About Me

My photo
I'm an artist, convenience store general manager, Nine Inch Nails fan, and hopeless internet addict. And now I'm a marathoner! Blogged By Jaye is my general-purpose blog, and Fat to Finish Line is my running journal. Occasional foul language included on both sites.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Some days just don't go your way

Sometimes you can do a lot of things right and still not get the outcome you want. And with the marathon you just can't be sure what will happen on race day. 

I did a lot of things better than last time. I ran longer long runs during training. I had better gear. I made sure to adequately carbo-load. I rested and hydrated yesterday. I spent more time running in training. I got good sleep and didn't stress or worry about the race. 

We got up this morning as planned, had my usual pre-race English muffin, got dressed, and caught a courtesy shuttle to the start line with my brother-in-law, who ran the marathon for the first time today. It was actually pretty cold this morning, which I thought would make for perfect race weather.  I used the restroom before we left the hotel, but by the time we got through security I had to go again, so I got in the very long line. I had a nice conversation with some other runners waiting for the port-o-pottys. Half an hour later I rejoined my BIL in the last start corral and we worked our way up to the front. 

Right away I noticed that there were a lot fewer people between us and the very end of the corral than there had been two years ago when start corrals weren't assigned and I got to pick my spot on race day. So right from the start things just didn't feel the same. Our wave started at 8am, and we actually crossed the start line at 8:24. It was still really cold at that point, which made deep breathing more difficult, especially at first. 

Being so very close to the back of the pack made the race just feel different. There were fewer spectators for us, even at the beginning of the course, and there wasn't that feeling of getting caught up in the pack of runners. I was very much on pace for the first few miles. Kourt and my sister and my BIL's girlfriend were there to cheer us on right around the 1-mile mark. But by mile 3 I was already being tailed closely by the pace car. 

I was still on pace at mile 5, but had to use the restroom again and desperately needed to deal with my runny nose and knew if I stopped, the pace car would pass me. Still, I'd have to stop at some point on the course and the port-o-potties at mile 5 didn't have a line of people so I stopped. When I got back on course the pace car was a couple of blocks ahead. I managed to catch up and pass it, but over the next few miles my pace started slipping. I don't know if it was the cold temperatures or if having the pace car on my heels was just too stressful, but I felt like I was pushing as hard as I could but still couldn't keep myself moving fast enough. 

By mile 8 I was off pace by about 30 seconds per mile, and the pace car had passed me. I kept trying to catch up, but doing so took more effort than I knew I could maintain for another 16 miles. Soon the police car behind the pace car had passed me, then another, then trucks carrying orange cones. The aid stations were still handing out water and Gatorade, but they were breaking down tables and bagging trash when I passed. Every time an official vehicle passed me I got more frustrated. I watched my pace slow and by the time I got to mile 11 I knew I wouldn't be able to make up for the lost time, especially if they were going to continue breaking down aid stations. When I got to where our group was waiting just before mile 12, I'd decided to stop. Kourt walked with me until almost halfway, and I called it a day. 

I don't know exactly why I couldn't do today what I'd done in training. Maybe it was the temperature, maybe I did something wrong in training, maybe things would have been different if I'd been in a different start corral. Or maybe today just wasn't a good day for me. 

I'm a little bummed, but it is what it is. It's certainly not the end of my running career. My next goal is to conquer the half marathon. I hope to do a couple of half marathons in 2014 with the goals of a) running the whole race instead of using a walk/run strategy and b) running it in 2:45 or less. And in a couple of years I'll try the full again to redeem myself. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shaking things up

It seems that this must be the point in the training routine where I'm prone to start worrying about my speed.  I did it last time, and I'm doing it again. I can't help it, apparently. I'm not a fast runner yet, and I don't have enough marathons under my belt to judge how much better I am (or worse) than last time. 

On the positive side, there are some things I'm doing better this time around. 

First, I'm simply running more. I'm putting in more running mileage and less walking mileage. 

I've also done a much better job this year of running no matter the weather. My very first long run fell on a weekend where I had to work the morning shift and then we had guests over that night, so the only available time I had to run was at 2:30 on a 90 degree afternoon. But I did it anyway, it was miserable, and it has gotten much easier to run in the heat since then. I've even found out that I rather enjoy running in the rain. Granted, having "Seventh Level of Hell" weather followed by "Start Building an Ark" weather has apparently caused a weather pattern called "Unleash the Swarms" which is decidedly unpleasant to run in. Sunday I was briefly attacked by biting flies, and Monday I was swarmed by what looked like flying ants as soon as I stepped out the door. And neither of those things should even exist.  But even the bugs buzzing in my ears and biting me through my skapris hasn't kept me off the road. 

Also, I haven't struggled as bad with my long runs this time. Last year I never made it past 16 miles, and that wasn't on the run that was intended to be 16 miles, it was supposed to be 18, and what was supposed to be 16 got cut short at 12 or someing. So far I've only had two problem long runs this year. After a really good (despite the sunburn) 14-miler, I headed out the next weekend for what I hoped would be a nice, cool, rainy 10-miler. Then a nasty thunderstorm rolled in, and despite my desire to keep going I finally gave in to common sense and cut the run short.  Given how well I felt doing 14 miles, I expected the following week's 16-miler to go pretty smoothly. Much to my disappointment, I started breaking down on mile 12. I went from feeling a little less energetic than normal to feeling like I was dragging an elephant. It took all I had not to stop after 14, but after 15 miles I quit. My muscles were on fire and I was almost in tears, partly from pain and partly from frustration. My first thought was that this was the consequence of not completing the 10-mile run, but after some clear-headed analysis I realized I had simply hit the wall. Like a semi. And that the real difference between my 14-miler and 16-miler was that the day before 14 I had eaten what I thought was way too much. We'd had a housewarming, and I'd spent all day eating carb-heavy foods like pasta salad and veggies and chips and even s'mores. The day before the 16-miler I'd simply not eaten enough. I didn't start the run on a full tank, and I paid for it in the end. 

So I'm now also paying more attention to my running diet and making sure I don't go into my long runs already too glycogen depleted to finish them. 

On the down side this year, though, I'm about 30 pounds heavier than on race day 2011, which I know impacts my speed. And although I think I'm losing a little weight with training and definitely toning up a lot, I know I can't drop much in the next 7 weeks. 

And despite my far more consistent training, I don't seem to be getting faster. 

So I'm starting to feel like my regimen has become a little stale. My thought going in was that I'm still enough of a novice marathoner that just completing the required miles would be sufficient to make positive progress. But I don't feel like there's a whole lot of progress going on. The big question is not if I can make it through the marathon distance, but how much faster I can do it than last time, and I'm worrying that if I don't start pushing myself a lot harder, I'm in for another race where I barely make it in ahead of the sweep vehicles. 

So with 7 weeks until race day, I'm shaking up my routine. I've always held the day after my long runs as sacred rest days, but in an effort to teach my body to run more efficiently, I'm throwing that idea out and putting in recovery runs instead with a rest day after that. I did 3 recovery miles on Monday after my push-a-little-closer-to-race-pace 12 mile run on Sunday, and felt it was both challenging and beneficial. I was definitely sore Monday and even the easy pace run felt like an effort on tired legs. But the next day I wasn't sore anymore, and I guess time will tell if this will help my ability to run past the point of fatigue. 

My other new killer workout is hill sprints. I'm hoping they'll produce a noticeable difference in both speed and cardio fitness. I did them the first time last Friday for a total (sprints and downhill recoveries combined) of 1 mile, and came away feeling like my ass had certainly been kicked. Far harder than my short workouts usually feel.  So this Wednesday I did a total of 5 miles, alternating a regular mile runs with mile sets of hill sprints. Then I went ahead and did Zumba on Thursday (and felt every second of it) to make sure I really pushed into fatigue-land. 

I've got an 18 mile long run tomorrow, and I think next week I'm going to try a Yasso 800s workout to maybe see just how far off track (or on) I am.  And hopefully at some point I'll find some extra speed and stop worrying. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An update while I'm recovering from my own stupidity

So, it's been a while since my last update, but training is in full swing. I just finished week 7 of 18, so I'm just past 1/3 of the way through. Pre-pre-training didn't go exactly as planned and pre-training was even less consistent, but training has been mostly going well. We finished the process of buying our first house and moving all our things (thus the lack of training) just before my training plan started, and we have moved into a neighborhood that is great for running in. I found a route that is almost exactly a mile long and passes our house twice, so tracking distance is easy and I don't ever have to worry about not being able to find a bathroom or running out of water or whatever. And, most importantly, I don't feel creeped out running in this neighborhood. So it's far easier to find the motivation to get out and run when I can do it right outside my front door.

So that has all been going well. I got an awesome pair of Asics Gel-Noosas to run in this time around, I've discovered the joy of running skirts with pockets, and I'm already a far better runner than I was on race day two years ago. Also, I've started taking a Zumba class as part of my cross-training, which is both super fun and great for maintaining flexibility. 

However, I apparently didn't learn all the lessons from my mistakes last training cycle well enough. 

Sunday I had a 14-mile long run. Usually I try to get out running by around 8am. Ok, usually it's closer to 9. But this past weekend we had a big housewarming thing on Saturday, and I stayed up into the wee hours of Saturday morning finishing up a decorative paint job in the dining room, so I was in need of some real sleep Saturday night. I didn't strap on my running shoes and hit the road until past noon. 

Now, I'm usually really diligent about sunscreen. But Sunday was cool and overcast and even drizzly at times, and like an idiot I headed out without any on, thinking (though I absolutely know better) that since I was running close to home I could just stop and put some on if the sun came out or I started to feel like I needed it. 

The run went great. I even had the energy at the end to speed my pace up on the last two miles. I came home, showered, had guests over for our usual True Blood watching party, and felt fine (other than the expected muscle stiffness and being a tiny bit thirstier than usual after a run).  I didn't notice anything really wrong until we were getting ready for bed and Kourt pointed out that I had some serious lines where my tank top had been, which with my fair skin never means a tan. 

Sure enough, I was deep fried crispy. 

It was painful yesterday, and I felt seriously run down. But I don't usually run on Mondays anyway, so no biggie.  But today my shoulders were still red and warm and tender, and I was so tired this afternoon that when I got home from work I pulled into the garage, shut the garage door, rolled down my car window, took off my seatbelt, and then apparently fell asleep right there in the driver's seat for at least a half hour. So no run today, either.  I'm hoping I'll feel well enough tomorrow to run. I've been making such good progress and I feel like a lazy bum not running. But I know it's not a good idea until it's had some time to heal. 

And hopefully this will be the last time I ever leave the house for a long run without sunscreen, no matter what the weather. I really should know better by now. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Eating to run

Over the years I've played on a lot of dietary playgrounds, everything from calorie counting to point counting to going low-carb to no carb to doing juice fasts.  In the past few years, I've gotten more and more careful about choosing more organic, whole, natural, and locally sourced foods.  I shun artificial sweeteners and HFCS.  But one thing I've never really hopped on board with is vegetarianism.  I love meat.  I really do.  Big, thick, medium rare steaks that bleed on the plate.  The melt-in-your-mouth prime rib with the amazing herb rub at one of our local restaurants.  Dry rubbed ribs.  Free range Thanksgiving turkey dark meat.  Bison.  Deer jerky.  All of it.

On the other hand I realized long ago that most of us these days eat far too much meat.  We've gotten used to the idea that a meal needs to be anchored by something meaty, usually a portion that's far too large.  Health experts for decades now have pushed us to eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains.  Yes, we need protein.  But when we started eating more local and natural foods, our meat consumption decreased as well.  And I've started to question recently whether eating meat is the best way to get the necessary protein in my running diet.

And I've come to the conclusion that it probably isn't.  So I've decided to be a vegetarian runner.

So a couple of weeks ago I started removing meat from my diet.  Already I really like the changes it's produced.  It forces me to choose foods more carefully.  Instead of the easiest options (like the always-available roller grill food or Lunchables or cheap sandwiches) I'm more likely to grab some nuts or popcorn or a protein bar for a snack at work.  At restaurants the vegetarian options are generally (though not always) less likely to come deep fried or slathered in a rich sauce.  It severely limits my ability to eat fast food.  And none of it has proven difficult.  That's the crazy thing -- for somebody who really likes meat, it's been really, really easy to say goodbye. I still have plenty of sources of protein in my diet, and many of the meals we eat on a regular basis at home are easily made meat-free, usually just by, you know, not putting the meat in it. 

Before I went ahead with this, I did a little research into whether one can properly eat to run on a vegetarian diet.  And it turns out not only can you, but many runners find it helps them.  As long as one makes sure they're still getting enough protein, cutting out meat usually means eating more and better carbs and less fat, which usually also means easier digestion and more energy for running.

So that's my new thing.  It's not that I have any moral objection to the consumption of animal flesh.  I just think it's not really supposed to be the center of our diets. And if cutting it out makes me select the rest of my diet more carefully to support my running, then I'm game.  I'm not going to be militant about it.  I refuse to give up sushi altogether (not that I have sushi that often, anyway), and I'm not going to refuse to eat in social situations that don't conform to my dietary preferences.  But I don't imagine there will be that many situations in which I can't find SOMETHING to eat.  We had a big meeting at work last week, and although they didn't give us any choice at all for lunch I traded my turkey to another manager for all her veggies and ended up with a bigger meal than everyone else got. 

I hit the gym four times this week as planned, even with some lazy days and long meetings.  Running quarter mile intervals now, and working my way up to full miles.  I'm gonna make a "real" runner out of myself yet. 

The funny thing is that it feels like forever since the marathon, and it hasn't even been a year.  It's been nice to get back on a workout schedule and find that I haven't completely lost my fitness level.  I couldn't go out and do a marathon today, of course, but my running ability is pretty much where it was when I started my training plan last time.  So, you know, all systems go.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lessons Learned

So far pre-pre-training is going well.  Hit the gym four times this week, and did some light walking out on the trail yesterday morning where I tested out my GPS watch.  Turns out the Timex one doesn't have an interval timer, either.  So I'm going to keep the Soleus and look for a cheap interval timer I can clip on for runs.  I really like the Soleus other than the one missing feature, and popping an extra $20 on an interval timer is cheaper than shelling out an extra $60-$100 to get a GPS watch that has an interval feature.

Anyway, Brenda and Kourt and I have done a lot of talking lately about how we're going to do things differently this time around.  Looking ahead to a second marathon, I think it's important to assess the things I did the first time around that maybe didn't work so well and the things I didn't do that I now I wish I had.  Not only will it help me beat my time from last year (not like the bar hasn't been set pretty damn low, though) but it will help me guide Kourt in the right direction.  No sense in her making the same mistakes I made.  So here's what I learned last year and how we're going to do things differently:
  1.  Do ALL the workouts.
    The single biggest mistake I made last year was letting schedule changes and stress keep me out of the gym during the week during the last two months of training.  Neglecting my weekly mileage resulted in hamstring problems, kept me from finishing all my long runs, and put me at the start line less prepared than I should have been.  At my level of performance (i.e. pretty damn low, lolz) it doesn't even matter if I don't do specific workouts during the week (i.e. one day intervals, one day tempo run, etc), I just need to put in the time and mileage.  One foot in front of the other.  Period. 
  2. Build base mileage early.  REALLY early.
    The thing about the marathon is that it's not really about speed.  It's more about learning to not go too fast than it is about going fast.  Learning good pacing means learning to hold back when you need to.  Yeah, if you're trying to qualify for Boston it's different, but for those of us at the back of the pack being race ready mostly means having a body accustomed to pounding the pavement mile after mile.  The more you've run before the race, the better you'll run during the race, even if a lot of that running wasn't fast.  The more time I spend on the treadmill and trail now, the easier it will be to train and race.  And unlike last year, I'm not going into this wondering if I can even make my body go 26.2 miles.  I know I can.  This time it's not about proving I can.  This time it's about just being as ready as I can be.  So that's why I'm starting now.  Every mile I run or walk gets me that much more ready for the race.
  3. Put my name on my shirt.
    The effect of having thousands and thousands of people on the race course cheering you on really surprised me last time.  Maybe it shouldn't have.  But as I ran last year and heard people cheering on runners by name because they'd put their names on their shirts, I found myself wishing I'd done the same. It would have been nice to hear people yelling my name.
  4. Don't stress about the numbers.
    I'm a geek.  I like numbers and graphs and charts.  Already I've been taking photos of the treadmill and elliptical machine displays after workouts so I can keep track of my progress as the weeks go on.  But aside from it being cool to geek out with the numbers, I need to keep them from being something that affects my mood about training.  I only have to beat 7 hours.  There's really no need to stress about it.
  5. No dieting.
    I still need to lose weight.  But I understand now that you have to focus on one thing at a time.  If I'm training properly, weight loss should naturally follow.  But I'm not going to be counting calories and trying to drop 2 pounds a week.  I will try to eat as healthy as possible so I'm consuming enough carbs to fuel my workouts and enough protein to support muscle recovery, but I won't diet.  That's not to say I won't change my eating habits.  I'm just going to focus on performance, not on my weight.
  6. Don't let the weather get in the way.
    Cloud to ground lightning aside, I have to learn to train in whatever weather I'm given.  It was hot during training last summer, and I didn't make myself stick it out (safely) in the heat.  And then it was hot on race day, and I wasn't used to it.  If I'd kept going through all those hot long runs (and always put on sunscreen no matter what weather.com said) I'd have been better equipped to deal with the heat in Chicago.
  7. Race first, vacation second.
    Last year we arrived in Chicago on Thursday and left the day after the race.  That meant the vacation part of the trip was partially spent being nervous about the race, and I spent the day after the race sitting in a car getting stiff and sore.  This time we all agree it would be better to arrive on Saturday early enough to get to the Expo, and then stay through the following week to do fun vacation stuff.  That way we can walk off the post-race stiffness while shopping and we can actually enjoy vacation time without the pre-race nerves.  Also, after the race I won't be worrying about what to eat, so I can enjoy eating post-race junk food all over the city!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Starting off slow with new gear

This was week one of pre-pre-training.  The 2012 Chicago Marathon hasn't even happened yet, so it's a little early to be getting too hardcore about training for 2013.  And much like running the marathon itself, it's a bad idea to start out too fast.

Which, you know, I totally did last year on race day.  Lesson learned.

I read through all the training journal entries from last year and realized that if I had to do it all over again the one thing I would change is to start training way, WAY earlier.  Like, you know, the summer before.  As it was, I was still experimenting with running and training strategies halfway through the actual training schedule, when I really would have been better off to have had that stuff all worked out by week one.  So if there's one thing I'm really adamant about doing differently this time around it's putting in all my experimental workouts and getting very comfortable with my gear and strategy and abilities BEFORE training properly starts.

Thus the pre-pre-training.

Between now and the end of the year my goals are to get in the habit of going to the gym 3-4 times a week for cardio, getting comfortable running mile-long intervals, and regularly running at least 3 miles a week (aside from walking and cross training).  No specific workout days, total flexibility on when I do my workouts, just regaining my race day fitness level.  I want to run a lot more of the race this time around and, while I gained a lot of ground as far as running ability goes last time, I really was still a novice runner on race day.  I estimate that I ran about 4 miles out of the 26.2 last time.  That's not a lot.  At this point I'm envisioning even run/walk intervals for a race strategy, which means running half the time and over half the distance on race day.  That plan, of course, is subject to change.  But I should definitely be 100% positive I'm capable of keeping that kind of pace by week one of training. 

Like I said, though, I'm starting out slow.  I made it to the gym four times this week, as planned.  Did two days on the elliptical and two on the treadmill.  Ran a total of a half mile and walked the rest.  I haven't really been running lately because of all the wedding stuff, and my joints have to get used to it again.  No sense hurting myself now by starting out too hard.

But I did get some new gear!  I've been wearing the first pair of running shoes I trained in for the last marathon as work shoes, and they've gotten disgusting.  The pair I wore on race day have been my workout shoes, and they're still in good shape, but I've put enough miles on them that they're ready to be retired.  So I got a new pair of Nike Pegasus, mostly because I had a 25% off coupon to roadrunnersports.com that was about to expire and they were already on clearance:
'Cause how can you not love a good sale price on shoes?

So my nasty work shoes have traveled to the dumpster (my toes were starting to push through the mesh, anyway) and I have a cleaner but well-worn pair of shoes for work, and I can start pre-pre-training in nice, new, cushy running shoes.

The other gear change I knew I needed to make was to get a running watch.  Last year I used the MiCoach app on my Blackberry to track my runs via GPS.  It worked great.  And since my running intervals were based on distance, I didn't use any kind of device on race day.  But now I have an iPhone, which I've found is superior to the Blackberry in every way except one.

The battery life is crap.  Especially with location services on.

So I don't trust my phone battery to last through a 20 mile training run, especially if it's being used to track my speed and distance, signal intervals, and play music.  Plus, I don't want to be fiddling with my phone during the race or trusting it to run an interval timer to keep me on pace.  I just don't trust the battery.

While I didn't want anything with too many bells and whistles, I decided I would eventually need a GPS watch that I could use during training that would also be a good interval timer on race day.  I wasn't planning to buy one this early, but we went to look at some today because, you know, why not?  And since I was with my sister who likes to buy gifts for people all the time (because she's awesome) I walked out with a Soleus 1.0 GPS watch.

I charged it up and went to program it, and it seems like a pretty good runner's watch for the price, but sadly when I got into the instructions for programming it turns out that, despite specifically asking the staff at Academy for a watch with an interval timer, this one doesn't have one.  It seems to have everything else, though.  My sister also bought a Timex GPS watch and said if I don't like this one we can switch, so I guess I'll have to do that.  I am disappoint.

So I've got over a year to become a better marathoner.  My goal is to beat my time from last year, which is a pretty easy goal to beat.  Honestly, just starting training earlier and sticking with the training plan to the end will pretty much ensure a faster run this time around. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's coming.

21 weeks of pre-pre-training.
23 weeks of pre-training
18 weeks of training.
Stay tuned.
It's on.