Tag Archives: taper

Never easy

“I just want one thing to be easy.”

I’ve been saying this a lot lately. In the last several weeks, a lot of Hard Things have piled up. Two deaths in March. Major work deadlines, for both Shannon and myself. Running and training rough patches – I’ve had this strange thing going on with my foot (which seems to be managed, though I fully plan on taking a month off post-marathon to let it get to 100%), and Shannon’s work-life balance has been so heavy on the “work” end that running has been a burden more than a release. And we bought our house, a weeks-long buildup of paperwork and endless emails and calls and panic right up until the very last moment: the lender only gave us the information to wire our downpayment to closing about two hours before our closing appointment. And then we didn’t have enough money for the wiring fee (oops). A co-worker saved me, and multiple Bank of America reps were incredibly kind and patient in the final days as we begged them to move money faster, even though they weren’t even our lender.

In the end, closing on the house was easy and relatively painless: the closing attorney was very kind and funny, and explained things to us first-time homeowners very well. And our realtor got us a cutting board as a gift. And, since we bought the house we’ve been renting the last 2+ years, we didn’t even have to move. We were pretty excited to have the whole process complete, to actually own our house.

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So excited that I didn’t notice until later that I had closing-appointment-chocolate-bowl-chocolate in my teeth for this photo.

The last few weeks of training, especially the taper, so often are rocky and fearful. You begin to second-guess everything you’ve been doing leading up to this point. Wondering if you are ready. Wondering if you are fit enough. Wondering if you could have done more, or should have done less. Wondering if that foot is going to behave, or blow up. Wondering if that missed 20-miler, that missed week of training, is going to be make-or-break. Even when you know, logically, that you’re as fit – more fit – than you’ve ever been.

Having a little extra down-time does not negate all the good work leading up to it, and the work after. Sure, things have felt harder, but that’s okay. The first several weeks of training felt so effortless, uncomplicated. Maybe this would have been detrimental. Maybe it would have had me go into the race with too much confidence and not enough respect. The marathon must always be respected. You have to be confident, but you also have to brace yourself. Prepare yourself for the fight.

I ran the Chick-fil-A half at the beginning of this month as part of a 16-mile day, mostly easy/by-feel, but with pace miles at hte end (either up to 5 miles @ MP or 3 miles @ HMP). It ended up being mostly the latter, primarily because the course is just rough. I did a good job really ignoring my watch, occasionally catching a split when I had a Pavlovian response to the sound of my watch beeping. I was mostly hanging in the 8:30s, slowing a bit later as the hills began to stack up. I saw so many friends volunteering and cheering, and it was fun to run an event without having to really suffer and push the whole time. It’s a hilly course, but it also goes through some of the prettiest parts of Athens.

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Around mile 8, during a very short respite from some of the worst hills, I found Margeaux, who had hoped to break 1:40 at this race, but who was having a rough day – similar to the day I had last AthHalf when I thought I could squeak a 1:40 half four weeks after Erie. We pulled each other along up East Campus and cutting through Five Points, and I tried to refocus her energy and thoughts on the pretty course and the gift of running. But it’s hard to pull yourself out of that dark place once you’re in it. I could hear her breathing beginning to relax when the course flattened on Milledge, and as I neared the 10-mile mark and had to pick it up, she told me to go. Shannon found me a few times, and I gave him a huge smile each time. I finished strong and with a big smile. My foot tightened up post-race but I got it to loosen up once more to run a couple cooldown miles with Chrissy (who beasted the course at marathon pace for a 1:38) and Justin (recently post-BQ-marathon and pacing 1:30).

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Probably the most encouraging moment of the last segment of htis training cycle was my last 18-miler, my last real long run. I ran the first 7ish solo and was hyper-focused on my foot: how it felt, whether it was hurting, whether I was altering my gait, how tight my left side felt overall. I linked up with friends for the next four and began to relax, and by the time we go to the Luv Run for Dustin and Catherine, who had just gotten married the night before, and whose marriage we’d be celebrating that night at their party/reception, I was having fun and feeling good. I just had a couple miles left at the very end of the group run to get to 18, and felt strong to the finish.

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Bride and her #BAMFL sisters! She looked so adorable in the Oiselle runaway bride dress! I love these ladies.
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Just a few of the friendly faces at the reception – we all clean up pretty good!

The weekend of this wedding was a whirlwind, since the very next morning, I was up at 6 am to catch a 10:30 flight home to Ohio for Passover. As it turned out, I woke up to a text message from Delta alerting me my flight had been cancelled in the wake of major service disruption from that Wednesday’s storm system. I rebooked on American, with a hop through Philly, had that flight delayed when I got to the gate, rebooked my Philly connection, and rebooked again when I found an earlier flight to a different airport. I was about 5 hours late to arrive in Cleveland based on my original itinerary, but I made it. I saw both of my parents, my 96-year-old grandfather (who still walks almost every morning – he’s my hero), and got in two runs, including a mile repeat workout on the roads and in the rain. I saw three deer during my warmup; they were maybe 10 feet from me, and when I paused my watch to look at them, they looked at me, regarded me a few seconds, then resumed eating, unafraid.

The marathon is never easy. There is no marathon without fear. But I am not doing something new, not doing anything I have not done before. I know what I am capable of. I am aiming for a BQ, but I am a BQ marathoner. That 3:34 was not a fluke, and it’s not gone and done. I need to improve my time, but I already have that capability inside me. I have to reach in and dig it out once more. I have to be ready to fight. I have to be prepared to walk across hot coals for as long as I think I can stand it–and then do it a little more. When workouts felt hard – a half-marathon pace workout a couple weeks ago that felt like hard work, and not the effortless floating of earlier HMP workouts this cycle – I remembered that I learned more from the experience of a workout that feels hard than one that feels easy. Nothing about that last 10K is going to feel easy. But I am ready for it.

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I’ve been lax overall lately about my “check in” entries in my training journal. Plane rides are a good time to write.

Work stress is still swallowing me whole. The Saturday of the Luv Run, I had a 90-minute appointment with my usual massage therapist (I’ve been getting weekly massages to keep my body happy these final weeks, a worthwhile “indulgence” to stay healthy), and two minutes into starting on my back, she remarked, “You are just a ball of stress.” We have a huge research symposium the Tuesday following the marathon. My race week distraction has to be set aside to get everything done that still has to be completed. I’m choosing to believe that focusing on work is helping me to maintain perspective. And I will have perspective on race weekend as well – set aside the work stuff, because it will be all-but-done at that point, and get in race mindset. We had a hectic, social activity filled Easter weekend, and now we’re spending this week as hermits, coming home from work, making and eating dinner, getting our to-do lists done, and relaxing. Quiet is a priority. Sleep is a priority. Wine and chocolate may be assisting a bit as well.

I streamed the Boston Marathon at work yesterday (very distractedly, since, yeah, very busy) and tracked my friends with the BAA app. I was over-the-moon thrilled for them, but my heart hurt. I was not there. I should be there. But the desire is greater. The fire burns hotter. I will be there.

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These ladies ran ridiculously impressive races. I know I can reach within myself to find some of that badassery and toughness.

I will make no excuses. This training cycle has been hard. Life never lets up – it never will. The marathon never lets up – that’s what makes it great. Racing the hot Erie Marathon branded me with a fire I will never lose. And this training cycle toughened me in still more ways. I have a couple more angels running with me this time.

Glass City Marathon: I’m coming for you.

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MCM Training Week 15: Biding my time

Week 15. The hay is in the barn. All that remains is patience, and I have to tell you, I don’t have much of it. I haven’t had a full-on taper tantrum, but I can feel myself freaking out a bit more than I normally would. IT band sore after a run? Oh no, an ITBS flare-up! Eat something spicy 15 days out? I’m going to trash my gut before the race! 10-day forecast shows overnight low of 35*? I’m going to be a popsicle at the start line!

That’s enough of that.

Monday I wound up taking totally off. I had arrived back to my mom’s house in Cleveland after our trip to New York pretty late Sunday night, and given I had a deadline at work, wanted to get started pretty early. Nothing wrong with a little extra rest during the taper.

On Tuesday, we had an easy 6 in the morning – during which I hammered up Forbes hill (a little to NF’s dismay, I think, since it occurred to him halfway through the run that he had not really eaten dinner the night before – whoops). That evening, I made it to Pilates, where she told is to go get the pump bars to add a little stabilization for some standing squats. Oh, okay. Just some stabilization.

Then she had us use them for extra resistance during sidelying series near the end of class and as my hips and glutes were screaming for mercy, I knew I was right not to trust her. 😉

Wednesday I made it to spin for the first time in WEEKS. I got stuck on a squeaky bike, but it was a good class – a good amount of sprinting, plus a ton of hills.

It was tempo time on Thursday, or first “real” tempo run in a while (since my last one was progressive given I had been fighting a head cold), and “only” 6 miles (1-4-1 tempo). I was actually pretty psyched for this. I decided to ignore my watch as much as possible, and just went by feel and caught my splits. 7:18. Okay, I’ll slow down probably. 7:17. Guess I”m feeling pretty good! But seriously, I’ll ease off the gas. 7:17. This is getting ridiculous – okay let’s check my lap pace on this last one since it’s all uphill until the last maybe two-tenths of a mile. 7:15.

I almost did a fist pump and happy dance as I slowed into the cooldown, and I got my breath back quickly, having to force myself to really ease off during the last mile, since I was still clocking around 8:30s for a bit (it was a little downhill). I came up tot he apartment, where NF had been stretching for a couple minutes, and we shared our tempo successes, feeling really, really good. It was quite honestly my only good tempo of the training cycle, despite stellar race times, so it was a boost I really needed.

On Friday we shook it out with an easy 4-miler that included running up part of Shady.  That night we had our (very belated) house warming party, and pretty much our last food splurge until the race. Mmm, alcohol. Mmm, chips and salsa. Mmm, cookies. Mmm, buffalo chicken dip and buffalo cheese fries (I made the latter).

We recuperated on Saturday, detoxing with green smoothies for breakfast. We also both got haircuts so we can be stealth on race day (kidding – sort of). I was just kind of over having long hair, and it turns out this isn’t so bad (so far) for dealing with while running, especially now that it’s getting to be headband/hat weather anyway.

Frumpy before picture on the left – after on the right, natch

Sunday morning we had a double run date with our pals and former Ragnar teammates, Tim and Alys. They live in an apartment building that has part of the Steel Valley trail right behind it – right along the river. Serious jealousy. I used the cold weather as an opportunity to test run my charity singlet. Have I mentioned how I’m running MCM for ZEROCancer, raising money for prostate cancer research?

New hair, new pullover, dead eyes.

It was maybe in the high 30s that morning, but really sunny and pretty out. We stayed at a reasonably relaxed pace, though Alys likes to push it a bit, and my competitive edge gets the best of me and I follow her. But we stayed chatting almost the whole time, so the pace was still very doable. We stopped a couple times for things like potty breaks, but otherwise just kept on at a good clip for our 8 mile “long” run (only in quotes because 8 feels like a blip at this point in training).

We warmed up at their apartment with pumpkin spice coffee, pancakes, fried cinnamon apples, and apple chicken sausage. And pumpkin biscotti from Trader Joe’s – which is dangerous to know of it’s existence.

Now we’re in the final week. We have a short track workout tomorrow morning – just 2×1600, confidence-boosting, rust-shaking workout. Otherwise it’s all patience and biding our time and stretching and foam rolling and carbo-loading and SLEEPING until race day.

Taking lessons from the master

I’ll hopefully update once more before we head to D.C. I still have a race plan to concoct!

MCM Training Week 14: New York, New York and marathon in jeopardy

I’m going to try not to talk about politics too much. All the people affected by the furloughs, and the specific parties and individuals who I think are the most worthless beings to breathe on this planet these last couple days.

Cough.

But seriously. I have a marathon to run.

Monday I began the taper with a day of easy lifting.

Tuesday the boy and I went for a 6-mile recovery run in the dark on our usual up-then-down route. It took a bit to find a rhythm, and I could definitely still feel the 20 in my legs, but by 4 miles in I felt much, much better. Nothing like an easy run to work out the kinks.

I also got to try out my new shoes! Breaking in the Brooks Ghost 6 – and am in love with the smooth, light ride already.

Hello my pretties…

That evening was Pilates, and Sabrina worked a lot of the basics since there were a lot of newbies in the class. Which of course meant it hurt, since we were really focused in on our cores.

Wednesday we ran 5ish easy. Only issue was that I seemed to be having ongoing GI issues this week. Not to get too into “TMI” territory (though among runners, is there such a thing?) but I apparently ate something last week that greatly angered my gut. Took the rest of the week to kick out whatever it was. Not sure what it was that I ate…

Thursday was 8 miles easy, and a little too fast at points. We also had to extend the route a it at the end, which is weird because I’ve run this loop twice before and had it land exactly at 8 miles when I got home, so I don’t know what I could have done differently this time around.

Friday I did nothing… except walk around New York! My mom and I had a girls’ weekend in one of my favorite cities, so instead of an easy 4 (which I ended up not doing at all – see below for more on that) we enjoyed tooling around some of our favorite areas, eating tons of great food, drinking way too much Starbucks, and seeing a couple of my close college friends and one of my younger cousins.

Saturday was long run day, since we had an early checkout Sunday morning. I woke at 6:30 and took the subway to Central Park to do two loops for 12 miles. And oh, what a morning.

Just stepping out of the subway.
Midtown, on my walk to my starting point

It was breezy and cool, and while it had been forecasting showers, I only got a brief sprinkling as I was into the first mile or so of the first loop. I looked up to see if more rain was coming, or if it was just a little cloudburst, and saw this:

It’s faint here, but you can see it on the right. It was much more dramatic in person.

As I continued on my run, the rainbow continued to spread across the cloud burst, eventually becoming a double-rainbow. It’s hard to tell in these photos, but it was very bright and distinct. I couldn’t stop staring at it and smiling.

I kept an eye on it as long as I could, losing it as I approached Harlem, though coming down the other side of the loop I could see it still hanging on as the clouds dissipated. I stopped a couple other times to soak in the views, but otherwise kept a really good pace. The run was scheduled to be 8 easy + 4 at marathon pace, but I knew that my giddiness at running in the Park would pretty much mean running at MP the whole time, so I just ran what felt good.

But seriously – the most perfect morning

I kicked in the last two miles in 8:09 and 7:40, respectively, averaging 8:32 over the entirety of the run. Beyond the delight of running in New Yrok and the perfect weather, the gentle rolling hills in the Park make for speedy runs, especially on my PIttsburgh-hill-weathered legs. I used to abhor any hill of any kind – now my legs kinda eat these hills up.

Sunday I was going to do my easy 4-miler originally scheduled for Friday, planning to do a little out-and-back down the East River. One Garmin that refused to find satellites, 20 minutes, and one temper tantrum (I’m not proud) later, I gave up and decided all the walking was plenty for my tired legs.

 

We’re already halfway through week two of the taper, but the marathon has been flashing before my eyes, thanks to politics. I’m not going to say ANYTHING about the current state of negotiations, as nothing makes a marathoner more superstitious than the taper (going outside, turning around three times, and spitting – and cursing – doing everything).

I don’t want to at all minimize the impact of the shutdown on all kinds of people in all kinds of walks of life (to avoid turning my running blog into a political rantfest, I’m not going to try to list any, but trust me – you can find them easily if you read the news). Way more important than me and my silly marathon. But my rage had been growing day-by-day, seeing the vast issues caused by the shutdown, and this was just the cherry on my furious sundae. (but seriously – runners are the shutdown’s hidden victims!)

I took a few minutes yesterday to line up a couple possible alternatives, in particular for that weekend so that I don’t have to 1.) re-taper, or 2.) change my PTO. But hopefully in a few days I’ll be posting again about week 15, and my race plan and goals.

Credit to Remy’s World

Eek.

 

Taper Panic

It’s mid-way through taper week, and I’m apparently in some kind of taper panic. Race day is Sunday, which means a lot of things, including:

1. Checking the 10 day forecast obsessively. I started this when race day first appeared in the forecast. It’s ranged from a high of 67 (perfect) to a high of 84 (ugh). Yesterday was the worst. Weather.com said 80 for the high, Wunderground.com said 84, and when I was at the gym waiting for pilates to begin, the local news said 72. …schwa? At least we’re all on the same page…? Today, weather.com says the high Sunday is predicted to be 70. If it could stay right there, please, I would really appreciate it.

2. Skipping runs. Okay, just one. I had my spin class this morning, per usual, and had a 3 mile easy run scheduled for after. I’ve been doing these Wednesday runs as a brick workout, and last week I spanked my four miles after spin at HM race pace. Oops. Definitely made for a sufferfest of a seven mile tempo the next day. Today? I brought my garmin, just in case, and also considered just doing two on the ‘mill, but as I felt how tired and sore my ankles were as I was walking up the stairs to the spin room, I decided to just push myself in spin, and then have a nice cup of coffee and a croissant (hey, that’s carbo loading, right?) at Coffee Tree afterwards. Plus, I may do a short shakeout run on Saturday, so that’ll more than make up for it. Speed day tomorrow (2×1600) and then totally off on Friday. Yay for sleeping in!

3. Freaking out about little things. During my run yesterday, I was way more conscious of puddles (it was raining a bit) and uneven sidewalk (which is fairly ubiquitous in this city). Every misstep OMG DON’T SPRAIN YOUR ANKLE BEFORE THE RACE. Every car that honked at me (while I was crossing INSIDE THE LINES and WITH THE LIGHT) OMG DON’T HIT ME BEFORE THE RACE (or, you know, ever). Every slightly achy muscle or tendon. OMG I BETTER NOT BE INJURED BEFORE THE RACE.

My best freakout was this morning. I left the gym a bit after 7 to head to Coffee Tree to read and possibly do a little writing. At first I got caught up snooping on a conversation between a couple triathletes trying to out-macho each other (one of them sounded like he was possibly going to coach the other, so he was going through all the jargon, and how to handle transition, and emphasizing the run – aren’t their bigger gains to make on the bike? Not that I would know. I’m no triathlete…yet). Then I was going to pull out my iPod to write a bit… and it was nowhere to be found. Even coming from the gym I always put it in my purse, and I dug through and checked the rip in the lining – no dice. I went outside, checked in my car, in my gym bag’s main pocket – no iPod. Eff. I tried to read a little, with some success, but I was still distracted by the tri talk and my worries about my missing iPod. I’m very reliant on music for racing. I know, sad. But also: I have a slightly older iPod nano, as in the one right before the new, tiny, touchscreen one. And I HATE touchscreen. The thought of having to replace my beloved red nano with a touchscreen POS? Not okay.

So I left the coffee shop around 8, walking slow out to the parking lot to give it a scan, and checking the gym lot, too. I asked the girl at the gym front desk if anyone had found an iPod, and jotted down a description, along with my name and number. I checked the locker room – nothing. I checked the desk in the cardio room. Nada. Someone paged the lady who manages maintenance/cleaning. She hadn’t seen anything. Funny thing about this was I nearly left my iPod by the spin bike (I’d brought it up in case I went right downstairs to do a run, but decided against it) so I absolutely had it coming down to the locker room. Where the hell had it gone?

I’d asked pretty much everyone relevant, and then went back to my car, scanning the lot once more and going into my truck for my gym bag. On a whim, I checked a small zipper pocket where I always keep my lock, extra hair ties and Gu, and my garmin when I bring it….AND THERE IT WAS. Why I put it there, I have no idea, but I bolted back inside and said I’d found it in a place I NEVER stash it, and apologized for the chaos. Oy. But at least I found it!

4. Carbo-loading paradise. I’ve already had a bunch of pasta this week, and didn’t buy chocolate when I went grocery shopping Sunday so I didn’t scarf a bunch of it. Tonight I plan on making chicken and mashed potatoes (and I’ve been eating a crapton of spinach. I’m on a bit of a kick, not that that’s a bad thing. It’s spinach after all!) that will hopefully also make my lunch tomorrow. I’m going to see ‘Legally Blonde’ the musical tomorrow night with some girlfriends and we’re getting happy hour burgers and beer, so I’ll have to try to behave myself a little bit more after that. NB and I are still planning on pancakes for Saturday night, since that worked excellently before Just a Short Run.

5. A lot more stretching. I’ve been stretching a bit before bed time each night, and have really been enjoying that. It’s calming my body and my muscles feel relaxed and good.  My amazing pilates instructor is also helping the cause. She has long known that I’m a runner – I asked her last year for tips on how to work on/stretch out my cranky left IT band. She said she was a runner herself, and helped me out. That class has down wonders for my hip, glute and overall core strength, and as a result, my IT band issues. The last few weeks she’s been asking how training is going, if I was tapering yet, asking about my long runs, any aches and pains. The other week we were doing bridging with pilates rings on the outside of our ankles, so we had to use our legs to press out to keep them up, and she said, “I know my runners in here are feeling this in their IT bands,” looking straight at me.

This week, with the same rings, after we did some leg circles and hamstring stretches with the rings, she had us stretch one leg out to the side while we lay on our backs, then across our bodies, getting our groin first, then our IT bands. She came over to me – just me – and eased my legs into the stretch, reminding me to breathe. She also helped unlock my hopelessly tight hamstrings. I thanked her profusely after class, and she wished me luck in the race. She asked if i was doing the half or full and when I said half, but I was doing the full at Philly in November, she said, “Oh, that’s great. That’s the race that my ex-husband proposed to me at the finish of.” … Uh oh.

 

I just have one more tough-ish workout this week (speedwork) but it should be fun since it’s very short, and NB and I are bringing a friend along who has never done a track workout. We’ll see how that goes. 😉