Friday, August 4, 2017

July Recap

My July was everything summer should be--tons of outdoor activities and taking time to try new things. I just missed the 100 mile mark, but not by a lot, and in exchange for more cross-training than I've done in a long time.Welcome to the July recap.

Variety was the theme this month! I not only attended three yoga classes, but I also did three weight lifting days and started tracking my food intake again. My husband claims ping pong is exercise, so I'm also posting this picture of me playing croquet on the 4th of July.

Cross training and food tracking comes through commitment and practice. No one wakes up wanting to track their food intake. It takes time. It takes discipline. For me, it's worthwhile when I have a goal, like trying to lose weight, or lose fat, or feel healthier. Introduced to it last winter, I've been using the MyFitnessPal app from Under Armor. It's great--and free! Doing this has encouraged me to try new foods, to reach daily nutritional goals without getting bored with my diet.
Greek yogurt blended with ice, frozen berries, and 1 tbsp agave syrup
With weight lifting, I started with a handful of machines at the gym and with truly pathetic weights on them. Over three sessions I added one more machine and increased my weights a little on the others. I lifted a little when we went on vacation, too. There is something satisfying about it.

And finally, one day I went on an 11 mile bike ride through various city neighborhoods. This was the longest bike ride I'd ever done! It was so fun. My guide for the afternoon was a colleague who knows the city very well and told me all about how various development projects had come together. I have lots of pictures from this day, but will share this one: The house from A Christmas Story. Did you know it was filmed in Cleveland? You can take tours!

On the running front, I continued meeting my wonderful little Sunday morning running group. Each week we meet and run 10 miles. Sadly I don't have access to a group picture at the moment, or I'd share. I also finally "ran the bridges" downtown, which I also have no pictures of, but thoroughly enjoyed.

Mid-month I went to Pittsburgh to hang out with my best friend. Our hotel was near the Heritage Trail, which runs along both sides of the rivers and I believe elsewhere as well. I enjoyed seeing some of the sites while only getting a little bit lost. I actually ran across the bridge pictured below, and on the other side saw the Duquesne Incline and Fort Pitt Tunnel. 

On the last day of the month my fall training cycle started. I'm training for a half marathon in October, with a minimum goal of a course PR. The training schedule is tough, but I'm as ready as I'm going to be. I've built a lot of endurance this year.

In Summary
Running miles for the month: 93.7
Weight lifting sessions: 3.5
Yoga classes: 3
Miles biked: 24

Sunday, July 2, 2017

June Recap

After the Canton Marathon I dialed it down a notch in May. Ok, a lot. I cut miles by two-thirds and rested. When June rolled around I was ready to get back out there. I had some help getting it done.

Following in our tradition of The Adventures of Shannon and Joanna*, the first Saturday in June I plotted a route into the city where I met Shannon and we ran a round trip to Lake Erie and back. It brings me more than a little joy that I can run to a lakefront from my house. That's something I've never been able to say. And we had a good time doing it. AND she drove me home, so I didn't have to run back up the big hill.
If you squint at the background, I promise there's a lighthouse behind us

A few days later my long-time and interstate running buddy Rachel and her incredibly fast friend Barb came to visit while vacationing. Like we do, we ran. June wouldn't be complete without it. I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed this. We've known each other for almost 6 years in which a lot has happened for us both. We have history. We talk deeply. I savor our visits. 

I've talked before about MRTT, which is a national, free running group for women, that has local chapters. It's been among my favorite parts of moving to Cleveland. Women post their plans and look for others to run with. Through this, I found a Sunday early morning running group I've done three longer runs with now. Each week has been a slightly different group of women. I've really enjoyed getting to know them.

Later in the month I started having trouble with my left quad/knee/foot, which isn't a new thing. While I was running hills in the winter and spring this was less of a problem, but the moment I stop doing things that strengthen my hips and glutes, it's right back. Step 1: yoga. At first because Shannon invited me to a free yoga event downtown for International Yoga Day. I enjoyed this so, so much. Even if I did get bird poop on my elbow. I consoled myself with lunch and beer afterward.
Posted by Lululemon. We're in there somewhere.
This past week I finally went to yoga at a studio near me. It was hard. I needed the ass kicking. I will be returning.

The thing about yoga, I don't enjoy it. I'm sweating and standing still. I like both but not at the same time. I'm a runner who loves to go fast. And I like to get stuff done--like stuff I can check off a list. That's not yoga. The whole inner world of yoga is something I have to work at embracing. At the same time, I also don't hate yoga. Hot yoga, different story. No love lost there. Anyway, yoga is a thing I do to keep running from hurting me. And I need to keep doing it.

All told, I turned in this year's 5th 100+ mile month, and by month's end my 2017 miles exceed all of 2016, which is nuts.

Miles: 100.3
Goals for July: Strengthen hips, get left quad/knee situation stopped

* The Adventures of Shannon and Joanna, which I adore, consist mostly of Shannon graciously showing me all the fun things Northeast Ohio has to offer, and me getting her lost, caught in ice storms, or agreeing while she's drunk to run really long distances the following day. Gradually I'm finding things to invite her to.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Race Report: Canton Hall of Fame Marathon

Last week was weird and nice. I slept in. I ate a lot of carbs. I worried. I hydrated. And then it was time to leave for Canton.

Packet pick-up went relatively smoothly. I, like everyone else, parked illegally in a fire lane. No one seemed concerned. Just like there weren't signs directing us to appropriate parking, there weren't signs telling us where to enter the large school campus to find the expo. I wandered a bit with other people until we saw someone leaving with a bag, and they directed us in. Once inside things were easy.

I saw Shannon working at a race info table for a fall event. I got my bib and my teeny tiny women's race t-shirt. I had plans to room at a nearby hotel with two other women in my running group (although I'd never met them). Just as I was ready to leave I got a message that they were also at the expo. I met them and a friend of theirs, so we all went to the hotel, got checked in, and headed to dinner.

We tried an Italian place but, sadly, it was prom, so that was a no-go. We ended up at...wait for it...Cracker Barrel. Fun fact: the Cracker Barrel does not serve pasta. We loaded up on pancakes, french toast, and a few daring souls on meat, and called it a night. (Run group fail on the photo op)

I stayed up for a while with the girls in my room, watching TV and talking. Checking the weather one last time. Earlier in the week rain had been a huge concern. It looked like we'd clear from the rain, but that it would be in the upper 70's by the end of the race.

We did our Flat Momma (picture below) and headed to bed about 9:30.

We were all awake well before 5am Sunday. Our prep worked like a highly choreographed dance, even though we'd only just met. What great girls I got to room with! We were out by 5:30 and headed to the fairgrounds to park and board the bus to the start area.

Once at the start, we all did what runners do: used the port-a-potties. Stood around nervously. Saw people we knew. Peed again. Took a group picture.
MRTT Cleveland, Akron, even a few PGH I think. And a lot of people missed the photo op. It was so much fun meeting so many people I'd only known via Facebook.
When I lined up, another runner told me the start had been delayed 15 or 20 minutes due to an accident on the Interstate. I later learned this accident snarled the parking situation for at least several hundred runners. We anxiously waited. And then, we were off. I was sort of in disbelief that after all the training, it was finally really race day.

My shins cramped for about the first two miles, but the pace felt fine. I knew the first 4.5ish were pretty flat, so I just settled in an enjoyed it. I saw Shannon and her girls around mile 3 handing out water. This was unexpected. She wasn't signed up to man an aid station. Whoever was signed up didn't show, and since Shannon's awesome like that, she enlisted her tiny terrors and they got the job done.

Mile 1: 8:54
Mile 2: 8:49
Mile 3: 8:47


We passed the big hospital, a landmark I knew to look for, and started a gentle uphill. I'd memorized the altitude trends mile by mile. By mile 9 or so we were headed up Market, the bit I knew was the hardest stretch of the whole race. I'd planned for this. I lowered my pace a few seconds.


Mile 4: 8:48
Mile 5: 8:58
Mile 6: 8:50
Mile 7: 8:54
Mile 8: 8:44
Mile 9: 9:01

We wound through some neighborhoods and made a bunch of tuns and headed toward the half-marathon finish, near the start line. 
Mile 10: 9:14 (I think I paused for a water stop)
Mile 11: 8:58
Mile 12: 8:53
Mile 13: 9:06

Where I'd hoped to be about 1:54 at the half, I was something like 1:56. I could deal with that. It might be hard to pull off my PR, but I'd easily be under 4 hours and the PR still felt possible.

And then mile 14 happened. Or, it didn't happen. I'm really not sure. My legs felt fine. My cardio felt fine. And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my fast miles were over. The forecast has said the heat would come on quickly, and it had. It was hot. It was humid. And that was it.

Mile 14: 9:15
Mile 15: 9:42

I saw Laurie at 15.5. She'd made me a sign and I LOVE HER FOR IT to get my PR. I saw it and just shook my head, and told her that had ended about a mile and a half earlier. Oh, how I wished that weren't true. 

So here's what I'll say for me in this scenario. I can't say I wasn't well-hydrated. I can't say I didn't have enough carbs, or that I wasn't prepared, or that I wasn't rested. In fact, I was really well prepared for this situation. A few faster people I knew ended up only slowing their races by 5-10 minutes, but I think they were the exceptions. For a while I kept mile times respectable by running slower and walking through water stations.

Mile 16: 9:49
Mile 17: 9:36
Mile 18: 10:33

And then I....well....let's just say it involved my asking a police officer not to arrest me. 
Mile 19: 15:54

After that, strictly owing to the amount of time I'd already been on the course and the heat, there were no points to be won. There was nothing that could be done to salvage a time I wanted. My goal became finishing without getting sick, and that meant more walking. Everyone was walking.

Mile 20: 11:04
Mile 21: 11:29
Mile 22: 11:37
Mile 23: 11:09

Somewhere around mile 24 I found Shannon again. I'd actually seen her once earlier, arguing with a man who was just determined a road wasn't open (it was) and nearly getting arrested for being belligerent about it. But anyway, mile 24, she'd been looking for me long enough that she'd set a time, and if I hadn't shown up by then she was calling the med tent to see if I'd checked in somewhere. I was fine, I was just slow. She had her girls in the double stroller and they jumped in with me. SO MANY PEOPLE asked if she'd done the whole race with the stroller. After a bit, someone would start to say something and we'd both just reply "no, she's just with me for a few miles!"

And let me say, thank God this woman had sunscreen in the stroller. The bit I put on my shoulders meant my shoulders were the only part of my upper body that didn't burn.
Mile 24: 12:23
Mile 25: 12:40
Mile 26: 11:50

Just before mile 26 we found my family. Shannon and her girls jumped out and I grabbed my older son to run me in. I always cry at the end of a marathon, but running down the straightaway holding his hand there was no keeping the emotions back.

Finish: 4:26:15.
This might be the only photo of either of my children ever to exist on this blog. I just love it so much.
Was race day what I wanted? No. It was not even my second fastest marathon. And that has to be ok. As a wise friend reminded me, the training and the race are separate events. There is no certainty in a marathon. It just means I'll chase that PR another day.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pre-race jitters

Because even for Marathon #5, I still get nervous before the race.

I've enjoyed some great workouts since my Week 14 recap. Shannon ran part of my 12-miler last weekend with me and showed me a new route while we were at it. 
Me & Shannon. I can't imagine this training cycle without her.
Running here does not suck.
This week, she ran my last fast workout with me, which was 5 miles with 3 at 8:18. It was a gorgeous sunrise and, after settling into the run, it was so fun to go fast. It was especially fun I think because I knew this was it before the race. I loved it so much.

And then, just a few easy miles from there until tomorrow--race day.

Mid-day Thursday I switched to carb loading, following an article I got several years back in Runner's World--the same plan I used before my last full marathon (fall 2014). I have to say, I had a much harder time with it this time around. My diet has changed since 2014 to where I just don't eat as much sugar or as many carbs as I used to. Switching to an almost-all-carb diet has been difficult, even for such a short period of time. I've had to scale back from what the plan recommends, and eaten more "real food" to keep my body happy. But, I've eaten enough to say I've carb loaded. Hopefully it's enough. 
This yogurt is so unbelievably sweet. Like frozen custard that isn't frozen. I'm sure someone can eat this as part of a meal, but it isn't me.

In my final act of pre-race over-planning, I've Google Street Viewed the race course so I know what to expect. I did not buy a Pace Band (yes, I know you can do this for free if you're willing to ignore terrain), but I have studied the elevation chart and memorized my mile-by-mile planned pace.

I've checked the weather hawkishly. Earlier in the week my weather app was sure we'd have an 80% chance of thunderstorms. Fact: I nearly cried when I realized that would likely mean a race cancellation. Luckily, at this point the chance of a storm is pretty slim. Race temps will be in the upper 60s and 70s and probably quite humid. I think I'm as tolerant of heat and humidity as most people (brief aside: Clevelanders love to complain about humidity), and I'm hydrating like a champ today.

Last thoughts before I pack up and head to Canton?

I'm nervous. I'm afraid allergies or a cold or something might compromise me. I'm afraid of the weather.I worry that I haven't mentally prepared enough for this race. I'm just nervous.

I'm thankful. Training for this race has so frequently reminded me how lucky I am to have landed here. I've particularly gotten to know my friends Laurie and Shannon during this training cycle, and hope someday they know what their friendship and support has meant to me. I've gotten to know running routes all over the east side of Cleveland and have come to appreciate how awesomely beautiful many of those routes are.

I'm so much healthier than I was a year ago. Over the past year I've been able to address some nagging pains and injuries. Training this spring has felt much easier than it did the last time I used the same training schedule, and that encourages me. I've also lost a little weight, largely thanks to changes in my diet.

That's what I've got. Let's go do this thing. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Marathon Training Week 14: You may saaaaay it's a taper

But when I'm still running 45 miles a week it's kind of hard to see how. Welcome to the recap!

Monday
Today was novel in two regards. First, I'm not sure my calves have ever been this tight. So tight I stopped to stretch them about 3 times in the first 1-2 miles, and even to massage them once. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish my 8 miles. Finally around the end of mile 2, when I stopped at a light for a bit and stretched again, finally they released. Just, wow, though. I think I was trying so hard not to slip on Saturday that I must have changed my gait or something. Who knows!

The second thing: there was a discarded red apple on the sidewalk in front of the middle school. What better place! It made me laugh out loud.

Tuesday
Tuesday morning it was raining, so I stayed in bed and put the run off until Wednesday.

Wednesday
I got to go fast. I love to go fast. As I was running fast--and smiling--I thought, today will be the day my co-workers drive past me and wonder why I'm grinning like an idiot while running. I just...I love to go fast.
 
Thursday
Seven easy miles. I did a loop down through the next town over and home. On my way back I saw a small purse left behind on a park bench, near a school. I hesitated. What should I do? Should I take it into the school, in case it's a student's? In case they could check it for ID and try to find the person? I went back and picked it up and opened it. If it had a wallet or phone, I decided, I would take it to the school. It didn't. Just some lip gloss and a few similar items. I hoped it hadn't been picked over already. I hoped no one loved the particular bag a lot.

Friday
I got lost going to Shannon's house, a full 36 hours after telling her we could run near her because I was sure I could finally find her house. Someday, someday I hope to say reliable things to that woman while planning our runs. 2017 is not, apparently, that year. Thankfully my phone had come back the day before so while it had deleted her contact information at least I did have GPS.

We ran through horse farms. Beautiful, rolling hill, green pasture, mansion-laden, horse farms. The sun was streaming through some clouds. The horses were pasturing while wearing blankets, which I hadn't seen in so long (maybe ever?) I'd forgotten it was a thing they sometimes do. Beautiful morning with a wonderful friend.

Saturday
I realized I've nearly completed this race season and haven't brunched after a Saturday long run even one time. Unacceptable! So I texted Laurie and Shannon Friday night to see who was game. To my great joy, Laurie said she could run a few miles with me. SO HAPPY TO HAVE HER BACK!! So Saturday morning I went to our agreed-upon trail head to run the first 9 solo. In perfect timing, just as I was walking off the trail back into the parking lot, Laurie pulled in. It was so good to see her again. We ran my last 6 together, then headed to brunch.

Laurie & me
Both Shannon and my friend Rosie met us for brunch. I loved the place we ate at. Everything looked so good, it was hard to choose. They served the best breakfast sausage I've maybe ever had. What a win.
The dream team of strong-willed women
Total Miles: 45
Favorite Run: I loved going fast. I loved the horse farms with Shannon. Laurie was back. This week, I can't call a favorite. There was just too much good.

Next week I taper in earnest, cutting back more dramatically on miles and effort. I'm ready.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Marathon Training Week 13: Rain and snow and ice, oh my!

Monday
Six easy miles. I told myself to relax, that this is the weekly reset button on running. I did finally relax into it, it just took a little bit.

Tuesday
I'm using my iPad for most things since I currently don't have a phone. I forget that when I sleepily hit the iPad when my alarm goes off, the way I have the settings it just turns it off. And so, I turned off my alarm and slept an extra roughly 45 minutes.

It was hard to make myself get up. I was over-tired the night before and had slept ok, but not great.I told myself it was probably still raining (it wasn't). I told myself my stomach hurt and I should go back to bed (it did, but this is pretty normal when I first get up when it's super early, and not at all an excuse to go back to bed). I told myself I could switch my rest day (tomorrow) to today and push this back (I shouldn't--it was a tough workout). I fought back against the inner voice and won. I made it to the back door, to my shoes, and outside.

Two mile warm-up: easy, slow, steady. No big deal.

8 x 800 Yassos.
Yes. This day has finally arrived.
(Yassos: you run 8 800s in the minute:second pace of your hour:minute target race pace. So, if you wanted to run a 4:00 marathon, you'd do Yasso 800s at 4:00 per 800)

In all sincerity, I have been looking forward to this for weeks. I ran 6x800 a few weeks ago, but on a treadmill, which might make it a little easier to pace. Would I be able to do them at pace outside? For 8 of them?

Yes. My slowest 800 was still a few seconds faster than my goal pace. Success!

The run did feel substantially harder than my treadmill version had. In part, this was due to wind. In part, I ran the intervals faster. And once, I had to dodge a car. All told, definitely pleased with this one.

(And those cool-down miles, sooooo slow)

Wednesday
Rest day. Like a mother.

Thursday 
This is an actual Facebook Messenger conversation with details obscured to protect the innocent.  




I ran through an honest-to-God thunderstorm. Thunder. Lightening. In the dark. At one point I thought, "I'm not sure it's possible to rain any harder." There was a puddle so big it covered three-quarters of the road; I got lucky though and got to it when there were no cars, so I could walk around it. It was so bad at one moment I fantasized Shannon would just materialize with pastry (because she does that) and a dry, warm car (which I knew I was not out at the right time to really hope for). Of my 7 miles, it was raining for about 5. 

I was so wet when I got home that I put my shirt in the bathroom sink. Fact. 

Friday

Cleveland: We had a mild winter
Me: Ok, but can it be done now?
Later in the day I had occasion to drive through rolling hills and lots of trees. It was gorgeous. Like, the kind of day where people stop and get out of their cars to capture the perfect picture of snow-laden trees hanging over the road. Beautiful. And I did finally get the easy run done. I've lived here long enough to know the roads will be clear by mid-afternoon, so I waited until then.

Saturday
Plan A: meet a group running a point to point that would end with breakfast. Make new friends! Run new places!
I got up at 4:30 to get dressed and drive to the meet-up. Because I don't have a phone, I looked up all the directions for the whole round trip. And then realized, I didn't have time. It was 30 minutes from the end back to the cars, and then ~45 minutes back home. And with a group running a variety of paces, I was not going to get home with enough time to shower, eat, and get the rest of the way ready for my younger son's 5th birthday party*, which was at the house. 

(*Sidebar: if you're a parent wondering where the hell your kid's invitation was, we tried. He was determined to invite just a few kids from his daycare. How about more kids from your class? No. How about kids from the street? No thanks.)

So I reluctantly texted my soon-to-be running buddy to cancel. So disappointed. 

Plan B: Run alone near home. I went back to bed for a while, then got up and ran. I quickly realized the path I usually run on days like this still had too much snow and ice on it and was not passable. I redirected, no big deal. As I do, I circled back to my house at the halfway point to refill water and grab more Gu. I left again and headed north. 

My path north goes through a one-block stretch of road that's currently closed for maintenance, and thus isn't being treated for snow/ice. I walked over the snow and ran where it was clear. Then my feet flew out from under me. It wasn't clear. It just looked clear. A sheet of ice. The good news: my internal monologue reacted well--I knew what to do. Mid-air I was bracing for impact. The bad news: I landed pretty f-ing hard. I groaned. 

A guy heard me. He came running to see if I was ok. 

He fell exactly the same way on the sheet of ice. 

We were both fine. He at least had on a thick hat that probably protected his head, which was my chief concern for me. I noticed shortly after that both hands were bleeding, just a little. I didn't know until I got my shower later that I also got an impressive bruise on my left elbow. Then there were muscle-related responses. 

At mile 20 my left shin clenched hard into a ball. I actually had to walk a few times, and that night it hurt so much I could barely walk. By Sunday morning, and after a good bit of massage, it relaxed. My abs hurt on the left side into Monday. But all told, the incident was more funny than painful. 

I finished my 22 miler slower than most long runs, and feeling successful. 

It feels weird to say when I'm still running 45 miles next week, but the taper has officially started! It's all downhill to race day. It's hard to believe I've arrived at the taper already!

Total miles: 50
Favorite run: The Yassos, easily.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Marathon Training Week 12: Sideways

Monday
I did not even make it off the starting block this week before having to rearrange. My younger son didn't eat much Sunday, tossed and turned a lot Sunday night, and didn't eat breakfast Monday, earning him a day at home. And my husband was out of town. So I had no way to run.

I have a 1-mile time trial later this week. I'll ditch that, move everything back a day, and take today as a rest day. So I'll only miss 1 mile. That's a small price to pay for a maybe vaguely sick kid.

Also, my phone got stuck in a perpetual reboot cycle, earning it a trip home to ATT to be fixed. I'll be lean on pictures until it's back. Sad face.

Tuesday
What a morning. My intention of getting both kids dropped off the minute their schools opened did not happen. I was over-tired and slept a bit past my alarm. And then kids. When you're trying to rush to get out of the house. Glacial. I had them both dropped off and I was back home by about 9:15. I checked work email and took care of a few things, then headed out.

I was dressed for rain, which meant I was hot for the first half, until the turn-around. It started to very lightly rain at about 5.5, which was fine, because:
Image result for there's no such thing as bad weather for running just bad clothing 

Wednesday
Stilllll sideways. I came home early from work so I could run before picking up the kids. I had 9 miles planned with some fast miles. I got through the 2 mile warm-up and knew I didn't have it today. I suspect running at 4:15 was largely to blame, but who knows. I remembered that I had 6 easy miles sometime later in the week, so I did that instead and called it a day. 

Thursday
It rained all day. ALL DAY. As in, thunder and lightening and heavy rain. So no. That 9 miles I pushed back? Not happening.
Friday
Still raining. A lot.
Saturday
Some hours after my weather app said we'd moved to a 0% chance of rain--zero percent--it was still raining. But by mid-morning it stopped. I spent the morning cleaning the house, and headed out about 2pm for my long run. 
I was scheduled for 13 miles but was feeling guilty about missing 18 miles earlier in the week. Good news: I can run 13 miles pretty casually. Less good news: I have to think about 16 miles a little bit. I stopped by the house at 11.5 to get water and whatnot, and after that I was entombed in lactic acid that would not go away. I finished 16 miles at a just fine average pace, but I felt it. 

Total miles planned: 44
Total miles ran: 29
Favorite run: I mean, I guess Tuesday, although to be honest it wasn't very memorable. The week just didn't really happen. 

There isn't anything I can do about it, and there wasn't much I could do about it as it was happening. I have to just move on. Next week is another 50-mile week, and with it, my last shot at a really long run before the race. I'm eager to get this coming week right.