Monday, October 18, 2010

My Relationship with Running: The DTR

In case you've never heard the acronym, the DTR is the "Define the Relationship" talk. You know, the awkward one that must be had at some point in most romantic relationships. "Am I your girlfriend?" "Are you still seeing other people?!" You get the picture. Running and I have been going steady for over a year and a half...No, that sounds too prim...Running and I are all wrapped up in each other in a nauseating Twilight-ish kind of way. If I had a notebook, I'd write our names together in a heart. We've shared some ecstatic highs and wallowed in a few down and dirty lows. But, after the marathon, I felt like running and I needed to have the next level DTR--"Where is this going?"

 I've heard people say you have one of two marathon experiences. Either you say, "that was great, and now I don't ever need to do that again" or "That was great--when can I do that again?". In that moment, when every step jarred up my body through my aching feet, I thought I was in the former group. In fact, as B. and I staggered back to the hotel (ok, I was doing most of the staggering), I said, "Oh god, don't ever make me do that again--ever!"

I felt like I'd learned many things about myself that day on the race course, not least among them, that perhaps I was less of a marathoner than a half-marathoner. I resigned myself to capping my races at 13.1. That's still  a challenge after all. It would make me no less hard core. In fact, I could focus on getting faster...get below 2 hours.

In fact, during training I'd had thoughts even more adulterous, usually while those double-digit runs were languishing on. While I adored running, while running would always be very important to me, I really missed life before the relationship was so intense, I thought. I missed regular flings with the bike, the elliptical, yoga, strength training. I mean, I barely even got to see them socially anymore. Gosh, running was really cramping my style! I imagined conversations that went something like "It's you, not me." But, alas, plans had already been made, the money already spent, the announcements made. I had to stick it out.

Then, a day or two after the race, as the aches and pains wore off, the itch returned. Maybe since this marathon experience hadn't been all I'd hoped, maybe just maybe I needed to give it another try. Then this month's Runner's World showed up with an article about how everyone hates those last 6.2 miles and how to get through them. That got me thinking maybe it wasn't my own ineptitude that made the last bit of my marathon experience suck--maybe I was normal. Maybe I was meant to be a marathoner.

So, I've become that girl--the one who waffles back and forth over her relationship. ''He's a lot of fun, but he's so high-maintenance." "Well, I don't know if he's the ONE, but he's sooo great!" It's not fair to running. I really need to figure out what I want out of this relationship. So, here goes...

You know I adore you. Really I do. And, I know we'll be together forever. But, I also think that sometimes we spend too much time together, so perhaps we need to work on cultivating our individual interests. I need to be able to spend some time with my bike, in yoga classes, and most definitely with my weights. I'm just friends with them...I don't love them like I do you. What you don't get is those things will totally strengthen our relationship!  In return for your patience, I promise you 3 days a week, and I promise to make those 3 days really count. I'll let you show me this "speed work" thing b/c I know I'll enjoy you that much more if I'm not so freakin' slow. And, I'm not placing limitations on the lengths we can go together. 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons...Is another full marathon in our future? Maybe. You never know. We make a pretty awesome team!
Cherry Blossoms

So yeah, this is my plan going forward:
1. Cut down to 3 days a week running (1 speed work, 1 tempo, and 1 long run)
2. Get back into strength training (I completely stopped toward the end of marathon training b/c I was so exhausted).
3. Finish getting to my healthiest weight. I gained about 5 pounds during training,  only a couple of which I can claim to be "muscle".

Once I feel like I have a handle on those goals, I'll figure out what's next as far as races go.

Anyone have experience with or know good resources for figuring out the whole speed work thing?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm a Marathoner!

Where to start? It was a whirlwind weekend full of emotion...I guess I'll start at the beginning.

Friday, we arrived in Chicago around 2:30 and took the train to our hotel. I'd reserved a room at the Hard Rock Hotel through the marathon website back in February. On a whim, I printed the confirmation email before we left, just in case. Good thing. The girl at the desk first couldn't find us in the computer; then she found us but had us down for checking in on Saturday. I whipped out my handy confirmation email and showed her what was up. We got our room.

After we checked in, we walked to the expo to pick up my packet. In retrospect, I should have done a lot less walking this weekend prior to the race. But, I  couldn't stay in that tiny room bored all weekend. The lines were nonexistent, and I had my packet and goody bag in no time. We walked around and collected freebies and tried some of the free samples. I also found my name on the Nike Wall (okay, B. found it):

 While we were waiting for the bus back from the expo, I heard someone make the comment about the high temp for Sunday being in the high 80s. Last I'd heard, it was going to be in the 70s, which was going to be hard enough. I'm just not a good runner in very warm weather...I tried not to think about it too hard and just hydrate.

Skip ahead to Sunday. I actually slept pretty well the night before, but of course, I shot out of bed when my alarm went off. The night before, I'd bought a mini wheats individual serving at the Walgreens next door and crammed the milk for it into the mini bar. I was dressed and had a full tummy by like 5:45.

When I walked out the front door, there were hoards of runners streaming toward Grant Park. Since there was plenty of time, I stopped off at Starbucks for a coffee. I kind of wished I'd gotten iced coffee because it was warm and a little muggy already. Once at the park, I stretched a little and used the portapotty (my favorite). I stood around in the start corral chatting with other runners. It was surprising how many people around me were doing their first race as well. The gun went off at 7:30, and around 8:02, I finally stepped across the start line. As soon as I started, I realized all the hydrating meant it was already time for a bathroom break. Can I wait...another few hours? Probably not. Stopping was definitely not part of the plan, but I stopped at mile 3 and wasted 5 or 6 minutes in line for a portapotty. The first few miles up to Lincoln Park went well. It was getting hot, but at least there was a breeze and quite a bit of shade.

 I got a great boost around mile 9 when I saw B. and one of his college friends on my way out of Lincoln Park on the way back to the city. I was surprised to see them b/c I'd told B. not to worry about trying to find me on the course. I figured that with all the spectators I wouldn't even see him. But, there he was filming me on his new Flip and waving. Gave me a little rush of energy!

Even though it was rapidly getting hotter, I was staying hydrated and made it to mile 10 in under 2 hours, which was on pace for me. Then thing started going down hill. By the time I made it to the half marathon point, we were leaving the downtown area, where there was lots of shade b/c of the buildings, to areas farther south where it was all concrete and blazing sun. By the time I hit the aid stations around mile 16, the event alert level had been raised to high. The announcer at that station was telling people to slow their pace and advising "novice runners" to consider dropping out of the race due to the conditions. My first thought was "Crap, I'm a novice runner, I think" followed by "There's no way in hell I'm quitting unless they physically drag me off the course." I kept going. The next few miles were increasingly harder, and I found myself doing a combination of running and fast walking. I passed a bank sign that showed the temperature as 96. 96! How late in the fall does one need to schedule a race in the Midwest to avoid the heat?!

I was running through Chinatown when I saw B. for the second time. He asked how I was doing. I answered that honestly I was doing pretty terrible, that my time goal was shot to hell but I was going to finish. I was doing a combination of walking and running when around mile 22 my left quad started cramping. I'm not sure why--I felt like I was staying hydrated--but I've never had a cramp there before. Given the choice of running dragging that leg behind me and walking stiffly, I chose walking stiffly. Up until this point, I'd done pretty well controlling my emotions, but now, the prospect of walking 4.2 miles in pain was too much. I was walking as fast as my leg would allow trying not to ugly cry. Happily, I held it down to a few quickly swiped away tear drops. I took solace in the fact that I was far from the only one having a hard time. I saw people from the seeded corrals walking hours off their expected finish times, runners sitting on the curb, and others heading to the medical tents to throw in the towel. At least I was still moving.

After a couple of miles, I started walk/running again. There was no way I'd be finishing in even the high end of my time range goal. Then I saw the mile 25 sign. Screw it, I thought, I'm going to finish running hard. Then, I saw the 1 mile left sign, followed by 800, 400, and 200 meters. I flew up the last hill and turned down the straightaway to the finish. I ran across the finish line triumphantly. I'd just done something that a year and a half ago, I'd never even dreamed of.

I collected my finisher's medal and made my way to the reunion area to find B. When he hugged m and told me how proud he was, I immediately burst into tears. No one tells you how emotional marathons are. I felt like I'd put every bit of myself into the endeavor, and I felt drained! On one hand, I was fiercely disappointed in my performance. Even though all the training plans said that first time marathoners shouldn't go into it with time goals, I'd trained super hard and just knew I could do it within this range I had in my head. Not achieving my goal time, even in the face of brutal weather conditions coupled with the fact that I'd had to walk some made me feel like I'd failed (at least partially). On the other hand, I knew I'd just completed a quest that I've been preparing for and thinking about for many many months. I'd finished what I started even in less than ideal circumstances. Yes, my time was about 10-12 minutes slower than the slowest time I'd hoped to have, but I'd given it my all. At no time did I walk when I could have been running. Given the circumstances, I did the very best I could do, and for that I'm unbelievably proud of myself.

I have to say--I'm incredibly grateful for the support I had from B. throughout training and during the race (He's 1 in a million)! You guys too--thanks for reading my journey and giving me advice and support. There will be another post soon with more about my feelings about the accomplishment of  marathon running and where I'm going from here (as soon as I wrap my own head around it).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Final Countdown!

I woke up to this in my Google Reader this morning:

I've watched that countdown go from 200 days (no kidding) to just 2. Insanely excited would be an understatement! Our flight leaves in just a couple of hours. And, in a little over 48 hours, hopefully I'll be able to call myself a marathoner (you can do that after just one race, right??).

Best of luck to everyone else running this weekend!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Come With Me!

Well, come with me sort of...You can experience the marathon with me without actually running 26.2 miles or standing outside along the race route with a gazillion other spectators. Track my progress from the comfort of your own home via text messages. You'll get a message when I hit the 10k, half marathon, and 30k marks, as well as the finish line. All you have to do is sign up here. You can find me by bib number: 10458. Select me from the search results and then enter your cell number (Disclaimer: I'm sure all the usual text message charges apply).

Friday, October 1, 2010

9 Days & Counting

Next week at this time, I'll be packing my bags and heading to the airport for the (very short) flight to Chicago. This marathon is really happening! Be prepared for more posts similar to this in the coming 9 days. Because, I really can't believe it. I think I'm ready, though. And, running is at least 10% mental, right?

Tapering has been interesting. Good part: More time in my day to spend on things besides running. Hard part: Having to stop after only 3 or 4 miles once I'm out there. Surprisingly hard to do. Next week when I have scheduled a 3, 2, and 2 will be interesting for sure.

As far as race plans go, I have my outfits picked out...yes, outfits plural. I'm not sure how cold it's going to be, so I'm going to bring a few different tops (jacket, long sleeves, short sleeves, tank, throw-away shirt) to choose from that morning. I've got plenty of Hammer Gels. I've got a hand-held bottle that doesn't leak. I've made plans to pick up my Trader Joe's Greek yogurt (the true breakfast of champions) when we get into town. What else could a girl need?
Any tips/tricks/good to knows from you seasoned marathoners??