Thursday, December 30, 2010

We're Gonna Party Like It's.....9:00 pm and we're going to bed!

When you train for a marathon, you spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts as you log the necessary miles. When you train for both a half AND a full marathon together, you have a ridiculous amount of time to yourself. As I start my taper week for the Goofy Challenge, I have had a lot of time to reflect over the past year.

I am also a cheese ball and I always take some time at the end of the year to look back through my calendar (Not only have I been old school with using a regular watch for my training, but I still use a paper calendar that I carry around in my purse.). Looking back at all of the wonderful experiences I've had over the past year, I am so thankful for all that I have. After having a rough time a few years ago, it is as if things just keep getting better. I also think that because I've been through challenges, it makes me appreciate what I have now even more.

2010 in review

  • Walked/Ran/Swam/Biked approximately 1,000 miles (Wow! I didn't even realize it had creeped up that far!)
  • Attended 17 recruitment meetings for Team in Training
  • Coached nearly 50 athletes for 7 marathons/half marathons
  • Four personal records (PR):
    1. Completed my 1st Olympic triathlon (It's PR if it's the first time you've done it, right??)
    Completed my 4th half marathon
    3. Walked a 5K with The Pilot
    4. Ran (non-stop) my 1st 4 mile race
  • Reached $12,000 in my fundraising efforts for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Followed the Jenkins Family as they lost their son to leukemia
  • Cheered on Brooklyn Meddles as she fights leukemia for the second time this year
    These are just two of the many reasons that I volunteer and raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
  • Lost my aunt but through that loss, it brought our family together again
  • Traveled more than ever (Hartford, CT, 2 trips to Chicago, 2 trips to Orlando, DC, Virginia, San Francisco, plus some random road trips in there)
  • "Relayed" at Relay for Life for 18 hours straight
  • Started this blog! (And thankful that I did. Now I have a place to vent my frustrations and fears but also a place share my experiences with friends and family that are far away and with new bloggy friends. If I inspire just one person to move more-especially the non-athletic one-then that is an added bonus!)
  • Was "acknowledged" in a book by a wonderful friend. (You should all buy it!)
  • Went on a first date to a Greek restaurant and nothing was the same after that...
  • Met The Pilot and got a new "roomie"
  • It's been a year of celebrating with friends: the start of the 30th birthdays of my besties, new jobs, marriages, pregnancies, babies and, of course, racing/training victories
  • Countless hours spent enjoying my amazing family

It's been an amazing year and I'm looking forward to all that 2011 has to bring. I've never been into big New Years celebrations or resolutions. The Pilot won't be home until probably 8:30 pm so we may just have a quiet evening together...if we even make it to midnight before falling asleep! As for resolutions, I won't be making any this year (haven't made any in a couple years actually). Sure, I have lots of goals for the year and I always strive to "do better" but I don't see the need to make actual resolutions. Obviously the first goal is to survive the 2011 Goofy Challenge next weekend and get that Goofy medal that I've had my eye on for several years now!

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that 2011 brings wonderful experiences to you all!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It was a Christmas Miracle!

My official Christmas vacation started with a training walk. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I met up with some other Disney peeps. Lisa and Mary are training for the full and Kelly is training for the half...and all were tapering while I was out for "the big one." My training got a little out of whack because I got so sick a few weeks ago but I was going into the holiday weekend with the determination to finish all 30 miles of training. I wanted to get in 10 miles on Friday and 20 miles on Sunday (I wanted (??) to get 20 miles in on Christmas Day but decided my family really should come before training.) Even though it was cold and the path was pretty icy, it was hard to not enjoy the morning with such lovely ladies as these:
They are all runners and I wanted to chat with them about race weekend so I sucked it up and ran the first 2 miles with them. I didn't have any knee pain but it felt like my lungs were about to explode. They humored me and when it was "my turn" to talk, they slowed down a little so that we wouldn't have a medical emergency in the middle of nowhere when my lungs exploded from trying to run and talk at the same time. I didn't want to push it so I dropped off when Lisa's Garmin gave us the heads up that we were at 2 miles. Luckily we were on an out and back so I got to see them again in a mile and a half. I didn't see Kelly again as I think she stopped at 7 miles but Lisa and Mary kept going so I got to see them once again. They walked with me for a few minutes before I turned around and then I ran with them for a few minutes. I was feeling really great so I had gone out further so that when I returned to the car, I would have about 11 miles. As I got closer to the parking lot, Lisa had come back out for me. I was still feeling great and she was up for it so we walked another mile together so that I had an even 12 miles. I think 12 miles is just what I needed to get some of my confidence back after being sick and falling behind in training.

I had a wonderful Christmas with my family. I won't lie, I was a little sad that The Pilot had to work Thursday through Sunday but we survived. He was abused by cranky holiday travelers but got to enjoy Chinese food on Christmas Day with the rest of his crew while my family took inappropriate pictures.... Ever heard of Flat Daddy? After some friends brought their "Flat Son" to a wedding a few years ago, I decided to run with it since The Pilot would be away over Christmas and so, Flat Pilot was born. He isn't in the military but he was still away for the holidays and I thought we could have some fun with it, which we did. It's a good thing he has a good sense of humor because my mom placed the bacon wrapped fillets in front of The Vegetarian Pilot...
My birthday is coming up soon...the day before the Goofy Challenge starts! It was pretty strange to get my race information to see "age on race day: 30." That pushes me into the next age group! Anyways, since I won't be in town for my birthday, my parents decided to go ahead and give me my birthday present. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the Garmin Forerunner 110! I've been old school since 2004 when I started marathon training, using a Timex Ironman watch and the trail maps to determine pace and mileage. Welcome to the 21st century, Amber! While it's a lot bigger than my Timex, the Garmin will tell me EXACTLY how far I have gone and my live pace! It will even tell me how many calories I burn. Just when I thought I couldn't get any more obsessive about my training....

After eating lots of yummy food on Christmas (including mass consumption of the Buckeyes that my mom and I hand-rolled a couple weeks ago) and after configuring the Garmin (I did NOT lie about my weight like I do on my drivers' license), I headed to bed early to prepare for my 20 miler.

It was another cold one and there were flurries as I headed back out to the trail. This time, a Team in Training alum, Niki, met me for the first five miles. I would post her picture but by the time we got back, both of our cell phone batteries had died because it was so cold (my phone was fully charged when I started!). We enjoyed a quiet 5 miles talking about our Christmas activities. I think she thoroughly enjoyed the quiet time since she has three kids under the age of 4. It's probably NEVER quiet at her house.

As Niki and I wrapped up 5 miles, Lisa and her dog, Blu, came out to join me for the next 4 miles. I enjoyed chatting with Lisa (now that my lungs weren't about to explode) and to watch Blu dog enjoy the snow and new sights and smells. It's fun to look at things from the perspective of a dog...or even a small child for that matter. I suspect that their view on life is very similar..."Oooh! Shiny! What's what? This looks interesting, I need to touch it and smell it. I like being outside. I love the snow. I want to roll around on the ground. Uh oh! I have to go to the bathroom...right NOW!"

After 4 miles, Lisa gave me a pep talk, made sure I had enough water and sent me on my way. It was wonderful to have 9 miles out of the way already. It goes a lot faster when you are chatting away. with friends...though I quickly realized that I should have lined people up to walk the last 9 miles with me instead of the first 9 miles!

It was a very slow day. While the path had been plowed, it hasn't been above freezing in several days so the lingering snow had turned to ice, making the path very slippery. I had to take shorter strides than normal and tread lightly so that I could keep my balance. While I was loving the freedom that the Garmin gave me (knowing when to turn around and not having to do any mental math!), it was a constant reminder that not only was I not going race pace but I was going slower than the Disney time limit! I've done several races under the Disney pace requirements but I've never done a half and a full back to back, so it is a legitimate concern....especially after I read this in the "final race instructions" e-mail I received:

After crossing the finish line on Sunday (full marathon) and receiving your marathon medal, please check in at the Goofy tent. You will receive your Goofy medal after we verify that you completed the Half Marathon and the marathon in the allotted times.

I feel nauseous. I might go postal on someone if I survive both races only to find out that I didn't meet the time requirements. I'm trying to tell myself that I was slow only because of the ice and snow. I know that I can finish both races within the time limits. I've done it before. I'll also be taking steps to make sure I stay within the requirements. I have an action plan for any pit stops that might be needed (the benefit of this being my 7th year going down for Disney Marathon weekend is that I know where all of the port-a-potties are and which are the closest to the road and should have little or no line). I will have pace charts with me on both days so I can be absolutely sure that I'm well within the pace requirements. I also have a new tool that I can pull out if needed. I now know that I can RUN if absolutely needed. I've never been much of a runner before this year but after the triathlon training earlier this year, I've still been incorporating running into my training. My run pace is pretty darn slow but it's faster than my race walk pace. Disney also has a warning system for the pacing requirements:

Pace cyclists will be on the course indicating when runners are behind pace by waving orange flags at mile markers according to the official pace time. If you reach a mile marker with an orange flag waving, please note you are behind the required pace and can be picked up at any time.

You can bet that I'll be running as fast as my Goofy legs can take me if I catch sight of one of those orange flags. I may also beat one of those pace cyclists with their orange flag if they try to pick me up....but that wouldn't be very magical so I'll just do my best to make sure that doesn't happen.

Back to my 20 miler....I was still trudging along. I tried to stick to my fuel plan with my Shot Blocs starting at mile 5 and then about every 2 miles after that. Not only is this Goofy race a new challenge and I'm trying to finish within the allotted time, but I'm also taking measures to try to avoid hitting the wall during the full marathon between miles 19 and 23 like I have in the past. Hopefully by more diligently sticking with my fuel plan (and getting in my 12 and 20 milers over the weekend!) will help avoid the evil place that I get to that makes me doubt why I do this to myself.

I was feeling pretty good all the way to mile 15 but that's really when the mental fatigue hit me. I was bored out of my mind! My cell phone was dead from the cold so I couldn't even text anyone for some inspiration. I had only one more trick up my sleeve (or in my Fuel Belt) and that was my iPod. Luckily that battery was still working. I put it on shuffle and kept going. The last 4 miles got pretty ugly as the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. It also started snowing again. I felt like having a hissy fit but that's not really an option when you are still 4 miles from the car.

My TNT friends, the Garmin, the iPod and my determined legs got me back to my car after 20 long miles. I was exhausted by my body still had a little left in me so that was reassuring. Let's hope there are still 6.2 miles more in it on January 9!

I surprisingly felt decent on Monday. Usually the day after a hard, long workout is the most painful but I recovered pretty quickly. My toes were sore from trying to grip and keep my balance on the ice and snow and I have a small spot on the back of my right ankle that's a little raw. That concerns me a little and has me second guessing my decision to switch to the narrow shoe...any thoughts on that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It Looks Like a Frickin' Christmas Card Out Here!

So I jumped back on the treadmill last week. It was a short, 30-minute walk but it was uneventful. No coughing, wheezing or shin splints. That gave me a little extra confidence to tackle some higher miles over the weekend.

On Saturday, The Pilot and I headed out to the trail. I was planning on 8 miles and I didn't think it was a good idea for him to go all 8 miles with me (he's not the one training for a race afterall!) so we drove separate cars. We headed out and realized that the trail hadn't been plowed after the second round of snow so there was about an inch of snow on the trail...for the first mile. After that there was a 2 mile section of path that hadn't been plowed at all. It was a little tricky trying to stay in a good race walk form while trudging through 2-3 inches of snow and ice. But I have to admit, it really was beautiful out on the trail...which prompted my "It looks like a frickin' Christmas card out here" comment. There were even cardinals flying around, seemingly on cue...but they would fly away every time The Pilot tried to take their picture. They must have been shy cardinals.
The Pilot was still good once we got to the 3 mile marker so he agreed to go out to the 4 mile marker and do all 8 miles with me. I know that he doesn't like me wandering around out there by myself and who am I to turn down someone to keep me company during the long miles?! It was pretty slow going (well below race pace) but it was my first outdoor workout since recovering from the World's Longest Cold in the History of Modern Medicine so I really just wanted to get through the whole workout.

I had a little pick up in the last 2 miles because I was trying to make it home before the Ironman World Championships was going to be on TV (that I had forgot to DVR before leaving the house). I love watching Ironman on TV even though it makes me feel like a slacker sometimes. I whine about not being able to get all of my training in or my gimpy knee or my cold, but there are people doing Ironman that have NO LEGS. It certainly puts things into perspective, that's for sure!

So glad that The Pilot is always up to walk with me when he's in town.
It would have been a very quiet and lonely 8 miles without him!

Sunday was a coaching day and I was so excited to see the Team! I had missed 2 practices and some other Team functions due to being sick so I was going through TNT withdrawal! I was scheduled for 16 miles but there just wasn't enough time. The Pilot and I were spending the afternoon with my brother's kiddos so I had to cut the workout short to go pick them up. I went out early (before the Team arrived) to get in 2 miles (and to check the road conditions). It was crazy cold out and my eyelashes kept sticking together. Once I met the Team, we did 3 miles together and then I headed back out. The wonderful Lisa D. joined me for nearly 2 miles (she's training for the Disney marathon!) and then I did another 2 miles on my own. I felt OK knowing that I did more miles Sunday than I did the day before but I still worry that it's not enough.

After 8 miles on Saturday, 10 miles on Sunday and then chasing my niece and nephew around on Sunday afternoon, I was tired by Monday! Luckily I had the day off and could lounge around with The Pilot all day. I was also surprisingly sore. Normally 8 and 10 milers wouldn't make me sore but walking in snow/ice is definitely more challenging.

So now it is the week of Christmas and I'm trying to figure out my game plan for the weekend. It's the big one for training...10 AND 20 miles. It's annoying that I have such high miles over the holiday weekend. Especially since I'm walking because 20 miles will take me at least 5 hours. That's five whole hours that I could be sitting around with my family and eating Christmas cookies and my mom's cheesy potatoes. Oh well.

At least I know I won't gain weight over the holidays, even if I'm not doing so hot at the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge. I only have about 94 points right now and some of the leaders are pushing 200! There are a handful that are well over 200 points but I'm convinced they are either lying or they workout 8 hours a day. I'm not going to win but again, I'm fairly certain I'll make it to the end of the challenge at the same weight (Probably won't lose any weight - damn that predisone for giving me the munchies while I was sick!)and definitely with a new awareness of WHAT I am eating. It is pretty difficult to get in 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It's hard to do but you really do start to feel better! I challenge all of you to give that a whirl for a week and let me know how you feel!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coughing Quads

Last night was my first real workout (unless you count digging under the bed for my snow boots and then shoveling some snow on Sunday) in OVER two weeks. My original plan was to go to the gym and spend 30 minutes on the treadmill. That plan was made before I realized that, with the wind chill, it felt like a whopping ZERO degrees. When I went in and out of the office/house on Monday and Tuesday, the cold air would instantly cause me to start coughing. Instead of braving the cold again after dinner last night to go to the gym, I dragged myself down the basement stairs to my bike.

My poor bike has been sitting on the trainer for about 3 weeks now. It looks so lonely sitting down there, not being ridden. Every once in awhile a cat will wander by and scratch their face on a pedal but other than that, it just sits there looking sad. But last night it saw some action....some very slow, clunky action. I climbed on and clipped my shoes in. It felt like I had never ridden a bike before. My quads were screaming after only two minutes. I knew it would be rough getting back at it but TWO minutes?? In three weeks, I am going to attempt a 1/2 marathon that will take AT LEAST three hours and a full marathon that will take AT LEAST 6.75 hours! And then at about three minutes into the workout, I started to cough. Blah.

I forced myself to keep at it for 20 minutes. I was pretty annoyed by the cough but figured my body was telling me that it wasn't quite ready for that so I climbed off the bike and finished up with about 15 minutes of abs and arms. I have made much more of an effort this training season to focus on my abs and arms because after my last full marathon, that is exactly what hurt for the last 6 miles of the race....and for the several days following the race.

I'll brave the cold tonight and head out to the gym to see how the treadmill goes. After consulting with my own personal Goofy coach, Holly, about modifying my training schedule, the plan is to try for 8 miles this Saturday and then 16 miles on Sunday. That means I need to find my marathon legs again. Hopefully tonight will shake out the cob webs and get me back on track.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The World's Longest Cold in the History of Modern Medicine

So I successfully completed 17.5 miles without any knee pain and other than being pretty tired on Sunday and Monday, I wasn't too sore. And then it all went to crap.

I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday with a sore throat. It was like I knew something was coming and had trouble falling back to sleep. I woke up not feeling well and by the end of my work day, I was sick. I had finally caught the cold that The Pilot had a couple weeks ago and was making its way through my family and co-workers. I really believe in the power of positive thinking so I kept telling myself that it was just a cold and I could beat it in just a day or two. I brought my laptop home so I could still work at home and not infect any of my co-workers. I thought for sure that I would be back in action by the weekend and wouldn't need to modify my training schedule. I didn't have time to modify my schedule! I was scheduled for 12 miles on Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday. It was a big one! But the days rolled on and the cold was not getting better. It just kept getting worse. I spent my weekend on the couch with tissues, juice, water, ice cream, cough drops, Mucinex-D and a whole lot of anxiety and frustration about not being able to train.

The weekend came and went. I worked on Monday (and probably shouldn't have) but by the end of the day, I had completely lost my voice. I also started to noticed that I was struggling to breathe. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was in the 4th grade but it was been pretty well managed since I was prescribed the miracle drug, Singulair, about 10 years ago. During all of my marathon training over the past 6 years, the only time I've had much trouble with my asthma while training is when the humidity and/or air pollution levels get high in the summer.

I spent much of Tuesday night sitting up in bed hacking up a lung and struggling to get a deep breath. I called the doctor's office first thing in the morning and when you tell them you are having trouble breathing, they get you right in. The Pilot drove me to the doctor's office where I received a breathing treatment, some antibiotics, a steroid and a heavy duty cough medicine so I could sleep. I also received strict instructions to come back if my breathing hadn't improved by morning....

I think the cat was mocking me and my coughing fits....or maybe she was having sympathy coughs?

The narcotics in the cough medicine weren't enough to keep me asleep and breathing normally so I spent most of the night sitting up in bed, coughing, wanting to smother the sleeping Pilot. I guess when you are used to sleeping in hotels right next to the airport, you can sleep through just about anything. I woke up miserable but had an eye doctor appointment that I had scheduled nearly two months earlier. I quickly forgave The Pilot for his ability to sleep through the sounds of my lungs trying to dislodge from my chest cavity because he got up at 6:00 am with me and took me to the eye doctor. By the time we left the eye doctor's office, I was at a whole new level of miserable. My eyes were dilated and naturally it had to be a beautiful, sunny (RARE) day in Columbus. I was also having A LOT of trouble breathing so The Pilot drove me back to the doctor's office where I got another breathing treatment and a steroid shot in the hip (yowza!)...and bad news.

Marathoners in training tend to be irrational creatures. We sometimes ignore all reasoning and forget that we are, in general, smart, educated people. This is why injured marathoners tend to rush their recovery and then get hurt again. I knew I was in no condition to be working out in any way but with the Goofy Challenge only about a month away, I thought maybe, just maybe, I'd still be able to get in some decent mileage over the weekend. All those drugs would surely get my back on my feet by the weekend, right?! No such luck. The doctor and the nurse (who happened to be a marathoner), told me no working out until at least Monday and only if my breathing was back to normal.

After 10 days of not sleeping well and not working out at all, I was done. I couldn't even help it and just started crying. Right there in the doctor's office. I felt like an idiot. The marathoner nurse told me not to panic, that I would be back on my feet in no time and then went to fetch The Pilot who had been waiting patiently in the waiting room for 45 minutes. After a hug and a smile from The Pilot (yes, that's all that I needed at that moment), we left, armed with some samples of an even stronger cough medicine.

The Pilot had to leave in the morning. I know he was worried about leaving me but I couldn't help but think that certainly flying an airplane full of cranky passengers would be easier than taking care of a sick and cranky marathoner that can't train. Plus, I knew my mom would be happy that she could step back in to take care of me. Being a nurse for nearly 40 years and being my personal nurse for 30 years, I can imagine that it's hard for her to take a step back and let someone else take care of me. She does it like a champ though. And when The Pilot left for his 4-day trip, she showed up with dinner....and then I showed up at my parents' house the next day where they fed me lunch and dinner. It was exhausting to get dressed and actually get out of the house but it was nice to get a change in scenery.

I'm still not sleeping normally because the steroids have me all hopped up but I can now move around the house like a normal person and still be able to breathe. The coughing is slowly going away and my energy level is coming back. My legs feel like tree trunks and my body is puffy from the steroids so I'm not exactly looking forward to my first post-crud workout. I'm doing my best to listen to all the advice and will avoid working out until Tuesday. That is when I plan to trek over to the gym to test my legs on the treadmill. I'm hoping that I can make it 30 minutes and then I'll take it from there.

Thank you for all of the get well wishes and training advice over the past two weeks! I'm probably one of those most annoying sick people in the world but I'm definitely thankful that this was just a bad cold/bronchitis and not something worse. I don't think I could handle anything else! I'm also extremely thankful to have The Pilot, who dropped everything to play nurse and for my mom for letting him do that. I'm constantly reminded that I am surrounded by the most loving and thoughtful people in the world.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Whirlwind Week

So I last left off with my 16 miler that turned into an 8 miler after my knee decided to have a hissy fit. I wanted to have a hissy fit but when I called my mom for some moral support on the way home from training, she suggested I come over for lunch. Free lunch and some time with my parents, I headed right over. It's hard to have a hissy fit when you are almost 30 years old and your mom suggests that you put a "boo boo pack" on your gimpy knee...especially when it's an Elmo boo boo pack (I still love that little red fuzzy monster!). I know enough that ice is just what my knee needed and I'm old enough and smart enough now to know that my mom is always right. I was still pretty bummed about my knee though. It's been years since I've had an injury that has made me stop training.
This gets me to the week of Thanksgiving! I love the holidays and I'm not one that gets stressed out about the holidays. It goes against my personality but I sort of enjoy the chaos of trying to fit in all the parties and family gatherings. This year is particularly chaotic now that The Pilot is in my life and there is a whole other dynamic with trying to coordinate his crazy schedule with the holiday plans of my family and his family. And then to throw it all out of whack, I headed to Orlando on Thanksgiving day to work my annual shift at Walt Disney World so I can maintain my seasonal cast member status (that is a long story for another time for my bloggy followers that don't know me personally).

Originally I had planned my 10 miler for Thanksgiving Day (no guilt for me if I decided to eat a whole pumpkin pie!) and then a 18 miler on Black Friday. I returned to Ohio on Black Friday but was exhausted so a nap was required. By the time I got up from the nap though, I was starting to run out of daylight. I also hadn't really tested out my knee other than during some strength training and walking around the airports so I was reluctant anyways. I decided doing some laps was best so that I wouldn't get too far from my car and I wouldn't get caught in the dark (I do NOT train in the dark, alone EVER. Even though I love winter marathon training, I HATE that it is dark so early.) I was able to get in 5 miles at an decent pace and NO knee pain! I was so excited.

The Pilot came in late on Friday night so I snuck out around 7:30 am on Saturday morning to meet up with the Team for the group training while he slept in. I wasn't coaching but I like to go to as many practices as possible because the Team always helps keep me motivated. I walked a couple miles with the spring Teams and then headed back out with some alumni for a total of 6 miles.

I hopped in the car and headed home where The Pilot had a chance to sleep in a little and was waiting to go back out with me. It was pretty cold out and I was walking (I'm going to lay off the running for awhile. It's just not worth it to me this close to the Goofy Challenge) so The Pilot left the bike at home and said he would walk a few miles with me and then head back out on roller blades. We walked out 3 miles, straight into the wind and then headed back. I kept asking him if he wanted to turn around since he hasn't walked that far since doing volksmarches while living in Germany as a kid. I'm glad he was up for it though because I much prefer going out as far as possible before turning back so I can avoid having to do laps...I also genuinely enjoy his company and we had been apart for several days.

I had picked up a new pair of shoes on Black Friday (yeay for the running store not being too busy!) but didn't want to wear them for all 18 miles. Even though they were the same shoe, I ended up going with a narrow version in the same size. I have been having some issues with my foot sliding from side to side in the toe box and I was getting a hot spot on the ball of my foot. Anyhoooo....we got back to the car and I changed into my old shoes and The Pilot changed into roller blades. We headed back into the wind (ugh!). I was really starting to drag but I also really wanted to get all of the miles in. I started to have some stomach issues though and that is when I discovered another downside to winter training.

We weren't near that wonderfully clean port-a-potty that I mentioned from the previous weekend so that only left one other option (since outdoors is still not an option in my book!). We headed towards the public park where we discovered that the bathrooms right off the trail were closed for the winter and a sign directed people to use the other restrooms at the park....which were not close. But I didn't have a choice. The upside to the bathroom being further away, I totally counted that towards my mileage for the day. The Pilot looked on Google Earth when we got home and added a 1/2 mile for the 2 round trips (once on that first trip out). Normally I can make it through a full marathon with only one pit stop but I think the combination of flying and being dehydrated left me a little out of sorts before I even started the training which led to the cranky stomach. OK, that was a lot of bathroom talk. Before you know it, I'm going to be talking like Beth over at SUAR!

There's my man in black on roller blades.
The dudes certainly don't get as much of a selection in athletic gear as the ladies!
When it was all done with though, I made it a total of 17.5 miles. Yes, I am fully aware that I intended to do 18 miles but I really had given it all I had and was just exhausted by the time we got back to the car. Now, I'm sure I could have squeezed out another half mile but it would have been junk so I called it a day without any guilt. And thanked The Pilot over and over again for covering a whopping 11 miles with me! He's such a trooper and definitely kept me going. He may have also learned the hard way about why marathoners have the mantra, cotton is rotten. :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Not the Bees Knees

Life, the Holidays, a random trip to Orlando and a clingy head cold has gotten in the way of blogging but I'm back!

As the weekend of November 20 approached, I had a really busy week but was trying to switch my focus from work to training. I was scheduled for 8 miles on Saturday and 16 miles on Sunday.

The Pilot was home on Saturday so he packed up his bike and we headed out to the trail. I decided to go ahead and run most of the miles. Like always, the first three miles were not fun. I tried to focus on The Pilot chattering away over my left shoulder instead of the fire I was feeling in my shins. It's no wonder that beginners often quit, because it feels like it's never going to get easier! Luckily it does though! Once I got the the 3 mile marker, the shin splints went away so I could finally enjoy my surroundings. It was pretty chilly but I'm one of those weird people that loves winter marathon training. The Pilot seems to like to take "action" pictures but most of those pictures make me rethink this whole running thing. I run like a Penguin that's for sure. I look like I'm in pain or I'm drowning in most of the photos. This one represents my speed work though....
...Yes, I go much faster when my tongue is hanging out like that. Anyhoooo....there is an upside to being one of the few that actually enjoys winter marathon training...nice and clean port-a-potties! There are two legitimate places to use the restroom on the trail (I am NOT one of those marathoners who can use the "nature's facilities). One is a real bathroom at a public park, 1.5 miles from the trail head. The other is about 3.5 miles out and is a port-a-potty in the middle of nowhere. I probably could have made it back but as I turned around at the 4 mile marker, I decided to make a pit stop. Lucky for me, it had just been cleaned the week before (yes, I check the dates while I'm in there) and not many people go that far out on the trail (it dead ends at mile 6) so it was nice and clean. And I am even luckier that The Pilot was with me and likes those "action" shots because this is what I saw once we returned (gee, thanks, hon!):
There are several comical things about this photo...1.) I actually managed to look like a runner while heading to the port-a-potty. 2.) The sign says Do Not Enter. 3.) It looks like I am running right for the power substation. Again, thank you to my wonderful boyfriend for his mad photojournalism skills.

The 8 miles went pretty quickly, as it always does when my partner in crime is keeping me company. We got back to the car and went on our merry way.

Sunday however was not as merry. It was a coaching day so I met with the Team at 8:00 am to do 2 miles. One of the alumni, Kim, was planning to go back out with me for a few miles and then I would head back out again to finish my 16 miles. That was the plan at least. During the easy 2 miles that I did with the Team, my right knee was acting a little weird. By the time we got back to our starting point, my knee was really annoyed. I mentioned it to one of the wonderful run coaches, Krista, who quickly told me that I should take it easy. When an elite runner like Krista tells you to take it easy, you should probably listen. I was so determined to get all 16 miles in though.

I headed back out with Kim. We went to the 2 mile marker and she offered to head out another mile before turning back. I really wanted the company so we went out to mile 3 and turned around. When we made the turn though, my knee was about to have an all out hissy fit. Even still, I was calculating in my head, how many miles I had left and what course I would need to take to get that many miles in. We were making our way towards the parking lot to finish when some of the runners that were going longer distances caught up to us. I was talking with another amazing alumni, Ann, about my knee and I think it was her kind words (and a text message from Krista telling me to listen to my body) that convinced me that the right thing to do was to stop for the day. I've had a lot of doubts about my training over the last couple of weeks (I constantly worry that I'm not doing enough) but Ann reassured me that I still have time to train and that I have enough spirit to get me to the finish line. You can't fake something like a full marathon and especially not the Goofy Challenge but she did have a point, though I don't know if I'd call it spirit. I think stubborn and/or determined might be more appropriate. Come race day, I want it bad enough that I won't quit.

Stopping after 8 miles was definitely the right thing to do that day. By the time I got to my car to head home, I was limping. And then it was very painful to drive. I started a routine of ice and ibuprofen for the next three days (and swapped 2 workouts for stretching and abs and arms work) and was feeling much better. Unfortunately, taking the time off left me very grumpy and unsure of myself. This is the life of a marathoner though I suppose! Ups and downs but we just won't quit.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not Your Average Adventure Virtual Race

As some extra motivation to keep plugging along in my Goofy Challenge training, I "signed up" for the Not Your Average Adventure Virtual Race. There wasn't much to it:


This is a choose-your-own-adventure race – have fun with it! There’s really only one rule (but I’m going to list a bunch of them so it looks more “official”):

RULE #1 - (Almost) anything goes. Please don’t do anything illegal or life-threatening.

RULE #2 – Pick a theme, a distance, and a venue. Feel free to go with some sort of birthday theme :-)…or something to do with the letter P…or, see Rule #1.

RULE #3 – You don’t have to RUN this race. Currently injured athletes are welcome here! Any form of human-powered locomotion will be accepted – kayaking, skating, sledding, bicycling, surfing…see Rule #1.

RULE #4 – But you CAN run a race if you want to. Not feeling all that creative? No worries, you can still win! Just submit a race report from ANY race you do between now and the end of the contest (see below for dates and details). You wanted that NYC Marathon to count for something, right??

Day 1:
I started off my Virtual Race on Saturday with 7 miles. It happened to be the first group training for the Spring Team in Training teams (training for Cap City 1/2 and Country Music full and 1/2) so there was a lot of excitement (and apple cider, donuts, muffins and Halloween candy). We had a great turnout of more than 40 athletes!

The season just started though so the participants were only scheduled for 1-2 miles. I got out to the trail at 7 am so that I could get in 3 miles before the group practice started. Like usual, it was pretty uncomfortable because I decided to run the first 3 instead of walk. Shin splints are probably my biggest annoyance right now. The nice thing about starting early was that it was a beautiful, crisp morning and I had the trail to myself. I did forget my sunglasses though so the 1.5 miles back to the trail head were a little challenging as the sun was still coming up and was right in my line of sight. It's a good thing I am extremely familiar with the trail!

When I got back to the trail head, the Team was already starting to gather. Once everyone got there, myself and the run coach, David, welcomed everyone and got everyone up to speed on how the trainings work. We also drilled into their heads the importance of signing in when they arrive at training but even more importantly, signing out once they are done. If they don't sign out, the coaches have to start calling their emergency contacts and that never turns out well. You can see me in the picture below holding up the sheet and asking if everyone had signed out.

After the teams finished their 2 miles and I had a few pieces of the Halloween candy, a few of us went back out to do another 2 miles so I could finish my scheduled 7 miles. It wasn't all at my race pace and there was a short break after the first 3 miles but I count it as time on my feet and that's really what the Goofy Challenge is all about. It was an easy day though so I was looking pretty refreshed when I got home.

Day 2:
Despite pleading on Facebook in the days leading up to Sunday, and some last ditch efforts on Saturday at the group practice, I couldn't find anyone that was available to join me for even part of my scheduled 15-miler. I charged up the ipod though and headed out at 7:30 am. As I left, I couldn't help but notice the guilty look on The Pilot's face. He's had a cold and couldn't join me on his bike and I felt guilty for leaving him on his own all morning when he didn't feel well. Ugh...still trying to manage the balance of the real world and the training world.

Since I was alone and not sure how much water I would need (it's Indian Summer here so while it was only about 40 when I started, there was the potential for a very warm finish) so I decided on a course that would have me back near my car on 3 different occasions in case I needed a refill or to shed some layers of clothing.

It was cold and damp all morning so the trail was pretty empty. That didn't help with my boredom, but there is something very peaceful about being on a somewhat secluded trail just after most of the leaves have dropped from the trees. (Don't worry mama, I only wear one of my earphones when I'm alone so I can still hear my surroundings and my cell phone is always handy. I do my best to stay safe!)Another cool thing about a quiet morning on the Olentangy Trail is that there isn't much going on to distract the wildlife. There were lots of squirrels and other small wildlife scurrying around in the woods but there were also three deer hanging out just off the trail. They kind of blend in with the fallen leaves and the cell phone camera isn't so great but leave it to The Pilot to help me point them out in the photo.After three hours and 51 minutes, I finally finished 15.2 miles. My last 3 miles were discouragingly slow so I was sure that my average pace was shot. I'm still old school so I only have my $30 Timex Ironman watch and the mileage posted on the trail maps to go off of. No fancy gadget to tell me my pace or exactly how far I've gone, so it takes some general knowledge of the landmarks and some mental gymnastics to figure out that my average pace was pretty close to my intended race pace. I was pleasantly surprised. (I'm aiming for an average pace of 15 minute miles in the full marathon at Goofy). I wasn't quite as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I was after 7 miles but I was still standing so that is success in my book.

Virtual Race Fun Facts
22 miles in 2 days
2 "fun size" Snickers
6 Tropical Punch Shot Blocs
32 ounces of water
5 text messages to The Pilot (progress reports, I'm hungry/bored, etc.)

Virtual Race Sights
Blinding Sun
Lots of leaves
6 different breeds of dogs (yes, I start to count things when I'm bored)
A man wearing denim shorts and running shoes (no shirt), running about 1/4 mile in front of me, swinging his arms wildly. I think he was "boxing?" (First WTF moment of day 2)
A man wearing running pants and a knit sweater while running (2nd WTF moment of day 2)
A squirrel burying his nuts in a hole that was nearly as deep as the squirrel was long (again, I was BORED and started to notice all kinds of things)
2 runners that I passed while walking (I feel both guilty and proud at the same time)

Virtual Race Smells
Leaves! Fall has a very distinct smell that reminds me of playing in leaves as a kid with my brother
Dog poop. bleh.
Exhaust from the cars when the trail goes near a few intersections. bleh.
A couple going for a leisurely stroll around Antrim Lake...while smoking. Smoking should be illegal in ALL public spaces, not just inside. bleh.

Virtual Race Sounds
It was a looooong day on Sunday so the ipod was required.
Lady Antebellum-I Run to You (cliche, I know but it got me moving)
Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man
Muse's entire Resistance album
Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #3
Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #4
Arcade Fire - Une Anne Sans Lumire
(This is when it occurred to me that Arcade Fire does NOT make for good workout music)

Kings of Leon's entire Only By the Night album
Paramore's entire Brand New Eyes album

Thank you, P, over at Adventures of an Average Athlete for suggesting the virtual race! Especially on Sunday, the thought of blogging about my "race" helped distract me from the boredom of my 15-miler!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010 Nike Women's Marathon Recap

Better late than never! I am incapable of being brief so writing a post to recap an entire race takes some time. And time is pretty limited these days as I balance my Goofy training, coaching and personal life. If you are in a hurry, you probably shouldn’t start reading this post. My mom is probably the only one who reads this blog anyways! Love you, mama.

I take something away from every marathon that I am involved in and the 2010 Nike Women’s Marathon was no different. I was once again honored to be a coach with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. On October 15, 2010, I traveled with the Central Ohio Chapter to San Francisco. This small team became very close over the course of training and fundraising together and with a mix of TNT alumni and first timers, they were all ready to have a great time and were taking pictures before the plane even left the ground in Columbus.

On Saturday evening, more than 2000 TNT participants and their guests gathered at the Moscone Center in San Francisco for a pasta party. The TNT staff and coaches arrived early to form a “red carpet” to welcome all of the athletes. From the time the first participant walks in, the staff and coaches go wild! We are waving, cheering, clapping, ringing cow bells, whistling and making as much noise as possible until the very last person comes in the door. After more than 45 minutes of non-stop noise, everyone was sitting down, loading up on carbs from the pasta buffet while Joan Benoit-Samuelson welcomed everyone. Joan was the winner of the first women’s Olympic marathon in the 80s. It’s pretty amazing to think that it wasn’t that long ago when women weren’t even allowed to enter marathons and there we were, the night before a marathon that celebrates women in sports. There were more than 30,000 women entered in the race and only about 1,000 men!

John “The Penguin” Bingham was the master of ceremonies for the evening and has been such a great friend of Team in Training over the years. Not only does he support the cause and provides unlimited amounts of encouragement for the participants but he also openly celebrates the “back of the pack.” He is the most famous runner to have never won a race. He is a slow runner that fully supports the slower runners and walkers. He got everyone laughing and relaxed. The alumni in the room laugh at his stories because they can relate and the first timers laugh because they don’t know any better!

After the pasta party and our team had returned to the hotel for the night, we had a short meeting to go over last minute instructions and to take a few minutes to remember why we were there. Each team has a team captain that helps the participants with their fundraising. They are essentially the fundraising coach. Ann, the Nike team captain also happens to be the mother of a cancer survivor. Her son, Parker, served as inspiration for our team. He survived his battle because of the efforts of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. One of our other honored team heroes was Christa. While Christa wasn’t out in San Francisco with us, we were thinking about her. Christa was back in Columbus, preparing for the Columbus Marathon, which was the same day as the Nike Women’s Marathon. Not only is she a cancer survivor, she is also a TNT alumni!

On race morning, Sunday, October 17, 2010, I woke up at 4:00 am to go through my race morning rituals (yes, even when I coach, I go through all of the same steps as if I was actually racing) before meeting two of our walkers. The Nike race offers an early start for those needing more time to complete the race. Luckily the start line was literally right outside of our hotel and with the difference in time zones, the 4:45 am meeting time wasn’t that bad.

I walked the first 5 miles with one of the Central Ohio participants and then started to walk backwards on the course to support some of the other participants that did the early start. An hour and a half after I started, the regular start participants (including the elite runners) started to pass by. I was able to locate most of the Central Ohio participants somewhere between miles 3 and 5 but I still missed a couple because it’s hard to pick people out of the sea of purple. They all start to look alike as all 2000+ ran and walked by! As a coach, everyone in a purple TNT shirt is on our team so we are out there for everyone, not just the people from your own chapter. TNT has chapters located all over the country, including Puerto Rico and even a few chapters in Canada. That also means that I ran and walked miles 3-5 over and over as I jumped on and off the course to support my teammates.

Once the last TNT participant got to mile 5, I needed to find a way to get out in front of the runners so that I could try to see the Central Ohio participants again. Being a VERY slow runner and being on a race course that starts and finishes in different locations and doesn’t offer many opportunities to easily cut the course made this a challenge to say the least. The day before, I met with a coach from the local San Francisco chapter, who gave me some general instructions for taking a city bus and a train to get out to mile 13 of the half marathon (yes, right before the finish line), which was also about mile 16 and 24 of the full marathon. Luckily there were some police officers near mile 5 that were controlling traffic for the race so they were able to assist in getting me to the correct bus and train stops. Being from a city that loves their cars and doesn’t offer much public transportation, it was a little intimidating. It took a good ½ hour but I made it to my intended destination. I did get a few curious stares and one woman asked if I was cheating. I tend to forget that I am wearing a headband that lights up and that I’m wearing all my race gear, including a Fuel Belt and a race bib. Luckily instead of a race number, the bib said COACH, so I was able to confidently tell her that I wasn’t actually IN the race and pulling a “Rosie.”

I made it just in time to catch the half marathoners that did the regular start (the early start people had already finished by the time I got there) so I was able to run and walk in with a couple of them. I was right at the point where they turned a corner and got their first glimpse of the finish line. Some of them cry, some cheer out with joy and others groan because that tenth of a mile remaining can still seem really far after a difficult race. This usually when I yell out that I am proud of them (which I always am!) and then I jump off the course and let them have their moment as they enter the finish chute and cross the finish line.

While most of our team was now finished, there were still four Central Ohio participants that had a whole lot of race left. I saw two of them around mile 16 and they were still smiling at that point. Once I gave them some encouraging words (at least I hope they felt encouraged!), I jumped off the course again to continue to support the other TNT participants.

I have to mention that by this point, the weather went from cold and cloudy to cold, cloudy, windy and wet. It started to pour. This portion of the race is along the Great Highway, which is only about 50 yards from the Pacific Ocean. While the ocean is a beautiful thing (especially to someone from the Midwest!), it provided a backdrop for some really nasty weather. I thought I had learned my lesson after coaching this race in 2008 and was miserable for most of the race because I was not dressed appropriately (it was cold and damp that year). I brought along pants, a long sleeved shirt, gloves and a jacket this year…and I needed all of it! I wore everything that I brought with me but because of the rain and wind (and all the stopping and starting), I still ended up freezing.

Just as it started to pour is when I recognized a face. A woman was almost to mile 16 and was walking. While I didn’t know her personally, I recognized the look on her face. It was a combination of fear, desperation and the brink of tears. I jumped out with her and asked how she was doing. That was all she needed for the tears to start. Those that know me well, know that I HATE rain. So while I sort of wanted to cry from the weather, I knew that this woman needed me in that moment. She was looking for her own coach but hadn’t seen him yet. I told her that I would be her own personal coach for as long as she needed. She appeared to be physically fine and was still maintaining a good pace but emotionally, she was exhausted. I pulled out everything I could think of to distract her. I shared my story of how I got involved in TNT, I told her where I was from, I told her that I tend to cry and curse under my breath from miles 19-22 of a full marathon, I told her that I finished next to last in a triathlon over the summer but I still finished. Once she stopped crying and hyperventilating, I asked her about her story and why she was doing TNT. She started to calm down and even started to smile. I spent about 2.5 miles with her before she found another coach from her local chapter that she recognized (some of the chapters are so large that they send multiple coaches). I jumped back off the course and cut across the road, which was near mile 24. I’ve experienced situations like that before and sometimes I never see the person again and sometimes I don’t even know if they finish the race. This time around though, I happened to see this woman again in the finishers’ tent, showing off her brand new finisher’s necklace to her teammates. She had made it!

There were over 200 Team in Training coaches out on the course and being as experienced as we are, we know where people need us…such as mile 24. The course was filled with TNT coaches running and walking both towards the finish line and backwards on the course to try to find all of our participants. When our first full marathoner, John, reached mile 24, I was soaking wet and freezing. Of course you can’t let on that you are miserable, because they are at mile 24 of a full marathon!! I jumped out onto the course and did my best to keep up with John, who happens to be over a foot taller than me and a natural runner. It worked out well though. John had let me know that he would not be wearing his hearing aid during the race so he may have trouble hearing me unless he could read my lips. Well, my short legs were working double time to try to keep up with him. I was doing all I could to stay next to him and not fall behind him so I could still at least turn my heard towards him while I gave him some encouragement. He was still maintaining a pretty impressive pace (a good 3 minutes faster per mile that I normally average) so it sort of felt like he was encouraging me instead of the other way around! I also started to gasp for air (it’s probably a good thing he couldn’t hear that!) so I gave him a thumbs up as we passed the 25 mile marker and he was off to cross the finish line of his first full marathon.

I still had three more participants out on the course. Two of them I had missed at every other point in the race so I was anxious to see them. Ann and Gwen are both alumni and I knew they were together so I wasn’t too worried but I really wanted to see both of them. When they finally got to mile 25, they forced out some smiles but I knew they were over it. I recognized the look on their faces that they just wanted the race to be over. I started to run with them and chatted with them but they weren’t having it. They weren’t really in a chatting mood so I just did my best to keep them moving forward and tried to distract their minds from what there bodies were trying to tell them. It was helpful that a spectator on the side of the road suddenly got on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, a TNT participant who was just about to finish. Being girls, all three of us let out a collective “awwww!” and may have teared up a little. I may have teared up because it was sweet. Ann and Gwen may have teared up because they wanted to be done but being marathoners, we kept moving forward. When we got to the 26 mile marker, I told them I was proud of them and reminded Ann to think of her son, Parker. Ann had shared with our team that she sometimes tends to think of everyone other than her son when she is involved with TNT because she doesn’t always identify herself as the mom of a cancer survivor, as if it is still surreal for her. Ann and I exchanged a hug (Yes, you can still hug while running! We are that good!) and they were off for what were probably the longest two tenths of a mile they have ever run! It was Ann’s first full marathon and it was such an honor to be a part of that moment with her!

The rain was sort of intermittent but I swear the temperatures kept dropping as I waited for our last participant. Lucky for me, our only full marathon walker was insanely fast. Lisa’s goal was to finish the full marathon in less than six hours. I’ll remind you that my full marathon PR is 6:46. That means that when I saw her back near mile 25, I had to run to keep up with her. She was all smiles, even after all those miles! I usually ask the last participant if they want me to cross the finish line with them or if they would prefer to enjoy the moment on their own. It’s usually 50/50 but Lisa didn’t mind so I dodged the puddles as we ran into the finish chute and crossed the finish line together. A challenging race full of hills, wind and rain is made worth it by the finish line, especially at Nike. There are firemen wearing tuxedos lined up at the finish line, each holding a silver platter with little blue Tiffany’s boxes. Instead of a big medal, finishers all get a Tiffany necklace. Unfortunately, coaches aren’t allowed to take a necklace so I took a photo of one of the firemen picking Lisa up to show off her brand new necklace and a new personal record.
My poor light up antennae that I wear to races that I coach have had a rough year. First the non-stop rain at the Cap City 1/2 Marathon in May and now the rain filled Nike Women's Marathon. But they still are flashing!

Despite the weather, it was a great race. All of our Central Ohio participants crossed the finish line and I felt so honored to be a part of this wonderful event and a part of our team’s Nike Marathon experience. At the end of the day, I know that I covered at least 20 miles and the next day, as we headed to the airport to make our way east, I could feel every single one of those miles. It has been a really long time since I have covered that many miles (and the first time I’ve ever run so fast. Thanks, John!), so I was pretty sore. And naturally, my first thought when I woke up sore the morning after the race was, “holy crap, what was I thinking signing up for the Goofy Challenge??”

So what did I take away from this race? Marathoners are some of the toughest athletes in the world. Sure, only one person can win and there are lost of intense sports out there but marathoners have more mental and emotional endurance than any other athlete that I can think of. I took away that TNT participants are some of the most caring individuals in the world even though I have known this for years. I took away that I am absolutely nuts for signing up for the Goofy Challenge but TNT has trained me emotionally for this race and now it’s just up to me to train for the physical aspect.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Eavesdropping on the Treadmills

I did make it to the gym last night but didn't get in the full hour I had hoped. I did spend an uninspired 45 minutes on the treadmill though.

Maybe I was uninspired because the teenager on the elliptical in front of me was literally sitting on the machine, watching TV and would periodically turn his head and roll his eyes at the man I presumed to be his dad on the tradmilll next to me...or maybe he was rolling his eyes at me because I was having a very ugly 3 mile run/walk. If that was the case, then I should have rolled my eyes right back at him. Just ask my mother, I MASTERED the art of eye rolling at age 13 and while I haven't been honing my skills lately, I could out-eye-roll that kid any day.

Or maybe it was the person who did an all out sprint on another treadmill....for 3 minutes....while wearing what I like to call "fashion track pants" and I kid you not, a long sleeved button up dress shirt. Maybe he forgot to bring his gym bag to work that morning??

Or maybe it was the women who had the treadmill set at 1.5 mph and strolled along while reading some magazine with "Preganancy Shocker!" on the cover. Yes, I "eavesdrop" on other people's treadmills.... is that weird? Anyways, I have always been a relatively slow race walker but even I trip over my own feet if I tried to walk 1.5 mph!!

I'm still trying to plan out my workouts for the rest of the week but it doesn't look good. Our local Team in Training chapter starts recruiting for the spring events tonight and The Pilot and I are traveling for a long weekend away. I wonder if walking around the Mall in DC and then dancing the night away at a wedding will count towards my 7 and 14 milers that I'm supposed to do......

I'm still new in the "bloggy world" but I am officially declaring my trainings over the November 13 weekend part of the "Not Your Average Adventure Virutal Race." I've been using other bloggers as inspiration to get through this training season....especially after the uninspired evening I had at the gym last night! Stay tuned. Thanks for the inspiration, Average Athlete!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Training, training and more training

I promise I've been training. I've just been training so much that I haven't had time to write about it....or something like that. But really, I did have a good training week that started with last Saturday. I ran 7 looong miles by myself but did it in an even 1:30, which I was happy with.

The next day I followed it with a 10 miler. Luckily I wasn't completely on my own for this one. I met up with Lisa and Mary, the same wonderful ladies that came back out for me at the Spirit of Columbus 1/2 Marathon. Lisa is training for Disney and was scheduled for 14 miles. I met them at Antrim Lake and wanted to catch up with what they had been up to so I decided to start running with them. Despite running all 7 miles the day before and the fact that they run at least a minute and a 1/2 faster per mile that I normally run, I was able to keep up with them for almost 3 miles before dropping off to walk the remaining 7 miles. I did 10 miles in 2:19 and was again really pleased with the time. The 7 miles walking were done at race pace and two days later, I was reminded of the two-day soreness rule. The real pain of a workout doesn't usually appear until the 2nd day. Two days later I realized that I probably pushed it too hard because at this point, 10 miles shouldn't be making me too sore.

I also took a Core 'n' More class this week with my friend Holly. She's doing the Philadelphia Marathon in a couple weeks so she's almost starting to taper but she's done the Goofy Challenge and has already been my sounding board for all of my training questions (example: should I train in two pairs of shoes and then race in two pairs as well?? Still working on that answer....). The class seemed a little easy and there were only a couple of exercises that I had to modify (I've NEVER been able to do a normal push up!). Despite the class going pretty well, that two day rule came into play abs and legs were SORE two days after the class!

Instead of buying Halloween candy which I would end up eating since I hardly ever have any trick-or-treaters, The Pilot and I turned the porch light off and went for a 3 mile walk on Thursday. It was COLD and very windy but it was nice to get out and spend some time together.

This weekend was only half successful. I started with getting in an easy 6 mile walk with another wonderful marathon friend, Marcia, on Saturday. I then went to Cleveland for the night with friends (Happy 30th Birthday, Lezlie!) and got home later than expected today....and didn't get my 12 miler in. :( I'll hit the gym tomorrow after work to hopefully get in at least an hour on the treadmill. That can be tricky since there is a 1/2 hour limit if there are people waiting. Hopefully there aren't too many people hogging the treadmills by setting them at 1 mph while they read People magazine. If your heart rate isn't up and you aren't sweating, then it doesn't count as a workout!

Monday, October 25, 2010

"National Married-to-a-Runner Appreciation Day"

So I'm a slacker and haven't had a chance to post any training updates lately or a recap from the Nike Women's Marathon last weekend but I promise those posts are coming soon!

I did want to take a minute to celebrate "National Married-to-a-Runner Appreciation Day." I am in love with one of the Runner's World blogs and this blogger wanted to celebrate all of the times he has to leave his wife and new baby. Of course it isn't an official holiday, but it should be! While I don't have a spouse, I loved the article because all marathoners know that it just can't be done without a good support system in place. As I head into one of my toughest training seasons ever, I am already struggling with balancing my time between training, my wonderful boyfriend (aka The Pilot), my family, my friends and just life in general. It's a challenge but knowing that all of these people support me and want me to succeed makes it a little easier to spend so much time out on the road and in the gym. So THANK YOU to all of you that, while you call me "Goofy," you are still kind and understanding when I have to go to bed early on Friday and Saturday nights because I have not one but TWO long distance trainings or when I have to turn down Graeter's ice cream because I want to be down at least 10 pounds by race weekend (sorry Lisa D.!). Thank you for loving me when I'm burnt out and have taper madness (wait for that the last week of December). I'm going to thank The Pilot over and over because he is the one who is going to have to deal with my pre-race jitters two days in a row...and at 3:00 am both days. I think there should be a medal at the finish line for the Goofy Challenge spectators as well!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not another 4-miler!

I officially decided last night that I hate the 4-mile distance. It doesn't seem to matter if I'm running or walking. I just suck at covering 4 miles. I must be built for loooooong and slooooow. I think I'd rather do a 1/2 marathon than a 5k or 4-miler.

I shuffled my way through 4-miles on Saturday morning. I even had to get the pants out because it was pretty chilly. I probably could have worn my running gloves but I just can't bear the thought of wearing them so early in the fall. The Pilot (aka: The Boyfriend) rode his bike next to me so that helped distract me a little but there was no avoiding the terrible shin splints and the sound of my feet slapping the ground for 3.5 miles. It seems that it takes AT LEAST 3.5 miles for me to warm up and start to feel like my coach certification won't be revoked. I mean, really, they let me coach marathoners yet I want to cry for the first 3-4 miles??

While the sun is still shining when I get home from work right now, I'm so slow that it's pretty dark by the time I would finish so I had to head to the gym after work last night. I'll be covering all of my long distances outside (weekend mornings) but most of the rest of my weekday workouts will have to be at the gym. The only bonus about this is that it will keep me acclimated to training in higher temperatures in preparation for Orlando in January (that is unless there is sleet/rain/wind again like there was this year. If that happens, I may just quit before the race even starts.). Four miles on the treadmill is even more obnoxious than doing it outside. I did a 3 minute warm up walk before I started to run but it wasn't enough because my shins started to hurt instantly. I couldn't hear my feet slapping the treadmill over the sounds of the meat heads grunting while they lifted weights nearby or over the random sounds from my iPod (Usher immediately followed by Van Morrison keeps me on my toes).

Did I mention that my training schedule calls for a 4 mile run and/or walk 2 days a week from now until January? I certainly hope I get better at that distance or I may throw myself off the treadmill in a crying fit.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Almost there

So the words "you're almost there" are some of the most obnoxious words you can say to someone during a marathon. The definition of "almost there" differs wildly from person to person. Some people define it as when they are taking the last step the cross the finish line, others might think of it as mile 26 out of 26.2. The point is, that you never know, so if you are a spectator (or a coach for that matter), I would bite your tongue and not say that to anyone.

But those words are what are carrying me through this last week of September! It's been a chaotic month of work but I will be back to focusing on training in October and I can't wait. I did get in some decent miles over the weekend...even if I felt like I was learning to run all over again.

On Saturday I went for a very painful 3 mile run. The weather is starting to cool off (which I love!) but it's also fall allergy season so I had trouble breathing for the whole 3 miles. My shins were on fire and I wanted to quit just about every step but I managed to finish. It did feel nice to get a jump on my Saturday by working out instead of working.

The weather was even cooler on Sunday morning. I still pulled out the running shorts but had to dig in the drawer for a long sleeved shirt. It was the last long training for the fall Team in Training teams - 20 miles for the full marathoners and 10 miles for the 1/2 marathoners. The fall races are less than 3 weeks away! Most of our walkers this season are doing the 1/2 so I set out on a 10 mile walk with the team and while my legs still feel a little rusty, it felt good to get some time on my feet....even though by the end of it, my feet were a little angry (that's what a frozen golf ball is for).

Coaching a marathon is sometimes harder on the body than actually competing. It involves covering A LOT of distance but there is also lots of standing around waiting on people. I'll be coaching both the runners and walkers at the Nike Women's Marathon in a couple weeks and because I can't run that fast, I have to find a way (cab, cut the course, etc.) to get in front of the runners and then wait for them to pass by. The distance typically comes into play when I will run or walk the same mile or 2 multiple times. I might wait at mile 10 of a race and then jump out onto the course each time I see a participant, run or walk a mile with them, then hop off the course and wait for the next person and then repeat. If you have 20 people on your team that are all different paces, you end up doing the same mile over and over again. That means lots of time on the feet!

I'm in Chicago for a meeting this week and while on the ride downtown from the airport, I saw lots of runners running along the lake and I really wanted to jump out of the cab and join them. I probably would have looked like a crazy lady though trying to run while dragging my roller bag and a laptop/projector case. :) Oh well, I'm ALMOST THERE and will be focusing on training starting this weekend!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My name is Amber and I have not worked out in DAYS! I have not done much of anything over the last 2 weeks. The life of an event planner means some strange hours from time to time so I've kinda fallen off the workout wagon. I got in a 9 miler while coaching last weekend and while the distance was no problem, the pace was tough. It looks pretty bad when the coach can't keep up but I pushed myself along anyways. I wanted to cry for the first 3 miles but faked my way through it. (Despite early morning coaching gigs, I am NOT a morning person! Sorry to let you down TNTers.) It's amazing how quickly you can lose fitness. I felt sluggish, tired and my feet felt like concrete blocks. Once I got warmed up it felt better but I couldn't help but think "oh crap, what have I gotten myself into" with this Goofy Challenge. That's probably not the last time I'll think that.

Luckily when I created my training schedule for Goofy, I knew that the whole month of September would be chaos and that training wouldn't be a top priority. I scheduled the whole month with "maintenance miles." I probably only got 1/2 of the miles in but in the big picture it shouldn't effect my training much. The first couple long trainings in October might be a little uncomfortable but that's how it goes. I'll be coaching the Nike Women's Marathon on October 17 but the rest of the month will be my chance to refocus on Goofy, get back into the training groove and hopefully knock off the few pounds that creeped back onto my gut over the past few weeks.

When we have new participants join Team in Training, they are sometimes intimidated thinking that the coaching staff is really experienced and hard core. While we may be experience (uhhh...I guess), I'm so far from hard core. I could have been running at 5 am on the mornings that I had to work or was out of town but that's just not my style. I hope that my mediocre performance and training methods are an inspiration to my fellow "couch potatoes to marathoners."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Spirit of Columbus 1/2 Marathon: The "Do Over"

After giving the race promoters an earful after the Spirit of Columbus 1/2 Marathon last year, they gave me free entry for the race this year. I decided to go ahead and give it another chance, but went into the race with some pretty low expectations regarding the organization of the race. On the other hand, I had given myself a pretty lofty goal of finishing the race in 3 hours....and here's how that went.

6:45 am: I arrived at my friend Lisa's house. Her husband was such a trooper and offered to drop us off at the start line. The race started at Tuttle Mall in Dublin and ended in Downtown Columbus so you either had to take a shuttle or have a ride waiting for you at the finish line.

7:00 am: We got to the starting area, dropped our gear bags (with our flip flops to have at the finish line!) and then headed to the Port-a-Potty line. Marathoners know that the best strategy on race morning is to get in line for the bathroom, do your business and then get in line again because your nerves will trick you into thinking you have to go again. Once in the bathroom line, we got to chatting with some other TNT alumni (Lisa and I were both wearing our purple jerseys).

7:25 am: The announcer started asking everyone to line up at the start line. Oops. I didn't realize what time it was. I had intended to do a quick warm up walk/jog because I always seem to get shin splints right at the start of a race. There wouldn't be any time for that! I lined up towards the back like I always do, even though I knew I would be running.

7:30ish: This race isn't known for very punctual starts, but they were pretty close this year. I walked until I got to the start line but once I crossed over the timing mat, I broke out into a sprint....not really but I did start running. The first 1/2 mile was more about getting situated on the road. It takes a little time for the crowd to clear out as everyone tries to find their rhythm. There were 2 things that stood out to me in that first 1/2 mile. There was someone running just ahead of me wearing running tights, a long sleeved technical shirt, a short sleeve shirt over that, and then a down vest, topped off with an ear warmer. Now it was slightly chilly while were were waiting for the start, but it was supposed to warm up to 90 that day and once you started running you instantly warmed up! I have no idea what this woman was thinking. The other thing I noticed was that someone directly behind me was wearing headphones, and I could hear EVERY lyric to the songs. This person had the volume cranked so loud I don't know how they could stand to have the buds in their ears!

Mile 1: %#@! shin splints! It felt like I was re-living last year's race. I also knew that I just needed to make it to mile 3 or 4 and the shin splints would go away but I really wanted to quit running every single step I took. I honestly don't know what kept me running, but I tried to distract myself by trying to name the artists and song titles of the songs coming from the really loud headphones behind me.

Mile 2: I really want to quit running and just walk this damn thing. Running is overrated. I was surprised by the musical variety coming from the person behind me. At first I thought it was going to get annoying but I was mildly entertained even though it was starting to occur to me that this person was running the exact same pace and rather than run off to one side of me, they chose to run RIGHT behind me.

Mile 3: BUSTED! I've been coordinating with the race director of the New Albany Walking Classic so TNT can recruit at his race. It's an amazing race for walkers only but unfortunately I've had to miss it the past couple of years due to an event at work. I have his race on the training schedule for our fall marathon walkers. Turns out he was volunteering at the water stop at mile 3. I said hi as I grabbed a cup of water from him but couldn't help but feel guilty that I had been caught running. My musical entertainment was still right behind me.

Mile 4: The tables have turned. For those that read my recap from the race last year I knew that at mile four I was catching up to a "runner." Runners don't usually like it when race walkers pass them. Most respect what we do but some just get annoyed that a walker is walking faster than they can run. Well, at mile 4 this year, I got passed by 2 race walkers that I later found out are 35 years older than me. I couldn't help but smile as we made our way down the Hayden Rd. bridge and made the right onto Riverside Drive. Hmmm...the music just took a terrible turn. Cher? I mean really, how do you go from U2 and Usher to Cher??

Mile 5: I spent most of this mile dodging road kill. Those poor little critters must be trying to make their way down towards the river and forget to look both ways. All of the sudden it gets quiet. I can't hear that person's headphones anymore! Several minutes pass and I still don't hear anything. Finally I do hear someone ask, "how do you like those?" "Oh, they are great, you should try them." "Can't you feel everything on the road though?" "Yes, sort of, but it creates a more sensory experience." I can't help it, I finally turn around enough to see who is behind me. The headphones person is a woman and she's wearing the Vibram Five Fingers. The person who was asking about the "shoes" runs ahead and I sort of expect to start hearing music again but I don't. All I can hear now is the pitter patter of this woman's toes hitting the pavement.

Mile 6: Wait a minute! I'm still running. After occupying my head with music, Five Fingers and road kill, it occurs to me that my legs are no longer screaming in pain and that I'm actually pretty comfortable. I do realize that I'm starting to get hungry and I could see a water stop ahead. I decided to walk through the water stop so I could eat one of my Shot Bloks and wash it down with some water. I walked for less than a minute but the Five Fingers lady stopped to walk through the water stop but then started running the second I started to run again. Must be a coincidence.

Mile 6.5: Ducks...this part of the race goes right along the Scioto River and there were probably a dozen ducks waddling up ahead. I was amused that when myself, Five Fingers lady and a few other slow runners that had joined us got closer to the ducks, the ducks came up onto the road and started to run along side of us. I'm not sure if they thought we had food or if we looked like we could use a chuckle. I said hello to them (why wouldn't I?) and another runner nearby started to me??

Mile 7: PURPLE! Up ahead I see a wonderful purple shirt. My triathlon coach, David, was volunteering at the race also, and was right at the bottom of the evil hill coming out of Grigg's Reservoir (the same one that I cursed at last year). It was nice to see a familiar face but it was even better that he started to run up the hill with me. About half way up I realized that I couldn't keep running up the hill and keep talking to him at the same time due to lack of oxygen. I decided to walk the rest of the way up the hill so I could keep chatting. As I got the to the top, I told David my goal was to run at least until the 8 mile marker and then wing it from there. He yelled out some encouraging words and I started running again....interestingly enough, so did the Five Fingers lady.
(There's my buddy, Five Fingers Lady.)

Mile 8: Wow, that mile marker came up fast! I just wanted to run to 8 and then I would have been fine walking the rest of the race but surprisingly, I still felt really good so I kept on running. I did know that the hill up to Lane Ave. was coming up and I told myself to run to the hill and then I could walk after that. I must have gotten confused because I ran halfway up the hill before deciding I needed more air in my lungs and started the walk. Weird....Five Fingers lady started to walk at that exact same moment. I couldn't decide if I should be annoyed that she was running freakishly close to me or be amused that maybe she thinks I know what I'm doing....

Mile 9: Dang! That was another fast mile. Fast being a relative term because at this point I was averaging 12:30 miles but the 9 mile marker seemed to sneak up on me. I knew that no matter what I did from that point on, I was going to be sore the next day. While I am at a point where 9 miles walking doesn't make me sore, running any distance makes my quads and ankles angry the next day. I figured if I was going to be sore, I might as well go all in and keep running.

Mile 10: Wow! I ran 2 miles further than I thought I could! I looked at my watch and knew that even if I slowed down to a leisurely stroll, I was going to get a new PR. I knew that I could walk the rest of the way at my marathon pace and be pretty darn close to my 3 hour goal. Right as I was attempting to do the math in my head though, I started to feel a little weird. WARNING! TMI is about to be shared! All of the sudden I started to feel the bowl of Frosted Flakes that I had enjoyed for breakfast. I started looking around for a Port-A-Potty but no luck. I stopped running hoping that would fix the problem (Five Fingers lady stopped running too). I still really wanted to break 3 hours so even though I stopped running, I quickly got into a good race walk form and was still cruising. My stomach was angry and I briefly thought I was going to have to leave some kind of present on the front lawn of the Channel 6 News building.

Mile 11: Holy crap that was a long mile. My stomach started to right itself again so I dug around inside to find some energy to start running again. This time wasn't so easy. My lower back was starting to tighten and my knees and ankles were screaming from all the running. I did notice that the Five Fingers lady could NOT keep up with me when I was race walking. She kept falling further and further behind until I couldn't hear her pitter patter anymore. When I started running again though, she caught back up and settled right back in on my heels. This is also when I heard a horn honking from behind me and as I glanced over my shoulder, I saw my mom drive by, heading to the finish line to wait for me.

Mile 12: Hmmm....this is starting to get a little uncomfortable. I looked at my watch and got goose bumps. I knew that I could fall flat on my face, skin my knees, pick myself up and STILL come in under 3 hours. I really wanted to run the rest of the way in but my body was really trying to start a mutiny. I decided to take one last walk break. I glanced at my watch and allowed myself a 3 minute walk break but I had to stay in a good race walk form. Hold the phone! It got really quiet. I glanced back and saw that I had FINALLY pulled ahead of Five Fingers lady! Even when I started running again, she didn't catch up. This is also when I noticed that it was getting HOT out! It was about 10:15 am and it was quickly heating up. Luckily the water stops also had ice cold sponges that you could use to cool off. They were WONDERFUL!

Mile 12.75: One of the MANY reasons that I love Team in Training is that we never leave anyone behind. When I'm coaching, I always wait for the last person and come in with them. In this case, Lisa and another alumni, Mary, were waiting to run in with me! I instantly felt a burst of energy and picked up the pace a little. Lisa kept saying that she couldn't keep up because she had given the race everything she had. She also got a new PR and met her goal of finishing under 1:59.
(This picture contains 1 part wobbly bits, 1 part muscle, 2 parts "give it all you got" which equals a whole lotta pale legs and a new PR!)

Mile 13: Lisa and Mary pulled away and let me have my moment as I ran into the finish chute. I glanced at the race clock and it was just turning over 2:59. I attempted to smile (last year I had a terrible grimace in the finish line photos) as I ran over the timing mat. I stopped my watch....2:53! That was the unofficial time of course but I would later confirm that I had beat my previous PR by 21 minutes!
Unlike last year, I was handed a medal as I crossed the finish line. I also got an ice cold bottle of water! The race organizers definitely learned their lesson and fixed all of the problems they had last year. They had plenty of water at each water stop (it was COLD too!), they had the oranges and sponges when they said they would and everyone got a medal when they crossed the finish line. I was also impressed at the number of police and other volunteers they had on the course to stop traffic. I made a point to thank all of them that were close enough to hear me as I passed by.
As predicted, I was VERY sore the rest of the afternoon and well into Monday....and Tuesday but it was definitely worth it to get that PR that I was after. I wish sometimes that I didn't doubt my abilities but even after all these years of endurance training/racing, I'm still having trouble realizing that I'm an athlete. It doesn't matter that I'm a slow athlete, it just matters that I'm out there doing it anyways!