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!

Ugh....so 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 laugh....at 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!