Marathon Training and Less Complaining.

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What do you do when you’re stressed out? Do you reach for the large spoon and the jar of peanut butter? Lace up the running shoes and take it out on the pavement? Grab a pen and write it out? Grab some iron and work it out?

I’ve not posed a question to my readers before, but I’m honestly curious as to how everyone handles stress. So, lay it on me! I’ll even put the peanut butter spoon down…

I think I do a combination of all of the above. But, not all at once. Week 3/15 of spring semester of dental hygiene school has just finished, and I already cannot believe the length of my to do list. Numerous projects, six board exams, many clinical hours and long days. Oh, and did I mention round 4 of marathon training?

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This was my, “Let’s rock this!” face before taking my first board exam last weekend. Nerves and coffee had me a little excited. Anesthesia written exam is complete. And I aced it! I’m ready for my next 5 exams! -Or am I? Next up is my clinical anesthesia board at the end of February.

Today begins week 3 of Round 4 of marathon training. This time around, my focus is on injury prevention and keeping my sanity. As aforementioned, I’m busy. You’re busy. We are all busy. Isn’t that the point? We’re always busy. We’re always moving, doing, thinking, planning. But we are never too busy. I am a firm believer that if it is important to us, we will make the time. This goes for anything: meditation, relationships, eating well, studying, sleep. Not just running or exercise.

With this in mind, Round 4 of marathon training has been created with the intention of balance. My previous training plans have included running 5-6 days a week with only the mere thought of cross-training in there. This time though, I’m only running 4 days a week and spending 3 days a week cross training at the gym. This is in hopes of providing a more rounded training plan without completely fatiguing my body. I’m currently compiling a good runner’s workout, and hope to be able to share what I come up with soon!

As for the running, I’ve taken and tweaked a number of marathon training plans, and formed one that actually works for my schedule. Sundays are my long, slow, distance, (LSD) run day with the runs ranging from 12-22 miles. Saturday is my mid-pace run with distances from 6-10 miles, depending on that week’s mileage. Monday-Friday is a little bit up in the air, as my school schedule does vary. I just make sure I get at least two days in at the gym, a fartlek run, and a hill repeat or mid-distance run in.

A fartlek run is basically ‘speed play.’ For me, this means running for one minute and sprinting for 30 seconds and then repeating this for the duration of the run. Yikes. With hill repeats (HR,) I run to a pretty decent hill near my house. I sprint (or, erm, run hard while thinking that I’m sprinting. When, in reality, I look like a turtle wading through peanut butter) up the hill and then walk/light run back down. I repeat this however many times specified.

Here’s a gander of what training is going to look like (Clearly subject to rearrangements and many changes…):

We Run For Cupcakes Marathon Training Plan

W Date Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Jan 12-18 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45min Hill Repeats 5x  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 12
2 Jan 19-25 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 14
3 Jan26-Feb1 Gym Gym  Fartlek 30-45 HR, 5x  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
4 Feb 2-8 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8 Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 18
5 Feb 9-15 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 6x  Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 20
6 Feb 16-22 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
7 Feb23-Mar 1 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 HR, 6x  Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 22
8 Mar 2- 8 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 4-6  Gym Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 16
9 Mar 9-15 Gym Gym Fartlek 45-60 HR, 7x Rest Mid-pace 6-8 LSD 20
10 Mar 16-22 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 18
11 Mar 23-29 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 8x Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 16
12 Mar 30- Apr 5 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 6-8  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 14
13 Apr 6-12 Gym Gym Fartlek 30-45 HR, 6 Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 12
14 Apr 13-19 Gym Fartlek 30-45 Gym Gym  Gym Mid-pace 4-6 LSD 10
15 Apr  20-26 Gym 4-6 easy No run 3-4 easy No run No run RACE!

 

*****

A moment of gratitude. In the 2 1/2 years that I’ve been a runner, I’ve never been able to coerce someone to run or train alongside me. Granted, I’ve had many a runner join me in the same race. I’ve helped spark that running fire in a number of wonderful people. I have also had runners that are training for the same race. But never someone following the same training plan, experiencing the same agony  joy that I am.

I am so thankful to be able to say that I have a training partner with me to prepare for the Bend marathon. The same guy who kicked my butt at a 6 week fitness challenge is now getting his butt handed to him with marathon training. He is now part of the We Run For Cupcakes team. We do our Monday-Friday runs on our own, as the half-state distance between us prevents us from doing everything together. We then run Saturday, Sunday together.

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This was completing our first week of marathon training together. Tired, sweaty, smelly and exhausted, I was so elated to have someone running by my side!

 

Let me be honest, though. I don’t always love running with someone by my side. Especially long runs, when I just tend to tune out.

We just finished week two of marathon training. We ran 14 in Forest Park on Sunday. I’m never a very happy camper the first 3 or so miles of any run. It takes me about that long to settle into the run, and the self-talk is generally of the negative variety. Never mind the fact that we were also running those first 3 uphill.

I’m not a very competitive person. At least, I don’t consider myself one. Until a certain someone comes along with natural running talent and can just bound up these trails without being winded, while I’m back here wondering if someone stole one of my lungs.

That’s what happened Sunday. First 3 miles. Uphill. I’m trying to calm my mental demons and settle into a steady rhythm. And yet, it is all I can do to keep up with Eli! I’m thinking to myself, “Hey man, these are my trails. This is my domain. I was going to teach you about running. Why are you already showing me up?” The inner 5 year old in me screamed, “It’s not fair!”

No, no, I didn’t say that out loud. I surely was thinking it though! He did the smart thing and ignored my complaints. We laughed about it later, when I finally settled into the run. Maybe I am competitive…?

So, here it goes, here it goes again. Marathon training, round 4. I’m very much looking forward to this challenge in physical fitness and balance of time and energy. At this point, I don’t have a time goal in mind for finishing. Ideally, I would love to finish in under 4:30.

Bend Marathon, here we come!

 

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Head, Shoulders, Knees and Feats

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Portland marathon: 26.2 miles

Cupcake flavor: Pumpkin with maple buttercream frosting

Wakeup time: 4:45 am

Start time: 7:11 am

Finish time: 11:50 am

Temperature: 60 degrees

Mood: Giddy, excited, happy…after a successful pre-race bathroom trip.

Pre-race meal: Honeycrisp apple, almond butter, and a pumpkin ALT bar.

Race fuel: Nuun, pink lemonade and GU chomps, watermelon

Longest training run: 22 miles

Length of time training post-injury: 10 weeks…yikes.

Here I am, a month and a half later, finally blogging about the Portland Marathon. Sigh. Dental hygiene school gets in the way at times. But, I promise this post is full of happiness and cupcakes!

My training wasn’t the greatest this time around and, quite frankly, pretty stupid inadequate. I was apprehensive about what the Portland held in store for me. I’d signed up for this race a year in advance, and I wasn’t about to give up running because of a silly little injury and a lame boot. Das Boot came off the end of June and my physical therapist was adamant that one, I wait at least a month to begin even light running, and two, that I purchase shoes with lots of support and cushion in them. I did my best to listen.

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My first run back was in mid-July. See the picture? I listened. I waited a month to run and I’m even wearing supportive running shoes (and mismatched socks.) These are an old pair of running shoes, but I even went so far as to go and try out 8 different pairs of running shoes with varying amounts of support in them. I hated them all.

I made a valiant effort to try supportive shoes for 3 weeks. And then I ditched them. Not. A. Fan. They felt heavy and entirely too rigid. I’m so accustomed to my Brooks PureDrift or New Balance Minimus, that anything more felt cumbersome. I like the minimalist, lightweight, flexible, 0-4 mm heel drop, kind of shoe. So, that’s what I returned to. Sorry, Kyla.

My few weeks of training were slow, as I eluded to in my last post. It was humbling, grueling, and a little disheartening at times. I never once kept track of pace. But I know I was slow. It was enough of a mental struggle to get out the door each time, that pushing pace didn’t seem like the smartest thing to do. Not to mention that my tibia wasn’t fully healed either. I was not concerned about pace. I needed to focus on distance, on crossing that damned finish line.

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Here I am chucking deuces at the 22 miles of Forest Park I’d just  conquered. Longest training run before the marathon.

What a run. I set out that morning to run 16. Eight miles out and eight back on Leif Erickson trail. 7 miles in, I had a very sudden and large need for a bathroom. And not the kind of need that can be satisfied with jumping off the trail for a moment. From that point, it was 4 miles to the nearest outhouse. Which happened to be at the entirely opposite end of the trail, 3 miles beyond my turn-around point. My other option was to turn around and run the 7 miles back to where I started. What do you think I chose? My 16 mile run suddenly became 16+3+3=22. At least I had a happy tummy at the end!

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Race day came way too quickly. The stats of which I eluded to at the beginning of this post. I’ve been mulling over (for 6 weeks now) how exactly I wanted to discuss my Portland marathon experience.

Let’s talk about songs. These tend to define the overall race experience in a number of ways. Driving to the race with one of my best friends from elementary school and our respective boyfriends, the nerves were almost palpable. I woke up that morning with a rather ridiculous song stuck in my head, and had no choice but to play it for the car: DJ Khaled, “All I Do Is Win.” What can I say? I was ready to win the race.

After my first real experience with multiple race corrals, I really did start to feel like cattle being herded. The song going through my head at the start line is one I’m rather ashamed to admit. Standing there waiting, I kept hearing, “Players gonna play, play, play. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake. Shake it off, shake it off.” Taylor Swift, you do not need to be in my head this early in the morning. However, I could stand to shake off those nervous jitters that always take hold of me in the minutes preceding a race start. 

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Here I am in the first third of the race, still entirely too energized and happy. Except, that’s surprisingly how I was through the majority of the run. In the first 8 miles, I kept looking all around at the other runners, in awe of the energy surrounding me. We all had put forth so much effort, so much time, to make this day a reality. This sounds rather silly, but the REM song, “Shiny Happy People” popped into my head as I ran down Naito Parkway. The song is rather repetitive, but it basically talks about being surrounded by shiny, happy people. And that is exactly how I felt. I even felt like a shiny, happy, people. Yes, a people. Shiny, happy, sunshine and smiles.

Again, the first 6-8 miles seemed to zoom by. Partially because they had so much live music for us. The other part being the aforementioned energy. The music though! So many wonderful artists, guitarists, vocalists, multi-instrument ensembles. One group was playing MGMT, “Electric Feel” on a particularly boring straight stretch. Thanks guys, I had that song stuck in my head for the next 10 miles.

Overall, the race went better than I’d hoped. A random spectator during mile 18 saved my life with the most amazing banana I’d ever eaten. I really should just start carrying a banana with me during long runs, because they always seem like pure, ingestible gold 2/3 through a marathon. Remember this? Mile 19 of my last marathon, and my aunt handed me a banana. I am fairly certain I had tears in my eyes. That was how happy I was at the sight of a banana.

Mile 20, there were belly dancers! What a random form of entertainment for the runners. I, however, loved it. Little known fact about me: I belly danced for 4 years in high school. It’s such an amazing form of self-expression, not to mention pretty great to watch…except when you’re 20 miles into a run. I stopped and demonstrated my best hip shimmy and hip circle with a huge smile on my face, as if to say, ‘see I know how to do this too! Can’t you tell?!’ Sadly, I am more than certain I looked very similar to someone having a seizure. Sigh. I tried.

The last few miles of the race, I was accompanied by an awesome runner from Seattle. I’m pretty sure our random babble was what kept me sane.

 

This was about mile 23 or 24. I made my new found friend stop so I could capture this. I’ve been taking pictures of random “Hello, my name is…” stickers for two years now.  You can see them here on my Instagram. I promise you, I’ve never placed one myself.

As we ran the last 2.2 miles, every other word out of my mouth was profanity. Poor friend. All I could think about was the burger I was going to feast on afterwards. I detailed every last topping I wanted.

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1/3 pound burger with pepperjack cheese, over easy egg, bacon and avocado.  Craving was indeed satisfied.

Head, shoulders, knees, and feats. Head, shoulders, knees, and feats. Eyes and ears and nose and mouth…Head, shoulders, knees, and feats.

What a random song to pop into my head while running a marathon.

Head: Positive mental attitude is everything. Without that, the race could not have been conquered. It is remembering why you’re out there, why you run. It is remembering how far you’ve come to be in this moment. ‘Wherever you are, be all there.’ I could not be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my friends and family.

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With tears streaming down my face, I could not think of a better way to come across the finish line. This guy even made a shirt to show his support:

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“Team Jessica” on the front and “#werunforcupcakes” on the back.

These ladies. Forever friends. And an amazing support and more hugs at the finish line.20141125-131834.jpg

 

Shoulders: I had the most difficult time keeping my shoulders out of my ears during the marathon. I kept having to conscientiously relax them. Surprisingly, they were the only part of my body that was sore the day after the race. Explain that.

Knees: Going into the marathon, I reminded myself to keep the pace slow and steady. About halfway through the race, my knee started to twinge. Immediate thought: “Oh no! Another injury! How in the world am I going to make it through the rest of the race?” It is amazing how quickly my brain jumps to conclusions. I pushed on.

Feats: Simply, I crossed the finish line. I completed another marathon. I ran 26.2 miles two months after Das Boot and an incredibly humbling injury. I pushed through mentally and physically to cross the finish line of my third marathon with tears streaming down my face and a giant grin.

Don’t worry, the cupcakes were devoured.

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Inspiration

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14 weeks of preparation. 500 miles of training. 2 pairs of running shoes. Countless hours spent in anticipation, frustration, and even a mild form of fear. All to run 26.2 miles. That is 1.7 million inches. A race against oneself. Testing limits and mental toughness. The race is the reward…right?

I can honestly say I’ve never found a truer form of happiness than crossing the finish line of a marathon. Every other emotion had been exhausted as I pushed myself those last 385 yards. Purity.

It has already been a month since my marathon. September 14th. And it feels like ages ago. And yet, still surreal. For the sake of reliving it though, let’s revisit.

Marathon Day  (Hagg Lake Hybrid)

5:45 am wakeup time. I got dressed in my already laid out and color coordinated clothes. They say preparation is a key to success. Waking up groggy and before the sun is up, I most assuredly agree. Having everything prepared the night before made my life a lot easier. I ate my pre-race breakfast with a knot in my stomach and a giant grin on my face. A pink lady apple with a few spoonfuls of almond butter and a green goddess smoothie, complete with spinach, protein, banana and mangoes.

7:20 arrival to Hagg Lake. What an unnerving time, waiting for such an event to begin! Observing everyone’s pre-race rituals was quite entertaining. ‘Excuse me, sir, but why are you running before you embark upon a race that will surely help you to meet your mileage requirement for the week? Is 26.2 not enough?’ Or, ‘How can you be stuffing your face with Hostess donut holes right now?’ and ‘Who does push-ups before a marathon?!’ It was all I could do to maintain an upright position.

7:30 — Then came the time to decide: running jacket or tank top? Music or no music? Garmin or no? With many trips back to the car, we settled on Garmin watch, no jacket and no music. I never regretted any of the above.

7:45 — Let’s be honest. A bathroom is a marathon runner’s best friend. Pre-race bathroom trips = 5 times. Glorious. I would venture to say that this is not abnormal. Prior to training for any kind of distance running, I had an irrational fear of port-a-potties and a strong aversion to public restrooms in general. It’s not hard to imagine how quickly those changed. When you gotta go, you go wherever is provided. And you thank the running gods for the invention of hand sanitizer.

8:04 am race start. With less than 100 people running the Hagg Hybrid Marathon, it was a low-key but very energized and positive beginning to a race. I have to say, I love smaller races. There’s something so close-knit, as if you’re running the race with a bunch of family. Regardless, my legs were restless, my heart was pounding out of my chest and my head was positively buzzing. This is really happening! 

Many people have asked me, “If you don’t listen to music, what do you think about while you run?” I think what they mean to ask is simply, ‘how do you make the time pass?’ A very good question that I do not have a straight answer to. If I were to try and think of key moments or actual thoughts I had during my marathon at Hagg Lake, I think the sum of them would amount to maybe 5 minutes. My first thoughts as the race began were, “Don’t start too fast. Am I going too fast? Breathe.” I started composing my blog post in my head, wondering if I would be able to tell all of you lovely readers how splendid the run was, or if I would have to report how miserably grueling it was.

“26.2. Think of how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go.” This phrase hit me about mile four, when I still had a smile on my face, and the rolling hills hadn’t taken a toll on me yet.

The rest of the first half was really a blur. It took place on the road surrounding the lake and proved to be a nice challenge with a number of hills. I could not have made it through the first 13 miles without two amazing ladies, TJ and Heather. Between the two of them, they’d run over 70 marathons in the course of 10 years. Their amiable, determined, yet light-hearted attitude was admirable and quite impressionable upon my newbie marathoner mind. Not to mention, their pace was comparable to mine. And so we ran together. I wish I had obtained their info so I could give a proper shout out! Between forcing me to eat gummy bears and a banana at one of the aid station (which were both amazing, by the way) and telling me to “dig in and use as many profanities as needed” when climbing a particularly large hill, I really don’t know that I would have kept going at the pace I did. Thank you, ladies, for answering my incessant list of questions. It kept my mind distracted.

No sooner had I jumped on the trails in the second half of the marathon, exalting at my pace and still seemingly large amount of energy, than I stumbled upon my support crew. 5 of them all poring over their phones, trying to track my location. I was elated to see them, and their cheers meant the world to me. They were there for me at every aid station for the second half. Yelling my name, cheering me on and giving me more support than I can ever express in words.

Somewhere between miles 18-20, I started to really feel the fatigue. I began calling in my usual mental distractions. I dreamed up the best food I could think of. If I could eat anything after the marathon, I wanted a giant burger. With bacon. Avocado. Two patties. Pepper jack cheese. No bun. Sweet potato fries. And cupcakes. Glorious cupcakes. When that mental distraction no longer worked, I thought of what would bring me the most joy in that very moment, nirvana if you will (aside from crossing the finish line.) The first thing that came to mind was my huge polka-dotted down comforter. The smell of clean linen, the feeling of wrapping myself up in its fluffiness and curling up for a lovely nap. Nothing sounded better to me. And so I focused on burgers and linens.

I went through an aid station somewhere around mile 20, and all I wanted was electrolytes. That lovely yellow liquid was like magic to my mouth. Delightfully artificial and hydrating. I had high hopes that it was going to cure the dizziness that had started setting in. Post-race, my friends in the support crew informed me that I looked deathly pale. They hardly believed my two thumbs up while still managing a smile as I passed through the checkpoint.

Those last 6 miles kicked. My. Ass. Thoroughly. The ground kept trying to come up and meet my face. I wanted to die. I swore never to run a marathon again. Never in my life have I felt like I did in those last miles. Death would have been preferable to the burning in my legs. Those hills became giant monsters. I walked them and ran the rest. Not even the thought of food could get me through this one.

My Garmin watch said 24.2 miles as I rounded a bend and caught sight of Boat Ramp C and the finish line. That couldn’t be right. Were they going to make us run laps around the parking lot to achieve 26.2? Preposterous. But I steeled my nerves and told myself not to get too excited about the finish line, just in case parking lot laps were in my near future. But no, it really was the finish line, and my watch was off (which it tends to do on trails.) Those last 385 yards were the most exalting. A sudden rush of energy propelled me across those finishing mats, to complete my marathon in 4:45. I was met with hugs as soon as I finished, and I started crying. From sheer exhaustion, from happiness, from elation at being done, who knows.  But, I finished!

To anyone who hasn’t completed a marathon, it is incomparable to anything I’ve ever known or felt before. The feeling of simultaneous disbelief and accomplishment. Pushing one’s own limits. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” TS Eliot’s words have never rang truer.

This is my amazing support crew, cheering me on every step of the way. If nothing else, the thought of them waiting on me at the next aid station kept me going. Hearing their continual quotes of this amazing YouTube video kept a smile on my face:

 

Let me tell you, I did not see Rob Thomas, I did not pants my poop (which is an accomplishment), and those second winds are real! Of all the songs to be stuck in my head on race day though, lines from this kept popping in at the weirdest of moments:

It took less than a day to realize that I would, indeed, sign up for another marathon (Whidbey Island in April!) and the thought of an ultramarathon wasn’t so far-fetched after all (Hagg Lake Mud Run in February!). I’m an addict. Two more half-marathons this year: The Happy Girls Run in Sisters on November 2nd and The Holiday Half on December 15th.

Through these months of training, with my friends and family putting up with my ever-increasing addiction, I would just like to say thank you. I know it’s not easy to understand why I spend hours each week pounding the trail and pavement, but believe me when I say that it makes me the person I am today. It keeps me calm. It keeps me sane. It is my catharsis and my meditation. Join me on a run, cheer me on. Don’t hate me too much when I can’t shut up about running. I truly love it, and am elated if my zeal becomes contagious.

I aspire to inspire before I expire.