Sunday, August 19, 2012


Last summer I attended the CARA Super Clinic, which is a day-long clinic focused on dozens of marathon training topics.  Even though I was not planning to train for a marathon last year, I still wanted to hear what the experts had to say.  (Hal Higdon was there!)

One of the speakers was talking about the enormous level of dedication it takes to run a marathon.  He then said three words that really resonated with me at the time, and re-resonated with me again last night.  What he said was, "Respect the distance."
Yesterday evening I ran 16.5 miles.  It took me well over three hours to do it.  It is another new personal distance record for me.  And it was an absolutely gorgeous night in Chicago.  But during the last few miles as the fatigue was hitting, as my left hip flexor was stinging, and I was feeling newfound aches in places I'd never ached before, I was trying not to cry.  As I was walking home, I was telling myself, "Just get upstairs to the privacy of your own home and then you can cry all you want."

I got upstairs and actually made it through about 5 minutes before I did start crying.  My last bump in distance, a 15-miler two weeks ago, had felt relatively easy.  As a result, I had felt pretty confident going into my 16.5-miler.  But the 16.5 miles ended up being a lot more challenging than anticipated.

I have no idea how I am going to add almost 10 miles to this.  I have an 18-miler coming up in two weeks, then a 20-miler in another two weeks.  Forget running 26.2 miles, my next two training runs seem pretty daunting right now, too. 

What have I gotten myself into?!?!? 

Why am I doing this?!?!?

What was I thinking?!?!? 

(These are edited versions.  What I am actually thinking is actually much stronger.)

My first thought last night was that maybe I could spend the rest of my waking life buried under the blankets of my bed, curled up in the fetal position.  Thankfully, Amanda is a mind reader.  A few weeks ago she dictated the file folder in my head entitled "Marathon training" and wrote this very reassuring post

You better believe I was reading and rereading that post again last night.

I know that I should be happy about achieving another personal distance record without having to do any crawling.  And at some point I will be.  But right now, it goes without saying that I am feeling very humbled by the challenges of training. 

How could anyone NOT respect this distance?


Some other notes from last night's run:
  • I am auditioning two pairs of shoes for the big day - a pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 15s and a pair of Brooks Glycerin 8s.  I wore the Mizunos for a 12-miler last weekend and they felt good.  (I did get some blistering on my big toes, but I have some Moleskin blister dressings which would help.)  Last night, I wore the Brooks.  There was no comparison.  The Brooks are not supportive enough for me.  My feet felt tired and achy fairly early on and I was wishing that I had compression socks (not just compression sleeves).  The Mizunos are the clear winner between the two.
  • I did put BodyGlide on, but it started to lose its effectiveness towards the end.  I'll need to experiment with either using more of it at the start, or carrying some with me so I can reapply it.
  • Since my schedule has been such a complete disaster over the few weeks, I've been pretty lax AGAIN about doing my physical therapy.  Not good.  This was made even more obvious to me as I started feeling some unsettling groin tightness towards the end of last night's run.  While groin tightness isn't completely new to me (I have experienced it here and there in the past), now would be a really, really bad time for it to start becoming a recurring issue.
  • I threw some food into my slow cooker before I left on my run.  It was very comforting to come home to the aroma of a freshly-cooked dish waiting for me.  Slow cookers are the greatest culinary invention known to human kind.
  • The Bears played a preseason game at Soldier Field last night (Adam even went to the game).  It was easy to tell that there was a game going on - I saw folks all over the city wearing their Bears attire.  I ran past the stadium and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the happy tailgaters enjoying themselves on a gorgeous summer evening.  I was blown away by how so many folks go ALL OUT with their setups.  It must be like a religion to some!

Chicago Bears fans tailgating

(Adam would reprimand me in principal for putting up a picture of Bears tailgating but not one of Steelers tailgating.  So here you go.)

Pittsburgh Steelers fans tailgating

Happy Sunday to everyone.  I hope you all enjoy a wonderful, relaxing rest of the weekend (free of training doubts as well as any aches/pains)!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Things I would write about if I had the time...

After reading this blog entry from Cary back in June, I suddenly realized this morning that I could write my own version of that blog entry.  (Funny the thoughts that hit you when you're squished in a bus enroute to work and are trying not to sneeze.)

I started a new career position a few weeks ago.  It's been fantastic, but I came in right at the busiest time of the year.  Trying to get up to speed with everything in combination with the timing of when I started, plus adjusting to a longer commute, has resulted in some heavy hours.  Therefore, for about the dozenth time, I am falling horrifically behind on blogging (mine as well as all of yours!)

If I had the time, here's what I would write about:
  1. Exploring the new neighborhood in which I now work, both in my running shoes and via other modes of transport.  But having to be careful about where I venture.
  2. A growing obsession with Reebok's running apparel.
  3. Trying to select THE running shoe I will wear on marathon day.  I really enjoyed this blog entry from Xaarlin on the HUGE emotional toll that ensues during this process.  I relate VERY much.  And I REALLY like using CAPITAL letters.
  4. Rediscovering Chicago's Lakefront Path.  I hadn't run on the path for several years due to where I now live.  But I decided to go check it out again last weekend and was enthralled.  (I also ran into Erin out there, what are the odds?!?!)
  5. My renewed obsession with Disney races.  I've been getting emails promoting the Disney Marathon's 20th Anniversary Race this year, which looks amazing.  I've had to fight myself on this because I want that Mickey medal!
  6. Learning the hard way that marathon training does NOT mean you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, in as much quantity as you want.  Oof.
  7. Recent efforts to improve my running form, basically by focusing more on propeling myself as I push off.  (A little hard to explain in words.)
  8. A much-needed vacation to North Carolina coming up in a few weeks, as well as the NAAAP National Convention next weekend.
  9. Doing long runs on Saturdays, even if it means doing them at weird times, instead of Sundays.  For various reasons.  
  10. Discovering powdered Gatorade!  Also trying some new fueling options (Clif shot bloks, Honey Stingers, sports beans, plus some new GU flavors).
  11. Going to an awesome White Sox game and getting to cross a few other things off of my Summer 2012 To-Do List.
More to come as soon as time permits!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Put on shirt, apply heart to sleeve

I've been planning out my remaining non-stepback long runs between now and the Chicago Marathon on October 7.  There are only three of them left.  Three.


My three remaining long runs include:

A 16-miler
I'll probably try to do 16.5, since I did 15 last weekend and will try to split the difference between 15 and my next long run, which is...

An 18-miler
I'll be doing this the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend.  Afterwards, I will be heading directly to the airport (without passing "Go" and without collecting $200) to fly to North Carolina for vacation.  I'll have to start this run even earlier than usual to make sure that I have enough time to stretch and, more importantly, shower before getting on the plane.  Otherwise we'll all risk feeling sorry for whoever is sitting next to me during the flight (Adam).

Let's hope something like this doesn't flash across your TV screens in a few weeks.
A 20-miler
This will be done through the CARA Lakefront 20-Miler.  I am excited about this because being in a race-type atmosphere will help make this run a lot easier.  Relatively speaking, of course.

Dare I say that I'm actually starting to get excited about doing these final long training runs?

I met up with Erin yesterday morning for another great early-morning run.  We ran through Taylor Street, aka Mile 18 of the Chicago Marathon course.  She was telling me that the entire street would be lined with tables of GU, water, and Gatorade.  I told her that I was sure that after the marathon I would forever associate Taylor Street with replenishment.  And not just because of the Little Italy restaurants and the seasonal Italian ice stand (which I desperately need to check out, by the way).

An oasis in the desert. 
I imagine this to be reminiscent of Taylor Street (aka Mile 18) within the Chicago Marathon course.

(By the way, we also saw them setting up for the Festa Italiana, which I'd never heard about until then.  You learn neat things while wandering the neighborhoods at 6:00 AM on a weekday morning!)

On that note, earlier this week I had ridden a bus north on Michigan Avenue between 31st Street and Roosevelt (aka miles 24 through 26 of the Chicago Marathon course).  I told Erin about how I had sat on the bus watching the scenery go by, thinking that this is what I will be seeing while wondering if I had any skeletal bones poking out (or something equally painful).

My biggest fear is that I will go through all of this training - nearly a year's worth of training - and that I won't be able to finish the marathon for whatever reason (ANY reason).  When blogging was just an idea in the back of my mind, I remember many folks saying that blogging would help friends and family to cheer you on during your journey.  They also said that blogging would keep you accountable for staying on track with your training goals.  But what they didn't say was that blogging could also open up a lot of potential vulnerabilities if things don't go as planned.

This is how I accessorize my running wardrobe.

I've been watching the Olympics.  I am reminded day after day how agonizing it must be for these world class athletes to train for years and years and years - then for some to not perform well during the moment of truth on the world's largest stage.  I can only imagine the devastation.

I am certainly not comparing myself to an Olympian.  But I am reminded of the feeling of working so hard and so long for a goal, but also fearing that it may not come to fruition.  Of course, I know that we should not go through life afraid.  Being fearful makes you react differently, makes you see things differently, changes your perspective, limits you from your true potential.  But it is hard for me to comprehend this magnitude of a goal without any inkling of doubt.

I do also know that life will go on regardless of whether I'm able to complete this goal or not.  If I can't complete it on the first try, there are always opportunities to try again in the future.  There's no shame in any of that, right?

For now, I am enjoying how much progress I've made in the last year.  I am also working hard to visualize myself crossing that finish line - I already get tears in my eyes when I think about it.  And I remind myself through some great advice from experienced marathoners that it's okay to cry.  Which I will, no bones about it (whether or not any skeletal bones really are poking out by mile 26!) 

There is a reason why I carry a wad of Kleenex the size of my head in my runners' belt, after all.  My madness really does have a method.  =)

"The miracle isn't that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start." 

- John "The Penguin" Bingham

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Post-run decisions

15-mile long run finished this morning, bringing with it a new personal distance record! 

Going into this morning's run, I was apprehensive about adding almost 2 miles to my previous personal distance record (13.25 miles).  It had taken me months to build my long runs from 5 miles to 10 miles.  Therefore, it didn't seem realistic to add 1-2 miles each week for the remaining duration of my marathon training.  Many experienced runners had all assured me that once you got to this point in your training, that an additional couple miles would not be a big deal.  Admittedly I was skeptical.  But it turns out they were right!

The run felt great this morning.  It was a beautiful, breezy, sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s.  Normally during my long runs I store water and GU inside my mailbox in my building lobby.  Then I run various loops near my building so I can come back whenever I need to for hydration, etc.  Today, however, I changed my route up for some variety.  I decided to carry some GU with me and rely on neighborhood water fountains for hydration.  It worked out well, and I really enjoyed being able to explore a much, MUCH wider radius of surrounding neighborhoods while running.

OK, maybe not THAT much wider of a radius.  But a woman can dream, right?

A couple other training notes from this morning's 15-miler:
  • My usual practice during long runs has been to take a GU about every 3.5 miles.  I knew this was on the higher-frequency end of the GU-consumption spectrum, but I was paranoid about getting worn out from not fueling enough.  Today I experimented with taking a GU every 4.5 to 5 miles, and felt fine.  Now I know that maybe I don't need to take GUs quite as frequently as I did in the past.  Since the cost of GU can add up quickly, this is really good for the pocketbook.
  • After finally having had enough with my SPI belt, combined with Irina's thoughts and positive feedback, I bought an iFitness double-pouch running belt.  I gave it a go this morning and it is fantastic!  It's so much more durable, efficient, and well-designed than the SPI belt.  Highly recommended!  I'm officially retiring my SPI belt from running and will now use it just as a money belt when traveling.  Thanks again, Irina!
  • I started feeling tired around mile 10 and thought that things would just go downhill from there.  But, I ended up getting a second wind around mile 12, which carried me through.  At the end, I actually felt like I could have even gone another few miles.  It was such a confidence booster!

On that last note, many people might make snap decisions when they are feeling emotional, intoxicated, or ambidextrous.

I have certainly been guilty of making decisions without thinking them through, due to all of the above conditions.  Today I added another decision-accelerating condition to the list: I make snap decisions after good training runs. 

As I'd mentioned here, I have been debating back and forth on whether or not to run the Mad Dash to Madison.  I was so charged up after my 15-miler that in a frenzied fit of post-run exhilaration, I gleefully signed up for it without giving it another thought.  Go Blackhawks!!!  (I would cue Chelsea Dagger here, but for the sake of everyone's sanity other than my own I'll try to contain myself until hockey season starts.)

"I feel so good right now that I will sign up for enough races to span
all 50 states, all 7 continents, and every star in the Milky Way Galaxy!"

While I was in race-registration frenzy mode, I was also thisclose to signing up for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon.  I know/follow the blogs of several of the race ambassadors (Hi Kim, Bobbi, and Maggie!), and this race takes place in a gorgeous Wisconsin area which I visited many times with my family growing up.  My hesitation about this race, though, is the occurrence just a few weeks after the Chicago Marathon.  (Same thing with the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which I am still dying to run, but at this point probably will not do until next year.)

Fortunately or unfortunately, conservative rationalism did get the better of me at that point.  And I reluctantly stopped before clicking any more "Confirm" buttons.


Note to self for future reference:
Keep the computer locked away for at least three hours after training runs.  This will allow some time to come down from any runner's high and resume somewhat-rationale thinking.  Otherwise risk a torrid spree of new race registrations that the body may not be able to handle.

No regrets whatsoever on signing up for Mad Dash, though.  None at all.

But the Great Lakes Half?  Seriously, folks, thisclose... thisclose...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sidetracked and juggling

One would think that after months of struggling mightily with stubborn and sometimes debilitating runner's injuries, that I would learn that prevention is way easier than rehabbing. 

One would think that with me knowing how much of runner's training involves non-running activities, I would give these non-running activities the proper prioritization. 

One would think that Twinkies can last for decades without spoiling and that it's a good idea to stock up on cratefuls of Twinkies in case of emergency galactic famine.

One would be wrong on all counts.

My knee has been aching more incessantly over the past few weeks.  In response, I've tried to be very consistent about doing my physical therapy routine, which has usually helped.  But this time, the physical therapy hasn't been as effective as usual in quelling the aching.

I know that doing yoga helps runners and nonrunners alike in countless ways.  I've experienced the benefits firsthand and I used to be good about doing yoga at least once a week.  However, over the past few weeks, I've left my yoga routine slide to the wayside, preferring to focus just on running and on physical therapy.  This change has made a difference - in a bad way.

My reasons for skipping yoga were twofold.  First, my schedule has been a complete disaster these last few weeks.  Second, since my physical therapy routine includes a lot of stretching, quite frankly I thought I could get away with not doing yoga without much impact. 

Yeah, my knee quickly let me know who's boss.
After probably a month-long yoga hiatus, this morning I pulled out one of my yoga videos and grimaced through almost the entire routine.  Wow, did I feel stiff!  A lot of the poses that are usually fairly fluid for me ended up being unfamiliarily challenging.  I am used to feeling tightnesses in my lower body, but today the muscle stiffness also introduced itself in my back, of all places. 

As awkward as the yoga was feeling, my knee achiness did subside for a little while afterwards.  So that was good.  But clearly I really need to get back on track with doing yoga on a regular basis.

This is the body after an extended period without yoga.

Seriously, though.  Between running, foam-rolling, physical therapy, yoga, weight-training, and other cross-training activities, the ideal fitness routine can truly serve as a full-time occupation on top of everything else we do in life.  How do people balance it all? 

Maybe it's time to go to clown school and take juggling lessons.

Oh, and about those Twinkies?  Apparently they only have a shelf life of 25 days.  (!?!?!?) 

Guess there's no time like the present to start packing down those Twinkies-in-reserve...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Self Unrecognizable

Yours truly has been undergoing some amorphous changes over the past few weeks.  I hardly recognize myself these days!

OK, maybe not quite THAT amorphous or THAT unrecognizable.

(I hope.)

To elaborate on my amorphous changes: 
I used to do ALL of my weekday training runs in the late afternoon or early evening, and my weekend long runs starting at 8:00 or 8:30 AM.  I also used to struggle to get to the office by 8:45 AM most mornings.  (Maybe "struggle" is not a strong enough description.  More aptly, I used to scream bloody murder when the alarm clock went off on weekday mornings.)

However, in the past few weeks I've been able to get up at 5:45 AM with relative ease to go running before work.  I have been getting into the office by 8:00 or 8:15.  And I have been starting most of my weekend long runs anywhere between 6:00 AM and 6:30 AM.

Woo hoo!

Yes, I will freely admit that these amorphous changes have been driven by necessity.  In short, the brutal summer heatwave we've been experiencing has made me realize that I can either get up at the crack of dawn to run in relatively cooler temps... or I can sleep in and then go running in conditions that would make igneous lava rock turn back into liquid hot magma.

I have seen regular occurrences of liquid hot magma oozing along the sidewalks this past summer.  Haven't you?

On second thought, does the picture of the liquid hot magma remind you of the amorphous blob picture above?  (I always said that I didn't believe in coincidences... but I digress.)

Beyond the fiery heat, last week I started a new career (which has been awesome!) and these first few weeks have required some heavy work hours.  I've been getting home too late each night to go running after work.  Therefore the only time to get my runs in has been early in the morning.

Finally - I've been driving to my new office these past few weeks because of my long workdays.  Parking is at a premium unless you get there early.  More motivation!

Dare I say that I am starting to morph into a morning person?

Parting the Red Sea

Another case in point: I met Erin this morning at 6:00 AM to go running before work.  When I do early-morning weekday runs alone, I usually push myself to do about 3 miles and then call it a running day.  I had every intention of doing the same thing today.  However, this morning I experienced how much faster the miles can tick by when you have good company.  Erin and I effortlessly knocked out almost 5 miles!  And I felt awesome for the rest of the day!

I am liking this early morning routine.  I wonder if I can keep this up all the time?  Of course, come winter, it might be more of a challenge.  But let's not think about that yet.

On a final note...
To this point, my longest ever distance run has been 13.25 miles.  But I have a 15-mile long run on the docket for this weekend.  I have also registered for the CARA Ready to Run 20-Miler.  Excluding stepback weeks, every successive long run from now until the marathon will be a personal distance record for me.

We are officially down to where the rubber meets the road!