December 30, 2011

Sleeping Counts as Running, Right?!

2011 is almost over, 2012 what's up - here's what I hope to accomplish, blah.

Nah you good.

I think I did something like this last year, and while I (probably) accomplished my running goals (I think the only one I really had was to do the full marathon), I have come to realize that running goals should be fluid and able to move and adjust with your progress (or lack there of) and the way you feel.

I was just catching up on some of the blogs I read, and I came across some genius writing in one of them. It speaks to one of the issues I find myself with now...packing on so much pressure for the DC Marathon in March, that I'm finding it hard to convince myself to even go for a run.

From Dirty Running's blog: "The main thing that I learned this year about my running is that if I focus too much on goals and reaching them at the expense of the enjoyment that I gain from running, then there really is no point in running at all."

SOOOO true people!!!! This is EXACTLY where I am now. I'm very blah about the race because I put the pressure on myself to acheive a sub 5 to qualify for JFK 50. There's nothing wrong with setting expectations and goals for yourself, but they should never cripple you.

As my running money jar is filling up with $10 bills, I decided this morning to finally just cut myself some slack. You know who probably won't run a sub 5 marathon? The Stephanie that is so stressed and worried about hitting that mark that her runs suffer and now so does her mood. You know who might have a shot at it? The Stephanie who is actually enjoying her runs and wants to get out there because it's fun.

Besides, I really need to want to get back into my runs. I'm getting a little squishy around the edges. Not cool. Thanks Ohio for all the yummy cookies and chocolates and chinese food!

So my crazy training plan is being thrown out the window, and I will be semi winging it until March 17th. I know roughly what miles I need to get in and how much is too much each week for a long run...and I feel like that's good enough for me. I will do something close to a long run today to get it out of the way for the weekend, and we'll see what follows next!

December 20, 2011

Photo Op!

I'm in Week Two of Thirteen for Marathon Training!

Here's what's going on. I didn't run my five miles :O I decided to be SUPER lazy instead...so a GREAT idea (except I might go broke) from R was that I make a jar, and put $5 or $10 in it every time I skip a run. I would love to say $10 because then my cheap butt will probably never miss a run, but if I make it $10 and keep being lazy...ouf. Hello bankruptcy. :)

$10 it is!

(starting now...that last missed run doesn't count!)

Anyway, I went to MVT after work, it was about 48 degrees...under armour tights, long sleeve shirt from VHTWHM (trail half mar.), my MCM finishers jacket, my ear warmers, off and on gloves. Maybe just a tad too much clothing up top for 48 degree weather...

And I forgot my watch. Luckily, I have run the MVT enough times to know where about 3 miles stands. I went down the MVT heading towards Alexandria.


Still daylight (barely)!


Then I turned to go up to Arlington Cemetery and went down the trail past the graves (so beautiful with the Christmas wreaths laid at each tombstone), and over to Iwo Jima.

Where I took this slew if pictures.


I thought I looked like that creepy guy from Harry Potter who doesn't have a nose, so I tried again and came up with this little gem:



Which was great, except I failed to get the whole thing in the frame....so I tried again (and :again and again and again...I will spare you ALL of my attempts)


Then I decided to hell with it, close enough...and a bus driver kept staring thinking I was crazy, I'm sure. I just wanted a picture with my MCM finisher's jacket and ear warmers by the monument that I actually finished the race. What what?! Good memories.

I grabbed a sip from the water fountain and was on my way again, hitting up Rosslyn, then getting back on the MVT briefly to get back to the car. It comes to about 3.5 miles ish I think.

It was a fun time and I wish the weather could stay in the high 40s or in the 50s every time I run. It feels waaay better than the summer heat or chilling winter. And I absolutely love wearing those under armour tights, they are so friggin comfortable. I just want to wear them everywhere...lounge in them...sleep in them...

I failed to do my Sunday prep of food for the week, so last night after my run I went to Giant for supplies, and made some tasty chicken broth skillet chicken, chicken broth brown rice, and broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and mushrooms in...you guessed it...chicken broth. So good though! And garlic... :D Nom.

Today I am considering a Holiday Lights Run with DC Capital Striders running group for a 4.5 run and sing type shindig. Hoping it doesn't rain though...

I also found out yesterday that the RnR DC Marathon has a lovely 5.5 hr cut off. Which is good and bad...I need to get under 5 hrs for my qualifying time for JFK, but 5.5 was my time for MCM...so we shall see. Makes me want to bust my butt harder! Besides, the course looks a little 'easier' than MCM.

Since I only have twelve (thirteen including this week) weeks to get my crap together to run a faster 26.2 miles, I looked up some twelve week marathon training plans and this is what I found from RW:

(with my tweaking and starting Dec 26)

WEEK ONE: 75% of max weekly mileage
Key Workout #1: 3 x 1.5 miles at tempo with .5 mile recovery
Key Workout #2: 10 mile steady long run, 10% slower than MP
Two easy runs of 4 miles each

WEEK TWO: 85%
#1: 2 x 2 miles at tempo, .5 mile recovery
#2: Progression long run 13 miles
Two easy runs of 4 miles each


WEEK THREE: 95%
#1: 4 mile tempo run
#2: 15 miles, 10% slower than MP
Two easy runs of 5 miles each

WEEK FOUR: 75%
#1: 3 x 2 miles at MP, .5 mile recovery
#2: 5k or 10k time trial
Two easy runs of 6 miles each

WEEK FIVE: 100%
#1: 3 x 2 miles at MP, .5 mile recovery
#2: 16 miles
Two easy runs of 5 miles each

WEEK SIX: 75%
#1: 3 x 2 miles at MP, .5 mile recovery
#2: 15k or half marathon race
Two easy runs of 3 miles each

WEEK SEVEN: 90%
#1: 3 x 2 miles at tempo, .5 mile recovery
#2: 18 miles
Two easy runs of 3 miles each

WEEK EIGHT: 100%
#1: 5 x 2 miles at MP, .5 mile recovery
#2: 16 miles at 10% slower than MP
Two easy runs of 3 miles each

WEEK NINE: 75%
#1: 3 mile tempo run
#2: 20 miles
One easy run of 3 miles

WEEK TEN: 100%
#1: 2 x 4 miles at MP, .5 mile recovery
#2: 18 miles at 10% slower than MP
Two easy runs of 4 miles each

WEEK ELEVEN: 75%
#1: 2 x 3 miles, .5 mile recovery
#2: 13 miles, last 8 at MP, do early in week 11
One easy run of 3 miles

WEEK TWELVE: 50%
#1: 6 miles, last 3 at MP
#2: MARATHON
One easy run of 3 miles



Yeeeeah. A little hardcore. We'll see how much money that jar has by the time March 17th rolls around :D

December 15, 2011

A Lesson In Confidence and Sweating It Out.

Well today has seemed to be a roller coaster of a day, and I'm glad that it's almost finally over and almost the weekend. I would like some time to decompress and be alone and just veg.

I knew this next year was going to offer up some challenges, but I guess I wasn't as prepared for some of the lows and how they can come out of nowhere, from within myself.

Today I got my miles in, but in a different way. I forgot to set my alarm last night and barely woke up in time to get ready for work. I somehow managed to still get there by 7am, worked the day, and as I was preparing to change for my run after work, I noticed it was raining. Bummer. It was already not the best day, and while I normally do enjoy running in the rain, today I was definitely not in the mood.

When I got to my car, the rain had stopped. After a small cry, I decided that a run was necessary to get out the bad energy...my attempt to sweat it out. Let out the dog, changed into my gear, and went a block behind the apartment where there is a high school track. I figured I would take a crack at this speed work business. Well...I didn't get very far in there until they kicked me out. Someone came by to lock it up...so I looked around for Plan B, since I had too much crap in my pockets to just bang out the 3 miles.

If you are familiar with the area, you know that there is a massive hill at 13th and Florida. Like...huge. So I figured why not just run up and down, up and down, wear myself out, and head home. I made a game out of it, run to this tree, then down, then back up past that tree, etc. Every time I would go to run the downhill part I could feel the wobble in my legs, huffing and puffing, but starting to feel better. After I had enough of the hill, I ran a few sprints down a straight part of 13th, then jogged a cool down and went home. At home I decided to do some crunches with my stability ball, a few arm workouts with the kettle bell, and a few other non running things.

Reflecting on my day now, I'm really glad I decided to go out for the run and not ruin the first week of training. These past three runs have reminded me to keep confident in my abilities and strengths as a runner. I also need to rely on myself in the personal and professional aspects of my life. Sometimes I allow my negative thoughts to over-shadow reality; we are human after all...every one does this I'm sure. I am so grateful to have a best friend that can talk some sense into me, while also being able to relate and share a story. Makes me feel a little less crazy.



So when I logged onto the computer, I saw this article and thought I would share.

http://talk.brooksrunning.com/2011/12/15/the-power-of-believing-in-yourself/


Check it out.

December 13, 2011

'Midweek' Recap! ACCOUNTABILITY!

MONDAY:


Woo! That's my post-run picture. Sorry it's dark. I went to the trail AFTER work instead of before, knocked out an awesome feeling three miles! So the story here is, it was not too bad of weather, a little chilly but bearable with my under armour pants, a long sleeve shirt and my MCM zip-up, gloves, and my MCM ear warmers. I put on my brave face, thought positive thoughts even though this was my first real run since the mile last week and before that was the debacle of Rosaryville's 50k (aka I was terrified that I would have to walk). Well I definitely did not walk, and I think I did a pretty decent job time wise considering I haven't really done anything but eat the past month! I completed the three miles in about 33 minutes, so 11 minute miles. I'll take that!


TUESDAY:


Last night I stayed up a little late because I got to talk to MY MAN! Seriously, worth every tired blink of my eyes today. I woke up and went to work, had my absolutely delicious baked pumpkin pie oatmeal over milk, went to our office holiday lunch, then was released for the day. Luckily, I was prepared to go home early and I had packed my bag with my running gear. I went straight from the restaurant to the trail and changed (discreetly) in my car! And off I went! I should tell you what I had for lunch. Beef tips and mashed potatoes, a bunch of water, and half a piece of cake. Apparently, tummy did not enjoy that bouncing around in there. My legs were a little sore in the quad area before starting the run but in a good way, so I told myself 'Day Two, here we go! We are going to crush these miles!' I made it halfway til the pain in my side was so bad that I pulled off the trail to contemplate barfing. I resisted, and ran the way back to the car. It looked a little something like this: 11:00 min for the first mile, 12:45 for the second mile, and 11:12 for the third mile. I'll take it.

So my legs are a little more sore after that, but I can't really feel the soreness while running, which is AWESOME!


Tomorrow I just have cross-training, so I will bring my workout gear to work and hit the work gym around 4:30pm.

In other news, I consulted with a friend of mine about speed work, and he provided me with a nifty little plan. I will be putting it to use very, very soon. You need a track to do successful speed work, and I've known for a while that there is a track at the high school right behind my apartment...but for the 6 months that I've lived here I have not been able to locate the entrance.

Today I found it.


HOORAY!!!! THE CROWD GOES WILD!

I'm pretty excited. As soon as I convert all these km to what normal people use for measurements......

I'm sure I'll be sore for the next 90 days, but it's pretty exciting to think about attempting a sub 5 marathon, especially when that means I need to shave a whopping 30 minutes off my time. Most people are happy shaving a minute. It's SO good to be uninjured again!!!! And recovered!

Well I'm off. I have to get ready to watch the Biggest Loser finale! And then maaaaybe go to bed early. I'm trying this thing where I stay up PAST 9pm...we'll see how that goes.


PS...how great is this thought. It's pretty much how I feel:

December 11, 2011

Let's Try This Again

So last week I said I would begin my training.....I ran one day. One mile. Yay me.

THIS WEEK, I will run. No really! I promise!

I oath it. (HIMYM reference, you're welcome.)

Monday: 3
Tuesday: 3
Wednesday: Cross Train
Thursday: 3
Friday: Off
Saturday: 5
Sunday: Light Cross Train


So, now that I have that out there on the big ole world wide web...maybe I will be held more accountable. Maybe.

Maybe my alarm will go off at 5am and I will say, Nah You Good to the cold air and just keep on keepin warm under the covers. Til I remind myself that I'm starting to get squishy again. And that I have 90 days to shape up before I see THE man. And that I ordered another bridesmaid dress and need to have that altered to be SMALLER, not bigger for May. And that I need to offset all the bad things I have eaten lately. And because I am STILL dreaming about those oreos that are sandwiched between two chocolate cookies and baked. GAAAH drool. Thank veryculinary.com for making me constantly think about those. And how many I think I could eat. Double stuffed oreos are my kryptonite.


So I picked the wee hours of the morning for my weekday runs, hoping that it will give me a good jumpstart to my day, shock my body awake, maybe trick myself into being a morning person. Not that I'm a night person, since I'm a great granny who goes to bed at 9pm...and that's even late for me. I'm also hoping that it will make me more aware of what I'm eating and drinking through out the day and make good decisions.

If you are anything like me and face the difficulty of getting yourself up at 5am to sluggishly (currently my only speed) run 3 miles, then maybe you can do what I just did tonight!

I just made my entire week's worth of meals! Woot!

On the menu this week:

Breakfast - Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal (YUM!) - can be eaten cold over milk or warmed up. I'm hoping I will get up, go run, come back, have the coffee brewed, eat some nom pumpkin oatmeal, shower, get to work on time!

Lunch - I have balsamic chicken with tomatoes, garlic, and a little melted mozz. cheese on top, plus some quinoa out of a box, and some kale cooked with garlic and tomatoes and feta cheese. And yogurt if I get a little snacky later.

Dinner: Chicken sausage soup! It has some yummy chicken sausage, white beans, kale, celery, carrots, broth, and it's deliciousness hopefully!

That will be the same thing every day this week, maybe switching the soup to lunch and the chicken to dinner to trick myself that I'm not eating the same thing over and over!

Yeah, good luck with that!

So this week should be interesting. I've been feeling particularly lazy and un-athletic, and not like someone who ran a marathon a month and a half ago. I am actually excited to get back at it again and hopefully shave off a lofty 30 minutes from my previous time so I can kick some JFK 50 Miler butt!

Goodnight!

December 05, 2011

New Again.

It's beginning to feel a lot like June 2010.

My body is starting to get back to that squishy, non-running state. My phobia of running is starting to creep back into my mind.

I'm back at square one, with what feels like just a small jog around the block. I need to get moving again, fend off the laziness, start eating healthier (again), and start building back my endurance. I need to keep my mind busy so it doesn't wander to places it shouldn't be. I need to start wearing myself out again to make this year go by quicker.

This morning on my way to work I saw some women running together and felt both envious and glad at the same time. Envious that they had each other to pass the miles and time, but also glad because when you run alone, no one needs to know how awful of a runner you are. You don't have to explain why you are having a hard time running three miles nonstop. You don't have to sound like you're listing off excuses when you talk about your injuries, or how your heart isn't in it today, etc.

I'm having a difficult time convincing myself that I will break my time barrier for this next marathon when I'm so phobic of running after the injuries from this past year keep plaguing my mind.

I skipped BYB # 4 at Fountainhead, and BYB #5 at Hemlock Overlook because I still didn't feel ready to get back out there.

Over Thanksgiving holiday in Texas I went with R for a 3 mile walk, not run, because the back of my left knee still hurts a bit (anyone have any idea what I can attribute this to??)

Anyway, I'm going to force myself to go for a small little run today, and then I will run with a friend tomorrow. Getting back on that horse.

Let the training for DC Rock'n'Roll Marathon, March 17 commence!


***currently accepting any ideas on cool cross-training, speedwork, and weight training niftiness***

November 16, 2011

Rosaryville Veteran's Day 50K

***SPOILER ALERT***

Course Description: Rosaryville State Park, Upper Marlboro, MD. Cut off time of 8 hours, three loops on a trail through the woods at a little under 10 miles a loop. Little over 100 participants. 92 Finishers. Fastest time: 3:35, Slowest time: 7:52.

For those (few) of you that read this but have been hiding under a rock and somehow do not know my outcome of this race...I choose not to build the suspense and describe the race and THEN tell you the outcome. Rather, I will just spit it out now and get it out of the way.

DNF.

(if I knew how to make that MAJORLY HUGE FONT, believe you me...I would.)

And I guess for the smaller subset of those already few of you that read this who are not runners, DNF stands for a lovely DID. NOT. FINISH.

My heart dies a little with the recognition of those words as they now apply to me.

So now that I have been so melodramatic, I will recap. Lucky for you, this will be MUCH shorter of a recap than it could have been, so you're welcome for only completing 10 of the 31 miles :)

Friday: I had the day off thanks to Veterans. The bf (that's boyfriend in this situation. Just clarifying. Or bragging? Not really sure.) and I hit the road for an hour drive to Upper Marlboro to stay at a hotel for the night before the BIG DAY (that's the race in this situation, let's not get all crazy). I was already anxious and not feeling confident about the race, though I kept thinking about a blog where the writer talks about perception and how if you think something is going to suck, it probably will. "Beginning a run with a negativity bias will make the run actually feel more difficult. Or if you think a 20-miler is long, the distance will be more pronounced in the way you experience it. If we think something is harder, we’re going to be biased in the way we see it. We have the power to alter our vision."


As true as I know that to be, I still couldn't quite 100% convince myself that this race would go well....and boy was I right. We relaxed a little the rest of Friday, ate a lovely dinner...date night in Temple Hills, what whaaat?! And hit the hay.

In the morning, I argued over which pants I wanted to wear, we packed up, loaded the car, and brought ourselves to Rosaryville State Park for a little 31 mile jog in the woods.

Did I mention how cold it was that morning? I was freezing. I had on slightly longer capri running pants, my blue St. Jude Nike singlet my sister bought me, my bright orange arm warmers, and my purple long sleeve shirt my mom just bought me. And my ear warmer from MCM, and gloves. And my Brooks Cascadias. And not warm enough socks because my feet were numb.

We picked up our bibs, glanced at the map, and traded hellos with a few people. I freaked out a little more (what's new...). Then we 'lined up' by the race clock, the anthem was sung, and with a simple GO we were off down the paved road for about a mile before heading into the woods. I told the bf to go ahead and we decided he would just wait for me at the end of the first loop, he would relax for the second loop, and then rejoin me for the third to get me to the finish (yes, SUCH a great man!). I lost sight of him before we hit the actual trail, but kept sight of my two coworkers for a little bit until they too were out of my sight. No biggie. I had already coped with the fact that I could very well be the last person to finish this race. I made friends with the people in front and behind me, let people pass me, then I was the only one in the back O:) hey...it happens.

The course has little baby rolling hills through beautiful woods. You can see people ahead of you on some sections with the way the trail snakes around, I found this cool. There's a bridge that you cross, some open meadow type areas, streams and other water, good change of scenery.

At around mile 5 things started to really get ugly. I managed to trip just a few times, though I must say this trail is amazing. It's pretty clearly marked and other than the leaves everywhere covering a few roots, the actual trail wasn't too dangerous. I was already feeling wonky in my legs but I tried to put it out of my head, that whole perception is reality stuff. I had the usual shin splint on my bad ankle leg, my toes already hurt, my legs already hurt, I was starting to have a difficult time breathing (did I mention I was sick for a few weeks before this and still sick on race day?). Usually I can suck up two problems during a race, but when they start to pile up it's harder to shake off and keep trudging along. The issues just kept getting worse. I think I cried around mile 7 because that is when I finally had to make a decision and tell myself that this race is not where I would become an ultra marathoner. An incredibly hard pill to swallow for me. I hadn't even been able to convince myself to do the second loop.

During my loop, I was playing rabbit with a very inspiring gentleman. He lifted my spirits...at least for a little while. During our conversations I learned that he just started running last April, like me last June. This was his first 50K also. And he had lost a large amount of weight as a result of his efforts with running. He seemed to be putting everything he had into this race and I really admire that about anyone.

I got LAPPED by the top three males, which is motivating as well. I always love watching the fast people do what they do best, but I have to admit that it was slightly disheartening, and they caught me at a bad mile where I was having my little cry fest. Which now that I think about it, it may have happened around mile 5 (the cry fest. the lapping happened at mile 9) :/ Sooo soon.

Anyway, I finished out the loop walking a LARGE amount of the second half, simply because it hurt too much to run. I had high hopes that my little cry-fest in the middle of the loop would equate to me holding it together after exiting the loop. Not the case.

The volunteers could see me before I was off the trail and started clapping and cheering for me, which I think only made things harder to cope with. Everyone was so supportive the entire way. They gave me the thumbs up when I finally was exiting the loop and all I could do was give them the thumbs down and mutter that I was quitting. With tears welling up in my eyes, I faced them and told them that today just was not my day, and that I could not continue on. They made sure I was physically okay, offered me a ride back to the start (a .75 mile walk away), and I motioned to them that I needed to go talk to my bf first. They informed me who to tell that I was dropping out so that they didn't think we were still out on the trail. I walked across the parking lot to the bf, trying to suck up the crying that had just ensued, but once he asked me how I was it just let loose. Having to admit out loud that you need to quit is a very difficult thing. Having to quit 10 miles sooner than you had thought, also difficult. I envisioned that if I had to bail out before the finish, it would be 20 miles, 2 loops.

I don't know if I've ever felt more disappointed in myself in this aspect of life. I felt completely betrayed by my body, and I was having a really hard time coming to grips with the fact that it hurt so badly only 10 miles in. I felt defeated.

I stubbornly told the bf that we could walk the .75 mile back to the car (not my best idea. hi pride, could you step aside for a moment and make room for logic?) I half cried the walk back, the type of crying where you're crying but trying to look like you aren't crying...even though everyone knows you're crying. You aren't fooling anyone. When we got to the car, I called my mom. She was surpised to hear from me so soon, and I love her for first asking 'You already finished?' Instead of saying 'it's only 11, why are you calling so early?' So then that pretty much opened the flood gates (luckily the bf was not near me for this). I told her why I was so upset and she comforted me with saying how proud she is that I even went out there, two weeks after my first full marathon, and attempted this while sick. She told me to be proud of myself.

The rest of the weekend my legs felt as if I had been running nonstop for days. Those ten miles left me battered, but confident that I made the right decision not to continue in the race.

Surprisingly, this DNF did not squash my goals for future 50ks or the JFK 50. It only helps propel me forward. I haven't run since Saturday, and I miss it and feel like a big lazy nothing...but I know my body needs to time off from running. I'm learning a ton from this experience, and I think it's hard for people to understand what it feels like to DNF unless they've gone through it as well.

Rosaryville 50K, we'll rematch in 2013.

November 02, 2011

I'm a Marathoner!

“I run because long after my footprints fade away, maybe I will have inspired a few to reject the easy path, hit the trails, put one foot in front of the other, and come to the same conclusion I did: I run because it always takes me where I want to go.” - Dean Karnazes




Official results: I finished my FIRST MARATHON in 5:30:29!!!!!

I'll take it!


That's me and Kate, crossing the finish line together after she selflessly joined me at Mile 18 to keep me company and motivate me for the last 8.2 miles. Thank God for her, otherwise I'm not entirely sure I would have made 5:30 on my own!

Race/Weekend Recap (you can skip this if you've already heard my story and/or have no interest in hearing it):

Thursday: My mom flew in late Thursday evening and we visited a little before hitting the sack. Uneventful.

Friday: My mom and I went out to Alexandria to visit a friend and her ADORABLE little baby boy. Before we got there, my car started making noise and I had a liiiittle freak out moment in the car thinking that something was wrong and we would have to take it in to get looked at. Not exactly the weekend you want to add stress to. Anyway...it ended up going away (so far....).

Now, for those who know me well, you know I'm a weeee bit phobic of babies. They are fragile and cry and I just don't know what to do with them. I've met this little guy before, seriously he is SO freaking cute at 20 months old, but I kept my distance anyway. He stole my heart. At some point I really warmed up to him and we started playing...little toddlers' laughter is SOO contagious. I was sad to leave him when we left her house to head to lunch with another friend. I guess I like kids after all?

Saturday: It sleeted. It snowed. I got worried. My mom and I dressed warmly and made our way to the carb dinner for Semper Fi Fund. How incredible! At our table, we made friends with a man who was here to run the race from CA. He told us a moving story of his first time running MCM and had me teary eyed. Then we made friends with a man who had served four tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, got severely injured and thanks to Semper Fi Fund, was able to make an amazing recovery. His story also had me teary and inspired and helped me remember why I picked this charity in the first place.

Sunday: Race Day. I woke up at 5am, got dressed, ate my breakfast, threatened to throw up a few times...and then went to the metro. Freezing. I left my mom at the Pentagon metro so I could head to the corrals, about a 20 min walk, when a Marine came up to me and asked if I was heading to the start of the race and if I preferred to ride this charter bus to the start instead of walk. Hell. Yes. The bus was heated, and had a bathroom...VICTORY. I defrosted a little, only to head back out into the cold to stand around for a little under an hour before my corral finally made it's way up to the start line. At my corral, you could see the stragglers bus and final car just waiting. Not cool to see before you start a race. But...before I knew it, the race was underway. I had begun my first marathon.

The music was awesome in the beginning, didn't need an iPod at all (not that I even had been training with one anyway). We made our way over to Rosslyn and through a pretty large crowd and up and down some hills. Hi shin splints. Walked those bad boys out, and off I went again, actually making pretty decent time! I was a little worried when I didn't see my cheering section in Rosslyn... but hoped it wasn't an indication of the rest of the race.

After Rosslyn and Lee Hwy, the runners make their way down a beautiful hill (men peeing on the side of the road everywhere. Hello...it's only 3 miles into the race!). It's a nice wooded area on both sides of the road, but it. was. COLD. Then you hit a water stop (YAY I finally saw my cheering section). I saw them before they spotted me and I did a double back hoping to give them a better shot of me running :)


After the Key Bridge to Georgetown, you head to the left towards the university. Isolated. Gradual hill. Then you turn a corner and BAM. Not so gradual hill. But halfway up, I made friends with an older lady. It was her first marathon as well, and we passed some cute lacrosse girls singing Journey's Don't Stop Believin. Good motivation :) Then I caught up to the 5:30 Pace Group. Then I PASSED the 5:30 Pace Group. That's when I realized I did not need to worry about finishing this race, I would make it across that finish line. Then you get an AWESOME downhill. Then, usually one of my favorite parts of my training runs, we ran down M St. Nice amount of people out there, people yelling for my zebra pants, etc :) I still felt great!

I was my cheering section again shortly after M St, and cruised right on down past the Watergate, and Kennedy Center, and made my way to Hains Point. I also caught a glimpse of the 5:15 Pace Group but didn't push it to catch them, knowing it was probably unrealistic to think I could keep up. Great cheering sections on the way to Hains Point, had a few oranges as well...


I made it halfway! On my way around Hains Point I saw a sign stuck in the grass that read, "I don't know you, but I am SO proud of you." TEAR. Then I kept running and a random man just offered me wonderful encouragement (a fellow runner). TEAR. Then you pass through the tip of HP and Lululemon had tooons of cheerers out there with music blaring...made me a little emotional :) Then towards the end of the run around HP, you pass this giant stage with a good group of folks dressed up and dancing and the music is blaring and they really get you going. It was awesome.

I made my way out of Hains Point, mile 15 ish, and my feet began to hurt. Not good. A little after HP, I bumped into my cheerers again, told them my feet hurt and I needed water, and Helen sprinted with a water bottle to give me a few sips. I love her for that. I kept on going, past the MLK memorial, and then turned to make my way over towards the Mall, happy that I was getting close to the mile where I would pick up Kate and no longer run alone.

At about Mile 16, my calf cramped severely. I moved to the side and tried to stretch it out, but realized nothing was going to make it better...so I just kept going. I knew I was starting to slow down. I passed my group again :) they are awesome! About a mile and a half ish later, I saw Kate and just grabbed her and told her how happy I was to see her. I told her how I was feeling, the calf, my feet, etc...and she told me how great my time splits looked. We continued on run-walking around the Capitol and finally made the turn to head to the 14th St Bridge. There's this giant band of drummers/really cool music going on, and a man dancing at the base of the bridge with a sign that says "BEAT THE BRIDGE". We start up it, and Kate turned to me and told em I killed that bridge, that I was so far away fromt he cut off time, and it sank in that I had been soo worried for nothing. I knew from there on out I didn't really need to worry about being kicked off the course...and I cried a little from joy.

The bridge felt like it laster for miles...no shade, minimal cheerers...and already in pain. I was hitting mileage that my body had never done before. After the bridge runners head into Crystal City for a few miles. I think this was the roughest part for me out of the whole 26 miles. EVERYTHING hurt, and Kate was starting to push me a little harder so I still made a good time. I got some tylenol, small victory for me, and we somehow made it through CC with me moaning and shuffling. EVERYTHING HURT BAD. But I never, EVER said I need to quit. Never hit a wall, never thought I wouldn't finish. I stayed positive, knowing that no matter what, it was going to hurt, it's supposed to hurt, and that if we just kept moving, it would be over soon.

After CC, you get on another ramp and bridge and pass the Pentagon. I had been using tunnel vision since before Crystal City, and was mostly just focused on listening to Kate tell me, run to this sign then you can walk...etc. From the Pentagon bridge, you can kind of see down to where you get close to the finish, and I teared up again. I think this time partially out of pain, but mostly because it was my first glimpse of almost being done. We ran down the ramp and started the last mile. People were starting to line the edges of the course, we alternated between shuffling and walking...and eventually we got close enough to where you can see the turn off to go up the hill to Iwo Jima. At this point, I turned around and noticed that somehow, the 5:30 pacer had caught up to me. That lit a mini fire under me and Kate and I took off a little faster to stay in front of him. We ran up the hill, cheering on both sides but I will admit the entire time up the hill I did not really hear anything other than me sayig I CAN'T. I CAN'T (run). I NEED TO WALK. And Kate telling me, YOU CAN. YOU ARE DOING THIS. YOU CAN DO THIS. We made it to the top of the hill, I was spent. I don't think I've ever felt so drained in my entire life, emotionally, mentally and physically. Then I heard my name from my cheerers. They had found a spot on the hill, exactly where I needed them to be. It's amazing how things liek that work out. You can't see the finish line until you are up the hill and turn the corner, so when I did, and the pacer finally passed me, I saw how close I was to finally accomplishing months and months of training and setbacks and persevering. I broke out into the fastest shuffle I could manage, Kate by my side, and crossed that finish line...still hitting that 5:30 time goal.




Marines line the section after the finish line, and as I looked up at them all congratulating me, I got extremely emotional. I finished.

A year and a half ago, I never thought I could run more than 5 minutes at a time. I just finished a marathon. Next weekend I have hopes of finishing a 50K. A year from that, I hope to finish a 50 Mile.

I really do believe running has made me a better person. I'm definitely in better shape, I expect more out of myself, and I'm pretty sure it's made me more sentimental and emotional.

Now that this is under my belt, I don't think I will ask advice from my running friends on whether or not I should do other races. I should trust in my own judgement, and they should trust in that too.

This was seriously the best experience I have ever had, and I think after a year like this I will never be the same. I encourage anyone wanting to try a marathon to do MCM.

October 24, 2011

The end is near, but so is the beginning.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." -Wise words from Semisonic


Well folks...we are finally in the LAST days before I embark on my first 26.2. I originally anticipated October to be the least fun of all of the training months, even with my training schedule dubbing September 'MONSTER MONTH'. September can be renamed 'The Month of Tears', since I mostly just remember crying a lot in attempts to cope with the ankle. I thought I would hate the taper (I kinda do...I don't feel like myself), I dreaded the 20 mile run I would have in the beginning of the month, and I knew all that traveling would catch up with my immune system. But...I was wrong about October.

October began with inspiration in the Poconos watching my friend complete her first half ironman. The next weekend was fun volunteering at Army 10 Miler and extracurricular activities. Then came an awesome time in Baltimore for the half marathon. This past weekend was filled with good football, good friends, and a great day out at Cox Farms. There's just one weekend left in October, and it better not ruin the fun streak!

I keep teetering between being in denial and being unbelievably anxious for the race. Somewhere deep down inside I think I know that I will be completely fine and finish the race without getting kicked off the course. Then there's that smaaaalll little devil on my shoulder screaming doubts. In the words of Jessie Spano, "I'm so excited! I'm so....so.....SCARED." Haha.

My coworker hit it right on the head when she sent me this email after asking about the Baltimore half: "I think you should be proud of yourself and be happy because that is a REALLY long way to run and finishing should not be taken for granted. Perhaps your perspective gets blown away when you participate in events and see all of those other folks finishing and passing and going fast... But if you back away from it and consider how many folks do NOT do this or even try AND where you were a year ago...well, you know what I'm saying!" Sometimes a helpful little reminder like that slams things into perspective.

I've never been very good at just sitting in the present (Erin and Helen yell at me all the time for this). I constantly try to see what will be ten steps ahead. I like to know where things are going and what's coming next....which explains why I have so many races lined up and already have my running spreadsheet filled out for all of next year :)


So the rest of the remaining time between now and Sunday I will be loading up on vitamins to stay healthy, going to bed super early (not like I don't do that normally though), and cleaning in preparation of my mom coming to stay with me. And a few runs. And packet pick-up Thursday night. One mild panic attack on Friday at the first timer's pep rally, and a medium panic attack Saturday, and BAM all of a sudden before I know it, I will be on the metro heading to the race! Cool as a cucumber (I think that's the saying?!).

**Shout out to all of the many friends and supporters I have racked up to come out and cheer me on! I'm lucky to have such a big group. If you care to come out and watch me as well, look for bright orange arm warmers, and zebra pants :) It's going to be awesome.**

Forecast:


5 Days and a wake up!

OOORAH!

October 17, 2011

Baltimore Half Marathon 2011

Charm City, what can I say about you? Baltimore won me over this weekend, when I previously thought I disliked the entire city (other than that wing place Jake and Helen showed me, yum yum).

We arrived in Baltimore Friday afternoon, with my ankle already a slight bit pissy at me for who knows what this time. We headed to the hotel to check in, picked up our packets and bibs and AWESOME race shirt (thanks Under Armour!), and then decided to tour the city on foot to kill some time. We headed to Federal Hill and took in some great views, and eventually found ourselves at a cute little italian restaurant for some carbs and relaxation...and a 32 oz beer :)

After a not so restful night in the hotel, we woke up and started preparing for the late 9:45am start of the half marathon. The guys headed to their corral at the front of the pack and I headed to mine, alone, in the back of the pack. The cool part of the Baltimore Running Festival is that while you wait for the half marathon to start, you get the privilege of watching the full marathoners run past, including the elites. I love watching the elites....they make it all seem so effortless.

The race finally started, and almost immediately you are confronted with a hill. About a mile into the race, my newfound friends, the shin splints, came back in a roaring fury. I pulled over to stretch it out, tried to walk it off, and had a small little teary moment where I thought my race was over only 1.5 miles in. I decided to suck it up, as usual, and eventually the pain eased enough for me to resume running.



This is the elevation chart that was provided. I would like the record to show that this elevation chart was a complete lie. The baby hills seemed bigger in person, and the large hills seemed to never end. Along the route, the people of Baltimore were great at providing their own music for us to hear and cheering out of their houses (Shoutout to the sketchies that kept cat calling). These people also lied. Almost every other person would say, LAST HILL and then it's ALL down from here! BS, people of Baltimore, BS. The chart does tell the truth about miles 4-7 being completely uphill, without much of a downhill to enjoy after the climb. As if the hills weren't enough of a challenge, it was stupid windy on Saturday. At first the wind was helpful, pushing at our backs...til about halfway when you turn around a little lake/pond and begin running into the wind. Running into the wind AND on large hills does not make for a good time for me. A few cuss words escaped my mouth when I would gratefully hit a downhill...just to have the wind SLAM in your face and make it feel like work.

Eventually I did cross the finish line, unhappy with my time but glad to be finished. I think that course was hard on everyone and I vow to never run the Baltimore full marathon unless I truly want a challenging uphill course. The medal we received is awesome, the best one I've gotten thus far.

Celebrating after the race made everything worth the effort as well. Ohio State and LSU both won their football games, so everyone was in a good mood when we hit the town for some partying, making for a really great weekend.

The best part of this race had to be later that day and also on Sunday...my legs felt/feel fine. This is the first time running over 10 miles and not feeling sore after. Hopefully a good sign for 13 days from now :) I feel better prepared now having to deal with more than one long run that didn't start out the way I had hoped. I know I can rely on myself mentally to get through whatever happens during the 26.2, and that's a really great feeling.

Bonus: A few weeks ago I consulted with a coworker about my desire to run the JFK 50. He told me I was crazy. I got an email from him today stating that at the Baltimore Marathon Expo, a friend of his actually talked him into doing the JFK 50. He said, 'I have no idea how that happened, but I look forward to seeing you out there with us.'

My dear coworker, I know exactly how that happened...it's always the same reason for why I join a race. All you have to do is ask me and there's a rare chance I'll say no.

I keep getting asked why I started running, continue to run, continue to desire higher mileage when I frequently mention my ailments, how difficult 20 miles felt, etc. It's extremely difficult to explain the draw of an ultra marathon to someone who doesn't run at all, and even to those who have done 26.2. It's especially hard when I haven't quite completed 26.2 yet myself! Last week a different coworker heard my story of the 20m and then prompted me why I continue to do it when it doesn't always feel good. I always have a hard time answering this because I think it's something only fellow runners understand. You go through the pain, but once it's over, you only remember the accomplishment.

As Dean Karnazes said in his book Ultramarathon Man: "To those who asked me 'Why?' I would frequently offer up some shallow explanation like 'I enjoy running.' What I guess I should have said is 'Go out and run fifty miles, then you'll have your answer.'"

Because only until you experience it can you really know what it's all about.

Next stop, Marine Corps Marathon. Oorah!

October 11, 2011

Made it to the taper!

WOO! Hellooooo Taper, I never thought you'd come!

So much to cover in this post. Yesterday was a huge, HUGE day for me, hitting my first ever 20 miler. And I did not cry. I wanted to cry...but I didn't.

All of September had been a very trying month. I had my first ever trail half marathon (which was also only my second ever half marathon), my first running injury...which led to my first real running and training plan setbacks for the Marine Corps Marathon. The month was very exhausting physically, mentally, emotionally, and filled with moments of helping friends through their races and embracing that sometimes recovery is smarter than forging ahead and stubbornly showing your strength. It takes a different kind of strength to recognize that your body needs the rest and actually give it to yourself. It takes a different kind of strength to know that although you are resting, you can still be capable of accomplishing what you originally set out for. I rested for weeks after that trail half marathon, weeks which included many, many tears.

I said in a previous post that I will never regret running that trail half, and I stand by it...injury and all. These past weeks since that race have definitely been difficult, but worth it. I know where my determination comes from, and I now know that I have a love for trail running.

Last Tuesday I ran a long run of 16 miles after work, in a little over 3 hours. I wobbled around the days immediately after, my body shocked at the intensity after being sedentary for so long. I failed to run after that until yesterday. Hell or high water, I was getting in my very last long run before tapering and yesterday was my last chance to squeeze it in.

This past weekend was extremely eventful, filled with tons of time with friends. I (late) volunteered at the Army Ten Miler, getting to know a fellow runner while there monitoring the food tent at the end of the race. This person is inspiring with his accomplishments, and we had a really great night out in Georgetown that evening. Hadn't considered the fact that walking around that much the night before my first 20 miler could have such an impact.

I had a restless night of tossing and turning with nerves for the next day. I woke up with already tired feet and tired mind, ate not nearly enough breakfast (one thing of oatmeal is NOT enough for 20 miles when you didn't eat a ton the night before), and in general had a bad attitude about the run. But I left the house anyway. About two miles into the run I started to feel that intense hunger. First warning that I did not eat enough. Never mind the stomach growling, but it was a clear indication of a possible burnout down the road. I started doubting how I could possibly finish the other 18 miles. I made it down to Independence and texted friends searching for someone to snap at me and tell me to suck it up. It wasn't until Hains Point that I realized I only needed myself to say suck it up. By this point I was already mostly just walking, and it continued to be that way for mostly the rest of the run. I got yelled at by a man on a bike that I should be running, not walking, and I got high-fived for my Semper Fi Fund shirt. I'm not ashamed. I think it's hard enough to run 20 miles, but knowing that walking will tack on time also requires you to find a level of mental toughness I wasn't sure I had. I wanted to sit down every bench I saw. I can't be too angry at the turn of events because I learned so many lessons that day. I was nauseous, sore, overheated, covered in sweat. I had no music, no running buddy. And I made it. And that's all that matters to me.

So now I go into these last 19 days confident that I can and will give everything I have on that course. I find myself getting a little emotional writing this because I know all the work I've put in, and I'm so close to accomplishing something very important to me. I know I'll cry on race day...hopefully they will only be happy tears :) I apologize in advance for how much of a nervous wreck I will be for those next 19 days.

This weekend will be 13.1 miles at the Baltimore Half Marathon. The men I'm going with (at least one of them) will be pushing a 1:40, so they're just going to have to suck it up and wait an hour for me to finish. I'm in taper, and I plan on enjoying it! Next week I will post how that race goes, as well as helpful info for any wonderful people who want to come out on Oct 30 to cheer me on!

Oorah!

September 29, 2011

Bugs as Protein

The main thing I took away from this is that it's not always a fun, spiritually fulfilling experience. You don't always have your best performance when you want your best performance. Sometimes the day just plain sucks and you have to say screw it and keep going. - Dirty Running

Yesterday was not the best running day for me. I was coming off of the excitement from Monday's run, which I hoped would be enough to carry me through the miles. I didn't account for being extremely frustrated in many aspects of life, completely drained and exhausted, super busy at work and socially, and on top of it all...sick.

Despite feeling completely exhausted and not able to 100% breathe, I decided to go run anyway. Yay going against my better judgement! It's what I do best (this can be applied to not just running)!

I pulled into the Mt Vernon Trail parking lot, and much to my happy surprise I saw toons of very attractive men running topless. Makes me sad that winter will come soon enough and I will no longer get eye candy while I'm out and about. Anyway...I was sitting in my car, pouring water/gatorade mixture into my camelbak like usual. I went to put the camelbak on.....you know the mouth part you bite to suck water out of? Yeah...that popped off and the liquid started spewing all over my right side of my body and on the ground. Yay. I'm usually clumsy, but when I'm sick I turn into CRAZY clumsy. It's ridiculous.

I finally started running down the trail and headed to that little cut-over patch that brings you across traffic and to Arlington Cemetery. The bugs were infatuated with me and my gatorade-y goodness...and I can't blame them (except now that I have a buuunch of bug bites all over I'm a tad unhappy). This is not to mention the one bug that decided to go all Magic School Bus and fly up my noise...never to be seen again (BLEH).

Let's just say overall that the run did not go well. What was supposed to be 7 turned into a very slow 3, my legs still tired from the Monday 6. One of these days my ankle will return back to completely normal size and not still a wee bit swollen like it seems to want to stay.

Tonight, I go again for 6 or 7, then I plan on watching Run Fatboy Run and drifting off to sleep. Saturday, waking up SUPER early to go for 20 miles, then a quick shower, chugging soooo much caffeine, and a 4.5 hr drive to the Poconos, PA to watch my AWESOME friend finish her first HALF IRONMAN!!! Already very, very proud of her...

...and looking forward to a nap while she busts her butt on those miles :)


In the meantime til I can tell the internet world all about my first ever 20 mile run, here's a little something I found on Dirty Running's blog:

"The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for."
--George Mallory, 1922


Wise words that I think can be applied in so many ways...especially to our racing endeavors.

September 27, 2011

So I have these zebra pants....



Yeah, how awesome are those?!?!

Thanks to runningfunky.com, I will be looking fabulously ridiculous as I run my 26.2 miles with my Semper Fi Fund shirt on. I think the red shirt and the zebra bottoms make for a winning combination! Plus, everyone should spot me pretty easily!

This past Friday I attempted 6 miles to ease back into my training schedule for MCM (33 days away!). It. Did. Not. Go. Well.

Like, at all.

It took about an hour and a half, at least. Meaning, I walked 90% of it...in the downpouring rain. So much fun, oh so much. The problem this time WAS NOT MY ANKLE. It was my freaking leg muscles. It felt like I had never run before in my entire life, which of course would worry anyone that is only 33 days away from needing to run 26.2 miles.

Yesterday, I apprehensively laced up my shoes, complained to my roommate, and finally got myself out the door to attempt the 6 miles again. My reasoning now being (maybe stubborn) that I will continue to pound out the 6 miles until they get better and I am happy with the results. My training schedule says 5, I did 6 and I kicked butt compared to the 6 from last week! I'm not where I was time-wise before hurting the ankle, but it's definitely a good start to making my way back, and I am thrilled to go that far mostly pain free!

Today is 7, which shouldn't be too bad now that I've found my determination again. I'm a bit under the weather, but hopefully that won't slow me down too much.

Now it's just waiting to hear if I'm going to Italy for 60 days and missing MCM, or if I will actually get to cross that start line after all!


In other news, still planning out next year, and it looks like after MCM, my next A-race will be the DC RnR full in March to try and qualify (as much as I want to raise $500 to run the 50 if I don't qualify), then after that my training will be entirely devoted to JFK 50.

What up 2012?! Bring it.



http://www.irunfar.com/2007/10/training-for-your-first-ultra.html

September 21, 2011

Yeah, I'm a big cry baby.

Recap of Philly:

I stuck to my word and did not run, except for a little sprint at the end when I saw Helen and Jake coming up by the finish!

Sadface. It's hard to go to packet pick-up, and the expo and feel all of that energy and nervousness from other runners, and know that you will not be part of it the following morning...and keep a happy face for those around you who have nerves and worries of their own.

Plus side: My friends ROCKED it! I am so unbelievably proud of all three of them and can't wait to share more experiences like this with them. I'm so glad I got to be part of this big moment and cheer them on along the way! And I made a new friend! :)

I got home Sunday night with the hope of running a few miles on Monday. I went after a doctor's appointment (thanks dr for reminding me that no matter what races I miss, there will be dozens of others to choose from), and headed out to Mt. Vernon Trail, crossed over to the path to Arlington Cemetery and ran down towards Iwo Jima and Rosslyn. It was about a 3 mile loop, and I walk/ran...about 40 min time.

I got home, played with the dog a little, and I think while I was playing with him I MUST have laid on the ankle wrong and mild pain has been there since.

Tuesday: I came home from work (wore my brace all day), found out my Semper Fi Fund charity shirt had come in the mail, got SUPER excited about that, changed into my running gear and headed out for what I hoped would be a few easy miles around the neighborhood.

Wrong.

I got about a mile out from the house when the pain started to become more than just dull. I knew it was smarter to just walk and head home, so I hung my head in shame but said I would be strong and hold it together...at least wait til I got inside.

Wrong.

I whimpered most of the mile back to the house, almost full out crying in the residential areas where no one was around to see me. I got inside, grabbed some ice for the ankle, and tried to dust myself off and put myself in a better mood.

Then my mom called.

I sobbed like a little baby. There's something about my mom calling that always brings out my raw sadness. It's always been extremely difficult to hide my emotions on the phone or in the presence of her, and this was no exception. I cried about Philly. I cried in disappointment at my current running ability. I cried that I had received the charity shirt and was dismayed that I would not do it justice or even be able to wear it at all come Oct 30. I cried at letting down the people who generously donated money to support me. I told her not to come in case I couldn't run or didn't make the cut off time. Thankfully, she listened to me through all of this crying, and simply told me she would be there no matter what.

Today I see things a little more clearly. I knew then, and I know now, that this ankle is not the end of the world (running wise) for me. I know it's temporary so long as I don't make things worse, and I know that my goals are still obtainable. It will never be easy for someone to come so far and get so close, and get injure...sitting and waiting for the day that they can regain the physical level they were once at.

I am left here to keep adjusting and reworking my training schedules, adding on new workouts to accomodate the new 50 Miler goal for next year. Having a goal so far out helps to remind me that I have time when I look at the big picture.

Tomorrow I am going to try again. My ankle has been feeling better today, and I will try to wear the brace when I go out for the miles.

I just have to try and stay positive until then.

September 16, 2011

Cheer Me Up Post

This post is a little, 'Hey Stephanie, Isn't life GRAND?!' kind of post...just what I need today.

I am officially, (like RIGHT NOW) deciding, I will not be running the Philly RnR Half this year. And while it saddens me to go to a race and just watch others whiz by, I get excited at the fact that I can be a support crew for Helen, Jake, and Rob on their first ever Half Marathon. (And I absolutely LOVE watching the elites do their thing, which you mostly miss when you are racing yourself. They are just so gracefully fast!) I believe that everyone should have someone they know in the crowd cheering for them at their first major race...not just some random cheerleaders or spectators.

It's a hard pill to swallow, and I've been trying to gain perspective on how in the long term skipping this race will lead to great things down the road.

Scenario. I'm at a bar, all sadface about realizing I will not be racing this weekend. Then a friend comes and asks how crazy I am. Hm. What an odd question, eh? I could answer this many ways. I say halfway. Find out I'm all the way crazy because he proposed running the 50th anniversary race of the JFK 50 Miler in November 2012, and asking me was the only convincing I needed.

Milestones:

June 2010: Began running
October 2010: First race ever - Jazz Half Marathon
September 2011: First trail half marathon
October 2011: First full marathon - Marine Corps Marathon
September 2012: First 30 mile trail race (First ULTRA!) - Iron Mountain Trail
November 2012: First 50 mile race - JFK 50 Mile

Now, to go about this 50 mile race over a year from now, I will attempt to make the qualifying times to get in the best spot possible. Otherwise, you bet your sweet self I am raising that charity $500 and running this anyway. At least, that's the plan. The course goes through the AT and C&O, and also back roads. Should be a good time, good combo of terrain!

So in the scheme of things, skipping this half marathon is not the end of the world. It is the beginning to so many other things that I need to keep my ankle healthy for. Do I feel a little like this ankle injury has given me too much time to think/reflect/come up with potentially really awful ideas? Maybe. But I have already done more in the past year as a runner than I ever imagined just because someone asked me to run that first race. How is this any different? Maybe I can change my name to Stephanie Ultra Walker. Heh heh.

Will I potentially back out after I experience my first 26.2 in a little over a month? Maybe, but unlikely.


Time to educate myself on proper nutrition, training plans, etc to get me exactly where I need to be a year from now!


Disclaimer: If you are reading this and feel the need to tell me this is impossible/stupid/irresponsible/ anything negative, please save it for someone else, or talk about me behind my back because I do not want to hear it. Thanks.


http://sites.google.com/site/ironmountaintrailrun/Home
http://www.jfk50mile.org/


Why I think this is a brilliant idea:
http://www.extremeultrarunning.com/1stultra.htm

September 15, 2011

Listen to your body.

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward. - Henry Ford

It's now Thursday.

It's been five days since I unfortunately rolled my ankle.

I argue over the fact of telling people how it feels, or what I think may happen come Sunday morning when the gun is ready to go off. I am exhausted with hearing the 'you should do...' and 'you shouldn't do...'.

This past Saturday I had the best race experience I've ever had, and could ever imagine. I never thought that a lack of spectators and hours on an isolated woodsy trail could make you feel so alive, liberated, and stupid happy. I am smiling in every picture from that race, and it's not just for show...it is pure enjoyment. I will never regret this race, no matter what happens from here on with my upcoming road races...so don't ask me if I would make the same decision again, because I would in a heartbeat.


This picture, thanks to Runner's World, shows EXACTLY how I feel. I've been reading different opinions and advice on what I should do, etc...but it always comes back down to my desire to get back out there ASAP, without causing more damage.

I am now brace-less, no longer hobbling, but there is still a slight bit of pain. The swelling is almost completely gone, and the only thing that still seems to be crushed is my spirit. This is my first running-related injury and because of it, though it has only been five days, I feel like a caged animal. I get home from work and I'm not sure what to do with my time I would normally spend running. I'm getting sick of crunches and arm work :) I am envious of every runner I see around the city. I've been bargaining with myself and my ankle that if it just zips back to shape, I will put more effort into my training. I will stop complaining so much...on and on. The quote about setbacks helps to remind me that this (hopefully) is just temporary, and will serve to make me stronger in my desire as a runner and in my ability...hopefully.

Tomorrow we leave for Philly, and I will be bringing all my running supplies/clothes just in case I find myself feeling okay for a lovely, slow 13 miles. If I can't run this race, then I will be the best cheerer out there for my friends, and I will look forward to the trail races to come, and MCM in 45 days.

I will miss wearing my flip flops and vibrams around the office when I'm healed though...

September 12, 2011

Lessons on Trail Running

RECAP TIME!

5:45 AM, alarm goes off and I spring out of bed and hurry to dress, brush teeth, pack up and get out the door. I feel tired, still groggy from the late night before, and we head to Starbucks for a little pick-me-up.

After stopping for coffee, my amazing friend drove me to Fountainhead Regional Park for packet pick-up and the race. She listened to me whine the whole car ride about how nervous I was, how I thought I might throw up, more nerves....on and on.

8:30 AM was getting closer, and at 8:20 they gathered all the women racing to be serenaded by the VA Happy Trails Club men members, singing what else, but Happy Trails To You...




The timer wound down, and with a simple "Ready, Set, GO" we were off for a lap around the parking lot, then onto the paved road for a mile uphill before turning onto the actual trail.


I felt like everyone was booking it up the paved road to give a little cushion time, since running on a trail takes longer. We all turn onto the trail, and game on, women are single tracking behind each other, being nice and asking to pass when needed. Not going to lie, a good chunk of women blew past me, and shortly after starting on the actual trail, I tripped on a rock and miiildy rolled my right ankle (but didn't fall).

After about half a mile, the crowd had significantly thinned, and I tried to find my groove to settle into. I found one of the girls I ran with on the practice run last month, and just followed behind her. We hit the Do Loop, with the amazing, ninja photographer waiting for us.


The Do Loop is known for being 'hilly'. People like to claim it has 'rolling hills'. They are rolling STEEP hills in my book. Steep in the sense of, who the hell RUNS up these?! I was still following my new friend, and we made it through the Do Loop okay, hit the aid station, and I decided that I now found my confidence to continue on ahead alone. I left the pack I was with, and about half a mile later, fell.

No one in front of me, no one behind me....I'm not even sure what I tripped on, but down I went and POP goes my ankle. The shock wore off, I picked myself up, wobbled a little, tried to wrap my head around the pain and checked for broken bones or blood....none luckily. Just an unfortunate roll, I thought to myself (as well as some cuss words and a little disappointment at fallnig only 6.5 miles into the race). I took a few steps, decided to walk a little, then decided it didn't hurt THAT bad and I could try running on it.

At about mile 7.5 you hit a spot where you cross over the paved road to go into more trail/woods. At that spot they have two volunteers making sure you head the right way, and checking off your name on a clipboard to account for you. They told me I looked awesome, I chuckled and told them I fell back there and they didn't need to lie to me! I considered quitting the race, thinking that I promised a friend I would stop the race if it got dangerous or I thought it would interfere with my MCM. I thought very briefly about quitting, and decided that I am stubborn enough to continue on....what's the worst that could happen?

I got to the point where you reach the parking lot and cross over to the other chunk of the trail, with 5 miles left. I glanced around for my friend so I could tell her I was okay, that I fell, but that I would finish. I didn't see her so I ducked back into the woods for what a volunteer claimed would be the easiest 5 miles of the course. You lie, YOU LIE. Immediately I passed a graveyard (how fun....). Then you hit this GIANT hill. Literally. I do not know who is running up this. You are insane. My HR spiked, I was breathing reeeally hard...and just trying to make my way through 5 more miles to ice my ankle and be done! The five miles consisted of giant, long hills, then a little flatness, then more hills, and the downhills had too many rocks for me to feel comfortable soaring down. I made it to the aid station, chugged some gatorade, noticed my fingers had swollen to sausage size, ran down a hill, across a bridge, through a stream, and finally I was on my last leg of the race.

Then I fell. Again. Same ankle. This time, more pain. No bouncing back easily...I hobbled some steps, cussed, got pretty upset, then decided hell or high water you still have 2 ish more miles til you're out of the woods, literally. Again, I was all alone out there. I decided it was probably a great idea to just walk from that point on. I had enough time and wasn't worried about getting kicked off. Then my running friend came up from behind and stopped to walk with me for a little bit. We shared stories of our ailments and she went on to run ahead after seeing another girl suck it up and run through the pain. Once I was left alone I decided I would try to run the flats as much as I could, just suck it up and block out the pain...I found my grit. I pushed through the pain, finally made it to the finishing area and got so excited to be there that I sprinted the last tiny bit, not wanting everyone to see me hobble the end.

I finished in 3:12, and I know that had I not gotten hurt, I would have definitely come in well under 3 hours. I'm still extremely proud of myself for completing this first ever trail half marathon, and digging deep when I needed to rely on myself to get through the pain.

Next year I will try again. Out of all the races I've been in or watched, this was hands down the best. Everyone was extremely supportive, women cheering each other on as you passed, kind words from everyone, and accountability for the participants. For a race consisting of only 206 participants and run by a small trail running club, I felt like I was running with people I had known my whole life...encouraged, welcome, supported.


I could not be more grateful to my best friend for driving me to and from the race and sitting there waiting for me to finish. After the race, she (and her fiance and friend) went above and beyond and helped with my dog, catering to my request for ice, etc. They were all so understanding, and didn't make fun of me when I finally broke down and cried in pain and disappointment, wondering how this will affect my other races. You know a true friend when they do all that, paint your nails while sitting at home with you since you can't do anything else, drinking beer and chatting about the attractiveness of Disney cartoon men.

We'll have to see how I recover over the next few days to determine if I can run/walk the Philly Half, or if I will be a cheerer for them while they race next weekend. Either way, I look forward to what's ahead, knowing I have what it takes to endure.

Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles. - Alex Karras

September 06, 2011

4 Days and Counting Down!

My normal countdown leading to Marine Corps Marathon has been temporarily put on hold while I have my mild panic attack about the Women's Trail Half Marathon THIS SATURDAY (Not that I don't know that the MCM is 54 days away)!

I don't think I've ever had more anxiety for a race before, including the looming MCM. I guess it has a LOT to do with the cut-off time of four hours. Normally, I would not scoff at a 4 hour cut-off time for a half marathon...I know I am completely capable of that on a road race, but for the trail race, it has me in shambles. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that I've only ever run on this challenging trail one other time, and not for the full 13 miles. Or maybe it's that I consider myself very, very inexperienced in trail running. Or maybe it's because I know after the miles add up, my feet like to shuffle, increasing my chance of tripping/hurting myself. Or maybe it's that I know how draining this will be on my legs, and I know I have a half marathon road race the next weekend (running just as a training run). Or maybe I'm just plain scared.

The race will start at 8:30am, everyone heading out at the same time. Just 240 women, all out to reach the finish line before getting kicked off. I recently looked at my practice run time, searching for some glimmer of hope to ease my growing nerves...but alas, all I found was more anxiety. I stopped clocking the run after 7.2 miles, at the cross over for the other part of the trail. We hit the 7.2 in 1:51...not very promising. Granted, I am trying to remember that I had a completely bum toe, and was following a very slow someone for most of that run, but it still isn't doing much to reassure me. Even the fact that I completed 18 very painful and mentally draining miles this past Saturday is not enough to ease my mind. I've decided, I'm going to just make sure there is always someone with in my eye sight. I DO NOT want to get left behind to navigate alone, and possibly get lost....especially in the Do Loop...that part was really confusing for me.

I am confident in my mental strength to get through the run, I just hope that 18 miler left enough juice in my legs for the trail! This isn't to say I'm not completely over the moon that I am even racing in it. I am extremely excited! I think part of me really enjoys the after part of a run/race when your legs are completely spent, ponytail dripping in sweat, salt crusted face, sense of accomplishment pulsing through you. Knowing you left everything out there. Knowing you deserve that beer. :)

And apparently, they call your name as you come into the finish. How fun is that?! You don't get that with the big races!

I really commend the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club for putting on this Women's Trail Half every year to encourage women to take up trail running. It's a cheap registration, fun quality shirt, and really great people. Stumbling upon this race and participating in the practice run totally opened me up to trail running and has brought me to sign up for two other trail races this year.

Here's to hoping the weather and my legs hold up!

September 01, 2011

I promise I will stop signing up for races...

...at some point :D

Eventually, there has to be a lull, a break in the endless training and races, but that won't be until at least March June. I don't think I was fully aware of how ambitious my running plans have been until I was at a running happy hour this week talking about my upcoming races and my training plan. Some folks looked at me like I had ten heads, between the back to back trail race and road race as part of training for MCM, or the amount of miles I plan on putting in for a long run (22) before tapering, or the fact that I've already signed up for another full marathon in March (apparently that's a short turn around time from MCM for some people to wrap their heads around).

Old me would have started second guessing these decisions, start questioning if I made the right decision signing up for second races without ever completing that first one. But, the new me knows (mostly) what I am capable of, the determination I have, and the understanding that I am not running for first place, or to create an awesome log of PRs. I am running these races out of sheer pleasure. I will enjoy these, and no amount of scoffing at my plans can or will change that.

Now, do I have a mild addiction to signing up for races? Probably. But the good news for me is, there is no anonymous group for that....yet.

This brings me to my schedule:

This Friday: Whopper run of 18 miles!
Sept 10: Women's Trail Half Marathon (I have NEVER been so excited for a race!)
Sept 18: Philly RnR Half Marathon
Sept 24: 20 miles, ouch!

Oct 1: 14 miles
Oct 2: Get my lungs ready to scream for Erin's 70.3!!!
Oct 8: 22 miles
Oct 15: TAPERRRRRRR! 13 miles
Oct 22: 10 miles
Oct 30: MCM!

Gotta figure out what to do with myself for a little while.

Life after MCM looks a little like this:
Nov 20: Fountainhead 10 Miler, #4 of Backyard Burn Series with EX2
Dec 4: Hemlock Overlook 10 Miler, #5 of Backyard Burn series with EX2
After Dec 4 - Jan, SERIOUS downtime. No really...
Mar 17: Suntrust Rock'n'Roll full Marathon, DC
May 20?: DC Tough Mudder
June 20 ish: hopefully the EX2 Off-Road Half Marathon

In conclusion, I need to buy trail shoes sometime in the semi-near future.

Also, pretty glad my birthday party was much less attended than intended because that means there's a free bag of ice in my freezer just waaaiting to be used for an ice bath tomorrow after my 18. I need to map out an extra two miles, and change my route so I'm not starting from work. I'm actually not THAT frightened at the distance, I'm more worried that it's either a fluke that the 16 went so well, or that this 18 will bite me in the ass when I go to the Trail Half (have I mentioned I AM SO EXCITED?!). Or that I will actually throw up (I'll be prepared with food to eat after the run this time). Or that the pain at the end will get the best of me, but hey that's what foam rollers and icyhot are for ;).

But the awesome part is I am in the best shape I have ever been in. And Marine Corps Marathon is NEXT MONTH!

Sidebar: Go buy The Long Run, seriously, this is my absolute favorite running book, the man's journey is just incredible.


“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” - e. e. Cummings

August 25, 2011

Kiss My Legs Goodbye



SEMI-WEEKLY ISH RECAP:

Monday: Took Bruce for extra long vet visit and made sure he didn't die from the new medicine - did not run :(

Tuesday: Woke up eeeearly to run before work, but my legs felt like 100 lbs of lead. So I went to work early, earthquake happened, went home and ran that evening...little too late in the evening. It started getting dark when I was at the turn-around point, but it was nice running through the city at dusk, and cool too. Legs still not cooperating...thank you trail run. I think it was 4 miles.

Wednesday: Yesterday I headed to Roosevelt Island for my usual parking area. After checking out the totally sexy secret service type man that parked right next to me and contemplated what kind of suspicious behavior would have me getting frisked (mostly jk...), I started my run :P
I made my way down the Potomac Heritage Trail (not very far) and got a little scared when I saw a heap of what could have been trash, or could have been some one trying to hide/live down there...so I high tailed it back to the regular, safer trail. I decided to go up the ramp to get to Rosslyn, where Erin busted me for walking down Lynn to get to the Iwo Jima Memorial area. Once I was close by there, I started to run, around the memorial and down past the cemetery over towards Ft Myer. Not only was this a beautiful day, but passing by the memorial and the cemetery served as a great reminder of race day, and why I am raising money for Semper Fi Fund for the wounded soldiers who sacrifice for us daily. Talk about humbling yourself.

Tonight I have off, because tomorrow after work I get to run 15 miles. Weee... It will be my first time EVER going over 13 miles. But not the last time.

It's close to only two months left before I attempt the 26.2, and I am over halfway to my fundraising amount I need want to raise.

If you have already contributed, I thank you again. Your support means the world to me. If you haven't contributed, please consider.

http://www.active.com/donate/semperfifundmcm2011/fundSwalker

I'll fill you in on Monday about how I kicked butt in those 15 miles!


August 22, 2011

Trail running is good for the soul.

(this is what it looked like when I got to the park)


Happy Monday, everyone! Last time I posted on here I vowed to make all of my miles this week, let's see how I did:

Monday - 3 miles, fast run, had to stop at the crosswalks, but overall a good time

Tuesday - 5 miles with Erin, excellent run, ankle getting a little easier!

Wednesday - Off

Thursday - 4.....This is when I disappoint. I busted my toe Wednesday evening, on my own apartment door. How lame of an injury. The little metal part that lines the bottom of the door just sliced through a good chunk of my pinky toe...absolutely painful, and bled way more than I thought a pinky toe could! So clumsy.

Friday - Debated running the 4 that I missed, but I was incapable of putting a shoe on the toe without it being pretty painful. :(

Saturday - Decided to suck it up and head to Fountainhead Regional Park for my practice run for the Women's Trail Half Marathon, and I am SO glad I did, even though I was incredibly nervous.

Saturday's run was so refreshing for my senses and my spirit. I arrived at the parking lot a little early, so I made sure my camelbak was ready, phone was packed, everything in order. I headed over to where the pack of people (mostly women) had gathered, and being my shy self I just kind of stood alone for a bit...until a woman noticed we had the same watch. We began chatting, and that helped ease my nerves. I've mentioned before, though I get lonely when I run without people, I am also very anxious and nervous to run with a pack. We signed in for accountability so they knew if someone had gotten lost on the trail (sigh of relief...I wore my BRIGHT orange shorts juuust in case), and off we went for the first 8 mile section. I decided to settle towards the back of the pack in case my toe gave me any problems. A good bit of the trail only has room for single tracking, so I made friends with the women in front and behind me, and the four of us stuck together for 95% of the 8 miles. I was sweating pretty heavily right from the beginning (hello two big hills that start off the race), but then I noticed everyone was in the same boat as me.

Eventually, one of the head guys of Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (Bill) decided he would lead us the rest of the way, which was a great thing because some of the turns were hard to identify. The first 8 miles start out on paved uphill road, then you turn onto the trail and it's flat-ish for a while, some uphills but nothing too bad. Then you eventually hit the do-loop, and that was where the challenging part started. The entire 'loop' is just this mix of steep uphills, steep downhills, and semi-flats. We decided to walk the uphills to conserve energy, and my thighs were burning anyway. We finished strong, minus one of the original four, and I even got to lead the three of us for a while :)

At the end of the entire run, I was sucking air, my lungs felt completely like toast, and I could barely walk with my shoes on. My toe has been pretty swollen since, but in hindsight, I would make the exact same decision and go on that run again. I don't think I've ever been sweatier in my entire life, and it felt like heaven.

Yesterday and today my calves are pretty sore, and my thighs feel used. I decided to sign up to be a member of Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, with the prospects of MAYBE someday going farther than 13.1 on a trail (most of their organized races are of the ultra variety). The attitude and love of trail running from the members is very contagious, and I look forward to the friendships I will form.

Sidebars: I just started reading The Long Run by Matt Long, a book I've been waiting for in paperback for a very long time. I just started yesterday and I'm already halfway through it. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book, and if anyone personally knows Matty, hook a sister up! That man is delicious. (I do not care about THIS age difference)

My birthday celebration is this Saturday, pushing my long run of 15 miles to Friday night so I can be completely relaxed and not so exhausted on Saturday for the party!

I'm fifth on the wait list for the trail race! Getting closer! That means more trail runs on the weekends for me now if anyone ever wants to join me!

Countdown:
WTHM: 19 days
Philly RnR Half: 27 days
VA TM: 62 days
MCM: 69 days


Websites to check out:

www.thehaysay.com

http://trailrunningsoul.com/trs/

www.vhtrc.org