Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chicago marathon training week 11--and now, it gets real

It's really happening!!!! My Golden Ticket!

So even though I did my long run of 18 the previous week, I'm still not feeling like I'm tapering yet. I still had some longish runs and speedwork to do this week. And coming back from Charleston and boom! back to reality was tough, but the beautiful fall weather we are having helped make my landing a soft one.

Monday: I had a bike ride on the plan, but I didn't get home from the airport until 4 pm, and I was just too tired to ride. Plus I wanted to see my family! I didn't feel too guilty about missing this one, since we did so much walking and I ran 2 days in Charleston. My legs and feet were really tired and it felt good to take the day off. But it felt great to bask in the memories of our really wonderful trip together. We had a lot of laughs, particularly on our last night while we were out to dinner. Because sitting across the room from us was this infamous southern politician who shall remain nameless. You know the one. Who cheated on his wife while she was being treated for cancer? Got another woman pregnant? Let's just say he's as handsome as they say he is, and leave it at that. Taking this picture gave us fits of giggles, because that is a mirror behind me. And even thought we were laughing obnoxiously, he didn't give us even a cursory glance..yep, we're the paparazzi sisters...

Tuesday: Back to business with 8 miles before I had to work. My alarm didn't go off! Crap! I flew out of bed, fed the boys and made lunches, and flew out the door to get my run in. I knew I'd be late for work, but I didn't care. I wanted to get this one in, since I skipped my bike ride the day before. And I literally flew through those 8 miles, getting them done in 1:11:50. Funny thing, my alarm went off during my run, an hour later than I had set it for. I realized then that even though my phone was on Chicago time, my alarm stayed on Charleston time! Seriously? I showered and sped off to work, getting there only 5 minutes late. 'Cause that's how I roll..

Wednesday: yoga Wednesday. I was all set to head over to the yoga studio but my oldest son sent me a text that he hit a car in the school parking lot. Ugh. Of course, he didn't call me...but that's another story. I spent wasted an hour playing detective, trying to sort this out, on the phone with the school security officer, the insurance company, and my husband. This kid is killing me. After all that, I headed to my mat to do the Seawheeze yoga video. But I just wasn't feeling it. This was the day I searched his room, found some drug paraphernalia, and called his school guidance counselor for guidance. What a tough day. I'm grateful for all the cute babies I had on my schedule that day, because they put that smile back on my face and made me forget about my son for a while. Him, I dealt with when I got home. He, of course, denied everything. 

Thursday: Speed work aka mile repeats x4. I started out with the plan to run them about 8:15. But after mile 1, it was clear that my legs wanted to run them faster. Maybe the events of the day before took a toll, but I had a lot of tiger in my tank. I knew that if I ran them fast, I needed to run them consistently. I knew it would be tough, but I thought that might actually be good for me, mentally, if I was successful. And I was. Mile 4 was tough, but I pulled it out. This was the workout I needed, the one that convinced me that I'm ready for the marathon, that this is the real deal. I finished mile 4 and headed back to my car, grinning from ear to ear. I'm surprised someone didn't report me to the mental health authorities! What a great run! Pinch me, because I must be dreaming! After I came back down to earth, I had some CrossFit homework that Becky left for me before going out of town. I had to do 50 backward lunges to balance, which were really challenging for me, balance-wise. I can tell that I've been neglecting my hips a little bit. I also did 50 romanian deadlifts and 50 supermans. 

Friday: rest day. I was surprisingly, pleasantly sore from my CF homework the day before.

Saturday: I had 6 miles on the plan. I also had a breastfeeding conference to attend and needed to be there by 8 am. Which meant I had to run in the dark! I haven't done that since last spring. I pulled out my Petzl headlamp and headed out into the morning. It was perfect, 57 degrees! I didn't run with any plan in mind, just let my legs carry me. I mostly ran 8:55 mins/mi except miles 4 and 5 where I had a little tummy trouble. I didn't want to stop to use the bathroom, so I just sucked it up and slowed down. I made it home safely without any--umm--incidents. And headed to the conference. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am terrible at sitting for long periods of time. I could never have a desk job! My legs got really restless and my hips were talking to me the whole time. After dinner, I foam rolled and stretched for quite a while.

Sunday: My last double digit run of the marathon training plan, I had 12 to do. Like my 18 miler, I planned on running it at about 9:30 min/mi, or MP. As you can see, I absolutely succeeded on that. I had to make one pit stop at about mile 5--my tummy again--otherwise, the run was uneventful. I fueled again with Tailwind, which really went well. I had an issue with my water bottle springing a leak--I kept seeing my drink spurt out of a tiny pinhole on the side of the bottle. My hand was all sticky and wet. So I need to figure THIS out. I felt good when I finished, aside from a little toe pain--yes, it's back. And check out mile 12...I guess I was ready to be done! 

And now the real decrease in the miles begins! Gives me a chance to rehab my legs a bit and rest. Hoping for an uneventful 2 weeks until the big day! I'm still smiling!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The hardest job in the world....

One of the hardest things for me, as a parent, is watching my boys struggle. Sure, all kids struggle at times, but some seem to struggle more than others. When my boys were little, my youngest son was very clingy and shy. In preschool, his best friend was a girl, because the boys were too rough for him. Now, at 15, he is outgoing and confident, and travels with a large pack of boys, many of whom were those same preschoolers that were "too rough" for him back when they were 4. He plays football, and in spite of his smaller size, is an impact player on the A team for his high school. I have no idea how it happened or where this confidence came from. I look at him, and think, how did I get this kid? How did he turn it around?

My oldest is a different story. Friendly, talkative, and helpful as a child, around other kids, he could be shy but always had friends. He was more of a follower than a leader, and that always worried me. Now he really worries me more than ever. Lacking in self confidence, he is doing things that are getting him into trouble. His judgement has been really poor over the past year. I've written before about my summer with the boys and some of the trials they've put me through. I hoped when school settled down, so would my boys. My youngest has. Between playing football and doing school work, he's busy and doing well. I don't worry so much about him.

But my oldest? This past week, I received notice that he's failing 2 classes. His excuse is that school just started and he'll get his grades up. He never seems to have homework. But that's because he isn't doing it. When I received an email from one of his teachers regarding his failing grade, I told him he was grounded. He protested mightily. I also found out that he never told me about or signed up for the PSAT practice test. We argued about that. He signed up at the last minute, and used that to try to negotiate his punishment. No deal.

All day long I got these yesterday.....

Yesterday, I finally did what I never have wanted to do as a parent, and searched his room. It didn't feel good. Confirming what I already suspected, I found some rolling papers and lighters. No weed, though. I wasn't surprised at what I found, but I was really sad. I talked with my husband, who is normally much slower to punish than I am, and he and I talked about how we were going to handle this. I also talked with my son's guidance counselor at school, who was extremely helpful. Her suggestion was to drug test him. As was the suggestion of one of my friends who has been going through something similar with her son.

Ugh. When I worked at my old clinic, a medicaid clinic, I had parents ask me to drug test their kids all the time. I wouldn't do it. I told them that if they suspected their kids were using drugs, most likely they were right, and that they could buy a test over the counter to confirm their suspicions. I didn't want to be the one to confront the kids. Now that I'm in their shoes, I totally get why they wanted me to be the bad guy. Because it doesn't feel good to have that conversation. But I knew I had to do it.

So last night, when I got home from work, I asked my son to come upstairs. I opened his desk drawer and pulled out what I had found. I told him that I hated to have to do that, but that I was getting really worried about him. He looked stunned, but told me he bought the stuff to "sell it" to other kids. I asked him why he would want to do that and he said that he just thought they might want it. None of the paraphernalia was used. So I'm still not clear on why he had it. I asked him if he was smoking weed, and he of course denied it. I asked him if I did a drug test, would it be positive? He said no, but he wouldn't look me in the eye. "So," I said, "if I gave you a cup to pee in, and I tested it, nothing would show up?" He looked down and said no. I told him that if things didn't improve, that I would do that. He mumbled some smart ass remark and slunk away to the couch where he was watching videos on his phone.

He's home today, no school because of the Jewish holiday, and he has not asked me once about getting "ungrounded". He's also been pretty quiet, and not saying much to me. I don't know if he's thinking about what we talked about or not. Maybe I'm not tough enough. Maybe I should have made him give me a urine sample last night. But what would it prove? Something I already know? Am I wrong? I will say my husband I both agreed that we don't want to do this.

I don't think he's using that often, but I worry that it could turn into more than casual use. He's a quiet kid now, with few friends. He doesn't play sports. What better way to get attention and notoriety than to do bad things, get a reputation for smoking weed and failing classes?

Believe it or not, I was this kid in high school. I had zero self confidence. I had friends but I always felt awkward, like I didn't fit in. My sister Lisa was the cheerleader and super popular. I could never live up to that standard, so I made my own. I smoked pot, I grades dropped. So so stupid! Is history repeating itself? If I could do it over again...but they say hindsight is 20/20. For sure. And we learn from our mistakes and grow. As long as we don't do anything really stupid and hurt ourselves or get in trouble, that is...

I was pretty lost until my late 20s. When my lack of self esteem and anxiety began to take over my life,  I started to run. As I continued to run, I started to feel good about myself. I still had a long way to go, but running really turned my life around. So this morning, when I came back from my fantastic speed work session, feeling on top of the world in spite of what is going on at home, I said to my son, "its too bad you don't like to run. It really helps me feel good." He just grunted. But he sees this! He sees what I'm doing! Why can't he apply it to his life?

It's hard to sit back and watch him make some of the same mistakes I did as a teen. I'm fortunate that I was able to turn it around. I wish I could make him see how much easier his life would be if he had an outlet, like running, to make him feel good about himself. Right now, all I can do is hold his hand and try to keep him from going backwards.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Marathon week #10--Heading into taper town

This was my highest mileage week on the plan. It was also the week of my annual sister trip with my sister Lisa. Every fall we go away for a long weekend to celebrate our September birthdays. These trips are always amazing---and this years trip to Charleston, South Carolina was no different. It was the perfect time to start my taper.

Monday: rest day. I had planned to squeeze in some yoga but once I got home from work, all my ambition went away. Yep, I'm a morning exerciser!

Tuesday: I had a 6 miler on the plan, but had no particular plan for running it. I decided to let my legs fly. And they did...8.21 mins per mile. It helped that the weather was sunny and cool. I was smoking after my run--literally!

Wednesday: yoga! I did the SeaWheeze 14 video again. I love it because it really hits all the high points. And knowing that I had my 18 miler the next day meant I wanted to avoid being sore. 

Thursday: 18 miles. This was my long run that Becky scheduled for today knowing I'd be out of town over the weekend. It went really well. My pacing was great..averaging 9:24 min/mile. I stopped only to fuel and use the bathroom. I fueled entirely with Tailwind, going through 2 full bottles in the time on the run. I did feel a little sick afterwards. Not sure why...but I'm hoping to bring my consistent pacing to October 12. You can read the recap here.

Friday: rest day and travel to Charleston! 

Saturday: I had a 4 miler on the plan and prior to leaving, I mapped out a 5-ish loop through the historic district and along the water. My sister wanted to run with me, so away we went. It was overcast and humid, but cool, and we started out slowly. It became apparent after about a mile that I'd be making this an easy run, as my sister was getting winded at our 9:30 pace. Meanwhile, I felt great. She kept telling me to go ahead, but I had another run planned for Sunday and I didn't want to leave her, so I held back. Plus I knew we were going to do a lot of sightseeing on foot. At 4.5 miles, Lisa put up the white flag of surrender and we walked back to our hotel. I was so happy to have her run with me that I didn't mind our 10:30 average pace. Because some things are more important than speed, right? That afternoon, we did a walking tour of historic Charleston, covering quite a few miles. What a great day!

Sunday: I hit the bricks (and cobblestones and slate) early before the heat started. The sun was out and it was gorgeous along the water. I wanted to stop to take pictures but I also wanted to have a good, fast run and planned to walk down to the water later. I ran 5.83 in 51:52. What a great place to run. Later we did go back for some spectacular pictures...we also hiked up to the visitors center, hoping to get on a plantation tour. Sadly, we missed the bus. Our feet were really tired so we decided to spend the afternoon at the pool. A great decision!

Overall, this week was the high point so far in my training. I haven't talked much about food outside of fueling on the run. I tried to make smart choices about food on the trip and I think I succeeded by eating fish for dinner each night. We had a great time on the trip--lots of walking, food, and laughing! Now it's time to buckle down. Three weeks to go until show time!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dress rehearsal

Today was the BIG DAY. The culmination of all my training, my long run day had finally arrived. Because I'm going out of town this weekend, Becky put the long run on the plan for Thursday. That was fine by me.

I got up early this morning, with the plan to get out the door by 7 am. I needed to be home in time to take my son to the orthodontist at 11. I figured that if all went well, I'd be done in 3 hours. If all didn't go well, I'd cancel the appointment.

After a cup of coffee, glass of orange juice, vitamins, and a bowl of cheerios, I headed out the door about 730. It was foggy and cool. I started out at about 9:30 min/mile pace. This is my goal marathon pace. I had a 24 ounce bottle of Tailwind in my hand, and 2 packs of powder in my spibelt. My biggest concern for this run was the lack of water on the route I decided to run, but I figured it would work out somehow.

Mile 1, my contact lens started to act funny. It felt like I had something stuck under it and I couldn't blink it out. I stopped at a drinking fountain and rinsed it. It seemed ok after that, and I headed on to the bike path. I don't know if it was the weather or what but my legs felt heavy. I pushed on, and at mile 3 came to this sign:

Seriously? Never one for following the rules, I decided to run past it and see exactly what kind of work was being done. I ran through the viaduct and once I got on the other side, I could see that the path had been resealed, probably the day before. Meh. I kept on running. My legs started to loosen up, but I held back and maintained that 9:30 pace. I passed a few walkers and bikers, but mostly I had the path to myself. When I got to the end of the path, at mile 5, I slowed to a walk and drank about 8 ounces of my Tailwind. I started to run again, and crossed the street into the forest preserve.
I think this was one of the parts of today's run that had me a little nervous. I've written about our local forest preserves and all the weird stuff that goes on there. Since I was running during the week, I knew there wouldn't be a lot of people around.  I also thought that maybe since it was so early, I wouldn't have anything to worry about. But as I approached the parking lot, 2 cars pulled in. One backed in, so I thought that I probably didn't have to worry about that guy--I wasn't what he was looking for. The other was pulled in head first, hopefully just looking to score some drugs or just to enjoy nature, and not to bother a 50-something mom looking for redemption on the run. I picked up the pace to put some distance between me and the cars, and headed down the road towards the path. Once I got on the path, I calmed myself down and got back on pace. I climbed the hills towards the next busy road, and stopped to wait again for the traffic to clear so I could cross.

This part of my run is a downhill (pretty steep) and then a 3 mile loop. There's usually a pretty good amount of people, and so I don't feel too isolated. But again today, there weren't many people out. I passed some guy who looked a little off, and another guy--an amputee--on crutches. That made me pause and feel very grateful for my run. After I finished the loop, I headed back towards the steep hills which this time, I had to climb. My hamstrings were starting to talk to me, but I pushed up those hills, hearing Becky telling me to "engage my glutes". Believe it or not, I started to run a little bit faster here, with splits around 9:15.

I finished my run in the forest preserve (no one was in the parking lot on my way out) and decided to stop at the gas station on the corner to use the bathroom--a real toilet, not the porta-potties I kept passing--and refill my water bottle. I headed back down the bike path towards home.

Sadly, when I got to my street, my Garmin read 16.10. Ugh. I had 2 more miles to eek out. So instead of turning towards home, I kept moving forward. As I looped around my neighborhood, I decided to finish up on a road that is a long incline. This is the same kind of hill that is at the very end of the Chicago marathon, right before you head into the finish chutes. Only a crazy runner would actually do this, but I wanted to see how much I had left in the tank, especially since my hamstrings were now screaming at me. I chugged up the hill, and turned the corner towards home. That last mile: 9:10.

When I stopped, I assessed how I felt. A little sick, truth be told. But when I looked at my finish time, I couldn't help but smile. 18.03 in 2:49:35. Average pace 9:24 min/mile. I ran the whole thing, except when I stopped to drink my Tailwind. My Garmin is set to pause when I do, so it did stop for traffic lights. I think that's ok, because I won't be stopping for those at the race!

I'm just a little proud of those mile splits!

Regardless of how I felt physically at the end of my run today (a little ill and sore), I feel really confident going into the marathon. I'm so happy that I was able to push forward and not stop to walk, except to drink. I know I'll be stopping to refill my bottle at least 2 times--that's ok. I learned a little more about fueling, and I don't think I need to drink as much as recommended--I got by with 2 packs of Tailwind for 18 miles. I never felt hungry or hypoglycemic. Of course, I did eat breakfast before I went out. But I definitely was well hydrated! The only factor that I have no control over is the weather, and that could mess with my hydration and fueling plan. If it's blazing hot, like it was 3 years ago, I will go into it knowing that I have had strong runs this summer, and not let my head get in the way. And push through it.

And yes, my son got to his appointment!

Taper time!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Marathon training week 9-The beginning of the end

It's hard to believe that the marathon is only 4 weeks away. While I've been hearing from others who are training that they are feeling burnt out, I haven't felt that way. This time around, I've had fun with my training, even though some of the CrossFit stuff has been really hard, even nausea inducing at times. I am starting feel some aches and pains though, as the training is taking its' toll on me. My left big toe, my nemesis, is yakking at me a little more than usual. Friday I woke up with a very painful R foot--I had trouble walking on it. Luckily, a little ibuprofen was all needed to put that at rest. Yesterday, my R hip twinged a little during my 6 miler. This morning on my 10 miler, my R knee was kind of achy. I'm going to really work harder on stretching and foam rolling as I move into the final 4 weeks now.

Monday: This is the last session of CF intervals! I have mixed feelings about that--as hard as they have been, I think these intervals have been the key to my strong running throughout this training. Today I did dumbbell burpees with box step-ups x5, CF sit-ups x5, wall ball squats x5, followed by 100m all out on the rower. I did three rounds of this. Becky told me I had to beat 27 seconds on my last 100m of rowing or else there would be a consequence--which I am sure would have been burpees. I completed that 100m in 24.7 seconds. So there. Nothing better than negative incentives! When I got home, I finished up with that SeaWheeze yoga video that I love. Hits all the high points.

Tuesday: 8 miles before work. I got the boys fed and lunches made before I headed out to run. The morning was cool and clear, and my pacing was good. I finished strong with an average 9.03 mins/mile. I headed off to work with a smile on my face.

Wednesday: It was a really rainy, yucky day, and I was glad it was yoga Wednesday. I had to go into work early, and so in lieu of my studio class, I did that Eoin Finn The Pursuit of Happy Hips video. There are several in the series, and I did the Easy Street one, wanting just to really stretch out my hips. They (and I were happy).

Thursday: I did my last 2 mile x3 repeats. Pacing? You be the judge:

16:40, 16:32, 16:32
After that, I took my badass self over to CrossFit, where Becky had me do what she called "Deficit Deadlifts". This is where she had me stand on a plate and lift the bar x5 reps, progressively increasing the weight over 5 sets to 105#. The goal was to work my "posterior chain". The deficit deadlift increases your range of motion, forcing your hamstrings and glutes to work a little harder. And I did...

Oh, yes, I did back squats too. This was a little weird...Becky put kettlebells hanging from elastic bands on the bar. I did one set of 5 with 10# kettlebells. Then she switched to 20# kettlebells and had me do 5 sets of 5 reps. I had to really focus on form because the bar was hard to keep steady. But she told me I was really "stable" the whole time. Yay!

Friday was rest day for me. Work was crazy and by the end of the day I was exhausted. I'm sure it was a combination of the hard workout from Thursday and the mental workout I got from work!

Saturday: 6 miles. I decided to just run, no plan. It was cold-43F- and cloudy, and I was still feeling a little tired. So I tried not to focus too much on pace, but I still was pretty consistent, with an average of 8:50 mins/mile.

Sunday: 10 miler. Last night my husband and I went out with 4 couples for drinks and "snacks". I wasn't thrilled about the "snacks" part, because, after all I had a 10 miler on tap for this morning and I didn't want to pay the price for bad eating. We ended up at the Hofbrau House for Oktoberfest--which was not a choice that made me happy. Don't these people know I'm training for a marathon?! (Joking.) I reviewed the menu: sausage, weiner schnitzel, pretzels--seriously, the men ordered something called the weiner tower! Yes, it was a tiered plate full of weiners. Because we were getting "snacks", I ordered an appetizer of pretzel breaded cheddar cheese balls. Really, the lesser of all the evils on the menu. As it turned out, there was a side of German coleslaw (made with a vinagrette-yay!) and no one wanted to share my cheese balls, so I ate everything and felt a little better. It was almost a meal. I had a Weiss beer and then switched to water. I took a pass on the shots of German liquor that came with a side of paddling by the waitress. I kid you not! We got home late and I thought I'd pass out, I was so tired but my husband, who had more than his share of beer, was snoring loudly all night. Sigh. When I finally got up this morning, about 7, I was exhausted and I thought that there was NO WAY this run was going to go well. 2 cups of coffee and a bowl of cheerios later, I felt renewed and headed out the door, a water bottle with Tailwind nutrition in hand. I started slow, at marathon pace and my legs felt loose and light. I moved down the path at a nice comfortable pace, enjoying the cool temps and the bright sunshine. I stopped a few times to take a few big sips of the Tailwind, making sure to drink about half the bottle by mile 5. I turned around to head home and still felt good. My legs flew and I picked up the pace. I finished 10.43 miles in 1:35:29; average pace 9:09 per mile. Wow! Was it just a good day? The weather? The Tailwind nutrition? The cheese balls? The juju from the smiling tree?

I've got an 18 miler this week, and I'm going to put Tailwind to the test again. I had absolutely no tummy troubles on the run today, which shocked and pleased me. I hope this is the magic bullet I've been looking for. Stay tuned....

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The evolution of a runner

I remember my first was a 5k, I know that. I'm not clear on which one was my first, though! I remember thinking how hard it was going to be. I started running in my late 20s to combat debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. Initially, I started running with a CARA training group in downtown Chicago. The idea was to work with a group that matched your pace. Of course, as a newbie, I had no idea about a pace. I didn't see myself as a runner. I hated that I didn't know what to do. I don't remember what pace group I started with, but I do remember getting a side stitch during one of our first training runs pretty early on. I remember feeling like a loser, that I had to stop and walk it off. I felt so intimidated by the group leader, even though she was super nice and supportive, because she had all this experience. I needed to get over myself. And I did. Somehow, eventually, I got to 3 miles, came back for more runs, and eventually signed up for my first race.

I went to the race by myself, ran it in a respectable time (under 27 minutes) and headed home. I continued to train near my home and started working out at a health club in the area as well. It was there that I met a woman named Jayne, who began to train with me and run with me. Jayne was working on her NASM certification. Lucky me! She helped me with my running form, and began instilling in me the confidence I was so lacking--in running and in life. We ran in the health club on the track and in the warmer weather, we took our runs outside to the forest preserve nearby. We began running longer distances, and I worked up to 6 miles at about 8 minute pace. I ran 4-5 days/week. Jayne decided to train for the Chicago marathon, but in my mind, there was no way I could ever cover that distance. I continued run a few 5 and 10ks, but nothing further than that. As I continued on my running journey, I marveled at what my body could do, and as I became stronger physically, my mental strength also grew, but at a much slower pace.

Meanwhile, I gave birth to my boys, and we moved to the suburbs. I lost touch with Jayne after we moved, but I continued to run. I didn't run races. A lot of my runs were done in the wee hours of the morning, before the sun came up. I needed to get them done before my husband left for work so that the boys weren't alone in the house. Looking back, I still can't believe that I did that but I truly needed to run to keep my sanity and have my me time.

As the boys got older, it became easier to find time to run. I could leave them home alone while I did a quick 5 miles around the neighborhood. I always carried my phone so they could call me if I needed to come home. 5 years ago, I decided to train for my first half marathon, and the race bug bit me again. After running a few halfs, I felt that it was time to add that final distance, 26.2, to my race collection. Even though I made the decision and felt good about it, I could hardly get my head around it. From the moment I signed up in February until race day, I was a wreck. And we all know the outcome of that race...I finished, but my nerves and the heat of the day took their toll on me.

So now, here I am, 3 years later, with a chance at redemption. Physically, I am in the best shape of my life. Yep, at 51 years old, I am running paces that match my mid-30s. Thanks to a smart training plan developed by my CrossFit trainer, I am currently 3 1/2 weeks away from marathon #2 and I am injury free (knocking wood right now). Mentally, I'm in a good place too--much of which has to do with my training. The other aspect that I draw strength from is that I have run this race before. I know what to expect.

I don't know why I feel so reflective today. Maybe it has to do with this upcoming marathon. This essay might sound like a pep talk to myself, and I guess it is. But looking back on my running journey, and how far I've come is really helpful. I am better than anyone at knocking myself down. Reflecting on what I've done and what I've overcome over the years gives me strength. I want to do well at this race more than anything I've wanted in a very long time. I want to feel proud that I did more than just finish. I know what I can do. I'm ready.

Let's do it!

I can and I will!

Trust the plan.

Do you have a mantra?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Marathon training week 8: the power of positive thinking

This week I received my Chicago marathon corral assignment. I was placed in Corral E. I immediately started to sweat. I figured I'd be placed in corral G, because I listed my estimated finish time as 4:45. I'm not quite sure what happened, but I will be with much speedier runners. I'm going to have to work extra hard to not get caught up in the momentum of this group.

Of course, I shared my angst with Becky, and her response was that it was "meant to be". I know I'm supposed to "trust the plan". My training has been going really well. I continue to work on mental toughness, which is the hardest part of marathon training for me. I'm a perfectionist and I'm also really good at negative self talk. But this week Becky told me that for every time I think or say something negative, I have to do 10 burpees. And we all know how much I hate burpees. So that has been a really great motivator!

Monday: Rest day

Tuesday: I had 8 miles on the plan. It was a cool but humid morning--very foggy! But I ran to the 2 mile circle around the retention pond where I do so much of my training. I got to watch the sun come up through the fog and it was spectacular. I stopped to take a photo and was promptly attacked by mosquitos. I probably got 20 bites in one minute. When I resumed my run, I was trying to ignore how itchy they were. Plus I was so sweaty. But it was a strong run and I finished 8.24 in 1:14:20.

Wednesday: Yoga was on the plan. I had planned on going to my class at the studio but my youngest was home from school with an asthma exacerbation. Sure, he's 15 and he can take care of himself, but I needed to phone in a prescription for prednisone for him and get him started on it before I went to work. So I popped in my Rodney Yee Power Yoga DVD and took to the mat. I like this DVD because it is thorough and hits all the important areas--hamstrings, hips, and quads. There's also some backbending and balance in there, so it really is a complete practice.

Thursday: Speed work and Cross Fit on the plan. I did my 2 mile repeats x 3. It was rainy and stormy, and once those storms blew past, I headed over to the retention pond to run. It was raining lightly and hardly anyone was there but a few other runners, which was nice, with the exception of one woman who was in her own world, running down the middle of the path, seemingly oblivious to anyone else. You can read about my thoughts on that here. Anyways, my splits were a little inconsistent but they were fast and they were strong. What happened at mile 4, you might ask? That was when Eminem's 'Till I Collapse came on. Put a little tiger in my tank, I guess....

After that, I headed over to CF. First, Becky had me clean a barbell, lift it overhead and put it on my shoulders. Then I did step-ups on a box, 8 each foot x 3 sets. In between sets, I did kettlebell swings x 12. I didn't ask how heavy the weights were. After that, she had me flip a giant tire. I had hoped for sledgehammer swings onto the tire, but I was up for the challenge. Oooh, that tire was heavy. I did 2 sets of 10, with GHD situps x12 after each set. Then the fire department came, which was a funny coincidence. When I told my family about it, I told them that someone must have called 911 because I killed my workout. My youngest just shook his head. I know....

Friday: rest day. Good thing. I was sore.

Saturday: I had 6 miles on the plan. No instructions, so I just decided to run by feel. The day before we had a huge storm and there was a lot of damage to my neighborhood. The streets and sidewalks were full of debris. There was a lot to look at. I wondered how I'd do, not paying attention to pace, and when I look at my pacing, I did surprisingly well. Very consistent! Made me smile.

Sunday: Today I had a 14 mile long run on the plan. When I woke up this morning, I still had no idea where I was going to run. It was a gorgeous, cool morning, perfect for a run. I finally decided to take it to the bike path, even though I was a little nervous about being isolated on the wooded part of the path. I also knew that to get my miles, I was going to have to run into the forest preserve, but I figured it was early enough that maybe the weirdos would still be sleeping. I started off slow on sore legs. I had neglected to foam roll last night. Big mistake! I also was feeling a little sick from a bad piece of fish I had for dinner last night. But I pushed on and by mile 7, I started to move a little faster. I would have been ok with sticking with 9:30 miles, but I let my legs do the talking. Instead of the out and back I had planned, I changed my mind, looped around the 3 mile circle twice, and went home on the neighborhood streets. It was nice not to have to look over my shoulder like I had been doing on the wooded path. I only stopped twice to walk and gel (I can't do it while I'm running) at miles 5 and 10, and once to drink water at a water fountain. The second half on the run was negative splits which was a shock since I was feeling kind of bad! I ended up running 14.64 with average pace of 9:17 per mile. I didn't feel great when I got home, so I made sure to refuel right away. I also had major issues with some chafing in--ahem--my bottom. As much as I prep for that before I go out, I can't always control what happens when I run. Gotta figure that one out...

Anyways, I'm really happy with my training this week. Even though my long run was faster than marathon pace, I'll take it because I ran so strong in spite of not feeling 100%!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just me and my music

Last night, while flipping through the 200 or so cable channels looking for something to watch while I foam rolled and stretched, I saw that one of my favorite shows was on PBS (really, who needs cable?)--Austin City Limits. What a great show, if you like good music! I do. Last night we watched Dale Watson. Talk about a trip back in time--about 20 years ago, my husband and I saw him live at a little bar in Chicago called Schubas. In the back of the bar is a small music room where about 200 people can watch live music. Back in the day, Schubas had an "Americana series" featuring lesser known alt-country artists for about $5-10/ticket. We saw a lot of great music through this series, and Dale Watson was one of those artists. When we left that night, we asked each other why he wasn't more famous. Last night we got to hear him on ACL and that deep baritone was unforgettable. But we were surprised by his white hair and how old he has gotten. Twenty years will do that to a person, I guess... We reminisced about all the great music we saw at Schubas and it was kind of fun to take that trip down memory lane.

Isn't it funny how a song or artist can trigger a flow of memories?

Some science behind my musings...

The part of the brain that retrieves and supports memories also links music, memories, and emotions. Familiar songs light up the areas in green in this picture. This research is being applied to people with Alzheimer's dementia, in the hopes of developing music based therapy for this population. Music is also being used to trigger memories in people with severe brain damage. 
Music has always been a big part of my life. When I hear Johnny Cash, I'm brought back to my years as a young girl, trying to sleep while my parents had parties in the downstairs family room of my house. Family parties in the backyard when the adults drank too much and the kids got to run wild without much supervision. On the nights when my mom was out playing bridge with her friends, my dad would spin his 45s on the stereo console in the living room and he and I would listen together. This was mostly music from the late 50s and early 60s. But it is the memory of sharing music with my dad, just him and me (because my sisters weren't interested) that I cherish. Later, when he built a rec room over his garage and put in a jukebox filled with these songs, parties used to revolve around this 50s music. Hank Williams, Buddy Holly...I know their songs and their stories well.

Later as a teen, I began developing my own (at times questionable) taste in music. I liked loud rock music. My first concert was Boston, in 1978 at the Chicago Amphitheater. Now, when I hear Boston on the radio, I'm transported back to my 16 year old self, driving my 1973 red Pontiac Firebird (yep, with the bird on the hood), windows down, stereo turned way up (and yes, I had an 8 track player), and thinking I was just the coolest kid.  The oldies stations play all my music from high school now, and a lot of it makes me cringe. Styx? Foreigner? Kansas? I still know all the words to Walk This Way, and Aerosmith always makes me smile! But don't judge me too much...I did listen to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin too!

Music makes the whole brain light up! Another study showed a that music activates areas of the brain responsible for motor activity, emotions, and creativity. Yet another study showed that listening to music boosts athletic performance by increasing motivation. Yes!

Even my running playlist, which is always evolving, has some of this music. And while I pride myself in having pretty good taste in music, I do have some questionable choices on my playlist. After all, to be a good running song, it has to have a steady beat and some motivating lyrics. I do have a Boston song that I like to run to. In years past, Nickelback has graced my playlist--recently one of their songs has made a reappearance on the list. I still favor the loud rock and roll that has always pumped me up, even when I wasn't a runner. While I don't think I'd listen to Invincible by Adelitas Way at home, it sure drives me forward! Earlier this week while I was doing my speed work, Eminem's 'Till I Collapse came on and I just about jumped out of my shoes to get moving. And I know this song has nothing to do with running but here are the lyrics that got me going:

"This is your moment and every single minute you spend trying to hold onto it 'cause you may never get it again. So while you’re in it try to get as much shit as you can. And when your run is over just admit when it's at its end."

As I approach the date of my 2d Chicago Marathon, I've started picking songs for my marathon playlist. The crowds there are really loud and I don't know if I'll be able to hear my music at times, but I want to be prepared with songs that will drive me forward, make me feel strong, help me reach down deep when I want to quit, and make me want to sing. Eminem's 'Till I Collapse will be there, as will his other running staple Lose Yourself. Another perpetual favorite on my last Chicago marathon playlist was Fly From the Inside by Shinedown, and the lyrics still resonate with me today:

"I am focused on what I am after, The key to the next open chapter. 'Cause I found a way to steal the sun from the sky. Long live that day that I decided to fly from the inside"

I also brought back this chestnut from the 1980s by Webb Wilder-- Tough it Out:

"I won't bow, I won't bend, I won't break, I'll tough it out. I won't budge, I won't deal, I won't change, I'll tough it out. (tough it out) Keep Rockin' (tough it out) No stoppin' 'Til I win the prize, I'll tough it out. (tough it out) straight ahead (tough it out) knock'em dead no compromise I'll tough it out."

Last but not least is Tom Petty's Running Down A Dream. Besides great lyrics, it has a great beat that makes you pick up the pace:

Yeah runnin' down a dream. That never would come to me. Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads.Runnin' down a dream 

Deal breakers? I don't like pop very much. After a few listens, most pop songs become tiresome and repetitious to me. I've made exceptions for Pharell's Happy--because it is just so darn infectious and makes me smile AND I listened to it last year for my strong Fox Valley Half Marathon; Britney Spears' Work Bitch--self explanatory; and Calvin Harris' Let's Go, because Beth at Shut Up and Run recommended it. .

Part of my love for running is about the music. I like to lose myself in the music, running to a song I know and love, where the run feels effortless. I love just running along, no thoughts in my head, just the is my escape, my me time, time where I can be alone with my music and my pace. It's truly why I enjoy running long distances. I don't know if everyone can understand that. Sometimes I don't always get it. But on those mornings when I'm driving to work and I'm not feeling it, I play my running music in the car, and it really gets me revved up for the day. As if I'm going for a run.

Funny how music can do that, isn't it?

Favorite songs? What drives you to a strong finish? Perpetual favorite songs to run to? And no, I'm not a fan of Eye of the Tiger. It's too slow!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rules of the road

Today's blog post was brought to you by a woman I named "unfriendly runner". You see, today I was out in the rain and humidity, doing my 2 mile repeats, when I came upon a woman running towards me on the path where I train. The path has a solid yellow line down the middle, to separate the cyclists from the pedestrians. This woman was running on the line. She wouldn't make eye contact with me, so I couldn't even greet her with a nod or a good morning. And she wouldn't move over.

This isn't the first time I've encountered this on the path, but it was the first time I've had a runner do this. There are a lot of walkers on the path and some of them walk on the yellow line. And they won't move out of the way, forcing anyone who is passing them to swerve into oncoming traffic or over to the other side of the path. I will say that the path isn't completely flat, it is graded in spots and the pavement is cracked as well. So the yellow line seems to be the flattest and smoothest portion. I've run the yellow line myself. But what's with ignoring everyone around you? I wanted to give the unfriendly runner an elbow. But it would have been so obvious! So tempting tho.

And is it just me, or isn't there an unwritten rule that runners acknowledge another runner's efforts? A friendly greeting, or if you are just dying out there, a nod. A wave. Someone commented to me that maybe the runner was in her "zone". Nope. Not buying it. She was running towards me. Not only that, but we passed each other multiple times on the circular path. She knew I was there. Jerk.

I also knew that I was not in the wrong here. I did a internet search of runner etiquette. RRCA says:
Don't be a road or trail hog.
That's what I'm talking about. Look at that. Right down the center line.
Don't run down the middle of the road or trail. 
Don't run more than 2 abreast on a trail. 
Alert pedestrians when you are passing them. 

The Guardian posted the 10 commandments of running etiquette. Including:

Thou shalt nod hello

Ok, so it is a written rule. These are simply common courtesies runners should observe while training. But this got me thinking about races too. What are some of the worst offenses runners do on race day?

My number one race day pet peeve is people who line up towards the front when their pace dictates they line up further back. Of course, this will be me on marathon day, since I got placed in a corral with people who run way faster than me. But I digress... What I really dislike is weaving around slower runners at the beginning of a race. The best example I can give of this is when I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K about 3-4 years ago. This race was full of newbies, who knew nothing about lining up for a race. There were walkers at the starting line ahead of the runners. People with strollers. No one paid attention to the pace markers. And for several miles, it was a disaster for those of us who came to run. Not to mention there was no chocolate left at the finish line. I learned a few things from that race, and number one is that I will never do a novelty race again. I think it's great that people are all coming out to run, but for me, it isn't fun to run when the participants aren't aware of race etiquette. Both RRCA and CARA state:
Line up according to your planned pace. Just because you arrived early doesn't mean you get to line up at the front.
The Guardian says it best:
Be realistic. 

What else? Here's a few more things to consider:

Have you ever been running a race and someone stops in front of you, suddenly? And you almost smash into them? Another no-no. Run over to the side if you need to stop. Just so you know, I'll be running on the side with my fast corral group....

Don't be throwing gel packs and snot rockets back at the people behind you. Watch where you're dropping your discards. I've been hit with discarded gel packets at a race. Yuck. And yes, people do slip on banana peels, so those need to go somewhere safe too. I met a woman who slipped on a banana peel at mile 23 of the Chicago marathon one year. Yes, she fell. And yes, she dislocated her hip and messed up her knee. The best part of the story? She popped her hip back in and finished the race. BUT, if there hadn't been a banana peel on the ground, the whole thing could have been avoided.

Stop talking during the national anthem. Please! When we were lined up to run the Florida Halfathon last March, people continued to talk during the national anthem. Another runner told them to "STFU" and then a fight broke out. I've never been at a race when a fight broke out. It was a little unnerving! Anyways. Just hush. Be respectful.

Say thank you to the volunteers! I know this sounds so basic but think about it. They are sacrificing their free time to provide you with drinks, directions, what have you--to make your race experience a good one. They also smile when you thank them, which puts a smile on my face and makes my feet feel a little lighter for a while. Actually, along these lines, acknowledge the spectators too! Take those high fives from the little kids along the route. Just be careful so you don't plow them down.

And don't forget to touch for a power boost!
Don't hoard the post-race refreshments. I've seen runners leave races with arms full of snacks. Take only what you can eat and save the rest so that everyone gets a snack. I've heard stories about the back of the packers getting to the food tent and everything is pretty well picked over. That sucks.

Did I forget anything? What's your biggest running and/or racing pet peeves? Are you guilty of anything I mentioned above?

Well, and there is this....
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