Posts Tagged ‘26.2’

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.

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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.)

Just Different

I didn’t solemnize this day with a moment of silence. I chose to honor the day with a hard, fast run. I am not even going to put a qualifier on that sentence like, “fast for me” or “relatively speaking”. I ran the exact same route I ran on 4.15.13, and just like a year ago today, I was inspired by Boston. One year ago, I posted the run to my DailyMile account, happy with a fast run on a cool cloudy day, thinking of Boston and wondering about the two American women elites that I was cheering for were doing. Today, I posted a run to my account, with similar themes, fast run, cool and cloudy, and it was all about Boston.

Just different.

It’s one year later and everything is a little different, except the route. It’s a familiar 5k route that tracks north and west of my office through the City before coming straight east back on Main Street to my front door.

How I think of Boston is different. Last year, for me, it was all about Shalane and Kara, the hype, their rivalry, their friendship, and their potential to win. This year, I think of the non-elites, the spectators, the first responders, and the hallowed ground that is a finish line of a race.

How I think of running is different. Before Boston, it was my time. My headspace. My freedom from my desk. My adrenaline rush. My solitude. This year, I recognize that I am a part of something that is the opposite of solitude. I am part of a community. Meg’s Miles reinforced that for me. Being a part of something greater than myself is a very gratifying feeling, but it comes with a personal sense of responsibility. I have to DO something when the community is assaulted like at Boston or when Meg Menzies was killed. You have to give back; I donated to the Boston One Fund and I donated money to Meg’s family. And I ran; however meaningless it might seem in the face of terror and death, those miles mattered to me and to the running community.

How I think of spectators is very different. Before Boston, I never gave much thought to the random strangers standing alongside a race route, cheering, clapping, ringing cow bells, holding clever signs. Now I thank them as I run. No one would have ever thought that cheering on runners in a race could be a potential risk to life and limb. Boston changed that, too.

Boston isn’t on my “Bucket List” or anything. I am not training to earn my “BQ” and I don’t feel it is something I will ever want to go chase down. But I don’t think any distance runner out there doesn’t feel that there is something special about Boston.

A pair of angry extremists tried to take away the magic of Boston. They left a mark, to be sure, but if their goal was to scare us all into submissive hiding, they utterly and completely failed.

Boston is too Strong for that.

Doubts

While we were at the Shamrock race expo, they were registering people for the Crawlin Crab Half Marathon, which is scheduled for the first weekend of October. I knew I had wanted to run that race, and Byram said “Go ahead and register today! Sign me up for the 5k while you’re at it.”

Well, two problems occurred. I had an account with the race production company (imATHLETE; also puts on Shamrock), but it was set up by Byram and he didn’t remember the password. Second, they were doing registrations on iPads, which I am not proficient in the use of. After 10 minutes of not even getting past the log in, I gave up and said I would register from home.

Three weeks later, being yesterday, I did. Byram had forgotten all about it, so I wanted to surprise him and sign him up for the 5k on Saturday, and I signed myself up for the “Shell Yeah” challenge, the 5k and the 13.1 the following day.

I kept waiting on Byram to check his email and was sure he would find a “Registration Confirmation” email and be so surprised, but apparently it only came to me. I waited a whole day before I sprung the surprise to him on FaceBook, and then forgot it is April Fool’s day, so he didn’t think I was serious at first.

Ah well, way to blow the wind out of my surprise sails.

In the meantime, I am contemplating three letters. MTT. That is Sports Backers’ speak for Marathon Training Team. $165 will get me 24 weeks of supported team training, my race entry fee, and ultimately a Richmond Marathon finisher’s medal (it really is all about the bling, I suppose).

It isn’t a question of can I do it. I know I can if I stick to the training plan. It isn’t a question of is my family okay with it. Byram (and Grace) have both thrown in their encouragement to the idea (I don’t think they realize how many hours I will be out of the house on runs in September and October). The question is all about my mental ability. Am I mentally tough enough?

Right now, all I have are doubts. 5+ hours of running, stuck in my own brain for that long? I get mentally weary at the 12 mile marker in a half. That will never do.

I trust my legs. I have doubts about my brain.

But I know of only one way to remove those doubts.