Sunday, May 8, 2016

Recovering From the Distance

"My world is empty without you, babe..." the Supremes

Have you ever felt that way after a big event? A big race? Fortunately, I had a lot of things on the back burner that needed to be attended to after my marathon. Plus I'm still feeling that post-marathon high. Can you believe it? I do believe this is the first time I haven't had the post marathon blues. Yet another thing to be grateful for. All I can say is planks a lot...

Here's how my week went....

Recovering from the Distance

Yes, there was running. My foot continues to be quiet--although from time to time it reminds me that it's not always happy--and I got some runs in. I only ran 4-5 miles each time, but there was some speed involved. There may even have been a sub 8 minute mile in there. You all know I love me some fast running, and it sure felt good to know that my fast legs were still there!

Recovering from the Distance
I felt the need for speed and my legs responded!
Isn't it great when that happens?
And there was lots of yoga. I went to the studio twice this week. Megan did a "detox" class with lots of twisting and pranayama and Kathy's class had us holding the poses for extended periods of time. It's like they knew what I needed!

Recovering from the Distance
Plank pose. Which we held for a REALLY long time in class.
I'm participating in Marcia's plank challenge. While everyone else is holding those planks and going for time, I've been having fun mixing it up with a variety of planks. I do so many planks in yoga, what with sun salutations and all.

Recovering from the Distance
Dolphin plank after work.
Because "someone" put the pressure on to get my plank done for the day...
I finally started working on my post-marathon fitness goals. Becky keeps asking. I'll be posting more on that later this week. It's been kind of tough pinpointing goals after Big Sur. After all, that was my dream race. What do you do after that?

Stay tuned. I'm working on that post for Wednesday Word. The word of the week is dilemma, if that give you any clue...

I got my head back in the work game. Not to worry, even before the marathon I never neglected my patient care duties! But I have some projects I was assigned to work on and I dug in deep to get them completed. Almost.

Recovering from the Distance
Look who came to see me at work this week?
And her hair is growing back! 
For Mother's Day, we got our new puppy! It has been 5 months since we lost our beloved Cleo, and even though I still miss her, I finally felt ready to get another dog. I'm not so sure about a puppy, but my husband wanted one, and I'm game. She's as cute as can be and just a little sweetie. Plus as the mom of teenagers, it's kind of nice to have someone in the house who gives unconditional love...

Speaking of that, I spent some very quality time with my youngest. Yesterday at his rugby game he was tackled and fractured his tibia. I got to ride in the front seat of the ambulance that transported him to the hospital. I spent the night with him while we waited to get his pain under control. Talk about feeling helpless! I'm happy to report that he's much more comfortable. I'll be home most of the week helping him recover.

And housebreaking that cute new pup, Cocoa!

Recovering from the Distance
Matthew and Cocoa
Love at first sight!
What's new in your world? Do you feel empty after finishing a goal race? Do you have trouble making goals after accomplishing yours? Are you planking? Did you celebrate Mothers Day? Did you enter my giveaway? And don't forget about the bookclub on Friday! 

I'm linking up with Tricia and Holly for their Weekly Wrap!

Friday, May 6, 2016

5 Things I'm Loving this Spring!

Now that I'm coming down from my post-marathon high, it's time to get back to business. I'm not currently training for anything, and it's nice to just regroup and reflect on all that is good in the world. I'm thinking about all the things I'm loving this spring--as if spring isn't enough to love--and wanted to share some of that love with all of you!

So what am I loving right now?

Running for fun!
Reunited and it feels so good!
I'm wearing those Physiclo tights in this picture as well. See below.
Let's face it, one of the best things about running a goal race is savoring the accomplishment and just running for fun. No goals, no paces to hit, just running because you can. I am so happy to be running pain-free right now. Maybe my training wasn't optimal for a marathon, but it sure has worked out well for post-marathon recovery. My legs feel fresh and I'm hitting paces I haven't seen for a while. A runner's reward for training through those brutal winter months is getting to run in the spring. The brown landscape of winter has turned to green and the temperatures are slowly moderating. It is truly the best time of year to be on the road and I'm glad to be able to enjoy it!

My new Ninja Blender

A few months ago, I was asked to review the Green Blender smoothie service. My sons and I just loved the smoothies but my old Osterizer did not. That old workhorse really moans and groans when I prepare smoothies for my sons. I don't even need to wake them up in the morning because the blender is so loud. I'm pretty sure my neighbors wake up too. I wanted an upgrade and the blog readers overwhelmingly suggested the Ninja. I told my husband I wanted one for Mother's Day, and guess what came this week? Anyone who doesn't want appliances for Mother's Day hasn't met the Ninja. I tested it out yesterday, and it barely made a sound while painlessly pulverizing my smoothie ingredients. Sweet!

Rockport Total Motion Hidden Wedge Shoes

Can you see my feet smiling right now?
With all my foot issues, cute shoes have pretty much been off my radar for a long time. Sure, Dansko has made fun looking "comfort shoes" but they aren't exactly cute. Last week, Angela at Happy Fit Mama mentioned how much she loved these Rockport Total Motion Hidden Wedge Ballet Flats. She had me at flats. Flats? But these are not just any old flats! There's an adiprene™ by Adidas insole and a slight heel lift. Could I wear these? Would my PF flare? I bit the bullet and splurged, and my feet are happy. I wore them to work this week and got a ton of compliments. I bought the ones with the tie but there are several different models--I may have to buy another pair. I'm really excited about the potential of wearing cute shoes again!

Physiclo compression tights with resistance 
Fashion model, I am not. But these are pretty sweet tights.

A few weeks ago, Frank from Physiclo reached out to me and asked if I wanted to trial their revolutionary compression pants. I was intrigued. I received a pair of capris and tested them out on my runs this week. These are unlike any compression gear I've ever worn. The fabric is comfortable and stretchy. The pants are lined with compression bands targeted to specific muscle groups. The company's own research claims that the pants increase muscle activity in the hamstrings and quadriceps by 23% and increase caloric burn by 14%. You know I'm a skeptic by nature but I did like these pants, and I had some super speedy runs this week, so who knows? All I know is that my legs felt amazing during and after both trial runs. The tights were easy to put on, compared to the wrestling match I've had with other compression tights. You just have to make sure all the panels are in place before you head out, which is a matter of adjusting the pants. Very simple. I'm looking forward to trying them out at CrossFit when I get back to the box next week.

Tailwind Nutrition
Big Sur Marathon. Fueled by Tailwind. Nothing else.
My love for Tailwind Nutrition endurance fuel should be nothing new to long-time readers of the blog. I started training with Tailwind a few years ago before my second Chicago Marathon. I have a lot of tummy troubles on my long distance runs and the last thing I want to do is become an internet meme because my GI tract decided to rebel in the middle of a race. Portapotty stops cramp my style. Who wants to stop in the middle of a race? I've had great results since I started fueling with Tailwind for all my long distance races. Prior to switching to Tailwind, I reached out to the company to find out more, and they could not have been more helpful. This year I was selected as a Tailwind Trailblazer and want to spread the love. My Big Sur Marathon partner in crime, Kristina, also fuels with Tailwind and is also a Trailblazer. My son also uses Tailwind to fuel for his rugby games. This is good stuff, and neither my son nor I have any desire to try something else. My husband calls Tailwind our "go go juice".

Fueled by Tailwind and on his way to a try.
Still not convinced? Try it for yourself!

Happy Spring!

What is new in your world? What are you loving lately? Do you do compression tights? How about running for fun?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon

After every marathon I've run, I like to evaluate my performance and my training. What went right? What went wrong? What did I learn?

Do you do this?

This marathon was particularly challenging for me. I knew going into the Big Sur Marathon that I would need to prepare myself for hills. Lots of hills, uphills and downhills. Living in the Chicago area, there just isn't a lot of opportunity for hill training. With my coach Becky, we worked on a solid training plan that would get me ready.

And then a major flare up of plantar fasciitis. So painful, I couldn't walk, much less run. I was forced to alter my training plan significantly. Along with my mileage, my confidence took a nose dive. Was I going to have to DNS this bucket list race? And if I was able to get there, would I have to DNF? I had to dig deep to get myself to the start line. Could I put my fears aside and run? Would my desire, determination, and past experience with the distance be enough?

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon

You all know the outcome of my marathon. If you haven't read my recap, you can read that here. Still feeling so grateful, I've started easing into running again while I continue to recover. I've had plenty of time to reflect on this training cycle and my race. I'm proud that I didn't shy away from the challenge ahead of me. It would have been so much easier to DNS than it was to continue to train through injury. But I don't give up easily. Fortunately this was an injury I could train with. I was determined to run this thing, even if it meant training with time off the road and in the pool. Putting all my doubts and fears aside, I crossed the finish line triumphantly.

What did I learn from this experience? I learned that all those mantras we lean on have a lot of significance.

It's not about finish times, it's about finish lines.

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon

Technically, Big Sur is a tough course. That's why you don't see any world elites here--there won't be any world records set at Big Sur! Believe it or not, this course is a Boston qualifier. For me, this isn't the course I'd want to push for a BQ. Besides the technical difficulty of this very hilly course and the famed headwinds, there is the beauty of running in one of the most amazing places on earth. Who wants to breeze by all that is Big Sur? In addition, I was running this marathon on sub-optimal training. I was just happy to be there and wanted to savor every moment of my bucket list race.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon

I do 99% of my training solo. Races too. This was the first time I ran a race with a friend. When Kristina and I decided to run together, we knew we were going to make lots of stops for pictures and to take it all in. When my PF flared, she told me she'd carry me across the finish line on her back if I needed it. Thankfully I didn't need that, but she gave me the emotional support I did need in those tough middle miles.

If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough. 

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon
Pre-dawn pre-race
In my recap, I wrote about that pre-race panic attack I had in the middle of the night. I always have a little pre-race anxiety but I've had nothing like that since my first Chicago marathon. I could have skipped the race, right? And let Kristina down? Let my husband down? And me? I talked myself down. I reminded myself of how badly I wanted this dream to come true and how bad I'd feel if I bailed. When it was go time, I put on my big girl panties and got on that bus to the start line.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Nothing good ever happens there.

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon
This is hill training when you have no hills to train on...
Once injury struck, I was determined to get to the start line. My revised training plan was so outside of my comfort zone that I just figured I had nothing to lose. After I was forced to take time off the road, I had to get comfortable training in the pool. I felt really foolish when I first started "jogging" around the diving well, so much so that I had to explain to the lifeguards what I was doing. When I crashed my bike on a training ride, I sucked it up and got right back on the horse, because what else could I do? It's not like I could run, right? After a couple of weeks, my foot felt better and I was able to try running, slowly, and was pleasantly surprised how much fitness I had retained through my cross training. This helped my confidence going into the final weeks of marathon prep. I learned that you can prepare for a marathon without a lot of running, but it isn't something I'd recommend.

Never limit where running can take you.

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon
Or yoga. Warrior 2 on the rocks of Big Sur.
Destination races present a whole new set of challenges for the runner. There's all the travel logistics, getting there, where to stay, and navigating an unfamiliar locale. But to me, the rewards of running in a new place far outweigh the challenges. That's really the beauty of running. You just put on your shoes and run.

I can do hard things.

Lessons Learned: Big Sur Marathon

This was the most technically challenging race I've ever run. Let's just say it. It was really hard. But thanks to Becky's ingenious training, I was much better prepared for the hills than I realized. For me, dealing with that nausea in the middle of the race was tougher than any of the physical challenges this race presented. Mentally, I had to dig deep to push through those miles while feeling sick. Even though I entertained the idea of quitting, I would never have done that. What would be the point? So I kept moving forward. I can draw on this experience in the future, both on and off the road.

I like to think that running the Big Sur Marathon has made me a little more fearless. Every race I run makes me stronger. I never want to go through life afraid of a challenge. I don't want my life to be limited by my fears. I want to be strong. I want to be brave. I want to be confident.

I can do hard things.

It's a work in progress. I still need to figure out that middle of the marathon nausea thing..

What lessons have you learned from a race? Do you think running makes you more fearless?

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word. Today's word is fearless. Check out what makes all the other bloggers fearless!

Also linking up with Coaches' Corner! When the Suz asks, you don't say no! Check out posts hosted by Suzlyfe, Coach Debbie Runs, Running on Happy, and Crazy Running Girl!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap

Even before I ever ran a marathon, I wanted to run the Big Sur Marathon. My husband and I honeymooned in this area of California almost 28 years ago, and the idea of running in such a breathtakingly beautiful place really appealed to me. 

So last summer, when the lottery entrance date was approaching, I broached the subject. My husband surprisingly told me to go ahead and put my name in. I've never run a race with someone before, but Big Sur seemed like the kind of race that would be fun to do with a friend. Even though we'd never met in real life, my fellow Facebook page admin Kristina was up for it, and we were both ecstatic when we secured spots. We texted frequently over the next 9 months, exchanging messages more often as the day grew closer. As much I was looking forward to running my bucket list race, I was really looking forward to meeting my friend!

This was truly the experience of a lifetime.

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap

My husband and I arrived in Monterey California on the Friday before the race. We ate lunch at Fishermans Wharf and spotted the expo tents nearby. After lunch, we went to pick up my bib. The expo was split into 2 different tents, one for check in and one for merchandise. Check in was easy. I'd hoped to run into Bart Yasso, but no luck. There were a ton of Boston to Big Sur runners, easily identifiable by their teal and pink jackets. I wore my most recent Chicago Marathon shirt but felt a little intimidated. What can I say? As far as the expo goes, the merchandise tent was underwhelming. I picked up a few race shirts and we left.

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap

The following morning was bright and sunny. I texted Kristina and we made plans to meet on the beach for some yoga. There were hugs, tears, laughs, and yep, some yoga. Meeting her for the first time made me really excited for the race!

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Kristina and me

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Partner plank
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Partner headstand
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
My absolute favorite picture. Look at our smiles!
I wanted to check out the course and my husband and I drove south along the coast to Big Sur. The ride was as beautiful as I remembered from our previous trip. We stopped for lunch at Rocky Point Restaurant and ate on the patio, soaking in the views. We drove the rest of the way to Big Sur and stopped at the "general store". Judging by the people we saw there, it looked the 1960s called and stayed. I was somber on the return trip as I contemplated the inclines. I knew it was going to be tough, but coming from the flatlands of suburban Chicago, I naively didn't imagine hills like that! What was I thinking?

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Rocky Point. And yes, we would be running down that hill in the background behind me.
Kristina and her husband met us for dinner at a pizza place. Pizza is my pre-race meal and I was happy she indulged me. We talked a little about the race but mostly made small talk. I felt pretty relaxed after dinner and easily fell asleep after laying out my clothes and gear. Unfortunately, I woke up in the middle of the night in a sheer panic and spent the rest of the night trying to calm myself down.  What had I gotten myself into?

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Pre-race pizza!
The next morning we met at 3:45 to get on the buses that would take us to Big Sur for the start of the race. The volunteers quickly moved the racers onto the buses and we were on our way to the start line. After an hour school bus ride, we waited in a parking lot surrounded by portapotties. There were funny signs on the doors. I was cold and nervous and the parking lot soon became packed with runners. There were so many people that it became hard to move around. Kristina wanted to meet up with her fellow Inknburn ambassadors, so we headed out of the crowd to their meeting spot near the start line. I was grateful for the distraction! 

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Pre-race, pre-dawn in the holding area

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Did you know Hulk Hogan ran Big Sur?
There weren't many costumed runners, which surprised this guy from England! 
Being a relatively small race with 4000 runners, there were 3 waves. We lined up with wave 2. The sun came up and with all the people, it was starting to feel warmer so I removed my throwaway sweatshirt. I attempted to toss it over the crowd but instead it landed on some guy's head. He looked surprised and I tried to apologize. Kristina just shook her head and I started laughing. The national anthem was sung and 5 minutes after wave 1, we were off!

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
It's really happening!
Kristina and I had planned to just enjoy the experience of running in Big Sur and not try to push our pace. We decided to go out at about 10 minutes per mile and with stops for pictures and refilling our Tailwind bottles, figured on about a 5 hour finish time. The first 6 miles or so were run through the piney woods of Big Sur, with a net downhill. Knowing what was to come, we made a conscious effort to hold back while the rest of the runners flew by. 
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
My Garmin shows the true story. This is up to mile 23, after which my battery ran out. There was one more climb at mile 25.
Taking it easy at the start was a wise decision. We started climbing uphill shortly after mile 6 as we headed up a steep ascent for about 2 miles. It was also at this point that we were hit with an icy blast off the Pacific. This wind, which we later learned was 30+ mph,  would be with us for the rest of the race. As we headed up the hills, I was reminded of my training with Becky, specifically when she had me pulling the sled loaded with plates. I kept hearing her voice telling me to drive forward and as I put my head down, that is what I did. We got to the top of that hill and started running down. Naively, we thought that was as bad as it would get. 

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
After that first climb.
"That wasn't so bad!"
But no. About 2 miles later, as we came around the corner, we saw what was waiting for us. With its 500 foot climb over 2 miles, it was the famed Hurricane Point. We heard the beating of the Japanese Taiko drums strategically positioned at the base of the hill. The drummers invited us to join in. Up, up, up. The headwinds continued blowing at us. This climb is what everyone talks about when they talk about Big Sur. And it's no joke. 

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
They invited us to join in!
At mile 11 or so we began to descend. Although I had been told to train for the downhills, nothing prepared me for the sheer effort I would feel in my quads. My right knee started to tug, a new sensation for me, and we slowed to a walk. We stopped to take in the breathtaking view. We could see the iconic Bixby bridge, the halfway point of the race, in the distance. We could hear the music from the pianist who was located at the far end of the bridge. Combined with the view, it felt surreal. 
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Bixby Bridge
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap

We started running again, downhill. We knew that rest of the course would be rolling hills. We also had to contend with that wind. Kristina called out the miles as they ticked off on her Garmin. I started to feel nauseous, and I asked her if we could walk while I sorted it out. We ran/walked the next couple of miles and at mile 17, I told her to go ahead without me. I felt so sick that I wanted to cry. Kristina refused to leave me and told me we were going in together. I did not want to ruin her race. Because I have a tendency to feel nauseous on long runs, I pulled out my secret weapon, an anti-nausea medicine I prescribe in the office. I sucked on the tablet and waited for the magic to happen. Meanwhile, we continued to run/walk. At mile 18, we saw a woman on the side, being attended to by medical personnel. She was crying. Oh hell no, I thought to myself. We pressed forward. 

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap

Mile 20 came up and we passed the sign with a picture of a brick wall. I was feeling much better by then--thank you Zofran!-- and I smiled as we passed it. If mile 17 was my wall, I had climbed over it. Our run/walk intervals became less frequent as I got a second wind. The uphills continued to feel fine for me, but the downhills were really painful in my quads and knee. Kristina commented that it was pretty funny that I had no trouble running up but wanted to rest on the downhills. And my foot? Not a whisper. I felt very grateful at this point as I realized I was going to finish this thing.

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
These funny signs were at every mile!
We kept running. At mile 25, Kristina asked if I wanted to walk one last time. We walked briefly and picked up the pace as we headed towards the finish line. One last climb and then downhill the rest of the way. She grabbed my hand and we crossed the finish line, holding hands, high in the air. We threw our arms around each other and I started to cry.

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Big Sur Marathon Race Recap

Crossing the finish line of a marathon is always an emotional experience. This finish line was a big one for me. A bucket list race, battling injury during my training, and getting to run with one of my very best virtual running friends made this an experience of a lifetime. Pushing through those tough miles and hills, while running on the most beautiful course was an incredible experience. As I write this and look through my photos, I cannot believe it really happened. 

Big Sur Marathon Race Recap
Hearing people calling my name throughout the race really helped me keep moving forward!
Even one week after the race, I'm having trouble putting into words exactly how this experience has made me feel. I have so many emotions after accomplishing such a big goal! This was the hardest race I've ever run. This was the most beautiful race I've ever run. How often do we get to chase our dreams? 

More than anything, I'm feeling grateful. Grateful that I am married to a guy who indulges my dreams. Grateful to my parents for holding down the fort and staying with my boys while we traveled to California. Grateful to Kristina for agreeing to run with me and staying with me the whole way. Grateful to my coach Becky for modifying my training when injury threatened to derail the dream but pushing me hard to get ready for those hills. Grateful to my doctor for telling me she would get me to the start line and helping me find alternative ways to train to take the load off my foot. Grateful to my friends for all their support, especially Marcia, who offered me expertise and talked me off the cliff more than once. And grateful to my body for holding it together after my PF battle and my bike crash, throughout the race, and afterward so I could enjoy the rest of my "not a second honeymoon" with my husband. We hiked Yosemite and those hills of San Francisco. Our first trip away together since we had the boys, we completely relaxed and enjoyed every minute of our vacation.

Not my fastest marathon by any means. But my favorite.
This is what it's all about. Running down a dream. Life is indeed very good.

Have you ever accomplished a big goal or realized a big dream? 

I'm linking this recap up with Holly and Tricia for their Weekly Wrap.