Friday, October 31, 2008

The 33rd Annual Marine Corps Marathon Race Report-First Marathon, A BQ Attempt, & A Matter of Seconds

Okay, I've been putting this off long enough. ;) This is very, very long. Fair warning. ;) And this is copied/pasted to my regular forums at RWOL, so second warning to skip altogether if you happened to catch it over there.

To go back to the very beginning, about two years ago, I was a few months out from my youngest child's birth, out of shape, overweight, unable to run more than about 30 seconds without being exhausted. On a lark we signed our oldest daughter up for the fall GOTR 5K because she was an active kid who liked running, I started doing the equivalent of C25K with her, and the rest was kind of history. Got back in shape, the best in my life, and realized I loved running and racing.

Somewhere during this time of increasing endurance, mileage and pace, I started thinking about a marathon, and running a time that would qualify me to run Boston. I was hearing "you just want to finish" so much-but you know what....the thought of a BQ just lit a fire under me. I figured that if anything else, BQ or not, I'd have a race that was that much better if I trained for the goal I had in MY head. I very much respect the marathon and know that anything and everything can happen. I knew that *IF* I managed to BQ the first time, it realistically would be by a very narrow margin....less than a minute, even seconds was my prediction based on training and race results through the summer and fall. I believed, though, that I had a realistic shot at it so I went through all of my training with that in mind.

I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon last spring with 30,000 of my closest friends, and got started training about two months later, after a winter of base building and racing. I grew up in Virginia, and my father ran this race 6 times (not 5, as I learned this week) in the 80's, so there's family history there. My SIL, a high school and collegiate runner at short distances was also running the race as a first timer, and we arrived last Thursday to stay with her family prior to the race.

We got up on race morning, and were dropped off at the Metro by my BIL, riding in to the Pentagon metro station, moving our way up to the big parking lot where most runners were hanging out. After a day of cold and rain on Saturday, I was very happy that there was no precipitation. SIL and I planned to line ourselves up somewhere in the 8:00/mile range, and I was planning to average 8:20-ish miles, she at closer to 7:50-8:00. We were going to start together but then do our own thing and branch off when we needed to.

After several stops through the port a potty line we hurried up through the crowded start area and worked our way smack between the corrals that had about 8:25 or so as a dividing point. I checked my gear one last time....I was carrying a handheld with a couple of GU's, a Geetah straw so that I could drink and jog through most aid stations, and more GU's in my skirt pocket. A few minutes later and we were off.

For all the talk about massive crowds/jostling for position at MCM, I have to say honestly that it did not feel any more crowded over the first few miles than our Canyonlands Half back here in this part of the country. There were a lot of people on the course for sure, but moving between them when I needed to was just not that bad. We started moving uphill and I just wasn't feeling physically my most spectacular, but I never feel great at the start of a run or race so I just tried to relax and remember that I'm never jumping for joy in the first few miles.

First few Garmin Splits:

Mile 1: 8:23
Mile 2: 8:38
Mile 3: 8:05

I started kind of settling in, and planned to really be aggressive on the hills, both going up and coming down. I like them and thought that if anything the downhills would help me get a few extra seconds here and there, so I wasn't going to put on the brakes. Early on, I was very surprised at how many people could read and were actually pronouncing my name correctly from my Team Tiara foam crown. I hadn't been thinking either way about wearing it for the race since none of my teammates would be at this race with me, but when one of my coaches asked half jokingly if I was going to wear it, I'd said "you know...why the heck not?" I didn't realize it at the time but this turned out to be something that made it easier for family to spot me on the course, and I surprised myself at how much it really pushed me when a Marine course volunteer or civilian spectator shouted my name.

More splits as I settled in:

Mile 4: 7:59
Mile 5: 8:20
Mile 6: 8:16
Mile 7: 8:22
Mile 8: 8:10
Mile 9: 8:09
Mile 10: 8:17

Somewhere at the crest of the last big hill early in the race (I think this was mile 8 or so?), among the fans, there was a lone woman cheering loudly and enthusiastically for all the runners, continuously drumming on one of those small handheld Japanese drums that you twist back and forth with the two balls attached, drilling away on the drum. The first thing I thought of were the women of the Moab Taiko Dan at the Canyonlands Halfs who drum from atop the last hill on the course, so I really tried to take that as a sign and additional motivation for the rest of the race. The weather was cool, but my breathing was a little different than in Colorado. I wasn't getting my butt kicked by it but there was a very, very slight difference in the effort it took to breathe in moist air when we're at about 10% humidity back here on most days.

I passed my Dad for the first time on the course at 10 miles, and got to smile and wave back when he shouted out to me. From here on out, I really started focusing on the rest of the race being a series of one mile races or time trials, not getting into the "OMG I have 16 miles to go" mindset. I listen to Steve Runner's Phedip podcasts when I run inside on my treadmill during the week, and he had some show when he referred to breaking his marathon miles down this way, and this just really resonated with me as a way to relax and pace myself. It was just beginning to warm up and get brighter out there at this point.

Mile 11: 8:25
Mile 12: 8:24
Mile 13: 8:26

I used some sort of modified Geetah straw-I think I missed cutting something somewhere but it was all good....I would kind of pinch the cup, get the straw in there the right way, close the top around it and sip down a powerade. Two thumbs up on this method....I know from prior races that aches and pains seem to creep up on me only if I slow down or walk through aid stations in most cases, and that my BQ time, if I made it, would be SO close that I could get it or miss it with going too slowly or walking too much through aid stations. I know other people have great success walking the aid stations but it seems like this is almost always something that doesn't help me. One of two aid stations where I walked for a few seconds was the one that was somewhere around this point, and when I stopped, my left IT band suddenly hurt. Now, this has happened in a few other runs and went away, so I tried to stay calm about this, plan on using the straw for the duration of the race, and hope it went away. After a few minutes the pain did subside, and I went on my way with plans to Geetah straw my way through all the remaining aid stations. The straw is definitely a keeper as far as tools and tricks for me for future marathons.

As the middle miles rolled on, I still felt okay but not like I had extra kick. Just enough to maintain, and I was glad at this point that I'd let myself fly down the hills in the spots where they existed in the first half of the marathon. I passed my DH, children, Mom, Dad, MIL and FIL around mile 16 and was not enjoying the heat but focused on each mile, getting through each one and not sabotaging myself.

Mile 14: 8:39
Mile 15: 8:34
Mile 16: 8:27

In the 17th mile, I started looking for Greenlee from Marathon Race Training and the women's BQ attempt thread group. I knew she'd be around here somewhere in a yellow shirt and hoped I'd be able to spot her. Imagine my surprise when she comes bounding toward me! She ran along right next to me and we chatted, and as I was chatting I became oblivious to the fact that I'd accelerated to an 8:00 pace up that incline that started somewhere around 17.3 miles. I said'd that happen? and scaled back a bit, but was thrilled to have gotten up something I probably meant to take conservatively on a nice clip without feeling awful. It was SO cool that she was there as a spectator and really awesome to have a FE for a few minutes, then and there! :) Thank you Greenlee!

From here on out I started having weird flashes of self-doubt creeping in since this was my first marathon, I was slowing down a little bit and didn't want to hit the wall, crash, burn, and have a disastrous end of the race. At the same time, I knew exactly what my splits and elapsed time looked like, and knew that being too conservative could also mean my missing a BQ. I kept having these moments when I would feel really tired my pace would slip significantly, and a moment of "oh crap. The wheels are coming off" which inevitably would be followed by a little burst of energy and I'd say "no, they're not! Keep going! Keep going!" I knew I was not out of it for the BQ but right on the edge, and really didn't know how hard I could push when I felt good without killing my chances.

Mile 17: 8:26
Mile 18: 8:43
Mile 19: 8:26
Mile 20: 8:56

So here we came into no man's land. The last 10K. I mentioned that in the first half, in the humidity versus altitude training ratio, the humidity probably had a miniscule edge. Well, in the last 10K, even though I was getting VERY tired and starting to slow, I think this is where training at altitude and racing at sea level gave me a very slight edge. I was starting to feel kind of lousy, but thought about how I felt during the last two miles to the summit at the Imogene Pass Run. I'd grade myself as "needs improvement/still learning" in lots of aspects of running, but I think one thing I've been not too bad at is finding whatever it is that I need to mentally push through tough situations. What I told myself here was "this isn't as tough as Imogene. Remember how hard that was? This isn't as painful as that. Go, go, go." I thought of Hammer from the Masters forum and his first marathon BQ by mere seconds, what it took to do that, and how I was going to have to keep trying to surge whenever I could in the final miles if I was going to BQ. I was slowing down but kept repeating stuff to myself in my head..."GO! PUSH! DON'T CURL UP AND DIE! INCESSANT FORWARD MOTION!" I thought of some people I know who cannot run, and the children (Cody, Megan, Katie) of several forumites fighting REAL health battles, and that's really all you need to suck it up and realize how it's a gift to be out there, able to exhaust one's self in a marathon.

Mile 21: 8:31
Mile 22: 8:48
Mile 23: 9:03

Leading up to that mile 23 marker was the longest mile of the marathon to me. Everything at this point seemed like a distraction...the roar of the crowd, food coming from restaurants in Crystal City, even some cigar smoke wafting onto the course from somewhere. I was feeling pretty beaten down and like all this stuff was further sapping my energy so I just kept focusing straight ahead to whatever landmark was a short distance up the road. I was fading but fighting as much as I could. I knew now that it was going to be very close but also had an overwhelming urge to want to walk.

Mile 24: 9:13

I was determined not to fade away and give it all of whatever I had left but was beginning to struggle some now. Somewhere in here I made a choice. I am still not sure if this choice was exactly what I needed when I was struggling and hurting, saved me from total collapse and gave me a little bit of extra energy to finish the race, or if this was the dumbest and worst move ever made by someone trying to BQ, and right on the edge. I felt awful, the powerade at earlier stations had kept my energy up and I wasn't cramping anywhere in my body, but I was getting tired and also a little sick to my stomach from the powerade. I was craving water and felt like I needed to stop, drink, and be certain I finished the entire thing. So, at the last aid station, that's what I did. One of only two aid stations where I stopped for a few seconds at all....and probably about five seconds, give or take.

Mile 25: 8:58

From here I just pushed and turned those legs over as fast as I could. If I had to describe how they felt, it was just plain tired. Not heavy, not tight or cramping, just tired. I felt pretty desperate now and felt like things were slipping away but was determined to not have the wheels come totally off.

Mile 26: 9:00

I came up that last hill, just feeling like toast. I knew that I definitely did not have it by gun time but could see the time clock. I knew it was roughly two minutes between the gun time and the when I crossed the start, and just threw myself into it as hard as I possibly could, even though it seemed that I was going to be about thirty seconds too slow to qualify. I kicked as fast and hard as I could, knowing that I had no way of knowing and that regardless, I needed to finish knowing I had absolutely nothing left.

I hurled myself across the finish with an 8:47 split for the last .2. Total time I'd recorded on my Garmin was 3:46:16. I had absolutely nothing left, stumbled, and nearly fell into one of the Marines at the finish. I walked a few more steps and was pretty woozy, and was asked once or twice more by Marines if I was okay. As soon as I moved through where they had the waters, and downed that, I started to feel a bit better. I moved through another line, and got a Powerade, and started feeling like myself again, kind of. My left IT band was hurting (didn't hurt again during the race after that point at the half) and I was so exhausted that every step was very labored.

I finally made my way to the finisher linkup area and found my family. I was very surprised to see that my SIL was NOT there....she should've easily run sub 3:30 at least. As we are standing there, my DH gets a text of my final split. He says "Hey, you finished" and holds up the phone, which reads 3:46:04. I couldn't believe it. Five seconds.

In the meantime, we wait for my SIL, whose texts suddenly stopped coming in. We were worried about what might have happened, and it turns out she'd breezed through the first 16 miles before a hamstring that's been an on-and-off nagging injury just seized up in pain, and the pain further moved down into her calf. She'd tried to run but fell over the first time she tried and had just wrenching pain each time she tried to run again. Determined to finish however she could, she found a power walking gait that she could do without significant pain, and walked out those last ten miles as fast as she could, finishing in roughly 4:30. I'm immensely proud of her for how she smartly handled a really crappy hand in the race, not doing things that would further aggravate the injury, but still getting it done however she could.

My final, official result from the marathon was adjusted by one second after a few days to 3:46:05, so I missed my BQ time of 3:45:59 by six seconds total. I would be lying if I said it doesn't get to me that I got THAT close and didn't BQ or that I'm not analyzing things that I could have done differently. The side of me that's trying to be logical about everything knows, though, that I didn't have anything left at the end, and that it was a satisfying experience to do some things reasonably well to finish in the time that I did.

Official splits from MCM's website:

5K 25:53
10K 52:06
15K: 1:17:48
20K: 1:44:14
Half 1:50:12
25K: 2:10:59
30K: 2:37:54
35K: 3:05:23
40K: 3:33:50

Age Group 72/1148
Women 421/7139
Overall 2364/18249

If you made it through, my apologies, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Get Me A Ticket For An Aeroplane....

Wow...two more days and I fly East for the marathon! It's time, no more training. I've got a seven mile run tomorrow with two at marathon pace as a dress rehearsal run, and am actually scheduled for two recovery runs in the days prior to the marathon, but my husband and I agree that I seem to do MUCH better with a few days off before a race and perform with fresh legs, and that I stay just as loose. I tried a recovery run the day before the Slacker Half in June and that was NOT a good race so I'm feeling okay with going against my plan for once.

Yesterday afternoon was spent with the GOTR team girls. I don't have a gift for public speaking at all but the coaches were cool and kind of bounced questions off of what I was saying, which helped a great deal, and then the fun part was opening up the floor for questions from the girls, and finally getting to run with them. I was asked a surprisingly "wow" and deep questionn regarding my half season of cross country in high school, when I dropped out because I thought I didn't really belong on the team because I was the slowest one there. The girl asked if I regretted that. The answer I gave to that question was that there's nothing I can do to change that decision now so I just try to work as hard as I can, push myself and enjoy my running NOW.

That wasn't a B.S. answer, either. In a weird way, I think it's kind of a blessing that I took up running again when I did, and that I didn't get too in to it when I was a teenager. I have the maturity (sort of) now that allows me to take crappy workouts or races in stride without melodramatics, days of sulking and cries of "I'm so awful...I should just quit this running thing altogether!" Now I just kind of laugh after bad training runs and say "wow, that sucked, but I did get through it and that's something!" I say "what the hell was I thinking," giggle and roll my eyes at myself over racing strategies that were obviously bad in hindsight but seemed like great ideas at the time. I also know that those "bad" runs just make a runner stronger so it makes me really appreciate when things come together and a race or run is absolutely fantastic. That all said...I told the girls to avoid ever getting down on themselves, comparing or thinking they shouldn't be part of a team or group....DON'T quit because you think you're not as good as X athlete. Just do it for you if you like it.

The best part was just running with them. I was pretty well blown away by the ease with which these girls could run and talk. All in all, we did two big mile loops around this park (not the usual location due to the Sarah Palin/Hank Williams lollapalooza down at our city's sports complex where the girls usually work out, going on at the same time), and MAN, it's just cool to see that I think we're officially out of the era of people thinking of running as a form of punishment in other sports, and where kids are getting back to doing it as a stand-alone form of exercise and just having a good time with it.

I recognized one of the girls from the Mike the Headless Chicken 5K and she smiled and seemed to be excited when I said I remembered her from that race. This little girl is a petite wisp of a kid whom most folks might not give a second look to at a road race, but bounced and sprung along like Tigger, looking effortless as she went on to win her age group in the heat and sun. It's just cool to see all the girls running like that, and be a part of their training.

I guess I have to really start packing now for the trip! I keep threatening to do it...hasn't happened yet. It appears that the packing gnomes are not going to show up, though, so I think I'll have to bite the bullet today and get ready to drive to Denver tomorrow evening.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


No, I'm not watching The Ring. It's officially seven days to race day!

I had a 12-mile yesterday that was a world of suckiness. I didn't want to get up early today to run it, but it was scheduled for today so I did it starting around 3:30 PM yesterday. I was tired before I started and really never got out of the rut. I'm going to apply the same school of thought, though, from the dance studio that bad dress rehearsal equals good show/performance.

I did hit the appropriate pace range for this run but really couldn't rise above it at all. This would've been a bad race for me if it had been marathon day. Oh wasn't my race day so it's all good and I'll just move forward from here.

Tomorrow's also a big day when I get to speak to the Girls on the Run Team girls. It's not one of the regular school programs-this is a dozen girls from all of the area schools who just love running, so I'm supposed to speak to them about whatever I feel like. I am an awful public speaker so hopefully they don't start throwing stuff at me. The funny thing here is that they normally meet at our municipal sports complex, and after making arrangements to meet them there on Monday, it was announced that Sarah Palin would be coming in to town (with Hank Williams Jr.) to speak. At the municipal sports complex. Same time. Same place. So, practice had to be moved to another area park because I don't think they'd appreciate us running circles around Mrs. Palin. I wouldn't make much of an example being tackled and carried off by Secret Service. ;)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Holy cow, it's time to count down, isn't it?

I will be approaching the finish of my marathon in exactly nine days! How did that happen?

My marathon shoes arrived yesterday....New Balance 1224's. I suddenly realized about a week ago that I had close to 300 miles on my older pair of 1223's, about 150 on the second pair, and just didn't feel like running in either pair for the marathon considering that I need to retire shoes somewhere a little over 300 miles. This seems to be a common symptom of taper become compelled to shop-often for running gear, but could be anything. I walked around in the shoes a bit and am pleased to find that the new version of the recently discontinued 1223's really does feel the same. I'll give them a go for my recovery run today on the treadmill, for my 12 miles on the river trail Sunday, and then they will go in the bag I'm carrying on the airplane with all of my race day essentials (NO way am I going to chance that stuff getting lost in baggage hell!).

I've also been keeping an eye on the 10 day weather forecast in a bit of an OCD fashion, and laughing a bit at the "feels like" part of the weather forecasts. I grew up in the DC metro area....but you just don't hear those words in any western Colorado weather forecast. We just don't have the humidity here to have any deviation between the actual temperature, and how it feels. Right now I'm doing weather dance for a little bit of humidity (not much though), cloudy skies (that make way to sunshine around noon), and a gradual progression from 45 at the race start, with a slow progression to 55 by the finish. That's not much for me to ask, right?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Pfitz 3 x 1600 VO2Max Workout

It's today. Somebody hold me.

My 4 x 1200's two weeks ago were TERRIBLE. As it turns out I just wasn't feeling great that week and was fighting a cold but still, I've done other challenging workouts at not quite 100% and didn't do them as pitifully as that one. I'm a bit scared for this one because we're now talking about 1600 meters at my 5K pace-THREE times. Nearly a 5K at 5K race pace in the middle of an 8 mile run. I'm almost thinking that I want to start the intervals earlier in the run so I'm more fresh for them but I am not sure it's going to make a huge difference-these longer intervals are clearly the ones where I need to improve the most.

This is really the last hard workout before the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon for me, so I just want to end on a good note. So, in the immortal words of Gloria Gaynor, I will survive. I'm just going to make myself get all the way through them, one way or the other, then begin focusing on strategies to make it from the Denver International airport to Washington-Dulles without being asked to never again fly the friendly skies with my family.

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Honest Tune With a Lingering Lead Has Taken Me This Far....

That might be the story of my training this year. Last year, it was filled with group runs with fellow runners in training for The Other Half. It was all happy and chatty, with lots of boundless enthusiasm about our first venture into 13.1 land. We were featured in the race program, and sort of got treated like rock stars as we ran the race with our foam crowns and met up with teammates at the finish.

This year, it's been a solitary road in training for my first marathon, now two weeks away with the real training complete at this point. Several of those girls are pregnant, one moved, one took a break and just started running again so it's really just been ME out there with my thoughts. I am not using the word "lonely," though-it's actually been a great thing for me this year. I don't really get alone time otherwise so it's been invigorating to get those few hours uninterrupted, free to think about anything I want, or nothing at all. I love my kids, but with four of them it's just a very welcome and energizing break to have that time.

I've done lots of thinking out there at times, and other times just zoned out to music that allows me to just get deep in my head and run, hence the title of this blog entry, a lyric from Widespread Panic's "Driving Song" that just feels like it was written for a long run around the Connected Lakes here on the river trail. I was never an iPod listener this time a year ago, and am sort of surprised that I've got a few artists and podcasters to thank for adding to my runs. Allison Krauss + Union Station's double live album has been one that just meshes well with early morning running, along with Widespread Panic's Space Wrangler as a tried and true staple. I found myself actually looking forward to that point in the second half of summer long runs when I'd crank up "Coconuts" and "Contentment Blues" (That Chicken Tastes Good!" Then there was the perfect tempo run album of all time...Phish's A Live One, Disc One, building up to that crescendo on You Enjoy Myself with the indecipherable lyrics (gosh this feeling mighty differente? wash uffizi drive me to Firenze?). Definitely, there are certain songs and albums that have been the soundtrack of this training cycle. And it's not all my hippie jam band music....throwing in some Von Bondies telling me to C'Mon, C'mon, a little bit of 311, or Soul Coughing singing to Move Aside and Let the (wo)Man Go Through have helped too.

I also discovered Steve Runner's podcasts during this time, so I've enjoyed and appreciated the way he can make me laugh hard at times (the steroid-infused Barry Bonds helium voice saying "I Like Money" is now a common saying by the kids around the house), and really move me with serious commentary at other times. It's been cool to really learn more about my chosen sport and some of the folks who have turned it into what it is today, and just appreciate the fact that this is your average Joe Runner, husband and father, who like me used to be overweight and didn't believe himself to be capable of much of anything in the runing department. So I have to send a big cyber thank you to Steve. Even my non-running husband has started listening to his archived podcasts when he uses the bike trainer here at the house.

I think it's no coincidence, as well, that I happened upon the podcast of a guy from right outside of Boston who says you've just GOT to run the marathon I'm trying to qualify for...because "Hey, it's Boston!" It's kept me hungry to pursue this BQ goal after actually HEARING him live on the course.

There have also been the RWOL BQ women. What a tremendous and diverse group of women who will give you straight and honest feedback without ever talking down to one another, and really pump up and support each other through thick and thin. I owe them a huge thank you-I've learned SO much from everyone and have been sitting here with baited breath each of the past few weekends, watching and waiting for results to come in. More than once I've cursed the computer when marathon websites weren't properly working, or splits were slow to update.

I've been lucky to have some of THE best female runners in the region for coaches through Team Tiara, the ones who really helped get the ball rolling on the point I've come to today. I got an email from Girls on the Run after doing their spring 5K in '07 (my first race) regarding them looking for women who wanted to run and fundraise. I really did NOT think a half marathon to be within the realm of what I was capable of, and sent an email asking about the program to our regional director, really expecting her to say "nah, it's too soon. You need to run more before you can do this." Instead, what I got back was a VERY encouraging email telling me that while yeah, you have to train for it, YES, absolutely, I COULD go from 5K to half marathon in four months' time.

Had she not been as encouraging, or the coaches and teammates so friendly and approachable, I could've gone screaming the other way. You hear so much about women being unsupportive and not nice to one another in general. I have to say that running women are SO supportive of one another and carry each other through thick and thin. How cool is that? I'm trying to do that now for friends who are getting out there for the first time with C25K, or just finishing it up and wondering "what now?" Or help with those little random questions that I know the answers to now, but are NOT at all obvious when you're first getting out there. I do remember being scared, uncertain and nervous and kind of feel like it's my duty now that the shoe is on the other foot to let these women know that their bodies CAN do's just a matter of getting the mind to understand and believe it.

There have also been the many supportive family and friends, some with running background and experience, and others with none whatsoever who have taken the time to talk and ask me about my training. We runners joke a little bit about the folks who ask "So how long is this marathon?" but in reality I am always surprised and totally appreciative when someone asks about it, how training is going, or whatever.

Then there's my husband and kids. I KNOW it's not the most convenient thing in the world when I have to vanish for a few hours to run every weekend, or hole up in the bedroom on the treadmill, but they've been awesome. Not every mom with kids gets this kind of support during such time consuming training and they've been my main crew from day one. My better half has been the voice of reason when I've had some injuries that could have become major ones that could force me to cancel the big event. He seems to know instinctively whether he needs to gently soft sell me on something I should be doing, or just flat out say "Hey, you'd be a total moron to run today." Okay, I'll be fair, he'd never call me a moron. He has his very effective way of conveying that message, though.

And the kids...I'm not kidding when I say I LOVE knowing at the end of races and long runs that I'm going to see them. :) I was SO excited to see them at the finish of Imogene Pass and run over to hug them all before crossing the finish. I love that my two-year-old shouts "GO MAMA! RUN MAMA!" or that my four-year-old son likes to play Mister Massage Therapist and give me a back or foot rub. My six-year-old, who used to scream bloody murder when she was three or four about going for family walks has suddenly transformed into this kid who WANTS to be a runner and WANTS to do races! If you knew temperamentally how she is-it's mind blowing to my husband and I. Even more mind blowing that she's this zen runner now-just smiling, kicking her legs, swinging her arms. So if she wants to do this now because I'm doing it, it just pumps me up more.

My nine-year-old is amazing too. Now that she's becoming quite an experienced 5K-er, and has this innate first-kid seriousness and competitive drive, she seems to really understand what I'm doing in training, and gets into all kinds of specific questions about my distance, my pace, and other aspects of the daily runs. I don't ever want to force running upon them, so it's really a thrill that they are not only interested but actively participate in it, both in their own running, and supporting me. It has been the coolest thing ever to have my family crewing for me on weekend long runs, whether it's them refilling and switching out my handhelds at my car parked at the trailhead, or my husband doing like he did yesterday, being in charge of getting the kids out the door to some activities in the morning and leaving me a note that he'd left me a breakfast burrito in the microwave. Training has been hard but thanks to them, I don't have any added stress that comes from lack of support or outright negativity.

I know nobody reads these boring rambles but I was thinking about this on my run yesterday-all the ups and downs and people and influences I needed to acknowledge and thank in what has NOT been a lonely training journey, even though I've been out there alone on many of my runs. I might be the one moving my arms and legs, but I have been far from alone on this journey to my first marathon, and just wanted to acknowledge all the positives and support I've been lucky enough to experience throughout.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Last Pfitz 20-miler!

Wow! Is it really time to begin that descent into taper madness?

I showed up for a Team Tiara group run Saturday, expecting that as per usual, I'd start with them for the first two or three miles, then split off to finish my run. For the most part, my teammates are training for The Other Half with a few doing the Rim Rock Run (22.6 miles), so their training schedule's different both in terms of mileage, and timetable. The Other Half is a week before my marathon, and Rim Rock is two weeks after. I'm cool with this, and like at least getting to be with them at the beginning of the run.

Well, I met the other women, and surprise, coach Leanne says "I was thinking I'd run the first twelve with you so you're not by yourself the whole time." I was really excited to have someone to run with BUT....let's keep in mind something about her-she's a former track and field All-American and has a list of running accolades a mile long. She's a total sweetheart and says "I'll just go whatever pace you're going!" but trust me, there's still a bit of pressure to perform there. She is as humble as they come, but her recovery pace is still easily faster than the top of my range for long runs. I figured, though, this'll be'll keep me from getting lax and just phoning in the slowest possible pace.

We started out, and MAN, the gnats were out in full force on the route. They REALLY seemed to like Leanne and we stopped a couple of times when she asked me to see if I could spot ones that were dive-bombing into her eyes, and try to swipe them out. I felt a little funny jabbing my sweaty finger into her eye, but hey, I got the job done and we'd continue on each time, bugs removed and no damage to her eye by my hand.

I used the opportunity to pick her brain about marathon strategy, including pacing strategy during the race, and whether or not to deviate from my written plan that week before. We both seemed to agree that it wouldn't be a bad thing for me to can the recovery run the day before the marathon-so many people seem to like to do a shakeout run but honestly, I don't think it's going to help me personally-especially after flying, and being two time zones behind. She also told me not to freak about the congested start, that it could very well be to my advantage and allow me to have the juice left in the last 10K to make up that time, and then some. So, I'm freaking less about missing out on a BQ because of a slow start. She imparted all of her "works for me" thoughts about nutrition, too, and the importance of getting calories immediately after a long run or race for a faster recovery.

We also got to chat about other fun random stuff, like how we met our husbands, our kids, and other non-mom, non-running stuff we do. She's a cool lady and we're very lucky to have someone who is THAT good but completely approachable and friendly to help with our training! Seriously....I would've turned and ran the other way in fear last year if we didn't have such great coaches. It was a nice surprise to run with her and have the opportunity to get training advice from someone who knows a LOT of things that I don't.

We moved along at a pretty good clip for the first 12 miles, then Leanne bid me adieu and I continued on. I was experimenting with Succeed Caps, or S-caps electolyte tablets, on this run, instead of my usual GU's. I normally don't like the taste of the GU's so I figured I should monkey around with alternatives before race day. I popped another one at this point, and continued on my merry way. I was a little tired by the end, but I felt no cramping or muscle aches, no upset stomach or anything like that. And, even with the several gnat-ectomy stops, and slowing my pace for a mile or two around mile 15, I still finished this run on a several seconds faster pace than my first 20-miler! I was very pleased with how it went.

The other good news-I am normally VERY sore for two days after long runs. I am not sure if my body is more accustomed to training or if this was a direct result of the S-caps, but I only had moderate soreness and stiffness Saturday, waking up feeling nearly 100% on Sunday. After being kind of sick last week, I feel damn close to a million bucks today.

I'll be doing my 8 miles with 600 meter intervals in an hour or two, then it's a fairly easy week. I'm kind of relieved that with all the tweaks and tiredness of training, things are coming about as together as they can be at this point.