Marathon Training

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.

Ten Marathon Truths

  1. 20140301_183627 (1)You don’t truly appreciate how far 26 miles is until you get to mile 16…and then realize you still have to run TEN. MORE. MILES.
  2. Papercuts have nothing on achey toenails as one of the worst kinds of pain.
  3. Miles 20-26 will always be, in that moment, the most painful experience of your life.
  4. Those last 385 yards are evil – but not as evil as that set of stairs in your house.
  5. You know exactly what people are doing when they duck into the woods at mile 5 and you don’t care. At mile 6 you consider doing the same thing.
  6. Compression socks are worth their weight in gold.
  7. There’s never been a better excuse to eat a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between two honey buns.
  8. You read about a man who completed a marathon dressed as a bottle of beer and you immediately question his sanity. You then vow to do more speed training when you realize he still finished faster than you.
  9. The post-marathon shower in a trailer is better than any you could take in a 5-star spa.
  10. Marathons are hard. That’s good because if they were easy you wouldn’t get to listen to everyone tell you how crazy you are.

THE END.

The Woodlands Marathon

This marathon training cycle has been challenging, to say the least.

It started off badly because I didn’t take a break after the Houston Half. I really wanted to squeeze in 18 weeks of training before the Woodlands and that required starting my marathon training literally the day after setting a PR in the Houston Half. My body and soul both needed a little bit of a break but instead I chose to press on.

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Things were going well up until the middle of December when I went on a 17-miler with my running buddy. It was a great run. It had frosted the night before and the grass was coated in white. We chatted, discovered a new route and I took a picture of a longhorn. When I got home I noticed a slight pain in the arch of my right foot and the next morning I could barely walk. It all started going downhill from there.

The foot injury took forever to heal, a full six weeks of painful on and off running. Every time I thought it was getting better I’d go on a test run only to have it flare up again. I have suspicions that it was my shoes. I bought new shoes during the middle of all this and it wasn’t until then that things started feeling better. I guess that’s a big lesson learned – always do long runs in fresh shoes.

On top of the foot injury I also missed several long runs due to illness (mine & the kids’). I was beginning to question my ability to properly train for the race and found myself wondering if I should defer. 

But dangit! I didn’t want to defer. I waited TWO YEARS to run another marathon and it’s finally here. I wasn’t ready to give up and somehow my determination won. I clocked a 20 mile run and then a 22 mile run two weeks later with a weekly mileage peak of 55 miles. I think I’m ready.

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Ready or not, marathon day is quickly approaching. I have started seeing updates from the race organizers with maps, directions, FAQs and signs about road closures. I know my bib number. Things are getting real.

I am slightly worried about my foot. I went on an 8-mile run on Sunday and felt that nagging pain return so I am spending the rest of the week resting and trying to mentally prepare myself for the challenge ahead.

I feel like I’m in better shape than I was for my last marathon. I have paid much more attention to pacing and despite the injury I managed to surpass my highest weekly mileage to date. I think I can run a 4:15. Faster than 4:15, there be dragons and I’m scared of dragons. The most important thing is that I have fun – this is, after all, a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun.

I can’t wait to share with you how it goes! See ya on the flip side!

 

Got the Love

imageYears ago, when I was in high school running cross country there was a Nike commercial that featured the tag line, “Got the love.”
I didn’t get it at the time, I didn’t understand what it meant but my parents did and they referenced it often when they were trying to push me to do something great.

It wasn’t until I was training for my first marathon that I really got it.

Got the love means working hard, pushing your body through pain and your mind through torment to achieve something you didn’t think possible. It means total dedication both in mind and body. It means doing things that other people would find crazy and still wanting more. “Got the love,” is a wonderful three word phrase that perfectly describes how I feel about running most of the time.

Lately though, I’ve struggled. After some tough training for the Houston Half and now six weeks into training for my second marathon I’m battling some burn out. My runs haven’t been fun in a while, they’re a chore. Every. Single. One.

Just getting out the door takes every bit of will power I have. Each run is completed because I have to not because I want to. For me running is fun and this hasn’t been fun in a over a month.

I thought I could power through it. Just suck it up, put on my big girl panties and deal with it. I tried for six weeks to push though it and finally decided that I really just needed a break.

So, somewhat reluctantly, I decided to take all of this past week off. My schedule was going to be messed up anyway because of the holiday and our camping trip (post coming soon!) so it was the perfect time to take a little running break.

I didn’t run at all. Not one step. Was it hard? No. Not at all, a sure sign that it was a much needed break. I had an extra hour every day to do other stuff – prepare for our camping trip, cook food for Thanksgiving and play with my kids. It was great!

Yesterday, a full seven days after my last run, I was actually happy to put on my shoes and go for my morning run, six miles on a gloriously warm December morning. Unlike all my runs recently, I actually enjoyed it. The sun was out, the wind was brisk and the air was fresh. I took it slow since I hadn’t run in a week and even enjoyed some conversation with my overly chatty passenger. We stopped at the playground on my route and Evie got to enjoy some running time of her own.

I do feel like I lost a little bit of fitness during my week off but whatever I lost physically I made up for mentally. 

We talk a lot about physical injury in the running community. We talk about shin splints, runners knee, IT band syndrome and plantar faciitis but we rarely talk about mental injury and that’s what I think this was. So much of running is about attitude, confidence and determination, the love. You need a strong mind to build a strong body.

I don’t feel that my mind is completely healed but after a week off I’m in a much better place than I was. Now it’s back to marathon training!

Only Shootin’ Stars Break the Mold

Occasionally, you do something in running, or in life, where you challenge your own perceptions of what you think you can do.

My little story begins Sunday morning at 5 AM. I woke up to prepare for my long run, a scheduled 14 miles.

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Through the window of our bedroom I saw intermittent flashes of light so I rolled out of bed and checked the weather. A fairly heavy thunderstorm was brewing but thankfully it was in another county. I started my pre-long run routine. I fed the baby, pumped, drank a cup of coffee, ate a banana and got dressed. I got in the car and drove a bottle of water out to my turnaround point. Once back home I parked the car and walked down the driveway toward the street to begin my run.

I was just about to push the start button on my Garmin when…

*flash* BOOM!

Eeeeeek! I scurried up the driveway to the covered area of our patio and realized that my run was officially cancelled. Bummer.

This left me with quite the dilemma. I really wanted to get this 14-miler done before the half. It was my last long run before the taper and I didn’t want to miss it. I could always do it on Monday but I had the kids with me. How could I run 14 miles with the kids? The furthest I had ever pushed the double stroller was 6 miles, there was no way I could push them the entire 14.

I finally decided to split it up and do two 7 mile runs – one in the morning and one in the evening.

Monday, I left for my morning run with an open mind, so open in fact that I threw a packet of Gu in the double jogger…just in case.  A mile into my run I felt great! I began to think about attempting the unthinkable, pushing the kids the full 14 miles. Just about then Smash Mouth came on my playlist and All Star came blaring through the speaker of my phone.

Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb

So much to do so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the back streets?

I started thinking a little harder and evaluating the day. The weather was warm but not too humid. A slight breeze came in from the coast. It was overcast which means I didn’t have to worry about the sun zapping my energy. Both the kids slept well the night before and the baby had a great feeding before we left. I had rested legs and a positive attitude.

You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow

I slowed my pace and allowed my heart rate to settle around 150. If I completely ignored my pace and just focused on maintaining my heart rate I could do this. I COULD DO IT.

Hey now you’re an All Star get your game on, go play
Hey now you’re a Rock Star get the show on, get paid

So that’s what I did. At mile 3, I committed. I made a left turn to get on my long run route….and I took this picture.

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The baby slept most of the time and Evie just watched the scenery pass. At mile 4, I got a text message from my running partner asking if I’d run yet. I told her what I was doing.

She told me I was nuts.

At mile 6, I took the Gu and drank some water.

At mile 9, my running partner met up with me and she ran with me the rest of the way.

Sometime during mile 11, Evie started to fuss so I surrendered my phone for her to play with. She proceeded to take 15 pictures of our run…and three videos of her legs.

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A half mile from home the baby started crying but I didn’t care. I was sweaty, exhausted and had blisters between my fingers but I did it. I challenged my own perception of what I was capable of doing and I learned that you never know what you can do until you try.

All that glitters is gold…
Only shootin’ stars break the mold.

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Rocks on a Fencepost

I realize this is the second time in only a few months that I’ve completely redone my blog. I apologize if this confuses or annoys you but I’ve got a good reason.

When I was brainstorming for the relaunch of my blog back in February and March I was looking for something catchy and cute. “A Buck’s Life” is what I finally came up with. Though it is indeed catchy and easy to remember, it doesn’t reflect my personality or my life. I needed something better, something with more meaning.

After some great feedback from my family and friends regarding the Rocky Road post I realized the rocks were the special and unique. They represented a great accomplishment (completing my first marathon) and more importantly were uniquely me.

The rocks are a great analogy for this blog.  Just as each rock represents a small part of a long training run, each blog entry represents a very small piece of my life. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how true this analogy is and how appropriate of a name “Rocks on a Fencepost” is for my blog.

Yes, my blog is about running but that’s only one rock. It’s about being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a cook, a nature lover and an organizational freak. Most importantly, this blog is about trying to fit all those rocks onto one fencepost while still maintaining my sanity…which brings me back to running.

Everything always goes back to running.