Meet my newest training buddy.
He’s a baby, just 6 months, so he won’t be ready to run distance for a bit. But I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be a runner!
I realized that I never recapped the Lake Samammish Half Marathon on March 9, or the Tacoma City Half Marathon on May 5th, so for record keeping purposes here’s the gist.
In all honestly running hasn’t felt very good to me since winter 2012, when I was on a half marathon PR roll. Training for my third 13.1 in so many months I got another stress fracture and had to take time off of my feet (which was replaced by the bike and swim). Once I returned to running amidst IM training things just never really felt the same. Running was a struggle, my heart rate was high, and I couldn’t ever get back into the groove and rhythm of it. Running was a fight and I fought hard, but running off the bike is very different than “just” running, so I went with it.
Leading up the NYCM I felt the same slow, heavy, and sluggish feeling: running was difficult! I continued to fight it and I’m sure I would have finished that race with a PR of a few minutes or so, but at that point neither my heart nor body was really in it. And that race was cancelled.
This winter I took a step back and really worked on building my base back up. All of my runs were very low heart rate (on purpose) with a slow and easy pace to try to build back up some of the endurance I’d wrecked fighting my training all fall.
Lake Sammamish Half Marathon – 1:37:38
During the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon it worked. I finished in 1:37:38 on only 3 easy slow runs per week. Back when I hit my 1:35:XX times I was busting my butt running at least 4-5 times per week with tough effort! I was surprised at and happy with my performance at the LSHM. Though it wasn’t a PR, for the type of training I’d been doing it was a good result.
Tacoma City Half Marathon – 1:42:15
The Tacoma City Half Marathon was not as successful; I finished in 1:42:15. Did I go out too fast? Yes. Was it the first hot and sunny day of the year? Yes. Did I have allergies? Yes. But those are all lame excuses. I set out with a heart rate target and though I kept that part right on track my pace was almost 45s/mile slower than it “should have” been. The “should have” being based off of data taken from training.
So that’s the story. Would I run both of them again? Yes. I really enjoyed the LSHM for the small size, easy start, and flat course. I also really enjoyed the TCHM course and the fact that it was a small race, however it was definitely hillier than I expected and I don’t have strong feelings toward it simply because I didn’t have a great day.
This morning I ran to Seward Park and planned to loop the 2.5 mile path a few times to ensure controlled terrain for interval work amidst a 2 hour long run.
I always run the park clockwise. I’m not sure why – I literally have never run it counterclockwise – because it never fails that the majority of traffic is head on. But when I have the kind of workout that lends itself to running a loop over and over and over again that traffic is almost helpful. Seeing other people’s faces helps to remind me to focus on what I’m doing; my brain feels as though they are watching me approach and so I don’t let up.
I tried to make sure I gave every runner a smile and nod today in light of what happened in Boston, and I definitely got more than my fair share back. One older man even sat on a bench cheering every runner that went by, arms waving in the air complete with hollering. He looked as happy as I was to receive cheers every time I gave him the thumbs up and thanked him.
On the start of my third loop a man who I’d now seen three times waved and nodded (for the third time) and as I passed he joked, “How many times are you gonna run around here?” I smiled and facetiously told him this was it for today, and that then I’d be out of his way.
As I finished my final loop, now almost out of the park, I saw him for the fourth time. He was headed back in. As he approached he removed his headphones and told me he was gearing up for one more, and that I had inspired this final lap.
I wish I’d seen him again to tell him that he – along with the cheering man – inspired my miles home.
Running is a solitary sport. Except that it isn’t at all.
Moments like this are why I started this blog in the first place, moments that make you fall in love with how sport brings us together and what it teaches us, all over again.
After I finished the Nike Women’s Half Marathon I wrote:
And – you can quote me on this – I don’t think I’ll ever run a race after working such an intense Expo(tique) again! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I just don’t enjoy toeing the line when I don’t have a fair chance at feeling awesome.
So what did I do?
I spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Sacramento plotting how my colleague and I could get an entry to the California International Marathon Relay.
CIM was one of the handful of events that I offered to work this year. Being that it was after NYCM and I knew that 97.6% of running bloggers – yes, a very calculated and accurate number – would be running the race it seemed like a fun one where training could take a back seat. As the weekend neared I was excited to spectate and cheer on the superb field of elite athletes, and all of my friends running alongside of them. And to drink some good California wine and beer, too.
All week I crammed in double days so that I could be a free spirit in Sacramento. Monday was a 4k swim & 6 mi run. Tuesday was a 30mi bike & weights. Wednesday was a 4k swim & 10mi run. Thursday was an hour of bike intervals and weights before the flight. But as soon as we landed Marathon Fever started taking over, and the forecast of pouring rain, flooding flatlands, and 30 MPH winds only made the thought of running sound more romantic.
To quench my marathon thirst I set out early Friday morning to run long, 12.4 miles before the expo. It was pouring like Seattle rarely sees (in Sacramento nonetheless), whole sheets of water were falling from the sky. By 2 miles in I stopped avoiding puddles because there was really no point. I was so soaked that I couldn’t have possibly gotten any wetter. But it was another step in the right direction and a good reminder of how much I can really love running.
The expo was fun as well. On Friday I got to see friends from Seattle who were in town to run and wish them luck before the big day, and it was the most organized and civilized expo you could imagine. Runners were there to run rather than shop! Imagine that! But everyone was pacing the expo in their Boston, Ironman, and Western States 100 gear, and I really really wanted in on the fun. Casey – my expo partner in crime – made jokes about creating a relay team with the two of us, and the moment he said it running was GAME ON. Saturday was spent hydrating the masses, meeting up with blogger friends from near and far, and gaining our entry. Then Sunday it was time to run!
The legs of the relay were as follows:
I took the last three legs, mostly because at that point the .2 mile difference seemed to matter, with an injured knee Casey couldn’t run more than one leg, and with the weather being exactly according to the forecast it would be miserable to run legs that were separated plus the fact that no transportation was available from one middle point to another.
I headed off on the bus in what felt like the middle of the night and started to question my own sanity. I closed my eyes for a few minutes and before I knew it we were at the exchange point.
More with the torrential downpours. More with the wind. It was some serious weather. But from the moment I actually committed to the race, similar to how I felt at Boise 70.3, it was okay. Getting started was sort of an out of body experience because I had to admit it was happening, but as soon as I put one foot in front of the other, after Casey gave me our chip, the weather could not have mattered less.
I ran and ran and tried to approach the race how I did in Boston. Do my best for THAT DAY and not in comparison to anything else. I high fived kids, thanked volunteers, and mostly thought about how crazy they were all for standing out in that weather…they didn’t even have a marathon to run yet they were still out there braving it for us.
A few times I wondered when the fun would run out. After a long spring/summer/fall of crappy running, the highest mileage week I’d had in weeks (even WITHOUT the marathon) and tapering for NYC into 2 weeks of binge eating and drinking, I knew that ish would hit the fan at some point. I anticipated each exchange knowing that I could quit if I needed to, but at each one I proudly ran past the volunteers ushering me into the exchange chute, “Nope! I’m running the next one too! Thank you!!” It never hit the fan, not at all, and each mile got better and better.
Except for my outfit. My outfit most certainly did NOT get better and better with every mile. Short running shorts combined with a 2 sizes too big top paired with pouring rain left me wearing a blue shirtdress by the end of the race. The poor spectators probably thought I wasn’t wearing any shorts! But at least I didn’t run a whole marathon in a plastic bag like some people (true story, many people finished the whole marathon, even fast people, wearing plastic garbage bags as ponchos). I’ll be sure to share pictures if I ever find them.
When all was said and done we finished our marathon in 3:35:57, in 3rd of 52 for our division, and 70th of 897 overall. Pretty good, dare I say. Pretty good. It almost makes me want to run a real marathon, all on my own, soon. No matter that now I’m sick.
There was a hurricane. And the New York City Marathon was cancelled less than 48 hours before it was slated to begin.
We arrived in NYC last Friday, went straight to the expo, and as soon as I made it through the line for my shirt, bib, and chip it became very apparent that the marathon was not going to happen. Though hardly a person in the Convention Center actually knew at the time, ABC, NBC, and MSNBC were reporting that Mayor Bloomberg had just announced that the marathon would no longer be held due to becoming a divisive hotbed of a topic in a city that needed nothing more than to be unified for recovery.
I saw some tweets, received a phone call that confirmed the rumor, and seconds later received texts from many west coast friends extending hugs and consolations. Dammit. In a fog, we stayed at the expo for a little while watching all of the innocent knowledge-less runners shop in an amped up state that only a pending marathon can induce. As we left it became apparent that news had truly broken. People were gathered around lobby tv’s with banners – NEW YORK CITY MARATHON CANCELLED – scrolling along the bottom. The scene was dream-like. Everyone was quiet and stood there without words. We all exchanged glances and were instant friends; we were going to go through this together, as runners. One man cried. Another who we talked to was positive but quite disappointed; he was going to propose to his soon-to-be-fiance at the finish line.
We left, went to the hotel, and decided we’d salvage a good vacation out of the weekend.
Was I upset? Yes. Disappointed? Immensely.
But the truth was, in the end, I only felt partially emotional about running that marathon to begin with. I had registered as a product of qualification, but after a long dramatic season full of changed plans and injury, when it came time to ramp up my mileage I was too emotionally spent to pour my heart into training like it deserved. Or like I deserved. I checked every box and made every day count, but I wasn’t waking up or going to sleep excited and I didn’t like myself very much for feeling that way. In the two weeks leading up to the race I had started to get more excited about the raw experience of running the five boroughs of screaming crazy spectators. I was anxious to see the sights. I anticipated feeling the hurt and looked forward to it, and I hoped it would inspire me. But my excitement and anticipation was nothing in comparison to the people who trained all year – or for the last four – for this one single day. So I felt sad, but I felt exponentially more sad for them.
If this had happened to Ironman Canada I would have been inconsolable. I would have been absolutely and completely wrecked. For me a marathon was a fun way to close out a season, but to most other runners it meant so much more than that. My first marathon wasn’t that long ago and I remember the meticulous effort, planning, and emotional investment. Six days later I still feel a loss for those runners much more than I do for myself.
On Marathon morning we walked to Central Park, mostly because I wanted to see it in its beautiful autumn state, but also because we had heard rumors about a newly organized run happening on the outer loop. When we arrived it was quite a sight to see. There were groups cheering lining the entire south end of the loop, makeshift water stations set up by caring individuals, and a few thousand runners were participating in a newly formed marathon. Many of the runners were proudly wearing their NYCM bibs. People were running for their country, their charity, Sandy victims, and because they trained for this damn thing and wanted to finish what they started. It was an overwhelming show of the human spirit.
Standing there watching I didn’t want to leave. I regretted not treating Saturday like Marathon Eve to wake up early and participate in this 8am marathon. Part of me even thought about heading back to the hotel to change so that I could run an afternoon 26.2 with the runners who were still “on course”. A significant part of me still wishes I had done any of those things. But I didn’t for many reasons and starting my offseason then and there on Friday at 5pm in NYC was the right thing to do for my body. For my heart? I’m not sure yet.
The Nike Women’s Marathon is a dream for every female runner. A luxury expo experience with facials, makeovers, and fashion shows. A sports bra exchange on course. No medal, but a Tiffany necklace instead. Tuxedoed Fireman at the finish line. So, from the moment we found out Nuun would be the official hydration sponsor I was hoping to run this legendary race.
Yes, this was before Ironman Canada, before the bike crash, and before Lake Stevens 70.3. It was definitely before my hip started hurting from marathon training. And it was also before I came down with a terrible cold the weekend prior.
So – back to the summer when we received the awesome news – I registered with my colleagues that would also be working the expo Weds, Thurs, Fri, and Sat leading up to race day.
To say the week leading up was busy would be an understatement in a massive way. I already mentioned the sick, but I arrived Wednesday morning (my birthday) after waking up at 3:45 to get in a swim session, to set up the booth from about 9:45am – 6pm. The booth looked amazing, as you can see, but man was I tired! Thursday I woke up early to swim and run, and then worked from noon – 6pm. Friday I ran and worked from 10am – 4pm and then went to some awesome sponsor events where I stayed up about 4 hours past my bedtime and drank
one two three drinks too many. And Saturday I “rested” by working from 8am – 8pm including teardown. Working meant giving 25,000 runners – plus a few drifters who happened their way into the booth – Nuun 101, teaching them about hydration, and wishing them an awesome race. It’s not like I was laying concrete for 4 days, but after being on my feet for that long my heels were sore, my legs were tired, and my brain was toast.
When I woke up on Sunday morning it was really challenging to get excited about running 13.1 miles with hoards of enthusiastic runners.
Nike Women’s Half Marathon – 1:47:34
As you can see this was not my best race. But that was never the plan, so onward and upward!
The course started at Union Square, spit us out on Embarcadero where we ran along the water, through Fort Mason, through the Presidio, then a loop through Golden Gate Park, then we finished on the Great Highway.
This was the hilliest run I’ve ever done, and though the uphill sections were long and brutal it was the steep short downhills that really killed me! Not even my quads or knees, but my feet. By mile 6 I knew that this had happened, but I just couldn’t stop to take a look. If I stopped I wasn’t sure if I’d start running again and I really didn’t want to be stranded in the middle of the park. Though I did hear that people saw buffalos in those parks! So I continued to run through it. An aside: feeling the skin on the bottom of your foot move with each stride is puketastic.
Beware. Gross runner foot photo below.
By the time I got to the finish I was DONE running. D.O.N.E. My foot was absolutely killing me, and though the course was beautiful and the spectators were fun my heart just wasn’t in this one. I wanted food. I wanted to sit down. I wanted sleep. I wanted warm and dry clothes.
So I got my necklace, entered the VIP tent where we received the best post-race greeting imaginable (hot delicious breakfast and bottomless mimosas), and celebrated with colleagues and friends. The fish and chips and beer that we continued our day with a couple of hours later didn’t hurt either. And neither did the 10 hours of sleep I got that night.
Would I recommend NWM to others? Definitely. But I wouldn’t recommend it after working the Expotique.
And – you can quote me on this – I don’t think I’ll ever run a race after working such an intense Expo(tique) again! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I just don’t enjoy toeing the line when I don’t have a fair chance at feeling awesome.
I can’t promise that Ironman posts are over. Especially because I’m racing another one next summer, and even more so because something that you’ve dedicated nearly every spare moment to for an entire year doesn’t disappear off the radar just because a date ticked by. Before I had even devoted 6 months of training toward IMC I knew I’d have a hard time letting go of what happened in Penticton once finished. I knew I’d need something immediate to keep me going. I knew that a fall full of “recovery” would be bad for the psyche and worse for the heart.
So when I toed the line at the Lake Samish Half last January and another runner told me our NYC qualifying time was something like 1:36:00 I went for it. Though I didn’t have a stellar day I came in under the mark. And all of this is exactly why I registered to run the NYC marathon as a guaranteed entry the very next day. So now let’s talk about that.
So now we’re at about 6 weeks until the ING New York Marathon. For the record, that’s about 6 weeks less than what I’d like to see on the calendar. Though I just “ran” a marathon I now understand how different an Ironman “marathon” is from a normal one; running 26.2 after biking 112 and swimming 2.4 is about guts, heart, and strength. Running 26.2 alone is about fitness, and then heart.
My running fitness isn’t where I want it to be right now, which is frustrating. I have the endurance in my body but not the speed in my legs or capacity in my lungs, which is even tougher for me to accept. But I’m still really excited to run a marathon. The process of The Marathon is what introduced me and then got me hooked to the world of endurance sports, and not surprisingly I could go on and on and on about how grateful, happy, and excited I am to be part of that community. I credit the sport and community with reminding me of who I am and who I want to be, with how I’ve met inspiring and amazing friends, and with how I found a job that’s not work. I worked really freaking hard to make these things happen, but the universe delivered, and saying that I’m thrilled to be here would be a massive understatement.
So back to the marathon, I haven’t run one since April 2011, which was easily 100x more painful than IMC. But I’m excited to be a runner in a sea of many in New York. I’ll go back to Boston one day for certain, and uninjured. But I don’t know that I’ll go back to run NY more than once with the new standards and lottery! So I plan to soak it up and have fun, and if I have even half the fun I did in Penticton it will be a success.
First off, thanks to this girl who made it possible for me to run! I hoped to make her a little more proud with my finishing time, but hopefully my race doesn’t tarnish your race results too much.
It was a last-minute decision to run this race. After Boise things seemed anti-climactic so I wanted something fun to look forward to. At the same time my foot felt really amazing post-Boise – as did my legs – so I was ready physically and mentally to start ramping up the mileage and focusing on running as a sport rather than a filler.
4 weeks before the race my highest mileage week was about 15 miles, if that.
3 weeks before the race was the Boise 26.3.
2 weeks before the race I ran (well) at track, ran an 8 miler, ran a 9 miler, and ran a 4 miler.
1 week before the race my foot started hurting.
Half Marathon // 13.1 mi // 1:41:07
I’m not proud of my time, but the race was good for a few things:
Luckily my foot is starting to feel better. I’m thinking it was extremely tight calves causing an altered foot strike (and more pressure on the healed fracture) that was causing pain. Two days with a trigger point roller and I’m nearly good as new.
Taking time away from the sport weakens your mind and body no matter how you spin it, and no matter how fit you remain – or get during cross training (DUH! Cuz we all love cross training!)– resuming running is hard work.
It’s hard physically for obvious reasons. Even if your injury is healed your muscles aren’t as tough as they were. Neither are your joints, so though they’re fine they scream about the impact while conforming to the fact that YOU.WILL.RUN. Your heart rate will soar to new heights even if the work doesn’t feel that hard. Every muscle, right up to your teeth, will feel tired post run.
Your mind will think that everything is unreasonable. However fast you were 2 months ago? Yeah, impossibly ridiculously fast. When you do eventually try to run at that pace you once were your mind will tell your legs GO-OMFG-BALLS-TO-THE-WALL-FAST-GO-DYING-HURRY-HURRY-FASTER. You’ll test it by riding a more comfortable (pace) line, which will be discouraging because you probably won’t hold on long enough to build back the confidence you need to do it right.
Every time I get injured I learn something new about the sport of running. This time it’s that fitness is vital, but your mind is what will make or break your return to running. In the running moment the challenge feels 100% physical while you sweat, pant, and burn. But it’s only a physical challenge for a short time. Your body adjusts to that pain once your mind forces it to (gradually, within reason).
Every single time you can just hold on that next run is an improvement. Re-proving and reminding yourself that you have it in you is just as important as keeping your legs strong and heart healthy. In reality a large amount of focus, some pushing through it, and forcing yourself to ride that line of barely holding on will do it. And you’ll be well on your way back to where you were.
Self, please remember this. That’s all.
Saturday officially marked two weeks until this.
I’m excited because I haven’t raced in a while and look forward to the day. I’m nervous for countless reasons, but mostly also because I haven’t raced in a while…plus the conditions will be a crapshoot and I haven’t gotten in open water as much as I’d (psychologically) like. I’m anxious because I feel like this whole thing crept up on me so quickly. I’m confident because I know I’ve been working hard and even through injury I haven’t put up with excuses from myself. I’m worried because I feel like there’s still a possibility that I won’t do the best that I know I can do, for many reasons (including the ice cream I just ate! :-/).
Because I’m racing in two weekends this one wasn’t too stacked in terms of training. It wasn’t easy but it didn’t feel overwhelmingly stacked.
So the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens:
In Between: On Saturday I had an 80 mile ride with 3x 18min intervals with HR @ 160. I don’t have a Lap HR set up on my watch, and failed pretty miserably at keeping my HR avg at 160. I wasn’t dying, and it’s not that I couldn’t, but I just didn’t see the average ticking low on my watch (155ish). That said I was pretty happy with the ride otherwise. I’ve never ridden that far, I rode at a good clip, and I felt stronger at the end (and for the rest of the day) than I did during the 75miler.
High: I got a (very small) chance to repay the Husband for all of his sherpaing but being his 5k sherpa. And even better, he got 4th OA, 1st AG, and came in sub 20! For someone who only recently starting running again this is hugely impressive.
In Between: I enjoyed an amazing array of delicious food and drink this weekend. It was awesome, but I feel guilty.
Low: On Sunday I was supposed to swim a 45 min OWS in the lake. As a prep for Boise I had really psyched myself up to swim straight without stopping to enjoy the scenery, and to really focus on what was working to keep my form good and pace steady as I’ve been known to freak out in the water. Well, when I arrived the lake looked rough, and as I wetsuited-up it just go rougher and the swimmers who had all headed in. This turned into an In Between, because I forced myself to swim through it and adapt and though I didn’t make the gains I was originally looking for I left the water feeling able to tough the chop out.
Low: This morning I was supposed to bike hard for 40mi and run for 60min. I drove all the way to a loop with hardly any lights and by the time I arrived it was raining and soggy. By the time I got home it was sunny, but I didn’t have time to drive back and there aren’t any places to bike nearby that don’t have 800 stop lights (not conducive to keeping HR up). So I had to tough it out on the trainer but I wasn’t really sure how mileage/time translates. I rode 46 mi in 1:45 and I have no idea of that’s even remotely comparable to the original plan.
High: I ran! Off the bike! For real! A real run! My 60 minute run was supposed to be at max 8min/mi pace, and I averaged 7:47 ‘s. So. Freaking. Happy. About. That. It was tough, but I went in thinking it would be really tough and turned the run into a mind game right off the bat to pick a pace and lock it. The pacing I went with was hard by mile 6, but not impossible. And I didn’t feel the need to die at the end.
In Between: To bikes who want to pass me: Please do so as I am not the speediest out there. However, please don’t pass me, then slow down so that I have pass you, then expect me to want to ride with you. I probably don’t especially if you pull that kind of asshat move.
High (for entertainment): On Saturday’s ride I made a quick pit stop to refill my bottles in a sort of sketchy park. Not unsafe in daylight, but it holds some questionable inhabitants. During my fill up a minivan full of said inhabitants wanted to know how much my bike cost. Not wanting to tell them I skirted the topic. They told me their guess was $1k as though that was TOTALLY INSANE. I wish buddy.
High: I had a few moments during the weekend where I really felt like my hard work was coming together. Even though things weren’t perfect I felt like I’m almost there, a pretty infrequent feeling for me.
Low: I subsequently had a breakdown, with tears, over training-related frustrations with myself. It’s amazing how quickly the mind can switch from “I got this!” to “I suck, big time,” for no good reason. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I won’t accept excuses from myself, as well as in how hard I work. But no matter my dedication or work ethic, I will never be able to control the rain, the wind, or other people. Such is frustrating, such is life.
High: I felt better after I cried for a minute. It’s been a long while.