Thursday, August 30, 2012

20 Miles: Live and Learn

It is my intention to have all of my training run blogs done BEFORE the marathon. I have 16 days to get caught up!!! 20 miles. This one sucked. I am just going to put that out there right now. No sugarcoating. No “well, it wasn’t good, but….” It flat out sucked monkey testicles. Yes, there is a big story behind it. Yes, I will go over some of it. Just the parts that are relevant though. Otherwise, its done and gone and over and I am not going  to drag it up again just for the sake of my blog.
From the beginning I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle this 20 miler. Matthew was going to be out of town to the air show in Oshkosh, WI. I was going to be a single parent for a week. Mom was too weak to watch Hayden, but even if she wasn’t, because of the heat, I was going to have to start this run between 3 and 4 am to be able to get most of it in before the temperature reached the triple digits. This Is smack dab in the middle of the hottest summer we have had in decades (if not ever) and I have to run 20 miles. I knew what I was going to have to do. It would be awful. It would be more than I thought I could take, but I spent a week mentally preparing myself to run those 20 miles on the treadmill. I was ready. I was willing. I figured it would be a true test of endurance. If I could run 20 miles on a treadmill in my basement, I could run 26.2 outside with cheering people and tons of support, right? Laurie was going up to spend the weekend with the boys in Oshkosh. I had my plan, I was ready. I had my Newtons and Gummi LIFE SAVERS. (Remember what I said last blog about not liking GummiBears? Yeah, still don’t LOL) and GU. I think it takes a lot of mental stamina to convince yourself that you are ready, willing and able to run that distance on a treadmill like some psychopathic lab mouse, but I was ready to wake up early Saturday morning and do just that. “Warden, yes, I would like to check out a straight jacket, please.”  It was to my great pleasure when Laurie asked me how I would feel about postponing the 20 miles to the following weekend. I was eager to jump at the chance. Saturday morning I woke up and got ready to do a regular workout, and found out that Laurie had changed her mind and decided to run the 20 in Oshkosh. So I lost my morning, I lost my mental preparedness, and found myself scrambling to put together a new plan. To not mince words, I was pissed. And worse, I was hurt. We made plans, and I felt disposable, and that’s not what a partner should be.  We are good now, we worked it out and that’s all I will say about that, but those feelings did linger and I think it was part of the problem that would be this long run.
As runners, I think we have to have that bad run. Not to make you appreciate the good runs, because, let’s face it, we know when we are having a good run, and we don’t need any additional encouragement to appreciate them! I think we have bad runs to remind us the delicate balance you have to maintain as a runner. So many factors can effect the outcome of a run: mental state (mine was bad), nutrition in the days leading up to the run (ok, but not great), rest (not sleeping well cuz Matthew isn’t home and Hayden doesn’t sleep well when he is gone either), hydration, and, oh yeah, mental state again.  As much as I want to think that I am, I’m not infallible. HA! I know I’m not. I am a creature of my emotions. My emotional state dictates my existence. Sometimes, it is absolutely exhausting.  Anyway, back to the actual run. After being assured that you CAN, while not IDEAL, split up a long run as long as you do both parts in the same day, I decided that was my route. I had Wednesday afternoon off of work so I picked Wednesday. I would run the majority of the 20 miles before work, come home shower and go in for my 4 hours, come home, change and finish up.
 This arrangement is not ideal in about every sense of the word. Matthew was home again, and willing to do whatever he needed to do to make sure I got this run done. I went to bed at 7 pm on Tuesday night. My alarm was sent for 2 am. If I could hit the road by 3 am I would have at LEAST 3 hours (3.5 if I decided to push my time limits) to get the majority done. I wanted to get at LEAST 13 done so I would only have 7 left to do after work (in the heat). That is exactly what I did. The morning portion was pretty good. The run went smoothly. I actually ended up hitting the road at 2:30. I got 15 miles done before work. I was feeling ok about this plan. Once I got to work, things started to turn in the opposite direction. I work in a bank and I spend my day behind a desk. I could feel myself stiffening up as the hours went on. I made an effort to get up and walk around every 15 minutes or so. All of my co-workers know I am training for this marathon and they are very supportive.   I knew this was not going to be good. I ate lightly throughout the morning, and when 12:30 rolled around, I headed home to finish up.

When I left the bank, it was already 80 degrees. 83 by the time I had changed and headed outside. I felt like I was made of 160 thousand pounds of concrete. I only had 5 miles left. What is 5 miles? On that afternoon, 5 miles was my Everest. I was desperately searching for any road that had a remote amount of shade. I was about a mile into it and I had to stop. According to my phone, it was already 93 degrees. It jumped 10 degrees?!? ! Yep, surely did. Remember what I said about knowing my limits? This was it. I couldn’t run 4 more miles in this heat. On those legs. It just wasn’t going to happen. I made my way home. It was round and about as I was still in search of the shadiest roads between the West end of town and my house on the East end. I got 2 miles done by the time I got home. I was in bad shape. I felt like a rock, and my body wouldn’t respond to my brain’s commands. That scared me. How far was I willing to push myself? Was I willing to risk a relapse in the name of a training run? No. I sat in my living room and cooled myself back down using techniques I learned while working for the National MS Society. I went downstairs and finished up SLOWLY on my treadmill. It was pretty awful. I didn’t dare risk pushing any harder because I was home alone. Matthew wouldn’t be home for a couple more hours.
 I finished. I know it was the perfect cocktail of variables that mixed together to form the vortex of suck that was my 20 mile run. Here is what I learned. I can’t run in heat. I can force myself to do it, but I will have to pay a steep price. One that I can’t afford. When my body stopped working, I was scared. Never again. My emotional state plays as big a part in preparing for my runs as any other factor. It is not to be discredited or downplayed.  Forgiveness takes time, but I will always be open to it. It is who I am. We will be ok, but don’t make me disposable again. Most of all, I learned that we need to have a bad run to force us to look at those variables and realize each one’s importance in our training. Just as good runs make us feel invincible, bad runs make us humble. I am grateful that I have had both through this journey to keep me balanced.

Until next time, Run On and Be Happy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Marathon Training Week 7: 19 Miles?

I think I procrastinated too much on this blog, because most of it has flown out of my brain. For all the the GREAT pictures from this run, please go to Laurie's blog post about our run. Anyhoo, This week’s scheduled long run was to be 17 miles. Laurie and I weren’t really feeling the group run so we decided we would take to the bike path to pound out the miles. I had planned to go up on Saturday in the afternoon and take it easy, then head to bed early. We wanted to get a very early start. This heat has been insane and we wanted to beat it before it really set in. Alright, great plan in place, and I am ready to tackle this thing. 17 miles. Further than this Former Fat Girl has EVER run. I was nervous. It was the sheer size of the number. It was a milestone. And a possible stumbling block as well. On the flip side of that, I was actually very calm in my core. My head can freak out all it wants before hand, but it is my core, my heart that holds the power, and it was calm. It felt natural; this whole process has felt natural in its evolution.  
On Thursday we had rumblings that they would be releasing my Mom, as early as Friday.  The steroids were keeping her fever in check and her blood cell counts were holding in good range. I wasn't sure how what time I would get up to Hotel Rose. I wanted to be sure that I got enough sleep. I think the thing that made me the most nervous about this super  long run wasn't the mileage, it was the fear that I would run out of steam. Laurie and I researched some fuel alternatives to GU, but I was afraid that the new fuel wouldn't work and I would be tapped out and no way to drag myself  back to the car. Anyway, Mom did come home on Saturday so I didn't get up to Laurie's as early as I would have liked, but there wasn't anything I could do about it.  We wanted to spend time with Mom and more importantly, we wanted Hayden to spend time with her since it had been over a month since he had seen his Ama. 

As I said, I didn't make it up to Coal Valley as soon as I wanted to, so I didn't get to bed as soon as I wanted to either.  Laurie had gotten some Fig Newtons and some GummiBears as alternative fuels, but I packed my fuel belt with GU too. I wasn't going to let my worries get the best of this run! After fuel belts were loaded up and alarm clocks set we headed for bed. I slept ok. I woke up once, afraid that I had overslept and Laurie was ready to go without me. Turns out it was 2 in the morning and someone upstairs just had to get up for a potty trip. Enough to wake me up in a complete panic, though. Guess I was more nervous about this run than I thought! 

After a good breakfast of banana protein oatmeal, we headed down to the bike path. Laurie was telling tale of the adventures of Lance Gage when we arrived. We parked in the middle of our planned route so that we could stop and refill our water, Gatorade, and fuel. 

I think we didn't start out quite as early as we had planned that came back in the end to bite me in the butt. I have to watch the heat. If my core temp rises too far it could send me into an MS relapse. Its always in the back of my head when I head out for a run, especially this summer with it’s extraordinarily high temperatures. Regardless of time, off we went. We were on a mission. 17 miles. A new distance for both of us. I think 17 miles was looming as this huge thing in my brain. A psyche make it or break it distance. Funny thing is, EVERY new distance became a make it or break it distance.

We started out great. The miles were ticking by rather uneventfully. I like going down to the bike path to run. It’s a nice change of scenery from the streets of Wilton. Running long distances around out little town is a different kind of training. One I will discuss in my blog about 22 miles. I felt pretty good going into this run, and I think that my positive mental state was helping my body cope with this new distance. Today’s run was also an experiment in new and different fueling options. I will tell you the truth, most of my nervousness stemmed from this very point. Experimenting with new things leaves me open to them not working and there I am stranded 12 miles into a 17 mile run, on empty, and struggling. We went with Fig Newtons and gummy bears. (I don’t like gummy bears generally. I think they taste weird.) I packed a few extra GU packets just in case the fear of crashing came true. I think having the back stash helped alleviate the worry some. The LAST thing I wanted was for that to poison my mindset. The Newtons were a nice change of pace. The sensation of CHEWING fuel instead of shooting it down my throat in an effort to not taste it was a foreign concept when it came to fuel! LOL
By this time we had reached our car and hit the restrooms, restocked our water (it was getting HOT) and Gatorade and discussed how long we would run for. 17 miles was scheduled, but we were both feeling AWESOME, so we were trying to decide if we would tempt fate and go a little farther… We decided on 18 miles and took off down the path in the other direction. We got closer and closer to Hampton, the heat started to hit me hard. I had to slow my pace, but there was no way I was going to stop. Laurie went ahead of me to the decided turn around. She thought I was going to stand there and wait for her to return to the spot, but I followed her. I was just going to keep going (at a slower, more heat appropriate pace) and then when we met up, I would turn around. So I kept going, and going… and going. I started to wonder what happened to Laurie. Did I miss her? The Garmin’s distance kept inches up and up… still no Laurie. We had joked about making it a 20 mile run. She wouldn’t have taken that seriously… would she?  FINALLY off in the distance, I see her orange shirt. She thought I was waiting for her (as IF) and made her run 19 miles. I was NOT in the best shape. It was just shy of 2 miles back to the car. There was a nice area with shady benches, 17 miles was what was scheduled for that day, and I had completed that distance. There was NO reason I couldn’t stop and wait for Laurie to finish and come pick me up. Nothing except that voice in my head that said “Don’t Quit.” It would have felt like quitting. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t have that in my psyche. It would have crushed me. Yes, I completed the distance, but I would have quit before I was done. I wasn’t done. Yes, I walked most of the last mile. Yes, I was tired. Yes, I was hot. I wasn’t going to quit. I was not hurting except for the fatigue. I HAD to finish. I had to because I knew that I could. I know when I have to stop. I know when I have reached my limit, but this wasn’t it.
It was probably the slowest I have ever run, but I did it. I finished. Not too long after Laurie. I tried to keep her in my sights. It is what I do, even during races. I keep her in my sights and it lets me know that I am still going. Even when everything else has shut down and I am running on training and memory, I know that if I can see her, I will finish.  I was actually pretty light headed and a little nauseous when we got done. Nurse Laurie kicked in and made me drink Gatorade and do whatever else it was that she made me do. I don’t really remember. HA!

Good or bad, I did it. I didn’t quit. I ran farther than I had ever run before. I ended up being only ¾ mile shy of Laurie’s 19. I won’t pretend that it was a pretty or even an ideal run, but it was epic. It was what I needed it to be. I could have quit. Laurie gave me an out. I could have taken it. I didn’t. I wasn’t done. I wasn’t going to stop until I was done. Right or wrong, I know that my sheer determination will carry me to the end. I don’t fear this marathon. I respect the distance, but I no longer fear it, because I know that when it comes down to it, my desire to finish will carry me to the end.
That and following behind my Running Partner.

Until Next Time, Run On and Be Happy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I am behind on blogs. I'm sorry. LOL. I have one for 19 miles (that should have been 17, but my training partner is crazy) one on 20 miles (which was tough, but had LOTS of lessons involved) and a 22 miler which was AWESOME and left me feeling like a Rock star. (Trust me. It was a MUCH NEEDED change of pace!) and the I have one for yesterday's Half Marathon in Madison, WI. It was so much fun and so relaxing. I needed some down time. I feel like I have been wound up so tight. Between Mom's health, work, training and trying to be there for Hayden... I have been spread so thin I was ready to snap. A day sitting by the lake at the University of Wisconsin on the most gorgeous day you could ask for (especially after this summer who's heat had you holed up inside like a prisoner) gave me time to reflect on some things. Mostly, what I have planned for the next couple years. I recently turned 30.
The idea used to bother. I can't be 30. 30 means you are getting older. It seems surreal. I suppose I feel this way every time I (or one of my siblings) hits a "milestone birthday."  As I was watching this couple learn to windsurf... I got to thinking about a lot of things that are happening in my life. The sun was shining. The breeze was just enough to keep things comfortable. I was in a state of Bliss.

And I got to thinking that 30 isn't going to be all that bad. I mean, really, it IS just a number. In comparison to my 20s, there really isn't any comparison. I am going to do things as a 30-something that my 20-something counterpart would have NEVER DREAMED of doing. (I know because that was me! HA!) Like running a marathon. Voluntarily. And enjoying it. How about learning how to eat properly to fuel my running. How about making it through a Half without being miserable in the last 5K? How about actually ENJOYING work and feeling like I am making a place for myself there. I am going to become a YounggLife Leader and be more involved in the community that way. I have an AMAZING little boy who lights up my days with his laugh and vast knowledge, curiosity and love of running. I have a WONDERFUL husband who bends over backwards to make sure my dreams and goals come true. Who supports me and loves me, even when I don't think I deserve it. Yeah, my 20s were good. I had adventure and love in the Last Frontier. I made a home in the town I grew up in. I made great strives in improving my health and took control of my weight. I put in countless hours or blood sweat and tears to shed the pounds that I had spent my life hiding behind. Trying to protect me from disappointment and failure that were simply self-fulfilling prophecies.l If you believe you will fail, then you will fail. But guess what, now that the work is behind me, I get to ENJOY the fruits of my labor. Am I done? Not by a long shot, but I know that, and there is power there. Power to take the things I have done and build them, improve them, make them more than they were before.

Age doesn't matter and my 30s are going to be awesome. I am already seeing improvements since I signed up with Kyra, The Get in Shape Girl. I am almost to the Big Day when I run my first Full Marathon. I will then jump right into training for Goofy Challenge for my big blowout weekend before we start trying for Baby #2. Life isn't about how many years have passed. It is about how much life you have put into your years. I have LIVED more in the last 3 years than I did in my entire last decade and it is just the beginning. Now is the time to enjoy being a grown up. I have found my place. I have found myself. No more hiding from life. I am tired of hiding. I have learned how to LIVE. No more sidelines. This is the decade of going after the things I want and making them happen. Its time to take life by the horns and be in control. No, I am not 29. I don't want to be. I am 30 dammit. And I am proud of it. Yep, I have wrinkles (they show where years of smiles have been). Yep, I have gray hairs (who doesn't? LOL Its what dye is for). But I also have strength, laughter, family, love, faith, health and a handful of years to enjoy them. So I will.

Until Next Time....
Run On and Be Happy