of a creek. I’ve always been a little afraid to wonder out into the woods alone to run them but this past summer I stumbled upon a group who runs them regularly and now I am getting my fill of saunters through the woods. I love the trails. I love being outside, I love jumping over logs and roots and the endless switchbacks. The trails are great for running, maybe not so good for ankle sprains, but if you’re careful the uneven footing of the trails and the necessary hopping and skipping do wonders for building your foot, calf and ankle muscles as well as offering multiple opportunities to practice stability and balance.

Trail runners are a different breed. Not only are we all just a little more crazy than road runners, there’s something about the snakes, bugs and constant threat of falling that makes the running friendship a little stronger, a little more intimate. When you run on the road, you come home sweaty. When you run the trails you come home, sweaty, dirty and possibly bloody. It’s much more fun. Though I have only known them for a few months, my trail friends have quickly become my family.

Thanks to their encouragement, I ran my first trail race on Saturday! With just 7 weeks notice I decided that Brazos Bend 100 – the full marathon distance – would be my trail debut. I didn’t do much training specific to this race. Since I was focused on training for Shiner, I didn’t do traditional mileage building. I threw in an 18 and 20 mile run (18 on the road and 20 on the trails) and that was about it.

I didn’t have a plan for the race. I figured I’d see what pace felt comfortable and go with it. Just a couple of miles in I settled at around an 8:05. It was cold outside (low 40s and breezy), my heart rate was low, it felt sustainable. The trails were flat and fast. Obviously trails aren’t going to be as fast as a road but they were mostly crushed gravel access roads and well worn paths with few roots and almost no elevation change.

20161210_071536Mile 1 – 8:23
Mile 2 – 7:55
Mile 3 – 8:04
Mile 4 – 8:06

At mile 4, I ate my first Gu which I immediately regretted. It felt like someone had taken a chainsaw to my stomach.

Mile 5 – 8:03
Mile 6 – 8:04
Mile 7 – 8:02
Mile 8 – 8:03

Hoping the issues with the first Gu had passed, I took my second Gu and could barely keep it down. It took a mile to eat the whole thing and once it was gone I decided I wasn’t eating any more. Ever.

Mile 9 – 8:07
Mile 10 – 7:57
Mile 11 – 7:45
Mile 12 – 8:04
Mile 13 – 8:28
Mile 14 – 8:08
Mile 15 – 8:09
Mile 16 – 8:16
Mile 17 –  8:34

The lack of quality training runs and the trails caught up to me. At Mile 18, I could feel the stabilizing muscles in my hips start to get weak – I had to slow down because I was worried I’d catch my foot on one of the large rocks in the trail and my hips wouldn’t have the strength to keep me from falling over.

It was also around this time that I accidentally ran into a family friend. At the mile 17 aid station a tall Scandinavian man who looked incredibly familiar started running beside me. As we ran he began asking me very specific questions, almost like he knew me. I was a little confused, how could this mystery Scandinavian know me so well? After a half mile of listening to his thick accent, I realized knew him! It was Andreas, my sister-in-law’s, brother’s, wife’s, twin sister’s, husband! Did you follow that? I have only met him a handful of times thus me not immediately recognizing him. I knew he was a marathoner but I had no idea he was running BB100. It’s a small world!

He was facing similar discomfort due to an IT band problem and we ran on and off together for the remainder of the race.

Mile 18 – 8:28
Mile 19 – 8:50
Mile 20 – 9:58

Around the magical mile 20, the lack of adequate fuel and my poor tired hips collided. The one-two punch slowed my pace to what felt like a crawl. My glute minimus and medius were burning like they’d been set on fire and I had no energy at all. I had a moment where I was seriously considering burning all my running shoes and finding a different hobby.

From that point forward, I decided to begin a walk/run strategy – run until the lap beep went off on my Garmin then walk until I felt I could run again. The walking interval started at 2 minutes and went up to 4 minutes and the run intervals were at about a 9:30 pace. Though I could have run straight through I’m not sure it would have been much faster and the run/walk strategy helped in the motivation department significantly.

Mile 21 – 11:13
Mile 22 – 8:45

Andreas and I stopped at the aid station at mile 22 and I saw a friend who was volunteering. She picked me back up emotionally, told me I looked strong and that it was almost over. I ate 1/4 of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sucked it up and we went back out onto the course. Andreas pushed me to run to the next aid station without walking and though he left me he told me he would meet me there.

Mile 23 – 11:10
Mile 24 – 11:23

At the last aid station I drank a shot of Coke and it was like nectar from God. The most wonderfully delicious thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Ever. And another 1/4 PB&J.

Mile 25 – 11:04

Andreas informed me his IT band tightness was going away and I told him to leave me. I didn’t want to hold him back.

Mile 26 – 11:03

This is where a marathon should stop. This one kept going. Recent rains flooded the trails in the back of the park and race organizers had to change the course at the last minute so this particular race was almost 28 miles (27.79 according to my Garmin). I was joking to friends about this change in the days before the race but those last two miles were no joke. They were the tipping point from the race being pleasantly uncomfortable to downright painful.

Mile 27 – 12:04
Mile 28 – 9:02

20161210_131615As I was finishing I saw Andreas giving me the thumbs up, I returned the gesture as I passed and went through the finish chute.

Official time was 4:10.04 – which if it had been an actual marathon of the 26.2 variety would have been a 3:49. It’s a good time considering the conditions, and the lack of training. It was also my personal distance record, the furthest I’ve ever run. I am happy with that.

After the race was over, I looked for Andreas but I lost him in the crowd. I walked out to the car, changed clothes, ate some tacos and drank my first Coke in almost two years. It was easily the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted! Clearly, I needed the sugar. I then sat for an hour and 45 minutes waiting for the rest of my group to cross the finish line.

This was my fifth marathon but the first I’ve done alone. Jason took the kids camping for the weekend instead of coming to the race and since I was the first to finish from our group there was no one was waiting for me at the finish line. There were not no post race hugs, no congratulations. No one to ask me how I felt or to help me over to the car. No one I could complain to about how badly my legs ached. It was a little depressing, I’m not gonna lie. It was a lonely time during which I had plenty of time to think about the race.

Though I am still thrilled with my time (I was wanting a sub-4 hour, 26.2) I am disappointed in how I let myself fall apart the last 7 miles.

I haven’t trained with Gu since March. After The Woodlands Marathon I decided I was going to work on my fat adaption and aerobic development which meant I didn’t need the sugar in Gu. All my runs (including that 18 and 20 miler) have been at an aerobic pace and slow twitch fibers don’t need sugar to operate, they need fat. The shorter, tempo runs I did leading up to Shiner fell solidly into the anaerobic sugar burning category but they were all so short that I didn’t need fuel. Since I was fat adapting I didn’t need all the complex carbs in my diet so I cut almost all of them out. The results have been great. I’ve lost the last little bit of extra fat I was carrying around and the extra protein coupled with strength training has made me stronger than ever. My stomach however was no longer used to the carb bomb in a Gu. It revolted with a vengeance.

In addition, I wasn’t prepared for the trail. Although, I’ve been doing almost all my weekend long runs on trails for almost six months, all of that running has been at a slower pace. Our trails are technical. Rooty, hilly, winding, dirt paths. You can’t run any faster than an 11 minute mile on them or you’ll end up tripping on a treeroot and diving headfirst into a prickly bush.

Thanks to all those long trail runs, my stabilizing muscles were prepared for the total body workout that trail running provides and training for Shiner made my body more than ready to sustain race pace.

Unfortunately, this being my first trail race, I didn’t think about what would happen to my body if those stabilizing muscles had to do the work of the trails and support the extra force that comes with speed. Rookie mistake. I was ready for race pace on the road OR a slow trail run. I wasn’t ready for race pace on the trails.

Every race you learn and adapt. So now I know. I will begin to experiment with UCAN, which I’ve wanted to do anyway, and I need to put some extra time into working more on my hips (something I already knew but have been actively avoiding because it hurts!) and hopefully next time I will be more prepared.

Somehow, amid all this I still managed to win my age group. I have no idea how that happened. I had given up hope of placing when I started run walking at the end of the race so needless to say I was a little surprised when the race results were finally posted.

Overall place: 14; Overall Female: 4; Age Group (F 30-39): 1

Marathons are hard, they never get any easier. No matter how many I run, how good of shape I’m in or how well prepared I may be, I am always going to push myself. I am always going to give the course everything my body has. For me, marathons are meant to be raced, not just finished. For that reason, they will always be hard. They will always push me to my limits of pain tolerance and endurance.

In 2017, I will run my first real ultra. I don’t know when or where or what distance but I do know one thing…between now an then I need to learn to slow down!

Recovering from The Woodlands Marathon

It’s been a month since The Woodlands Marathon. The decision to walk at mile 15 is paying off and I am running again. My knee pain is non-existent and my shins are healing. Though my volume is reduced from my typical non-training running volume, I can now go for a 5-6 mile jog and come home without pain. Last week I ran 27 miles, my longest run was 7 miles on Sunday.

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Monday morning my shins woke up ever-so-slightly tender so I decided to give them a day off and instead of running, I swam for an hour (1600 yards). Yesterday, the tenderness was gone so I taped my shins in KT tape, as a preventive measure, and ran 6 easy miles. No pain. No big deal. I think I can safely say that the shin splints are on their way out.

My new goal? Never let it happen again.

While letting my legs heal from The Woodlands I’ve spent a lot of time doing running drills and strength work to build my stability muscles. It’s evident from the problems I’ve had the last couple months that I’ve neglected all the supportive parts of my body. At the gym lately I’ve been doing a lot of box jumps, jump rope, clamshells, planks, wall squats, single leg balance, bridges, skips and stretching my hip extensors.

I can feel the difference that the strength work is making. I feel much more supported when I run and much less like Gumby, a change I welcome. Now I realize how poorly supported my body was toward the end of marathon training. With the intense speed work and high mileage (peak week was 82 miles, the month of December was 241 miles) no wonder my shin gave up on me.

My only goal right now is to heal properly and build my stability muscles and aerobic capacity. Ideally, by mid-summer I will be ready to begin strength training again in the weight room and anaerobic work on the treadmill. I don’t have any fall races planned yet but I know I’ll end up choosing one or two soon.

The question of the day is, do I want to run another full marathon before Boston in 2017?

It’s a bit scary to think that the next time I run a full would be in Boston but as far as reality goes I don’t have many choices.

For now I’m going to keep doing box jumps at the gym and standing on one leg while I make dinner.

Recovering from the Houston Marathon

For the record, I didn’t mean to run two marathons in two months. I’d been telling myself for years that I didn’t want to run the Houston Marathon until I time qualified for it and in December of 2014 I finally did. Then in January 2015 I was forced to defer my The Woodlands Marathon entry due to my IT band injury. The Houston Marathon is at the end of January and the Woodlands Marathon is at the beginning of March – seven weeks apart.

Coming into this spring I knew running two marathons in two months was going to be hard. I spent most of the summer doing strength training and plyometrics to get my body into peak shape. I knew I’d need that strength in the seven weeks between races to accomplish this crazy goal.

Five weeks post marathon and I feel like things are going pretty well. I have two weeks until The Woodlands marathon and though I feel like my body is back to normal my running isn’t.

My knee healed up almost immediately. I spent the entire week after the race stretching every day and the tightness that developed during the race was gone after three days.

Here’s where it gets tough. In the second week of taper prior to Houston I noticed some tightness in my right shin. Like a lot of people I battled shin splints when I first started running but over time they went away as my legs grew stronger. The 70, 80 and 70 mile weeks that made up the last three weeks of training took their toll on my body and shin splints made a return.

The week leading up to the race I wrapped my lower leg up in an ace bandage to provide some compression and wore my compression sleeves during the marathon and didn’t have a problem with the splints.

During recovery it’s been a different story. Since I’m trying to maintain my fitness for The Woodlands Marathon I’ve spent the last five weeks cross training. I’ve only run seven times since the Houston Marathon and each time it’s been painful.

The first couple of weeks after the race the pain was so bad that my shin ached sitting still. Not cool.

My original plan for the seven weeks between the Chevron Houston Marathon and The Woodlands Marathon called for three weeks of recovery, two weeks of training at 80% my peak mileage and two weeks of taper. That’s all been thrown out the window.

That phrase “listen to your body” comes to mind. It was time to do the smart thing and recognize that something isn’t quite right with my body and cross train until things heal up.

Since I already qualified for Boston by a hefty margin, I have no need to race the upcoming marathon. I am in good enough shape that I can cross train leading up to The Woodlands and take the race easy so I can leave with my medal and t-shirt. I won’t be breaking any land speed records but the last thing I want is to finish The Woodlands Marathon with an injury that leaves me unable to run for several months. That would suck.

Instead of following my original plan I have been cross training for the equivalent time duration. The past couple of weeks I’ve been alternating spinning, rowing, swimming and using the arc trainer so I will continue to do these activities in rotation until the race.

I had been doing a short run once a week (because not running is making me crazy) but I feel like that’s slowing the healing process so no running up to The Woodlands is the way to go.

With two weeks to go until race day my shin no longer hurts while doing daily activities. I don’t feel it much unless I am running (and the day after a run) so healing is happening. It’s just a slow process that requires patience – unfortunately, patience isn’t one of my best virtues.

Hopefully two weeks of solid healing will be enough to get me through my second marathon in two months. Because, yes, I’m crazy and maybe a bit stupid but I knew that already.

 

Houston Marathon & Boston Qualifier!

(I’ve been working on this post for several days but it took me a while to get it finished. We’re in the process of moving and not having internet is seriously cramping my style.)

On Sunday, January 17, I ran the Houston Marathon!

Official time was 3:29.33 (7:59/mile) and I qualified for the Boston Marathon! It was easily one of the best and most memorable days of my life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t run a full marathon in two years and the last one I ran was a 4:16. Two years is a long time in the world of running. I’d had a couple of half marathon performances since then that indicated I might be close to qualifying but I had nothing concrete to give me confidence and running is all about confidence.

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The morning of the race I was a nervous wreck. I knew I had a shot at qualifying and I’d spent six months getting ready for this race. I was terrified I’d waste six months of training and not qualify.

The weather was PERFECT – 39 degrees F at 7 am and 50 by the time I finished, a slight north wind and sun with cloudless skies. Perfect. I lined up in the corral slightly in front of the 3:30 pacers, not because I was confident but because I was afraid to get stuck behind 100 people trying to keep up with the pace guy.

The race began and the pace of the group was FAST. 7:30/mile. I tried to slow myself down to my planned 8:10/mile pace but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make myself go slower than a 7:55. So instead of fighting it, I went with it. New race pace was a 7:55. That wasn’t in the plan. Yikes.

The large field of runners made maneuvering the course difficult. Until the half marathon/marathon split I was constantly dodging stuff (curbs, potholes and people). The first 6 miles flew by. I don’t remember much about them. My body felt strong and the pace was easy. Surprisingly easy.

Mile 1- 8:06
Mile 2- 8:03
Mile 3- 7:55

5k- 25:13

Mile 4- 8:01
Mile 5- 7:57
Mile 6- 7:48

10k- 49:58

I had done a lot of research on fueling during the race and determined that in the past I hadn’t been taking in enough calories and I’d been waiting too late into the race to take them so I highly modified my fueling strategy. I took a Gu every other water stop and the stops were about 1.5 miles apart. 7 total. My first Gu was only 3 miles into the race.

Racing a marathon is all about being strategic with your glycogen stores and I figured that by fueling early and often I’d give myself a bit of an advantage. By the time mile 6 came around I was breaking into my second Gu and absolutely flying.

Mile 7- 7:58
Mile 8- 7:53
Mile 9- 7:49

15k- 1:14

At the water stop just past mile 9, I reached down for my third Gu. My belt only has space for 6 fuel packets and I brought 8. The first two I carried in my hands so the fuel I took at mile 9 was the first I had to retrieve from my belt.

My hands were numb from the cold and I couldn’t really feel my fingers. When I pulled the Gu out of the belt it flew out of my hand and onto the ground. I immediately stopped to pick it up. Going from almost 8 mph to 0 in a matter of 5 feet caused the muscles in my left hip to seize up and almost immediately upon returning to a run I felt a pain shoot up from my knee into my hip. It hurt so much that if this had been a training run I would have stopped and gone home. It was now or never though so I ran through the pain. It hurt, almost unbearably for the next four miles.

Mile 10- 7:55
Mile 11- 7:54
Mile 12- 7:52
Mile 13- 7:52

13.1- 1:44

The pain in my leg slowly subsided over the next several miles and I was able to run with no problem but I knew it could resurface at any time so I was trying to be careful with every foot fall.

Mile 14- 7:37
Mile 15- 7:52

25k- 2:04

Mile 16- 7:56

My calves started to tighten up. Not badly but enough to care about but as the miles ticked by the tightness started to get worse. It wasn’t anything to worry about but it was pain that I needed to manage throughout the remainder of the race.

Mile 17- 7:43
Mile 18- 7:49

30k- 2:28

Mile 19- 7:50

At mile 20 the route crossed under the inner loop and I stepped on a reflector in the road trying to dodge someone who had started to walk. The pain in my leg came back immediately and didn’t go away for the rest of the race. Between the leg pain and the increasing calf tightness the rest of the race hurt.

Mile 20- 8:00
Mile 21- 8:01

35k- 2:53

Mile 22- 8:06
Mile 23- 7:56

Though I certainly slowed down in the last 6 miles, I didn’t slow down nearly as much as in previous races. I kept waiting to hit the wall – that moment when you feel like you’ve come to a standstill. It should have happened around mile 20 but it never did.

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Mile 24- 8:06

40k- 3:19

Mile 25- 8:02
Mile 26- 8:10
Last .2- 7:05

26.2 – 3:29.33

Overall: 920/7808
Overall Female: 191/3026
Age Group (35-39): 50/632

I had enough energy left to run the last bit of the race (the last half mile, according to my Garmin) at 7:00/mile. Somehow, I raced a marathon and never hit the wall.

I crossed the finish line and immediately began crying. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston. I finished in 3:29.33, I qualified by a full 10 minutes – all but guaranteeing myself entry. I have never been so proud of myself as I was in that moment.

Almost immediately my phone began dinging. People, who I had no idea were following my race, began sending congratulations. It dinged, pinged and made other sounds as various forms of messages came through. Facebook messages, text messages, gchat messages, posts to my Facebook wall, posts to my MOMS club page. So much love from so many people!

One of the trainers at the YMCA was spectating at the finish line and saw me come through the chute. I’m generally pretty reserved when I’m at the gym. I’ve only made a couple of friends there but when I showed up on Monday he cornered me. Let’s just say I’m a lot more popular at the Y now than I was the week before the race.

RECOVERY

The day after the race my muscles in my calves were so tight I couldn’t bend my ankles and the damage from running through the knee pain was evident. Though I could bend my knees it hurt wildly. I walked around all day sort of like a zombie. I went to the gym that day and spent 30 minutes on the bike with no resistance just so I could try to re-establish some range of motion, then spent 30 minutes stretching out my legs and on my way home went to the chiropractor. I by the time I left I felt somewhat normal.

I went for a six mile run on Thursday, which was extremely painful to my tight calves. Sunday, I ran eight miles and my calves felt much better. I have some lingering shin pain that showed up in the second week of taper (it didn’t cause a problem during the race) and I want to let it heal before I hit the mileage hard again so I’m cross training for the next several days until it goes away.

 

 

IT Band Injury & Marathon Deferral

I’m officially injured.

This injury isn’t something that just spontaneously happened one day, it’s been coming for a while. During training for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio I was doing some pretty intense speed training (intense at least for me). With that speed work came some tight and achey knees. I didn’t think much about it and just chalked it up to a new training routine and a tough training cycle.

I was wavering on whether I should run a spring marathon because of the concern about my knees, I was almost committed to no spring marathon until…

…Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio happened. I PRed (1:48) and it seemed that my pie-in-the-sky goal of qualifying for Boston was actually attainable sooner than I thought. I was on an emotional high and I went home and immediately registered for The Woodlands Marathon. Training began.

Just after Christmas on an 18 mile long run my knees were exceptionally stiff. I just ignored them and hoped they would loosen up some as the miles progressed. At mile 4 all of a sudden, sharp pain went through my left knee and brought me to a stand still. I walked for 20 yards or so hoping it was just a tweak but as soon as I started running again it came back. At that point I turned around and walked back home. Run cancelled. Something was very wrong.

I wasn’t sure what the injury was but I knew I couldn’t run with it hurting like that so I took three days off, went on a test run and made it a mile before the pain came back. Three days later I tried another run and made it three miles but the pain came back. The week after I tried running more with mild success but I have’t been on a pain free run since that fateful failed 18 miler.

After much googling I decided with certainty that it was my IT band.

This injury caught me off guard but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been neglecting my body for a while. Every time I saw “cross train” or “strength train”on a training plan I ignored it. My laziness got the best of me.

Pair that with shoes that I now realize are not the right choice for my feet and injury was a given.

Weak hip muscles doing speed work on a canted road in non-ideal shoes? Yeah. Genius.

I guess the big question here is, what am I doing about it?

Most importantly, I’m not running. At all. Last week, I did a little test run in some of my old shoes to see if they helped (they did) but I haven’t run since then. Instead I’m doing every other exercise at the gym that I failed to do before. Elliptical. Rower. Spin. Swimming. Yoga. If it’s offered at the Y and (and doesn’t aggervate my IT band) that’s what I’m doing. At least an hour everyday.

I’ve also added strength training to my routine. I’m doing the Strong Lifts program but slightly modified to fit my schedule and abilities. Lifting twice a week.

Stronglifts

The days I don’t do Strong Lifts, I use a mini band to do hip exercises.

I also bought a new pair of my old type of shoes (Mizuno Wave Creation). It was almost time for a new pair of shoes anyway and I’ve never been happy with the Wave Riders. The Wave Riders are great shoes but they just aren’t the right fit for me and I’ve had problems since I switched to them. I’ve had success with the Wave Creation in the past so they’re a safe bet when I return to running during the healing period.

Foam rolling. Every day. Every single day.

All this cross training and weight lifting have me feeling stronger than I’ve ever felt – like I do at peak marathon training which is FANTASTIC.

Unfortunately, I’m not in a good place to run a marathon. Even if I could finish it wouldn’t be a smart move, so I’ll be deferring my marathon entry. I’m sad and disappointed but I know I’ll come back from this as a much stronger and much smarter runner and I’m confident that this is the best decision for me and my body.

Lesson learned.

When I Don’t Run, I Remember Why I Do

When I don’t run my whole world falls apart. I don’t eat well. I don’t drink enough water. I’m grumpy. I have no energy. I start to feel pudgy and my pants get tight. Of course, it takes not running for me to realize exactly how important it is to my life and my happiness.

I’ve been struggling lately. My lazy side has gotten the best of me.

Since marathon training is no longer something looming over my head I find myself de-prioritizing (is that a word?) my runs. Marathon training and to some degree half marathon training forces you to run. You don’t have a choice.

You have 12 miles scheduled and your husband can’t watch the kids? Put them in the stroller and go.

Pouring down rain? Go.

20 degrees? Go.

That’s great when you’re trying to loose 40 pounds of baby weight so you can fit back into your pants. Being forced to exercise is good, until it isn’t. What I did was give myself a serious case of burnout.

I need to change my mindset from having to run to wanting to run. A task which is proving to be somewhat more difficult than I’d hoped.

Marathon recovery this time around was much worse than before. I pushed myself harder during the race and I think I tried to get back to running too quickly afterwards. I didn’t give my body enough time to heal itself from the damage I’d done. As a result almost every run I’ve done since then has been brutal. The first month after the marathon, during the “recovery” time frame, my heart rate would spike and I had trouble breathing. Most of my runs turned into runs with walk breaks.

The problems with recovery were followed by the weather, more specifically the wind. OH THE WIND. Nothing spells misery quite like pushing a 100 pound double jogging stroller into a 20 mph headwind. If I looked outside and saw the trees blowing (which seemed like every day) instead of doing the right thing and taking the kids to the Y I would just throw my shoes back in the closet and eat a handful of M&Ms.

Not cool, Joni. Not cool.

So here I am. Almost through April and I’ve only gone running eight times this month, three of those in the last three days. I’m struggling to find a groove.

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The last few days I’ve been trying to change up my routine, doing more to focus on the run and less on the work of running. I’ve altered my route to see different scenery. I’ve instituted a mandatory walk break halfway which is more to help me get out the door than is actually needed on the run. I’ve turned off my radio which is making me much more aware of my surroundings, not just the sounds but the sights too. We stop at the playground on our route to make it easier to get Evie in the stroller, which she’s been fighting lately. Most importantly, I’ve slowed down which makes running more fun, at least for me.

Thankfully, this struggle has a purpose.

By not running I am reminded of how important it is to my life and to my happiness. It’s not until I don’t run that I remember why I do.

I run because it makes my happy. I run to be strong both physically and mentally. I run to be the person I want my kids to become. I run because it holds my entire life together. Without running, I fall apart.

Ironically, do you know when I figured all this out?

On a run, of course.

The Woodlands Marathon, Race Recap

20140301_065725Saturday, I completed my second marathon. What a race it was! The weather was less than ideal, between 70-80 degrees and 100% humidity. Not exactly perfect racing conditions.

The day didn’t start out quite like I expected. I was supposed to pick up my training partner, Meycy at her house at 5 AM, at 4:55 my eyes shot open and I looked at my watch. I bolted out of bed and didn’t even have time to wonder why the alarm I set didn’t wake me up.

I brewed a pot of coffee, threw on my running clothes (which I had thankfully laid out the night before) and by 5:07, I was sitting in her driveway.

We were parked by 6 AM. Even though we got there an hour early by the time I’d pumped and we’d waited in line for the restroom we barely made it to our corral before the horn went off. It made for a very frantic morning.

The Result

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Official Time – 4:16.33/9:42
A PR BY 20 MINUTES!

Age Group Results: 19/96

Gender Results: 110/513

Total Rank: 393/1230

 

The Race Summary

Miles 1-4, were a planned warm up. Meycy and I stayed together as we bobbed and weaved our way through the crowd. Sometime around mile 4, she stopped to do something to her phone and I lost her. I didn’t see her again until the finish.

Mile 1 – 9:45
Mile 2 – 9:24
Mile 3 – 9:54
Mile 4 – 9:29

After I lost Meycy, I plugged in my headphones and started to focus on the task at hand.

Mile 5 – 9:18
Mile 6 – 9:18

10k Split – 59:40.08

Mile 7 – 9:02
Mile 8 – 9:03
Mile 9 – 9:13
Mile 10 – 9:20
Mile 11 – 8:57
Mile 12 – 9:05
Mile 13 – 9:04

13.1 Split – 2:02.55

The first half of the race was uneventful. By the halfway mark I felt great. My legs were loose and my energy was high. I didn’t realize how hilly The Woodlands is; I swear we climbed a mountain (by Houston standards) at mile 10! I called my husband halfway and told him I was running a relatively easy 9 minute/mile pace and I’d call him back at mile 20.

Mile 14 – 9:04
Mile 15 – 8:58
Mile 16 – 9:30
Mile 17 – 9:16
Mile 18 – 9:05
Mile 19 – 9:33
Mile 20 – 9:47

Around mile 20 I started to feel fatigued. My legs became heavy and my hips were on fire. I called my husband to inform him my pace had slowed and that my legs were starting to give out.

Mile 21 – 9:52

35k Split – 3:24.98

The sun, which had been nicely hidden behind an overcast sky, suddenly came out and we found ourselves without any shade. The temperature went up from a bearable 70 degrees to a scorching 80 degrees in just a matter of minutes.

Mile 22 – 10:39
Mile 23 – 11:01

I felt like I was barely moving. The only sensation coming from my lower body was pain. I had to actually look down at my feet to make sure I was still running. Whatever little energy I had left was being sucked out by the sun.

The other runners were clearly suffering the same fate. The pace of the entire field slowed; almost as many people were walking as running. Over my headphones I could hear heart rate monitor alarms going off as heart rates maxed out. On the side of the road I saw a woman vomit.

I tried to focus on the music in my ears and just stare ahead. I could hear myself audibly groaning as I struggled to put one foot in front of the other.

Mile 24 – 11:43
Mile 25 – 12:10

photo (6)I saw a spectator sign that said, “You’re an inspiration,” and I fought back tears. I tried to remind myself that wasting energy by crying wasn’t going to get me to the finish line any faster. Instead I tried to use those emotions to push myself through. Just use it, I kept telling myself. Just use it.

Mile 26 – 10:26

Going around the last corner a volunteer said, “Just 1/4 mile. You can do it!” At that point I couldn’t hold it back any longer. Tears started flowing like a waterfall. I started hyperventilating trying to hold them back but it was no use.

Another volunteer stood in the middle of the finish chute saying, “Smile! You just finished a marathon!”

I did my best to conjure a smile for the camera as I crossed the finish line and just like that, it was over.

The Aftermath

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I hobbled out of the finish chute and over to the food tent. With a breakfast taco in hand I went over to where I promised Meycy we’d meet up and sat down on the ground and waited.

45 minutes later I saw her limping over toward me. She looked like you’d expect for a woman who’d just finished her first marathon to look, exhausted but elated.

“I hate you,” she said.
I replied, “I know.”

This wasn’t just a marathon. It was an 18 week journey, an adventure.  We spent dozens of hours away from our kids and husbands as we pounded the pavement during a brutally cold winter. We were chased by dogs, almost hit by cars and scared out of our skin by a pair of donkeys on a country road in the total darkness of early morning.

It was awesome.

Two days later, I am still sore and exhausted. I’m not exactly sure where to go from here. I plan on taking a full week off to allow my body to heal and then after that I don’t know. I’d love to qualify for the Houston Marathon and I think now I’m in good enough shape to do that in either the 10k (51 mins) or half distance (1:53). But I haven’t made any concrete plans to try.

What I DO know is that some time around Halloween, you’ll find me in the darkness of early morning, running the streets of my neighborhood preparing, yet again, to do something extraordinary…complete marathon #3.