Friday, April 24, 2009

Recovery Madness!

Catch the fever. I've got it already!

It's very exciting that between the magical socks, pacing myself better the second time around and being used to this mileage now, I'm recovering nicely from the marathon thirteen days ago. I've just been doing recovery runs but they feel MUCH, much better than the days following MCM. Having reached that BQ goal, I'm getting a bit more confidence to set some new goals that seemed nuts before, and am experiencing some weird nervous energy that has me heading to the internet to start scheduling out the rest of my running year. Watching Boston online on Monday, and then viewing all the subsequent photos and race reports sent my recovery madness into a frenzied pitch. Luckily, I don't feel so alone in this phenomenon-Miranda, who BQ'd the same day as me, but at the Illinois Marathon, says it's the same story at her end too. So, what have I done with that madness?

Well, for one, I've planned out the remainder of my 2009 race schedule, after I said I was just going to run whatever I felt like between now and the 114th Boston Marathon. Translation-I had a list of races in the back of my head that I skipped here and there over much of the past year in order to give myself the best chance possible to BQ. There were others I was prepared to shelf if I needed another BQ attempt in the fall, too. Now, happily, I'm revisiting all of them.

Next "big" race on the horizon is the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day. I ran it with my oldest daughter last year, and we had a blast. This year, I'm staying with a friend who runs it most years, so I went from needing to skip it for financial reasons to being able to do it between not bringing the family, and having free lodging in Boulder (well, I'll be sure to bring her a very nice bottle of wine from one of our local wineries, or some good microbrew as a little way of saying thanks).

For those unfamiliar with the race, the unique thing about the Bolder Boulder is the wave system. It makes this second largest 10K in the nation (first being the Peachtree Road Race in Georgia) one of the most well-oiled machines you've ever seen. The first 22 waves are qualifying waves. You have to provide a documented time to run in one of them, so it is a very unique opportunity for the average joe to start a race in a wave full of people who run at the same pace. All the waves after the first 22 continue on with 62-70 minute, 70-90 minute, 90+ minute waves, and a number of other specialized waves, including military and middle school waves. It's a great race-within-a-race setup, with each wave of a few hundred people getting its own start and a trumpeter's call to the post.

I'll be running in the BA wave this year. All of my last three race results convert over to a 10K that puts me squarely in that wave, so I went from being terrified to excited to see how I might be able do. It's a challenging course-if you take the start too fast, you'll pay later as you go uphill to Folsom Field, and you have to be dilligent to run the tangents on this curvy, winding course through the streets of Boulder. The course support is great, and lots of fun, quirky people line the course (there's a bacon station with both regular and tofu bacon, beer stations, slip and name it). After the citizen race, there is a wonderful Memorial Day celebration with military flyover, and the elite race, which featured the likes of Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor last year. Can you see why, after I swore I was going to skip it to save money this year, I jumped at the chance to do it when I found out I could crash with a friend?

Throughout the summer and fall, I do plan to just stick around my corner of the state. In June, I will do my first half marathon in a year, the Steamworks Animas Valley Half. Race entry was relatively inexpensive, I will again be able to crash with a friend the night before, the field is capped at 300 runners and they give runners free food from the grill, and beer from the brewery from which the race takes its name. Did I mention the beautiful course? It was a no-brainer to sign up for this race.

Further down the road, I'll run The Other Half Marathon (literally, "the other half marathon" run in Moab, Utah, complimenting the original Canyonlands Half Marathon), which was my very first half marathon in 2007. I didn't run it last year because it was two weeks before MCM-too close for comfort. It'll be great to run that beautiful course again. In anticipation of the May 1st opening day of registration, I was able to book a room somewhere without a mandatory two-night stay the night before the race. I also booked lodging in Ouray for the Imogene Pass Run in September, in anticipation of the crush of runners looking for lodging in the small, Swiss-influenced mountain town.

The IPR causes a runner to run the gamut from fatigue, exhaustion and frustration to joy, a sense of well-being and accomplishment. Both agony and ecstasy are guaranteed for those who sign up. As you slowly march your way to the summit in the thin air, you curse yourself for participating in this trip over the mountain from Ouray to Telluride, and promise yourself you'll never do it again if you can just make it through. When participants feel the need to stop on the way, they very noticeably turn and face DOWN the mountain so they don't fall victim to head games and defeatist attitudes that could easily come from looking up the mountain.

Upon reaching the summit, though, the pain melts away and gives way to a feeling of "I got up here on my own two feet! I did it!" and by the time you come down the Telluride side, you're already thinking about how to come back next year and do it a little better and faster. (Of course, it's not over after the summit...they see the most falls in the first mile after the summit from competitors who made a 10-mile uphill ascent, and suddenly have to switch to good downhill form!) This was my slowest race finish last year relative to my position in the pack, and it's one that gave me some of the best feelings and positive mojo from a race.

Beyond the above races, I'll try my hand (or feet) at a variety of local races as they fit into our family's schedule, and will be doing some fun runs with the kids at area 5K's. The first one is next weekend, with my middle daughter, and will primarily be walking and jogging intervals while my oldest runs with her Girls on the Run coach and teammates further up.

The last bit of recovery madness to strike is the commencement of Boston 2010 planning (yes, already!). It's a good thing I was sitting down when I got my first bit of sticker shock over hotel prices. The sad thing is that when I went to individual hotel websites, I found that the rates available through really WERE "deals" compared to regular hotel rates that border on the insane. I wouldn't have said it last fall, but it truly worked out for the best in that I did not qualify for this year's Boston Marathon and thus have a full year to save my money. We want to strike a balance between being as frugal as possible, but also enjoy what will be only the second childless long weekend away in what will then be thirteen years of marriage. It'll also be great to meet some of my virtual training partners. Their advice, support and friendship through highs and lows of training and racing (and on topics completely unrelated to running, too) is really valuable to me, and I look forward to celebrating with as many of them as possible next April.

So, that's it for now...just "hurry up and wait," try to recover well and get back to one hundred percent. This marathon recovery period is perfectly timed, too. We have about a month until the end of the school year here, and the dance studio's annual recital plus the addition of the usual "winter" ballet being moved to the same weekend as well. With each of our four kids taking at least one class, and my temporary withdrawal from the adult classes, it will be my first time ever sitting in the audience with my husband with all kids backstage/onstage! That sounds like an actual date, or something.

A big shout-out of good luck to Oklahoma City Marathon BQ-attempting gals NJGirl, and JMGWitt, and OKC first time half-marathoner and blogger Oz Runner! I'm very excited for each of you, and will be cheering you on from my home.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Marathon Monday in Boston!

Wow, wow, wow! That's all I can say about the way things shook out! As heartbreaking as that had to have been for Kara Goucher to finish third by such a narrow margin, she ran with a huge amount of heart and dedication, keeping herself right in the thick of things until the very end. She was in outstanding company in the front pack, and to have the whole thing come down to a footrace in the last mile with nine seconds between three women-you can't ask for a better race than that.

And how about Ryan Hall?!? I was almost embarrassed to admit that I've had a pretty lukewarm opinion of the guy, and while I didn't wish him failure, or a bad race, I wasn't really there with bells on, waiting with baited breath to see how he'd do. At the Beijing games, it seemed like he just sort of sat back and wasn't hungry or desperate to to get in the mix. He's just always seemed a little boring, too. Not that he has to be an arrogant or overly confident jerk to be appreciated-Deena Kastor is as soft-spoken and humble as they come, but her desire to win and do well always comes through in her quiet way. He just never seemed to come across as having a killer instinct to race to the top of his abilities.

So, I never could have imagined that he'd go out front immediately at a blistering pace (risky! almost certain to backfire!), drop off the lead pack and appear ready to fade off into the sunset (well, yes...I figured he couldn't hold that pace for long), and then, HOLY COW! Here he comes. He fights his way back and claws his way onto the podium, looking strong, hungry, and fighting for that spot. He looked like he genuinely believed he could win, and like he was going to fight as hard as he could in the final miles. So, go Ryan-he never gave up or counted himself out, and honestly, I don't know if he'd have been in position to place if he hadn't put himself out there as a pacesetter early on.

Besides that elite race, my virtual training partners ran great out there! I'm SO proud of the BQ thread group ladies-betaboo, HikerGirl, BarbBQ, MichiganMama and EatDrinkRunWoman! That was the most fun I've had in a long time...watching the elite race unfold on Universal Sports, watching our ladies do their thing, as well as trying to keep tabs on that huge spread sheet with many of the other RWOL people. There was a forumite named irunforbeer who won the over-50 bracket (I need to find out what beer he drinks! ;) ).

Then there was Boulder-based FORTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD (45!!!!) Colleen de Reuck who ran with the lead women for much of the race, finishing eight overall. I was rooting for her the whole way, both as a fellow Coloradan and because she was showing how age does not have to be a limiting factor. She obviously trained to the best of her abilities and proved that you can go a long way when you work hard. And our one local guy who ran (the only local representation...we usually have a small handful there) appears to have finished around 2:50, yet another solid race for a guy who does everything from 5k's to marathons, on both roads and trails!

It was just a thrilling morning of racing, and I'm so glad I knocked out all of my chores and "must-do's" for the week over the weekend so I could follow all the action this morning. So, now I've got exactly 52 weeks to make sure I stay healthy, train consistently and well, and show up ready to make my own memories. Congratulations to all who finished the 113th Boston Marathon!

Friday, April 17, 2009


Just a little request! My friend Jen is running a 10K tomorrow...I am pretty sure this is her first time running a race since high school cross country. She's nervous but I know she's going to kick some please send lots of positive running vibes and mojo toward Fort Worth! WOOHOO Jen!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Abilene, Part 2

No, not additional race report information. I promise I won't torture anyone with adding more to that book. :P These are just other assorted photos and comments about the weekend, and not necessarily related to the race. For all the cracks I heard about "why Kansas?" for a marathon, I figure I ought to share more about Abilene. It's a cool little place with a lot of history-there's a lot more to Kansas than the Wizard of Oz!

The first item of note was actually well before Abilene, further down I-70 in Goodland, Kansas. I wish I'd gotten a photo going past but wasn't thinking. You'll have to settle for linking to this little article with photo of the world's largest easel with one of Van Gogh's "sunflower" paintings atop the easel. My husband and I were just sitting there in the car, and noticed something that wasn't in Goodland the last time we came through here (I think around 2003...the last time we had K-State season football tickets!). "What is that?" we asked. As we drove past on the highway, we could see that it was a work of art on a huge easel, clearly visible from the highway. It was a unique sight to see, and certainly gave us something to talk about.

In Abilene itself, we knew that there were supposed to be several mansions but we weren't really sure if that term was being used loosely to suck in unsuspecting tourists who are used to things like the 2000 pound prairie dog in Colby, or the world's largest ball of twine. When we drove into town, we came upon the Seelye Mansion on the main drag, and just exclaimed "WOW!"

The place was amazing as we drove past on Friday, and we returned on Saturday afternoon between lunch and dinner to take a tour, along with our friend Thor and his girlfriend. The woman giving the tour was part of the family who built this grand Georgian home and I swear she knew everything about every last intricate little detail to the home, and the history from before it was built to present day. It was well worth the price of admission, and the photos don't do the place justice. Still, here are a few:

This was in the basement, and kind of like bowling but not exactly. We were instructed that we had to each take a turn while we were down there. :)

When our tour guide learned that our friend Thor played the piano, she told him to sit down and give it a play.

This is where most people in Abilene choose to get married, and you can see why they're booked solid all spring and summer.

And the husband and I actually remembered to toss somebody the camera to get a picture of us together...seems like one of us is always camera guy or girl, so we never have any proof that we were both there. :P (Geez, I need to rememeber to stand up straight, though-too much trying to not appear tall when I was a kid and a hard habit to break now when I'm not thinking about posture).

During the race, earlier in the day, my husband walked around downtown and was able to check out one of the other mansions from the outside, though they were not open yet to tour the inside.

This is the Lebold Mansion, and it was walking distance from our bed and breakfast.

He also got shots of the Great Plains Theatre, which is a gorgeous old building, originally built as a Presbyterian church in 1886. They do a number of professional quality productions there year-round.

I know I mentioned that the marathon is named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a native son of Abilene whom all the residents are proud to claim. What I didn't realize, but was informed of at both our B & B, and on the Seelye Mansion tour, was that because Ike lived literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Abilene, he would have had to enter through the back door of the finer homes in Abilene. Economic class was a HUGE deal and he wasn't one of the "haves." I know this stuff happened but it still just blows my mind! He was a childhood friends with the boy whose parents were the original owners of the house that is now Abilene's Victorian Inn, where we stayed. The original owner was a well-to-do physician, so you never would have seen Ike entering through the front door of the place.

Here are a few photos from the B and B. Check out all those flowers in the case you had any doubt it was a Victorian home!

And yes, it's imperative that I make my husband do the "Be Somebody!" pose from "The Jerk" for at least one photo on every trip.

An outside view of the house:

Adrian and Jay were fantastic hosts, and she's one awesome cook. She even got up at 5 a.m. on race morning to prepare anything at all that racers wanted...I kind of felt bad saying "just two plain bagels, please!" I would really like to come back to Abilene for the 2011 marathon (since I'll be in BOSTON next April!) and stay here again.

Oh, and I are a few more photos from the race. Assorted start photos, and one shot of us hamming it up with my prize check. I think that's the first and last time I win prize money at a race, so we were being silly and goofy.

I think Frank got some great photos of the start! Although it was definitely midpacker day for those of us on the ladies side, they had a really good pack of four sub-elite men, including a Kenyan in the country for a few months who registered that morning, and was the eventual winner. I love the shots right after the start when those guys are getting ready to explode out of the gates.

Here's the one actual shot, too, of getting my award:

And the hammy shot with the check (taken by folks from our bed and breakfast who were also sitting with us post race):

I still haven't deposited the check so I guess I'd better get to that today. ;) Happy running, everybody!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The 2009 Eisenhower Marathon

I know some have seen this already, but a few hadn't so I'm posting the race report here too. :) Thanks for all the nice comments...I really appreciate it, especially since I was a neurotic basket case who was not convinced that ANYTHING would go right ahead of time. So, without further ado....

I had a War and Peace length race report for my first marathon and first BQ attempt, MCM, in the fall. The cliff's notes version was that I raced my first half a little too fast but tried to keep hanging on for the BQ. I gutted it out in the final few miles but missed it by six seconds on my chip time for 3:46:05. I had a huge swirl of mixed emotions following that race-I knew I ran well for a first timer but it just ate at me that I was so close without punching the big ticket.

Selecting the marathon:

Fast forward a bit. I was searching for a spring marathon, preferably April, preferably somewhere I could drive to on the cheap. On a search I found this small marathon in Kansas put on in Dwight D. Eisenhower's hometown of Abilene, Kansas.

It was certified course that I could use to try to qualify for 2010, had a small field of runners (no megamarathon weaving!) and had pretty darn good runner feedback other than a few people who really should have selected other races if they wanted mountain or ocean vistas, bad cover bands on every corner or hordes of people. I thought it sounded perfect for me, though. I wanted to crawl into a hole and curl up in the fetal position with the sensory overload late in the race at MCM, and thought I could run a great race on a quiet country road without crowds. I found it interesting, too, that they had prize money for the top three overall men and women in the marathon and half marathon, and thought, cool-that'll be a nice prize for somebody! (more on that later ;) ).

Training-I trained again with Pete Pfitzinger's 18/55 as my base plan but made some changes. I was adding in a few miles each week, running slightly longer long runs (including a 22, two 21's, and two 20's), and really focused on taking my recovery runs easy so I could really amp up my speed work. I peaked at 60 mpw and was averaging over 50 mpw for much of the training cycle.

Even though I was pushing myself more and running more miles, it actually felt like I was getting more of a handle on the plan than my first time through it. I was able to get through training without injury, and set a few shorter race distance PR's during training, so it seemed like I was on track for a BQ this time. I was still really nervous about the race, though. Weather would be a BIG question mark in Kansas. Would the small field be a non-factor because of gusting winds and freezing temps?

Night before the race:

pick up my packet, and I've been assigned bib #13. Yes, really. A number they normally toss out. HMMMMMM.

Race Day:

On the morning of the race, my husband and I got up around 4:30 and I had two large, plain bagels at our bed and breakfast. After that, we gathered up my stuff and drove the half mile over to the parish hall at the Catholic church by the start, and hung out. It was absolutely packed and they seemed to have a TON of race day registration going on-the weather was just perfect and I think lots of people decided at the last second to take advantage of it.

After I warmed up, I was expecting that we'd soon be hearing that it was time to go line up. We were surprised, though, with an announcement that the race would start late due to delays in getting names of the race day entrants into the system. There were a couple of pissed off people yelling out stuff but I just said whatever...there's nothing I can do about it, and nothing to gain from getting worked up over it. At first they made it sound like we might be as much as half an hour to an hour off schedule, but just when we thought we'd be there forever, they announced that things were ready to go, and we lined up around 7:25, about 25 minutes late. Finally, off we went.

The first two miles or so go out flat on the highway. I felt really comfortable and had to keep slowing myself down to stay on my pre-planned 8:20 miles for the first half. It was cool but really not freezing cold, and the air was still.

Mile 1- 8:17

Mile 2- 8:11

I decided to take a calculated risk and quicken my pace just a bit. I knew I didn't want to blow up late in the race and that it could come back to bite me in the butt-but I just had a feeling that I could handle it. We wound into a tree-lined park for the next few miles, looped through, and returned back to the rural highway, rolling very slightly uphill toward the halfway point.

Mile 3- 8:06

Mile 4- 8:11

Mile 5- 8:19

Mile 6- 8:09

I felt very good physically thus far. I had my Geetah straws and was drinking at every aid station (they had them EVERY mile!)-Powerade at the first three, and then I began alternating with water. I think my GU made me a little sick to my stomach late in MCM so I spaced them out this time and was taking in more fluids this time. I passed a woman somewhere around the halfway point on the out portion but hadn't encountered any more women as I continued on. There was one lady who was up the road a bit from me. I wasn't making up any ground on her at this point but she also wasn't getting ahead.

Mile 7- 8:15

Mile 8- 8:07

Mile 9- 8:14

Mile 10- 8:11

Mile 11-8:14

By now I was starting to watch for any women coming back on the out and back, and was very surprised to not see anyone yet. I was also very surprised about the other missing factor-the wind. There was none. Maybe a slight breeze that felt good, but none of the normal Kansas wind I'd come to expect when I was a student down the road at K-State.

Mile 12-8:04

Mile 13-8:00

As I headed toward the turnaround, I could see that I was now gaining ground on that next woman up from me. I also finally counted three women coming back as I ran that last mile to the turnaround. Unless I'd missed someone, I was running fifth and excited that it looked like I had a decent shot for an age group award.

After the turnaround, I finally found myself even with the woman I'd been able to see for the entire first half. I chat with her for a minute before easing on past, and she says something to the effect of "third isn't that far up! Go get 'em!" This woman was a prior race winner, does consistently well in the Masters age brackets, but I guess was taking it easy out there due to various injuires. I continued on, now the fourth female overall.

Mile 14-8:04

Mile 15-8:15

I still feel good and just continue with the alternation of water and powerade. My stomach feels fine and I don't feel like I'm crashing or the wheels are coming off or anything. I chatted off and on with a man who was running the same pace as me for the next few miles. I keep checking my pace band, which was written for a 3:40 marathon, and the time is somewhere in the area of 3-4 minutes ahead of that pace.

Mile 16- 8:03

Mile 17- 8:09

Mile 18- 8:10

Mile 19- 8:03

Around this point, I look at my pace band and have this exciting moment where I realize that IF nothing catastrophic befalls me late in the race, I've got my BQ. I was actually smiling to myself a bit about this-I was working hard but not feeling like I was ready to just give up and surrender at any second. It felt like I could carry it through on this pace to the finish.

Mile 20- 8:10

Somewhere in this mile, I notice a woman walking very slowly on the road. Not thinking much about it, I assume it's a race volunteer. The woman is wearing shorts, though...that should have been my first tipoff that it wasn't a volunteer. It was too cold to be wearing shorts for someone not running.

As I finally get to where she is, I realize it's the woman who was leading at the turnaround. She's not limping or anything, but is walking very slowly and gingerly. I asked if she was okay or needed help, but she said she was okay. I heard later that she did walk all the way in and finish but am not sure what happened to her. My best guess is that she went out too fast, got totally glycogen depleted and crashed into the wall. As I passed her I was now in third of the "money" slots where I never thought I'd find myself.

Mile 21- 8:11

Mile 22- 8:07

I'm now heading back into the park on the out and back. Nearly home, feeling good. All of a sudden-what felt like it was about to be near disaster. All of a sudden my body turned gooey and mushy slowed down involuntarily even though my breathing felt great. OH, CRAP. So this is the wall. I thought I was done. I can't even describe the feeling but it's like the gas tank was approaching empty, and sputtering. I realized that when I had to ask if I'd possibly hit the wall at MCM, the answer was NO if I had to ask. This was a distinctively different feeling than that late in the race fatigue in my first marathon.

I let my body slow down and didn't fight it, dug out my last GU, and sucked it down. I saw that a water station was not far ahead and stayed at this slower pace as I approached and asked for Powerade, even though I think this was supposed to be a water station. I tried to keep my strides short, and not expend any more energy than necessary as I continued through the park.

Mile 23: 8:34

Mile 24: 8:40

When I came out of the park, I think the Powerade and GU had kicked in and given me just enough to hang in there. I was told that when I was back on the road to the finish, look for the church steeple and follow it in. Great tip in theory but I was spooked from the whole power surge I'd experienced in the park, and just kind of tucked my head down when I realized how far way that church steeple actually was. Instead, I focused on short landmarks as they came. I was fatigued but smiling to myself too. I was well ahead of my BQ pace, and in mile 25, it was all becoming very real that I was going to do it, even though I had slowed slightly.

Mile 25: 8:29

I was really trying to dig deep here and finish as strong as I could. Didn't want to fade away at the end, even though the rest of the race was pretty evenly split. I thought about my kids, all the times they asked "how was your run, Mommy?" and how I wanted to finish huge for them. I thought about my husband at the finish, and how I wanted to share this moment with him. He's been fully supportive of my training, and getting the kids where they need to go on Saturday mornings when I'm running long, and I didn't want to limp my way in when he'd driven us all the way out here for the race.

I also thought of Cody, how tough and strong he was, and what his family has been through, and Judy from Masters/Womens BQ thread and her daughter Katie's illness. I tried to drop the hammer as hard as I could in the last 1.2.

Mile 26- 8:10

As I came into the finish, I just wanted to enjoy the moment. I saw my husband, and saw the time clock and just tried to soak it all in as I finished. After that little dance with The Wall, we never met again, and now I was chugging in to the finish.

Last .2=3:03 (7:38 pace).

Clock time of 3:36:28, Chip time 3:36:18 (my Garmin read 3:36:26). A new marathon PR, a BQ, and a very unexpected third place overall. I won $200 for that third finisher slot, and a very nice medal. I realized after I saw the photos that DH took that I was grinning like an idiot during the awards presentation, but I just could not wipe the smile off my face. I know that's usually not a time that would place overall, even in a small marathon, but darnit, I was HAPPY and couldn't hide it.

This race really was about as perfect for me as it could have been. We had the good fortune of terrific race day weather (sandwiched between two days that had rain and wind), I felt very good physically, and just went with it.

We capped off the day by going to dinner at the Brookville Hotel, which is known for their fried chicken, with a friend of ours from college who lives in the area, and his girlfriend. I asked what they had on tap for beer...I basically had various Budweiser, Coors and Michelob choices, and then there was Sam Adams randomly thrown in the mix. It was a no-brainer to end the day with the Sam Adams to celebrate getting to head to Boston around this time next year. :)

Sorry so long, folks...but thanks for reading if you made it this far. I would definitely do this race again in a heartbeat, even with the "growing pains" issues they had right before the race. It was otherwise very well organized, the course volunteers enthusiastic and supportive, and it was SO nice to have everything so close together with no crowds to fight.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's The Zero Hour...Time To Put Up or Shut Up!

Or maybe just shut up after all the taper madness blogging. Hey, it's more productive than drinking or buying a bunch of running gear or something.

I'm just doing the last loads of laundry now and getting ready to hit the road later this afternoon! Despite having several sick kiddos around me this week after an entirely healthy winter, they all seem to be on the road to health as we prepare to leave, and I don't appear to have contracted anything nasty myself. Now we just have to hope for nothing nasty weather-wise in eastern Colorado or western Kansas, and no surprises with the car (not that we expect any-I just always expect for things to go wrong during travel. :P )

There's nothing left to do now but show up and run! Back in a few days....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Favorite Things

Okay-busted. I am not Oprah Winfrey. We actually do have one thing in common that's running related in that we are both finishers of the Marine Corps Marathon-but I am pretty darn sure that's where the similarity ends.

The above is one of my favorite SNL clips of all time. I'm not sure which moment is the best...Tina Fey eating the ham like a wild-eyed Mister Peepers, or Amy Poehler's head exploding. Anyway, as part of my taper madness, and also a way of kick-starting my mental check list for tomorrow's packing, I present my favorite racing things.

I know the above straws do not look like anything special, but they're actually a neat little tool that when used in a marathon as directed by fellow runner Bill Allen, or The Geetah as he's known in the online running communities.

Some runners do plan to walk through all aid stations as part of their plan for the big day, taking their time to drink a full beverage before starting to run again. Others like to keep moving as much as possible, though, minimizing stoppage time. I fall into that latter group. It's not a value judgement on one method or the other, but I have always noticed that I'm far more likely to have aches and pains creep up on me personally in races if I take regular walking/drinking breaks versus moving as much as possible.

This presents a problem, though. I big Camelbak is heavy and not really a great choice for a distance event. A handheld (I'll get to that later) is really nice but you can't store enough in one to last the whole race. The Geetah straw is the perfect, easy solution to the problem.

It's really nothing more than a bendable kid straw, either cut a little short, or short to begin with (like the ones I was lucky enough to find at the store the other day) so that you can run up to the aid station, grab your water or electrolyte beverage, bend the straw so it's at the lowermost point in the cup, and pinch or smoosh the top of the cup closed around the straw. This allows the runner to slow down for just a few seconds and trot on their merry way without slopping fluids all over themselves while trying to drink.

I used one at MCM with great success. The only problem was my own mistake of only bringing one. I was storing it in my skirt pocket, and it got more and more mangled with each aid station. I reached for it somewhere after the halfway point, only to discover the thing had finally fallen out. I'd also used a longer straw, so it stuck up a little further than if I'd trimmed the end, but it still worked well despite that. It was still a huge time saver while I had it, so the plan this time is to have three or four of them, and try to stow them a little better.

Next on my list of favorite things for race day-my Ultimate Direction handheld water bottle. Sometimes it's nice to have a little something with you during a training run or race, and without lots of extra weight. There are times, even at races with regular aid stations, where one might get a little thirsty or need an extra boost. The handheld above has been my go-to method for that kind of hydration.

It's even got a little room in the zip pouch there for a GU or two. While I usually stick gels in my skirt or shorts during the race as well, it's nice to not need to stick EVERYTHING in there. I have another handheld from Road Runner Sports, made by Nathan, but I like the UD best. It's pretty much leakproof because you pull open the soft spout with your teeth, and give it a little pinch to get the water out. The strap on the pouch that holds the water bottle just keeps it on your hand, no gripping necessary.

The Nathan works very well (and does come with an insulated pouch, one advantage for summer days), but if you forget to close the lid, you're going to spill some fluids from it. I did this several times last summer, and it's frustrating to realize you just dumped out what was supposed to keep you healthy and hydrated for the next few miles. I can't hate the Nathan too much, though-it was a nice bottle to leave in my car on long runs for my loop route. I'd go out with the UD bottle, finish a loop, slow down at my car and grab a fresh bottle. It was the best of both worlds to be able to hydrate properly without feeling like a camel.

The above socks are taking their maiden marathon voyage on Saturday, but they're definitely the new favorite piece of gear during the current training cycle. If you talk to a group of runners, there will be some people who snap back and recover from long runs, hard runs, and races VERY quickly. They can knock out hard efforts regularly and experience nothing but minimal aches and pains. Others, like me, sometimes get leg aches and pains so severe that it keeps them up at night after hard efforts, and feel extreme soreness.

A fellow runner and blogger was wearing a pair of the above socks in a short video from one of her marathons, and after we all joked about the cheerleader look with the socks and running skirt, we started asking the serious questions. I started reading up on them and thought it might be worth it for me to try a pair, but I'm naturally a skeptic so I knew they might turn out to be nothing more than an expensive pair of socks for puttering around the house in winter.

Thankfully, I was very WRONG about the probability of their usefulness. They may look incredibly goofy, but my OxySox have made such a difference. I now have two pairs-one for my long run, race, or hard workout, and then the clean pair to sleep in during the night after the hard workout. I now feel like I'm one of those fast recovery people. Okay, not quite. Still-when I used to be in actual pain, not just sore, after some workouts and races, it's amazing to just feel normal-sore. It's got a trickle-down effect of allowing for better sleep, less soreness, and more enthusiasm for the next workout. In the past, I would just cringe, knowing how sore I'd be for the next workout if I had pain and extreme soreness. Now, I'm generally pretty enthusiastic, or at least indifferent to starting my next workout.

I have a few other staple items for race day, including my Garmin with the nifty little auto-lap function. I used to be a Garmin slave and spend tons of time looking at it during races and runs, but I'm getting a bit more comfortable with feeling my pace and just checking the laps, or intermittently if I feel like I'm sagging too much or maybe going the other way and surging too early.

As a pale and pasty girl with fair, sensitive skin, I love to race in skirts because I've experienced less chafing with them than with my shorts. I used to get this terrible lower back chafe from the waist band of my shorts, and in fact still have a scar there from last summer when my skin was rubbed raw after a long run. I'll be sporting my purple cheetah athletic skirt style running skirt Saturday, so long as a last minute blizzard does not move in. My marathon's just down the road from my alma mater, Kansas State-home of the Wildcats. When I saw that was doing a specialty skirt that was kind of Wildcat-ish, and even the right color-I knew right away that I wanted to wear it for the race. If we get surprise terrible weather, I'll just switch gears and go with a K-State tech shirt and tights. Either way, I plan to be purple girl out there!

The last thing above my not be a favorite-yet. It sure will be if it keeps me on pace and away from making running math miscalculations. I've used free paper pace bands before for halfs, and my one full marathon, but lost them each time. I just know that this time, if it's getting really close again, I want to be able to know exactly where I am versus where I want to be in the later miles.

So, that's about it. Everyone's got their own favorite race day set-up, but the above were just a few of my favorite things! As always, they're subject to change as I learn about other people's favorite things, and consider ideas I'd never thought of, but seem to be good tools of the trade when used by others. Of course, the best tool of the trade is good training-so hopefully, all the little things will make it easier to morph my training into a good race.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Descending Further Into Madness

Taper madness, of course. I am mad with it. If you stop by my blog from time to time, then, you get the (mis)fortune of being (mis)treated today-I give you my Twelve Days of Taper. Er, yeah. Never mind that Pfitz has a 3-week taper-Pfitzing guys and gals, forget that you know this. Or that there's not anyone who has a 12-day taper schedule for a marathon. You REALLY only want to see twelve lame taper-related items, though, and not twenty-one. Oh yeah, I have officially lost my mind.

On the first day of taper, my schedule gave to me

a phantom pain in the knee (and foot, and quad, and hamstring).

On the second day of taper, my schedule gave to me

two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the third day of taper, my schedule gave to me

three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the fourth day of taper, my schedule gave to me

four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the fifth day of taper, my schedule gave to me (sing it with me)'

four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the six day of taper, my schedule gave to me

Six pairs of running socks
Five recovery miles
four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the seventh day of taper, my schedule gave to me

Seven miles with strideouts
six pairs of running socks
five recovery miles
four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the eighth day of taper, my schedule gave to me

Eight cups of water
Seven miles with strideouts
six pairs of running socks
five recovery miles
four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the ninth day of taper, my schedule gave to me

Nine Geetah Straws (not going to take one and lose the one this time!)
Eight cups of water
Seven miles with strideouts
six pairs of running socks
five recovery miles
four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the tenth day of taper, my schedule gave to me

Ten hours driving (each way!)
Nine Geetah Straws
Eight cups of water
Seven miles with strideouts
six pairs of running socks
five recovery miles
four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the eleventh day of taper, my schedule gave to me

Eleven p.m. bedtime (I am too keyed up and excited!)
Ten hours driving
Nine Geetah Straws
Eight cups of water
Seven miles with strideouts
six pairs of running socks
five recovery miles
four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

On the twelfth day of taper, my schedule gave to me

Twelve carb servings
Eleven p.m. bedtime
Ten hours driving
Nine Geetah Straws
Eight cups of water
Seven miles with strideouts
six pairs of running socks
five recovery miles
four race day outfits
three race day weather checks
two race website visits
and a phantom pain in the knee.

Now, aren't you glad I didn't try the full 21? ;) I will try to keep from driving others too crazy during my taper.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Seven Daaaaaaaaaaaays............

I'm saying it with excitement, not that terrifying whisper from "The Ring." Seven days until my husband and I trek from western Colorado to central Kansas for my marathon! I am getting very excited.

My last Pfitz interval session was Tuesday. My original plan was get it in while my oldest daughter was at a dance class. I was going to drop her off, head to the city track/stadium (two blocks away), do the 8 miles with 3 x 1600's at 5K pace, then go back for her. Well, I got to the stadium and there was some sort of high school sporting event-palooza taking place.

I thought for a minute about what to do, knowing I now had even less time before needing to come back for my daughter. Go home and use the treadmill? No. Not enough time. How about the river trail? SOLD! It was either going to have to be done briskly, or with a mile cut off at the end, or I wouldn't be back in time. I booked it over to the trailhead, got out there, and was pleased to get through with JUST enough time to hop in the car and drive back to the dance studio. That was it...the last challenging workout before the marathon! I struggled SO much with those intervals the first time around-it's nice to feel better about them this time, and to be through all of them. There was nobody out there, either-kind of nice for intervals when I'm huffing and puffing and probably look like some kind of OCD freakazoid, looping around the lake at the back of the trail. No wind, either-so I really appreciated that after several long runs where the wind was just out of control.

Before heading to Kansas, though, we will begin the "Spring Birthday March" in our home. We have a birthday a month for the next three months, and start with my son next Wednesday. I CANNOT believe this little guy is turning five! He is so easygoing that any sort of recognition for his special day will be appreciated, but we'll have to think of something fun to do. We're leaning toward letting him pick out a special birthday dinner, either at home or out somewhere, but then have whatever party we're going to have the weekend after the marathon. It gives us more time to plan something and the weather will probably be nicer by doing it then, assuming we have a little shindig in the back yard with some of his little buddies.

His "official" letter should be in the mail any day confirming that he'll be in kindergarten at his big sisters' school. It's wacky to think that I will have three school-agers next year. It'll be great, though-his middle sister (finishing the first grade now) is very tight with him, and seems very comfortable guiding and teaching him things where she is not necessarily like this in other situations. Though I'm not sad he's already five and am very excited to observe him taking in his first big school experience for the first time, it's absolutely unbelievable that the time is just around the corner. It's my constant reminder to try to get the most out of each day with my family and friends as things continually change and evolve in the world around us, and on the homefront.