Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The last run of 2009

This morning I did my last run in 2009. Yes, I know there's one more day left in the year, but Thursdays are generally non-running days, plus we have other things planned, plus I've already run more consecutive days this week than I ever do, and my legs deserve a little break. I'll pick things up again on Friday (e.g., 10 miles on the first day of 2010?).

As of this morning I have run every day for five days in a row, which is unheard of for me. I didn't plan to run that many consecutive days, it sort of just happened.

It all began when I didn't run on Christmas Day (Friday, which is a running day), and substituted an 8.25 mile run on Saturday morning instead. Saturday afternoon we drove over to Wenatchee to go night skiing at Mission Ridge ($15 lift ticket, woo hoo!). Wenatchee and Mission Ridge are east of the mountains, and are much colder than Western Washington, even than Steven's Pass, which is in the mountains! The temperature when we were up at Mission was about 16 degrees. Brrr! That is cold, even wearing ski clothes and handwarmers in your gloves.

But it was fun, and good skiing (there was only one lift open, but there were several ways to ski down, and the length of the runs was about double what I would call a "typical" ski run. Night skiing began at 4 p.m., and it was still light enough to enjoy some great view and a beautiful sunset. I was wearing the fabulous new ski parka that Rod gave me for Christmas!

We ate dinner in the lodge and had the special, huge, decadent plates of ribs with a really yummy side of baked beans. I ate a lot of ribs but wisely didn't finish them all...but Rod polished off my leftovers.

We were staying at the Chieftain in Wenatchee, a motel that has been around forever (since we were kids), but is now a Best Western. It was nice in a Best Western kind of way. I have stayed in so many tiny, shabby, single-bedded rooms in Europe and England that I am very non-picky when it comes to hotels. As long as it's clean, has adequate heating/cooling/blankets/pillows and a nice big bed (comfortable is a bonus!), I'm happy.

On Sunday morning my alarm went off at 7 a.m. so I could get up and go out into the bitter cold for a run. I so did not want to go. The only reason I finally forced myself to get up was because I had packed all my cold weather running clothes and other running gear. I didn't want my packing efforts to go to waste!

I wore my new Nike thermal running pants (good for running in extra cold weather or walking in somewhat cold weather), a Hind mock turtleneck top and a heavier running jacket, plus a fleece hat, my usual gloves and, added at the last minute, a fleece neck warmer that I use for skiing. How cold was it? I don't know for sure, but I'm sure it was below 20 degrees. I wasn't cold in my warm layers, but I never got overheated either, and I don't think I even really started to sweat until near the end of the run!

Since it was still semi-dark and I'm not familiar with Wenatchee, I decided to stick with running on Wenatchee Avenue, which is a major street (that the motel was on), and impossible to get lost on. I started out running west (I think), in the direction of the Wenatchee River.

This run reminded me why I don't particularly like running on long, straight streets. (This may be why the Las Vegas Half was not one of my favorite runs!) It seems to take so long to cover any mileage! And it is so dull. After about 1.25 miles I passed Starbucks. Of course I couldn't stop because I can't carry a coffee while running. I crossed the Wenatchee River (very cold, dark, and forbidding) just before two miles, and turned around at the two-mile point.
My plan was to go two miles out, two back, then about a mile in the other direction then back, totalling six miles.

Luckily the return trip seemed to go faster (it always does), and the second part of my run, into downtown Wenatchee was more interesting (though still very straight). Wenatchee has a cute little downtown, and I enjoyed looking in the windows of the antiques malls and shops as I passed. I went almost a mile and a half before I turned back. I would have gone further but I knew I needed to get back quickly enough to get ready before breakfast shut down (free breakfast, can't pass that up!). As I neared the Chieftain I was approaching seven miles, and, of course, couldn't resist running around the parking lot to round up to a full seven.

I showered and dressed quickly (I can be very speedy!), and we were down for breakfast by 9:30 or so. They had a big breakfast buffet, with hot food (omelets, sausage, biscuits and gravy, make-your-own-waffles) and the usual cold stuff (English muffins, bagels, cereal, etc.). I had a big waffle (yum!) and an omelet. Then I split a biscuit with Rod so he could try the biscuit with gravy. I put butter and jam on my half.

Although it was a cold day, it was clear and sunny, so we decided to head further east to check out whether there was snow on the ground at Rimrock, where Rod's cabin is. And there was! We got a few pictures of the property in the snow....

The views of snow on the wheatfields as we drove through were amazing. The camera could not really capture the subtle gold and sparking white!

On the drive back we were so lucky to get west of the pass just before a truck went off the road and blocked traffic for hours! My parents and sister's family happened to be in Leavenworth that afternoon, and we passed on stopping to eat with them there. Even though they didn't start back until a couple hours later, they were still delayed for hours by the backed up traffic!

Since I digressed a lot from my original topic here, let me just refresh that Sunday was run number two in my five-day progression.

Monday morning was a usual running day. On Sunday night I had re-tallied my mileage for the year, just to see where I was at. You might recall that I went over my "goal mileage" of 1600 miles by doing CIM. On Sunday night I discovered that I was about 17 miles short of 1700 miles! That was never a plan, of course, but I felt like I was too close to let it go without a shot! My only scheduled running days for the rest of the year were Monday and Wednesday. If I did at least eight miles on Monday, I would need to do about nine on Wednesday to make it happen.

Doing eight miles on a weekday is not a big deal to me, but apparently getting up early enough for that on a Monday morning after a long, busy Christmas holiday is a big deal. By the time I crawled out of bed and got dressed, running eight miles was a practical impossibility, though I did squeeze out 7.5 (at least a mile further than I should have allowed myself, really).

Still, now I was looking at almost ten miles for Wednesday, and I doubted that I could be disciplined enough to guarantee getting up early enough to go almost ten miles and still get to work on time.

The only alternative was to squeeze in some miles somewhere else. New Year's Eve was out (other plans already made). So, I rather reluctantly decided to go for an evening run on Tuesday after work (day four).

Before I go on, I have to comment on the difference between running in the extreme cold in Wenatchee and the moderate cold (mid-30's) here on Monday. My average pace wasn't all that different, 9:52 on Sunday and 9:46 on Monday. But running in the bitter cold was so much more work. It was like the air was heavier and required more effort to even move through it. I marveled on Monday at how much easier my body moved, even though I was on my third day of running.

On day four I at least had the benefit of a 36 hour break between runs. I ran on my side of town, up and down the blocks parallel to my house, until I ended up at QFC after five miles. The first two miles were difficult, but by mile three I had picked up the pace to a sub-10 pace (9:35, 9:45, and 9:27 for the last three miles). This run also meant I only had five miles to go to 1700!

This morning, day five, came early, only twelve hours after last night's run. And my body felt it. Oh, did I feel it. This was definitely a run on tired legs and a tired body. Despite my slowness and non-early start, I squeezed in seven miles exactly (10:05 average pace, thanks to an extremely sluggish start).

Total mileage for the year: 1702.93 miles.

Next year, no mileage goals. I really don't want to commit myself to trying to top this year's mileage, though I probably will if I train as I have been. I think I just want to see what happens!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More 2009 in Review: A few of my favorite things (food)

Earlier today I thought it might be fun to do a post about nine of my favorite things from 2009. The first things that came to mind were foods! So I decided to do a post about nine of my favorite food discoveries from 2009. Maybe, later, I'll look into other favorite things....

All of these are foods or recipes I "discovered" in 2009. They are in no particular order, just listed as they occur to me!

1) Curried Vegetable Stew. I am in the middle of eating a big pot of it this week! After all the Christmas indulging, by Sunday night I was craving this vegetable stew. Every time I make it I tinker with the directions and add something new. This time I partially cooked a big sweet potato in the microwave and added that. I also, by the way, partially cooked the delicata squash in the microwave before adding it to the pot. Topping with plain yoghurt (I like nonfat Greek yoghurt) and chutney is a must!

While I'm talking stew/soups, I can't leave out my beloved Kabocha Pumpkin Squash Soup. It's not new to me this year, but I love it so, and the Kabocha Squash season is short! I have one left, and after I cook that up, it's farewell till next year, I guess.

There is also a wonderful soup my mom makes with kale and other greens, zucchini, canned tomatoes, and chicken broth that is so tasty and so healthy, and it is a wonderful 2009 discovery. Unfortunately I don't have the recipe (I just let my mother deliver it to me), so I can't include it here. (If I get it, I will edit it in later.)

2) Oven roasted broccoli, oven roasted cauliflower, and oven roasted brussels sprouts. I put all three of them together because I make the cauliflower and brussels sprouts exactly like the broccoli (although I didn't use garlic with the brussels sprouts, you probably could, but it might burn too much with the length of cooking time needed). The only other difference is that it is really important to roast the brussels sprouts for a long time, till they are very well done and browned almost to the point of blackening! I made the brussels sprouts with Christmas Eve dinner, and they were deeelicious. I omitted the grated parmesan because my sister's husband doesn't eat cheese. Actually you can omit the cheese from any of the recipes, but don't leave out the grated lemon rind and squeeze of lemon! I know the brussels sprouts do stink up the house, but we discovered on Christmas Day how to get rid of the smell—cook bacon!

3) Delicata squash oven fries. Oh. My. God. I love these! (I also love sweet potato oven fries, but they're not new to me!)

4) Pumpkin desserts, except for pumpkin pie. For example, Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cake, Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf, and other baked goods not made by me... such as Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cake (I've only eaten it as samples at QFC), Pumpkin Scones (like the ones at Starbucks), Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (more QFC samples), Pumpkin Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (like the one I bought at whole foods during my 22-mile run). But I don't like pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, or pumpkin ice cream! Must be a texture thing—I like the baked stuff but not the soft stuff. Let's also throw in Sweet Potato Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, not a pumpkin dessert obviously, but another tasty way to turn a vegetable into a treat! The second time I made them I added some spices to the mix as well. Yummy!

5) Upside Down Pear Cake and other pear desserts. This summer/fall I made tons of different recipes using the pears from Rod's tree. All were delicious, but the upside down cake was a favorite! This Fresh Pear Cake is amazing too (here's a picture)....

6) Zucchini chips from Lucca in Sacramento. Who knows if I will ever be in Sacramento to eat at Lucca again, so I may have to try my hand at making zucchini chips someday! As far as I can tell they would be made exactly like potato chips, slicing zucchini paper thin, probably patting dry, fried crisp and dusted with salt.

7) Ono! This is a white fish that I had in Hawaii (also called Wahoo in other locations). It may be available in some other places but I suspect the quality would not be as good as freshly caught local Hawaiian. My favorite preparation was in a sandwich, simply grilled or fried on a bun with lettuce, onion and tomato. Rod would add to this category (of foods we had in Hawaii), loco moco (rice topped with a hamburger patty, egg(s), and gravy—also with a scoop of macaroni salad on the side), and the fresh mango from the Farmer's Market. I would definitely agree that fresh Hawaiian mango is unlike any mango I've ever bought in a grocery store! I wish we were allowed to carry some home!

8) Dreyer's Slow Churned Ice Cream and 6-ounce cups. I have been totally on board with the Dreyer's Slow Churned Ice Cream for years, so it's not new in that sense. However, this year I have tried some rocking flavors! For example, Hot Cocoa, Peppermint Candy, Egg Nog, and Take the Cake. (And looking at the website, there are many others yet to try!) I wish they'd stock the seasonal ones year round. I love the slow churned because it has about half the calories of premium ice creams like Ben and Jerry's, but is just as delicious to me. I also like the cups (though they are relatively expensive compared to the larger carton, and only available in a few basic flavors, I like the coffee flavor), because they have a pretty generous (but reasonable) 6-ounce serving size.

9) And finally, Reese's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Three Musketeer's Mint Minis. Hey, I'm no saint! (As you may have guessed from the ice cream category above.) While I'm at it, let's also add Gu Mint Chocolate—love me some minty chocolate! (No, I don't consider this really a food. I'd have to be pretty chocolate desperate to snack on it! I think.)

So there you have it! Nine (plus) great favorite foods from 2009. I kinda think they're gonna stick around for 2010! (And I forgot to include the Oroweat Sandwich Thins and Oroweat Double Fiber English muffins—but I don't want to take anything else off the list!)

2009 in Review: The secret to my marathon success

I've spent a lot of time thinking about how and why CIM was such a big success for me, when so many other runners I know and know of, who are comparable in running skill to me, or often better and faster than me, have such difficulty with their marathon experiences. How could I, a first-time marathoner and certainly not a super-fast runner, break four hours and not really suffer too much doing so, while others who could kick my you-know-what in a 10K or even a half marathon, have tried, but not yet succeeded in breaking the four hour barrier? And many more, both above and below four hours, have writhed in agony while trying to complete the entire 26.2 miles.

I don't want to sound like I think I'm better than any of those runners. On the contrary, I know they are better runners than me. I do believe that my happy conclusion to CIM was a combination of preparation, training, mental state, and luck—all but one of which were totally within my control, and can be achieve by anyone. As for the luck—well, in some ways we make our own luck, but there will always be a certain element of serendipity in play.

So in case it is helpful to anyone, or hopefully at least entertaining, here are my marathon preparation tips.

Training. In some ways it probably seems like I just decided to run a marathon on a whim, because I decided to do CIM only about eight weeks before the race, and it was at that time that I re-designated my running as "marathon training." In reality, I had been marathon training for months, I just didn't know it. All throughout the summer and fall (some of which was training for my half marathon PR's), I was doing long runs up to 16 miles. Not every long run was that far, but certainly every weekend I ran 12-16 miles. I had a HUGE base for up to 16 mile runs. When I did realize that I must be heading toward a marathon, I was able to jump into a training plan midway, because I had already done the first half on my own. I really can't imagine starting a marathon training plan with 3-4 mile runs. I pretty much needed to be almost marathon-ready before I could even commit to doing one.

Speedwork and Tempo Runs. Because I had been working on shorter-distance PR's, I faithfully kept up with the speedwork and tempo work. Almost every Wednesday morning I did some kind of intervals at the track. They weren't as fancy as the speed workouts I read about in other blogs. Mostly I did 400's or 800's. My longest track workout was eight 800's. But I also did a long warm-up beforehand, so I could still make it a seven or eight mile run.

Friday mornings I did lengthy tempo and pace runs. During the summer, leading up to the Anacortes and Bellingham half marathons, I did some pretty fancy and fast progression runs (and other tempo runs). After Bellingham I simplified the tempo runs, pretty much opting for sub-9 minutes as my "fast" pace. My longest of this type was 12 miles with 10 at about 9-minute pace.

Work on your finishing kick. On almost every tempo, distance, and even "easy" run, I tried to run the last mile or two at a faster pace, preferably below nine minutes. I will admit that it helped to have running routes where the last portion is downhill!

Figure out your goal and target paces, and train for those paces. My hope for CIM was to finish under four hours (though I didn't have my heart set on it—more on that later). We all know that the pace for a four-hour marathon is 9:09 minutes per mile. But I also knew that I would have to run faster than that to make it in four hours or less, since the total distance is almost always longer than the "official" distance, and I had to allow for a bathroom stop (there was no way I could plan to run for four hours without a potty stop!). I estimated that I would need about a nine-minute pace to allow for those factors. Thus 9:00 (average) was my goal pace. I also figured that in order to get to a nine-minute average running pace, I would have to try to run faster some of the time to compensate for uphills and slower bits. I figured if I tried for an 8:45 pace as much as possible, that might give me a nine-minute average; so 8:45 was my target pace. Does that make sense?

I had some indication that 8:45 to 9:00 was a doable pace for me. While it was certainly a challenge to run that pace in training runs (why is it so much harder to run on your own than in a race?), a slightly sub-nine pace seemed to be an easy pace in races (where I was usually trying to go much faster). For example, in the Bellingham Half Marathon I ran an average pace of about 8:35, but around mile 10 I felt like I was running very easily, and saw that was because I was running 8:45-9:00 (I sped up).

I tested this in the Seattle Half Marathon, a week before CIM, where I ran comfortably at an average 8:50 pace throughout (totally an average, there were tons of hills that slowed me down periodically).

At CIM, all of my splits were between 8:45 and 9:16 except for the first (9:33) and the first one in the second half, where I stopped for the bathroom (10:33). And although my official pace for 26.2 miles was just under 9:09, my "adjusted" pace was right on goal (if not target). Here are the numbers. Pace for actual distance (26.32 miles) was 9:06. And if you subtract the 90 seconds (or so) that I spent in the porta-potty, that gives me an average pace of just about nine minutes per mile for actual running time. BINGO. It took a nine-minute average running pace to finish just barely under four hours.

Use other (shorter) races as speed work, tempo work, and to measure your ability. I never felt that my solo training runs accurately measured my ability to run at a given pace. I always run slower on my own (and faster in a race). So I used 5K's as track-like speed work, and my 10K, 15K, and half marathons as tempo runs. That is until the Seattle Half, which I used as a practice for running "marathon pace."

Practice running on tired legs. Although I never ran on too many consecutive days (see below), every week I had at least two consecutive running days where the second was "tired legs." Usually that would be a long run on Sunday and a recovery run on Monday. In fact, after several long run Sundays (including my 20-milers), I intentionally did enough miles on Monday to add up to 26.2 miles for the two-day period. Occasionally, like on weekends with races, I ran three or even four consecutive days (which really gave me tired legs by the last day!), but I didn't do that too often.

Respect your body by generally alternating running days with low-impact cross-training (e.g. elliptical). Most training plans call for running on five days a week, possibly even more. I have been running four days a week (most weeks) for about two years and I had no inclination to change that. I knew that meant I would not rack up the mileage volume that others might get. Honestly, 60+ miles a week didn't seem realistic to me. I had two weeks that were just over 50 miles, and the rest were generally in the 40's.

However, keep even easy runs relatively long. My minimum (and typical weekday) length was usually at least eight miles (although sometimes I dipped into the sevens if time was short). It takes me at least three miles even to get warmed up, and five or more miles to really get "in the zone." Why would I want to stop before that? And if I am planning to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles, I don't see any benefit to me in a 3-4 mile run, unless it is strictly for speed.

Try this formula for long runs (which I now sometimes apply even to shorter distances). This is it: The first five miles are warm-up, the second five miles are easy (meaning effortless), the third five miles are quality (maintaining that effortless pace when the effort has become greater), and the fourth five miles (when I got to that) were endurance. And in the marathon, the last 6.2 miles are the hardest 10K ever! (But doable!)

Determine your goal, but don't get hung up on it. There were a few half marathons in my past where I could and should have finished in two hours (or less), but didn't...and was a bit devastated over it. I wanted to be happy about my marathon experience whether or not I finished under four hours. Of course, by the time I passed 20 miles still on pace, the stakes for finishing within four hours got a lot higher, and I probably would have been a little disappointed if I'd let it go at that point!

Don't go out too fast! Okay, I know that everyone says that, but how many people really follow it? I wasn't sure how fast I would start out (a lot of that depends on people around you), but I was determined not to go any faster than my target pace of 8:45. Of course it turned out much slower, about 9:30 (along with the four-hour pace group), but that was something that could easily be made up (as long as I could hit my target pace for at least a few of the miles). I knew that I couldn't stay at that 9:30 pace for long, though, and after 9:16 in mile 2, I was under nine minutes for several consecutive miles after that, which was good enough to start averaging out to my goal pace.

Don't go out too slow! Remember, all the minutes above your goal pace have to be made up for at some point. If you are a nine-minute pace person (like me), you don't want to be in the position of "needing" to run eight-minute miles (because if you're not doing that in the beginning, you won't be after 20 miles!).

Run easy, run happy. This is a little counter-intuitive to achieving a particular time goal, but it is imperative to finishing with a smile on your face! Find the pace that you can run happily without much effort, and that you can sustain over a long period. That may sound impossible over a marathon distance, but it's not, if you've trained sufficiently for long distances. If you are an inexperienced marathon runner, like me, it is too difficult to gauge how much you can push yourself and still keep it up for the whole distance. Hopefully in your training you've figured out your easy pace (don't worry, your "easy" race pace will still be faster than your easy home pace—my easy pace for training runs was 9:30 to 9:45, and my easy race pace was 8:45 to 9:00), and with a little luck, that pace will be the one you need to achieve your goal finish.

I believe it takes a quite experienced runner to be able to successfully run hard in any given distance. I think I am there with the half marathon distance. I was able to run at 8:33 pace in Bellingham (technically, although that was based on running longer than the official distance), so I would feel okay about pushing myself to 8:15-8:30 (even though I might not be able to do every mile at that pace, I wouldn't burn out). However, I wouldn't try to run an 8:00 pace in a half. (At least I don't think I would.)

In a marathon, though, I am not ready to push my body beyond a pace that feels fairly comfortable. Luckily that easy pace (this time around) was, in fact, my goal pace.

Try to run even splits in a range. I was happy with my 8:45 to 9:15 range. It really did average out to a nine-minute pace, and the faster miles allowed for a little leeway on the uphills and in the last six miles.

Select your race wisely. I can honestly say that I have never taken the race course into consideration in selecting a 5 or 10K, and very little in selecting a half marathon (I am more interested in the race location than the course profile, I figure I can cope with anything up to 13.1 miles). But in choosing my first marathon I was very picky. I rejected the Seattle Marathon, even though it is local (a multi-marathon runner friend calls the Seattle course "awful"), and turned to CIM because of its description of rolling hills with a general downhill elevation (not really because of its reputation as a popular Boston qualifier). (I also felt that California was accessible enough that traveling there would not be a "big" trip.) Most people seem to agree, but not everyone likes the hills (either up or down). I heard a young woman who was running in my vicinity complaining about the hills and wishing to go back to Chicago! I, on the other hand, would not prefer a pancake flat course for a long race (although it's good for 5K and 10K, of course).

Train for your course. I didn't do any specific hill workouts (which I would probably do if I was planning for a steeper hilly course), but my typical running route includes lots of moderate hills, both up and down. I can honestly say that in both the Seattle Half Marathon (very hilly, including steep ones) and CIM, I was able to compare every portion of the course with my own "home" running roads. The road to Mukilteo, for example, is extremely hilly and steep (like the Seattle course), and I almost always finish a run with a downhill stretch (just lucky that way), which is exactly how CIM finished.

Consider carrying your own fluids and Gu. In most half marathons up to Anacortes this summer, I have never carried a fuel belt. I did in Anacortes, because it was hot and I was afraid there wouldn't be enough water. As it turned out, I drank water on the course and didn't need my fuel belt. But in most races I tend to forego water stations so as not to slow down "unnecessarily." This would not be a good plan in a marathon! But by carrying my fuel belt with Nuun in the water bottles, I was able to drink some on the course without getting caught up in the water station crowds. (I still probably didn't drink enough, but luckily it wasn't a hot day, so I didn't suffer any ill effects.) I got one Gu from the aid station and one out of my pack. I still need to work on my Gu-getting skills so I do not slow down while fumbling in my waist pack (that is partly why I didn't try to take the Gu more often).Bold

I can't really give any tips about fueling, since I am notorious for not fueling much; certainly not in my training runs, and very little in races. Fueling during races is something I should probably work on. However, I think my lack of reliance on gels during training runs has probably been good for me. Apparently my body has learned how to function on the glycogen from my regular diet and the fat stores in my body! :)

Think twice about walking. I hesitate to use this as a piece of advice, but I know that I would not have been able to maintain my pace if I had slowed to walk at all. My only stops were my potty stop in mile 14, and a brief pause to grab a Gu from an aid station just past the halfway point. Of course, I didn't feel like I needed to walk, so that makes a big difference.

Run your own race. Maybe you'll run with the pace group, maybe you'll run with a friend, but in the end, you are the one who has to decide what's right for you!

Have fun! Seriously, I had a great time, even when it got hard in the last few miles. Why would you want to do it if it's going to be a horrible experience?

And finally...

If I can do it, you can too! Remember that. :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Still in the Christmas spirit!

I passed by this house when I was running this morning. It was so cute and colorful that I had to stop for a picture, even though I was SO late and still had several miles to go. The photo doesn't really do it justice.

I like the houses that leave their Christmas lights on overnight, so I can enjoy them in the morning. It makes the darkness a little more palatable!
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day!

This my second attempt at a Boxing Day post. The first was lengthy and detailed, and somehow lost in the internet in between my writing it and looking for my saved version later. Bah humbug!

Instead of running on Christmas Day, I did my Christmas run this morning, 8.28 chilly but satisfying miles. My average pace came out to about 9:45.

Later in the morning Rod and I headed east to Wenatchee for night skiing at Mission Ridge. Here we are, with the sunset behind us. I am wearing the new ski parka Rod gave me for Christmas. I love it!

Tomorrow morning I MAY head out into an even chillier Wenatchee morning for a run. Hope everyone is having a great holiday!
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas, one and all!

I wish I had the time to write a long, interesting, Christmassy post, but after finishing wrapping, packing up bags of gifts to take away, doing some last minute online shopping (did you know you can gift specific iTunes downloads, e.g. the audio version of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, just for example?), baking and mashing some squash to bring to my mom's for dinner (butternut, not my favorite, but selection is limited in the store now), and taking a shower, but before actually getting dressed, I only have time for this paragraph. So Happy Holidays!

Well, one more paragraph. I do hope everyone has a lovely Christmas, go running if you want to, don't if you don't (I personally want to but it's possible that I may not get the opportunity, we'll see). I have a busy weekend ahead, but next week will take a look at 2009 in review and what's to come in 2010!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Back on track, pretty much

Now that more than two weeks have passed since the marathon, I feel like I am pretty much back in the running groove. Actually I have never felt like marathon recovery really hampered my running, although after a slightly rough run three days out, I took the rest of the first week off from running to heal a little more.

In the second week after, I resumed my typical running schedule, although I am holding off on speed work and tempo runs until after the New Year. I am intentionally running easy, although I am plagued by concerns about whether I have "slowed down." Seriously, most of my runs have been at a much slower "easy pace" than I am accustomed to (10+ minute average mile pace as compared to 9:30-9:45 before). I don't know if this is residual from the marathon, whether the dark mornings and unpleasant weather play a part, whether several pounds of post-marathon/cookie weight are dragging me down, or whether I have just lost my edge and will never run fast again! (No, I'm not dramatic at all.)

After my painful fall on Monday the 14th (6.0 miles), I went out for 7.87 miles on the 16th (holding my injured arm against my body to reduce jarring), and then 9.13 miles on Friday the 18th. In a mathematical FAIL I thought that would add up to 25 miles for the week (I thought at the time I wouldn't be running on the weekend). Then afterward I figured out that it was actually 24 miles—oh well, good enough.

If you are a math whiz, or just cleverer than me, you have already noticed that I was still wrong. The actual total of those three days was 23 miles. It took me several rounds with a calculator to believe that I could have gotten it wrong twice! I didn't figure this out until I was adding in my unexpected Sunday miles.

Even though I didn't really "need" more miles for the week, I contemplated going for a run on Saturday to pump up the total a little bit. But it was misting heavily out, and although I don't avoid running in the rain (otherwise I might not run at all in the winter), I just didn't feel like facing it (so I went to the Y and did the elliptical instead).

The warm wet weather that prevented my run on Saturday was, however, also a problem for skiing plans on Sunday. Rod reported 34 degrees and rain on Saturday night at Stevens—an unappealing prospect! I was tired from a grueling day of Christmas shopping Saturday afternoon (most of the gruelingness came from driving and traffic), and was more than willing to forego a ski trip on Sunday. So I was not disappointed to cancel at 6 a.m. Sunday morning!

That did free up Sunday morning for an unplanned long run. If I were a good girl I would have been out there at 7 a.m. and done by 9 or so. But no.... I made myself a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and ate it in bed watching Meet the Press. Then, stomach warm and full, I turned on the Food Network for a bit and ended up dozing off again!

I woke up just in time to watch Nigella's Christmas Kitchen (chocolate cookies, beef with port and stilton gravy, Christmas Pavlova, oh my!), then finally got into my running clothes. The weather was not quite as misty as Saturday, although it did rain steadily from miles 8-10.

Since I had chosen not to run the 12K's of Christmas race, I thought I might do twelve miles instead. For now, I am going to limit my long runs to twelve miles. Okay, "for now" might just mean through the end of the year. :) But even when I do increase a little bit I think 14-16 miles will be my max until I start marathon training again at some point.

I am pretty glad I had the opportunity to do this mid-morning Sunday run, because it gave me a little confidence that perhaps I haven't lost my speed entirely. My average pace ended up at a very respectable 9:30, although I still had a mysterious mid-run slowdown which is not consistent with my typically progressive pace habits. I was happy, though, to be running 9:30's and not feeling like I was trying too hard. I was also happy to want to, and be able to, push it a bit in the end for a couple of faster miles!

I ran my 10-mile loop, adding extra blocks in the middle to squeeze in a couple of extra miles. One of the things I don't like about long runs is the difficulty of finding an interesting but long enough route!

Here are my splits (some are partial miles due to bathroom stops, then at one point I reset the watch to get back on even splits).

.52 mile at 9:42 pace
.29 mile at 9:54 pace
.18 mile at 9:43 pace
.20 mile at 9:15 pace

TOTAL: 12.20 miles (on 12/20) at 9:30 average pace. That made me happy.

On Monday morning I was less happy after 7.77 miles at an average pace of 10:16. It was going to be an eight mile run but, seriously, I was going so slow that I didn't have time for the extra quarter mile while still getting ready for work (2-3 minutes is the difference between being on time and being late, or being a little late vs. being really late, etc.). I probably should have cut it at 7.5 miles, as it was.

My arm, unfortunately, is still exhibiting the effects of my fall. Specifically, it is still swelled up huge (and of course, bruised). It doesn't hurt a lot, just some. The hurting is not nearly as much of a concern as the disfigurement. I am debating how long this can go on before I go to a doctor. It's hard to make that call when I am not in excrutiating pain. Still, when I can't even put on certain jackets because the sleeve is too tight on that side...this is not right.

In other stressful news, Christmas is approaching fast! I feel like I've finished the shopping I need to, mostly, but don't know if I feel ready for the actual day. Tonight I am going over to my parents' house to make lefse to go with our traditional Norwegian Christmas Eve dinner. Perhaps I will save all my dinner calories for sampling....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Visit from Odyne*

Twas the week before Christmas and all through my bod,
Not a muscle was aching, not even a quad!

A week had gone by since the marathon run,
I knew it was time to get out for some fun!

I set my alarm clock for early on Monday,
And laid out my clothing and gear late on Sunday.

The alarm at 5:30 went off with a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter!

(Okay, I'll admit that's a poetic lie—
In fact, I hit "snooze" and let minutes roll by.)

But finally I climbed with reluctance from bed,
To face up to morning and the task that was ahead.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The streetlights gleamed warmly on grass that was green,
Despite chance of snowfall, there was none to be seen.

Then what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a weather report showing dry weather here.

With no precipitation to hinder my way,
The time now had come to get on with my day.

On run pants, on zipfront, on socks that are wicking,
On Garmin, on iPod, on Timex that's ticking.

To the top of the porch, to the sidewalk below,
Now jog away, jog away, jog away slow!

I trotted away on my usual path—
The running felt easy, though pace was not fast.

One mile passed by smoothly, then two, three and four,
Approaching the downtown, I still wanted more!

So southward on Colby, the storefronts I passed,
With holiday decor behind window glass,

Perhaps were distracting as I traveled along—
I sped up a little, I was still going strong.

But suddenly, I encountered some obstacle there,
In the wink of an eye I was flying through air,

And instead of a simple fall to the ground,
I fell into a signboard with hard edges all 'round.

My left bicep was slammed in excrutiating pain,
What injuries suffered? I could not yet explain.

I lay on the sidewalk and swore, moaned and cried,
My arm was so painful, with a scraped knee beside,

I even forgot to turn off Garmin's time,
For several long seconds while I lay in the grime.

At long last to standing I once again rose,
Wondering if I should just head home with my woes.

But I hated to stop at just 4.6 miles,
So onward I shuffled (my face not in smiles).

I turned at Pacific (my planned turnaround),
Then downhill to Starbucks, to whence I was bound,

But still! Only five and a half miles had ended,
I couldn't stop short of my six-miles intended!

So around the block once! And a half time again,
And at 6.0 even I let this run end.

My pain was still dreadful, my demeanor was bad,
I'm sure to those round me I looked very sad

Especially while walking the half dozen blocks,
To my house, all the while sobbing with shock.

To be clear, I was certain that no bones were cracked,
But I expected some bruising of major impact!

A long, long hot shower restored my composure,
But I fear a long wait before this incident's closure.

My arm was swelled up, quite as big as a softball
And causing me pain to a level not small.

I wish I could say that I'm all better now,
The pain's long diminished, but my arm's still a cow!

And I have no idea of how long it will take
For the swelling and bruising to give me a break.

But ne'er fear! I have not let this keep me from running
On Wednesday, near eight miles, and tomorrow more coming.

My reverse taper's ending, my running resuming,
And I'm darned if this injury will keep me from zooming!

(It wasn't my legs that got hurt in the spill,
So running is something I will plan on still.)

And all I can say, with this year almost gone,
Is I'm so glad this didn't happen before the marathon!

*Odyne was apparently the Greek goddess of pain.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2009 Mileage Update

I went back and tracked down my missing miles, then added up all my weeks this year so far. As of today, my 2009 mileage subtotal is... 1616.84 miles! Ta-da! Despite my sluggish start early on, I have now surpassed my goal for the year. Guess I can just rest now.... :)

(In a later post, at the actual end of the year, I will elaborate further, add that this doesn't include walking miles, etc. etc.)
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Sunday summary

I know that Sunday is technically the first day of the week, but it seems a little like the end of the week to me, seeing as how it is the end of the weekend, and also that's how my running calendar treats it. So, a few thoughts before the brand new week officially begins....

·I am ready to run again! I think I am, anyway. My legs feel fine, my quads were not tired or sore at all when I was skiing today, and the bitter cold weather has moderated to just cold. So I have my Garmin charging up, and I'll be sure to lay out running clothes tonight so there won't be any delays in the morning.

·It's a good thing that I will be running again, since I feel like I have plumped up like a holiday turkey, between the taper fueling and various party foods I've been consuming this week (despite really, really trying to be "good"). Yesterday was probably the peak day, with my book club meeting, featuring smothered chicken (that means gravy), biscuits, cornbread and honey, various pre-dinner snacks, and a Christmas cookie exchange (which included liberal cookie consumption). Also, I couldn't keep my hands out of this evil stuff, made by me to replicate "manna," one of the foods featured in our book. Biblically, manna was the food miraculously provided for the Israelites in the wilderness during their flight from Egypt; it is also defined as spiritual nourishment of divine origin. In The Secret Life of Bees, manna is described as various seeds mixed with honey and baked to divine perfection. So what I did to create my version, was melt a little butter in a saucepan and stir in sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, sesame seeds and whole almonds. Then I poured in a bunch of honey and heated it all up for a while. I spread it on a parchment-covered baking sheet (which I sprayed with non-stick spray), then baked it at 350 degrees until the nuts and seeds toasted a little. I put it out on the back porch to cool and then broke it into pieces when it was cold. Mmmmmm....

·The above paragraph is why I need to be running again!

·I am pretty sure, almost positive, that the marathon will be my last race of 2009. It is an appropriate end to the year, there aren't that many other runs out there anyway, and I don't want to put a damper on my year of PR's by doing a race that I might not be quite ready for. Why am I even mentioning this? I skipped the Jingle Bell Run 5K today (never signed up for it) to go skiing, and the only thing left is the 12K's of Christmas next Sunday. I am in need of a 12K PR...which is exactly why I do not need to do this now. Nuff said.

·I am, however, starting to think about the races of 2010. I need to find a balance between doing some of the things I "always" do, adding in some new stuff (one or two marathons), and still keeping up the rest of my life. (That part is important, and I don't always pay enough attention to it.) I did, on a whim, sign up for the inaugural Portland Half Marathon on 10/10/10 (in conjunction with the Portland Marathon). I had been toying with whether I should do the marathon or check out the new half, and I was lured into signing up today by a $25 discount that is only good until December 14. I luckily had my credit card handy. (After I registered I took the credit card back downstairs and put it into my purse, so I wouldn't be lured into more registrations tonight!)

·I need to go back through my running calendar and add up my mileage for this year. I think I set a goal of 1600 miles, threw that goal out in the spring (because I was not on track to make it), started wondering whether my high mileage weeks this fall might put me back on track, then of course had a very low mileage week this week (considering that the marathon fell during the previous week, based on the above-stated rule about Sundays). The only thing that has been interfering with adding up the totals is that there are a few weeks without my distance recorded. I think it is mainly when I was in England. I have the data in my Garmin records, I just have to dig it out. That should be a fun project sitting at the computer....

·I still have moments of euphoria about the marathon. It was such a positive experience, fun and not horribly painful, with a result that was better than I ever expected! I would like to brag about it more, but I try to keep myself restrained. In fact, there are lots of people I know who don't even know that I ran a marathon a week ago. It's a little weird to bring it up out of the blue.... I wore my race shirt to the Y every day this week, and nobody even asked about it! (Not that I ask random people about their race shirts, but I think I might if it was for a race that just happened!)

·I have not done any Christmas shopping yet. And don't have any firm plans about when, where, or what I am going to do about this. (See above, re: keeping up with the rest of my life.)

·However, I am always like this about Christmas shopping! I am sure it will all work itself out eventually....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Apparently my legs are still a little tired....

I have no idea how long one should wait before running after a marathon. I just know (well, believe) that the Marathon Maniac length of time is too short (e.g. running another one the next day or next week), and the common recommendation of one day for every mile (i.e. 26 days) is too long, at least for me.

I also now know (or believe) that three days is probably not quite enough. I figured that out yesterday when I took my inaugural post-marathon run, 6.2 miles from my office to meet my parents at Fred Meyers.

I went out at about 2:00, while the sun was still shining brightly and the temperature was up to about 32 degrees. I was dressed comfortably in new Asics Thermopolis pants, my half-zip top and a heavier running jacket, hat and gloves, and I was quite comfortable with that outfit. I soon learned, however, that my quads were still more affected from the marathon run (and most likely the hills, down and up) than I would have believed. Rather than being heavy or stiff, my legs (thighs) actually hurt, more than I have really experienced before in a run.

I certainly had no intention of trying to run at any kind of speed at all, and I was actually surprised that my pace was still just over ten minutes or so. I ran across the old highway and bridges to Marysville, which is not my favorite place to run (the fast traffic zooming by scares me), but the distance and destination worked well.

I was able to note some distances, for future information. From my office to the first bridge on the highway is one mile. From the office to the last bridge (just in Marysville) is 2.5 miles. The total distance to Fred Meyers is about 6.2 miles (depending on what door you go to).

After about five miles my legs finally felt warmed up and I sped up a little without working at it. The last 1.2 miles were about a 9:40 pace, fast enough to make my average 10:01 for the 10K distance overall.

I thought that it was fitting that my first post marathon run was 10K, sort of re-enacting the final miles of the marathon. Except of course the marathon miles were a lot faster.

I met my parents at Fred Meyers to help pick out a new pair of glasses for my dad, as he broke his old pair. I, of course, am a pro at spectacle style, as I wear many different pairs myself and picked out his old ones. My consultation was somewhat interrupted by my conversation with one of the opticians, a woman who is a marathon runner and qualified for Boston a few years ago at the age of 48. It was fun talking to her because there is kind of a limit on how much you can talk marathon-talk with family, friends, and co-workers without becoming a little...tedious. My mom kept trying to draw my attention back to the glasses, and eventually, after about 20 frames tried, we narrowed it down to two and then made a final selection.

By the time we finally left the store (for my parents to drive me back to the office), the sun was setting and it was getting colder, and I was shivering in my still slightly damp (lightly sweaty) running clothes. My legs were still a little achy too, and I decided, when I eventually got home, that I would soak in a long-postponed epsom salt bath!

After my sore-legged run I determined that a longer rest period was in order before running again. I think my next easy run will be on Monday. Tomorrow morning (Friday), when I would normally be running, I have scheduled a massage instead, and then I have an appointment for a haircut and highlights (good substitute for a run, I think!).

The other reason I am willing to put off running for a bit is our bitterly cold weather. Sub-20's at night! Which means sub-20's at 6 a.m. as well. Somehow, that sort of cold weather, in the dark, seems rather unappealing. By next week it should warm up a little. Even 30's would be okay!

I think this post-marathon reverse taper plan sounds pretty good. Not too easy, but easing back into running after a week of rest. I am probably lucky that I had a half mile walk back to the hotel after the race, to keep my legs working for a while before going into a full-fledged rest. This week I have, lieu of running, been using the elliptical machine at the Y, and that seems to be a satisfactorily low-impact way of getting some exercise without stressing my legs too much.

Tonight I will be making cookies for my Book Club cookie exchange. Hope I can keep myself from eating too much cookie dough!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CIM—The really long version

Take a deep breath, this race recap is 26.2 miles long, and you know how long that takes! So here goes....

After our tour at the old Governor's Mansion on Saturday, we went back to the hotel room for lunch. Instead of going out or buying stuff, we enjoyed a free foraged lunch (partly food I brought along and partly things we "saved" from breakfast). Lunch was Special K crackers (brought) with peanut butter (from breakfast), cheese sticks (brought), oranges (from breakfast), and blueberry muffins (also from breakfast). Cheap, easy, perfectly yummy, and not so heavy as to fill us up before our pasta dinner later on!

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting and reading (I was finishing up The Secret Life of Bees for my Book Club and I love it! Highly recommended).

Then it was off to Lucca for dinner. We heard about this restaurant from other passengers on our shuttle from the airport and it was only a couple of blocks from our hotel, so it was perfect for us. Our reservation was at 6:15 but I thought we should get there a little early in case they could seat us sooner. We arrived by 6:00 and sure enough, got a table in a few minutes, even though the restaurant was very busy and full already.

And we ate, ate, ate. I seemed to have a bottomless pit of an appetite. Not that I stayed hungry all the way through, but I never got uncomfortably full (which is both good and bad, I guess), and I ate almost everything offered to me. First we were easily tempted into a plate of zucchini chips. Just as it sounds—zucchini sliced paper thin and fried like potato chips. So good! We easily inhaled half the plate or more before I asked for a box to pack up the rest. (Then we forgot the box at the restaurant! No big deal, we certainly did not need it.)

Then I had a starter salad, greens with satsuma oranges and goat cheese and a sherry vinaigrette. I can hardly have a meal without salad! For my entree I wanted pasta, of course. I don't really think a pasta dinner is a pre-race necessity, but it is a nice tradition and I certainly needed all the good karma I could get! Plus it's a great opportunity to eat pasta, which I don't have that often. I chose one of the specials, whole wheat penne with sea scallops, yellow and butternut squash, and spinach. It was pretty good, but I would have made it differently for myself...about half the penne and double or triple the squash (particularly the butternut) and spinach. But that's just me... and I still managed to eat the whole thing!

Finally, dessert. Yes, I still had room for dessert. The table next to us (also runners, very petite but they managed to eat heartily plus have dessert also) had ordered the apple crisp which looked so yummy and sort of wholesome, really. So I did too! I did share it with my mother, even though it is in front of me in the picture.

We returned to the hotel and all that was left was to lay out my clothes and gear for tomorrow. Oh, what to wear, what to wear. I had brought lots of options, but I had pretty much already decided to wear the fuschia half-zip that I wore in the Seattle Half, switching in black running pants* (instead of grey) and a black cap (instead of pink), so I wouldn't look exactly the same in pictures.

But the weather forecast had turned even colder than previously expected, and I seriously considered wearing a running jacket as well (in retrospect I would have done fine if I'd worn the running jacket—I'm used to running in a jacket even when it's not extra cold and windy). But I also thought I would probably be okay with just the half-zip, so I decided to start out (if I needed it) wearing a new Hanes charcoal grey zip-front hoody that was part of my pre-and post-race warm-up outfit. I resigned myself to discarding it mid-race, even though it was brand new, bought at Walmart specifically for this race ($13, a little more than I would have liked to spend on a throwaway!). (But I had also suspected I might somehow lose this jacket in the course of the marathon, and bought a spare, which is waiting for me at home.)

I fastened the chip to my shoe, pinned the bib on my shirt, laid out my running clothes and the extra clothes, my fuel belt with nuun and Gu (plus advil and immodium and various other "emergency" supplies), and my newly charged ipod and Garmin. I also turned the satellites back on (off for the flight) and turned it on to find the satellites, just as a warm-up for tomorrow. I don't really understand how all the satellite stuff works, but since the Garmin had never been to Sacramento before, I thought it would be prudent to introduce it to the local satellites in advance! (That may have been silly, but on Sunday before the race I got the satellites up in just a few seconds, so I feel like the advance work may have helped.)

The hotel was opening the restaurant at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, so I set alarms for 3:45 (my cell phone, my mom's cell phone, and the wake-up call on the room phone—we were not able to figure out how to set the clock radio). Then I went to bed and read for a while until I thought I might feel sleepy, which was close to 10:00. I probably should have tried to go to sleep earlier, but I don't think it would have worked anyway.

I actually woke up around 3:30 on my own, but I waited for the alarms and then jumped out of bed (much easier than it is at 6 a.m., for some reason) and put on the first layer of my outfit for the morning. I went down to the restaurant promptly at 4:00 to get coffee. I didn't plan to have breakfast from the hotel buffet, as I had packed oatmeal and I had a banana already saved from the day before. But I took a hard-boiled egg—they had a wonderful big bowl of them, I wonder how they peel so many eggs?—and I was unable to resist a small cinnamon roll-type pastry. Which I ate. Living dangerously? What can I say...I have a pretty stable stomach, so I wasn't too concerned. I also ate the oatmeal, with banana, raisins, a few sliced almonds, and brown sugar. I had almost three hours before race time so I figured I had plenty of time to digest.

I drank half or more of my large cup of coffee, ate my breakfast, gathered up my gear, and headed down to the lobby to wait for the bus. I also grabbed another coffee for drinking while waiting and while on the bus. Yes, this would mean I consumed at least 24 ounces of coffee Sunday morning before the race.

LOTS of people were waiting for the bus at the hotel. I think most of them were staying there, but by the time the buses arrived at 5:15 there were others coming to catch a bus as well. I surged out quickly and got on one of the two buses that arrived initially. That was a relief as I saw the crowds of people still wating as we drove off.... I would have been very stressed if I had to wait for another round of buses!

We got to Folsom about 6:00 and I head immediately to a porta potty. Not because I needed it desperately but I like to use the potties as many times as possible before a race, to empty my bladder and whatever else needs emptying. I doubted that I could make it through the whole race without going again, but I wanted to do all I could to try to make it possible. Happily, there were lots of porta potties and not very long lines yet. Then I went back to the warm bus to wait for a while before heading back into the cold. (Oh yeah, it was cold out!) I stayed on the bus until 6:30, maybe 6:35. Then I put on the fuel belt and geared up, still keeping all the warm clothes on for the time being.

Then back to the porta potties for another effort. I was still one visit short of my usual three but it was the best I could do. I was a little concerned that I hadn't expelled enough fluids (considering all the coffee) but I did what I could. At most races, even half marathons, I do a warm-up run and that usually makes things move through me and sets me up for that third potty stop. This time, since I was going to run 26.2 miles, I thought I'd skip the warm-up run so as not to use up my energy and legs in advance. I did jog a little from the potties to the starting area.

Finally I peeled off my warm clothes (except the Hanes sweatshirt) and dumped my bag by the sweat drop truck. Once I worked my way out of that crowd (lots of people trying to dump their stuff!), the starting area was much less congested and I was easily able to move over near the 4:00 pace signs. I wasn't officially in their group, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to use their signs to pace myself. I turned on the Garmin and I was ready to go.

I didn't even hear the starting gun (or whatever they used) but suddenly we were moving forward! Unlike many other big races, I didn't feel like the starting crowd held me back (possibly because everyone was trying to arrange themselves according to the pace signs?), but I started somewhat slowly (and at the same pace as the 4:00 pace group). I usually go out much faster—like 8:30 pace in a half marathon—and it always feels hard until I get my groove, but this felt easy from the start. Probably because it was a 9:30 pace....

When the first mile came in at 9:33 I was okay with that but I was concerned that the pace group was going sort of slow, and it would be hard to make up the difference to get below the 9:09 pace needed. So I decided to let myself go ahead of the pace group a bit. I told myself that I had to run my own race. This became a mantra of sorts throughout the run. I had planned to use "I am strong, I am invincible" (yes, I am woman) as my mantra but I didn't think of that during the run, even when I might have needed it.

After I left the 4:00 pacers behind, mile 2 was 9:16 and the next few miles were all under nine minutes. I was happy with this because it brought me back on track and it didn't feel too fast at all. I liked the idea that I was even building a small time cushion, because chances were good that my entire distance would be greater than 26.2 (it always is) and a 9:09 pace would not be fast enough in that case. My goal pace was actually about nine minutes (for an average). I figured that would make up for an overlong total distance and hopefully give me enough time for a bathroom stop if needed.

I had applied a pace chart tattoo on my arm but I didn't need a chart to calculate pace mileage times for the first seven miles or so. It was easy math—9:09, 18:18, 27:27, 36:36, 45:45, 54:54, and about 64 at mile 7. After that, it was too complicated to do in my head! But on the one occasion I tried to check the pace chart to see if I was on pace, I discovered that the print was too small to focus on and read while I was running. I could make it out if I stopped, but that kind of defeated the purpose! The blurriness of this picture is somewhat similar to what I saw when I tried to read the chart on the run.

Miles 3-6—8:54, 8:47, 8:51, 8:58.

Miles 7-9 must have been a little more uphill because I slowed a little, but still kept a good pace—9:04, 9:08, 9:08. The course was a mix of moderate downhills and moderate uphills (with an overall descent from beginning to end). This is an ideal type of terrain for me. I am quite accustomed to running up and down hills in my regular running routes, and as long as the uphill (or downhill) is not excessively steep, I like it. Generally speaking, the "free speed" from the downhills more than makes up for the slight slowing on the uphills.

Around about mile 8 or so I started thinking about needing to use a bathroom. It wasn't urgent or anything, and if I'd been doing a half marathon I would have easily held it for the duration, but I wasn't sure that would work for a full four hours or more. I didn't really want to lose time stopping, of course, and I really didn't want to stand in line. I decided that I would wait to stop until at least past mile 10, and then if I saw a porta potty without a line I would stop and use it.

But as I passed the occasional trio of porta-potties I always saw a few people waiting in line. I just didn't want to do that, although the urge was getting stronger. I made a modified decision that I would wait until after the halfway point to stop, as I didn't want to mess up my half marathon split with a potty stop.

I had been wearing my Hanes sweatshirt very comfortably, although I had unzipped it so my race number would show (for pictures) and to allow a little air circulation. Around mile 11 I decided it was time to get rid of it. While I wasn't excessively warm, I thought it would be easier to run without it flapping around me. I tossed it toward a woman on the side of the street. I shouted to her that it was brand new, hoping that she would take it. She yelled back to me that she would save it for me. (But I wasn't coming back!)

Miles 10, 11, 12, 13—8:53, 8:54, 8:58, 9:00.

The half marathon time was 1:58:xx on my watch (almost exactly the same as in Seattle) and about 2:01 on the clock.

Other than needing to pee, I was feeling really good. As the earlier miles had ticked by, I had thought about past races in my life when they had felt like so much work at much fewer miles. The Bloomsday 12K for example. The race distance is about 7.5 miles and I remember how hard it felt going up Doomsday Hill around mile 5. Here I breezed past five miles (and 7.5 miles) without concern.

Or any of the half marathons I've run...when I've been all out of gas after 13.1 miles. Here I was only halfway at 13.1, and that was okay! I had plenty of gas left in my tank. And the nine-minute-or-so pace I was running was not that much slower than many of my past half marathons, or even my Bloomsday runs.

Just after the halfway point we came to an aid station handing out Gu. I slowed enough to pick out a chocolate outrage (I like the chocolate, chocolate mint, and espresso flavors best), tore it open, and started sucking out small bites (sips?). There may have been a Gu station earlier—there was supposed to be at mile 8—but I didn't see it. I did have four Gu's in my pack, but I didn't want to fumble with getting one out if I could just grab one at the aid station! Up to that point I hadn't felt the need to put anything in my stomach (big breakfast, remember), but I suspected it might be time to refuel at this point.

Before I finished the Gu we passed a relay exchange point. There was also a huge bank of porta potties, and I knew this my best opportunity to get in without waiting. I ran up to them, found one that was open, and hopped in (holding my Gu packet in my teeth). I really, really wanted to be fast in the porta potty (unlike my leisurely bathroom breaks on long runs at home), but I also wanted to make it a worthwhile stop—I wasn't going to be stopping again! So I burned a few extra seconds squeezing out every drop, then ran back out the the course.

The relief was immense, and worth the delay. It made me feel good enough to take off fast and push a little harder to make up the lost time. I was nervous to see the time for mile 14 (the porta potty mile), because I feared it would be over 11 minutes or more, but it turned out to be 10:33, which wasn't all that horrible. Apparently I had spent about 1½-2 minutes on the potty stop.

I made up some of the time in miles 15-17—8:47, 8:54, 8:46. At some point after the porta potties I also saw red pacer signs ahead of me, not too far in the distance. As I gained on them I saw that they were the 4:00 signs (what else could they have been? 3:50 would be way too fast and I hoped it wasn't something like 4:05 or 4:10). Obviously, even though I had stayed ahead of them in the first half, they gained on me and passed me while I was in the porta potty.

Once I caught up I decided to run with the pace group for a while (as it turned out, pretty much the rest of the race). After all, they promised to bring their followers in at four hours!

Mile 17 was my last mile under nine minutes (until the final kick). From then on I was pushing to stay on pace, if I wanted to finish under four hours. I hoped that I had enough cushion in the bank already to compensate for the potty stop and extra mileage, and as long as each mile was under 9:09 or within a couple of seconds, I felt okay with it. Also, as long as I was staying abreast with one of the pace signs, I felt on track.

Miles 18-19—9:01, 9:06.

I can honestly say that the first 18 miles were easy for me. Maybe I wasn't trying as hard as I could have, but my 9-ish minute pace felt as comfortable as my typical easy 9:30 pace at home. Even though that was not the most aggressive tactic, I felt that I had a much better chance of finishing the race satisfactorily if I kept myself at a happy pace for as long as possible. I knew it would get hard eventually, but the sooner I could have put that off, the better!

Harder came after the end of mile 18. As I noted in some post about my long runs (or maybe it was an email to someone), I have a really good base up to 16 miles. I have done so many runs of that length (and many more if you include 13-16 miles), but really only a handful over that. In my long runs, the hard work starts after mile 16. Fate gave me a couple more easy miles after that, but after 18, I could see "the wall" in the distance (even if I wasn't yet hitting it).

I pushed through miles 18-19 pretty well, thinking about my 22 mile run a few weeks back, when I had run 18 miles "easy" then pushed myself through two more to 20, then geared myself up to squeeze out the last two at a sub-nine minute pace. In comparison, most of these 18 miles had been at or under nine minutes, without excessive effort to accomplish that. I knew, though, that I would have to work a lot harder to keep up that pace for the final 10K!

Miles 20-26—9:11, 9:09, 9:11, 9:07, 9:08, 9:14.

Somewhere in the low 20's the pacers drew ahead of me a bit. I tried not to be too concerned. My individual mile splits were pretty close to the 9:09 pace, and, I told myself yet again, "I had to run my own race." I was working pretty hard now. It was taking what I would consider an 8:15 level of effort to run faster than a 9:15 pace.

And my legs had become verrrrry heavvvvy. Keeping them moving fast enough required almost everything I had in me. Although my mile splits were still okay, the moment to moment pace on my Garmin was fluctuating wildly from 9:30 or slower to 8:30 paces. I don't know if that was because of the satellites (which sometimes happens) or if I was really surging so erratically. Of course the variation in terrain played a part as well. I really can't remember if there were any uphills in this section, but I do remember noticing that even on the downhills (which normally go at an 8:30-ish pace) I was barely maintaining a 9-minute pace.

Around mile 20 I dug a Gu Roctane out of my pack. I figured I needed whatever extra kick I could get, even if it wasn't my favorite of the flavors! Since I'd only had one Gu earlier, I certainly wasn't over-nourished. I hoped that the magic of the Roctane would help keep me going.

Let me be clear here. I had no desire, or need, to stop or even to walk. I know that if I had slowed down my pace I could have finished very comfortably without any distress. The only difficulty I was having was keeping my pace up! I just kept telling myself, you haven't come 20-plus miles at a sub-4-hour pace to let it go now (if at all possible).

Somewhere in those last few miles I realized that I probably had not been drinking enough during the race. I had drank part of a bottle of water near the beginning, handed to me by a volunteer and carried by me for several miles. I finally discarded it when I couldn't screw the cap on properly and it started leaking onto my glove. Throughout the run I had taken a few swigs of Nuun, but I hadn't even finished one of my bottles. I didn't take any water at the aid stations because I had my own, and didn't want to slow or stop.

So I pulled out the Nuun and had a few gulps, then just continued to carry it in my hand so I could drink more frequently in the last few miles. I think, but I'm not sure, that I suspected I was feeling a touch woozy, and was concerned that my electrolytes were depleted. That, or I was kind of whipped from running 20-some miles....

I had started trying to do some mental math as the remaining miles decreased. My "dream" was to finish the first 20 miles in three hours, which would give me an easy ride the rest of the way. That didn't happen. My clock time at 20 miles was 3:09:09, on my watch about 3:06 and some. I couldn't really figure anything out until I got past 25 miles, when the remaining distance was small. I thought (wrongly I believe) that I had had a mile and a half left at 3:45. Luckily I did not count on that, and kept my pace up (actually speeding up after mile 26).

In the last couple of miles the course was definitely slightly downhill. This was my (and many others') salvation, as it certainly helped me keep the pace going with a little less exertion. I also drew even with the pacers again, and then a bit ahead of them, where I stayed for the rest of the race.

The last section was down a big street alongside Capitol Park. (I didn't know this until after the end, when I was walking back to the hotel.) But it was clear we were nearing the finish. Because of my potty stop, and the usual other factors, my Garmin was now about a tenth of a mile off of the race markers. So I came to mile 26 quite a ways before the official marker. I'm not sure if I started my final "sprint" at my 26 miles or the official mile marker—probably the official spot. But when I was finally in the final stretch I abandoned all moderation and ran as hard as I could toward the finish line. My time for the last .32 miles was 2:47, which was an 8:38 pace!

As I was barreling toward the finish I saw that the clock had already hit four hours but my watch time was still under. I knew at that point that my chip time would be under four hours, but I would be very close! The time on the clock as I crossed was 4:02:15. My Garmin said 3:59:42 when I stopped it (chip time would turn out to be 3:59:40**). I had finished under four hours! (I assume the four hour pacers were right behind me.) And, incidentally, since I turn 45 next year...I apparently had qualified for Boston 2011. If I wanted.

After I crossed the finish line and stopped I felt quite dizzy and a little disoriented. Most likely it was because of what I had just run, along with my final sprint, but I thought it might be due to my lack of drinking during the run. I gulped some of my Nuun and got a space blanket wrapped around me and felt fine in a moment.

Fine, that is, in the head area. The rest of my body, however, felt like it had been hit by a truck. Maybe a train. I felt a little bit like Lot's wife or as if the White Witch of Narnia had turned me into a stone statue! Seriously, I could only walk very, very slowly.

I turned in my chip, collected a medal, and made my way to the photo line. After that I stopped to call my mom and tell her I was okay (better than okay, I was under four hours!). I emailed Rod and sent a Facebook message to a running friend who had predicted a 3:59 finish (I thought she was just being nice! :) I followed the crowds to the sweat bag pickup, easily found my bag, and slowly pulled my warm clothes on top of my running clothes.

And then walked back to the hotel. Really, running 26.2 miles had been the easy part! I wonder, if I had stopped at all during the last few miles, would my body have shut down the way it did after the race? I couldn't possibly imagine picking up into a run after this, let alone a run at any pace more than glacial.

Glacial pretty much described my walk back to the hotel. Apparently the hotel was just half a mile from the Capitol, but I know my walk took a lot longer than ten minutes (I didn't time it, I was done with timers for the day!). I did get to walk along the final stretch of the marathon route, parallel to Capitol Park, and watch some of the other finishers coming in. It occurred to me later that I should have done a better job of cheering them on! (But my mind was occupied with other things.) Some of them looked in pretty rough shape, but they were very close to the end and I knew they would make it.

I had to cross a few streets and I waited dutifully for the walk signals. There was no way I was going to dart across to beat traffic! Finally (and really, not that long a time) I crossed J street and knew I was only a couple blocks from the hotel. A moment later I could see its ivy-clad fa├žade! I called my mom to tell her I was almost there.

Back in the hotel room (blessedly already made up by housekeeping), I flopped onto my bed for a moment, told my mother some things about the race, ate something I can't recall, and finally headed for a long, hot shower. I think my mom was very relieved that I had not only survived the race and done well by my standards, but that I appeared happy (I was!) and not traumatized, and not suffering much, except for the achiness. I believe this made her accept, if she hadn't quite already, that I was able to run marathons without running myself into the ground, and that maybe I could run another one someday. (That is when I told her about Boston 2011! She took it quite well. In fact, she said, "I think you should do it if you want to." More than baby steps, that was a giant step for motherkind!)

After I was cleaned up and dressed (in my CIM shirt, of course), we headed out for lunch at Lucca. They had promised free zucchini chips for runners and I wanted to collect! Rather unfortunately, apparently they expected you to have acquired some kind of a coupon at the race (possibly in the post-race food area, which I bypassed). However, our waiter was kind and took pity, and brought us free chips anyway. This time, we ate the whole plate. I had a salmon salad for lunch and some flatbread with hummus that my mother had ordered.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting and hanging out in our hotel room (both of us are highly skilled in the "lounging at hotel" arena). We went down to dinner in the hotel restaurant around 7:30, and got steaks that were big enough to make lunch sandwiches for the next day (using bread we snagged at breakfast on Monday), and still take home a piece that I ate for dinner last night. (We probably ate about 4 ounces each at dinner and had at least 8 ounces leftover. Thank goodness for in-room refrigerators.)

Despite a dose of advil, I was still achy on Sunday night, but as I said at the beginning, felt much better on Monday and pretty much fine on Tuesday. Oh, and the cold that I had been fighting on Friday and Saturday? It completely disappeared on Sunday, and I didn't experience a single symptom before, during, or after the marathon. The cold was not done with me yet, though, and on Monday it re-emerged in head cold form. Meaning, primarily, runny nose, sneezing, and some coughing. That has continued today. I am treating it with honey and lemon, and just feeling thankful that it went into hiatus for the race! I will gladly suffer the remaining effects. Although, hopefully, I won't suffer too much.

My only great complaint about the race was a fiasco over accessing the race results online Sunday night and Monday. I don't quite understand how this all came about, but the results link was put up in such a way that it was incompatible with Windows Explorer. Meaning, I think, that 90% of the world (wild guess) could not open it! I was crazed with frustration. Mainly because I'd been trumpeting my Garmin time, and potential BQ, to the world without being able to verify it. Finally, today they seem to have changed/fixed it and I was able to confirm my time.

So here are all my stats.

  • Place overall - 2962

  • Age group place (40-44, I turn 45 next year) - 158

  • Gun time - 4:02:15 (9:14 pace)

  • Chip time - 3:59:40 (9:08.8 pace for 26.2 miles) (9:06 pace for 26.32 miles)

All other splits are gun time, not chip time:

  • 10K split - 55:53

  • Half split - 2:01:18

  • 20-mile - 3:09:09

One final curious note. When I was finally able to search by name, I found another woman with my identical last name (first name Gina). (And we were the only people in the race with that name.) The crazy thing? She is in my age group. Her gun time was 4:00:56 and chip time 3:59:32. We were finishing at almost the exactly the same time!

So that is my marathon story. Thanks for sticking with it—and me—to the end!

*And these are my favorite running pants, which I've worn in most of the races I've done, so it felt lucky to be wearing them.

**Regrettably, four seconds slower than Sarah Palin's marathon time...if I had realized it would be so close, surely I could have found an extra five seconds somewhere! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some random thoughts while finishing my race report

I am almost done with my CIM race recap, but it appears that race photos will be posted tomorrow, so I'm waiting to publish in case there are some pictures to add.

In the meantime. Yesterday we flew home from Sacramento, and I didn't work out at all. It was my recovery day. My full body achiness from Sunday, and my leg achiness from Sunday night, had pretty much fully dissipated by Monday. My quads were still quite sore though, as they often are after running a lot of hills, especially at race pace. This was especially apparent once I got home and was walking up and, oh my, down the stairs in my house! Today I can still feel it in my legs, but otherwise I feel completely physically recovered from the race. I went to the Y this morning and spent 70-or-so minutes on the elliptical.

I am intending to run tomorrow but I don't want to go out in the morning (at 6 a.m.) because we are experiencing a bitter cold wave here in the Northwest. Night and early morning temps have been in the teens, and daytime has barely risen above freezing. In fact it hasn't—today the current temperature at 7 p.m. is 20, and the high was 30. It was cold and clear and sunny, and the same is promised for tomorrow, although the highs and lows are supposed to be a few degrees "warmer."

So my plan, if my work day allows for it, is to bring (warm) running clothes to work, and go for an easy run in mid-afternoon, when the sun is out, the temperature is at its peak, and before the sun sinks back behind the mountains, leaving us in chilly twilight. So about 2:00 sounds ideal (I know I have court at 1:00, so lunchtime is not an option). I'll just go to the Y in the morning for some elliptical time, in case the running thing doesn't work out (I am completely resisting the idea of running on the treadmill).

I don't think it's too soon to run. I feel fine, and I'm expecting to be slow.

I have decided not to get on the scale at all for a week. This is my opportunity to get back on track from the last few days of conspicuous consumption. (In my case, "taper madness" meant Eating. Everything. In. Sight.) Of course, this is also the week for Jennifer's birthday lunch, the Public Defender's Christmas party, and my Book Club meeting, which is always a feast of food and drink. Especially since our book is one in which the characters regularly gorge themselves on honey and rich Southern food. And we like to emulate the book in our menus. And we're also doing a cookie exchange. Which, by the way, means I will be baking cookies sometime this week.

Today I got a box from Road Runner Sports containing not running gear, but several pairs of shoes I ordered from their "casual" collection. My feet have been begging for comfy and warm, something which 90% of my shoe collection is not. I got two pairs like this (brown and green), and two pairs like this (black and tan). I am wearing the green pair right now (to try them out) and my feet are being caressed by fleecy sheepskin. Oh yes, yes, baby....