Author Archives: Molly

Over a month later…

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my marathon! It is sufficient to say that I have been enjoying my break. As much as I loved training, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to come home from work and run 8 miles, especially now that my commute is back to being an hour each way as opposed to 3 minutes.

Since I posted last I’ve been getting more into strength training, even buying a pair of these bad boys from a friend who was upgrading to heavier weights and selling them for more than 50% off retail! In addition, the longest I’ve ran since the marathon is about 6.5 miles this past weekend, and that’s felt long enough for me at this point. I don’t know how people do multiple marathons back-to-back without any rest. I am definitely more comfortable without the pressure of a big race and all the training looming over my head right now.

Because of this, I’ve decided to wait until next year to run another marathon (although a half marathon this fall could be in the works, since training isn’t quite as long and demanding, obviously). If I had decided to do a marathon this October/November, I would’ve had to start training in the end of June/beginning of July, which is fast approaching! So my long term plan is to run another marathon in 2013, probably in the fall (like I mentioned in my last post, Richmond or Marine Corps perhaps?)

You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.

– Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist

Coming up soon, I am doing a fun Twilight Four Miler in June and a Crystal City Twilighter 5k in July. Both of these are night races as you may have guessed (no, they are not in fact Twilight vampire-movie themed races, haha). I’ve only done one other night race before, the Fairfax Four Miler on New Year’s Eve a few years ago, and it was different and exciting so I’m looking forward to these. Plus, I’ll have some friends like Emily, Leo, and Maxwell running in the four miler in June too!

A little further down the road, but even more awesome, is the Army Ten-Miler on October 21. This race is supposed to be just awesome according to everything I’ve heard and read. There are 30,000 runners: one-third (or 10,000 spots) of those registrations are reserved for U.S. service members and runners who have participated in at least seven or more Army Ten-Miler races, and the remaining two-thirds (0r 20,000 spots) opened to the general public on a first-come-first-serve basis last night at 12:01 am. Since I am in bed way before midnight, I risked waiting until morning to register. When I woke up at 7:30 this morning, I immediately went online to register. At that point, there were only around 2,000 spots left. That means between midnight and 7:30 am, 18,000 people had registered in the general registration, not counting the 10,000 that got to register early. WOAH. AND, by the time I got to work at 9 am, the race was SOLD OUT! That is definitely a new record for this race!

This will be my largest race to date by far. Side note: the Charlottesville marathon I believe had a little under 500 finishers. The Richmond marathon is somewhere over 4,000 runners. Compare that to the four biggest U.S.  marathons, which are NYC (46,000+), Chicago (35,000+), Boston (23,000+), and Marine Corps (20,000+). So, as you can see, this 30,000 person Army Ten-Miler is BIG! Oh and also,  it is “the third largest 10-mile race in the world.

Pretty neat, huh?! I’ll probably start my training for this race in mid-August. The short twilight races in June and July I won’t really ‘train’ for it in the way I’ve been using the word. I’ll just keep up with my strength training and running a few times a week, not too far.

So what’s the plan?

I thought by now, 2 weeks after my marathon, I’d have a clear-cut idea about what is next but the truth is, I still haven’t figured it out! There are so many options and so many things I want to try. First, here are two possible events on both ends of the intensity-spectrum:

Ragnar Relay: The Ragnar Relay is “the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. A team is made up of 6-12 individuals; each individual runs 3 legs. The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, from 3-8 miles, allowing elite and novice runners to run together. Over 2 days and 1 night, teams run across 200 miles of the country’s most scenic terrain.” There is even a DC race! I have a friend in California that just did the San Diego race this past weekend, and I’m excited to hear all about how she liked it! I wonder if I have any friends out there who would be willing to do this with me; otherwise, you can sign up as a single and find a team. Even though there is probably time to try for an entry onto a team at the end of September, it’s more likely I’ll wait until next year (but who knows!)

Color Run: On the totally light-hearted and fun end of the spectrum is the Color Run, which is the “happiest 5k on the planet.” Here is how it works… you wear white and each kilometer of the event is associated with a color and  “as the runners hit the Kilometer Zones, they will be blitzed with color.” The Color Run is for everyone and anyone, and is “less about speed and more about enjoying a color crazy day with your friends and family.” There will be a race in DC (registration opens soon!) This would be a great race to do with some friends, I even know of some girl friends that have expressed some interest.

Now, here are two “normal” Virginia running events on both ends of the amount-of-people spectrum:

Richmond  Marathon/Half Marathon: I have been looking into the Richmond Marathon and Half Marathon event which takes place in November. I was supposed to do the half marathon last year, but was so burned out after an awful, awful 10-miler that I ended up just skipping it in favor of rest. Anyways, now Richmond is a serious contender for my next big race. It’s close by, it’s flat, and it’s well-known and well-organized. The Richmond Marathon has been featured in Runner’s World multiple times, listed as “America’s friendliest marathon” and also in “Best Little Marathons.” But the question remains whether I want to do the half marathon and try for a better time (the first half marathon I did was in May 2011) or go for the marathon, with one of the hilliest and a not-for-first-timers marathons already under my belt. There is over 6 months until the race, so I have time to think about it (given that most training plans are around 4 months long).

Marine Corps Marathon: I would love to run at least one of the big marathons at some point in my life (New York, Chicago, Marine Corps), which can have as many as 40,000+ runners. (As a point of comparison, Charlottesville was limited to 3,500 runners combined for both events, and I believe a little under 500 people finished the marathon). This year, the Marine Corps Marathon sold out it’s 30,000 spots in record time, under 3 hours! Incredible! This was the marathon that my grandpa ran for his 50th birthday also. So this will be in the back of my mind as a possibility to try for in 2013.

In the meantime, I’ve been running a few days a week, mostly short runs, just to keep my fitness level up. I thought not having a ‘plan’ would make me feel a little lost or confused, but for the most part it’s been pretty nice – I don’t have to plan my weekends around my runs like I had been for the past 4+ months. I can also consider signing up last minute for shorter races since I already have a decent running base (such as Pacers or Potomac River Running events).

So there you have it, a little update into some things I’ve been thinking about. Since fall marathon season is in October/November on the east coast, I’ll know by June whether I’ll be training for another marathon, half marathon, or waiting until next year.

Zero Week: the week after the marathon

As my training plan by Hal Higdon says, “Generally, it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for the body to recover from the strain of running 26 miles 385 yards. Return too quickly and you increase your risk of injury. Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you run in the marathon, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing!”

So what should I be doing now? I just finished 18 weeks of regimented training, and now what? Well, “the training you do in the three weeks following a marathon should be a near mirror of what you did the last three weeks before: in other words, an upward, or reverse, taper.” Here is a recommended plan, starting with zero week in pink, followed by 4 weeks of working to build back up to a steady state of training:

Saturday: After the race, besides being super happy and proud of myself, I knew I needed to focus on refueling so that I wouldn’t crash. Just because I was done running did not mean I should stop drinking water and Gatorade! I tried eating some pizza that they provided at the finish line, but my stomach wasn’t quite ready for food yet, and wouldn’t be for a few more hours. The advice to keep walking and moving after the race is good advice, and a long walk to the car won’t hurt you, but after that, it was time to get off my feet with an ice bath, a warm shower, and a nap (with lots of Gatorade, water, and carbs during all of these). By early evening I was ready for a victory meal – and Matt said I could choose whatever I wanted, so I chose Mellow Mushroom pizza (I chose it for the delicious pretzels they make out of their pizza dough, oh, and the pizza is good too!)

Victory dinner: Taking a bite of delicious pizza, then Matt tells me to smile when I have food in my mouth (awful picture results), so I chew my food and take a REAL picture and this time it's much better!

After all the delicious food, we walked back to Matt’s apartment (about a 5 minute walk) which felt good for my legs. Then it was time for pajamas, more water, and a movie before I blissfully went to sleep on an amazing day!

Sunday: The next morning my legs felt about the same – sore quads, slightly sore calves, and really sore behind my right knee (Baker’s cyst perhaps?) but I was able to walk around pretty well (although it took me awhile to physically get out of a chair or off a couch and I had to lower myself slowly when sitting down). So for Sunday, “No exercise of any kind! Take it easy.” That I can do! Wanted to stretch my legs just a little, so Matt and I again walked down to the Corner for lunch at Little John’s and walked back, a total of probably 15 minutes of walking, which definitely helped.

Monday: A nice, relaxing day off today! “No running! Today’s a good day for a massage.” I used a gift card for a 30-minute massage that Matt bought me last year and it was well worth it! Even though I get ticklish sometimes, I could feel the knots in my calves and the sides of my quads being worked out, plus, who doesn’t love a great back/head/shoulder massage?! I also took today to order my 26.2 sticker for my car, because seriously, wouldn’t you do the same if you ran a marathon?!

Tuesday: “No running! Starting to train too soon can delay that recovery. You earned this period of rest. Take it!” Fair enough! Oh, and I went and got frozen custard for dessert, cause I deserved that too!

Wednesday: “Okay, you’re cleared to run again, but don’t overdo it… 2 miles of gentle jogging.” Excellent! I was excited all day for my little jog after work. The weather was super weird all day, alternating between raining, being sunny, and being really windy, lots of combinations of the three. It was 55 degrees, windy, sunny but lurking storm clouds. The run was nice, didn’t run with music or anything, just ran to run! It went like this: sunny, running into the wind, lots of wind, leaves in my eye, dust in my other eye, raining, windy rain, wind at my back, rain stops, sunny. This was all in 2 miles, amazing, haha. 

Thursday: “Now is the time to cross-train. The best cross-training discipline for a recovering marathoner is simple walking. Go at most 2-3 miles.” Took a nice solo 3 mile walk outside after work. Just me and the iPod. I thought I might feel anxious to break into a run, but I felt pretty relaxed!

Friday: The recovery plan mentioned that by today most of my muscle soreness should be gone. I guess since I didn’t “race” the race, I recovered much quicker, because my muscles have felt good since Wednesday/Thursday. I’m also reminded that even though I might feel ready to get back in the game, “don’t rush things. Stick with the 2- to 3-mile routine today. Or maybe take today off entirely.”

Saturday: “Schedule a run of about an hour, 6 to 8 miles max. But don’t push the pace too hard. Your body may feel better again, but it’s still in recovery mode.” Yeeeeah, that didn’t go to well, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Barely had any water beforehand and was eating Nutella out of the jar for fun. Started the run out way too fast, was forced to walk, and just felt gross – I should’ve brought water along on that one. Proper food and fueling is soooo important.

Sunday: Rest day. Today will be a day to relax, read, run some errands, and maybe do some weights (which I’ve neglected since marathon training). Good old lazy Sunday! Can’t believe it’s been over a week since my marathon now – it feels sooo long ago… I haven’t felt any of the post-marathon blues like I expected I might – due to how weird I felt the week after I had to take off cause of my sprained ankle. In fact, I’ve been happy to embrace all the resting, but unfortunately my appetite is still sky-high. All week I’ve been super hungry as if my body thinks I’ll be running for hours and hours on end each day or something, so I’m sure there has been some post-marathon weight gain! I wish my body would realize we are in relaxing-mode, haha. At this point I just want to figure out what’s next and get to it. I’m also still trying to figure out what exactly to do with my blog – thanks to everyone who voted on the poll on the homepage!

Next up, I’ll figure out what my next big race is – let me know if you have any suggestions! (Marine Corps marathon for this year is already sold out of course, so that’s not an option!) Bye all, I have to go eat more now!

I’m a marathoner!: Charlottesville Marathon 2012 recap

So I guess I’ll start from the beginning: the day before the race I arrived in Charlottesville to my boyfriend’s apartment on Friday afternoon and wanted to keep it low key. I felt pretty good, not too nervous! I told Matt that I was actually nervous about the fact that I wasn’t MORE nervous – trippy, right?  I went out to dinner on the downtown mall with my parents who got into town that night, had some basic spaghetti and meatballs, and then went back to Matt’s apartment where the plan was to watch a movie and do some last minute prep. Unfortunately (or perhaps luckily) I was already getting pretty tired, so no movie for me and by the time I laid everything out for the next morning, it was bed time around 9:30pm. I slept surprisingly well, waking up at 3:15am (an hour before my alarm) at was sort of annoying though. Even though I managed to fall back asleep, it was one of those light sleeps where I would wake up every 10 minutes worried I’d miss my alarm. By 4:15am, I was up. 6-7 hours of sleep the night before a race, nice, I’ll take it!

5:15am: all bundled and ready to head to the start!

After splashing water on my face and started to change into my race clothes, I comprehended the fact that I was going to try to run a marathon… today… like, in 2 hours… All of the training I did had been amazing, even with the minor road bumps, but now that it was going to be race time, yikes! That’s a whole other story. It’s one thing to follow a training plan, but another thing entirely to take everything you’ve learned, worked for, and built up to and put it to the test in one big, important, publicized 26.2 mile run. I reminded myself to just go out there and have fun. Start out easy so you don’t burn out, and dig deep at the end, you have prepared for this and you can do it. After eating my pre-race bagel, half a banana, and guzzling water, it was 5:15am and time for Matt to drive me over to the start! The 3 minute drive from Matt’s apartment to the race start goes on the race course, which looked strange with all the cones and arrows set out in the darkness and no one around. I’ll be running here in a few short hours, literally on this very road, I told myself.

Waiting for the start at Main Street Arena was nice and peaceful. I was able to drink some water, look at the course map one more time, listen to some music, and use the bathroom. The course start was only about 20 yards from the arena, so everything felt very put together and I wasn’t feeling nervous about something going wrong. At 6:15am, 15 minutes before race time, I had a chocolate Gu. I was already pretty awake with all the adrenaline and nerves, but the caffeine in the Gu really helps. The weather was absolutely perfect, I thought it might be too cold, but at the start it must’ve been upper 30s (which sounds cold, but it perfect when you’ll be running for a long time). I had capris, a short sleeve shirt, and a long sleeve shirt on top, which I would end up shedding by mile 1.5 anyways. The race was apparently capped at 3500 runners for the marathon, half, and 8k combined, but it didn’t feel like that many people at the full and half marathon start at 6:30. I was expecting not to even cross the start line for maybe 15 minutes due to all the people in front of me, but I was crossed about 4 minutes after the gun (for non-runners, there is a chip in the bib with your number on it, that chip records each racer’s individual time, so when I cross the start line, my chip time starts, which is why it’s no big deal if it takes me a few minutes from the gun being fired to crossing the start line, because my official time won’t start till I do!)

Miles 0-2: It was happening, the race had started! I felt calm and collected. There were lots of people passing me as I took it easy with my pace, but 80% of them were running the half marathon, so there pace would generally be faster anyways. I just held true to my own pace and reminded myself I wasn’t trying to win the race. Mile 1 came up fast, 11 min/mile flat. I was hoping for 10-10:30 min/miles, so this was a perfect warm up pace. We passed by the Rotunda on the left, which I had seen hundreds and hundreds of times, but others around me were seeing for the first or second time and admiring it. I smiled as I realized how luckily I was to go to school here and how much I missed it! Onto Rugby Road, another familiar place, a route I had walked and ran along countless times. Everything looked so pretty at sunrise.

Miles 3-6: This part of the course was an out-and-back on Old Garth Road, which is miles of beautiful farm land and gorgeous houses. I mean it was seriously breathtaking with the sun just coming up and dew still on the grass. Since it was an out-and-back, one half of the road was people running up to the turnaround and the other half was the faster people already coming back. It was cool to see all the super lean elite athletes already coming back the other direction who were already miles ahead of the rest of us, going toward a Personal Record (PR) and a Boston Qualifying time. Even though it’s something I’d never be able to do, it still brought great pride to be running on the same course, the same distance as these athletes.

Miles 7-10: Mile 7 was the turnaround point and also a nice easy slight downhill. Heading back toward the center after a turnaround is always a nice feeling, it’s like you’re done with that part of the course, time to move on! There were tons of people around at this point, since it was full marathoners and half marathoners, but I really only saw one or two marathoners around me (the bib colors were different, so you were able to tell who was doing what). I was feeling nice and strong at this point. I took another Gu at mile 8, since I decided to take them every 4 miles (I took a chocolate at mile 4 and vanilla bean at mile 8), and was just trying to let gravity work as I strode down the hill and reminded myself repeatedly to hold back so that I’d have enough energy to keep going later on.

Happy I found my loyal fan club at mile 12!

Miles 11-13: Still feeling wonderful and was glad that at I got into the double digit miles. I reminded myself that I did 12 mile “easy long runs” all the time, and this was a piece of cake. No huffing and puffing, no intense sweating, just moving and breathing. As I got farther into mile 11 and closer to the UVA grounds, I got more excited because my fan club was going to be stationed at mile 12 as their first spot to cheer me on. As I came up a little hill, I could see the adorable signs my mom made for me and another big sign that said MARATHON MOLLY in bright red. It was my mom, dad, Matt, and his mom Kathy! I was so happy to see them! I handed off my long sleeve shirt, slowed down to a walk and told them I was feeling great. It was a great mental boost to see my loved ones!

Another nice slight downhill where I could just relax and let gravity do most of the work. It was the final stretch for the half marathoners and the course was about to split. As we got to the end of the hill and rounded a corner, you could see the split. To the right, the half marathoners finish line, where 80% of the runners up ahead were going with great determination, and to the left big signs that said MARATHON ONLY and a trickle of runners jogging at a steady, controlled pace – we still had a ways to go. We were halfway done, but pretty soon it would seem like we were only barely starting the race…

Miles 14-17: The course was now sparse, not many runners around at all. The closest runner I could see was about 50+ yards in front of me, and another one 50+ yards in front of him. This would be the test of mental strength and pacing, I thought, but at the same time, it would feel more like just a regular solo weekend run, so maybe it would be good and help me relax and take my mind off the race. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, time started to stand still. I no longer felt like I was seeing mile markers at the same speed I was before, even though I was running at the same pace. This part of the course was the second out-and-back section, but it was so much different from the first because the amount of runners had just gone from the thousands with all the half marathoners at the beginning to maybe a hundred by the time I was running there and all of the faster runners had been long gone. I had run much farther than this on many occasions, but I was feeling like the miles just weren’t coming up fast enough! This was about the time I turned to my iPod to think about something else and get myself pumped back up. I also was becoming aware that there wasn’t any way I would finish in the time I had hoped for. I had a pace band on that I ripped off so that I wouldn’t have to be bothered by the fact that I wasn’t going to finish that fast anymore.

Somewhere around mile 17 did I start to feel like I should’ve been at mile 22 or something. The second half was significantly longerrrrr than the first half of the race. As a co-worker told me the day before the race, “a marathon isn’t like two half marathons back-to-back… it’s like three,” and wow, he was turning out to be exactly right!

Mile 19 - pointing to where it hurts, the quads!

Miles 18-21: Finally I was past the turnaround and getting closer to my next fan club sighting at mile 19. As I came to the bottom of a slight hill, I could see my parents, Matt, and Kathy up ahead from the signs they were holding. I held my pace steady, focused my mind, and made it to them. This time I didn’t stop running though, since I had just run up a hill, my legs needed to keep moving or they would stiffen up. This time it was a smile, and a comment on how I was mentally feeling great, but my legs (my quads mainly, and sometimes my calves) were feeling very sore! I was basically running alone at this point, so it was so nice to see my family at that time. As I pushed on, I was approaching mile 20, time for another Gu, and only a 10K (6.2 miles) to go, no stopping now. I spotted my parents again, they were alone this time and managed to catch me! It was basically just us 3 and a race volunteer up ahead directing me in the right direction. My parents were able to refill 2 of my Fuel belt bottles with water, and I was so surprised to see them there it took my mind off the race if only for a moment. The race volunteer wished me luck, and my parents said they would see me at the finish. Wow, the finish…

Mile 20 - scarfing down an energy gel

Miles 22-24: This part of the race was 2 miles of flat bike path alongside the Rivanna river, which despite my whole time in college at UVA, I had never seen. Matt said he had been there once to go fishing with a buddy, but he didn’t mention how gorgeous it was! There were people walking along the trail, some confused by us runners barely moving along, and others genuinely impressed when they saw our race bibs. There was a girl around my age about 100 yards in front of me, and a woman a little older than my parents a ways behind me. Besides those 2 runners, there wasn’t anyone else in sight except for a man I came upon toward the end of the trail and passed. I tried to spend these miles reflecting on the scenery, looking at the river and animals around me, but even this 2 mile section felt like it was 4 miles long. Pretty soon, I could see the end of the trail and two race volunteers up ahead, directing the girl a ways in front of me to the left up a hill and toward the next part of the course. She stopped to walk because it was a steep, gravel incline. I tried to keep running but when I realized my “running” would’ve been the same speed as speed walking, I gave my legs a small rest and walked as quickly as I could up the hill. Mile 24 was spray painted on the trail in front of me. I am going to make it, I really am, I thought to myself. Even if I trip and re-sprain my ankle at this point, I could hobble to the finish line from here. At the top of the hill was a water station, where I stopped again to drink some water. The hilliest part of the course was coming up, and was right around the corner. I walked and finished my water, looked up the hilly road I was about to ascend and wait… 25! Was that the 25 mile marker? Oh no, I was slightly delirious… that was a “Speed Limit 25” sign… not quite to mile 25 yet…

Miles 25-26.2: This time I passed the real 25 mile marker. No, SERIOUSLY, I am going to MAKE IT. It was some sort of inverse property effect – I was becoming more confident the more physically worn down I was getting. A race volunteer was up ahead directing me to make a sharp left turn. I took my headphones out and asked her, “how much farther?” she said I was so close, only 2/5 of a mile left. I did the math in my head, 0.4 miles. That means I was 0.2 from 26 and then only 0.2 left. My head was racing with thoughts, alternating between, “I can’t believe it,” “this is really happening,” and “I am going to do this, I really am.” I passed the 26 painted on the ground and I could make out the finish chute ahead. I passed the last intersection where a cop pointed me up the last incline and said, “there is the finish!” and a kind woman who was spectating looked at me and beamed, “congratulations!” I smiled and thanked her, but wait… I hadn’t finished yet! Oh, but I was GOING TO FINISH. That preemptive ‘congratulations’ was enough for me to dig deep, take my mind off my tired legs, speed up (even if only a tiny bit) as I raised my hands in the air and passed the finish line with my fan club looking on and cheering so loud and proud!

I finished!

I felt great. All of it was worth it. I was bummed with my time – I was hoping to finish in 4 and a half hours, but finished in 5 hours and 4 minutes (an 11:44 min/mile pace). I couldn’t believe I went over 5 hours, but that feeling of regret was short-lived at the moment when my family and friends were there hugging me and congratulating me. I felt amazing! I had finished a marathon! Matt’s sister Jenna pointed out that my legs were shaking. I looked down and she was right. I was smiling and shaking! I guess that’s what happens when you just stop running after hours and hours. My muscles were still moving even though I had stopped! I don’t think I stopped smiling for half an hour after that as I got my chocolate milk, some pizza, and finally sat down to rip my shoes off. Not much damage was done to my body either. No chaffing anywhere, only 2 (one was really big on my toe) blisters on my feet, no lost toenails, no blood. I only thought I might throw up at one point during the race but that was because my belly was so full of Gu, water, and Gatorade that I stopped taking any Gu after the one at mile 20. Of course my legs were sore, but all things considered, I had finished in one piece and felt good!

Me and my parents at the finish (my mom made me the cutest signs!)

Me and Matt at the finish

On one hand I’m glad I walked as much as I did on the hills and that I was cautious with my pacing, and on the other hand, I wish I had been able to get the time I wanted to. It may sound silly to some, but I was (and still am to some extent) embarrassed about my finish time. I didn’t want to post a picture of me coming through the finishing chute because you could see that the clock said over 5 hours on it. I have to keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t and couldn’t be ashamed of the fact that I finished a marathon, because… I FINISHED A MARATHON. As some friends reminded me, “You were a winner as soon as you started the race” and “You’re a marathoner! Nothing can change that, ever!” Not to mention, another reminded me that I went into the race with a lot of adversity, dealing with a cold and fighting an injury. I had also been warned repeatedly by all sorts of people that the Charlottesville course is not a good one for first-timers, nor is it a good place for runners trying to get a best time. So the fact that I did this course as my FIRST marathon, after spraining my ankle a month before the race, and getting a cold the week of the race, and finished the race, I think I have a whole lot to be proud of.

So what’s next? My mom asked if at any point in the race I felt like I thought I couldn’t do it. The honest answer is no, not really actually. It was more of the opposite, the closer I got to the end, the more my confidence built up that I was actually going to finish. Would I run another marathon? Yes! I knew by mile 25 that I wouldn’t rule out another marathon and a little after that I knew I’d definitely want to do another one. I now have my baseline time to beat, and next time, it’ll be a flatter course! When will I do another marathon? I’m still deciding. I want to give myself a week to relax and recover before making any commitments. I am looking into doing a Richmond race in November (known for being nice and flat), but whether I’ll do the marathon or the half marathon is to be decided later! For now, I bask in the glory of what I have accomplished!

Thank you to everyone who supported me through all my training, and of course, thanks for reading my blog! I’ll be writing about my rest and recovery, as well as what my future marathon plans are as soon as I know!

It was all worth it!

Week 18 = race preparations

RACE WEEK

Unfortunately, this week I ended up coming down with a small cold for a few days. Apparently it isn’t uncommon to get sick during the taper or right after the marathon because  running long distances can temporarily weaken the immune system  because “the body churns out the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function in large amounts.” I started feeling bad on Tuesday afternoon, but it was mainly just a small sore throat and a little headache near my temples on both sides, nothing to stop me from running. But I feel much better now, almost 100%, so no need to worry!

The last week of training is all about resting, relaxing, and mentally preparing for the marathon. It is key that I don’t try anything new – no new foods, drinks, or sports. As I read before, “Remember, during this final week, you can’t under-do. You can only overdo. Training for a marathon is not like studying for a test in school where you can get away with and even benefit from last minute cramming. With marathon training, it is best to err on the side of caution by resting up instead of trying to fit in any extra miles.

I like to be prepared for anything on race day and I want to minimize as much “freaking out” as I possibly can by planning for every possible weather combination. Come hell or high water, I will be prepared for this race. Therefore, I am packing a lot for Charlottesville. Here is what my marathon bag will contain (click the image for a larger view):

I’m leaving around lunch time today to drive to Charlottesville, as are my parents. Then it’s time for the expo and packet pick up and some last minute things before the final stretch. This will probably be the last time I post until after the big race, so stay tuned! I’d be so thankful if you wanted send some encouragement via Facebook or text, as long as it isn’t too late tonight since I’ll be going to bed early 🙂

(P.S. If you want to see my detailed race week run-down, click here, I looove making lists as you can tell.)

Running Mantras

I keep hearing that so much of running a marathon is mental. Not mental as in insane, but mental as in you have to be very mentally strong and tough to finish a marathon.

As this Runner’s World article says, “To achieve your running goals, powerful legs and big lungs aren’t enough—you also need a strong head. Doubts and distractions can derail your attempts, but a well-chosen mantra can keep you calm and on target.”

So in that light, here are some of my running mantras for Saturday to keep me strong and tough mentally:

Keep your eyes peeled for my post on race week preparations tomorrow, which will most likely be the last one until after the race!

Week 17 + reflections

Instead of telling you about my running this week, since it’s been what I’d call uneventful since it’s taper time, I’ll tell you what’s been on my mind. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week in lieu of running a lot of miles. A lot of race-day visualization, self-motivation, and reflection on all that I’ve done to train for this. Just thinking about it when I’m in a certain focused mood can give me the chills. I got to thinking about the story of Kathrine Switzer that I had read about once or twice before, who really changed the history of running for all women, and how my story wouldn’t be possible without hers. Here is her story… but first, starting way, way back:

The first Olympic marathon was held in 1896 and it was open to men only. Women weren’t to be counted out entirely, however. A woman named Melpomene snuck onto the marathon route and finished an hour and a half behind the winner, but beat plenty of men who ran slower or dropped out. Women snuck onto marathon courses from that point forward.

Now fast forward to the year 1976 (when it was apparently widely accepted medical advice that running could make your uterus fall out). It is the Boston Marathon, which isn’t just any race… it is the world’s oldest annual marathon and had always been a men’s only race. A headstrong 20-year-old junior at Syracuse University named Kathrine Switzer entered the marathon under the name of K.V. Switzer and was given a number. Kathrine recounts in an article she wrote (which I’ve reduced and added a few notes to below):

“The day of the race was horrible. Sleeting, snowing, windy and cold…As I pinned on my number, the other runners around me noticed I was a woman and got very excited and supportive. They thought it was great that a woman was going to run Boston. We all lined up to go through the starting pen…More people were noticing I was female and congratulated me, all very supportive and excited for me. Arnie [Kathrine’s coach], my boyfriend Tom, John Leonard from our cross country team, and I were in a little group… The race starts and off we go.

Four miles into the race, the media flatbed truck loaded with photographers came through and we all had to get out of the way to let it pass. A bus followed the truck with the journalists and on that bus were co-race directors Will Cloney and Jock Semple. The photographers saw me first and started shouting, ‘There’s a girl in the race,’ and then slowed up in front of us and started taking pictures. By now, I’d thrown away my top sweatshirt and my hair was flying. I didn’t try to disguise my gender at all. Heck, I was so proud of myself I was wearing lipstick!…

Jock [Semple] was well known for his violent temper…He jumped off the bus and went after me. I saw him just before he pounced, and let me tell you, I was scared to death. He was out of control. I jumped away from him as he grabbed for me, but he caught me by the shoulder and spun me around, and screamed, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me that race number.’ I tried to get away from him but he had me by the shirt…Arnie tried to wrestle Jock away from me but was having a hard time himself and then Tom, my 235-pound boyfriend came to the rescue and smacked Jock with a cross body block and Jock went flying through the air. At first, I thought we had killed him. I was stunned and didn’t know what to do, but then Arnie just looked at me and said, ‘Run like hell,’ and I did as the photographers snapped away and the scribes recorded the event for posterity. The rest is history.”

Since this whole scuffle happened right in front of the news trucks, the whole thing was documented on camera.

It wasn’t until 1972 – 5 years later – that the Boston Marathon was officially opened to women, and Kathrine Switzer was a huge part of making this happen. Since then, so much as been accomplished for women in running.

Sometimes it helps (and takes my mind off my upcoming race) to think about the big picture. Not just how I got to this place, but how women got to this place, and it hasn’t been an easy road. I can’t even imagine being Kathrine where on top of all of my training I am also going against the rules, social norms, and literally fighting (or having your boyfriend do it for you) to stay in a race where you wouldn’t be given an official time anyways. Today, female participation in marathons has been steadily increasing, and I’m so excited to soon be part of that growing statistic! So thank you Kathrine Switzer for setting the precedent and making this marathon training comparatively “easy” compared to what you had to go through. 🙂

P.S. Kathrine is truly dynamic to listen to, so if you want to, watch this short video of her describing her experience in Boston, I enjoyed it a lot.

P.P.S. It’s looking like it’ll be beautiful weather on race day! 5 more days!

Wonderful!

Week 16 + taper + birthday

For my first week of the taper I had a pretty decent week of running, although my pacing was feeling strange, like I just couldn’t get the rhythm down ever since hurting my ankle, but at least I was able to get my week day runs in. On Friday, I drove down to Charlottesville after work for the beginning of my birthday weekend. Since Matt and I have the same birthday, it makes celebrating together extra special. This year was the 5th birthday that we’ve spent celebrating together, since the first one was when we turned 20 together, wow!

This was the e-card I made for Matt, sweet right?

On my birthday I woke up early to find it pouring down rain so I decided I’d have to do my 12 mile run inside on the treadmill, which I wasn’t looking forward to because the treadmill gets so boring. I had bought some more KT Tape Pro, and I decided to basically tape everything that hurt or could possibly hurt as a precaution. I taped my left ankle, my right hip, and my right outer knee (the parts that had been hurting from the extra impact). I actually felt really cool with my pink and green tape, and felt like I looked all hardcore and intense, like a real athlete!

After one boring mile on the treadmill, I decided it was just way too hot in the gym to be inside and there was no way I’d be able to do 12 miles like that, and plus I needed to stop being a baby and shying away from the rain. So I went back to Matt’s real quick to grab my sunglasses and Fuel Belt, and off I went in the rain for the last 11 miles of my run. The rain was bad at first, making it hard to see and making me wish I owned a hat! But after the first 5 miles outside it stopped and the cool air was perfect to run in. I was really glad I decided to move outside instead, sometimes running in the rain is really invigorating.

My favorite part of the Melting Pot experience!

That night the celebrations began! Matt and I had dinner at the Melting Pot, which he had never been to. It was delicious cheese fondue, followed by salad and then an entree of all sorts of meat (steak, filet mignon, shrimp, BBQ chicken, and lobster tail), and finished off with my favorite, the dessert course. Flaming turtle chocolate fondue with delicious treats to dip in it – Rice Krispie treats, graham cracker-covered marshmallows, Oreo-covered marshmallows, pound cake, cheesecake, brownie, strawberries, and banana slices. Mmmm! That wasn’t the end of it though – on Sunday I had two more celebrations, including the famous brunch at Boar’s Head Inn with Matt and his family, followed by going back home for a family birthday dinner and my mom’s famous chocolate cheesecake for my birthday cake. It was a gourmet, chocolately, delicious birthday that’s for sure.

Thank you so very, very much to everyone who made my birthday super special! First and foremost my mom, for birthing me! My dad, my brother, my Aunt Katie and Uncle Matt and my 3 sweet little cousins, Grama, Poppy, Grampa, Eileen, Mimi, my sweet boyfriend and his family, and my great friends who I got to have board game night with last week! Thanks for making my golden birthday amazing, I love you all so much!

So as the taper continues and the nervousness starts to set in as I have less than TWO WEEKS till the marathon, I must remember all of the work I’ve put in to get this far and how much I’ve been preparing for the day.

Week 15

The beginning of this week was totally… strange. All of the sudden it seemed like, I was extremely tired, really moody, and reeeeally hungry. I tried running on Tuesday (at 75% reduced mileage as suggested since I was out for a week with 4 weeks till the marathon), which didn’t go as well as I had liked. By Wednesday, I was in 100% mood-swing-engaged mode. I just didn’t know why I was so out of whack. Was it the time change? The move? The new (really long) commute? The fact that I wasn’t able to run last week and was off schedule? It ends up, I wasn’t going crazy, but I am experiencing exercise withdrawal. Yes, it’s a real thing (I didn’t realize it before now)… I’m about to get really science-y:

In 2006, a doctor went out to discover “whether withdrawal of regular aerobic activity provokes depressive mood symptoms and fatigue, and to what extent reductions in fitness levels contribute to the development of these symptoms.” It turns out that “fatigue and somatic depressive symptoms emerged after 1 week of exercise withdrawal and subsequently predicted the development of cognitive-affective depressive symptoms at 2 weeks…” And here is where I had my A-HA moment: “Depressed mood and fatigue are commonly observed in individuals deprived of usual exercise activities, and the increase in fatigue may be partially mediated by reduced fitness levels. These findings may explain mood changes in response to short-term exercise withdrawal such as injuries and recovery from medical procedures that do not require full bedrest.”

Well, that explains all of my symptoms at the beginning of this week… I was out for a week with an ankle injury after 13 solid weeks of marathon training, which ended up being a big, big break in my routine for my mind and body that hit me all at once this week, leaving me feeling insatiable, cranky, and tired. This week also gives me a little bit of (possible) insight into a phenomenon I’ve read about called “post-marathon blues.” If you google it, you will get a tons of hits, like this or this one for instance.

Luckily by Thursday I had a great run, no ankle brace, just KT Tape, and even though the run was short, it was reassuring and good for my confidence. Then on Saturday I had my long run – originally (pre-injury) I would’ve done 20 miles, at 75% reduced mileage I could perhaps do 15 miles. But it was really hot out and I was still easing back in, having only run twice in the past 2 weeks, so I was did 12 miles, and there was no ankle pain, YAY!

It was a mentally tough run, but I did it and didn’t have to stop at any point except for a water refill and bathroom break. And the best part was that at mile 11, Matt joined me for the last mile 🙂 he didn’t like how slow the pace was, but hey, I had been running for hours, so he could go my pace for a mile! It’s definitely harder with his longer legs and he was all fresh, whereas I had just run 11 miles! Even though 12 miles is on the “shorter” end of my long runs, I decided to do an ice bath afterwards as a precaution, and even managed to stay in for 20 minutes, eating pizza, listening to music, browsing Facebook on my phone, anything to pass the icy time.

And now, there are 19 days left until the big day. The last three weeks is all about the taper – so my mileage goes way, way down, but I keep running 4 times a week – this is so that the body has time to recover from the  high mileage before going into the race. Getting excited now!

A special shout out some friends that did marathons this weekend! Asta completed the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, and Nicole finished the LA Marathon (her first!) – CONGRATS LADIES! 🙂

Week 14 – acute ankle sprain, no running

Missing a 30 mile week of running is NO FUN. The only 2 days I was on schedule this week was Monday and Friday, rest days… So last Tuesday I fell down the concrete stairwell as I was leaving work in a hurry (wanted to get a quick 5 mile run outside in before a clothing swap party with some friends that night, since it was SO nice out). Well, my rushing ended poorly, since my heel got caught in the cuff of my opposite pant leg and I tumbled down the stairs, resulting in an inversion sprain of my left ankle, a scrape on my opposite shin along with a bruised knee (somehow on both sides) of the right leg. I hate how I injure myself doing non-running things and then I’m forced to not run…

I’ve had quite a lot of experience with ankle sprains and luckily this is one of the least painful I’ve had, but the one where I most want to get back to running and physical activity! Ankle sprains are divided into three categories. Grade I is a minor twist. Ligaments are stretched, but there are no major problems. Grade II is more severe, with increased tearing, while Grade III involves a major rupture that may need surgical repair. Luckily, my sprain appears to be a Grade I.

I’ve had my share of Grade III sprains, such as when I tore ligaments playing soccer back in the day, and another when I tripped on the UVA campus in Charlottesville my first year and managed in twist my ankle both ways, resulting in serious pain, tears (as in crying), lots of swelling and bruising, crutches, and general annoyance for weeks on end (my foot would not fit into any shoe). Oh, and did I mention these are all on my left a ankle?

TREATMENT & RECOVERY:

Anyways, treatment for the acute sprain begins with the classic “RICE” therapy: rest, ice, compression, and elevation (check!). Also, give your ankle some protection and support by wearing a brace (check!). After those first 72 hours, you can proceed to cautious, non-weight-bearing exercises. The classics are drawing the alphabet in the air with your toes or working the ankle gently with elastic therapy bands. Next come simple weight-bearing exercises, like leaning against a wall while squatting, and balance training, such as balancing on one leg, and single-leg squats, hops, and reaches.

Fortunately, you can rehab most sprains, often quite quickly. Better, from a runner’s perspective, is that the rehab doesn’t involve sitting around doing nothing. Sports medicine doctors recommend getting back to weight-bearing activity as soon as the ankle will tolerate it. So in the meantime, as I do these exercises, I am contemplating what I am going to wear when I go back to running, at least in the beginning – for instance, there are lots of braces and types of tape you can wear to give extra support to an already-weak and/or recovering ankle. There are literally dozens of different ankle braces, but some of them are too restrictive to really move around in or could effect running speed drastically. That’s why I’m looking into getting some kinesiology tape to put on my ankle to help with recovery and stability, which basically works in this way: “by applying KT Tape over affected tissue, athletes experience an external support which helps to prevent further injury and allows the body’s damaged tissue to rest and heal naturally despite continued activity.” Sounds like I’ll be picking some of that stuff up at a local sporting store soon.

My next scheduled run is tomorrow, 5 miles, but I’m not sure if that’ll be happening or not. I have been walking unassisted (no crutches), the swelling is almost completely gone, and I am able to flex my foot, but still a little tender to the touch, and not feeling as strong when compared to the other one (doing calf raises for instance). Fingers crossed that I can be back to running at least by the middle of this week, I am hoping that this won’t affect my marathon training, but I don’t think it will – luckily I got the 20 miler in a little early (I wasn’t supposed to do it until this approaching weekend; it’s like I had a sixth sense!) and my training is really almost done, only 4 weeks left and the final 3 weeks are the taper. So I’m optimistic! 🙂

My fortune last night - is it referring to the marathon?