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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.

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.)

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 9 – skiing injury

Everything went well this week until I got to the weekend when I was supposed to do a half marathon (I was going to do my own time trial). On Saturday, Matt and I went skiing, so I figured I’d do my run on Sunday. Unfortunately, after a nasty spill on the slopes I wasn’t feeling too hot on Sunday and ended up laying around and popping medicine. I had banged my head pretty hard so I had a little scratch on my forehead and then the back of my neck and shoulders were super sore. Luckily there was a lot of sitting around anyways since it was Super Bowl Sunday! I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive back home Sunday night feeling like I did, so I decided to take Monday off and go to the doctor then, that way I could rest up more before driving home.

My mom drove me to the doctor and after a little evaluation it ends up I have a neck strain, ouch!

The doctor gave me this wonderful manual that looks like it’s straight from the 80’s (first copyright in 1981). It’s both entertaining and informative – what a winner!

Basically I had sort of a “whiplash” experience when my head flung forward and hit the snow/ice and then bounced back, so for now, I can take a prescribed muscle relaxant, Motrin for the pain, apply warm compresses or heating pad on the area, and do neck stretching daily, including laying down after long periods of sitting or standing.

The good news in all of this is that I can still go about running and exercising! Yay! I was nervous this was going to cut into my plan for a few weeks or something. Even though I missed the long run this past week, which is NEVER good… but at least it wasn’t a week where I had an increase in mileage. I am such a planning person that it’s hard for me to miss such an important run like that, that’s 13 less miles I will have run to train for the marathon, but I’m hoping it won’t matter in the end – after all, I probably would’ve done more harm than good if I had tried to tough it out and run with a hurt head, neck, and upper back!

And now, it’s on to week 10, and I plan on running as planned tomorrow. I’m off to go lay down and rest on the heating pad – tough life!