Saturday, August 30, 2008

Six Weeks Out, But Not Where I Want To Be

"Somebody down here crying a river and trying to climb over it?" My husband queried, testing the waters as he approached me basking in the sun and reading a magazine after my abysmal long run.

"I think she's trying to swim across and is drowning in the process," I answered with a hint of melancholy.

I did finish 17.42 miles (goal of 17). But, the problem is, I walked a little over 3 of them. I should have been running those at race pace. And, I had other less pleasant problems during the run. I should have been able to run 13 miles at race pace 6 weeks from my target race. I caved just before 10 of them. I firmly believe if I can't pull that off now, it is doubtful I can pull 26.2 of them off in a month and a half.

I spent the better part of the late morning researching other (later) marathons. While I contemplate the sanity of my goal, I do think I can get stronger with more training. I do not believe that I have peaked, I think I have simply misjudged how long it's going to take me to get to my goal. I came up with a list of 6 from November 30th through February 17, 2009:
  1. 11/30: Space Coast (Florida)
  2. 12/7 California International Marathon (Sacramento)
  3. 12/7 Tucson, AZ
  4. 1/1 Texas Marathon (Kingswood)
  5. 2/8 Melbourne Inaugural Marathon (Florida)
  6. 2/17 "Last Chance for Boston" (Columbus, OH)
So, now the question is, do I run Chicago anyway? And if so, with what goal?

I have plenty to think about for the next week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Fox 4 Love Fund 5K

I awoke shortly before 4 AM to lightning, thunder and pouring rain. I worried that the race might be called, and never fell back asleep. By 5 AM, I decided it was time to get up, eat and head out the door. I ate two servings of Cream of Wheat, had coffee and packed a cooler.

Arriving at the race about an hour before the start, the rain had dropped of to a mere drizzle, although lightning threatened in the distance. Even though I had chosen to run the race on a whim, I wanted to do just that; run the race. I really needed this.

I enjoyed walking around; watching the people show up. Soon, I shed my waterproof jacked and began my warm-up at 7:35 promptly, 30 minutes before start. I felt sluggish, slow.. and my watch seemed to indicate my slow, easy jogs were well in excess of 10:00 / mile. How on earth was I expecting to run sub 8s? For a mome
nt, I wondered if there were something wrong with my Garmin. But, no, probably not, I really was running that slowly.

Soon, it was time to line up (I'm 1734 in the picture). I didn't do this until nearly 8 AM, and discovered, to my dismay, there was no chip timing at the start. This would be my singular complaint about the race organization. No chip timing at the start incents bad behaviour, and encourages runners to line up close to the start when they have no business being there. This is exactly what happened
, to my frustration.

The gun went off, and I spent the first half mile moving around runners who were far, far slower. I was several seconds back from the start line. I didn't look at my watch for a pace; I simply searched for a pace by feel. My hopes of doing well had long since eroded. I glanced at my watch just as I turned the first mile, surprised to see it complete in 7:26. I was feeling better than I thought I would; either at that point, or at that pace. It was uncomfortably hard; but sustainable. I thought at this point I would probably break 24 minutes. I began to do the math to count backwards to remaining minutes / seconds
. My iPod declined to fire up in the car; so this math was my only entertainment.

My goal for the rest of the race would be to hold on to this pace. With light to no drizzle, a flat course, I found m
yself doing just that. Mile two was in 7:37 and mile three was in 7:43. I sprinted the last 10th, and was thrilled I finished in 23:38, beating both of my "PRs" for the 5K. This was enough to take a firm second in my age group, and I'm quite pleased.

I now have a new 5K PR! And I'm sitting down, about to watch the mens' Olympic marathon finals, sipping some champagne; I'm feeling quite happy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Time For A Little Race?

So... I'm thinking of doing a local 5K this weekend (The Fox 4 Love Fund 5K). Maybe it'll get me out of my sorry funk. When I think about actually racing this weekend, I get a strange little butterfly-like thrill. I think it will either give me a much needed confidence boost, or give me a kick in the pants if I perform terribly. Either way, nothing will sharpen me for a goal race more than a race during the journey.

I asked Vince if it were a good idea... or if I should just stick with my training plans. And besides the fact I am in the middle of training for the opposite distance at just about peak mileage, I am really in no way shape or form ready to actually race a 5K. But, silly me, I still want to do it. (I've never been one to do the sensible thing.)

Vince's words of advice were cautionary: "... I want you to start out on the conservative side. Also consider that you have not prepped or tapered for this race, so you will likely be running on tired legs (all the more reason to start out on the conservative side)."

So, I'm typing that to remind myself if I really don't do that well.. eh, it's probably because this race didn't pop up on my radar screen until roughly 36 hours before race start. I'm looking forward to it anyway, and I'll run as hard as I can (starting conservatively, of course)!

My "official" 5K PR is 25:18 in early January this year. I was trying to break 25 minutes, but failed. My fastest 5K split in a 10K was actually 23:40 (about a month later, and that was a double loop). I'm not sure which qualifies as my PR, but I'd certainly like to be under 25 minutes. However, I couldn't find a word about the course, so I have no idea what to expect. If there hills and such, I'll do well to break 26. We'll see...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Day in Court.. Or Not

Almost two months since the dog attack (see "The Hounds of Hell" entry from July), my day in court was finally here. My bff asked me, "How does today measure as a success?" I had to think a moment--it was a good question. What is a measured response that is appropriate to the event? I was certain I wasn't going to drop charges. I had another local runner also attacked by the same dogs ready to testify to their aggression. I guess what I really wanted, was the owner to show up, experience the legal consequences of his negligence and that these current dogs (or any future dogs of his) would never hurt anyone else again.

My attorney preceded me, and we approached the bench before the session began. It appeared that the defendant had attempted to pull a fast one earlier in the day. He showed up at the courthouse, wrote out a check for an estimated fine amount with a note that he "pled guilty." This was not allowed under the circumstances, especially when the dogs were alleged (by me, and soon to be by another witness) to be aggressive. This is a mandatory court appearance.

The honorable judge and the court clerk (who had been deceived earlier in the day on the question of how much the fine might be because the defendant asked how much money he needed to bring) were not humored by his disregard of the session requirements.

The docket kept the case intact, and of course, when it was called, he was not present. All parties approached the bench, my attorney, the court clerk and the person who took the payment explained what had happened. The judge immediately issued a warrant for his arrest, and noted for the record, that this violation still carried a mandatory court appearance.

So... my day in court was anticlimactic. And, there will be another one.

Meanwhile, I woke up with a fever, sore throat and foggy brain. Missing work (or missing court) wasn't an option today. Nor was missing a run, which technically, I didn't have scheduled until first thing in the morning tomorrow, but I have to be on site with a customer early, and chose instead to try to squeeze in my 8 miles and sleep in a few hours later in the morning.

This idea was amiss. I made it 5 miles before I had to quit. And give up. And realize I just was too sick to run and it wasn't worth it. So, I am feeling quite depressed at the moment, and in fear of a huge set back in training. On a scale of 1 to 5 right now, 5 being great mood and bullish on the marathon, I am probably a 1.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Savoring The Good Times

I'm one to enjoy the moment. With more than my fair share of tragedy in life, I know how to celebrate and enjoy the good times. And as we settled into our seats at the Royals stadium last night, the weather perfect, three rows back from the field, my twins each leaning on me... this was a good moment. I watched a ball of white fluff float in the air above me, caught on an invisible current. The sun slipped behind the stands, and beams of light bled through to play patterns and dance on the grass making it come alive and undulate like gently rippling water.

It wasn't long before I, too, had a hot dog, a bag of peanuts, a beer and some cotton candy in my lap. After all, carb loading before a long run is a good idea, right? The game went long. We didn't make it past the 7th inning. I was in bed a little before 11 PM, running gear packed earlier in the day.

So when my alarm went off at 4:45, it was no surprise I was so tired I could barely stand up. I wanted to skip the run. Run later. Run a different day. Anything but actually stay out of bed and drive to Lake City to run. But, in a generous compromise, my husband had skipped a big ski morning so that I could run. If I crawled back in bed, he would have made that sacrifice for nothing. My stomach hurt. I didn't want anything to eat; but no matter. I had planned this breakfast carefully, and forced myself to eat every bite.

As I pulled into the parking lot at 6 AM sharp, it was empty. I thought I might hurl, my stomach hurt and swirled with nausea. "Any questions on why you feel like this?" I asked myself. No, no doubt about it. I thought about just throwing up anyway. Maybe I'd feel better. But, everything I ate was strategic, and I forced myself to just deal with it. For a moment, I was glad this run was solo. I wasn't sure I was going to make it.

Today's run was going to be a little tough. 14 miles, with a 2 mile warm up and cool down on the ends, and the middle 10 at race pace, 8:45. Neither my mind nor my body were ready to embrace this assault, but I had to be home by 8:30, so there was no time for procrastinating. I took off at a slow jog, my first few steps shooting various aches and pains through my protesting body.

The first mile slipped by easily enough. I was feeling better. Into the second mile, my nausea faded, my mind awakened. However, both miles were in the upper 9s, not the lower 9s, and I was worried if I was going to be able to make--let alone sustain--race pace. Mile three began, and I kicked it a little. My pace was all over the place, above 9 one peek, below 8 the next. It was a miracle that I actually finished that mile in 8:40.

But now, I was feeling quite good. The weather was perfect (66 to 71 throughout the run), no wind. The miles were ticking off comfortably, and I was getting better at managing the pace. I was beginning to see other runners, and now really wished I weren't running alone. I turned around at the end of the north trail on LBTT.

I was carrying a single bottle of gatorade, that held something like 16 ounces, and a pouch of cliff shot blocks I planned to eat after completing 7 miles. When I reached that point, I'd nailed the pace for 5 miles (8:40, 8:35, 8:37, 8:41, 8:36), and figured it was time to fuel. My intent was to not take a single walking step of any kind for 14 miles. So, I tried to open the pouch while sustaining this 8:40-ish pace. Ridiculous. I cursed the makers of these pouches. Do they think we carry power tools while we run? I needed a chain saw. I held the corner in my teeth and viciously ripped into the pouch, only managing to tear open a hole big enough to poke in a finger--not even get out a block. I plunged in and ripped again, cursing the bag maker a second time. I needed a jack hammer; something arguably difficult to operate at an 8:40 pace as well. Finally, I popped a single block in my mouth. It felt hard. Gooey. Not good. It took a mile and a half to chew up and swallow. That was the first and last block during the run. Not worth the herculean effort to open the bag.

I passed my car at mile 9, which would mean out 2 and a half more miles, then turn around. I began to see the Blue Springs Runners, smiling, looking fresh and pleasant, and having lots of coolers and large drinking stations parked at various points on the south course. I was jealous. I realized that the 16 ounces I'd carried wasn't quite enough. But, no matter, I wasn't stopping for anything. By the time I reached 11.5 miles and turned around, I knew I only had a half mile left at race pace. And by now, this was requiring some effort. So I was quite pleased when I crossed the 12 mile point, successfully nailing the rest of the hard part (8:34, 8:31, 8:29, 8:34, 8:28), and slowing to a jog.

Returning to the parking lot (and seeing a nice spread for those Blue Springs Runners), I punched my watch, very satisfied with myself. I met all my goals, and nary a single stop of any kind. But, oh, I was so thirsty. It must have been apparent I was staring boldly at that large cooler that said "Gateraide" (yes, that's how it was spelled), as a gentlemen behind me said, "Go ahead, help yourself!" I smiled, turned and we chatted briefly. While thanking him, I assured him I had my own cooler in my car (which I did), and I was done for the day (oh, yes, yes, yes, I was!!). I should have stopped him to chat more. Maybe I should be running with this group, they looked like they had some pretty good runners. But, in all fairness, he wasn't done, and sped north on the trail.

Energized when I got home, I was tempted to a whirlwind of activity after my shower. But, I reminded myself I needed to rest, and probably eat at some point (but food was not happening now). I snuggled into bed, dozed off for awhile, and was awoken by my oldest son about an hour later. I was seized with hunger, and although I thought I could return to sleep, I gave into my craving for an egg and some kimchi noodle soup. Yummy! I feel good now.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Self-Discovery

Since my July 29th post, I've received a few email responses. No one seems to experience this as I've described... which probably means I've just done a bad job of it. I think Vince hit it closest with, "You also seem to have gained the ability to run through fatigue more easily." Maybe that's all it is, and I just didn't recognize that.

But, it feels like more... it's been a journey of self-discovery for me. I have now found a "place" when running, that I can usually access at will. Maybe it's a new skill; one that I did not have even three months ago. Or, maybe it's as simple as finally learning how to run through fatigue.

Time, worry, other distractions fall away. I feel lifted by my lower body, as if I weren't the one doing the running. As if I can feel the running, but more like I'm riding in a car at the start of the space mountain roller coaster. And things are dark, and cool, and comforting, and I feel the car going slowly higher, but everything is still calm, quiet and relaxed--almost trance-like. My breathing slows, my focus turns inward. A bubble seems to form around me, and I may want silence, or I may want the same song to repeat over and over, or I may repeat a mantra like sound or statement in my head. Most importantly, I don't want to be disturbed, or my "bubble" will pop.

I find myself settled into the pace after several minutes. And I usually feel like I can hold that forever.. (or at least a very long time). But, if I stop, or break up the monotony of the pace by going fast and slow, I tire quickly, and the fatigue will catch up and overtake me. Running one minute hard, followed by one minute easy is a far greater effort, because I cannot access this state. Running 10, 20 or 30 straight at that pace is actually easier.

But as soon as I stop, I am tired, maybe even exhausted, and I find the comparison of how I feel stopping to how I felt just seconds previously running, a surprisingly wide chasm that seems incomprehensible.

I'm hoping I can find this and hold onto it for 26 and a half miles in just nine short weeks.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

70 Days and Counting!

Chicago is in ten weeks, or 70 days. My training is going well. I'm finding myself able to complete workouts that I think will be pretty hard; and really, they don't end up being that hard at all. Maybe a little challenging, but I'm not ever thinking I'm at a risk for not finishing.

This week has been my hardest training yet. I completed 45 miles, and more than a few were good, quality miles. I did speed work of mile repeats on Tuesday (a 10 mile workout, with 5 mile repeats), a nice mid-distance run on Thursday for eight miles that averaged 8:43 per mile for the entire run, and today's 13 miler with 5 mile surges at <8:20.

I also ran three other easy runs this week (I'm running six days per week). I feel good. I don't think I could have completed this week at any point during my Ottawa training.

I'm not asking for much, and I don't want to be a hero. Just 3:50:59 or below chip time in Chicago. I want to hit 8:45s for every mile, one right after another. I tell myself, "8:45, 8:45, 8:45..." That's all. This time around, I don't think it's a 99 to 1 long shot. I think I'm even likely to nail it.

As every marathoner knows, so many things have to come together. Health, family situations, weather, training, soundness, hydration, etc. But for now, things seem to be right on track for meeting that 3:50 qualifying time. And I'm pretty comfortable in saying, "Yeah, I CAN do it this time." Let's see!