The Richmond Marathon

It’s been a few days now. Nothing on me hurts anymore. My legs still feel tired, but not bruised. I am not going to lose any toenails.

One of the things the Marathon Training Team coaches encouraged us to do was to write down our race experience soon after the race because it would fade quickly. Nothing I write down could do the event justice, but maybe my words here will help me hold on to those little moments that were so special. I have been building this write up for a few days.

Saturday morning was cold and dark to start, and it never really would warm up, but it did turn out to be a perfectly blue, crisp, bright autumn day. Byram dropped me near the Capitol a little after 6:30 and I watched as the sun rose slowly over the City. The training teams all gathered for a chaotic photo on the Capitol steps and then we disbanded into our smaller units. I joined Team Pink Nation for our final Benediction. Coach Blair spoke briefly, but focused on the gratitude we should feel to even have this opportunity. Not everyone gets to do this. Running 26 miles is a privilege.

He was right.

They say over and over to never do anything different on race day than you did on your longest training run. Well, that was problematic; my 20 miler was run with temperatures in the 70s. The Richmond Marathon coincided with our first “Arctic Blast” this year and it was 29 at 6:30 that morning. I had “charity” clothing to shed at the starting line, but I wouldn’t be able to run just wearing my team singlet. My arm warmers disappeared, so I decided the night before to wear my long sleeved technical fiber shirt, with the singlet over it. Another benefit of running with MTT was the clothing drop station they had at Mile 2, so I wore my running jacket for the first 2 miles without having to worry about donating a not cheaply replaced article of clothing. I also purchased a pair of $2 throw away gloves at the Expo with the intention of shedding them once I was warmed up.

I was warm enough while waiting for the race to start, except for frozen toes. Nothing to be done for that and my toes did warm up eventually. I was concerned that I would wind up too warm at some point during the day and would have to lose the green long sleeved shirt, but that never happened. In fact, I never shed the gloves either. The only times I felt nice and warm were when I was in the sun. It was really cold in the shade all day long.

So the race itself. I found Pink coaches and some ladies I knew who ran a pace I wanted (I was looking for 12:00 min/mile averages for the start). I introduced myself and we all ran together for the first 4 miles, at which point Coach Judy had to peel off to meet us later on Forest Hill Avenue. MTT coaches are spread out throughout the course to keep an eye on the team and give encouragement where necessary. This is why you wear the team shirt on race day, so you can be identified and assisted as needed.

The first 2 miles are so boring but it was nice to have company and chat along the way. There were some good signs, and lots of spectators. I have run the Half twice now, but this was the first time I have ever turned Left on the Boulevard, not Right, like the Half route. It was kind of cool to make that turn away from what is familiar. I shed my jacket as planned at the clothes drop and the next two miles were spent still chatting with the other ladies. After Coach Judy departed at mile 4, the group I was with began dispersing. It was time to run Our race.

Now the first memorable moment occurred around mile 4.5.  We had just made the turn from Westmoreland Street onto Grove Avenue, where there was a huge cheering section and a lot of familiar faces from MTT in the crowd. They were giving high fives and I was taking them, and smiling and enjoying the moment when I saw a familiar face who is NOT associated with MTT.
Bart Yasso.

He was giving out high fives and cheering the racers, and you bet I got a high five. That was a pretty cool moment.

That excitement carried me along Grove. At the Starbucks near Libbie, I saw a coworker who I thought had been in the race, but he was drinking coffee and cheering us on. I don’t know why I thought he was racing, but he wasn’t. It was cool to see a familiar face and he cheered me on.

We then turned onto the only portion of the course that I had never run on before; Maple to Cary Street. This was a nice downhill area for the most part and it was nice to see a new-to-me part of town (from on foot, anyway).

The party zone before the Huguenot Bridge was fun, but I was gearing myself up for the Bridge. Now, I like the Huguenot Bridge as much as I dislike the Lee Bridge. It was beautiful crossing the River and most importantly, there was no shade and the sun was nice and warm. It was picture perfect. And it was the only spot on the course where I made a minor mistake. I had been trying to cut the corners (or vectors) and was positioning myself on the route to stick tight to turns and I had assumed that we would follow the right side ramp off of the Bridge and down onto Riverside Drive, so I ran on the right side of the Bridge. Only to discover that the route took us down the ramp on the left side of the Bridge. Not a huge deal, but I essentially ran across all 4 lanes of  Huguenot Bridge twice. Oops.

Riverside Drive is hands down the most beautiful part of the course. I hit 8 miles just at the end of the ramp and took my first GU as planned. I felt amazing. I know this will sound a little silly, but at one point, a perfect yellow maple leaf fell from a tree, and it landed perfectly in my right hand; I didn’t see it coming until it was in my hand. It was really pretty and I considered keeping the leaf for a moment. Then decide that was a little crazy and I let it fall.

Things were going well. I felt good. I had to stop at a little blue house for a few minutes just beyond Mile Marker 10. I suppose that meant I was well hydrated, but I hated losing those 3 or 4 minutes. I don’t mind admitting that I walked the steepest hills coming up and away from the River. I knew that Forest Hill Avenue was next and I wanted a little gas in the tank for that portion of the route.

At that point I started seeing my coaches; Coach Blair checked on me and I told him I was doing great and he gave me a thumbs up and went to check on other runners. There was a really awesome party zone at Forest Hill and Westover Hills Avenues. The crowd was really cool and lots of people were cheering me by my name (on my bib). I was really pumped up through that crowd.

I took my next GU as planned at Mile 14, just past Crossroads Coffee. The Lee Bridge was approaching and I knew I would need the energy. There were fire fighters out cheering for us in front of their station around 20th Street and Semmes. They were cool.

The Lee Bridge was tough. It always is. I think it’s because we are headed north, and the wind there tends to be blowing straight into your face. Or it could be because right after the Bridge, everything is uphill for a while. It was tough and I pushed through it, happy to have that part behind me.

Main Street was only interesting because of the seriously drunken spectators. I think they had been going at it since about the time the race started, and that was almost 4 hours ago. I wasn’t feeling as good or rational as I had been earlier in the morning so for some reason, these screaming drunk spectators annoyed me.

At Mile 19, in front of The Diamond, Team Pink had a table set up. I didn’t want any food or water and I didn’t see any familiar faces, so I skipped it. I was not feeling very stellar anymore.

At Mile 20, I took my 3rd and final GU and that didn’t go especially well. It had gotten cold and thickened up and it was hard to swallow and didn’t feel like it would stay down. It was also time to put in my call to Byram so he could start heading downtown. I made the call and as soon as he answered, I completely choked up. I couldn’t breathe properly, couldn’t really speak to him, and a little ball of panic formed in my midsection. I struggled as he tried to talk me through it, but hung up as soon as I could. I focused on my breathing and forcing my shoulders to relax and let go and very soon, I was feeling much better as the GU kicked in and the panic faded out. I called him back a mile later to reassure him I was actually fine and just had a moment there when it wasn’t all fine.

And honestly, I really was fine. Yes, everything hurt but the hurting was increasingly unimportant to me. Somewhere on Brook Road, it really sank in that I was going to be alright. My right ankle was killing me but it wasn’t injured. My legs hurt but they didn’t feel heavy anymore, just sore, and sore wasn’t really a problem at that point.

Still, I must not have looked like my finest when I approached the last half mile around Grace and 3rd Streets because an MTT coach that I didn’t know decided I needed company. She asked me questions and I answered, but I don’t remember either her queries or my responses. I know that the more I tried to speak, the harder it was to breathe, and the harder breathing came, the closer I pushed back towards that panic I felt near Mile 20. She stayed with me, which was probably good, but at Cary Street, I told her I was good and basically asked her to leave me alone to finish. That hill is both wonderful, in the sense that your effort level goes way down, and brutal, in the sense that your balance and energy levels are wrung out and just staying upright and not face planting is a legitimate worry. I didn’t have it in me to push more than the 9 min/mile pace I pulled out on that hill down to the finish mat.

I tuned my ears in and listened. I was not in a crowd so if the announcers were still paying attention, I knew they would call my name as I crossed the finish.

They did.

“Kim Moore of Richmond!”

I crossed the line, made the final right hand curve onto Tredegar, and some really nice volunteer handed me my finisher’s medal, which felt shockingly heavy on my tired neck and shoulders.

My phone was ringing in the pocket of my running tights. I couldn’t answer my grandmother’s call to surely see if I was okay. At that point, I was single-minded. I needed to find my Sherpa and get some more clothes on.

I also really, REALLY, wanted a slice of cold pizza, but, well, pizza is for runners who manage to run faster than 12:30 minute miles. I found Byram who gave me a hug that actually hurt (my whole body hurt by that point) and we found my discarded running jacket in the clothing pile. I signed out on my team sheet, and then, careful not to trip and fall into the canal, I pulled on my extra clothes, posed for a few photos, and unceremoniously made our way back to the van and to home.

It was over. I can call myself a marathoner.

I was so cold when I got home that I couldn’t stop shivering and my lips were a deep shade of purple. I took a long hot bath, but kept having to add hot water because my skin was chilling the water around me. I was literally behaving like a human ice cube.

I thought the medal would mean more to me, but it is just a thing to wind up in the pile of medals in my underwear drawer. My memory of my high five from Bart Yasso, the maple leaf in my hand, and running backwards to give a very small boy the high five he ran into the street to give me; these memories mean so much more to me than that medal. Calling Byram the second time to reassure him that I was really okay is so much more important. The conversation with the lady who was running her 7th marathon where she confirmed that I was feeling awful but normal for that stage of the race. The random chatter with Coach Judy. The sight of Coach Blair on Forest Hill, and knowing I didn’t need his assistance. The seemingly naked dude holding a sign on Riverside and Lookout. The incredible feeling of invincibility I felt around mile 12 on Forest Hill, spreading my arms out wide and wanting to yell out loud. These are the things I want so desperately to  hold on to. These are the only reasons I would put myself through this again. No, the medal holds surprisingly little meaning to me.

Would I do it again?

I don’t know. Training for this became a way of life for me, especially in the last month. I have so many other things in my life to devote time and energy to, but most do not hold the positive energies that running over 26 miles did. I think I would do it again. Maybe. The timing would have to be right. With that said, I loved the energy and the positivity connected with running with Team Pink (and Cocoa to some extent) and THAT is what I crave to have again. NOW I understand why some people sign up for MTT, fully intending to switch to the Half Marathon teams later in the season; it’s to surround yourself with positive energy and people who share the same, positive, connected goal that you do, as soon as possible.

I have a couple of new goals for myself, none of which have to do with miles or speed. Once I tackle those, I might look at taking on another marathon. For now, I am content with what I have accomplished.

It Might Not Sound Like It, But I Am Smiling

It sank in this morning, in the cooler (if 72 degrees can be considered significantly cooler than 78 degrees), completely saturated air in the pre-dawn light this morning.

This marathon training thing is not going to get easier.

Somewhere along the line, I developed the concept that if you run often enough, fast enough, long enough, hard enough, that at some point, your daily miles would become easy, no big deal, and even, rejoice at the thought, nearly effortless.

Where the hell did that idea come from???

Probably from the notion that ‘practice makes perfect.’ The concept that repetition ensures future success. And if your definition of success is somehow easy, fast miles that require little or no attention to how you perform them, then you are going to be a seriously disappointed runner.

Which is where I found myself this morning.

“This is never going to get any easier, is it?”

I suppose the answer is yes and no.

Yes, a mile for me is not really a big deal these days. Once upon a time, say 5 years ago, running a mile was a physical impossibility. Even walking a mile was nearly a Greek tragedy in the making for me back in those bad old days. But, today, a little over 4 years since I started running and many hundreds of miles logged, a mile still doesn’t come to me without effort, without sweat, without some deep, full lungs of air.

Five miles felt like no big deal on Sunday morning when I wasn’t even half way to my goal of 11 miles for the day. This morning, five and a half miles (of an intended six) felt murderous.

I wonder if it really is all in my head. What if I had set the goal of running 12 miles this morning? Would running only 6 not have felt so tough?

And maybe it isn’t entirely all in my head. I haven’t taken a rest day since July 6th. In the past 10 days, there have been several days with double workouts logged; say weight lifting and 3 miles, or 30 minutes of rowing and power yoga later. I’ve probably pushed that envelope a little. I overslept this morning and only had time for one cup of coffee and no time to let the caffeine kick in. It wasn’t a great way to start a mid-week long run.

But overall, I suspect that my mental strength is lagging way behind my physical capabilities.

It might be time to put my brain through some paces of its own. The lyric “My head is on fire, but my legs are fine, after all they are mine” from Carry On, by fun. comes to mind. I don’t think it was really my legs that couldn’t go the distance this morning, but the 7 pounds of gray matter housed in my skull this morning was just not up for it.

Maybe on November 15th, I need to tell my brain that the goal is to run 30 miles, and then 26.2 won’t feel like such a big deal. Crossing the finish line will be like “Whew, made it to 26.2, I just don’t have it in me to go a full 30 miles this morning!”

Maybe I just need to work on some mental jumping jacks and get my head in line with where my legs are going.

“Self, get it together because this marathon is happening! Let’s go!”

If you’re wondering, I am smiling as I think that thought.

Riverside Drive and a New To Me Garmin

I am solidly six weeks into marathon training.  So far it has been pretty good, with some ups and some downs.  Last week was an unusually down week, with a change in my diet and some insomnia creating a period of very low energy, before bouncing back by the end of the week.  I felt really amazing Thursday through Saturday.  Otherwise . . .

 

So yesterday, I suffered one of my worst runs ever.  It was an 11 mile route along the always challenging Riverside Drive.  Now, I like Riverside, and ran it voluntarily and solitary about 3 weeks ago for a 9 mile route.  But like it or not, it is very, very challenging.

 

I meant to write about how I was gifted last Monday with a used Garmin and how it has been a help and a hurt in my running.  A help in that I can do a better job of maintaining the pace I want and even speed it up, and a hurt in that I can look at my current pace and feel intense despair over how slow it seems compared to the effort I am exerting (see the mention of low energy above, though too).  Anyway, against my instincts and a reasonable suggestion from the donator, I decided to wear it yesterday for the long run with Team Cocoa.

 

So, first things first: thanks to the Garmin, I know that in my attempt to stay with the main pack, I ran my first mile of 11 at a 10:20 pace, which for me, for a long run, is WAY TOO DAMN FAST.  Add to that that within the first mile, even holding a low to mid-10 min per mile pace, I was falling quickly to the back of the pack.  I was among the last 3 by mile 5.  This was not a good place for me to be, mentally, though at this point, I was physically doing well and looking forward to the remaining 6 miles.

 

Once we got on Riverside Drive itself, after the absolute brutal climb up from the Nickel Bridge to Forest Hill Avenue, I started feeling that awful feeling in my stomach:  I needed a little blue house and I needed it soon.  Miles 5 and 6 were tough, hilly, and my stomach was cramping. I was running with the last two team members and Coach Adam who always brings up the rear.

 

At mile 7, when we got to the main entrance to the Buttermilk Trail very close to the Lee Bridge, I found the much needed rest-stop and assured the team I could find my own way home (it was a very straightforward and familiar route anyway).  After suffering miserably in the sweatbox of the porta-john, I came out feeling a little light headed but got underway again to cross the Lee Bridge, a portion of the route that I enjoy the most, which no one else seems to.  After the shady but very still and moist air of Riverside Drive, the strong breezes that blow above Belle Isle and the James River feel very refreshing to me.

 

But it was once I was across the bridge that everything fell to shambles.  My legs felt like I was running through wet cement.  If I closed my eyes, I saw blue sparkles.  The lightheadedness became more pronounced.  I tried running for a block and walking for a block for a while, drinking my water, and hoping to find a second wind.

 

It never came.  I decided it was time to trim the route a little (by then, there was simply no short cut back to the stadium), and I cut the diagonal across Monroe Park, and rather than follow Monument back to the Boulevard, I made my way to Broad, again, to slightly cut the diagonal of the route, and took the walk of shame for the last 3 miles.

 

My body hurt in ways that seemed to have nothing to do with running.  My sides and back hurt.  The pressure of my running bra on my shoulders was nearly unbearable.  The cuff of my tights around the base of my knees felt awful.  I was a massive ball of pain for reasons unknown.

 

It was crazy to collapse like that, because the previous weekend, I had run 10 miles, hopped in the car, drove 4 hours into the mountains, and set up a camp and was quite physically active for the rest of the day, only slightly tired from my early morning exertions.  After yesterday, the best I could do was pour myself into a Epsom salt bath and then sleep for 4 or 5 hours afterwards.  I don’t know that I would have gotten up when I did except Byram said “The World Cup is starting” and I was up like a shot.  To go back to lying on the couch.

 

What caused the collapse?  Was it because I didn’t eat a little something before I ran?  Was it because I never took a rest day last week and even doubled up workouts a couple of days (running and power yoga)?  Was it because I had too much water and not enough electrolytes?  Was it because I had GI troubles both before and during the run (probably caused by the very greasy smoked bratwurst I had for dinner the night before)?  Not enough sleep?  Not enough calories?  Too much heat?  Too fast at the start?  The very challenging route?  All of the above???

 

It was probably all of the above and even some factors I haven’t considered yet.  It was enough to leave me wondering if maybe I am not cut out for a marathon yet, though.  Maybe I should switch over to the half marathon before I do more serious damage?  No, I don’t really believe that.  My coworker and the donator of the Garmin reassured me this morning that sometimes these runs happen, and he recalled having to stop on the exact same route a few years back and recover before he could make the last 3 miles back to the stadium.  Of course, he hasn’t managed a full marathon yet, either, and he has been running for many years more than I have.

 

I feel like I only write when things go wrong, but what is there to say about Saturday morning’s humid 5.5 mile run that went just fine (except, again, for some stomach cramps right at 4.5 miles)?  I felt great on Saturday  Even despite  the GI distress, I felt good enough on Saturday to add a little length to the route and take a fast sprint down a steep hill on a side street near my house.  How did my weekend workouts go from so right on Saturday to so wrong on Sunday?  I can’t explain it.

 

So today begins a 3-day liquid fast for me.  I decided last week that I needed a total body reboot and I have had success with these fasts in the past.  My diet will consist of 3-4 protein shakes a day, as much water, herbal tea, and coffee as I want, and a cup of bullion a day (I need the salt in this heat).  I know this will bring my energy levels down somewhat for the next few days, but I can accept that trade for a reduction in water weight, a renewed focus on what I put in my mouth, and usually an end to sugar and carb cravings.

 

Today is cross-training day and I plan to get on the rowing machine for 30 minutes at lunch.  Tomorrow is 3 miles at home, 6 miles on Wednesday, and 3 miles again on Thursday.  I have been adding in yoga and core training workouts from Byram’s Diamond Dallas Page YRG yoga videos.  Those have been very effective and I can discern a real difference in things like my downward dogs (heels are down after a the first few minutes of any workout), my Three Legged Dog is getting taller and less wobbly, and my lunges are definitely getting stronger and more stable.  So while still not a fan of ordinary main-stream yoga routines, I am having fun and finding success with DDP’s yoga, as much as I cringe at some of his more sexist comments, or roll my eyes at the alternative names he gives to some of his poses.

 

So, feeling better today, I refuse to let yesterday’s awfulness stop me yet.  I have 18 more weeks until race day.  I am sure there will be other horrible workouts in all of those miles, and I am also sure I will have some stellar days.  I have particular faith that when the mercury starts to fall and the humidity comes down out of the “breathing underwater” range, that my workouts will improve.  Just writing all this out has helped improve how I feel about yesterday and how I feel about going forward with Team Cocoa and my status as the sweeper.

 

I will keep on working at staying positive (hard for me) and keep racking up the miles (less hard).

Concerned Residents Contact Authorities Over Mother-Daughter Running Duo

Concerned Residents Contact Authorities Over Mother-Daughter Running Duo
The Allium Family Press


 

Recently, concerned neighbors in a Chesterfield County subdivision contacted County authorities after witnessing a mother and her young daughter out together on a Saturday morning run. Witnesses allege that the girl appeared to be running alongside her mother, with no apparent destination, seemingly running for fitness.

“I mean, I don’t want to be up in her business, but it was a Saturday morning. What was that mother thinking? Weren’t cartoons still on? That kid looked to be maybe only 6 or 7 and I was sure she would rather be watching My Little Pony. Who makes their kid go for a run on a Saturday morning? That’s why I called,” said a local resident who asked to remain anonymous.

Her neighbor spoke up as well. “I mean, they weren’t even running on a sidewalk. They were on the side of the road and a car could have come their way! I call that child endangerment.”

Another neighbor speculated that since it was the day after report cards had been sent home from school, that maybe the girl had brought home a bad report card and the run was a punishment.

“Either way,” he said, “it looked suspicious enough to me to make the call. Isn’t running bad for kids, especially girls, at that age? I mean, she could destroy her knees with all that running. I think that mom should be looked at for abuse.”

County Child Protective Services’ spokesman, John Smith, he stated that he could not comment on the current open investigation, but asserted that all child welfare calls are taken seriously and are fully investigated. “We encourage the public – if you see something, say something.” Smith said in our phone interview.

The accused mother, whose identity is being protected, said only that her daughter, who is 6 years old, is healthy, happy, and even asked to go with her on short runs. She also pointed out that there are very few sidewalks in their part of the county, but that their half mile run took place on a very lightly traveled neighborhood street that was certainly wide enough to avoid any oncoming traffic. When asked if she felt threatened by the CPS investigation, she replied “I don’t know. Would anyone be investigating me if I was feeding her ice cream and candy for breakfast? I doubt it. But a half mile run is abusive or negligent? We just hope common sense prevails.”

In the meantime, she stated that she and her daughter will continue their Saturday morning runs until they hear a final ruling from CPS. CPS is expected to complete their investigation within 3 weeks.

Swifter Sweeper

Happiness is new running shoes. No lie. I had surpassed 300 logged miles on my Brooks Ghost 6s and for the past several weeks, each time I went for a run in them, I was coming back with an ache in my right ankle. Well, by Sunday, I came back with BOTH ankles sore and achy. I suspected the shoes, went to Lucky Foot (my favorite running store!) and left with a new pair of Ghosts.

I went in fully intending to switch back to more supportive shoes like the Adrenalines. The sales associate really didn’t think I needed the support, but I tried them anyway. Well, after running in neutral shoes for 9 months, wearing the Adrenalines was like tying a pair of 2x4s to my feet. I tried stepping down a click to the Brooks Ravennas but they still felt too stiff and clunky.

When I put on the Size 12 pair of Ghosts, all desire to change up my shoes fled and they came home with me.

It is funny to me how when I was younger, what color and shape my shoes were meant a LOT to me. I wanted my shoes to look super cool; I really didn’t care how well they fit or how long they held up. 15-20 years later, and I could care less what my shoes look like, as long as they fit well and I keep all my toenails this training cycle. And now I pay 5x more for them than I ever did.

Function before form.

So, here is the only thing bugging me about MTT and my awesome team. I ran around a 10:30 minute per mile pace on Sunday morning; this is wonderful to me and is gradually becoming the new normal (not 11:30s like it has been for the past 2-3 years) and I am so happy to see progress in my pace. But even with that pace, I was the “sweeper” for most of the route; dead last member of the team. I caught up with a number of folks on the Boulevard and even passed several of them as we went over the Boulevard Bridge, so that was kind of nice (yay, hill training has paid off!), but it was a tough effort for me to even keep some of the team in sight on Monument Avenue for a while.

My options are to switch to a novice team that runs fewer miles and has slower participants or suck it up, put out the hardcore effort this deserves, and recognize that there might be weeks where the coaches are tapping their toes looking for me.

It would be unworthy to switch to a team with slower members just so I don’t run the risk of being the official Team Sweeper.

Someone always has to be last, right?

The Quest Begins

So it begins. The Quest for 26.2 miles has started. It began yesterday in the bright sun and blessedly cool Sunday morning at SportsBackers Stadium. I am on Team Cocoa, which the coach, Ellie, joked about us looking like UPS drivers if we actually try to wear cocoa colored clothing. It is the slower team of the two intermediate teams. The faster team intermediate team looks like it is made up of human cheetahs. My team, not so much.

The intermediate teams were scheduled to run 7 miles, the novice team was running 4.

Gory details to follow:

Since I had poisoned myself the previous day with too many delicious but wildly greasy carbs at an awesome restaurant called My Noodle, my GI system was completely uncooperative. At the best of times, my pouch and small intestine (minus about 7 feet of it) are unpredictable, but yesterday’s reaction was completely predictable in the worst sort of way. It is the main hazard of being a Gastric Bypass patient and an athlete (dehydration being a close second).

Within the first 10 minutes of the run, despite my best efforts, I knew I was in trouble and I knew the only bathroom on the route was the bathroom in Bryan Park, which would be about the 3 mile mark (yes, I know almost every single open and available bathroom in the City). I suffered for those three miles, but I made it. While shuttered up in that sketchy little bathroom, I did the math and recognizing that there were no other rest stops along the rest of the 7 mile route, I decided to cut off the “Northside neighborhoods” section of the route and went straight back to the Diamond on the Boulevard. That took a little less than 2 miles off the planned route, but it saved me from more misery.

When I hit Brooklyn Park Avenue, where the planned route and my alternate route met back up, I wound up a pack of fast runners from the Green team; those human cheetahs. Most of them were running in the 8:30 minute/mile range and I couldn’t keep up, but running with them and being a half mile from the end, I knew I could damn well speed up. My insides cooperated long enough and I think I ran that last half mile in the 9:45 min/mile range. I was grinning like a hooligan in spite of everything. I could feel a change in my brain. I am really, truly, officially, and finally training for a Marathon.

You would think I would be unhappy or upset that I didn’t make the full distance on my first week of training, but I’m not. I know my body. I know its limits. I know I could have run those two miles if my system had cooperated. It was a beautiful morning and a familiar route. But I also know myself well enough to know that I would have ended up walking, with severe cramping and doing the “two-cheek-squeak” for the last miserable mile, and I would have felt horrible.

Two extra miles was not worth that kind of suffering.

So aside from all the miles I am going to log in the next 5 months, there are a bunch of other considerations to make to keep myself healthy and uninjured.

Diet: I want to limit repeats of Sunday morning’s gastro-intestinal festival, and that means being careful with carbs, avoiding dehydration, and seeking high quality calories. I need the most bang for my nutritional buck that I can get. No 3pm dashes to the vending machine for a rice krispy treat. I am trying to keep my desk stocked with nutritious options for when the mid-afternoon munchies hit. Whole wheat crackers and natural peanut butter (my variety has added flax seeds, for what that’s worth), mandarin orange pieces in no sugar added liquid, and high quality dark chocolates for those moments when chocolate is a must (it happens). Lunches will be lean protein and vegetables. Breakfasts will not devolve into an egg and cheese bagel from Cupertinos; hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurts, and occasionally things like steel cut oatmeal (have to be careful with oatmeal though; I need extra protein or my blood sugar gets a little wonky).

We regularly plan dinners that are pretty healthy, and they are usually planned on a weekly basis, with an emphasis on balancing Byram’s low-purine food requirement, my lowish-carb requirement, and my Mom’s need for variety.

I am making it a point to really focus on getting all my daily supplements in. I know what the FDA says about vitamin supplements, but their recommendations are for the general populace, not someone who has 7 feet of missing intestine and absorbs only about 2/3rds of everything she consumes. For me, vitamin supplementation is a must.

Cross Training: I know from my history that because I sit all day, my mid-section is kinda soft like a gummy bear, while at the same time, my hip flexors are tight as piano wire. The perfect recipe for injury. Mondays on the schedule are x-training days and I am going to focus most of those days on core strengthening and stretching. In fact, I am going to bring a yoga mat to work. There is a section of the 2nd floor where no one ever comes and I can do a full core workout without any gym equipment and never have to leave my building. Over the summer, when time allows, I might add in some evening swims with Grace at the Y. Being in the water will take my weight off what are sure to be sore muscles, while at the same time, you get some resistance training and cardiovascular benefits. Also, Grace time is Good Time.

Yoga: This goes hand in hand with X-training, but needs to become a regular act. At least on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I need to get up and do a yoga routine in the morning or before I go to bed if I run in the early a.m. during the hottest part of the summer. Again, injury prevention is my main goal; I can’t cross a finish line if I am too hurt to get to the starting line.

Sleep: it’s nature’s Reboot Button. It’s a key element of a good immune system (distance athletes are not famous for their abilities to fight off a cold). It’s when your body builds muscle. It’s when your whole system slows down and recovers from the strain of hard core training. I am going to start aiming to be in bed between 9-10 pm every night because many mornings are going to see me up and at them for early a.m. runs by 4:30 and 5 a.m. A morning glory I am not, but I am going to work on it.

Finally, and probably oddest…

Positive thinking: My mind is my greatest enemy. It is crueler to me than 100% humidity, 90 degree temps, and double digit distances. I have the power to make it my greatest ally. And so I shall work to that end. Stop the self-mutilating mental talks. “I am the slowest person on the team!” needs to become “I am lucky to be running with such amazing folks. I bet I can catch up to them just a little if I push just a little harder.” “Oh my god, 20 miles will feel like forever.” needs to become “I really cherish ‘my time’ and I am lucky to have the next several hours all to myself.” I can work on it, but the mind is the hardest thing to train. Wish me luck.

A Pause Before The Deep End

Yuck. My DailyMile training report for last week arrived in my inbox this morning with the dreaded phrase “Your friends miss your training. :-(“, which is to say I didn’t log any miles. In fact, I hadn’t logged a single mile since April until yesterday. I do hate receiving those types of reports, but I also purposely set aside my trainers for an extended time.

I have several reasons why I took a 3 week break. One was because I was simply flat out busy; work has ramped up and I have had to work through more lunches than normal. Another was because my allergies have been off the charts this season and I was coming back from my lunch runs feeling pretty awful. But one of my biggest reasons for a short break is that beginning June 1, running is about to become my whole life for about 5 months.

On Patriot Monday, April 15th, the day of the Boston Marathon, I signed up for the Richmond Marathon and the SportsBackers Marathon Training Team.

That was the last time I posted here, as well, and I didn’t mention it in my post. Signing up for the team and the race felt overwhelming and I wasn’t really prepared to talk about it yet. It feels big and scary still, but the start date is swiftly approaching and I keep probing the thought of running 26.2 miles like one touches a bruise just to see how it feels.

If the race itself feels daunting, the training efforts feel doubly so. What do you do with your time while you are running 20 miles for a practice run? How do you keep your brain at bay while keeping one foot in front of the other?

It also looks like we’ll have to contend with a scorcher of a summer this year. It is always hot and humid in Virginia in the summer, but if the forecasts are even close, it seems generally agreed that this year will be particularly bad. I am going to force myself to become an early AM runner. I have to. I ran a little over 2 miles yesterday in the 95 degree heat and by the time I got back to the office, I was a touch queasy, but my pace was way below where I had been in April (granted, the 3 week break wasn’t going to do anything to help speed me up).

Plus, there will come a point late in training where I will have midweek runs that are nearly a half marathon; I can’t do those on my lunch hour. By the way, I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of running 12 miles and then hopping in the shower before heading into the office. I mean, that just sounds crazy.

But for all the enormity of the undertaking, all the nervous unknown, and frankly, a bit of fear, I am also very excited by the prospect. I am going to cover new territory within Richmond, I am going to find the mental boundaries I have about mileage are blown away and there will come a point this summer where a 10 mile run isn’t a “big deal” anymore. Won’t that be something?

(As an aside, you are getting this on my lunch hour instead of me logging much needed miles because the heat index is 100. That’s when I skip the great outdoors. I have no desire to make the news: “Jogger Found Passed Out From Heat Stroke On FloodWall”. So, yeah, better get started on that early AM running plan.)