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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 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!


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 11 + “ice” bath

Saturday’s run was crazy – here is the good and the bad.

The good:

-I’ve recently started a new tradition that before my long runs I’ll go to Panera Bread and buy a pre-run bagel and a post-run bagel. My pre-run bagel is relatively simple, a whole grain bagel with regular cream cheese. My post-run bagel (and my motivation during some of those hard miles) is a cinnamon raisin swirl (or french toast bagel in this weeks case) with hazelnut cream cheese (or icing, as Matt calls it). It is literally like eating a delicious dessert. A-MA-ZING.

-It was about 56 degrees and beautiful outside! I was in shorts and short sleeves and my sunglasses.

-Two of the Gus I used (of the 4 total) were my favorite, Chocolate Outrage!! I won’t get into that, since I’ve talked about it a lot already so you should know by now how much I love it.

-That night I got to hang out with Matt, his youngest sister Jenna, and their cousin Sarah who was in town. The girls made delicious chicken tacos, homemade salsa AND guacamole. Mmmmm, it was heaven!

The bad:

-I was dragging the first 5-6 miles, I felt sooo heavy. I realized that the Gu I took before the run (Peanut Butter) doesn’t have any caffeine in it, and I need that caffeine beforehand!

-Since I was at UVA and part of my run goes by the basketball arena, I somehow managed to time it so that I was running through crowds arriving TO the game at the start of my run (mile 1-2), and then on my way BACK there were people overflowing the sidewalks and streets leaving the game (mile 10-11), it became sort of an obstacle course trying to get through! Next time I should check to make sure there aren’t any major sporting events I’ll have to run through, haha.

-Running by a Wendy’s around mile 16 – made me want to gag. I don’t ever eat fast food, but it smells ESPECIALLY bad when you’ve been running for 3 hours. People were sitting in their car eating their artery-clogging burgers and staring at me like I was an exotic animal they had never seen as I ran by. Some people are amazed/confused/amused(?) by me running with all my gear and intensity! 😉

…and the next category, the new:

Don't let the lack of ice cubes fool you, it was freezing...

Ice bath! Even though it was only one mile more than my longest run last week, my ankles were feeling especially tired. I told Matt I felt like I had baby ankles – I guess that means my bones are still forming and are hard to walk on and I would’ve rather been crawling – a bit of post-run genius right there. I knew that putting some bags of ice on them just wasn’t going to be enough, so I decided, for the first time I would try an ice bath. I did some googling of ice bath criteria and rules as Matt started filling the tub was luke-cold (his word, not mine) water. I went in to check the temperature and immediately made it colder because I’m a champion like that. One of things I read was that some runners like to sip hot chocolate or hot tea while in the ice bath to make it feel not as bad. So by the time the tub was all full of icy cold water, Matt started heating some water for tea. I was literally pacing around being all nervous as I waited for my tea and as the ice bath waited for me. Finally, I decided I need to JUST DO IT and get it over with. I did it with my clothes on to provide some (small amount of) warmth, so Matt came in as I stepped in and lowered myself into the tub while yelling things such as “IT IS SOO COLD, OH NO, SO COLD,” and the like. As I was all the way in, sitting up with my legs straight, the water was up a little past my waist and my legs extended straight out. Within about 15 seconds I realized it didn’t feel bad anymore. But it didn’t feel GOOD per say. It just felt strange. I could rotate my ankles in the water and they didn’t hurt at all like they did outside the water.

Matt started the timer (10 minutes) and went to get my tea for me. The ice bath was definitely a super strange feeling and I never really felt like I was the happiest child on the planet, but it did feel relaxing, I can’t deny that! After adding some ice cubes, sipping on some hot tea (great idea by the way!) and asking Matt “how much longer do I have?”, I finally finished my 10 minutes and slowly stood up. My legs were red, but they felt good, they felt totally cooled off right through the muscle. All in all, a great, great idea that I will definitely be doing again after my long runs, when frozen peas are just not going to cut it.

Oh, and one more thing to add to “the good,” I didn’t have work today so I got to stay with Matt another night AND it snowed yesterday in Charlottesville, beautiful! 🙂

47 more days till the big day! I am getting SO excited!

Week 6 + Week 7

So this week’s post is a 2-for-1, with both weeks 6 and 7, because I was away on vacation for a long weekend and was being technology-free for the most part! This was the first time in my training that I’ve had to modify any of my workouts (not counting my lack of crosstraining) – which is pretty impressive given that things were bound to come up sooner or later.

My long run for week 6 was only 9 miles (compared to 11-12 miles in weekends past) because it was “cut-back” week – yay! Luckily this run coincided with a vacation I was taking with my boyfriend and his family. My boyfriend Matt and I drove (8+ hours) on Saturday, so I moved my long run to the next day. I probably should’ve run outside since it was so nice out – but for a few reasons I decided to just do it on the treadmill. For one, it was SUPER flat where I was, so it wouldn’t have given me any benefit to go outside. Usually I like my long runs to be outside so I can work on real hills, and not just the incline on the treadmill – but in this case, it didn’t really matter.

Me, Matt, Zach, and Caitlin on the beach!

Also, I wanted to do my run indoors because for once I actually got to go to the gym with people – Matt and his good friend Zach and his girlfriend Caitlin! This literally never, ever happens! All my training I’ve always had to do alone, so I was excited about that – they were so awesome and did some cardio and then a lot of circuit work and weights while I ran. By the time they went to the snack bar to wait for me, I only had about a mile and a half left. It was really nice to do my run with people, even though they didn’t literally run with me.

The best part (besides from a few of the post-run Buffalo wings I stole from Matt at the snack bar) was that after we all left the snack bar, we were walking down the stairs to leave and Zach says to me, “man, I bet your legs are sore!” but Matt thought he was talking to him, and since he isn’t a gym-goer, he replied, “yeah, a little bit.” It gave us all a good laugh since I was the one who had just ran 9 miles! It still makes me laugh just thinking about it, and I hope Matt won’t be embarrassed that I’m calling him out (too late now!)

Ahhh, vacation!

For week 7, I started a little off-schedule since we left North Carolina on Tuesday morning to head back to Virginia. Technically, I could have fit in my 4 mile run at some point on Tuesday night, but instead ordered pizza with Matt and watched ‘Unstoppable’ on TV (that movie is intense, holy moly!) – I was still in vacation mode.

So I decided to do Tuesday’s run on Wednesday and Wednesday’s run on Thursday (and not worry about the 4 miles that were schedule for Thursday). I figure it wouldn’t be worth doing the 4 miles on Friday the day before my longest run to date.

Since I would be running in my marathon town of Charlottesville on Saturday Sunday, I packed quite literally every possible variation of running clothing and accessories that I could (but of course managed to somehow forget a sports bra even though I had 5 different shirt and jacket options, 2 pants options, and 2 sock options. Matt took me to Old Navy to buy a new one, he saved the day!)

Saturday in Charlottesville there was a winter weather advisory and it was talking about traveling with caution and watching the icy trees and power lines. I decided I didn’t want to be involved in that.. so I switched my run to Sunday.

14 miles, that’s 0.9 miles farther than my longest run ever (a half marathon, 13.1 miles). I was nervous/anxious/excited. Sunday morning I woke up around 8:30am and IT WAS SNOWING! But luckily it wasn’t slick outside and the snow wasn’t sticking to much of anything, but still, I have never run in snow before. By the time I was all fueled up on Bodo’s bagels and Gu gel, it was mostly just cold rain. It was definitely a scenic run though with all the ice/snow on the trees, and even though it was around 35 degrees out, there were a lot of people out running, which I don’t get much of where I live. Charlottesville is my Graceland, as Matt would say. I ran in a few of my Christmas presents as well – my pink Lululemon shirt from my boyfriend’s family, my wool socks from my parents, and my sunglasses from my Grampa (mostly to keep the rain and cold air out of my eyes). All in all, I was proud to get 14 miles in in 2 hours and 30 minutes – extending the amount of time I spend running is amazing, I never could’ve done this a year ago – I only stopped once at the Aquatic Center on campus to go to the bathroom real quick and refill my water bottle (around mile 6), but didn’t lose any time.

Things I learned on my 14 mile run today: (1) I need a new running playlist, (2) I need some more water bottles for my fuel belt, and (3) I am much better at snot rockets out of my RIGHT nostril compared to my left. Amazing knowledge.

Sunday morning before my run!

And congratulations to my sweetheart who started his last semester of grad school this past week! Way to go Matt!

We woke up at 7 am to leave NC... Matt wasn't thrilled. But we DO love coordinating in our red coats 24/7.

Week 2

Week 2 of training is complete! Almost had a scare in the middle of the week with my IT band hurting (ITB syndrome) from doing the silly recumbent bike as some “active rest” / cross training on Monday night. It was so ironic that I’ve been running with NO injuries and NO flare-ups in my IT band, then I go use the bike while reading Grapes of Wrath, that I injure myself. I didn’t feel sore immediately, but the next day, I was sooo sore. Every time I stepped, the muscle outside of both of my knees would throb – I found that if I took shorter steps it wouldn’t hurt as much, but taking the stairs was even MORE painful (but if I did that FAST than it hurt less, so very strange the things you learn). Luckily for me, I realized I was in the very early stages of ITB syndrome, since it was just super tight but I was still able to run and the  pain wasn’t debilitating by any means.

Also luckily for me I got my foam roller right before this happened and I was able to Google how to roll it out. All the articles I read warned me that it would be painful, but OUCH, I’m glad I was able to do this in the privacy of my own home and I didn’t have to cry in public! BUT, after I did my foam rolling multiple times a day I felt so much better by Wednesday afternoon. PHEW! Crisis averted – I WORSHIP THE FOAM ROLLER.

How to "roll" your IT band

Those 3 miles on Tuesday were painful because I felt like I was dragging myself along – I felt like I mentally ran 12 miles. But then Wednesday felt SO much better – 5 miles and it felt so much shorter and faster. I’m just relieved that I was able to self-treat it, because I would’ve been so sad if it ended up getting worse and it wasn’t even caused by running!

The 9 mile long run on Saturday went well* – I was in Charlottesville again and decided against trying to do parts of the course that I wasn’t familiar with out of fear of the route not having sidewalks like last time. So I mapped it all out in areas that I used to run in when I was in undergrad there. It was pretty chilly and I hadn’t brought a long sleeve technical tee, so I wore my long sleeve pajama shirt on top of my short sleeve tech tee (but ended up taking it off during mile 2, while running by people wearing scarves and mittens). I ran it a little faster than planned (that’s better than running it slower than planned!), probably because it was chilly! Besides being absolutely ravenous afterwards, I was also super tired, and ended up having to take a nap afterwards.

Today, I got a new battery for my Polar HRM (only around $4!) since I got the ‘low battery’ sign after my long run (and I freaked out, thinking I’d lose all my information, but it was retained even after a new battery was put in, yes!) Now I’m getting ready to move into week 3, which is also holiday week! I like that my schedule lines up so that my long run is only 6 miles on Saturday (Christmas Eve day) since the long runs scale back every few weeks to let your muscles recover and build.

*A bad thing about running on a college campus on a Saturday morning: almost stepping in vomit around mile 8. Fear not, I was quick on my feet and able to dodge it. Nothing like adding some surprise obstacles to keep me alert.

Week 1

Week 1 of marathon training is complete – and it went really well – I got in all of my runs each day. During the week my runs were all inside on the treadmill after work. The long run on Saturday was almost disastrous because I was in Charlottesville visiting Matt and decided to do 8 miles of the marathon course – I was PRETTY sure that the portion I chose (on Old Ivy) had sidewalks, but I wasn’t positive since I’ve probably only been on Old Ivy twice, but NOPE, no sidewalks.

At first it wasn’t a big deal because there was a bike lane. But then the bike lane ended, so I tried running in the grass, but after having to wade through fields and mud, I decided it wasn’t worth almost getting hit by a car and/or twisting my ankle, so I ran over to Ivy Road and headed back up toward Alderman (toward campus), deciding I was just going to run for an hour and 30 minutes and hope that I hit 8 miles (my long runs are supposed to be between 11-12 min/miles, nice and easy). After my run I mapped it out on MapMyRun and found that I had run 8.16 miles, phew! (at around an 11:04 min/mile pace, which is a little on the fast side for just starting out, but I felt fine so maybe I can increase the pace a little bit). I bet I’ll be glad that I’ve started out training on the hills, since there will be a lot of them in the marathon. Today I didn’t do any cross-training, and opted to instead be lazy and relax, but I might try to do a little tomorrow on my rest day. Feeling good, bring it on, week 2!

On another note, there are some running gadgets that I am going to need when I’m running longer distances that I don’t own yet. Since I am already feeling a little sore since switching up my running schedule (I never used to run back-to-back days, now I’m doing three days in a row), I decided I would go ahead and get myself a foam roller and The Stick – at the suggestion of some runner friends of mine (thanks guys!). I’ve been told that they are a must-have to alleviate muscle and soft tissue tightness.

A foam roller is  basically a deep-tissue massage without having to schedule and pay for it each time cause  you can do it in your own home – sounds wonderful! My foam roller is 6 inches in diameter and 36 inches long and should be here tomorrow – I can’t wait to try it out!

Foam roller

As for The Stick, or the “toothbrush for muscles” as it is called, this is mostly just for the legs and is thinner, shorter (about 19 inches), and most definitely not made of foam. If you are doing it right, it REALLY HURTS. Wow… can’t wait… It’s supposed to be worth it though!

The Stick