Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon: Race Review!

There is a good reason that this race has been ranked among the top marathons in the country. It's a small race in a fairly small town, but it was one of the most organized races I've ever run. The volunteers and runners were welcoming and friendly. And the scenery ... oh the scenery!

My husband, children, and I made a family vacation out of this marathon. We rented a spacious cabin in the Lookout Mountain area for about the same price we would expect to pay for a mid-range hotel. We arrived Thursday afternoon and within 30 minutes, my husband was asking if we could come back next year. The view from our balcony was breathtaking, there were plenty of books and board games to entertain us, and the owners had even stocked the refrigerator and pantry with breakfast food for us.

On Friday, we drove to the battlefield, toured the visitor center, and drove the course. I highly recommend that anyone running this race for the first time should familiarize themselves with the course -- both its physical layout and its history. I had been concerned about the hills. I come from Florida, and although I have some decent hills on my regular running route, I was afraid that I might be in over my head here. Driving the course gave me the mental preparation I needed. Learning the history of the Civil War battle that took place here 150 years ago was also great prep work. It made the race that much more interesting, and the educational aspect earned my daughter "excused" absences from school.

Here's something you don't see every day: three native Floridians!

The expo was held in a church gym. It was small and well-organized. First we visited the Junior Marathon table to pick up my daughter's race packet. In addition to her cool tie-dyed t-shirt, she got a mini 26.2 sticker, just the perfect size for her bicycle. (Quick side note: for the junior marathon, the kids had to log 25.2 miles of running before the race, then raced the final mile on the course to earn 26.2 total.) After picking up my daughter's goodies, we went to the marathon table, where I was quickly given my race packet, a ladies long-sleeved tech shirt, and my choice of a hat or gloves with the race logo! Given that I was only able to find one glove in my running drawer while I was packing, I chose the gloves. I thought that extra bit of swag was a nice touch!

Back at the cabin, I cooked a pasta dinner and went to bed nice and early. On Saturday morning, I woke up and got ready, then woke everyone else up. My 4-year-old son was angry about something or another, and we didn't get to leave as early as I had planned. It was a 45 minute drive to the race site, and I had read that traffic could be congested on race day. It certainly was, but we got there with plenty of time. Honestly, as chilly as it was, I'm not sure I would have wanted to arrive any earlier than we did. The field near the starting line was covered in frost. We huddled around a small fire pit with some other runners until they called the runners to the starting line.

I have never gone into a race feeling so prepared. The training had been hard, and I knew that I was as strong as I have ever been. There were no little aches or pains to worry about. I felt like I had a sub-4:00 marathon in me, but I had decided to shoot for a more conservative goal of somewhere around 4:05 to account for the hills. For the first time, I walked to the starting line without feeling nervous at all.

The race started with a blast. Not kidding. A cannon blast. How cool is that! The course starts with a short loop around a field, so I was able to toss my hoodie to my husband at about 3/4 of a mile in.  Then we headed down a somewhat narrow service road to get to the loop that I'd be running twice as part of the full marathon. The first two miles had a lot of downhills, which meant that I really had to focus on keeping my pace in check. My pacing strategy was to run the first mile 10-15 seconds slower than goal pace, and the second mile about 10 seconds slower.

This photo is from the race site and really captures the beauty of the course:

I think I finally started to feel my frozen toes around mile 4. That's about the time that the course got nice and "wavy". There were uphills, but they weren't hard, and they were always followed by a nice downhill. We were running on a paved road through the woods, and there were frequent monuments and markers honoring the various battalions that had fought in the Battle of Chickamauga. Then I encountered That Hill #1 somewhere around mile 7. It was a little bigger and a little steeper than anything that had come before. I eased up a little on my pace going up, knowing it was too early to expend any unnecessary energy. I was looking forward to coming out of the woods to the spectator area at mile 8, and I was really hoping that my family would have chosen that spot to spectate. Not only did I want to see my childrens' signs and beautiful faces, I also wanted to hand off my gloves to my husband, as I had discovered that the gloves made it really hard to access my fuel. Unfortunately, they weren't there, so on we go.

The full marathon course took two little out-and-backs away from the half course between miles 9 and 11. After running with the half-marathoners, those out-and-backs felt a little lonely. One of them crossed outside of the national park onto a residential street and ran uphill alongside some railroad tracks. This was my least favorite part of the course, and all I could think about was how much it was going to suck the second time around. We came out of this detour right into That Hill #2, which was about as steep as they get. It wasn't that tall, but it was like climbing stairs. Once we got up that hill, though, the next couple of miles were easy and scenic.

Shortly after the 12-mile marker, we came to another spectator area, and my crew ROCKED it. They had signs and they cheered so enthusiastically. What a boost! I kept trying to get around the outside of the woman in front of me, but she was high-fiving all the spectators, so I settled in behind her so I could high-five my little ones and finally had off the gloves. My husband was thoughtful enough to offer me a Gatorade, but I didn't feel like I needed it.

Then the half-marathoners split off toward their finish line, and the crowd thinned out. I hit the halfway point at 2:02:17 feeling great! Now it was time to push the pace down into the 9:00-9:10 range for the next six miles. I returned to the wavy hill portion of the course, passing other runners but not getting passed. I felt myself struggling and slowing a little bit on the uphills starting at mile 16, but I made it up on the downs. Then I reached That Hill #1 again, right around mile 18. I just didn't have the energy to run up that hill, knowing I still had another 8.2 miles ahead of me. I'd seen other runners struggling with the hills, walking the uphill portions, and I gave in. I ran/walked That Hill, and hated myself the whole way. My pace for that mile was 10:30, slower than any miles I'd had during training.

After that, I had a hard time on all of the uphills, and I took frequent walk breaks. I had definitely hit the wall. When I felt like I was running hard, I'd look down to see that I was only running at a 9:40 pace. Finally, at mile 23 (during that second out-and-back portion I disliked), I covered my watch with my sleeve and decided that this was no longer a time-goal race, this was a lovely jog in the park. Mentally that helped a lot. The runners were spread pretty far apart at this point, but the ones ahead of me looked like they were struggling more than I was. I targeted the closest runner ahead of me, and gradually picked him off, then moved on to the next runner. I was back in control, even though I wasn't running my goal pace.

As we finally made the turn off the loop portion of the course, I heard something I hadn't heard in miles: runners quickly approaching from behind me. I had long since given up the 4:05 goal, figured 4:10 might not be possible, but thought I could come in just over 4:10. When I glanced behind me, I was mortified to see the two 4:15 pacers about to pass me. I asked one of them (a really kind older gentleman) if they were actually on target for 4:15 or if they were running a little faster. He admitted that they were a little ahead of schedule, but since they didn't have any runners pacing off them anymore, he'd try and get me to the finish line as close to 4:10 as possible. That meant picking up the pace through the service road. When that road ultimately took a strong uphill slant, I let them go on without me and walked most of that hill.

The next little portion of the course went through some quiet streets past businesses. As I was running through a parking lot, a volunteer yelled out "You're almost done! Listen, you can hear the announcer at the finish line from here!" Sure enough, I pulled out my ear buds, and I could hear. Sweet sweet sound! I entered the loop where we had started and heard the announcer talking about the Junior Marathon. No no no! They could not start my daughter's race without me! I hauled butt up the hill at mile 26, and loved every second of downhill for the last 0.2, sprinting to the finish line at 4:14:37 (nearly a 7-minute PR, not bad).

I hurriedly found my daughter in a bounce house, pinned on her race bib, and rushed her over to the starting line just in time. I have no idea how fast she ran her mile, but she finished powerfully, sprinting with beautiful long strides down that hill, passing a bunch of older boys in the last stretch (her favorite part, of course).

Proudly wearing our medals, my daughter and I marched into the "runners only" tent for some goodies. I had some yummy warm soup, a little banana pudding, some orange slices, and half a piece of pizza. It had become overcast since I finished, and the temperatures were dropping. We gathered our crew (which had doubled, thanks to some friends who drove over from Nashville for the day), stopped by the grocery store for cookout supplies, and drove back to the cabin to celebrate.

Apparently, I didn't eat enough at the post-race area, and I waited too long to eat back at the cabin. A few hours after the race, my stomach was definitely unsettled. Before long, I was puking. Think "The Exorcist". It took hours for my stomach to finally settle which time, I happily inhaled two cheeseburgers, half a container of Pringles, and a beer.

I am not ashamed to say I also enjoyed an early Sunday morning beer while sitting in the hot tub on our balcony. I missed out on celebrating on Saturday, and this seemed like a proper start to the day. We had a lovely lazy morning, took naps after lunch, then headed to the Incline Railway at Lookout Mountain. We watched the sunset then headed back down the mountain to look for some dinner.  Urbanspoon led us to an awesome restaurant called the Terminal Brewhouse. It was impossible to decide on what to eat because it all looked SO good. Plus they brewed their own yummy beer.

Recovering in style:

We took our time driving home on Monday, stopping in Birmingham to visit a few friends. My legs were only slightly stiff. About an hour away from home however, my throat got a familiar tightness. Seriously? I knew it was strep throat immediately. An hour later, I crawled into my own bed feeling feverish. I was waiting at the urgent care center when it opened Tuesday morning, and they confirmed it. Ugh.

On the one hand, I had the best family vacation and I set a marathon PR at a beautiful, well-organized event. On the other, I am very disappointed that I didn't reach my goal of 4:05. I know I CAN do it, and I felt like I did everything right leading up to the race.

And that's why I keep running these things. I keep chasing down the day that the stars will align and I will run the perfect race. I'm looking ahead to the Tallahassee Marathon in February. It's flat and fast, a definite PR race if I can stay healthy. I will MOST DEFINITELY run the Chickamauga Marathon again, only next time, I think I won't set a time goal. I'll just enjoy the ride.

So proud of my Junior Marathoner!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 17: Chickamauga Marathon Training

With less than a week before race day, I am excited, anxious, and moody. Easing off running means my body isn't getting its usual dose of endorphins, and folks around me are noticing! In a perfect world, I would take the entire week off pre-marathon and live like a hermit to avoid pissing anybody off. In reality, it will be a challenging week but it could be worse. I am only working Monday through Wednesday this week, then we hit the road Thursday. I will bring a book and earplugs -- hopefully that will keep me from yelling at my husband, kids, and dog during the 8-hour car trip.

At the end of Week 17, I have logged a total of 547.76 miles training for this race. This cycle has been heavy on marathon-pace miles, strong finishes, and speedwork, but somehow I made it through without feeling constantly sore, tired, or hungry. I feel very strong and I think I am capable of surprising myself on Saturday. I just need to trust the training, and silence the voice inside my head that will tell me that I can't do this.

Week 17 was an easy week of taper. My training plan had three easy runs, plus an optional easy fourth, which I did not run.

Tuesday: For the first time ever, I went to a group run at a running store about 30 minutes from home. This was a big step out of my comfort zone. I recognized a few faces from local running events, but I didn't actually know anyone there. I arrived a few minutes after the run was supposed to start, and most of the other runners had started even earlier to avoid running after sundown. There were two other runners behind me in the beginning, but they turned around earlier than me, so I was the last to finish. It was a good run, but I was a little disappointed that I didn't make any new friends. Next time, I'll just have to try to get there earlier. Summary: 5 miles (pace uncertain, because my Garmin didn't pick up a signal until a quarter-mile into the run).

Thursday: I met up with my running buddy, and we discussed marathon pacing strategies. I went home feeling ready to conquer this thing. Summary: 6.88 miles at 9:30 per mile.

Saturday: My last double-digit run! Following my running buddy's advice, I planned to run this using the same pace strategy as I will for the race, only slower. I did fine holding back the first mile, but I had a hard time reeling it in the second mile and ran way too fast. This happened throughout the run. My pace was all over the place. Once I hit ten miles, I gave up and slowed way down to just enjoy the pretty day. Overall: 11.04 at 9:34 pace.

Ready as I'll ever be. My next entry will be a race review.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 16: Chickamauga Marathon Training

Getting close! I'm over my blahs from last week and it's all starting to get real. I ordered pace bracelets on Friday for finishing times of 4:05 and 4:10. That covers my "realistic goal" range. Race-day attire is confirmed, but I'll bring a few extra items to cover any unusual weather issues. My daughter only has six more miles to cover for her junior marathon training, and I just bought her a new pair of shoes and some cold-weather running clothes. Game on!

Monday: I started my week off right with an easy run with my favorite running buddy. It was her first time out since she ran the Chicago Marathon, as well as the first time we'd been able to get together since her trip, so I enjoyed hearing her thoughts about the race.  I also picked her running-coach brain about whether I should run a 5k over the weekend. She said I could if I could hold myself to a little faster than tempo pace, and reschedule my long run for earlier in the week. 6.1 miles at 9:21 pace.

Tuesday: It was chilly and lightly raining when I woke up Tuesday morning. The rain let up a few miles into my run, and I really enjoyed the novelty of running in that weather compared to the hot, wet weather we had most of this training cycle. 7.2 easy miles at 9:36 pace.

Thursday: I got my long run out of the way. It was slow getting started before the sun came up, and it took several miles to get motivated. My plan called for 14-16 miles at an easy pace. I ran 14.65 at 9:37 pace and felt fine. 

Saturday: Normally I run a rowdy local Halloween 5k this weekend, but I opted for a more low-key event this year, running a small 5k that was a fundraiser for my boss's daughter's school. Everyone in my office participated. I originally planned to run it all out, but then scaled back my plans when my friend advised me to run it as a tempo run "unless of course you are in the lead and neck-and-neck with someone". There was a little confusion about the starting time and my son had a screaming fit when he couldn't come with me, so in my haste I accidentally left my Garmin at home, meaning I had to run by feel. It was a beautiful morning, and we ran a beautiful route out-and-back with beach views for most of the race. From the beginning, I was the lead female and quickly settled into 4th place overall. My effort felt slightly more difficult than tempo pace, and I felt great. Going through the turnaround, I realized there was another woman pretty close behind me. I did not want to lose my lead, so I pushed a little harder. I didn't look back until right around mile 3, and I could see that she was starting to pick up her pace, so I pushed harder and managed to hold her off until the end. I was the first female finisher and only three men beat me. I think my time was about 24:30, a little faster than the 25:00 tempo run I had planned. The course length was questionable --  a few people told me they measured it at 3.26 miles instead of 3.1, so I actually might have run it faster, potentially my fastest 5k. This was a personally rewarding run. I've never won a race before. My only complaint was that they only gave out age-group awards, so I didn't get any recognition for winning overall. I could have taken a much easier run and still won my age group. However, the personal satisfaction and the incredible post-race goodies more than made up for it. So this was either 3.1 miles at 7:54 pace or 3.26 miles at 7:30 pace.

Sunday: Another big day. I knew that I would hit 1,000 miles for 2013 at mile 3 of this run, so I went out for an easy 4-mile run. It was just so enjoyable, and the motion made my sore legs feel much better, so I kept on going past 4. I didn't hit 1,000 miles until Christmas morning last year, and I started 2013 recovering from an injury, so it was a sweet accomplishment to hit this milestone earlier in the year on healthy legs. I ran 6.3 miles at 9:31 pace.

Overall for the week: 37.35 miles, followed by a 3-mile Sunday afternoon hike with my smallest running buddies.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 15: Chickamauga Marathon Training

Just about every marathon runner I know hits a point in training when he or she is just over it, and I definitely hit that point this week. I ran 21 miles last weekend and I feel strong and well-prepared for the race. So why can't I just fast-forward a few weeks and be there? I am tired of waking up at 5 a.m. and having the same bedtime as my children. I've planned and I've re-planned. I am excited to see where this training plan will take me, but I don't have much patience for the upcoming weeks.

Week 15 wasn't a taper week in my training schedule. If I had run all of the scheduled runs, I would have logged 30-36 miles, slightly less than the week before, but the intensity of the workouts was still there. Instead, I struggled to get the training in -- some of it was out of my hands, but some of it was just lack of motivation.

Monday: I did not run on Monday. I had an optional short easy run scheduled but I was sore from Saturday's long run, so I decided to let it go.

Tuesday: Every week, I have one run that is marked as a "must-do". It has always been either the weekend long run or sometimes a speed workout. This week, it was Tuesday's 5-6 miles at an easy pace. I guess the most important thing was to get my body moving after my last very long run. I honestly don't remember very much about this one. My notes say: "Okay run. I was a little tired and distracted".  So there you have it. 5.31 miles at 9:33 pace.

Wednesday: Rest day.

Thursday: I was distracted again, for one thing. For another thing, I am still waiting for some crisp fall weather, and it still hasn't arrived. I am tired of humid mornings in October! This was supposed to be a fairly challenging workout: 1-2 mile warmup, 5-6 miles at tempo pace, then a cooldown. I ran a very slow warmup, and I didn't feel like picking up the pace at all. I forced myself to at least try one mile at tempo pace, figuring I'd feel better once I really got my body moving. I managed 8:22 for that one mile, but I didn't want to run any more tempo miles. I knew there was a local 10k race coming up on Saturday, and thought maybe I'd sign up for that as my tempo run, so I ran the rest of this training run at a relatively easy pace. Footnote: I didn't run the 10k. Overall: 5.02 miles at 9:14 pace.

Friday: My kids were supposed to go to a Kids Night Out at church, so I decided to sleep in and run an easy 3-4 miles in the evening. Something new and different to shake up my routine, right! Unfortunately, several of the church volunteers came down with a stomach flu that afternoon, so they decided to cancel the event. My husband was working and my kids were very disappointed in the change of plans. So it became a snuggly pizza and movie night with my little ones, and the run went out the window.

Saturday: After running 21 miles last weekend, I actually had it in my mind all week that this weekend's long run of 15-17 miles with a 15-minute strong finish would be a piece of cake. I was still hoping for that crisp weather, and once again, I was disappointed. I took a break at 2.5 miles in, then another at 4.75, just dreading yet another hot and humid long run.  Fortunately, the sky got cloudy around mile 5, so it never really got hot. From that point on, the run got better. I stopped for a Gatorade at mile 12, and had a nice long chat break with a friend outside the convenience store. After that I felt really revved up. When I hit 15 miles, I picked up the pace for my strong finish. I ran the next mile in 8:59, and then 0.7 mile at an 8:23 pace. That strong finish was a huge confidence booster. I felt like I could have kept it up longer. Overall results: 16.71 miles at 9:38 pace.

Sunday: I woke up early and was just about to head out the door for an easy 5-6 miles, when my 4-year-old son woke up and said "oh good, we're going running today!" He threw on his running clothes and shoes before I could respond, and I didn't have the heart to tell him no. We went to a neighborhood with fun trails, and he ran the first 1.25 miles, occasionally stopping to look at something interesting. Then we walked another very slow 0.75 miles with increased stick-gathering and silliness. Then I had to carry him on my shoulders for a hilly 0.4 mile. His running pace was decent, and the shoulder-carrying wasn't easy, so I am going to count this run as a workout for me. 2.4 miles of trails with no pace tracking.

Pausing to assess the bear threat (none). 

Total mileage was 29.44. Another random lesson learned (that I really knew already but ignored): don't try anything new close to the marathon. On Saturday night, I put on a pair of roller skates for the first time in 20 years and thought it would be like riding a bike. It wasn't. I have a giant multi-colored bruise on my bum as proof, and I am fortunate that's the only injury sustained.  Three weeks until the marathon!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 14: Chickamauga Marathon Training

Runners have strong opinions when it comes to music. I'm not talking about their musical taste, but whether or not it's okay to listen to music when running. There is a strong vocal group of running purists who insist that music takes something away from the running experience. They cite safety issues, loss of focus on the here and now, and in a racing context, the loss of camaraderie in a sea of runners too caught up in their tunes to engage with one another. Often, there is a hint of superiority behind the purists' comments in internet debates about music, that somehow a person is more evolved if he or she foregoes music. I say, to each his own. I understand the purist argument and I agree that there are times when it is best to leave the music at home. For me, however, music is as much a part of me as running, and I love to combine the two. Music can get me through a tough run, it can inspire me to push harder, and it can make me feel light on my feet. Through running, I have expanded my musical library to include a little hip-hop and a few pop songs that I would publicly deny owning (I've got a little of that purist snobbery too when it comes to my music, so I get it). I had one music-free run this week. It was a short one, and I was hyper-aware of the sound of my breath some of the time, but it was a run that allowed me to really contemplate some life challenges. In contrast, I had to change musical styles several times during my Saturday long run to get through it. It's just a matter of what you need on a particular day.

Week 14 was a good week. Here is the recap:

Tuesday: I woke to a beautiful, relatively brisk morning. The training plan called for 8 miles, with the mid-6 at marathon race pace. I felt so good that I pushed the pace a little, hitting those mid miles right around 9:00 pace instead of 9:14. The speed training has definitely made a difference in this training cycle. The hills that I used to dread are becoming more and more effortless. Including warmup and cooldown, 8.26 miles at 9:11 pace.

Thursday: An easy run including six 15-second sprints with 15-second recoveries. Thinking about the hills I'll encounter on race day, I looped around to hit the biggest hill on my training route three times, then started the sprints on my way back. Fifteen seconds is not a long time at all, I thought during my first 15-second sprint. After a few intervals, I started thinking, fifteen seconds is not a long time at all, but that was during the recoveries. It wasn't that hard overall, but I was pretty winded. Overall: 5 miles at 9:16 pace.

Friday: I didn't intend to go music-free, but my iPhone needed charging. It was a lovely run. The sun was just coming up, and the running path was quiet. I ran 3.18 miles at 9:27 pace.

Saturday: I'm going to have to break this one down. Things were a little off for my last really long run of the training season, and I still haven't quite put my finger on it.

Weather: It was a little hotter and more humid than I was expecting, temps in the 70s with humidity around 80% and very little cloud cover. From mile 8 to 15, I was running into a pretty bright sun with no sunglasses or hat. From 15 to 18, I ran into a headwind, nothing terrible but definitely present.

Attire: I test-drove most of the clothes that I will be wearing at Chickamauga, including my brand new CWX compression pants, for this run. I can't say that I felt an amazing difference in compression pants, but they were comfortable, so I'll be wearing them on race day. They don't have pockets so I had to stuff a lot of Gu in the pocket of my water bottle. I wore my Altra running shoes, always my long-run shoe of choice, with some New Balance socks. Those both made the cut - no blisters. The Moving Comfort Vixen sports bra was okay -- I had a little chafing on my ribcage, but that's been happening on all of my long runs in this hot weather, so I'll probably stick with it for race day, under a long-sleeved top instead of the tank I wore on Saturday (the shirt I have in mind does have a pocket for even more Gu). I suffered from not wearing a hat or sunglasses, so that's going to be a priority.

Fueling: On Friday, I had a big pasta lunch and a baked potato for dinner. Saturday morning, I had my coffee (with dairy milk instead of my usual almond milk) and a whole wheat bagel with almond butter. I felt pretty well-hydrated going into my run. During the run I carried a water bottle, which I refilled numerous times, took a Gu every four miles, and ate a little bit of apple in the 14th mile. I did not carry electrolytes with me, which I think was the biggest factor in my general sense of blah during the second half of the run. Despite drinking a lot of water, I felt unusually dehydrated the rest of the day. Post-run, I immediately had a chocolate milk and then sipped on Gatorade all afternoon.

Other runners: During the first half of my run, I made an effort to avoid other runners, and there were more runners than usual on the path for some reason. People would turn out of neighborhoods ahead of me, and I'd find myself picking up my pace in a subconscious effort to pass. Then I'd find myself slowing down so I wouldn't have to pass. Eventually, I would just turn off into side streets to get a little space between myself and the other runners. Around mile 11, I passed a small 5k race. They were running toward me, but I still found myself running too fast for a few miles. I met my God-send at mile 13.5 in a runner named Darla who offered to keep me company when I was at my lowest. She was on vacation and training for the New York City Marathon. A mile and a half of good conversation went by too quickly, as I had to turn around to head back in the direction of my car. She gave me a few electrolyte tabs, which were sorely needed and definitely helped.

Route: Having adjusted my route to avoid other runners, my inner sense of when to turn around got a little out of whack. I overshot my turnaround when I was running with Darla, and then I added even more distance by taking a detour to a restaurant where I knew I could fill my water bottle with ice for free (I don't mind paying for water, but I hate using a debit card for such a small purchase, and I had no cash on me). I was almost 5 miles from my car, but I was only supposed to run another 2.5 - 3.5 miles. I started taking walk breaks every half-mile. I hit mile 20 when I was 2 miles away from my car, so I made the walk breaks longer. When I hit 21 miles of running, I walked the rest of the way.

Pace: My average pace turned out to be 9:27, much faster than any of my previous long runs in this cycle.

This wasn't a really bad run. It had some great miles and some hard miles. Overall I felt pretty strong. I think my #1 issue may have been the electrolyte tablets that I left on the kitchen counter. Another major issue was the humidity. I had been psyched all week about running a 20-miler in brisker weather, but I could feel the thick air as soon as I stepped outside. That disappointment created a mental challenge from the beginning. Running a little faster than normal under those conditions didn't help. Music was crucial. When I found myself skipping over a few "downer" songs in one playlist, I switched to a more upbeat one. Then I switched to the real power tunes for the last 4 or 5 miles.

Total miles for the week: 37.44

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 13: Marathon Training

Fingers crossed, I've got all the sick out of my system for the rest of the training cycle. Strep throat was a bear. The urgent care center gave me a steroid shot and a Z-pack, but that didn't work. It took a second round of antibiotics, Keflex this time, and daily doses of prednisone to completely knock the bug out of me.

Training-wise, I was totally out of commission for five days. I don't think I've taken that many days off from running since last year when I was injured. I expected to have challenges with pace afterward, but the muscle soreness has been a surprise. My calves, glutes, and back have all been achy since I started back.

I did not run on Monday or Tuesday of week 13, but I ran in some form or another everyday for the rest of the week, including some fun runs with my kids.

Wednesday: I went out with no expectations. My training plan called for 9 miles, but I figured it would be best to keep it easy and short. It took a couple of miles to get my legs moving and feel back in the groove. 4.12 miles at 9:33 pace.

Thursday: Since 4 miles felt pretty good on Wednesday, I decided to try the 9 mile workout with 4 marathon-pace miles on Thursday. My first five miles were really slow, but then I think the prednisone might have fueled me to push a little harder than I should have on the last four.  Marathon pace was supposed to be around 9:15, but I ran 9:09, 8:56, 8:52, and 8:46. This run felt great at the time, but I had some muscle soreness afterward. Overall: 9 miles at 9:21.

Friday: Technically I took Friday off, but I did run with my children after work. We ran some trails near my daughter's after-school program which took us past the high school football field, where the team was warming up for Friday night's game, and found ourselves in a playground, where we stopped for a short play break. We ran/walked two miles total, with the kids taking turns setting the pace.

Saturday: The training plan called for 15 miles, but since I had missed a longer long run while I was sick, I decided to up the mileage to 17 miles and stick to an easy pace. I started slow, and kept thinking I'd ease into a faster pace, but it never happened. It was just a slow kind of day. At mile 13, I was so hungry that I stopped at a convenience store and inhaled a hot buttermilk biscuit. This wasn't a great run, but it wasn't so bad either. I never felt like I NEEDED a walk break, although I took a few near the end to savor some shady patches on the path. It was pretty hot and sunny for a tropical storm weekend! Overall: 17.05 miles at 9:49 pace.

Sunday: When my alarm went off at 5:30, I decided that my legs were just too sore for running. My husband was supposed to go to work around 9:30, so I had already mentally chalked the day off as a rest day. It turned out he didn't have to work after all, and once I had been moving around for an hour or two, my legs didn't feel so bad after all. So I hit the pavement at around 8:00, much later than I typically get out. We had some nice cloud cover from the storm activity, so the late start didn't translate to a hotter run. It poured for the last 4-5 minutes, sideways rain that made me thankful that I have more than one pair of running shoes, because those bad boys aren't going to be dry for days. That nice little shake-out run was 5.16 miles at 9:29.

Bonus Sunday run: My 4-year-old son loved our Friday run, and begged me all weekend to take him again. When I got home from my Sunday morning run, he was hurt that I hadn't included him, so I changed into some dry clothes and shoes, and we went back out. We ran a loop through a fairly hilly subdivision, where we got to cross two bridges -- very exciting stuff when you're four. We finished at a beach access just as another squall was coming in, and we played on the beach in the rain. We covered 1.3 miles with lots of stops to jump in puddles (another pair of shoes down and out for a few days).

Total training miles: 35.33
Total miles, including fun runs: 38.63

By far, the best of the bunch was the second Sunday run. We laughed, we held hands, we got drenched. My tiny son had a huge smile and a hello for everyone we passed. His joy was infectious, a perfect end to a week of recovery.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 12: Chickamauga Marathon Training: 800's and Strep Throat

Just when everything was going so well...

Last weekend, my daughter and I took a girls road-trip to Nashville, where we visited the science museum, the country music hall of fame, and a Taylor Swift concert. Along with a few t-shirts, a cowboy hat, and some smashed lovebugs on my car, I seem to have brought home an extremely nasty case of strep throat. In retrospect, I was unusually exhausted the early part of the week, but I put it off to the long drive. On Thursday morning, I had an intense workout, so I chalked off the body aches to lactic acid buildup. On Thursday night, I went to a fancy fundraiser with some friends, so when I woke up with a headache on Friday, I assumed I had overestimated my tolerance for white wine. I only went to the doctor on Friday because it WAS Friday, and just in case I was actually sick, I wanted to get checked out during office hours.

For whatever reason, my body has become susceptible to strep throat. When I was a kid and up into my mid-30's, if I got sick, it was always a respiratory or sinus issue. In the past five years, I have had strep at least once a year. I know the symptoms and the course of treatment all too well. Normally, I get a steroid shot and a prescription for one of the few antibiotics that I can take without getting hives. Within 24 hours, I'm usually a new woman. This time, the stinking bug has been stubborn.

This was supposed to be a week of tests in my marathon training. I had two hard workouts scheduled. Thanks to this strep throat, I only had two workouts all week.

I did not run on Monday. I was so tired from driving eight hours the day before, and I just wanted to stay in bed as long as possible.

On Tuesday, I had an easy run. I was scheduled for 4-5 miles at an easy pace with six bursts of 10-second sprints with 20-second recoveries thrown in. It was really humid out, about 90%. Still, it was a run that improved the longer I went. I hit the speed bursts in mile four. Overall: 4.34 at 9:20 average pace.

Wednesday, I was not up for running. That should have been a sign that I was getting sick, but instead I interpreted it as laziness.

Thursday: My epic run of the week. This was my first attempt at Yasso 800's: ten intervals of 800-meter runs with 400-meter recoveries in between. The goal is to complete each recovery in about the same amount of time (or less) that it takes to run the 800's. The theory is that your average time for an 800 in minutes and seconds will be an indicator of how fast you can run a marathon in hours and minutes. For example, if you average 4 minutes and 30 seconds per 800-meter run after 10 rounds, you should be able to run a marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Two things I did differently: First, instead of running on a track, I decided to stay closer to home and run this on the road. This meant I had to contend with minor hills and traffic. Second, since I never read the owners manual for my GPS watch, I have no idea how to switch over to metric timing, so I ran half-miles instead of 800 meters. A half-mile is just over 804 meters, so it was another minor change. Part of me wants to argue that this was a harder workout than typical Yasso 800's due to the combination of those minor changes, and that my results were therefore on the conservative side. However, I was so shocked with my results that I am not going to jinx myself by thinking I could have done better. I can't even type my times on this blog for fear that I'd be setting myself up for a letdown. Suffice it to say, my predicted marathon time was about 10 minutes faster than my "stars are aligned, perfect weather, perfect fueling, perfect course, perfect everything, probably unattainable" goal, 20 minutes faster than my "decent happy day" goal, and 30 minutes faster than my personal record.

I can't say it was a confidence booster. It really scared me more than anything else. I'm not going to readjust my goals for Chickamauga based on an awesome Yasso workout. I have yet to run a perfect marathon, or even a perfect half-marathon, and I have set some pretty unrealistic goals in the past, leaving me disappointed at the finish line. My goal for this marathon is YES to run faster, but mainly to cross that finish line feeling like I ran a smart race to the best of my ability with what I am given on that day.

The rest of the week was a wash. I left work early on Friday, spent the entire weekend in bed, and here it is Monday and I'm still at home, having watched an entire season of Grey's Anatomy on Netflix. Running hasn't even been a tiny temptation the past few days, not even Saturday, when I was supposed to run some serious marathon-pace miles in mild 64 degree temps. At least I had the one good workout to keep me going. It has definitely kept me interested. Perhaps a spring marathon? On a flat & fast course? Tallahassee, might you be my "stars-are-aligned" race??

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 11 Chickamauga Marathon Training

I love it when my training schedule fits in with my non-running schedule. This week I only had four scheduled runs, including an optional run, with a long slow run of 16 miles. My fifth scheduled workout of the week was a "fun workout" -- any kind of fun, non-running exercise. This was a perfect week for a relatively low-intensity running schedule, because my daughter and I took a long weekend to drive up to Nashville for a Taylor Swift concert.

Monday: I had an early appointment in the office Monday morning, and I do realize that wet hair, even in a bun, is not the most professional look, so I took Monday as a rest day.

Tuesday: Scheduled for three easy miles, but after two days of no running, I couldn't help but run a little further. It wasn't an ideal day for running -- it was soupy humid -- but it felt great. Big smiles. 3.83 miles at 9:22 pace.

Wednesday: I was intimidated going into this tempo run. I've done some longer tempo intervals, but never five miles without a break.  My goal pace range after the warm up was 8:17 - 8:35. My actual pace for each tempo mile: 8:30, 8:25, 8:20, 8:16, 8:11. Whoa!! That was a huge confidence boost!  Lower humidity helped, but I think the biggest aid was keeping my mind in the present. Instead of staring down the thought of five miles at that pace, I just focused on the mile I was running at that moment. I ran a long warm up and cool down too -- even with a few cups of coffee, it takes me a while to get in the groove early morning. Overall distance and pace: 9.19 miles at 8:51. Best run of the week.

Thursday: A beautiful morning. I started running around 5:30 by the light of a full moon, and I ran into the sunrise. Again, it was a little cooler and less humid, so this was a comfortable run. I left my watch at home and let my phone track the run without any cues as to pace or distance. I was supposed to run 7-8 easy miles. Final tally: 7.29 at 9:28.

Friday: My long weekend started with a 16-mile run. All that lovely, cooler, less humid weather? Gone. I ran with the full moon again at 5:30 a.m., with the first couple of miles at an incredibly slow warm up pace, and I was dripping sweat within two miles. Shirt soaked by mile four. Unlike last week's long run, the humidity actually increased the longer I ran. In the grand scheme of things, this was a strong run -- better than some of my earlier long runs -- but it was still hard. During my last half-mile, I was mumbling out loud to the very appropriate Beastie Boys tune that had popped up on my playlist: "Because you can't, you won't, and you don't stop". Total: 16 miles at 9:46 pace.

There was no resting after that long run -- I hurried home, showered, finished packing, and checked my daughter out of school around 11:00 for a 5-hour drive to Birmingham, where we went to a high school football game with some friends, and spent the night. Up to Nashville on Saturday, where it was such a treat to see my daughter so excited at the concert. A little tour of downtown Nashville  on Sunday morning, during which I'd guess we walked a mile or two of hills (I'll count that as my fun workout). Then an 8-hour drive back to Florida.

Overall mileage for this week: 36.31

I'll take that hint of fall weather again please. Instead, it looks like thunder storms, humidity, and upper 80's for the upcoming week. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Overachievers Anonymous & Marathon Training Week 10

I have been doing a lot of soul searching over the past few months, really making a conscious effort to figure out where I am in my life now and where I want to be.

In the midst of all this self-discovery, I've had a few A-Ha! moments that were running related, and they made me laugh. People ask me, "why running", and I've often wondered myself what it is specifically about running, as opposed to some other endeavor, that has resonated with me so deeply.

Ahem. My name is Alison, and I'm an over-achiever ("Hi Alison"). As a child, I was not necessarily athletic, but I excelled in competitive things -- I won a lot of awards for piano playing as a child, I always ran for student council or class president and I never lost an election. I was one of the top students in my class. I had a full scholarship to undergrad and law school. I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but to show that I thrive on achievement. Tangible success. At the start of every semester, a professor would hand out a syllabus -- this is what we are going to learn, this is what you are expected to complete, and at the end of the semester you will be graded.

In the real world, I don't get that kind of feedback. Nobody says, we are going to spend the next three months learning how to properly handle a toddler's temper tantrum, then you'll be rewarded with a good grade, and then we'll move on to another topic. Motherhood's rewards are plenty, but it's hard to gauge just how well you're doing.

Similarly, my law practice doesn't have tangible rewards. Sure, I enjoy the people that I work with, and in an economy that is over-saturated with JDs, just having a job in which I actually use my degree is a measure of success in itself. But my practice is an ongoing process -- there is no end reward. I close several real estate transactions each week, some more complicated than others, but it is rare that a closing results in a high-five moment. Sometimes not even a Thank You.

Over the years, I have forgotten that I am an over-achiever. Running brings back some of that satisfaction for me. I can choose a race, set a goal, create a plan. That race is going to happen, and I am going to get a result. If I train properly, I will hopefully reach my goal. It is a tangible result. There is a beginning and an end, then I can choose the next goal. I may not win races, but progress is satisfying.

Measurable results make me tick.

Speaking of ticking, week 10 had several moments where things just came together in a lovely way and made me realize that I have come a long way in this training cycle.

Monday: The blahs from the week before were still there. I wasn't motivated and it showed. I ran a sluggish five miles with leaden legs. This was my slowest run in probably two years. 5 miles at 10:11 pace.

Tuesday: Seems to have become my rest day.

Wednesday: A wonderful run with a friend. We met early and ran East, pausing for a few moments midway through to soak in the beauty of the sun rising over a quiet lake. I felt blessed to be healthy, blessed to live in such a beautiful place, and blessed to have a great friend to who is willing to listen to my ramblings. Something clicked with my running on this chatty morning too -- 6.25 miles at 9:17 pace.

Thursday: With an extra long scheduled for the weekend, my training plan eased up on speed workouts. The closest thing I had to speedwork was a 4-mile negative split run (2nd half faster than the 1st half, the same strategy recommended for racing, only much slower in my case). My first two miles were in the mid 9:20s and the second two were in the upper 8s. Interesting side note: on Wednesday, my daughter's bus was late leaving school because there was a black bear on school grounds. I started this Thursday morning run heading straight for the school (which I should have reached right at the turnaround point), but I remembered the bear about a half-mile before I got there, got spooked, and switched my route. Not exactly what I'd care to come across at 5:30 in the morning. Once again, this was a run that clicked. Overall: 4 miles at 9:08 pace.

Friday: Scheduled for 3 easy miles, I took my time getting ready. Normally I am out on the road before anyone else in the house wakes up, but on this day both of my kids caught me. I thought about skipping this one, since it was marked as an optional run, but I had a busy day at the office looming over me, so I took out some stress on the pavement. Another excellent run -- not too fast, just enjoyed the view and my music. 3.51 miles at 9:33.

Saturday: I can't believe that the best run of the week was a 20-miler. There were no pace goals in this run, so I vowed to keep it slower than my body wanted to go and to really enjoy the scenery. At five miles in, I stopped at a beach access and took a picture of the sunrise on my phone. The next thing I knew, I was at mile 12, pausing to take a photo of an amazing lake view. I stopped at mile 13 for a water refill, and realized I hadn't really stopped for a true break during this run like I normally do. I sat down for a few minutes and just enjoyed the feeling that I still had plenty left in me. At mile 17, I picked up the pace and kept it strong until I hit 20. Still feeling strong and not quite back to my car yet, I decided to keep running. I reached my car with 20.51 miles under my belt. Controlling the pace and keeping a relaxed attitude made this run the best 20-miler I've ever tackled. It also didn't hurt that the humidity, which was a mildly uncomfortable 75% when I started this run, dropped to 46% by the time I finished. It's been so soupy all summer long that I almost forgot what it felt like to run without my shoes soaking wet. Overall run: 20.51 miles at 9:55.

Total weekly mileage: 39.27 and feeling like I achieved something.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chickamauga Marathon Training: Week 9

Week Nine required much less running out of me, which turned out to be good, because I just had a blah kind of week. I've noticed over the past few weeks that the first few miles of each run have been slower than usual. It hasn't affected my ability to hit target paces later in the run, I've just had some seriously slow warm-ups. Maybe after all the rain finally let up, I am having to readjust to the humidity. I am SO ready for fall.

Monday: Monday was pretty awesome. I was in the Port Saint Joe area with my parents for Labor Day Weekend, and I drove out to Cape San Blas for some easy miles and strides. The bike/pedestrian path in CSB is similar to the one I run on at home on 30A. Beaches on one side, marshland on the other. It was so peaceful. When I finished the easy portion of the run, I looked behind me and I could see that it was pouring rain about a quarter mile down the road. I raced the rain, occasionally getting out in front of it, but overall getting soaked. And that was just fine - I'd much rather have a little rain at the end of my run than the beginning. Overall: 5.44 miles at 9:07 pace.

Tuesday: Rest. It felt too much like a Monday after the holiday.

Wednesday: I ran my Tuesday tempo workout. Warmup, 4x1 mile at tempo pace with 0.25 mile recoveries, cooldown. I hit the target paces but just didn't feel that good about it. This was where the "blah" began. Overall: 7.86 miles at 9:20 average pace.

Thursday: This week called for a comparatively "short" long run of 13 miles. My running buddy and I were having trouble meshing our schedules this week, so I moved my long run up to Thursday to correlate with her medium-long run. We ran 11.5 together, and felt pretty good. She had to get home to her kids, and instead of finishing my miles on the running path, I decided to see if I could catch my kids before they left for school. I just missed them, so I figured I would finish on the dreadmill. It didn't go well. I only got my mileage up to 12.15 before deciding that was good enough. Again, the blah. 12.15 miles at 9:19 pace.

Friday: Blah. Rest day #2.

Saturday: I still had a speed workout and an optional easy run on my agenda. My daughter had been asking me to take her to the track, so I figured she could run her mile, then read a book while I worked on some 800s. Saturday morning however, my 4-year-old son decided he wanted to run too, so I decided to take the easy run to the track instead (no way he would have let me run alone for over an hour). They each ran a mile in spurts, and we just had fun with it. I'd pause while they ran ahead, then tried to catch up with them. My son insisted on wearing his Spiderman pajamas and mask to the track, to the great entertainment of the soccer team warming up on the field next to us. I had 3.77 easy miles at 9:40 pace.

Sunday: I had already ditched my plan to run speed intervals in favor of keeping my running buddy company for eight miles in the middle of her 20-mile run, but I felt under the weather when I woke up, and the blahs won again. Unplanned rest day.

Still feeling blah. I know this happens a couple of times per year after a tough couple of weeks, so I just need to get through it. Cooler weather is coming, and it's been a strong training cycle so far. Good things are ahead.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Marathon Training Week 8

I'm coming off a three-day weekend that just didn't last long enough. After my long run on Saturday morning, I loaded up my kids and dog to spend the rest of the weekend at my parents' vacation house near Port Saint Joe. It's just a 2-hour drive down the coast from our home, but it's not a major tourist destination. We enjoyed quiet times, uncrowded beaches, and a bonfire with roasted marshmallows. We came home Monday afternoon and enjoyed our own beautiful South Walton beaches. I slept terribly Monday night, with nightmares of crazy busy work deadlines and crazy hard speed workouts. I really ought to start buying lottery tickets, because if I had the opportunity to drop one of the balls I am juggling, work would be the first to go. But this is not a blog about the challenges of practicing law, this is a blog about the joys of running, so I'll get to it...

Week 8 of marathon training included some rewarding speed work, and pushed me to 171.48 miles for the month of August, which is a new high for me. It certainly doesn't feel like that many miles, because I haven't had sore, tired legs like I have before during marathon training, and I haven't felt exhausted during the day. Hopefully, this means I'll be ready for a strong race come November.

Monday: An easy short run. The heat and humidity eased up a bit, so this was a beautiful start to the week. 3.45 miles at 9:35 pace.

Tuesday: rest

Wednesday: I ran 7 miles with my favorite running partner. Running with a friend is the icing on the cake. When else would we have a chance to take an hour out of our busy days and just chat with no interruption? 7 miles at 9:12 pace.

Thursday: My favorite run of the week -- a track workout with my BRB -- two days in a row, that's got to be a record for us! We ran 800s. I ran 5 ranging from 3:52 to 3:54, and I felt like I could have kept it up at least a few more laps. If I could run 10 800s at that pace, I would supposedly be looking at a sub-4 hour marathon time. That's not my goal for this race, but it makes me want to run a nice, flat marathon in the spring to see what I've got then. Total mileage, including warmup, cooldown, and recovery: 5.03 miles.

Friday: Another easy relaxing run. I could feel my right quad talking to me, a little sore from the track workout, but not too bad. 3.25 miles at 9:24 pace.

Saturday: I was dreading this run: 16 miles with the mid 10 at marathon race pace. Running near the beach, there are sometimes little pockets of extra intense humidity. I hit one of those about two miles in, and by 2.25 miles I was drenched and ready to go home. I stopped at a beach access to reset my attitude, and by the time I started running again, the humidity was a little better. Picking up the pace to marathon goal pace wasn't too bad. My goal pace is 9:14, but I found myself running a little faster, more in the 9:06-9:10 range. Focusing on pace for so much of the run was tiring, as I normally love the opportunity to zone out and just run. Instead, I was constantly looking at my watch to make sure I was on target, and I knew the slightly faster pace I was gravitating toward would eventually catch up to me, as it did in the last couple of pace miles. I managed to maintain the target range for 10 miles, but it required a couple of convenient store stops for icy-cold water. I took a break when I got to the end of the 10-mile segment, and it was incredibly hard to get back running. By this time, the sun was high in the sky and the humidity was still brutal. My clothes were soaked through and my brand new shoes were squishing with every step. I took several walk breaks and turned off my Garmin during those breaks, so while I am certain I covered 16 miles when you include the walk breaks, my official total was 15.55. Average pace 9:24.

Even with a less-than-stellar long run, I'm feeling good about the training. I'm not quite half-way through the plan, and I am still feeling strong and most importantly, healthy. The upcoming week is heavy on speed training, which will be a challenge, but it's always a confidence-booster. And with Labor Day behind us, I can almost see the light at the end of this humidity-ridden tunnel that is called running in Florida.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Marathon Training: Week 7

While I am logging in the miles for my goal marathon, my 8-year-old daughter is training for her own running goal -- the Chickamauga Battlefield Junior Marathon. Many marathons are starting to include "junior marathons" for the kids (hopefully I will be finished with my own race in time to see my daughter's first "marathon" -- it could be tight). The goal is to run 25.2 miles (one mile at a time) during the training period, then on race day, the kids will all run mile 26 together. My daughter has loved the one-mile kid races that often accompany my local 5k races. In one memorable event, she finished 4th out of 4 kids, and she was so down in the dumps when she crossed the finish line. But when they handed out awards, she got a prize for 1st-place girl in her age division, and her attitude did a 180-degree shift. Party ON.

This race has been the first one that has required any training of her. The race officials will only hand out race numbers to children who turn in a completed training log. She hasn't been enthusiastic about her training, and I admit that I haven't been as encouraging as I should be. The training period began on June 1, and nearly three months later, she has only run six miles. We still have two months to go, but we'll need to make it more of a routine thing from now on.

My sweet daughter asked me to run a mile with her Sunday evening around the neighborhood. It turned out to be an extra special time for us, since we rarely have the opportunity for one-on-one time together. I will certainly make running with her more often a priority.

The rest of my running week was successful -- I ran my first 20-mile run for the year, and it was my first 40-mile week in who-knows-how-long. At the end of the week, I feel strong and free of aches and pains.

Monday: Cross-training. Ummmmm, yeah, that didn't happen. It took me years to discover that I love to run. It may take me several more years to discover that I love another activity that fits into my schedule.

Tuesday: 10-mile negative split run. I got a little bit of a late start for this one, considering I was supposed to be showered, dressed, and dropping my boy off at daycare by 8:45 so I could be at work by 9:00. I ultimately cut it a tiny bit short, figuring that I could best use that last 1/3 mile as a cool-down walk. Summary: 9.71 miles at an average 9:26 pace.

Wednesday: Rest day. Also a high-stress day at work. I'm glad those coincided.

Thursday: Speed intervals. I don't quite understand how zone training works if you're not using a heart-rate monitor. I know that zone 5 is balls-out fast. I think that zone 4 might be tempo-pace or slightly faster? This workout of six intervals in zone 3 with recovery periods in between was a little confusing for me. My speed intervals fell between 8:27 and 8:41 per mile, which is somewhere between my target 10k and half-marathon race pace. I don't know if that was where I was supposed to be running, but it was a moderately challenging run. I've got the same run coming up in week 8, so if you are reading my blog and you know a little something about training zones, I would love some input! Overall run: 6.57 miles at 9:19 pace.

Friday: Blissful Friday. The work-week is nearly over and the run is always easy. 3.55 miles at 9:14 pace.

Saturday: My first 20-mile run of 2013 didn't start well. My stomach was a little upset for the first several miles, and that made me question the wisdom of running a full 20. Miles 8-11 were challenging. Although my stomach wasn't bothering me anymore, I was soaking wet and just plain sluggish. I stopped at a convenience store to get a Gatorade & I decided to try a 5-Hour Energy. A mile later, I got a good second wind and finished the last 8 miles feeling pretty strong. Even then, for the last three miles, I was counting down to the finish by quarter mile increments. I've had better 20-mile runs, but I'm pretty sure they were in colder temps. I'm considering this one a victory, particularly since I didn't feel sore the rest of the weekend. Summary: 20 miles at 9:44 pace.

Sunday: Restful morning, and one easy evening mile around the neighborhood with my girl.

Total for the week: 40.83 miles and feeling like I am going to be well-prepared come November.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marathon Training week 6

It is inevitable that there will be weeks when the biggest challenge of training is not the running itself, but rather getting around the obstacles that keep me away from running. This was certainly one of those weeks. My little windows of opportunity in the morning were plagued with illness and a whole lot of rain.

Week 6 started with an optional run (one of the features I love about my training program is the weekly run that I can skip without guilt if everything else is too crazy). I felt fine on Monday morning, but I decided that it would be wise to give my body a rest after the miles I'd just put in the previous two days (16 and 7 miles).

Monday night, I got sick with a nasty stomach bug. My "you know you're a runner moment" was when I threw up the first time, my immediate thought was, "better push my tempo run to Wednesday and just get some easy miles in the morning".  The second time I got sick, the immediate thought was, "I should have done the optional run Monday morning, since I definitely won't be running Tuesday".

I thought about running the tempo run on Wednesday (no throwing up since Monday night), but I still felt a little dehydrated, so I played it safe and stayed home.

That made three days in a row of not running! I get frustrated when I skip two in a row, but three? I was a stressed-out, endorphin-deprived mess by Wednesday night.

Fortunately, Thursday morning was awesome. My plan called for speed intervals, which I honestly don't enjoy that much unless I'm on a track. However, my Best Running Buddy wanted to try some group speedwork, so three of us met up early in the morning for an Indian-Style run. We warmed up for one mile, then ran single file for about 5 miles. Every quarter mile, the runner in the back would sprint to the front of the line and set the pace until it was time for the next runner to lead the pack.  We followed with a one-mile cooldown. It's always fun to run with friends. These particular friends are faster runners than I am, so it was challenging to keep up when they were leading. This run therefore qualified as a social run AND a speed workout -- two birds with one stone. Did I mention it was pouring rain? A common theme this week. 6.93 miles at 8:57 average pace.

It really feels like it's been raining most days since the beginning of July. On Friday morning,  I looked at the weather radar and it was nasty, but I really wanted to get in 3-5 easy miles and I hoped I could beat the bad stuff. At first it was lovely -- a light rain and a little breeze to keep things cooler -- but I could see the black clouds rolling in with a whole lot of lightning. It hit much earlier than I had expected. My baseball cap couldn't protect my face from the sideways rain, and the streetlights came back on. I headed back home after only 1.75 miles, hoping to get a quick run after work, but knowing in my soul that it would be impossible since my husband would be at work.

Saturday morning, the weather struck again. I woke up at 4:30, looked at the radar, and went back to sleep until 6:00. The weather hadn't improved by then either, but I was fueled and prepped for an 18 mile run, so I kept checking every half hour until around 10:00, when I realized the moment had passed. It was one storm band after another all day. I did venture out around lunchtime when the rain had slowed to a light shower, but I knew my fueling would be off so I just ran as far as it felt good, which turned out to be 7 miles. The light rain didn't last long -- it was pouring most of the time. The running path was completely empty, and the heavy rain led to some giant ankle-deep puddles. I pushed the pace a bit in the beginning, and jumping puddles gave me a few unusual sore spots. Overall: 7.07 miles at 9:22 pace.

On Sunday morning, the radar looked ominous again. There was a huge storm band bearing down on us, coming from the west as our storms almost always do. Still, it looked like I might be able to get 4-5 miles in before the rain started, and I figured if I could get at least 10 miles outside, I could suck it up and finish the last 8 on the dreadmill in the garage. I started slow and easy, not having run this far since last fall. I got to 4, 5, 6 miles with no rain. By mile 7, I could see blue skies. I stopped to fill my water bottle at mile 9, and checked my radar again. By this time, the storm was miles away -- to the north! With an incredulous grin, I cranked up the music and got ready for the second half of my long run. I ended up making it a full 18 miles with not a single drop of rain! An hour after I finished, it was pouring again, and it rained the rest of the day. Getting in a rain-free long run truly was my Sunday miracle. 18.06 miles at 9:44 pace.

There is rain in the forecast every day through the end of the month. I think that getting my shoes soaked probably decreases their lifespan. My long-run shoes weren't feeling so hot on Sunday, so I will start looking for a deal on a new pair this week.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Marathon Training -- Week 5, and Thoughts on Trail Running

Once upon a time, I considered myself a trail runner. The silence of the woods, sunbeams like spotlights through the branches, the jolt of surprising a deer or a rabbit -- there is nothing like it. You have to keep your mind alert to avoid tripping over roots and thorny vines. Emerging from the woods covered in sweat and dirt after a hard run is a complete rush.

When I started running, I ran at least 2-3 times per week on a trail that cuts through a state forest near my home. It was winter, and I initially started running the trail to take advantage of the wind buffer that the trees provided. It didn't take long for me to get hooked. Most days, I never saw another soul. When I did, it was usually a friendly senior citizen out walking his or her dog. My only safety concern was worrying that I might take a nasty fall and need help getting back to my car.

As my goals shifted toward marathon running, I ran the trails a little less frequently. I didn't want to twist an ankle on uneven ground and have to miss a race. I still savored the trail runs I did have, and part of the draw was being out in what felt like the middle of nowhere on my own.

Then in the summer of 2011, a teenage girl was brutally murdered in broad daylight on a nature trail less than 5 miles from the trails where I typically ran. She struggled and fought with her attacker for around 20 minutes according to the murderer's testimony, but nobody saw or heard a thing. Details came out slowly, and it took me some time to fully process the tragedy. After awhile, I couldn't run those trails without thinking about the murder. Some days it frightened me, some days I put myself in her parents' shoes, some days it made me angry. In any event, I don't run those trails alone anymore.

I miss my trail. I miss carefree running.

There is a high-end subdivision that I often pass on my weekly long run. Amid the million-dollar homes, there are several paths that allow me to run off-road through nature, but still have the comfort of knowing that I am withing shouting distance of other people. Some days, if I have some extra time and no pace goals, I treat myself to a "trail run" through that subdivision. It's about the closest I can come to those early experiences.

Marathon Training, Week 5:

Monday -- An early trip to the dentist was Monday enough for me. I took a rest day.

Tuesday -- 3/2 negative split: The first three miles were slow and sluggish, but I breezed through the last two when it was time to pick up the pace. Funny how the faster miles were easier. 5.08 miles at 9:11 pace overall.

Wednesday -- My "trail" run was beautiful. I crossed several bridges, enjoyed the morning stillness, and finished with a few strides. Overall: 4.68 miles at 9:44 pace.

Thursday -- First day of third grade for my eldest. Technically I had time to get in my morning miles and still see her off, but I wanted to spend the morning helping her get ready instead. So I shifted a semi-long run to Sunday, hoping it wouldn't hurt too bad.

Friday -- Always a happy easy run. I was nearly done when I came across a friend who was finishing up a 17-mile run, and we enjoyed some unexpected chat time. My run was 4.05 miles at 9:13 pace.

Saturday -- Redemption from last week's slog-fest! 5 miles easy, 6 miles at marathon race-pace, 5 miles easy. This was a good strong run. I hit the race-paces easily, and mile 16 was the fastest mile of all. Overall: 16 miles at 9:27.

Sunday -- I gave myself some slack, and decided to just get the miles in without worrying about pace. I left my trusty Garmin at home and programmed the Runkeeper app on my phone to beep only when I had run 3.5 miles (the turn-around point) without telling me my pace or time. I took a few water breaks, and met some chatty kids out riding bikes with their Grandpa. It was a fun run, and my legs felt just fine, considering I'd run 16 the day before. End result: 7.52 miles at 9:37 pace.

Training still feels good. I have no major aches or pains to complain about, although I could use a massage and a pair of more supportive shoes for work.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Marathon Training -- Week 4

I'm going to start with the last run -- it tested my body and mind like nothing has in a long time. My scheduled run was 13 miles with a strong finish. However, I missed last week's long run, which at 15 miles seemed like a more important workout to attempt. The plan said to run the middle 5 miles at my goal marathon race pace. Race-pace miles are new to me. In the previous training plans I've used, all of my long runs were at a slow, easy pace. Part of me was dreading the race-pace miles, but when I look at it logically, my goal marathon race pace falls within the faster end of my prescribed "easy" pace range, so it shouldn't be that intimidating. In fact, I averaged faster than marathon race pace in 3 out of the 4 training runs I had earlier in the week, including one at nearly 7 miles. Still, I'm always a little nervous about the unknown...

I got started at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday. According to my weather app, it was already 85 degrees with a heat index of 95. I tuned into a "This American Life" podcast, ran 2.5 miles west, then turned around to run 2.5 miles back to my car, where I had a nice icy bottle of water waiting. I like to break my long runs up into smaller segments -- it's a great mental help. Those first 5 miles were relatively slow and easy.

I eased into the race-pace miles with some upbeat music and headed east for 5 miles. Right now, my goal race pace is 9:14 per mile (hoping that cooler temps will let me push that a little faster in the fall). I easily kept the pace at 9:05 - 9:10 for the first 3.5 miles, thinking if I could do it in this heat, I'd have no problem come November. I struggled a little over the last 1.5 miles, but held the pace under 9:14. Still a good run, and at this point, I was looking forward to an easy pace for the last 5 miles, so I turned around to head west again.

I was feeling pretty beat up after the middle 5 miles, and I realized that I was completely drenched. It was overcast so it didn't seem THAT hot, but I looked like I had gone swimming in my clothes. I stopped at a convenience store to buy a cold drink, and found myself craving a sweet tea. Probably not a good idea, but I bought it, and it was delicious. Less than a mile later, I tripped over my own feet and almost fell. I was so drained that I took a few walk breaks, stopping my timer each time because I wanted to get in a full 15 miles of real running. Eventually, I decided not to push too hard, and let the timer keep ticking when I needed to walk. I just wanted to get those last 5 miles in, even if I had to crawl. I stopped to sit down once, checked the weather, and the heat index was up to 100 degrees. It was a relief to know that it wasn't just me being a wimp. I made it to the end, mostly running, with another convenient store stop, this time for cold water. Heat index was up to 102 by the time I finished, and it wasn't even 8:30 in the morning yet!

The bad news -- that run kicked my butt. The good news -- it would take a serious anomaly of nature to have a 102 heat index on race day. The mental challenges of this run aren't too different from the ones I typically hit in the last 4-5 miles of a marathon. Might as well get toughened up now -- physically and mentally. Overall, I averaged 9:52 per mile -- that's with 5 miles at 9:10, so those last 5 were really really slow. I don't want to know exactly HOW slow yet, I'll check my Garmin splits eventually.

The rest of the week was a mixed bag:

Monday: Still kicking myself from missing my long run the weekend before, and dreading yet another crazy day in the office. Monday morning's easy run wasn't so easy after all. I'm pretty sure I took some walk breaks -- I honestly can't remember. I didn't keep track of my pace. Some days are just like that. 4.6 miles.

Tuesday: Tempo Tuesday is usually good for a kick in the pants. I was still struggling with work pressure, and this run helped a little. Tempo pace ranged between 8:18 and 8:24 per mile, and the last couple of tempo miles were tough. I finished my last tempo interval just before I got to the biggest hill on my route -- YES! I was not looking forward to powering up that bad boy. Overall distance and pace: 7.52 miles averaging 8:58.

Wednesday: Seriously, this week isn't getting any easier. What my body needed on this cross-training Wednesday was a soothing massage, but there certainly wasn't any time for that. Instead, I spent about an hour doing some breathing exercises and yin yoga, with a focus on hips, hamstrings, and back. Good for the body and the mind.

Thursday: The boost I needed! I've been truly blessed in having a running buddy who inspires and pushes me. Conversation made the miles roll by quickly. We were sidelined by a storm & had to take a break a little over halfway through, but it helped with the temps. 6.9 easy miles at 9:07 pace.

Friday: An easy run to ease me into the weekend. Good ol' Grateful Dead on the iPhone, plenty of smiling faces on the running path. 4.12 miles at 9:15 pace.

My August training calendar is printed and ready to go on the fridge. First 20-miler is scheduled for August 24! Let's hope it's a little cooler outside that day.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Marathon Training -- week 3

Sometimes you gotta leave the SuperWoman cape at home.

Week 3 started with my husband out of town and ended with my boss out of town. It was an exhausting week with lots of stress that affected every area of my life, including marathon training. I managed to have a few good runs, but didn't hit my "must-do" workout of the week.


Monday -- Knowing my husband wouldn't be in town until Monday night, I adjusted my schedule to make Monday morning an easy cross-training day. In actuality, I wouldn't even call it cross-training. It was a little bit of light stretching before the kids woke up. Better than nothing.

Tuesday -- My training plan called for 6 miles, with the last 3 miles faster than the first 3. As of 5:00 a.m. when I woke up, there were a few tiny green blips on the weather radar, which didn't phase me. When I left my house at 6:00, the sky was looking pretty dark and ominous. Less than a half mile into my run, the bottom dropped out. Rain was coming down sideways and the lightning was everywhere. I ducked into a shelter, checked the radar again on my iPhone, and discovered that those little green blips had merged into a decent-sized storm with lots of red & yellow. I turned around and ran back to my car. I ran again after dinner Tuesday night. Running after sundown is completely different than running before sunrise. I was worried about the increased traffic. It's tourist season here, and I wondered how many drivers had been drinking or were otherwise distracted. Maybe all that worrying gave me a big adrenaline boost, because I ran much faster than usual and it felt great. I didn't run very far, but each mile was faster than the one before it. It really was fun.
Summary  (total for both attempts): 4.63 miles at 8:54 pace.

Wednesday -- Instead of running an easy 4 miles, I ran 5 and picked up speed for the last 2 miles. Lots of wind on Wednesday, which helped me pick up speed at the end (9:08 pace for the last miles), but really made for a struggle in the beginning. Summary: 5 miles at 9:34 average pace.

Thursday: Cross-training -- Cardio Kick-Boxing DVD.  Not my cup of tea. Boss went out of town on Thursday, and the stress at work went through the roof.

Friday: Ahhh, I love easy Friday morning runs. No pressure on the pace, just enjoying the scenery and the rhythm of the run. This was a lovely, calming start to what turned out to be an extremely tough day. Summary: 4.72 miles at 9:29 pace.

Saturday: I intended to run 15 miles, with the middle 5 miles at my goal marathon race pace. I procrastinated getting out the door, and half a mile in I was hating the run. I couldn't get my mind off work issues, my breathing was shallow, and I felt absolutely drained. Sometimes it takes me a couple of miles to get into the groove, so I decided to see how I felt at 2.5 miles. Still miserable, and dreading the faster pace that was coming up. I turned around at 2.5 and headed back toward my car. I didn't make the final decision to call it quits until around mile 4.5. I figured I had enough of a window Sunday morning to get in my full run before my husband left for work, and hopefully a day away from the office would be enough to get my running zen back. Unfortunately, when I woke up on Sunday, there were scary storm clouds in the sky, and by the time they passed, the window of opportunity had passed. It was disappointing -- the long run was the one marked as a "do-it-no-matter-what" workout on my training plan. I'm not sure if I should have kept going on Saturday or if that would have left me too drained to fully participate in Girls Day Out with my daughter that afternoon. I plan on running this one next weekend, instead of the slightly shorter long run on my plan.

Total mileage: 19.35. Hoping Week 4 will be much better!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon Training - week 2

Week 2. The big challenge for this week was working my training plan around my husband's schedule. He left town early Friday morning and was gone the entire weekend. My options were (A) shuffle all of my quality runs, including the long run, to the beginning of the week; or (B) hire a babysitter on Saturday or Sunday morning, and pray it wouldn't be too hot or too stormy when the babysitter arrived. I opted for plan A. Here's how it went:

Monday: Might as well get the one I was dreading the most out of the way. Tempo workouts are mentally hard, especially on a Monday morning. Last week I had tempo intervals, so at least I had a little recovery time in the middle of the run, but this week called for a warm-up, continual miles at tempo pace, and a cool-down. I went in to the run not completely convinced that I was going to push the speed at all, thanks to a big Louisiana-style dinner the night before. My first mile of warm-up took over ten minutes and I thought there was no way I could go under nine, let alone the 8:17 - 8:35 range that I was shooting for. I ultimately decided to attempt the tempo but not to expect to run as fast as I can on a good day. Surprise, surprise, I stayed within target range and only checked on my pace occasionally. I'm glad I took the plunge. Overall distance and pace: 5.75 miles at 9:09 pace.

Tuesday: It's really not a good idea to run speed workouts back-to-back, but I wanted to get my quality workouts completed while I had a chance. This week's second speed workout called for speed intervals on a hilly route. I modified a little. After about a 1.5 mile warmup, I ran several loops through a neighborhood that has some pretty fierce hills (for Florida). They're not that tall, but they are steep and they are very close together. I sprinted up the hills and coasted on the way down, with very little time to recover in between. When I left the neighborhood, I continued to push my pace on the uphills and did one speed interval when it got flat. Hit the biggest hill of all during my last mile -- ouch. This workout left me exhausted. Overall distance and pace: 7.09 miles at 9:20 pace.

Wednesday: An unplanned rest day, courtesy of girls-night-out Tuesday night.

Thursday: Somehow I managed to get my 14-miler done on Thursday morning and still made it to work almost on time. I ran the first 5 miles while the sun was rising. They were SO slow. I worried about meeting my friend at 6:00 for the last 9 miles because she's much faster than me, but once we met up, she helped me pick up the pace. There were lots of starts and stops on this run, so it took much longer than the two hours and 16 minutes of running that my Garmin reported. A warm-up walk with my friend, a couple of restroom stops, a water break -- they all added up. There was no time for stretching or eating when I got home -- just time to take a quick shower, twist my wet hair in a bun, throw on the most comfortable work-appropriate clothes I could find, and haul. Fortunately, I had a yoga mat and some granola bars in my office, and I didn't have the post-run crash I was expecting. This was my longest run of the year so far. Overall distance and pace: 14.01 miles at 9:42 pace.

Friday: Husband left town at 4 a.m. No workout. Just focused on getting the kids to their respective daycares on time.

Saturday: I woke up before the kids, and ran an easy 4.5 miles around our little neighborhood. It's about a quarter mile from my driveway to the neighborhood entrance. This is usually a boring run that I will avoid at all costs, but a heavy rain storm about 15 minutes into the run made it a little more fun. I followed up with 6 short strides. Overall distance and pace: 4.86 miles at 9:11.
Lunch at Chik-Fil-A included fries. Matinee with the kids included lots of popcorn and Coke. I felt guilty afterward so I tried one of my husband's Tapout XT DVDs: Cross Core Combat. Forty-five minutes of core work and pushups made me feel like a complete wimp.

Sunday: More Tapout XT. This time I tried an upper body strength workout. Once again, the pushups killed me. I quit after 25 minutes (despite the instructor's insistence that Nobody Quits), but I pushed hard for those 25 minutes, and my body was ready for something gentler. Thirty minutes of yoga really loosened up my tight lower back and hips.

Summary: 31.71 miles for the week plus two cross-training sessions. Shuffling the schedule wasn't as difficult as I anticipated. I am a little disappointed that I didn't fit in the optional 3-4 mile run this week, but I am glad that I actually did some strength training and quality stretching to fend off injury.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Marathon Training 2013 -- week 1

And she's off!

I am fresh off the first week of training for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, and I am feeling pumped! 

One of my favorite things about marathon running is all the planning and research that goes into it. I decided several months ago that I was ready to start planning for a fall marathon, and I wanted to find one that would double as a fun vacation for my family and fit into our fall schedules. Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon was a perfect match. As the name would imply, the race takes place at a national park where the Battle of Chickamauga was fought during the Civil War. My father-in-law is a Civil War historian, so my husband grew up visiting battlegrounds. He is excited to pass those experiences on to our children. As for me, I may have the ocean in my veins, but I have been craving a little time in the mountains. We found a beautiful mountain chalet about 45 minutes from the starting line where I can cook my own carb-loaded meals before the race, and enjoy an expansive view of the valley below from a hot-tub or hammock after it's over. Another bonus: it's a Saturday marathon and it's a 3-day weekend, meaning I can spend all day Sunday recovering and we can drive home Monday without any expectation of me answering client emails.

The next stage of planning was deciding on a training plan. I'm a big fan of mother-runners Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell's books and podcasts, "Run Like a Mother".  Their latest book, Train Like a Mother, includes training plans geared toward women with busy schedules. For each race distance, they have a "Finish It" plan and an "Own It" plan. I went with the "Own It" marathon plan -- go big or go home, right? To seal my decision, I tried out their 5K "Own It" plan this spring and it was a great fit for my goals and my lifestyle. The plans offer some variety from week to week, more speedwork than I've done before, and a weekly optional run. I usually ran the optional runs, but when life got hectic, it was helpful to know which workout I could skip without beating myself up.

Here is a summary of week one:

Monday: Donning some brand new bright orange Saucony Virratas, I set out for an easy 4-5 miles. Everything was laid out the night before, and all I had to do was gulp down some coffee & head down to the bike path, but Monday reared its ugly head & I had no motivation. I must have twiddled my thumbs in the car for ten minutes checking the weather, debating my musical selections, looking at Facebook posts, before I finally forced myself to get out of the car and start moving. I felt like a slug at first, but after a while I caught myself having fun. 4.69 miles at 9:19 pace (a little faster than my typical easy run this time of year, but within target range).

Tuesday: Tempo intervals. A 2-mile warm-up (rather than my usual 1-mile) really loosened me up, and I hit my target pace on the intervals, just barely. An extended cool-down brought me back to earth. Overall mileage & pace including W/U and C/D: 7.35 miles at 9:10 pace.

Wednesday: For cross-training I tried Shiva Rea's Creative Core & Upper Body DVD. It was yoga with sets of push-ups interspersed. I managed to get it almost finished before my son woke up and demanded breakfast. I think I only missed the final relaxation, which is always my favorite part of yoga practice.

Thursday: Life happened. My plan was to sleep in a little and do my speed workout on the treadmill in my garage. I woke up with stiff shoulders from the yoga DVD. The garage is not air-conditioned, and the humidity was oppressive. I tried moving the treadmill around to find a sliver of a breeze, all the while stewing because my husband doesn't want me to display the treadmill in our lovely air-conditioned living room in front of the lovely TV. I finally decided that I'd wait until evening and maybe it wouldn't be so humid. Never a good decision. I never end up running at night, and Thursday was par for the course.

Friday: Rather than running the optional easy run scheduled for Friday, I picked up Thursday's workout and I took it to the streets. My previous speed workouts have had prescribed distances and goal paces, but this one was based on time and perceived effort. I ran some fast 2-minute intervals with recovery jogs between, sweating buckets (because, oh yes, humidity has hovered between 80-95% all week long). Overall mileage & pace, including W/U, C/D, etc: 5.1 miles at 9:02 pace.

Saturday: Long run #1! Again, I made the mistake of sleeping a little too late, which caught up with me toward the end of this hot and humid 12-miler. I may not have carb-loaded well enough either. Or maybe I should have been taking my salt tablets sometime BEFORE mile 10. Poor planning makes for a tough run. Still I managed to make the last mile my fastest (8:59), with a whole lot of effort, a chance run through a sprinkler (which I made a point of hitting twice), and some awesomely potent musical selections. After a long shower, I spent 25-30 minutes stretching out my hips and legs with an "I-swear-it-was-made-for-me" yin yoga routine I found on YouTube. Workout summary: 12 miles at 9:44 pace.

Sunday: I thought about picking up the optional easy run that I skipped, but decided that my body could use a little relaxation. And I didn't feel guilty about it in the least. That's a step in the right direction for me. I'm a pro when it comes to beating myself up.

Summary: I like the plan. I really like it. I think the flexibility and focus on speed workouts are going to keep me motivated for the full 16 weeks. I'm also feeling good about basing my target paces on a brutally hot & humid 5k that I ran in June. I don't feel like that particular race was a good indicator of my best effort under perfect conditions, but it was my best effort under typical Florida summer conditions. When things start to cool down around here, I may run another 5k to assess my fitness level under those conditions, and then I can adjust my training paces accordingly.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Give and Take

I woke up today feeling unaccountably irritable with the world. Irritable that my son woke up the same time as I did, depriving me of my only chance for some alone time today. Irritable that both of my children were full of questions and needs while I was trying to get ready for work. Irritable that I had to go to work at all. Irritable that some people don't have to work. And so on and so forth. It all culminated in me screaming at everyone to get out of my kitchen and leave me alone.

For all of the blessings in my life, I sure do get grumpy sometimes. Usually it's when I haven't run in two or three days. That's not the case today. Although I didn't run this morning (because my training plan called for a rest day), I have had quality running workouts the past three days. I even managed to convince the kids to give me enough space last night to get in 30 minutes of much-needed restorative yoga before bedtime.

As a mother with a full-time job & a husband who works nights, I often feel that things are being taken from me: time with my family, opportunities to participate in community events, a social life, my energy. I think that's why I have latched on so obsessively to running at this time in my life as opposed to when I was younger. Running actually gives me a little something every time I lace up my shoes. Some days I receive something big: time spent with a friend or a medal for a goal accomplished. Other days the gift may be as simple as the sense of accomplishment that I get for making it out the door while the rest of the world is still sleeping.

I hate to think what this morning would have been like if I didn't have an outlet. I have apologized to my children for being a grouch, and I know that tomorrow will be a better day. Not because my attitude will magically transform or because all my troubles will have disappeared, but because I get to attack six miles of speed intervals before the sun comes up. Honestly, just the thought of that run makes me feel a little bit better today.