Friday, December 1, 2017

What I Learned Through Helping a Mentally Ill Person for a Year

This post has taken me more miles of solo running to work through than perhaps any other in this blog's history. It's not running related other than I've used running to work through it. It is, however, important. It is important that as a society we permit mental illness to be discussed without shame. I can only hope my words help achieve that goal, or help someone else in the effort.

I listened to and tried to help a friend suffering from mental illness for a year. We'll call my friend Pat. At first I didn't know it was mental illness. At first I only knew Pat was going through a rough period in life. At first, because it isn't in my wiring to realize it, I also did not realize the role narcissism played in Pat's mental illness. To summarize an incredibly complex story, after a year, a group of friends working with Pat attempted an intervention, to push Pat toward professional psychiatric assistance. It did not go well, and afterward Pat lied to us about seeking treatment we came to learn Pat did not actually seek. Out of exasperation, exhaustion, and sadness, we all cut ties with Pat. We blocked Pat on social media and via phone. 

The year took a lot out of me. It wasn't anything I wasn't happy to give for a friend, and I'm not sorry for trying. But it was emotionally exhausting in a way I'd never experienced. It's taken me a long time to process the lessons learned from this experience.

I have no training in psychology or any health field. I offer you no warranties about my experience. I have no credentials to support the labels I have affixed to Pat (depressed, narcissistic). I offer this because I went looking for help online and found things like this helpful. Here's what I learned from a year of trying to help Pat. 

1. Do not expect any of it to make sense
Pat's downward spiral started with one self-constructed lie, told to heal an old wound and with flagrant disregard for reality or realistic expectations. Pat engaged in some very bad and life-altering behavior as a result of believing this lie. Pat was burned by this behavior. Pat could not accept that the behavior had been bad, that the repercussions had been predictable and warranted. Pat lashed out, primarily by sharing inappropriate information publicly and constructing stories from manipulated parts of other stories.

Sharing inappropriate information was shocking behavior from Pat--totally out of character. When I say inappropriate, I mean incredibly personal information about Pat and others. I and others warned Pat--you shouldn't do this, this is too much. I believe Pat's intent was to convince others how upstanding Pat was, and what a victim Pat was. It was shocking. And scary. And weird. And made no sense. 

Like the over-sharing, stories were constructed to portray Pat in a particular way. The story line was made up of elements of real events, but each element had been dissociated from its original context and turned to fit into an image of Pat as a victim and hero simultaneously. The stories became Pat's reality--became Pat's prison of obsession. The stories consumed Pat. There was no relationship with Pat outside these stories. The over-sharing of personal information was sometimes done to support pieces of these stories, which also did not often make sense.

The stories only made sense if you accepted that they were constructed to portray Pat as victim and hero, to garner attention and build up Pat's ego. If you expected the stories to come from reality, that was another matter entirely. And Pat screamed this story and its new elements 24/7 as they developed. It thickened, and after a while standing at the edge pointing Pat back to the light of reality became impossible.    

2. There will be a lot of intentional fishing for the mentally ill person to figure out how to get a rise out of you
Any hint at questioning the story was met with brutal and swift personal attack. To get through the personal attacks, I had to embrace the knowledge that they weren't real. Pat probably did not even believe the horrible things said. After watching Pat attack someone else, I realized Pat had been fishing for some time, just slipping bits of bait into conversation to see what would get a reaction, then waiting. Example: When Pat saw someone hesitate to discuss domestic violence, Pat remembered it. Pat later accused that person of having had domestic violence in her life and wasn't Pat a great friend for not having judged her for not dealing with it, and how dare she judge Pat for Pat's life. This had the desired effect of temporarily disarming her.
3. Someone has to want help
Yes, we've all heard this before. I did not fully appreciate that it also means you cannot talk someone into wanting help. Remember, you cannot expect the thoughts and actions of a narcissistic, mentally ill person to make sense. That means you cannot logically outline the reasons they should seek help. Logic will not apply. You also cannot appeal to the emotions of a narcissist to get help, because a narcissist believes they really are special and above others. The desire for help has to come from within them. They have to want it, and you cannot make them want it.

4. Sometimes, there will be nothing you can do
This one was the hardest for me by a wide margin. If you haven't gathered already, I'm pretty logically oriented. I see problems, I evaluate their possible solutions, and I implement one. In this scenario, it felt like knowing the wiring in your house was unsafe and doing nothing. Actual people, multiple actual people, felt unsafe. I worried about Pat's physical safety. We tried all possible avenues to get Pat help, even a few avenues we just forced to exist out of desperation. It was incredibly difficult to accept that there was a problem of actual human safety and well-being--a problem I could see and explain clearly--and no viable solution.

5.  Getting out is hard
I have yet to meet a narcissist who does not want to control others. I have garden variety narcissists in my life in other capacities and struggle with this with them. Some do it passive aggressively. Some forcefully. Some by manipulation. But they all do it.

Pat was no different. Pat wanted our attention unconditionally and at all times. We tried to remove ourselves via silence, but Pat was relentless. We asked Pat to stop contacting us. It went poorly. It was painful. But when you tell someone they don't own you and they respond poorly, that has to tell you that leaving was the right choice. It was for us.

At the end of all this, would I do it again? Yes. I would hope anyone would. Part of our job on Earth is to care for our friends. But I would look for clues more wisely than I did before. I learned a lot about self-care through this. It's real. It's important. Sometimes caring for others can gut you. There has to be a limit, and you have to know when you've reached it. It's something I'm continuing to learn.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October-ish Recap

Back in September I started having real trouble with an injury coming out of my left hip. The strain wasn't new. I'd been struggling to contain it most of the summer. But then one day, I just couldn't any more. I couldn't keep my left knee from turning out. I couldn't take shorter steps to keep it from wanting to slip. I couldn't hold the pain at bay. So to make a long story short, I eventually downgraded my registration for the Towpath Half to the 10k. It's why I never posted a September recap. It was such a disappointment after a great training season.

Despite rest, yoga, and limited massage therapy, the problem hasn't gone away. So...October was pretty low mileage. Let's be real about this for a moment. Yes, I was bummed to miss cool mornings and fall foliage. But...after 9 straight months of training, the mornings sleeping in weren't so bad either.

At the end of this, I ran way more miles in September than in October. It sounds better if I tell you the 2-month total: 186. Let's go with that.

The highlight of my October was certainly the Towpath 10k. My friend Kelly and her older daughter came from West Virginia, and this was running gold. Kelly started running relatively recently and has gained a ton of speed in a short period of time. I see pictures of her smiling during races. We've talked at length about training. In short, it's been fun to watch her take on running, and even better to get to share a weekend.

The other reason I loved this race day: my Sunday running group. We coordinated logistics and cheered each other on. They are wonderful.

On Saturday Kelly and I went to packet pick-up, where we ran into Cathy. We picked up some goodies, our bibs, all the hoopla. There was a sweetly presented yet quite confusing promotion about pee cups. Since Kelly lives in WV, she doesn't have a local Athleta (true story: I was 20 before I saw a Gap), so we went to the mall for a bit. Ice cream was involved.

Then, because we're both 10s on the Type A scale, we were up, dressed, and out of the house ahead of schedule on Sunday. We met my friends to switch people between cars, Kelly with them to the half-marathon start and Kathy with me to the 10k start. We headed to the parking and our starting lines. Kathy and I stretched, as we were both having some issues. 
At the start line
Race day weather was outstanding. It had rained the previous day, which kept the dust down on the Towpath. It was cool and beautiful. I felt good. Somehow, magically, probably from adrenaline, my knee/hip didn't give me trouble. I used my old mantras, and reminded myself how many hours I'd trained for these minutes. That it didn't matter if I was tired. I just pushed, and enjoyed it.

I came in at 48:04, which was enough to win my age group. Go me!
With my age group award
I went through the finishing area and came back around to cheer in my friends. One by one they came in, with two setting their first sub-2 hours half times, and getting new PR's in the process! That's a big day for any runner, and I was so pleased I got to be part of it for them.
Front, left to right: Kathy, Katie, Tina, Cathy
Back: me and Kelly
Once everyone was in, Kelly and I went to the Park's general store (which is completely adorable) to buy a cup of coffee. She said she'd dropped her debit card and cash when she'd gotten her fuel out of the zippered pocket of her water bottle mid-race. As I was paying for our items, the cashier asked if it was together and I mentioned her loss. The cashier replied that someone had turned in both items. We found our way to the lost and found and--yes--there they were! The lost & found people were as happy she turned up there as we were someone had turned in her items. The running community is great.

After lunch at one of my family's favorite spots, Kelly and her daughter were headed back home.

The rest of October was low-key. I didn't run a whole lot. My last run of the month was in cold rain. Because the forecast said 5% chance of rain but it's Cleveland so.

Moving into November, I'm hoping my hip/knee will find some peace. I'm enjoying yoga in the meantime though. I've gotten onto going to a place by my work over lunch time, sometimes with another running friend. There's a nice studio near my house too, and I go there sometimes. It's taken years--literally years--but I do finally actually enjoy yoga! It's possible.

That's the recap! I'm hoping for a few more miles in November.

Friday, September 1, 2017

August Recap

It's September 1. This morning I ran with my beloved purple plaid arm sleeves and a tank top, and this evening I will change out my summer wreath for a fall one on my front door. Summer is over. Yes, I love summer. I'm an academic--of course I love summer. But fall running is the best. The leaves. The cool mornings. The races. So here's to putting a bow on a pretty spectacular August.

Early August
The first week of August led up to the Hofbrauhaus 10k, which holds a special place in my heart. Last year I ran it just to see if I was fit and uninjured enough to hold a sub-9 minute pace for 6 miles. I loved the super flat, out and back course, and the post-race party. I looked forward to race registration all winter, and was delighted when my MIL paid for my entry as a birthday gift.
Pre-race with Cathy, part of my Sunday morning crew

When August rolled around this year, I'd set my sights on really racing it, with a goal of running about a 7:30 pace. Mother Nature had other intentions, and saddled me with a terrible cold. I was not able to run my desired pace, but I was thankful for the opportunity to race.

After the race I heard an announcement about checking your finishing place at a tent. I was curious how I'd done. I made my way over and had to laugh when the guys' side had a really long line and the women's had about 5 people--it felt like justice for women's restrooms (and, ok, maybe a testament to the male ego). I checked my place and was surprised to learn I'd placed second in my age group!
I'll take it!
By mid-August, to focus on the positive outcome of a fairly terrible story, I had the occasion to reconnect with some wonderful ladies I used to run more with than I had recently. We planned a Dash & Dine, which is exactly what it sounds like. I had so much fun. I really missed this group.
Robin somehow escaped the photo op
Also, mid-month, I did my first speed work in several months. It was 800s, which I love doing. I was at the end of my cold and wasn't sure if my lungs were ready to be pushed that hard. I hit my target paces. I also wondered if my neighbors thought I was crazy as I kept running around the block.

Late August
By late August my Sunday morning group found ourselves in the dark at 6am. The first time this happened we just ran together until the horizon lightened enough to let us see our surroundings better. After that we decided to meet a little later.
We clean up ok! Missing Katie's mom and Cathy though
I've enjoyed my Sunday morning group so, so much. I admire and have fun with the women I run with, and the place we run at is absolutely beautiful. The last few weeks we've watched the fog lift off the river as the sun rises and watched egrets (I think) hunt over the water. I've taken in fields full of yellow wildflowers, and along the riverbank, beautiful wild lilies. This is an easy place to love.

On weekday runs, by late August I'd mixed things up by running in other neighborhoods a few times. On one of those runs Candice introduced me to one of her running friends who I'd never met. Good times!
Meeting new runner friends
Looking forward to September, I have a month full of training leading up to the Towpath Half in early October. I'd love a PR but will settle for a course PR. We'll see how this month goes.

In summary:
Miles: 124.5

Cross Training
Days lifting weights: One! Yikes! I thought I was doing better than this.
Yoga: Twice.
Ok, so clearly the bump in miles this month meant less cross-training. I will try to do better on this in September. 

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!

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

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.

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!

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.

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)

Rest day. Like a mother.

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. 


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.

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

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.

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 

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. 

It rained all day. ALL DAY. As in, thunder and lightening and heavy rain. So no. That 9 miles I pushed back? Not happening.
Still raining. A lot.
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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Marathon Training Week 11: 50 Miles

For, I believe, the third time in my life, I hit 50 miles in a week. Welcome to week 11!

My weather app did that thing again where it couldn't decide if I was in the clear or would be running in rain and snow. Gun shy after Saturday's hypothermic debacle, I went back to bed, packed a gym bag, and hit up the treadmill later for this easy run.

When I stepped outside, it felt like spring. The fog held a chill: damp, quiet, calm. The air smelled of wet leaves. It was dark. My feet crunched on pavement, its occasional gravel under my weight.

Rest day. Brought clothes to do office yoga but ran out of time, so I did it at home in the evening. I used a new workout from doyogawithme. The workout wasn't as fulfilling as others I've used, but I enjoyed trying a new one and getting the benefit of a workout. It's amazing how much even a little yoga can heal things that hurt from running.

18 degrees when I stepped outside. I was cold at first, but knew I'd warm up after a mile or two. And oh, these are the mornings I live for. I was most of the way finished before the sun really rose. Before that, I could see hints of light on the horizon, all in shades of blue, leading up to the inky, dark sky and a sliver of a moon over the lake.

The run felt easier than I expected, all but a small uphill part. I was home before anyone was awake, which let me get breakfast started and clean dishes put away.
Shannon and I met for this easy 5 miler. Well, easy for me. She was pushing a jogging stroller containing 3 and 5 year old girls. Not so easy. But a beautiful cool morning.
There wasn't a memo. We just showed up like this.
I must have checked the weather 40 times between Friday afternoon and Saturday. Rain or no rain? Rain or no rain? I finally decided that while it might rain, it looked unlikely to rain until at least 10am. If I started early enough, I could get this 22 miler finished before the rain came.

But just to be sure, because, lake effect, I told Shannon I'd text her before 6am if plans changed.

The plan only changed because I was a few minutes late getting out of my house. I ran the same 2.7 miles as last week to meet her. We ran 6 miles together. Without incident. I so appreciated having the company for part of this very, very long run.

Shortly after parting ways I saw a skunk. I stopped where I was, about 30 feet from it, and let it waddle itself across the road and well into the other side of the street before I proceeded. Without question, and with more thanks than I know how to express here, this was the most disruptive, concerning part of this run.

I finished out 11.5 miles to end up back at my house. I left a note for my still-sleeping husband, listened to the kids playing quietly, refilled my water, grabbed more Gu, and was back out the door. Down to the lake, a lap around, a lap through Cleveland Heights, another lap of the lake, and back toward the house. I got tired toward the end. Mile 21 was a 9:55 pace. I know enough to harness this as an opportunity to train my brain to deal with fatigue, and that's exactly what I did.

Total miles: 50. FIFTY!
Favorite run: I loved them all. Ok, not Monday, but all the others. Gorgeous sunrise one day. The smell of spring another. Running with Shannon. A successful 22 miles. It's too hard to pick this week.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Marathon Training Week 10: The Week I Learned What Lake Effect Actually Means

It's spring break at my university, which gave me the luxury of running this 4 miles mid-day. Nice.

As the east coast braced for soul-crushing snow, and as my older son's school was canceled, I kept watching the forecast and saying, guys, it says only 1-3" overnight. And guess what? We got about 4" of snow overnight. NBD. But it kept snowing through Tuesday, and the roads weren't great until mid-afternoon, at which point my window for getting 'er done had closed, as I was entertaining the kids. The worst part of the day was that my university also closed, so I didn't have access to the gym to do this run indoors.

With institutions re-opened, I headed to the gym to get my speed work done for the week. Could I have done it outside? Probably. But, SO COLD. Today was the second time this winter the cold has bothered me, and mostly at this point its because I went ahead and put the Easter wreath on my front door.

My training schedule sends me to the track only twice in this 16 weeks, and today was the first, for 800m repeats. I dutifully set my treadmill to 0.5%-1% grade (I varied it through the run) to simulate running outdoors. It might still be because I was on a treadmill, but these 800s felt pretty easy. This one was a win.

I don't watch a ton of tv, but lately when I have, I've been all over the commercials for fried chicken sandwiches. Hell, for almost any food. Today while I was getting my 10 miles of pace running done, my husband picked up lunch. So bad. So good. If there had been two, I would have eaten two.

My once per year fast food
The only rest Friday on my entire schedule. And thank goodness, because this body is tired.

The following are copied and pasted from an actual text conversation:

Friday 11am: "I'm showing rain and snow all day tomorrow but clear/foggy Sunday. Unless things change, I will likely do my run Sunday instead."

Friday 10:55pm: "Now it's saying maybe clear. I'm going to bed now and getting up early to check weather and will decide then."
Shannon, Saturday, 6:29am: "Mine is saying rain snow mix for 60-70%."

Saturday, 8:36am: "My phone can't decide. I checked twice in the last 5 minutes and it said two different things. It says it's going to rain but the radar looks clear until about 1."

Saturday, 9:21am: "I think the weather is going to hold" 

So we went. I ran almost 3 miles to a train station where I met Shannon and her bike. She biked and I ran about 3 miles east, where I wish we had aerial video of us going opposite directions around a cul-de-sac, and back. About the time we got back it started to rain/snow/ice pellet. We stopped to take a video and decide what to do.

A post shared by Shannon (@clerunningmom) on

So things weren't good at that point. We hoped the storm was just blowing through, that we were just getting the edge of something nearby, because, THE PREDICTIVE RADAR HAD BEEN CLEAR. I'd checked 487 times. The hourly forecast had been inconsistent but looked like it would be clear. I'D CHECKED.

So we kept running. The plan was to stop by my house 3 miles later anyway, so worst case, we could bail then if necessary.

Things did not get better. Things got worse. Much worse. People driving by started staring openly at us, shaking their heads. And, to make matters infinitely worse, neither of us was wearing a jacket. I hadn't had a hat until we went past her car. I was wearing regular, non-thermal, non-water resistant tights. I was wearing my lightest, thinnest gloves. Her feet were wet. I had no money on me.

We finally arrived at my house and went inside. We plainly couldn't do the other 8 miles. We went upstairs to get dry clothes. After I changed, I found her in my kids' bathroom with her feet in the tub, running the hottest water it would give her. Her toes looked like death. Fully changed, I could not stop shivering. This lasted an hour. Neither of us could have been coerced to change into real clothes or leave again for a while after that. So at some point we gave up on the day and started baking and drinking beer. I missed an event in my neighborhood in the midst of all this and I feel terrible about it. I also missed my husband's first tae kwon do belt test, and I'm sorry for that too. And I'm bitterly disappointed to have not completed a long run. But the day ended many hours later, smiles all around, after our families had a left-overs dinner at our house. The day ended like this. Yes, most of what she's wearing is mine. Especially those slippers.
What I learned:
"Lake effect" does not just mean "lots of snow." My whole life, I thought that's what it meant. Lake effect means a storm is moving off the lake and it could end up anywhere, violently, quickly, and the meteorologists really cannot tell you where it will land. That my weather app kept changing its mind reflected this. That we got caught in ice pellets blasting at our faces was the result.

Total Miles Scheduled:
Total Miles Ran:
Favorite Run:
No, the long run was not my favorite, but certainly one I won't forget. Ever. And it was an amazing day at the end of the day.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Marathon Training Week 9: Breaking 40

I don't want to I don't want to I don't want to I don't want to I don't want to I don't want to

Oh, I'm finished.

Pretty much how 3 easy miles in the dark feel at this point.

My first speed work of the training cycle! I ran 8 miles with the middle 3 miles at an 8 minute pace.

Even though she wasn't there, Shannon helped me out on this one. A few weeks back she mentioned that one of the nearby paved trails happens to be almost exactly a mile loop. I couldn't have asked for a better way to do this run.

I ran this one mid-morning when I spotted what looked like one clear hour on the radar. At that point, by the time I got dressed and out, I figured I could get 6 of my 8 miles in before the next storm came. Like clockwork, at 5.98, the sky started to open up. I ran the last two in a steady rain, which was fine. I wore a hat to keep it out of my eyes. 

The fast miles felt pretty good, and 8 minutes was actually faster than my training plan called for. This one was a win.
Also: new shoes.

Rest. Which, thank goodness, because we had a wind advisory that was not messing around.  

Alarm goes off at 4:45. I get up and out a few minutes faster than usual and drive to the meet-up spot, arriving early. Shannon pulls in. We quickly discussed the game plan and set out: one warm-up mile, 7 miles at race pace, then a mile cool-down for me. She'd leave me after mile 6 or 7, depending on time. Promptly, we set out not at all like we were running a warm-up mile. Then, we ran the whole thing faster than race pace. Because we're us.
It took some doing to get this picture to look this reasonable

We talked about all kinds of things. How my son eating salad with his hands had been the last straw for me on the previous day. How our parents and in-laws not only prefer, but rather insist, their coffee be made. Things mean girls say. Daycare costs. The sunrise. The sunrise is beautiful! No it's not--we're on a hill! Yes it is. All kinds of things--and that's why we run. 

Another easy 3. Short and sweet.

When I was getting dressed my phone said it was 18 and felt like 3 degrees. I think the "feel like" temp for the day maxed out at 10. So I dressed for the arctic for my long run. 
Thermal tights and ski socks
Ear warmer and a hat. Also, that jacket is the warmest running jacket I own. Brooks=Run Happy.
For the first mile I thought I was overdressed and took stock of how much I could strip off and carry. Those thoughts ended quickly as the cold set in, then stayed. For the record: I really don't mind the cold, and I didn't mind it today. With the right gear, feels like 3 is no big deal. However, your body does have to work a little harder because of it, and today I really, really felt that. 

At 6 miles I took stock. Feeling ok. Feeling the miles a little. At the half way point I felt about the same. At 14 miles I was ready for it to be over, and it wasn't. And like the runner I am, I took the opportunity to train my brain to deal with difficulty, because in a marathon it isn't IF tough moments come, it's WHEN. So what if I hurt? So what if I didn't want to finish? There's only one way home, and that's to run. Here's hoping the hard miles don't come so early on race day. 

Now, about 7 hours later, this run is hurting more than most. Yes, I probably ran it too fast. Yes, I have a hard time slowing down. Yes, I was probably under-fueled. I'm not convinced any of that should make me this tight and sore, so maybe we just call this one character-building.

Weekly miles: 41
Favorite run: Easily the pace run 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Marathon Training Week 8: Multicultural Cleveland, Heartbreak

Up and at 'em! The first mile was sloooow and stiff, but I got going. After the turn-around I saw a woman I know from work. I was surprised to see her because she didn't appear to be exercising or dog walking. I stopped and said good morning and she shared what she was doing.

I learned that the Jewish month starts with the new moon. She coordinates a group to get together each new moon to mark the occasion, I think always outdoors. I'm not clear what's involved in the get-together or why it's outdoors, but I enjoyed learning about that activity in her life.

This one will enter the history books, my friends.

I slept badly, worried I would miss my 5:45 alarm. I wanted to get up and out so my 8 miles wouldn't make me late to work. I got up, dressed, happily a few minutes faster than usual. But then, then: no keys. Not anywhere. Not on the kitchen counter. Or the key dish. Or my purse. No keys. I found the spare key to my husband's car and piled into that. Started the engine. Gas light was on, and I'm not driving even near a gas station. So, shit. Back inside for keys. And then I remembered: Brendan drove us home last night.

[Sidebar: My husband and I had a very rare date night last night. We went out to fancy dinner and a movie. There were two women and a man sitting directly behind us. One of the women in particular talked all the way through the previews, rebuffing an angry old man who yelled at her to "shut up!" I had hoped she would stop when the movie began, but she didn't. I calmly asked if she intended to talk through the whole movie. She angrily got up and moved herself and her two friends across the theater, which was fine with me. After the movie as we were leaving she starts again, "Now I can talk! People acting like you can't talk in a movie theater!" They had four PSAs before the movie about it. We had a good laugh about it, once I was sure she wasn't going to try to beat me up.]

If Brendan drove us home my keys were likely in whatever pants or jacket he wore. I checked the jacket--no dice. The pants? I headed upstairs, back to our bedroom, and there they were. I was finally on my way. 

I improved on last week's hill workout, making it to the bottom twice, with a small loop added to the first out and back that added a bit more elevation gain and loss. I got 434 feet in gain and again in loss. It felt good. What I did not improve on was mastering the parking situation. I parked in a small lot then saw the signs prohibiting parking before 8am, so I had to move. Between that and the key situation, I wrapped up this run about 20 minutes later than I really should have. 

As I got back in my car and was reaching for my seat belt, a black SUV pulled to the shoulder where I was parked, facing me, which I thought was odd. Then I realized it was my friend Shannon. Figuring she was there to run and just happened to see me, I got out to say hi. AND SHE HAD PASTRIES. FOR ME. Paczki, specifically, which is a Polish donut-esque pastry enjoyed on Mardi Gras. 

How magically unicorn-jumping awesome is this?!? You finish an 8 mile hill workout and your BRF appears out of nowhere with pastry?? It was magic. And they were delicious. I took them home and my family gobbled them up. Gluttonous. Happy. 


At a 10am meeting:
Me: I had a mile time trail on my training schedule today.
Colleague: You can do that while sick?
Me: Apparently not. 

My mile time trial was a full 40 seconds slower than I expected. I can only blame about 5 of those seconds on patches of ice. I'm hoping I can blame the rest on sinus pressure, noisy coughing, and a runny nose. 

Upside: office yoga. So good.

Today I learned what the term "snow squall" means. 

Just no.  

So, this: 
Friday night Laurie and I were texting, making plans for our Saturday long run. She was doing 18 or 20 to my 14 for my drop-back week. We were planning when and how she'd get her extra miles and when I would meet her. Somewhere in the middle of that planning, she figured out what her recent pain was: a femoral stress fracture. And with that, her marathon training ended. Our long runs together ended--at least for several months.

My instinct was to hope she was wrong. But if there's one thing I know about Laurie, when she says she's injured, she's injured. She is strong--strong-willed, strong-minded, strong-bodied. And so I knew there was no hoping she was wrong. And, I'm heartbroken. For her, and for our runs together. 

Left to my own devices, as I've long said I would, I did not get up early to run. I slept. Then I played with my kids. And mid-afternoon, only then did I lace up and head out. Just 14 miles ("just 14 miles"?? Who says that?!). I didn't really mean to take it fast, but I was enjoying the cold day and felt good. So I ran an average moving pace of 8:48. The best part--heading down a paved trail and hearing birds singing all around me. Spring is on the way.

Weekly miles: 32
Favorite run: Clearly my hill workout. I won't forget that morning any time soon.

With this week finished, I'm half way through training for this marathon, and prepared to switch from building endurance to building speed. No more hill workouts. Lots of pace runs, tempo runs, and a little actual speed work in the coming weeks. The next 6 weeks are the hardest of this 16 week training cycle. I think I'm ready.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Marathon Training: Week 7

Week 7 looks a lot like Week 6 with a few more miles tacked on. The week proceeded on schedule and smoothly enough. Here's the run-down. 

Six easy near home in shorts. Shorts! In CLE! In February!

I ran on tired, heavy legs. I reminded myself that Mondays are the reset button in training. Mondays I shake things out. Mondays I run easy and tell my legs to gear up because we're doing this again. Today I took comfort in knowing the rhythm of the training cycle.

Seven miles of hills. My mid-week running buddy caught the cruddies, so I was left to my own devices. I decided, finally, to try Cedar Hill, the sole you-won't-blink-and-miss-it hill near me.

My alarm went off. I closed my eyes for what should have been five minutes. It was 20. I dragged myself out of bed, reminding myself how disappointed I'd be if I swapped tomorrow's rest day for this, and it rained tomorrow. Or if I had to do 7 miles on a treadmill. So I dragged myself out of bed and left.

This one's going to take doing a few times to figure out the best place to park and the best way to run it so I can get all the way to the bottom twice. I ran all the way to the bottom and back up once, then did what I thought was about half of it a second time, but it turned out to be less than half the elevation change. I ended up with 315 feet in elevation gain.

Lessons learned:
  • Run this one as early as I feel comfortable going. Even the edge of rush hour traffic is unpleasant on this route. 
  • This 315 elevation gain is easily harder than the 500+ feet I was doing on the treadmill a few weeks back. Watching footing, not running in a perfectly straight line. Concentrating most of the gain in a relatively short stretch of the course. 
  • Take my phone, or preferably Shannon, next time so when (not if) I feel uncertain where to turn, I have a reference.
Rest day. Took clothes to do office yoga. The day got away from me. Will try again next week.

Five mile pace run. I'm having a difficult time settling into race pace. I either run way too fast or struggle to get fast enough. On this one, I was also encountering some combination of allergies (because it was so warm, I think) and a cold, along with everyone else in the CLE. I'll get there on pace. I'll find the right gear.

Five miles easy. Seventy degrees. Crazy. Beautiful.

Saturday: aka, the run of things I didn't know existed

Friday night we had friends over for dinner and a game night. As we sat playing and drinking and carrying on, we caught flashes of lightening and claps of thunder. It rained, and rained, and rained. I grew concerned about running on the Towpath in the morning, as Shannon and I had planned, due to mud. Sometime after midnight I texted her that maybe we should switch to running closer to me, where we could run neighborhood streets and a paved path nearby.

Thing I'd never heard of #1: She suggested the Bike and Hike Path. It was just exactly what we needed. It runs near the Towpath but is entirely paved. No mud. Allegedly has bathrooms. Also shout out to First Energy here.

We met about 8:30, as late as we dared given the forecast and the fact that my younger son had a birthday party to be at later. We headed south.

Thing I didn't know existed #2: Brandywine Falls. Sadly I'm blocking a lot of the falls in this picture, but it is beautiful. This is not even the first time Shannon's taken me to a waterfall I didn't know about.

We kept moving, which for Shannon required superhuman strength because she was pushing her two girls in a double stroller, which rings in about about 115lb. Our run was mostly flat but had some short, steep hills. Since she would inevitably catch me on the downhill, I went ahead on the uphill stretches here and there. I didn't know she snapped this pic until much later. What a beautiful morning we had.

She turned in an impressive 8 miles then sat in her car hating me for about 20 minutes while I carried on. The miles that followed were largely like the first 8, just a little more tired. At run's end, I'd done 18 miles, 580 feet elevation gain, and a 9:30 pace.

I kid you not, the second I set foot in the parking lot at the end of the run, a snowflake landed on my arm. I went home and showered and left for the birthday party with sleet-esque snow dancing on my windshield and wind whipping. So glad I got this run done when I did. And yes, it was 70 degrees on Friday and snowing on Saturday. CLE!

This brought me to Thing I didn't know existed #3: The Jump Yard. It's one of those sensory-overload places for kids. I happily checked in my son and walked myself next door to a little restaurant and ate a BLT. And all those fries. And two more cups of coffee. And smiled the entire time.

Post-run lunch
Total miles: 42
Favorite run: Easily the long run for conversation and new scenery. Happy to have figured out something of a hill route earlier in the week, too.
Other: I'm hoping this cold/allergies will go away.