Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Taper Confessions

This first week of taper has been going so much differently than I expected. I am having feelings of wanting to increase my mileage to make up for missed runs throughout training, but mostly I want to run more because I have really caught the running bug lately. Instead of dreading my runs and constantly rearranging my run schedule I am trying to convince myself NOT to run and instead relax. I imagined that when I hit taper I would be ready to embrace the extra rest and catch up on cleaning and seeing friends. And as much as I could use the rest I have the urge to go for a run as a way to relax. I am really glad I decided to only do a two week taper instead of the usual three weeks as I'm pretty sure I would go insane.

The thing that is surprising me the most about taper is how calm I am. The NYC Marathon is only 11 days away and yet I am still so chill about the whole thing. I am waiting for the moment when it hits me that I am really running 26.2 miles on November 4th. Although the fact that I already completed my 20 mile long run has still not set in. I was thinking the other day that I hadn't done any long runs and that I was not going to be ready to complete a marathon until I realized that I have done long runs of

2 x 14 miles, 1 of which was the RNR Philadelphia Half Marathon
15 miles, that included the Baltimore Half Marathon
16 miles
20 miles

I had initially planned on doing more long runs but now when I look back on my training I am realizing that this is only my first marathon. I have only been running for about a year and a half and consistently running for 6 months. I am a competitive person so it is hard for me not to get caught up in trying to do too much too soon. I also had some nagging injuries that derailed my training. Given the circumstances I am happy with what I have accomplished and look forward to putting it all to use on race day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Welcome to Taper Town!

It's been a long road to get here but it is finally taper time! I never expected my training would go the way it did but I did the best I could with what was thrown at me. Sure there were times where I skipped runs but I'm not dwelling on those missed runs. I am trying to focus on all the successful things about my training cycle and how much progress I've made as a runner this year. I have come to terms with the work that I have put in and now it is just time to relax and embrace the taper.

This is really the first race where I've had a real taper so I'm not too sure what to expect. I've heard horror stories about people becoming cranky, irritable, sick, developing injuries, etc. I have dealt with minor injuries/aches & pains throughout training so I'm being extra cautious to stay healthy. Just last week my throat felt scratchy and I thought I had come down with the flu. I don't want to take any chances. I want to be ready when November 4th roles around.

I'm ready for you, NYCM!

On Saturday I went for a quick shakeout run that my sore legs didn't love. I was pretty much shuffling but by the end of the run my legs felt much better. I felt somewhat recovered from Friday's 20 mile long run. But then a few hours after the run I started getting this weird pain in the back of my knee. It was kind of a sharp pain that happened randomly. After it started occurring more frequently and the pain became sharper I started freaking out, running around the apartment telling my boyfriend I was broken. I'm not always the most rational person.

Lucky for me my knee has felt fine since then. I took an extra rest day just to make sure that everything was okay. I have a little bit of tightness in my shin but nothing that a little ice and some compression socks won't fix. I am anxious to test my legs on a run tomorrow morning. I am excited to get back on the trails and feel the dirt under my feet. I am trying to soak up every moment of this marathon experience and that includes the taper.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New PDR: 20 Miles!

Yesterday I ran 20 miles. That still hasn't sunk in yet. It wasn't the confidence boosting run I was hoping for but either way the miles are in the book. And based on how my runs went the week after RNR Philly I wasn't expecting anything fantastic after Baltimore. At least I was mentally prepared, I guess.

My dad had agreed to meet me again to bike along as I ran but due to a little thing called work he couldn't meet me until 12:30. Since the temps have been cooler I didn't mind starting the run later. I figured it would be good practice since I don't start the NYCM until 10:55. The late start time for yesterday's run also meant I got to sleep in and miss the storms and rain that hit in the morning.

I knew I wanted to run 8-12 miles before meeting up with my dad so I got to the trail around 11. As soon as I started running I could tell it was going to be a tough run. I couldn't get my legs to settle into a pace and just felt all over the place. I kept trying to reign it in so I didn't go out too fast and crash & die later on.

The first four miles flew by and before I knew it I had finished 8 miles and was back at my car. I stopped to stretch for a minute and waited for my dad but then decided to run around some until he came so my legs didn't cramp up while sitting. I felt really good until mile 10.

Miles 10-12.5 weren't really too bad but them there on out the run got worse with each mile. I realized I hadn't taken in as many calories as I should have. I stopped to stretch around mile 15 and ended up sitting down for a few minutes. I wanted nothing more than to be finished running. But since the only way back to the car was running those last 5 miles I had no choice. So I ran.

Those last 5 miles were absolutely brutal. Every part of my body hurt but somehow I finished without too much walking. This run did the exact opposite of give me confidence heading into my taper. After how painful those 5 miles were I couldn't comprehend how I would another 6. But that is why we taper for marathons. Now it's time to embrace the taper and rest up so my legs are feeling fresh on November 4.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Day On the Dirt

Today I went for my first run since the Baltimore Half Marathon. I had intended to run earlier in the week but school work got the better of me. The hardest part of running, for me, is simply getting started. I had such a mental battle over going for this run and almost bailed but luckily didn't. I was really tired and my legs were still a bit cranky from all of the hills in Baltimore.

When I first started running I felt pretty crappy and wanted to turn around. I tried to convince myself to only run a few miles just to shake my legs out. But then as I continued running I started feeling better and better. Once I entered Patapsco I was greeted with a steep downhill that I ended up walking most of out of fear of falling and how tight my quads were. I knew this was going to be a slow run so I let myself walk a few step here and there when needed.

With every time I go running in Patapsco I fall even more in love with trail running. I love the feeling of adventure and freedom I get when running on trails. I love how peaceful it is exploring nature while everyone else is dealing with the daily grind. I really don't know how to put it into words but you can be sure I am going to keep trail running for awhile.

When I go trail running I normally leave from school and run the mile over to Patapsco, run some trails, and then run back to school. That mile back to school is always my favorite because I feel like I have escaped from school to my own secret haven and nobody will even know it.

This marathon training cycle has certainly not been ideal but I am really starting to feel comfortable with running and calling myself a runner. Even when I have bad runs I am glad to be out running and enjoying nature.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baltimore Half Marathon 2012 Race Report

Yesterday was such an incredible day. Honestly. I didn't get to bed until 2:30 in the morning the night before the race and then had to be up at 6:30 to drive from my boyfriend's down to my apartment to meet my dad. I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to just stay in bed and sleep all day but I knew I needed to get in a long run and so I forced myself out of bed. To make getting out of bed even harder, it was the coldest it has been all year :32 degrees. I'm glad I checked the weather and saw that it was going to warm up to in the fifties during the race.

I was planning on wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt but due to the cooler temps I wore a long sleeved shirt instead. I bundled up with extra layers for before the race and by 8:15 my dad and I were on our way downtown. We hit a lot of traffic on the exit ramp due to roads being closed from the full marathon so we didn't make it to the race as early as we had planned. Initially I wanted to run 3 miles before the race and then 2 afterwards for a total of 18. I only had time for one mile before the race though. I then decided to make it a harder effort and only do 15 miles.

The corrals for this race aren't very well marked so I just hopped in when I saw a bunch of people who had numbers close to mine. After a minute or two we were off and running. I tried to remember as much as I could from last year about the course and what to expect. I knew there were some hills in the middle miles that were pretty brutal but I couldn't remember exactly where they were. My plan was to run the first 5 miles at a really comfortable pace so I would have energy left in the tank for the final few miles. I wore my garmin but didn't reset it after my warm up and had it set so it wouldn't give me my mile splits. I actually really liked not knowing what pace I was running at.

Last year I remember thinking that the first 3 miles took forever, but this year they flew by. I couldn't believe how quickly the race was going by. At the first aid station I thought I grabbed water but ended up grabbing Gatorade. My stomach has had trouble in the past with Gatorade but I was really thirsty and there was no more water so I drank it and luckily had no issues. I also experimented with eating Shot Bloks through out the race instead of taking a GU. I only had 1-2 Shot Bloks at a time and also had them right before a water station. I preferred them so much more than eating a gel and will definitely be taking them during the marathon. I also liked that I could take as many or as few as I wanted to keep my stomach happy.

I saw my dad at mile 5 and loved the burst of energy seeing him gave me. I picked up the pace a tiny bit but not too much yet. Between miles 4-7 is where the most/biggest hills are located. I went up the hills with the mantra even effort not even pace. I went up the hills at a pace that felt comfortable and then flew down them, taking as much advantage of the downhills as possible. I kept running along happy as could be when before I knew it we were entering the lake which meant that the hills were over. Already?! What hills?! I couldn't believe how easy they felt.

At about mile 8 I started to pick up the pace even more. I knew I was going to PR but I wasn't sure by how much. I just decided to run hard and see where it got me. I was blowing by people and loving every minute of it. I seriously don't think I stopped smiling the entire race. Once I hit mile 10 I really picked it up so I was running at a slightly uncomfortable pace. I was charging up the final few hills and riding the downhills. I picked out people who looked strong that I wanted to pass. Despite how hard I was pushing it over the final few miles I was impressed with how strong I felt. I would it was a 300% improvement over how I felt running this race last year as my first half marathon.

Once I saw the 13 mile marker I sprinted with everything I had to the finish line. I knew I was going to get a nice PR but I still didn't know by how much. After I crossed the finish line I waited in an insanely long line to get my medal and some food and drink. I soon found my dad and stretched out a bit. Then I went for a short jog around M&T Bank Stadium with hopes of loosening my legs up. I was already really stiff but started to feel a little better the longer I ran. After we went to Noodles for lunch and then back over to the race finish area to check my time.


A PR by 5+ minutes from the RNR Philadelphia Half Marathon 4 weeks ago. Last year I finished this race in 2:23:03. I can't believe how far I have come in only a year and am now itching for that sub 2:00 half.

Sorry there are no pictures in this post. My computer screen cracked & now I'm using my old one which is being very temperamental. Will add pictures when my computer is fixed.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Had Myself An Adventure

This morning I woke up at the ungodly hour for college students of 7:00 for a meeting with the honors section of one of my classes. The meeting went from 8:00-9:30.. and I don't have class until 2:30 on Monday's. I only live a mile off campus so I could have just gone back to my apartment and taken a nap but then I would have lost my precious parking spot. After 11:00 all parking becomes pretty much nonexistent. I figured I should stay on campus and be productive. I decided to use my huge block of unscheduled free time to go for a run in Patapsco State Park, which is located about a mile off campus.

I was looking forward to this run for a few days, until this morning when it was in the 40's all morning. It was in the 70's last week, wtf weather? Anyway, I started my run at 10:00 and had a route mapped out. I knew how to get to Patapsco and figured I would do an out-and-back on the trails so I didn't get lost.

As soon as I started running I felt great. I was a little chilly but besides that was really enjoying the run. Once I got to Patapsco the run only got better. Being on those trails felt cozy in a way that I can't explain. I felt safe, like I belonged there. I didn't know where I was going but I just kept running and running and soaking up every minute of it. When I reached the end of the trail that I took I wasn't ready to head back so I took another trail so I could keep running.

The second trail that I took ended up being a loop and I ended up at what I thought was an entrance/exit to the park just down the road from the one I used. As I approached the clearing I realized there was no road in sight. I knew I wasn't lost, I would just have to retrace my steps on the trails to find my way back. Just as I was about to turn around I saw some park workers and asked them how to get back to the entrance I used. They told me it was faster to take the stone road I had found until it intersected with the road that I had come in on.

Easy enough, right? Wrong. I ended up running through a hunting zone that was on private property with warning signs everywhere. Once I made it back to the main road I was a lot farther away and ended up running on the shoulder of a pretty busy road. I felt relatively uneasy the whole time. To make it even better I wasn't even sure I was on the right road. If I wasn't then I would have been really lost. Luckily I found my way back to campus pretty easily. Despite my little snafu, this was one of the most enjoyable runs I have had in a very long time.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Successful 16

Yesterday morning I had a 16 mile long run scheduled, that I deemed my redemption run. Having a bad run is hard enough, but having a horrific long run can be enough to kill your confidence and leave you questioning everything. Even though I was excited to try another long run, I was nervous about what it would mean if it was as much of a disaster as the last one. I tried not to think about it too much, which didn't work all too well unfortunately.

The biggest problem during my long runs seems to be my mind, so I asked my dad to ride his bike alongside while I ran. He happily obliged. I wanted to get in a decent chunk of miles on my own before he got there so I could use him when things got tough.

I was really tired when my alarm went off at 5:15 so instead of getting up to eat well before running I continued to sleep. I snoozed until about 6:30 when I absolutely had to get up. I ate a big bowl of oatmeal and was quickly on my way out the door. For my long runs I have decided to drive to a great paved trail about 35 minutes north of my apartment. I left around 7:00 and luckily hit minimal traffic.

I started the run off feeling great. I was actually surprised how good my legs felt since I hadn't run much in the past two weeks. It was pretty chilly during the first few miles of the run, especially since the trail is shaded, but it was a gorgeous fall morning. I decided to switch my garmin out of autolap so I wasn't constantly reminded of my pace and consequently trying to run faster. I also left it on the main screen so I couldn't check how far I had left.

After the first 4 miles I started to feel a little defeated. I had 4 miles back to the car and then had to do another 8 mile out-and-back with my dad. When negative thoughts creeped into my mind I tried to focus on the present and only think about the 4 miles left to the car.

It was really nice to get a quick stretching break once I got to the car. I switched my water bottle and we were on our way. I wasn't really sure how it was going to go with my dad riding along side me but it was incredibly helpful. We chatted the entire time and the miles flew by. I was in shock with how fast it seemed like we made it to the turn around point.

The last four miles were definitely hard but so much better than if I was on my own. My dad kept me laughing despite how much pain I was in. I had run out of water, unfortunately, with about 2 miles left so those 2 miles were pretty brutal. The sun was coming out and I was really thirsty. Despite all this being with my dad didn't let me dwell on those things. We just kept talking and before I knew it the run was over.

16 miles 2:54:20 (10:52 pace)

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that my pace was under 11:00 min/mile. I have been trying to keep my long runs evenly paced and not go out too fast. I hit the lap button after every 4 miles and my pace ranged from 10:49-10:57 average. This was really a run I needed. I'm starting to feel ready for this marathon (I still have a lot of work though) and more importantly confident. I know I can do my remaining 18 and 20 mile long runs.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

One Month

It is weird to be writing this since November 4th has always seemed so far away. But yet it is now only one month away. My decision to sign up for the NYC Marathon was kind of out of the blue, meaning it was not something that I spent a lot of time thinking about. I got the idea to run a marathon and then signed up a few days later. Since April I have had this race on my mind, but it was more in the back of my mind. I had other races to train for over the summer and so I focused on them. I worked on building a base throughout my triathlon training so that when it was time to jump head first into marathon training I was ready.

As always, things have not gone exactly as planned. I loved my training when I was also focused on training for triathlons and when I had no other responsibilities to worry about. Being in school is the thing that has really affected my training. I don't have beautiful trails to run on for days and can't go out for a run whenever I choose. The added stress of assignments has constantly left me pushing off runs in order to get things done in time. I have tried not to pay attention to all the countdowns about how little time is left before race day.

Today was when it really hit me though. In one month from today, although on a Sunday and not on a Thursday, I will be toeing the line of my first marathon. Despite struggles with my training the race is finally starting to feel real. I can finally imagine being in New York being a part of something that has inspired and driven me so many times. I spent the first half of today scared shitless about the dwindling about of time I have left to prepare for such a big task. But after going out for a run, even though it was a pretty terrible one, I became excited again about finishing this journey that I have started.

I am not ready to call myself a marathoner, but hopefully in a few weeks when all of my long training runs are behind me I will feel confident and ready. I also went from being terrifyingly nervous for tomorrow's 16 mile long run to excited and anxious. Instead of dreading these remaining long runs I am ready to embrace them, since they are the key to me being marathon ready. Sometimes it is hard to forget that I am a beginner and this is my first marathon. I should not be training the same as someone who is running their 20th marathon. I am doing this because I want to prove to myself that I can. No added pressure necessary.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Return of the Baltimore Half Marathon

One of the things I have been struggling the most with training for a marathon is getting in my long runs. Normally I don't have much trouble doing longer training runs or even bike rides, but that is because there is a wonderful dirt crushed trail that runs for 40 miles into Maryland. Now that I am back at school though I am really struggling to find places to run that are safe.

After my disastrous 14 miles long run the other week I was wishing I could just use half marathons as long training runs like I did with the Rock N' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. Enter: the Baltimore Half Marathon! I absolutely loved running this race as my first half marathon last year and spent months wishing I could run it again this year. I am looking forward to not racing and just running for run.

The plan is to run 5 additional miles to make a total of 18 for the day. I always thought it would be difficult to run additional miles before or after a race but I actually really enjoyed doing a few warm up miles in Philadelphia. I have not decided how I will split up the miles but I will most likely run 3 miles before and 2 after. I am also toying with the idea of running the actual race at marathon race pace, which by the way I have idea what that would be.

I really can't put into words how excited I am to be running this race again. After each race my parents ask me which one is my favorite and I always answer with Baltimore. Everything I remember about this race makes me overwhelmed with happiness. This race taught me that I can overcome anything and to always love whatever you are doing.

Monday, October 1, 2012

NYCM Peak Training

I can't believe I am entering my final three week build of marathon training, which also means I am entering peak training. It seems like yesterday that I started training for this race yet at the same time it feels like so long ago. I wouldn't be honest if I said that marathon training hasn't been hard. In fact, it's been really hard. I've had a lot of ups and downs emotionally that resulted in an anxiety induced breakdown last week. Last week was not supposed to be a rest week but all I did was rest. I only ran once, which I'm sure was a really stupid thing to do but I needed that break mentally. After last week's catastrophic fail of a training week I finally feel ready to tackle the rest of my training.

What I have come to learn is that to be successful at training for a marathon you really need to do a lot of planning ahead. There is more to training than just running. Insert foam rolling, stretching, extra sleep, meal planning and cooking, etc. Add homework and studying for tests and it's enough to make me want to hide under my comforter until Christmas break. I spent some time over the weekend planning out my week in a lot of detail. I hate having everything planned out but if I'm not careful I'll end up with a scheduled 8 mile run and a paper to write at the same time. And when I have a lot of schoolwork looming over my head I struggle to take the time to go out for a run. Luckily I don't have a very busy week and can hopefully get ahead on some schoolwork since I have three exams next week.

Here's what on the plan for this week:
Monday: 4 miles easy
Tuesday: 45 min cycling
Wednesday: 2 miles easy, 45 min swim
Thursday: 6 miles easy
Friday: 16 miles long, 1 hour yoga
Saturday: REST
Sunday: 4 miles easy

Week total: 36 miles