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The “Royal” 20

Well…this week called for my longest run EVER in my life.  20 miler.  I was excited and nervous at the same time.

My first plan was to get up and run on the trail.  I was planning on starting about 6am and knew it would take me around 4 hours to complete the 20 and I also knew where the 10 mile turn-around point would be.  BUT, the weather was threatning.  The forecast was for thunderstorms.  I did NOT want to get caught way out in the middle of the trail if it started lightning.  My second plan was my usual…get up super early and get it done on the treadmill.  I had to make the decision Friday night and stick with it.   My decision was to get it done on the treadmill and not take the chance of getting caught in possible lightning.

So my alarm went off at 2:45 and I was actually not very tired.  I had all my “stuff” set out so I just got up, got dressed, and headed out.  Right from the first step, I knew it was going to be onle of those runs….tough.  Even after I was warmed up, it didn’t feel good, I felt tight, I felt like I couldn’t really get into a rhythm.  All that was on TV was coverage of the Royal Wedding of William and Kate.  Since I did not get up early on Friday to watch it live, I was able to see everything during this run.   I actually loved watching it and it helped take my mind off of how difficult this run started.  There were only two problems….there were a ton of commercials and once the commercials came on, I immediately could not focus and that made it more difficult to keep going, and 2, the coverage ended at 5am.  I still had 2 hours left and NOTHING was on TV that kept my mind occupied like the wedding did!

I then turned to my music and turned on my MP3 player.  Ahhhhh…..this was the ticket.  Something about the music drumming in my ears really geared me up.  I was able to go faster and work harder on the second half of the run.  It got difficult again around mile 17 and then again around 18.5, but by then, I could mentally push myself through.  When I got to mile 17 and it felt really hard, I pretended that it was mile 24.  I have always read about visualizing your race and that’s what I did.  I tried to visualize that I was surrounded by other runners and that soon, the finish line would be near.  I tried to imagine how I would feel at the finish line of 26.2 miles.  After I got through the tough part around 18.5, the last mile went really well and I was so happy and proud of myself when I saw 20.0 come up on the treadmill.  My thighs were so tired, my feet help up well, my breathing was good….it was just my thighs. 

As I was stretching, I thought about how the entire run went and I think it went well, considering how difficult the start was.  If it hadn’t been for the Royal Wedding coverage, I don’t know how I would have stuck it out for the first 2 hours.  Even though the commercials were difficult to get through,  the fact that I was looking forward to the next segment of the wedding kept pushing through the commercials…and they were the SAME commercials everytime! 

I got home, took out Max, started the coffee pot, drank my chocolate milk, and headed in for the ice bath.  I had again stockpiled ice all week, in fact MORE ice than last week.  I sat in the ice and could harldy breathe.  I cannot even describe how painful it was to sit in the tub of cold water and ice.  But as soon as I got out, my legs felt so good.  I got back in my pjs and slept for a couple of hours.  When I got out of bed, my legs felt great and I hope that continues.   I’m sure it will and although horribly painful, the ice bath is a saviour and on these long runs, I will always end with an ice bath.

I’m sure that at some point, Prince William and Princess Kate will read this blog entry and I want to thank them for getting married the day before my 20 miler.  The coverage of their wedding pushed me through the most difficult part of my run.  If I didn’t have their wedding to watch, I don’t know how I would have gotten myself going.  So thank you, William and Kate, (insert curtsey) for helping me on The Royal 20.

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Easter Reflections and Looking Ahead

We had a wonderful Easter break.  I was able to do everything I wanted to do…..spent quality time with hubby and son, got in my 18 miles, slept in, did some housework, spent time with my parents, saw friends from high school and hometown, spent time with friends in Harmony.  Now it’s back to reality.

I look on the marathon event website daily to see if there is anything new, and this morning, they had on the countdown until the marathon.  40 days…..that’s the same length as LENT.  Lent went fast this year, and I imagine that these next 40 days will fly by too.  I have a lot going on in the next 40 days…I coach softball and sometimes we have 4 games a week, my son is in baseball, my husband coaches golf, plus wrapping up the school year, a couple more music performances…the list goes on and on. 

As far as training in the next 40 days, the long runs get really intense.  And I mean REALLY intense.  It’s not just going to be intense physically, but also fitting them into my schedule.  These next 40 days are really going to challenge me more than ever mentally and physically.   And I know myself…I know I will get to the marathon day and wonder if I’m ready, wonder if I’ve done enough, wonder if I can finish.  I’m already thinking that.

At many points in this journey I’ve had to re-focus and here is another one of those points.  In these last 40 days I have to again re-focus and and just keep on pushing no matter what.    I want to thank everybody who has sent me messages and comments of support.  You have no idea how much that means to me and I’m sure that support will help carry me through…it does already!   I have to use my motto (I have a few that I say to myself) more than ever…one foot in front of the other.

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18 and Ice

Happy Friday!  (So anybody relate the title to an 80s hairband’ song?  ha ha)  I decided to change up my schedule since it’s Easter weekend and we’ll be busy.  I took my rest day on Thursday and decided to run my long run, which was 18 for this week, on Friday morning instead of the weekend.  I can plug in the other runs on the weekend days because even though we’ll be busy Saturday and Sunday, those runs will be significantly shorter and easier to fit in. 

I got up at my usual time and since there is no school today, I didn’t have to worry about getting home and ready to leave.  I started out feeling good, kept my pace slow at first.  It was one of those beginnings where you just know it’s going to feel good.  I had my Gu Chomps and ate those at about an hour in.  Even though I went into these 18 thinking I didn’t really have a “goal time”, I was starting to toss numbers in my head.  I was thinking…Okay, if I get to mile X at X time, then my finish time would be….I didn’t want to start doing that, but it’s not that easy to stop!  So when I started thinking that, I decided that I wanted to get to 16 miles in 3 hours and then put my sweatshirt over the part on the treadmill that gives your distance, pace, time etc and decided not to look until I had been running 3 hours.  My pace felt great, and I knew I could increase or decrease the mph if I needed to.

Three hours came and I was a little nervous to check my mileage.  What if I was going a lot slower than I thought?  I did check and I was right on….16 miles at the 3 hour mark.  WHEW!   I finished the 18 actually stronger than I thought I would…I increased my pace for the last half mile and it felt really good.  I had a couple stops along the way…one quick potty break as I had brought a big Powerade, and I stopped quick to stretch out my legs and calves.  Otherwise, I kept a nice steady pace and hung in there. 

After long runs, I have always gotten in my big bathtub with cold water to help heal my muscles and not be so sore the next day.  My cousin Kean told me in an email, in capital letters, that I need to ADD ICE and stay in there for 5 minutes.  Augh.  I KNOW that cold water immersion  promotes the healing of muscles by reducing swelling and tissue breakdown, produces a longer lasting change to tissues, and is more effecient at healing than individual ice packs, (not that ice packs aren’t beneficial, but the tub is better after runs like today’s) but I was really dreading this.  So this morning I chugged down my chocolate milk, made a cup of hot tea to take with me and began the tub-filling process.  I had stockpiled a large bag of ice and I grabbed that out of the freezer and headed in.  I first sat down with just the cold water, no ice, and got myself organized.  I had set the alarm on my phone for SEVEN minutes, had my got tea next to me.  I had on my shorts and hooded sweatshirt, so I was bundled up!.  It was time for the ice.  I grabbed the bag and just let the ice fall into the water.  OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!  I couldn’t believe it.  What a shock.  I thought the cold water alone was bad.  I sipped on the hot tea and made it the full seven minutes.  It felt so good when I got out and I sure hope that those seven minutes pay off!

All in all, I feel very good about my 18 miler, about the ice bath, about having it done before the weekend.   We’ll see how my legs feel tomorrow and more importantly Sunday, but I have a feeling they will be okay.  One more “milestone” down!

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I’m Still Here…I think…

Well….it’s been several days since my last blog.  Last week was the week from heck.  We had so many music events, practices, and games….I didn’t know if I was coming or going.  On one of those days, one of my kindergarten students pointed out that I was wearing two different earrings.  On one of those days, I actually had on two different colored socks, but I didn’t admit that until now.  Today, after it’s all over and I could breathe a little bit, I counted eight, yes 8, empty cans of Diet Pepsi on my desk.  Nice. 

I did get my running done during all this, except one day.  To be quite honest, not one run felt good until today.  I think last week I gutted it out just to make sure I got in the miles, but I wasn’t concentrating on my running.   I was thinking about what event was next, what do we have to get organized, what do I have to get done to keep my head above water.  It was painful, not physically, but mentally to run.  I didn’t want to be running, I wanted to be sleeping. 

Today when I went to run, I felt a weight off because our week from heck was behind us and we made it.  I did a hill workout and it felt absolutely great.  My mind was so much clearer and I was much more focused.  I still feel mentally and physically tired, but so what.  After this morning’s run, I’m not as foggy. 

Even though I had a great run this morning, the weight has lifted, and I feel much less foggy, I did have moments today where I didn’t know if I was coming or going.  I have a feeling that I’m going to feel like that until this marathon is over.  We still have music events coming up (at least not five in seven days) and we’ll all have games…sometimes four games a week, and I’ll still have to get in all my training.  I might wear two different earrings and/or socks.  I might look at someone talking to me and not have a clue what they are saying to me.  Oh well.  There are worse things. 

Deep breath….one foot in front of the other.

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A Different Kind of Marathon…….

I’m sitting here at my laptop with a heavy, heavy heart.  For those of you reading that do not live in Harmony, we have some very dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (for the sake of the blog) who are hurting tonight.  Mrs.  Smith lost her mother last Monday, and Mr. Smith lost his mother….today. 

Within the last few months, I have had other friends who lost family members.  One friend lost her brother and her sister within a few short months.  Another friend lost her nephew too young.  So much heartache…so many questions why. Why in one week must a wonderful couple each lose mothers?  Why within a few short months must my friend lose siblings?  Why must a young man be taken?  

I know we can’t answer those questions, but it doesn’t stop us from asking and feeling helpless and saddened.  We send our prayers and our love to our friends, but we all still want to do more.  It sometimes doesn’t feel like it will ever stop…the saddness.

It makes me stop.  It makes me check my priorities.  It makes me realize that all of us are in a marathon….it’s called life…and sometimes getting though rough spots takes stamina, endurance, mental and physical strength.  Sometimes we feel like we can’t take much more, but we have to push through, we have to keep going.

It makes me rmember that what really matters… and friends.  I think too often, our families and friends get lost in the shuffle of stress, of everyday life.  I know I’m guilty of that; I’m sure we all are.  I know that I’m pausing tonight and treasuring my family and friends. 

We will all go back to our lives, because as we all know, life goes on no matter how difficult that might be.  But tonight, I say a prayer for my friends.  Tonight, I thank all my family and friends for being a wonderful part of my life and say how much I love you all.  Tonight, I hope any of you who read this blog will go hug your families and friends and treasure the specialness of each and every one of them.  I hope you will tell them just how much you love them and how much they mean to you.   We just never know what tomorrow will bring.


Split up mistake? Or not?

Today I found myself doing something that I’ve never done before during a long run.  I split it up into two runs.  The point of a long run during training is to NOT break it up so that you build stamina and endurance.  It is the most important component of the training because doing the entire long run teaches the body to mentally and physically tackle the challenges of the actual marathon. 

I got up at 2:40 and headed down to Work-It-Circuit.  I was so tired…so sleepy.  Luckily, the movie Sleeping with the Enemy was on, so that helped.  But I was so sleepy that I felt like I could actually fall asleep running.  My foot was fine, my legs were fine, my breathing was fine…everything was going great except I was so sleepy.  I realized after two hours that this run was fruitless unless I got some sleep.   I was a little over halfway at that point and I decided to stop and go back to bed.  I slept so well and I haven’t slept IN in a long time.  When I woke up again, I felt much more rested.  I had some coffee, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, watched some TV, and then headed back and finished up.  The second time I went back, the last half of my run went so much better. 

My cousin Kean, who is a marathoner who made his own wonderful and inspiring goals after suffering a stroke, told me to just get through the long runs when I don’t feel up to it AND to use the training as guidelines and not get too caught up in being rigid.  So today, I didn’t gut out the long run, and I did use the training as a guideline.   I know it’s not the “right” way to do it, and hopefully it won’t hurt me in the long run (ha ha).  Part of me regrets not just hanging in there and finishing the first time, but the other part of me feels like it was the best decision to go home and sleep and start fresh.  Either way, I did get in the miles today and now I can re-focus to next week. 

I said before that a runner once told me that a person doesn’t know the kind of runner he or she is until that person has been running consistently for at least six years.  I’m still learning….I’m still growing….I’m still trying.   I think that in this training and more importantly, in life, that’s what it’s all about.

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MAX Confusion

So I talked about my right foot hurting in my blog about my weekend 16 miles.   It started hurting halfway during my run so I took it easy, stretched, walked a little, it quit hurting, and then I finished strong.  Perfect.

Monday during cross training…no foot problem.  Tuesday’s 7 miles, no problem.  Wednesday, however, I woke up at 4am as usual, got dressed, and decided to take Max (our yellow lab) out before I went to run.  Everything seemed fine, but suddenly when I took a step to put on his leash, my foot hurt….badly.  It scared me a little.  We went for our little walk….still hurt.  I was not sure if I should go run, my training called for between 3 and 4 miles, or if I should just rest.  I decided for the run. 

I get to Work-It-Circuit and get on the treadmill and I’m feeling very apprehensive.  Thoughts are running through my head about an injury and I’m second guessing myself as to whether or not I should even be trying a run.  The same thing starts happening as it did during the 16 miles…my foot starts hurting.  So I do the same thing, took it easy, walked a little, stretched, etc.  It never did start to feel better.  I did finish somewhere between the 3 and 4 miles, but I wasn’t feeling good.  I wore another pair of running shoes to school Wednesday instead of dress shoes for extra support.

I get home Wednesday night and made myself an ice pack.  I put up my foot and put the on the ice.  Toward the end, I massaged my foot with the ice and then took off my sock.  What did I find?   A huge bruise on the outside of my foot under the bone that is under the pinky toe.  WHAT?  Now I am confused.  How the heck did I get that bruise?  I didn’t fall down, I didn’t hit my foot on anything.  I don’t get it, where did I get this bruise?

Today rolls around and I get up at 4 and head out to run.  I have 7 miles today and I’m quite nervous about my foot.  As I’m getting ready and by the time I get there and get on the treadmill, nothing hurts.  I warm up and start to run….nothing hurts.  About 2 miles in, it feels a little tight and sore, so I stretch, it’s better.  I end up finishing the 7 miles with no problem.  A little confused here, but I take it and head home.  I ice it again before school, wear the supportive shoes and tonight, no pain.  The bruise is still there, the confusion is still there. 

As I’m pondering where this bruise could have come from, I remember that last week I was lying in my bed throwing a tennis ball to Max.  At one time, he got super excited and jumped up on the bed AND on my right foot.  I don’t remember that he landed on the outside of my foot because I was startled, but he certainly could have.  It would definately explain the bruise.   MAX!!!!!!  It’s never a dull moment with that crazy dog! 

I sure hope the bruise and on and off pain is a result from Max and not an actual injury.  I sure hope that Max didn’t CAUSE an actual injury.  Friday is a rest day, and then Saturday another long run.  So time will tell I guess.   For now, more ice, more anti-inflammatory meds.  I maybe should have listened to Carol Brady on that one episode of “The Brady Bunch”…….”Mom always said, don’t play ball in the house!”

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Music or no music? That is the question!

The schedule today called for 7 miles.  That wasn’t a surprise to me since my Tuesday and Thursday runs have needed to be between 6 and 8 miles, depending on the week.  Sometimes I throw in combo runs such as intervals, fartleks (yes…there IS such a run and it’s not what you are thinking so quit laughing) Kenyan Outbacks, and hill workouts.  Again, depends on the week.  I always bring my MP3 Player, which is stocked with music from about all genres.  I like about everything when I run….heavy metal, 80s, jazz, Pop, Michael Jackson, pretty much you name it, it’s on there and I’ll listen to it. 

Here’s the thing….sometimes I like to run with music, and sometimes I can’t stand to have music on.   What’s weird is that sometimes, I feel like the music in my ears hurts and I cannot stand to have the earbuds in my ears!  Sometimes, it’s so nice to just either hear nothing, or hear the sounds of nature when I’m outside.  In fact, there have been times when I’m running outside that I’ll actually stop, close my eyes, and listen to the silence and breath in the fresh air.  But that’s another blog!   However, there are other times where I absolutely HAVE to have on some music or I feel like I can’t run another step!

This morning was one of those morning where I had to have music.  My playlist this morning was a constant repeat of ONLY these songs:  Welcome to the Jungle, Billie Jean, Stronger (Kanye West), You Know I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse), You Spin Me Right Round, and Chicken Fried.  Weird playlist!  But for some reason, this combination songs got me pumped up this morning.  

I guess I would say that I wouldn’t be able to choose music or no music.  I would say that I’m a little of both.  It depends on my mood and where I’m running.  But one thing is for sure no matter my mood or where I’m running, I treat my MP3 Player like an American Express card……I never leave home without it.

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I am not really a fan of Mondays….well….that was a huge understatement.  I really cannot STAND Mondays.  Today on the schedule is a cross training day.  I ususally do some sort of other cardio and weights.  It’s either circuit training or my Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD.  Today was Jillian.  She always delivers a tough workout!

I am reminded on Mondays and Fridays (Fridays being total rest day to gear up for the long weekend run) how much I really do love that change.  I’ve read many articles written by hard-core runners and Elites how much of a challenge a rest day is for them.  I’m not that way.  I look forward to rest days; not because I’m lazy, but because they rejuvenate me…my body and mind.  I think too often, people new to running overlook rest days.   I sure did.  In 2006, my friend Trish talked me into doing a half with her in St. Cloud.  She gave me the training program and I was off.  I did not believe that I was running enough and thought that I would have to up the mileage on all my runs…going AGAINST the training plan.  Of course I knew more that this running expert who put together these plans and who is a world class runner.  Yes…this running newbie was way smarter than he.  Well…I did not rest on the days I was supposed to and to add insult to injury (no pun intended) I decided that I would add on one or two extra miles on each day.  Sure enough, I ended up with a foot injury (overuse injury) and couldn’t run the half.  I was heartbroken and devastated.  What a lesson.  It sure taught me how important those rest days are.

A co-worker emailed me today that after she read one of my first two blogs, she felt better resting.  One of her runs last week wasn’t good, so she took two days off and when she ran again, she had a great run.  She listened to her body, took the rest, and it paid off…I’m so proud of her!  (Great job Melissa!)

I’ll never say that I know it all or that I’m perfect.  I just know what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned from my own mistakes.  Someone (a runner who has completed several marathons, Ironmans, etc) told me that you don’t really find out about yourself as a runner until you’ve been consistently running for at least six years.  I started running, SLOWLY, in 1999, and now, in 2011 I would agree with him.  I’ve come a long way and I’m still learning about myself as a runner.  I think the things that help me learn about myself is that I’m not afraid anymore to try and I’m willing to look at my training logs, workouts, and runs and find things that I could do better.   One of my biggest lessons that I learned the hard way….never underestimate the rest days.

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My alarm went off at 2:45am and I actually said outloud, “This is insane.”  I considered going back to bed and putting off the 16 miler, which I knew would take me roughly 3.5 hours, until later, but therein lies my dilema with marathon training.  I do not want to take that much time in my day away from family time….ESPCIALLY on a weekend.  And since there is no turning back on this marathon event, I cannot skip the run.  So the only solution for me is to get up that early and get it done.

I forced myself out of bed at the crazy hour and got going.  It started off great, but about halfway through, my right foot started hurting very badly.  In fact, I didn’t think I could run anymore and I was taken over with anxiety.  Is this an overuse injury? (Been there, done that)  What if I can’t run?  Do I stop?  Do I keep going and risk it getting worse?  My mind was playing out all sorts of scenarios.  I made myself re-focus, slow down, stretched, took some walk breaks, and soon enough, whatever it was felt better and I finished the 16 strong, but tired.

I’m finding during all this training that it’s very easy to register for events/races.  It’s very easy to sit on the computer and think about what your “going to/want to do”, but it’s another thing to actually do it.  Right now, the “doing it” that is so tough is the time component on the long weekend runs, mentally focusing and concentrating on all the things that I should be doing on the run for several hours, and both of those things sort of take the joy out of running.  The joy of running is not totally gone, but there are times that I am completely dreading what I’m doing and what I comimtted to.  The sentence, “I want to run a full marathon” is simply that, a sentence…it’s just words and they are very easy to say.  I did not plan at all on thinking about this so much.  I knew that I would have to train hard and that I would have long runs on the weekends, but before I actually had to plug in those miles and the time it takes to get those done into my life and the lives of my husband and son, it isn’t real…again…it’s just words.  There is so much more to this “I want to run a full marathon” than meets the eye.  

So I leave this weekend’s blogs, my first blogs, with the good feeling that I accomplished my training goals this week, but looking ahead to 18 next weekend and all that those 18 miles comes with….time, pain, but also the feeling of accomplishment, a clear head, centered self, and to top it all off, an ice bath and chocolate milk!