Musings on Marathons {and why I’m going beyond}

I distinctly remember a conversation Bryan and I had shortly after I ran my first few half marathons. He asked when I thought I would want to run a full and I was like – um, not for a long, long time. Not because I didn’t WANT to, but because it seriously scared the shit out of me. I was still terrified of 13 miles, why would he ever think I was mentally prepared to even sign up for a full? (Side note: you’re never going to be “ready” and that’s the whole freaking point.)

Like, a few weeks laterish, I did sign up. I honestly wanted to vomit. I was at work and got immediately hot and sweaty after I clicked submit. I texted all my closest friends and family and told them what a huge, terrible decision I had just made. And it was still over 9 months away! That’s the type of fear that was struck within me at merely signing up. When I thought about it at all I would feel physically ill.

Fast forward those 9 months (like I had a baby or something, ha! In hindsight, something WAS born that day…) to the actual race. The night before I couldn’t even remotely sleep. I went through what I needed to bring over and over and over. I endlessly worried about what to eat before, during, and after the race. I checked to make sure my Garmin was charged no less than a dozen times. Probably more than that because #DATA obvs (can’t agonize over each mile split if my watch dies). I ran the race. I was elated. I was irrevocably HOOKED.

Awhile after that, Bryan asked me when I thought marathons would stop making me nervous (because I now didn’t feel like I might die at the start of every half and actually became fairly comfortable with the distance fairly soon) and I probably laughed right in his face. Who just doesn’t get nervous before a marathon? That seems like, literally not even possible.

I ran my next marathon a little over 6 months after the first. It didn’t go how I wanted and also the weather wasn’t on my side. This time, when I finished, there weren’t tears of elation in the slightest, there were actual tears of pain. Not because of an injury or anything. The first thing I said was “it was just SO hard.” (Uh, no shit, it’s 26 miles.) But I had already signed up for my NEXT marathon, in the fall again.

And then I somehow convinced myself I might as well run another less than a month later. Luckily, I ended up pacing the second (so less pressure on myself to perform), but even then I didn’t think I was capable of doing that. Running a marathon at a sustainable “easy” pace seemed like an actual oxymoron. But then I did it and it WAS sustainable and easy and fun, obviously.

After that race, I took a little running break. I wasn’t doing much of anything at all actually, when my friend Rebecca convinced me to sign up for the Oshkosh Marathon. Which was 5 weeks away. I figured I could just train a little in between signing up and the race – but if you thought signing up would be enough to convince me to get off my ass (like I hoped and assumed it would) you would be wrong. Since pacing in early November – I’m pretty sure I ran two 10 milers, and 3 (slow) half marathons. That was literally it for “long runs” for almost 5 months. But still, I wasn’t really nervous for the race exactly, I was just mentally adjusting goals in my head. I had originally wanted to finish in 4:30 or under, but when I saw how unmotivated and flat out lazy I was going to continue to be, I thought, okay, anything under 5 would be a miracle.

Here’s what brings the story back around to that beginning conversation with Bryan about nerves. (I ramble. What can I say?) I had no real nerves the weekend of the race. It was a weird and surreal kind of thing – we would all of a sudden be like, wait, are we actually doing this tomorrow? I literally wore shoes I hadn’t run more than 13 miles in. Total. Last summer. That’s how nonplussed I felt about it all. I ended up finishing in 4:36, my slowest outside of pacing, and frankly I’m pretty damn happy about that. I felt more or less “fine” during the whole race. I also wasn’t attempting to “race” it, just run and be happy and not die. Check, check, and check. I just had fun and ran slow and steady with a smile on my face nearly the whole damn time and it was fabulous.

I won’t lie – there was a teeny tiny minuscule fleeting thought when I looked down at my watch to see 4:29 and knew there was no way I could come in under 4:30 (which I knew already was a highly unrealistic goal, all things considered), but it was honestly the quickest acknowledgment and then it was gone and I kept running.

The real moral of this long winded story is that everything is relative. I agonized for months over my first race (which was a quarter marathon). I was terrified the morning of my first half. I had actual nightmares before my first marathon. And now? I woke up yesterday (okay, I wrote this on Monday but was too lazy to type it out until now, so let’s all pretend for a second) with the slightest acknowledgement that I was about to run over 26 miles, and then I just… did it.

So now, I can’t wait to feel the sheer terror as I train and prepare and obsess and freak the eff out the night before my first 50 miler. This isn’t to downplay the marathon. It’s always going to be hard, and it’s always going to be a huge freaking accomplishment, no matter what the time on the clock says or what the circumstances surrounding it are. 0.5 percent of Americans can say they’ve done it. Around 600,000 people a year. That’s a VERY small amount, considering.

I point all this out because I’ve just been reflecting after Sunday’s race. I’ve been struck by the wonderment and sheer incredulity of what the human body (and more important, the mind) can do. It’s amazing how we can continuously push our comfort levels and always be striving for that next horrifying goal. Because as that cliche goes – if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. Terrify yourselves every once in awhile, y’all.

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The swing of things

I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think I’m finally [!!!] getting back into the swing of things. After last weekend’s race and then moving for the entire day after (40,000 steps according to my vivosmart – woof), I was not moving an inch on Sunday. Except to eat. Because food.

Monday was spent attempting to put away all our belongings (spoiler: didn’t happen), but Tuesday night I finally got back to the gym. And um, ow? 5k nearly annihilated me. I did 5k on the bike after just so I didn’t feel like a total waste of space. I chalked it up to my body just being so totally exhausted after the past few days. Muscles I didn’t even remember existed were in excruciating pain after moving, so I blame it on that.

Wednesday afternoon I may have went to the gym solely to use the WiFi. Seriously. They can’t figure out what is wrong with ours in the new apartment, and I may have (I did, I definitely did) already gone over my data for the month. 4 miles done and dusted though!

And yesterday, glorious yesterday. It was finally sunny outside and 30ish degrees, so I ran outside for the first time in over a month. 5 miles that were super slow going. Mainly because the first mile, I felt like I was dying – my body just felt so stiff and sore and slow, and the next 3 miles I literally ran past 5 schools that were just letting out for the day. Dodging children of all ages and their inattentive parents slows you waaaaaay down apparently.

Today I’m going to “rest” i.e. go for a walk to the coffee shop to once again mooch someone else’s WiFi, and then walk around the neighborhood to meet my step goal for the day. I’m a slave to my steps, and I don’t feel one bit bad about it. Anything that keeps me moving is a good thing in my book.

Tomorrow I hopehopehope to run 6-8 miles. Sunday 3-5. And repeat. I want to get into the routine of running S-T-W-Th-S like I used to – it’s always worked best for me. The past few months I didn’t so much as fall off the wagon as the wagon completely broke down and was in complete disrepair, but I really do finally feel like I might be getting back into the swing of things. Which is for the best, really, because 50k training started like… 2 weeks ago.

Freaking. Fearless.

Before I started running, I was afraid of a lot of things (without even realizing it!) I was unhappy with myself (in basically every way possible) so putting myself out there was hard and I avoided it like the plague. Like I’ve talked about a little in a previous post – I started running solely to lose weight. I was SO uncomfortable in my own skin, and it makes me so sad to think about how I felt back then, now. Once I had been running for a few months, not only did my weight change, but my whole mindset along with it.

And after those first few months in 2013, I was already realizing that running was becoming more than just a weight loss tool to me. As spring weather started finally hitting Wisconsin, and I was losing a substantial amount of weight, I finally wasn’t afraid to run outside anymore. I had previously been running on the treadmill at my house because I was way too embarrassed to run in front of people. Also, winter in Wisconsin, so… no. It seems like such a small thing now, but this was a HUGE fear for me at the time. Some days I still battle that fear (i.e. yesterday)…

Once I was no longer paralyzed by fear of running in front of people, I signed up for my first race. Another massive hurdle for me to jump over. I signed up for a 5k that I read about in that race section in the back of Runner’s World (you know the one) and felt seriously ill immediately after. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it, that I would have to walk, etc. etc. general race fears (which I know now is normal, but at the time… all the emotions.) I ended up doing the Quarter Marathon (why is that a thing now?) and doing better than I actually thought was possible.

And isn’t that how it goes? Fear over what turns out to be nothing or something so minimal it’s laughable? One of the definitions of fear on dictionary.com (super legit resource, I know) is: anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur. And I think it stands to reason that we all should focus in on that little word in the middle – possibility. Who knows what will happen? What if the worst DOES happen? So. What. Conquer those fears. Whether they be small (running in front of other people) or big (ultramarathon anyone?!).

And if you need more inspiration to buck up and tackle your own fears – read up on Katherine Switzer’s story, if you don’t already know all about it. Basically, no woman had run the Boston Marathon before, and she was having none of that. So she signed up, put her lipstick on (Hell. Yes.), and was ready to start the race. Once the race director realized there was a woman in the race, he tried to pull her out (you’ve probably seen the pictures), inciting fear and chaos around Katherine and her companions. She overrode her fear of the situation and kept on trucking. She knew it was on her to prove that women can conquer the marathon distance. And she did. Freaking fearless.

Katherine’s story is inspiration to women runners everywhere, to this day. In fact, SkirtSports has a whole line called 261 Fearless (261 being Katherine’s bib number for the race, and fearless, because, duh.) inspired by the outfit she wore during the race. You can use the code SSCBR20 for 20% off this collection, or anything from SkirtSports!

 

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from my homegirl T. Swift:

“I think fearless is having fears but jumping anyway.”

True that. Acknowledge your fear. Accept it. Jump in anyways.

That Lil Marathon Thing…

55 measly days separate me and marathon numero dos. If you paid attention to all my rambling last summer/fall you already know that I basically was injured and subsequently didn’t train for marathon numero uno. And things turned out considerably more than fine. That’s kind of how my life seems to go more often than not – the things I feel prepared and excited for fall apart and the things I feel woefully unprepared and afraid of tend to work out the best.

I’ve also never followed a training plan for… anything. I’ve run 11 half marathons on just… essentially winging it. I’m not advising you to do this, it’s just kind of how I roll. I typically would just do whatever I want, and I’ve been really lucky in that it’s always (more or less) worked out. Honestly, the few times I did try to follow some semblance of a plan, I ended up getting hurt. I would stress over doing the prescribed workouts on the prescribed days, and run when I shouldn’t have, not run when I should… well you get the point.

So now that I’ve managed to be injury free since October (a long time by my pathetic standards), I couldn’t exactly completely avoid somewhat training for this race. In the offseason I had been running about 6-7 (sometimes more, based off how bored I was or if I had anything else going on to be home and somewhat presentable for) miles 4 days a week, and 10-11ish on weekends. This was fine and dandy, but as the self proclaimed Queen or Overuse Injuries (I should really have a crown), I knew that I should probably cut down my running days to 4 a week total. The thought of it made me sad, because I really just love running. Now that I’ve done it, I can’t imagine going back to 5 days a week. I think this is a result of starting to add 1-2 days of cardio crosstraining, and 2-3 days of lifting (WHAT?! I know. I don’t know who I am anymore either. Especially because I kind of like it.) to my training schedule per week. My body just wouldn’t be able to handle 5 days of running on top of that.

So then there was this whole issue of my weekly long runs – the staple of marathon training – what distances and when to do which, etc etc. When I started training for Lakefront last year, I had some guidance from my fantastically fast friend (alliteration FTW!) Shannon, who laid out her marathon long run schedule for me. So far, I’ve been going off that and things have been going scarily well. But I’ve always seemed to perform better completely undertrained thatn 1% overtrained, so I’m kind of freaking out at how relatively smoothly things have been going. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not secretly hoping for anything to go wrong with my training, I just get nervous. But I guess I’d be freaking out if something DID go wrong. AGH. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m always freaking out.

I obviously have an A goal and a B goal and a well-at-least-I-finished goal, but it even makes me nervous to say them out loud. Bryan asked me the other day what I was hoping for, and I honestly didn’t even want to tell him. I know that things could go perfect during training and the race could have all these outside circumstances that are impossible to prepare for, so that’s probably what scares me the most. Of course, none of that could happen… the variables are what kill me. What’s that old thing about worrying being like a rocking chair? I’m trying not to rock too much over the whole thing. Here’s hoping.

Podcast Addict

So it’s pretty obvious that the secret is out *whispers* I love the treadmill. For many reasons – the most current issue being that the neighborhood I live in now is just not conducive to runners. Sidewalks line one side of the street and then abruptly switch to the other side, then just aren’t on any sides at all – it’s a disaster for anyone who wants to run more than a mile at a time (i.e. me). On top of the sidewalk debacle, the few times I did venture out for a run around the area, I got whistled at – so pleasant.

And I mean, come on, I live in Wisconsin. It gets COLD. And word on the street is that this winter is supposed to be even colder, and ever since that fateful run last year where I lost a mitten and nearly got frostbite (yes, seriously; and yes, I am an idiot), I’m just not as down to run outside that much lately. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE running outside, but I just don’t have the time to consistently drive out to a nicer neighborhood or a trail every day, especially now that it gets dark at like… 4 o’clock in the freaking afternoon. Not to mention I have totally been digging running at 5 in the morning before work lately, and the safety factor just isn’t there in such a big city that early in the morning in the pitch black.

So the question everyone’s been asking is – how do you not go legitimately insane? I typically run 6-7 miles each morning before work – which, for me, equates to an hourish – give or take some minutes depending on just how much of a turtle I am that day. That’s a (fairly) big chunk of time to fill and I like to use it to my full advantage.

My other secret is that I am truly a podcast junkie. I love that you can find a podcast about basically anything, and I have a weirdly diverse set of interests so this totally appeals to me. I love that I can listen to something other than music (which gets boring to me, after awhile) without having to watch something on my tiny phone screen at the same time. My original dilemma with this was that I have a Galaxy S5, and for some idiotic reason, I never thought to figure out a way to listen to them on it. For the longest time I took this huge detour and would download the podcasts on my laptop, and then sync them to a massive old brick of an iPod. This was unwieldy for a great many reasons, I had to bring my phone into the gym with me anyways, so I was carrying 2 bricks whenever I wanted to listen to a podcast while I ran.

Now enter: PODCAST ADDICT! It’s a podcast aggregation app that is my own little podcast hub. You subscribe to all your regular podcasts and go in and sync the app and all the magical new episodes appear! Then you can download whichever episodes you want so you don’t have to stream them (helpful for me because I have very limited data on my phone and already go way over anyways, and also there is no reliable service in my cinder block gym building). So basically: amazing, if you’re a huge nerd like me.

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^^ My Podcast Addict homepage

Below are some of my favorite podcasts/what they’re about/what I like about them. If you have any suggestions for me, please share! There are never enough new episodes updating as fast as I run so I’m always on the hunt for a new favorite.

The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich has a huge variety of guests on the show, from spiritual leaders, athletes, nutritionists – you name it. This is actually the podcast that got me into podcasts. I read Rich’s book Finding Ultra (definitely pick it up if you haven’t yet) and in the interest of seeing what he was up to now – found the show.

Favorite episodes:
#78 – Timothy Olson
#68 – Matt Ruscigno
#47 – Joe Cross

Serial

Definitely my current favorite. Produced by the same people as This American Life (another favorite, but I feel like this is a pretty popular one so I won’t elaborate), Serial follows the story of the host, Sarah Koenig, as she looks into the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted of the crime and to this day maintains that he’s innocent. You follow along as she digs through all the evidence and interviews whoever she can get a hold of who was involved in the case. Seriously – it is addicting. When I opened the app to write this post and it refreshed with a new episode I had to listen to it IMMEDIATELY.

Ultra Runner Podcast

I can’t remember the specifics of how and when I stumbled on URP but I”m pretty sure it was through some Facebook link, and I know it was sometime at the very beginning of the summer. Since then I think I’ve listened to every episode, and most of the back episodes I had missed before I subscribed. Basically – it’s just interviews with pretty much every great runner in the ultrarunning sport. My interest in this probably doesn’t need to be explained – I love trail running and plan on working my way towards these longer distances as time goes on.

Favorite guests:

Hal Koerner
Dakota Jones
Rory Bosio

99 Percent Invisible

This one is fairly new in my podcast arsenal so I haven’t formed too many opinions on it yet – but it’s about a “tiny radio show about design” – which appeals to me because I’m a graphic designer. So far, it seems right up my alley. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it definitely puts a little sugar in mine.

Favorite episodes:

I Heart NY, TM
Duplitecture
Masters of the Uni-verse

*Sidenote – Podcast Addict definitely didn’t pay me to obsess over this app, though I wish it did.

Lakefront Marathon Recap – seriously, grab a snack, this is long

So let’s start at the beginning. And I mean waaaaay at the beginning – as in June – as in when I was set to start my marathon training plan. It’s no big secret I’d been injured from the get-go (as I’ve detailed in previous blog posts and a large amount of wallowing instagram posts as well), so obviously I couldn’t exactly start training full boar. Every weekend, I’d cross off the day on my calendar and see the little number I’d written in the corner of how many miles I was supposed to be running that weekend. Key word: supposed. The long runs got longer on the calendar, and shorter/non-existent in real life.

My total mileage for June: 59.15 – there were only 2 runs over 6 milers – a half marathon at the beginning of the month, and a 14 mile sufferfest towards the end. Total mileage for July: 58.52 – there was a absolutely disastrous 12 miler in there, and the even more legendarily disaster that was the Dances with Dirt half. Again, nothing over 5ish miles, and many days off in a row to try and calm the beast that was my tendinitis. And let’s not even TALK about August. 42.27 miles – 2 weeks completely off – and a blessedly slow 11.28 miles at the very tail end of the month.

And while I’m not exactly sure how it happened, things started to feel… better. Still off, but I could run (trails, pavement was still blatantly terrifying at this point, and I was avoiding it at all costs). I totaled September at 131.13 miles, with no runs under 5 miles (except on the 30th, when I was in pain but was so close to an even number of miles for the month…) The long runs of the month included the North Face Endurance Challenge half on a Sunday, and pacing the Brewers Mini Marathon that Saturday. It just so happened that a fellow pacer in my group (2:15) was also pacing the Lakefront Marathon (4:40). Being clueless, I bombarded her with questions for pretty much the entire 13 miles about what I should do, how I hadn’t trained at all, etc etc I’m pathetic. Her advice: after the race, go home and run at least 5 or 6 more miles. My tendinitis was not rearing it’s ugly head, so I went home, changed shoes, and went out for 7 more. So that was 20 miles on the day.

The week before the race, I ran a 10 miler, when I started to feel some new pain in the same ankle, because I’m dumb and also can’t catch a break. I should have cut it to 8 miles, but I wasn’t sure how much of it was just me being whiny because the run was shitty to begin with. It felt a lot like when I had Achilles tendinitis (on the other side) earlier in the year. So at least I figured, I kind of know how to deal with this. I didn’t plan on running anymore until the pain was gone (until that whole, end of the month so close to 130 miles debacle came up). So I ended up running 2 days later, just a 5k, and it was okay but started to hurt towards the end of the run. I decided that was it until race day. (I did do some cross training on the ARC trainer Thursday, but that was it in terms of workouts the week leading up to the race.)

So as you can imagine, I pretty much KNOW I’m screwed. I basically had 8 long(er) runs total. 2 were above 13.1 miles, and 1 barely so. Almost every single one was a colossal disaster. After the split 20 miler, I had enough confidence in myself to at least be able to FINISH (seriously, that was my goal, I spent a lot of time figuring out if I could make the 6.5 hour race cutoff if I walked fast enough), but that changed after the pain started to return that week before. Basically, I was probably the most terrified I’ve been in a long time, over anything.

So that Saturday morning, packet pickup loomed. We looked around at everything (it didn’t take long, the race is capped at 3,100 registrants and so the expo was equally small), and then I went back to look at the official merchandise. I took a deep breath and bought a finisher’s jacket, and figured I could use it as a reminder to myself the next day that I HAD to at least finish. We went out to eat, then I ate some more, then I went home and ate some more, literally until I felt sick. (Oops.)

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Looking deceivingly excited post packet pick up

Later that evening, I started throwing everything I was bringing into a pile on the bedroom floor. I wasn’t bringing a phone, because 1. I never race with it, and 2. I was worried that if things started to get hard, I would use it as an out and have Bryan come pick me up (this had actually crossed my mind in a particularly awful half, so I know I can never bring my phone because I’ll never forgive myself if I wuss out when things get a teeny bit hard.) We figured if I really needed to stop, I could go to the nearest aid station and borrow a volunteers phone. I also never run with music (barring the treadmill because let’s be honest I’m not that disciplined,) but I recently acquired one of those little touch screen clip on iPods and thought I would make a sort of S.O.S. playlist and have it with me, just in case I was struggling. I also brought an exorbitant amount of Clif Shot Bloks because they are my one true love, but I put them all in a Ziploc bag because the packaging is annoying unless you’re eating them all at one time. I had my Cocogo laid out (10% off with the code COULDBERUNNING, just sayin’!), my handheld water bottle, 2 Clif gels (even though the one time I used them they made my stomach hurt, but whatever I had no time to test anything and I wanted to be safer than sorry), and also another package of Shot Bloks that was in the original packaging because like I said I have no idea what I’m doing ever and whatever. I shoved all of this in my North Face long haul shorts which I’m in love with and sad that I can’t find anymore pairs because ALL. THE. POCKETS!! I love pockets, I hate waistbelts, match made in heaven on earth, obviously.

Related to my love affair with the long haul shorts, I wore a North Face running tank, a North Face Better Than Naked hat, and North Face flight series arm warmers. It sounds like they’re paying me (sadly, they’re not.) But I truly just find them the best, so whatever, I didn’t mind looking like a running North Face ad.

I was exhausted and not feeling so well as the night wore on, so I tried (obviously, I couldn’t really fall asleep too easily, I wonder why…) to go to bed around 9ish. I pretty much lay there for what seemed like forever, and I’m not sure when I did actually fall asleep. My alarm was set for 4:59, but I woke up around 4ish. I tried to fall back asleep but mostly just laid there trying to turn my brain off. Once I finally did get up, I put my KT tape on my Achilles (which pretty much fell off instantly, does anyone else ever feel like some rolls are just duds? Unfortunately, the roll I currently have is a dud.), put on my (Injinji, obviously) socks, CEP compression sleeves and the rest of the attire I mentioned before. I also wore some Nike running gloves, because it was 31 degrees (!!!!!!!!!!) at the start of the race, and there was ice in my water bottle which, below freezing temps or not, does not feel fun on your hands. Bryan woke up an hourish later to drive me the 35 minutes to the race start. It’s a point-to-point race, so he dropped me off, waited with me until we started lining up, and went back home to sleep.

I made my way to the starting line, and looked for the 4:40 pace group. My plan was to run with the aforementioned friend, because she’s like, the best pacer ever, and is super motivating and helpful out on the course. My goal was to finish, my next goal was to finish under 5 hours, then it was to finish with the 4:40 group. Then I had it in my head that I would secretly really like a 4:30, but I thought, no way is that going to possible, all things considered.

I found the group, and was presented with a sticker that said 4:40 for my bib. As she was introducing me to the other pacer in the group she said “and this is Rani, she’ll probably leave us halfway” and she told me to rip off the sticker after I passed them. I laughed, like, yeah right neither of those things are going to be happening, and stuck the sticker on (it’s still there.) And then the gun went off! And we were RUNNING! There were a few of us with the group, and we (of course) ran the first mile faster than the pace for a 4:40 finish dictated.

I started chatting with another lady in the group, and we actually ended up staying together (ahead of the pace group) for 11ish miles. It helped incredibly to be comfortably talking with someone and made those miles go by so fast. My Achilles was kind of stinging, but talking helped distract from that, and it honestly wasn’t that bad. We were fairly ahead of the group, but could occasionally still see them in the distance when we looked behind us. Around mile 12, she said she was going to pull back on the pace, and while I was hesitant to continue on my own and get in my own head, I felt so good that I kept going and started to push the pace a bit.

I hit the halfway point at around the 2:18 gun time mark, and had a mini freak out because it seemed like such a slow half for me. Somehow I managed to remind myself, duh, you have an entire other half to run, and not go out guns blazing from there, though I did start to pick up my pace bit by bit. I was also excited because the halfway point was around where you cross over into Milwaukee County from Ozaukee County, and while the country roads in Ozaukee are nice and all, I was ready for a little more to look at and occupy my eyes. I ran probably 2 or 3 miles alone, and started to think about pace and the race a little too much, so I went for the S.O.S. iPod, and figured if that felt too weird, I’d just put it away.

As soon as I hit shuffle on the playlist, I was SUPER stoked. I obviously know myself pretty well and every song that came on made me want to yell out loud and make everyone as happy as I was. You also start to see a lot more spectators and people cheering for you (while my name was on my bib, my name is not pronounced like it’s spelled, so very few people actually cheered CORRECTLY for me, but I knew who they meant and it was encouraging all the same!). I remembered my blissful half PR from Green Bay earlier this year, and high-fived all the little kids along the course again (because, seriously, it must be magic, because I’ve never even gotten close to that PR again yet). And then I came to the point on the course (I can’t remember what mile it was exactly, but somewhere around 17-18-19?) where I was by my old apartment building, and knew the rest of the course was exactly the route that I used to run when I lived there (and I still miss running there every time I have to run where I live now, or drive somewhere else to just run somewhere actually pleasant…)

At this point I was still gradually dropping my pace for the most part, and still feeling really good about it. I passed the 4:30 pace group and had to restrain myself from JUMPING. FOR. JOY. because HOLY. SHIT. maybe I can actually do better than my once lofty goal. I kept running, kept smiling, kept getting pumped when a new amazing song came on my playlist (actually laughed out loud when Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads came on), and generally having the time of my freaking life. It was around mile 20 that my legs first started to feel anything at all really, and it was just a general soreness in my quads, and I spent an entire month early in the year increasing mileage and having a permanent quad soreness, so that wasn’t really an issue. I had been eating 2 Shot Bloks every 6 miles or so, and upped that a little bit towards the end. I had 3 packets of Cocogo in my handheld, and still had about a third of it left by this point in the race.

Also around this point in the race, I was pretty much passing A LOT of people. One guy actually turned around, saw me, moved out of the way and said “I’m not slowing you down!” And I never really thought about it or noticed it before (mainly because I’m usually never doing it, HA!) but it’s oddly self motivating to be PASSING PEOPLE! in the last 10k of a FREAKING MARATHON! Seriously. I know I’m annoying, but I WAS SO HAPPY THE WHOLE TIME. Around mile 24, you come out to the actual Milwaukee lakefront proper, which was a bit annoying because that’s when you were hit with the wind now that there was nothing to block it, but like I said, I used to run there all the time, was used to it, and set many a 5k PR in that stupid blustery lake breeze. I just kept chugging along, passing more people, bobbing to the music. When I noticed I had a mileish left, I put away the iPod because I wanted to really try and feel and soak in the finish of the race.

It’s a truly fantastic finish. You end up running along a path through the park and people are lined up along both sides cheering. It was doubly exciting because I was still in my pass-all-the-people mode and still had a lot left to give. As soon as I saw the finish, I started sprinting (well, what passes as a sprint for me at the end of a marathon…) I noticed a lady I had passed a few hundred feet ago was coming up to pass me at the finish, so I kicked even harder (and beat her, just saying).

I realize how incredibly lucky I was to have such a fantastic race (in terms of FEELING GREAT the entire time, not like I’m some superstar with a super quick time or anything). I contribute a lot of it to the fact that I actually managed to not push myself at all in the first half. There were so, so few downsides to the race, and they weren’t even downsides. I had to keep pulling up my shorts for the first half because I loaded so many damn Bloks into that baggie that they were pulling my shorts down (until I finally ate enough that it wasn’t SO heavy anymore.) Which, even, at the time, was honestly more funny than annoying.

And there it is. It still doesn’t feel like I actually did it. Even while I was DOING it, it didn’t feel like I was doing it. It’s 100% surreal to me and if I didn’t have the stats to prove it, I’d honestly think I was lying to myself or dreaming. And now that I know what I can do with essentially NOT training for a marathon, I can’t WAIT to see what I can do next spring (because, yep, already picked out the next one.)

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Garmin proof — Still so happy post race — The bling! — Negative splits, what what!

Not myself

So, it’s not new news that I’ve been relatively sidelined with injuries since… oh, late February/early March. Achilles tendinitis was the name of the game that time. I felt a hint of pain in my heel and stubbornly (you’ll find there’s a theme here) continued to run on it until it reduced me to a tearful limp one day after a run. I saw a doctor, who told me what it was and what I could do to rehab it (put heel cups in my shoes, stretch my calves, and build up the miles again slowly.)

It was unbelievably hard to take a step back after finally building up to a daily/weekly mileage I was proud of, but he surprisingly didn’t even tell me not to run. I ran a half that weekend and was pain-free. (I kept running too much immediately after, thinking I was cured for good, which set me back another couple weeks.) KT tape ended up saving me, and through April and May I mostly ran relatively painlessly.

Finally, on vacation in Colorado, I felt like the KT tape could come off, the heel cups could come out, and that I could start going back to normal. So I go on a 5~ mile trail run, relishing the painlessness, feel a little tweak in my foot, and think nothing of it. I run another 6 miles the next day, and 14 on the weekend. Foot feeling a teeny bit twingy, but generally alright (I thought).

General alrightness became a thing of the past as the week went on. My foot felt weird and either bruised/swollen but not swollen appearing? I had had a similar thing happen twice last year and thought a few days off would cure me, as it did in the past. I had a half coming up that weekend, and it wasn’t painless, but it also wasn’t painful. It was… uncomfortable. It felt like there was too much in my shoe. It wasn’t unbearable, so I started up my marathon training as scheduled.

My first long run was 14 miles, and I set out that morning a little nervous, but not feeling too pained in the foot region. About halfway through the run I noticed my other foot/heel/ankle was feeling a little odd, but didn’t think too much of it. I struggled through a few runs the following week, but things didn’t get worse, though they certainly did not improve..

My next long run was a 12 miler, and I was determined to do it. Once again, about halfway through, I started to feel the pain in my ankle area. By the last mile it was almost unbearable. I just wanted to get home, so of course I kept going. I limped into the house completely dejected.

So that’s where I’ve been at, lately. I had made a doctor appointment when my foot wasn’t really healing itself, even though it ended up doing just that before the appointment. I kept it so I could get this new issue looked at, and was told it was peroneal and posterior tibial tendinitis in the same ankle (not common, but not impossible, apparently). He suggested I take a week off running. I took 5 days off, but then there was Dances with Dirt, and we all know how that went…

After DWD, I took a few days off before I ran a fun run with my local running store. Pretty sucky, not impossible though. Took another few days off, and things were really feeling better, so I set off to test out a few miles. It was.. okay. I’ve been running a few here and there since then, and I’m just not sure what to think about anything anymore.

I’m honestly really struggling to maintain positivity when it seems like it isn’t going away. I feel nervous and utterly terrified that my marathon is almost exactly 2 months away and I’ve been completely unable to train. The longest training run I’ve been able to complete is 14 miles. Coupling the stress of moving somewhere I don’t want to be, with not being able to just RUN, has kept me in an incredibly negative mood for over a month now. I’m usually the most positive person in the group, so the fact that I’m not is another thing I stress over now.

I’m doing my best not to complain, to see the bright side, to keep moving any way I can. I know it’s not the end of the world. I know I’ll still toe the line at the marathon no matter what training I’ve got under my belt, for better or for worse. I know everything will be okay eventually. But it’s hard to not feel like yourself for such an extended period of time.

In which I attempt to blog/Dances with Dirt race recap

So, I clearly have no idea what I’m doing here. In theory this seemed easy, make a blog, write some stuff about running, etc etc. I suspect that I’ll be terrible at it, but I guess we’ll find out. Fair warning: This really only follows a very general time frame. I’ll work on it.

I think it makes sense that my first post be a recap of this past weekend’s Dances with Dirt half marathon. They offer distances of 10k, half, marathon, 50k, and 50M. Most of it is run along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail through Devil’s Lake State Park, both of which I’m 100% obsessed with. So naturally when I heard about this race, I basically threw my money at them immediately. I was all, yeah I’ll run a half that weekend as part of my marathon training, no big deal. Turns out, SUPER BIG DEAL, since my body has been on the injured list essentially since February. I had tendinitis in my Achilles, immediately after it healed I had this weird foot thing going on, which FINALLY went away, only to lend itself to peroneal and distal periodontal tibial tendinitis in the same ankle. Yay! I had been able to run through the previous 2 injuries relatively fine, but this latest one is really taking it’s toll.

But I’m stubborn. I was so damn excited for this stupid race, I’m like, yeah I’ll run it anyways and be totally fine, even though I can’t even walk without limping, whatever! But for real, totally worth it. The struggle was 3000% real, and I didn’t even care. It was a slog. It was a painful, painful, slog.

We got to packet pickup the night before (it’s about 2 hours away from me) and I was pretty nervous. Usually before a race, I’m excited nervous, but this was more of a “I know I’m going to be in a lot of pain” nervous. Since we had to head up right after work on Friday, after I got the goods we basically went to the motel and were done for the night.

In the morning I figured I was ready as I was going to be, except I had the pleasure of breaking the only hairband I had with me, and after almost having a complete breakdown over it – used a dirty rubberband from a super creepy gas station attendant to maintain my fantastic hairdo. But I’ve got ALL THE KT TAPE all over my ankle/foot, I’ve got my trusty Montrails, I’ve got my dirty rubberband, and I’m on my way.

We get there, I wait in the endless line for the port-a-potty, and I finally get to the start line. We separate into random waves, and I’m in the second. And we’re off! I’m running, it’s not exactly pain-free, but it’s not exactly painful either. It’s DEFINITELY not fast, or what my usual pace (even on trails) is. And I had heard about the elevation of the race, but I’m like, I’ve run up mountains! In Colorado! I’m totally fine, this is Wisconsin. It’s flat. Um.. apparently, not as flat as I thought.

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So, um, that huge climb, right at the beginning? Needless to say I was hiking pretty soon. I wasn’t too worried about it, because so was everyone else. I had these gel heel cups in my shoes that had really helped with my Achilles tendinitis, and I hadn’t had time to find anything that more specifically took the pressure off my new found tendinitis, so I was winging it with those. It only took about a half mile for it to decide it didn’t want to stay under my heel anymore. So I spent a lot of time tying and retying my shoes, trying to figure out what would maybe hurt a little bit less, but I don’t think I ever really figured that one out.

It bears notation that this race had the best aid station volunteers I’ve come across. Of course, the entire atmosphere of a trail race is completely different than that of a road race (which I’m more familiar with) but each time someone filled up my water bottle, I probably could’ve cried. The humidity was insane that day, my entire shirt was completely soaked through within the first 4 miles, so it honestly made all the difference.

Around mile 6 or 7, the entire mile was literally just a slow, winding incline. If I consulted my Garmin stats here, I would be able to tell you exactly which one, because I hiked the entire thing. Since I had no real idea of the elevation changes to come (or not come, I never looked at the course prior to the race), I didn’t want to wear myself out any more than I had to, because I honestly didn’t know if I’d be able to finish through the pain.

I’ve been lucky in all my trail runs/races, that I’ve never actually fallen while out on the course. I saw so many people bite it on Saturday (HARD), including one who was on the side of the course with a medic because his whole leg was torn up and bloody (I was extra careful after seeing that). It had rained in the days prior to the race, so the trail and rocks were pretty slick, which didn’t help. I tripped my fair share of times, but somehow managed to stay relatively on my feet. Probably because I was moving at a snail’s pace, but better safe than sorry.

Speaking of pace, it was incredibly slow going for me. I really wish I could go back and see what I could’ve done minus the injury, because it was a really rough day in general I think. Luckily for my pace, but unluckily for my knees, those whole last 5ish miles were bombing downhill. There was a girl behind me that kept tripping and I was positive she was going to take me out, so that was also pretty unpleasant.

I was so freaking happy to see the finish line. But also really disappointed that I couldn’t really go out there and see what I could do. My official time was 2:45:56.6, 337 out of 568 finishers. I battle between being proud of myself for going out there and doing it, and being bummed that I couldn’t have magically pulled out a better finish than I did. I will definitely be back next year. Not so secretly, I’d like to do the 50k (because running up double black diamonds for the last 5 miles seems like my idea of FUN!) My ankle is still swollen to the high heavens after the beating I put it through, and I know it wasn’t in my best interests (marathon is officially 81 days away, and since I’ve been injured the entirety of the training cycle I’ve been barely able to pull out ANY solid runs) but do I regret it? Nah.