Catching Up

Yes, I’m still alive. Last time we talked, I had signed up for the Mercer Island Half Marathon because I needed to light a fire under my ass and get running again. The good news is the fire trick worked: I’ve been running consistently for the last six weeks and things are starting to click. My stride is starting to feel less clunky. My muscles are working in harmony. My pace is starting to drop. And running has actually been pretty darn fun.

Here’s how base building has looked:

Week one: 3 runs, 12.9 miles
Week two: 4 runs, 18.2 miles
Week three: 4 runs, 17 miles
Week four: 3 runs, 14.1 miles
Week four: 5 runs, 15 miles
Week five: 4 runs, 21 miles
Week six: 5 runs, 25 miles

The not so good news is that although things in the running department are progressing nicely, I’ve decided to not run the half marathon, which is in two weeks. I’ve been super cautious and haven’t logged as many miles as I originally hoped (I’ve learned my lesson that too much too soon = shin splints and mental burnout), and I’m not even close to half marathon shape.

Sure, I’m physically capable of running a half, but the big lesson I learned last year is that just because I physically can do something doesn’t mean I should. Kinda like Fat Amy in my favorite movie Pitch Perfect.

tumblr_me2ipiBn581r4an4bo1_500I have another week and a half of easy running/base building and then I’ll start layering in tempo runs and speed work as I prepare for my first goal race of the year: the RNR Seattle Half.

In my next post, I’ll talk about my goals and changes I’m making to my training approach. Happy Wednesday!

What’s Next?

It’s been almost two months since CIM, and I’m finally crawling out of the post-marathon slump. I took more time off than I normally would to help my stupid shin splints heal, but the good news is that for the first time in months, I am running pain-free.

In the last two months, I’ve done a lot of yoga, not much running and very little cross training. I should have cross trained more to retain some of my fitness, but honestly I just didn’t care. Mentally and physically, I needed the lazy down-time.

Last week I decided I was ready to put an end to this off-season. So I registered for the Mercer Island Half Marathon, which is seven weeks from this Sunday.

I chose this race primarily due to timing. It is soon enough to light the much needed fire under my out-of-shape flabby ass, but far enough way to give me a little time to train so this isn’t a huge suffer-fest.

The day I registered (Thursday), I ran for the first time in two weeks. I only ran 3ish miles (I think my Garmin is finally dead, so I just used my stop watch) and was SORE the next day. I ran again Saturday and Sunday. Sunday I was able to run on the trails, and it felt lovely. It made me realize how much I’ve missed training and running, and for the first time since CIM, I felt like the old Megan. A less fit slower version of myself, but I’ll take it.

My main goal in the next two months is to do lots of easy runs and build a decent base so my body is ready to handle running for 2ish hours on March 23 (my main goal is just to finish, but I’d ideally like to be under 2:05).

I’m in strict base-building mode until April, which is when I’ll start sprinkling in speed work and focusing on getting faster in preparation for my first goal race of the year: the Seattle Rock N Roll Half. I really want to finish sub 1:50.

I don’t have anything on the schedule after this half, but I have some ideas brewing. And my ideas all revolve around PR’ing in the marathon. Dad and I are talking about doing the Light at the End of the Tunnel Lite in September, but we haven’t made any final decisions. Portland is also a possibility. Or I guess CIM, although I really don’t want to wait that long!

Last year I made a ton of mistakes with my training (I increased mileage and intensity simultaneously, which resulted in inconsistent training and shin splints). Even though I have lost fitness and have a long road ahead of me just to get where I was, I’m really excited to apply what I’ve learned and make 2014 my best year of running yet.

California International Marathon Race Recap

Last month (yep, this post is a tad overdue) I ran my sixth marathon and finished in 4:04:59. Unlike Eugene when I threw a hissy fit about another failed sub 4 attempt, I’m proud of this time and equally proud of how I ran the race.

Dad and I arrived in Sacramento Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, we hit the expo.

California International Marathon Race ExpoAfter grabbing our bibs and packets, we sat in on the press conference for the elite runners, which was very helpful and inspiring.

We spent the rest of the day doing a whole lot of nothing (other than sitting on our butts and eating carbs). Pre CIM carb loadingIt was a little boring and my anxiety was in full swing, but it’s important to stay off your feet the day before a marathon. Definitely succeeded in that!

After what felt like 15 minutes of sleep, the alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. I probably slept a total of three hours, but I was wide awake and excited to finally run this thing!

Ready for CIM!Dad and I ate and headed down to the hotel lobby, where the shuttle bus came at 4:45 a.m. Our hotel was near the finish, so it was a bit daunting to take such a long ride (in the dark cold) to the start.

We got to the race with about 30 minutes to spare, which we spent hydrating, porta-pottying (not a word), eating and trying to stay warm on the bus (they let you stay on the bus until the race starts — major perk!).

About five minutes before the race started, Dad and I dropped our sweats off at Gear Check and found our way into the corral, between the 3:55 and 4 hour pacer. Around 7 a.m., people around us started walking toward the front. I hadn’t heard the national anthem or the gun go off, so I thought we were all just moving closer to the start. Nope, the race had actually started!

It was super anti-climatic, but I liked the undramatic, no frills start. It helped me not freak out and get too much in my head. I was excited but calm about the race — taking the complete opposite approach as I did in Eugene, when I was a total psycho headcase beginning at mile 1.

I had a few strategies for running the race:

1. Focus on the present mile. When I ran Eugene, I was terrified of mile 20 before I even finished mile 1. I broke CIM into five-mile segments, and I forced myself to not think beyond those five miles.

2. I had ear buds in the entire race, but I didn’t turn the music on until mile 15 (my original plan was to wait until 16, but I got impatient). I wanted something to look forward to in the later miles.

3. I let go of my end goal (finish sub4) and just focused on doing the best I could on each mile.

4. GU often. In previous marathons, I GU’d every six miles. During this training cycle I played around with GUing every five, and I prefer this fueling strategy.

5. Aim for 1:58 half and then pray to the running gods to just hold on. That didn’t quite work out, but it was a good idea in theory.

Since it was so cold (27 degrees at the start), Dad and I started the race wearing our throwaway jackets. My feet were numb for the first few miles, and I joked that maybe my legs would go numb and I wouldn’t feel the pain in the last 10k. Didn’t quite work out that way.

The race started on a nice decline, a wonderful way to start a marathon. Then the rolling hills began and continued until about mile 15. Up and down, up and down. I normally don’t like running hills, but I really liked the course. None of the hills were steep and I knew each uphill would be followed by a lovely downhill. Plus, it kept things fresh, and the miles flew by.

At mile 5, Dad and I pulled off to the side of the course to GU and shed our throwaway jackets. The jacket I wore was really snug around the wrists, which posed some problems since my Garmin is a massive, old-school 305. It took me a minute to remove the jacket, but I didn’t panic about the lost time.

At mile 10, Dad and I made another pit stop to GU and take some ibuprofen. I’ve never taken ibuprofen this early in a race, but my left shin was bugging me and Dad had a terrible calf cramp.

Even though my shin was a little annoying, I was really happy and felt great at mile 10. And I still felt good when we reached the halfway point in 2:00:20. When I looked at my watched and saw we were 2.5 minutes slower than our goal for the half, I looked at Dad and jokingly said, “Are you ready to negative split this thing?”

Dad just smiled. Though neither one of us said it, we both knew the chances of breaking 4 were pretty small. I have never negative split a marathon. (Yes, I know that’s what you’re “supposed” to do, but it’s not something I’ve ever been able to pull off.) Although I was  disappointed, I was OK with the prospect of not breaking 4 and still had my sights on a PR.

We kept running together until 15, which was a slow and steady incline and my least favorite hill of the race. At this point, I was starting to get tired and was ready for the course to flatten out.

As we ran up the hill, I slowly pulled ahead of Dad. Without intending to do so, I created a gap between Dad and myself. Several times I looked back and hoped Dad would catch up, but I was also prepared to run the last bit by myself.

Once I realized I was running solo, I turned on my iPod and was happily greeted with Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith’s song, “Never Say Never.” The song is totally corny, but I like it.

When I got to mile 16, I told myself: “Ok, let’s just get to mile 20 without feeling totally dead.”

I finally reached mile 20, the time in a marathon when things usually go from a slow unravel to a fast and steady downward spiral. My legs got pretty heavy and my pace slowed, but I tried to manage the unraveling as much as possible. With my PR chances quickly diminishing, I set a new goal to beat my Eugene time.

There was a small hill at mile 22, which I really wanted to walk, but I forced myself to slowly run up and over. I had read in a blog that there’s a street sign at the hill that you shouldn’t read, so of course I had to look. The street was named “Howe.” I smiled and thought how perfect that was.

I was very tired in the last 10k but also really happy. As I ran by spectators with cowbells and funny signs, I kept thinking how lucky I am to be able to do this. This was the first time I’ve felt “lucky” in the final 10k of a marathon (usually I’m praying to be hit by a car so the suffering can stop).

I kept counting down the miles until I got to the final stretch. The last few miles, as usual, took forever, but I finally made the left turn to the State Capitol and saw that glorious finish line. I looked at my watch and realized I could beat 4:05, so I gave it everything I had left and finished in 4:04:59. My second fastest time and 96 seconds slower than my PR.

After crossing the line and hobbling to receive my medal and space blanket, I sat down on a curb and did something I’ve never done after a race: I cried. Happy tears, not sad or disappointed tears.

It was a really nice moment. For the first time in a marathon, I stayed fully present — from start to finish — and as I sat on that curb and processed what had just happened, I was totally content knowing I had run the best race I could that day.

After collecting myself, I got up and had my picture taken. I got food, put on my sweats and eventually found Dad, who finished in 4:13 (his second fastest time since his return to marathoning).

The race certainly didn’t go how we originally planned/hoped. No sub 4. No BQ for Dad. But I don’t feel discouraged or view my third 4:0x finish as a setback.

After California International Marathon - CIMI plan to run marathons for as long as I’m healthy and able (which hopefully is for the rest of my life), and I’m not upset that breaking four hours is taking longer to accomplish than I  anticipated. My struggles and challenges will just make the moment I cross the finish line with 3:xx on the clock that much sweeter.

It’s OK

So that half marathon reality check I mentioned in my last post?

I didn’t run it. In fact, I took four days off from running, and am now easing myself back into it.

I haven’t talked about it much (mostly just in passing), but my shin splints have been an ongoing (and annoying) problem. I’ve been able to keep them mostly at bay by regular icing and wearing compression socks. Even still, that dull ache has been a companion during a lot of runs (usually my tempo runs and speed intervals).

Last week I made i through about 1/3 of my first mile repeat before I called it quits. I was running on the treadmill and experiencing a little discomfort (nothing too bad or out of the ordinary) and suddenly my left leg (the one with shin splints) gave out and my upper body fell on the treadmill. This sounds a lot more dramatic than it really was (for all I know, I just tripped).

But it freaked me out. It made me realize that I can’t keep ignoring this problem that’s followed me around for nearly three months. The next day, I did a test run around Greenlake to see if I should bag the half marathon. The pain was still there, and mentally I had reached my breaking point and didn’t have it in me to keep pushing through it. Continue reading

A Few Updates

Man, I’ve been a blog slacker lately. I’ve started half a dozen blog posts, but then I get distracted, my ADD kicks in, and they end up in the trash bin. Like anything in life, once I fall out of the habit of blogging, it’s tough to get back in it.

To ease myself out of my blogging hiatus, here are a few random updates (both running and not running related):

1. I took last Friday off from work so I could get my second 20-mile run in. It was tough (I wanted to quit at mile 2), but I got it done.

20 mile long run hardMy only goal for this run was to get the miles in. Mission accomplished. Continue reading

Healthy Breakfast Cookies

Healthy Breakfast Cookie RecipeLet me start off by saying I’m not a baker. At all. A few years ago I went through a phase during which I REALLY wanted to be good at baking (not sure why — maybe to prove my domestic awesomeness?). But I’m past all that now. I’ve accepted that I’m just not destined to be baker, and I’m cool with that because I don’t even like it.

I’m not a fan of baking for two reasons. First, baked goods in general aren’t good for you so I just feel guilty about eating whatever I make. Second, I hate being super precise with my measurements and then sticking my masterpiece in the oven and praying to the baking gods it all works out. I’d rather just go to Whole Foods or Cupcake Royale and get a single cupcake. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned About Marathon Running

I started writing this post in January 2013 when I had several friends who were about to start training for their first marathons. I started the post, got distracted, didn’t finish it, and totally forgot about it. Until today.

I’m happy I found this post today, a day I certainly could use a refresher in these simple marathon truths. Sunday was the Portland Marathon, and I was pretty bummed not to be running it. On top of that, I had an awful week of running (more on that later), so I certainly needed a reminder that this whole journey is supposed to be hard, and eventually my good days will outnumber the bad. I just need to keep trucking along and believing in myself. Continue reading