20 miles? Check. Body Back-talk? Check.

Janet and I ran 20 miles today. Actually, 20.11 miles. (Ann Marie – the .11 part was for you. 🙂 )

It’s fair to say that we both felt substantially challenged. Substantially. But we had some things going for us to help us through:

1. we had each other

2. the weather was bee-u-tee-ful!

3. we had a pretty, quiet, route that had good water views during miles 8.5-11.5

4. we were determined to hit 20 miles

It’s a good we had those things in our favor because our bodies got a little sassy with the back-talk. Whining, complaining, and threats to shut down even though our brains were good for the full 20.

For example, my feet started in with a mild, “We’re hurting, please stop“. I replied, “I understand, but it’s mile 8 and you’ve got 12 more miles to hit the pavement. Hang in there.

Janet is more conditioned to long mileage, so her body was a little more patient before lodging the first complaint, but somewhere around mile 11, Janet’s legs demanded attention and rest, but she said “NO” and kept going. We stopped at mile 12 to refill water, hoping that the 30 second stop would trick our bodies into having “rested” and get back into gear. In gear? Yes. But not with the get-it-done spirit we needed.

At around mile 15, Janet’s hip went from trying to get her attention to an arms-crossed-shouting-door-slamming demand to be heard. I could tell she was hurting since I usually run behind her and could see a small hitch in her giddyup, if you know what I mean. I asked if she was OK, and to my surprise, she said, “Not really. I’m going to walk.” Janet is a Power Ranger Runner – she pushes herself with tremendous determination- so if her hip was winning the showdown, I knew it must really be hurting her. We walked about 50 feet. I think in those moments, she had a solid, firm, conference with that hip of hers because she picked up the pace and we were running again.

Of course, the break gave my body the signal it needed to speak up. And my feet were back with a much louder, less gentle chorus of “CUT. IT. OUT. We hurt. Stop pounding us. STOP IT!” But, with only a few miles left, this was no time for me to get soft. “Shut up,” I said, “No more whining. Almost there.” Feet were not satisfied. “STOP!” they yelled. “I can’t hear you,” I taunted. But, I could hear my feet. My feet were killing me. I tried to tune out their relentless yelling at mile 18 by turning my mantra back on, “I am strong, I am ready, I am strong” but it hurt so much, that it came out more like, “I am – ow – I am – I – SHIT – I am STRONG – Damn. Damn. I am – I am – gasp – I am – I am strong – I – G*ddamn– I am strong” and so forth. But, the swearing did help my attitude in a weird way. It made me aggressive and it was just what I needed to keep moving through the 20 mile mark.

As for Janet – I don’t what kind of words she laid out on her hip, but it surrendered and supported her through to the 20 miles.

We reached the parking lot. Sat down. High-fived. We admired ourselves and each other for finishing.

Janet had 45 minutes before she had to report to work. She promptly put on compression socks and probably employed a bunch of other post-run care techniques that she has. I had to go home and shovel out the barn. Then, I sat in the tub with ice. Just so you know I’m not making that up, here are pictures to prove it:

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So, the run was over, I’d iced, showered, put on clean clothes. I’d torched about 2,000 calories before 10 a.m., so I knew I needed to eat some serious food, but my body was NOT interested. Evidently, my body can hold a grudge, so the arguing was not over when the run was over. This time, it was my digestive system dialing in with some attitude. It seems that if you abuse every working part of your physical being by making it run for 3.5 hours, it would rather just be left alone for a good long sulk. I searched the cabinet for food that would wake up my hunger signals. “Waffle with peanut butter?,” I offered. “Don’t even,” my body replied. “Yogurt with cherry?,” I coaxed. “NO.” Okay, then, I thought. Fine. I won’t pursue. Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll fill you up.

You know when my body decided to make up with me? 4:30 PM. And then, everything was fair game. I ate cookies while I made scrambled eggs. Soon after, I had to attend a work dinner and my hunger was full speed by the time we sat down at 6. For everyone at my table, I provided an astonishing display of consumption. If it was food, it went down the hatch and I was not bashful about seconds. I was eating with people who had never met me before but I was too hungry to be embarrassed or even explain or even really make much conversation. (Not my best professional showing, probably.)

We ran 20 miles and even if with our pains, we had negative splits for the middle miles, with an overall pace right where we had planned at the start. Pretty victorious feeling, I must say.
TEAM UPDATE: Margaret is laser focused on getting ready for this marathon and had a 15 miler planned for this morning. Margaret is a very strong athlete and maybe the only person I know who could endure surgery less than a month ago and head out for that kind of mileage by now. Pretty amazing. Janet, as you know, ran 20 miles today, but she ALSO ran 19.5 miles last weekend, never mind her training runs throughout the week. A BOSS. I’m not sure what Margaret’s plan is for next weekend, but Janet is running a 1/2 marathon. (Isn’t it crazy that the 13.1 miler is her cut-back distance? Damn.) I’m traveling this week, hoping to get in a few 4-5 mile runs and then a longer one on my own next weekend.

Onward!

Rain Running

Today, I ran in the rain – alone – for 15 miles.

But first, let me report in on the runs earlier in the week.  I ran short but fast and hilly runs on Mon/Tue.  On Wednesday, I flew to Toronto so really didn’t have the time to squeeze in a useful run that day.  Thursday, I ran 7 miles around the city of Toronto (which is beautiful, by the way.)  Since I have trouble with getting lost and the city is under major construction with all sorts of sidewalks and roads closed… I had to give up the route I scoped out on mapmyrun.com and just stay close to where I started. So, I left my hotel and ran a couple of miles up to the campus of University of Toronto, looped a couple times around Queens’ Garden, and then did, actually, manage get lost in the U of T campus, but found my way back to Queen’s Garden, looped 2 more times, then safely back to the hotel in time to shower and get to my work commitments on time. (Also, on the return, discovered a Starbucks that was near the hotel, but not obvious to all the 5,000 other conference attendees, so I was able avoid the 20 min Starbucks line near the convention center and show up with my Venti without delay. Score!)

Also, though this is not about running, I had the great fortune to have dinner with a colleague, who just happens to be cousins with my roommate from 1983, who just happens to live in Toronto, and joined us. GREAT times.  Here is a photo of us catching up!  (I’m on the left, my roommate, Carol, then my friend and colleague, Ali.)

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OK – back to run details.  Saturday was a travel day with an early, early departure from the hotel, so no running.  Janet ran her long run yesterday.  I knew I was going to have go alone for mine.  I could also tell from the evening news that I would have to do mine in the rain. I was discouraged. Who wants to run in the rain – ever? And who wants to have to do it for a long time – alone? And, because it would be raining, I couldn’t even plan to strap my phone on and listen to podcasts or music. It would be hours of listening to myself breathe and hit the pavement. Alone.

Today, when I was getting ready to take off, the news said I had an hour before the showers hit the mid-coast area. I figured that would be OK since I’d get almost half way into my run by then and would be warmed up, and besides, finishing in the rain wouldn’t be as bad as starting in it.

I planned a route in Brunswick that wouldn’t be as hilly as any route I’d take if I departed from my house.  I parked. Got out of the car, and started on my way.  About 2 minutes later, the rain LET GO. I mean, all the water in the clouds came down at once. I thought, “This can’t last, I’ll just keep going.”  About 1.5 miles later, it was worse, and the roads were so flooded that the sidewalks were flooded. I was ankle deep in water. I had so much water in my clothes that my shorts felt like a full diaper.  The pocket of my hand-held water bottle had filled with rain, so my Gu Chomps had started to liquify, leaving the pocket full of Gu goo.  I can be bulldoggish when I have a plan,  so it probably doesn’t surprise people who know me that I have a bulldog and that I would keep running in ridiculous rain.

And then… thunder.

So, I turned around and started to head back to the car. This was the kind of rain – windy sheets of pelting rain – that makes cars pull over because their wipers can’t go fast enough. Drivers are staring at me like I’m an idiot.  I want to scream at all of them, “I. KNOW. I am running lickety-split to safety, as FAST AS I CAN.”  So, on the way back to the car, I’m praying there is no lightening because the water is still over my feet on most steps. I figured this run is finished and I’d just go back out later in the day when it’s not as likely that I could get killed.  But, as I get back near my car,  it lightens up to just steady rain. So, I keep going. And going. And going.

All the way to 15 miles!

Wee Bit of Bad News:

1. I learned that when your skin is very, very wet in your shoes, it becomes very soft, and shreds easily. Not sure what to do about that – am open to suggestions.

2. When it’s raining hard, any energy chews or food you bring with you will liquify.  Only Gu paste will work.

3. It stopped raining and turned SUNNY as I was driving my tired self back home after the run.

4. No matter how slick you make your skin with silicone, your wet clothes will rub you raw.  If you don’t notice when you are undressing, you will DEFINITELY notice when you get in the shower.

Good News:

1. Because I had turned back from my initial route plan, I ended up completing the remaining miles in sets of loops around town. That was good.

2. I learned that I can run a long way in the rain.

3. I completed my weekly run goal, alone, in terrible conditions, and I actually felt physically better than expected.

4. I did the whole 15 miles at pretty fast clip! Race-pace!  I want to give myself credit for really killing it, but it’s possible I was faster since I essentially swam the first three miles. 🙂

TEAM UPDATE:  I’ve been whining about running 15 miles alone, but Janet ran 19.5 miles – alone – yesterday.  She blows my mind with her will and ability.  Margaret is feeling better and getting back into some cross training, which includes biking and trail running this week. She’s a toughie.  Impressive women leading me to race day, for sure.

Onward!

Chunk It

I know this isn’t a newsflash, but really, a marathon is just a very long way to go. Even traveling 26.2 miles in a car is commitment, not just a scoot around the corner.   Motoring the distance on your own two feet is an exceptional challenge.

I once heard a colleague who was facing an enormous, nearly impossible programming task, mumble to himself “How to eat an elephant? Just one bite at a time.”  In other words, chunk up the obstacle into pieces you already know how to deal with.

I live in Freeport, ME and have friends who work the holiday season at the LL Bean store – where the register lines are exceptionally long and never, ever ending.  I asked a friend how she keeps from being discouraged trying to manage a line that never gets smaller, and she said, “I just never look at the line. I always look at the customer in front of me.”   She chunks it up into one-person-at-a-time.

When I’m facing hundreds of applications that need to be read, I chunk them to groups of 5 apps in between breaks.

This is relevant because the marathon training plan now calls for consistently heavy mileage on the weekend runs. Not just heavier compared to the week before, but full-on heavy.  Saturday runs range from 14-20 miles from now until race day.  The marathon is a long distance, but all of the training runs combined are especially long!  (I’m still hungry from the 16 miler that Janet and I did 9 days ago, never mind the miles in between then and yesterday’s hilly 13.)

I looked at the training schedule this morning to compare it to my travel schedule, trying to figure out how everything could fit. I noticed that there are no more “soft” 10 milers in the plan. It’s all out distance now.

In a way, the training plan has already chunked it up – it started out the training in small pieces, incrementally adding mileage to mid week runs and the long runs until I find myself, in mid-September, casually referring to 10 milers as “soft” runs. Sheesh.  So, chunking must work.  But looking ahead, the training chunks are bigger – it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the thought of weekend mileage that gobbles up several hours of actual running time, never mind the time dedicated to icing, eating, and napping afterward.  And then the rest of my life – the things that I care about that also require my energy and attention.

Time to chunk the chunks.

In the last two weeks, Janet and I have had water stashed in 2 places along our long routes.  Two water stops chunks the run into 3 sections automatically.  Looking for landmarks that are meaningful – like a water view at mile 8, a pretty farm at mile 11-  two more chunks.  A stretch of flat terrain, another chunk. Getting through two sets of humbling hills. Two more chunks.  Those chunks might be uneven and disorderly, but they do break things up a bit.  (Also, if Janet takes a couple pit stops into the woods – there’s a couple more chunks of the run.)

There are  obvious, less clunky ways to chunk it up – like thinking of the overall mileage in sets of 3 or 4 miles (or whatever feels comfortable.)  Janet mentally chunks  30 minutes, which is good, because that amount of time seems doable, even when we’re whipped.  When I feel like stopping, I think in chunks of 1 mile, because I can endure anything for just 10 more minutes.

So, I know that I’m not the only one who thinks about breaking up the training tasks, and the actual race, into pieces.  There are some good articles out there about race prep that also talk about mentally preparing yourself for smaller distances as a method to string them together into a long, long distance. And people talk about the method out loud.  In the running store this afternoon (*returning* something rather than purchasing – a first!) – the sales guy asked how I’m doing facing the final 8 weeks of training and I said, “Ok, I think!  Finished a 16 miler – feels good to know I’ve run more than half the distance in one chunk.”  He replied, “Yeah. You gotta break it up.  A mile at a time.”  This is coming from a guy who can run a marathon in about 2.5 hrs, so he’s obviously figured out how to get it done. 🙂  And, there are some good articles out there about race prep that also talk about mentally dividing the challenge into pieces you can wrap your head and heart around.

This week, I’m traveling a bit and have to modify some of the runs suggested by my training schedule. (I’ll be in Toronto, Canada, by the way, if anyone has good 6-7 mile routes to recommend!)  But, I’m in a for a long run this weekend on Sunday, and I’ll have to do this one by myself (Janet has a conflict and will run her mileage before I get back from travel.)  I will be chunking all over town until I’ve met the required distance.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Running to Crazy Land

My former college roommate commented that I’m definitely a runner since I refer to my distances in the hundredth of a mile… as in “12.92” versus what most of the population would refer to as “13.” 

Truth is, I’ve never thought of myself as a runner, which is a bit strange, since I’ve been running on and off for the last 8-9 years.  Seven years ago, I ran my first 10k. Two years ago, I ran a 10 mile race. Last year, I ran two half marathons with one month in between them.  Yet, in spite of all of that, I still think of myself on the outside of the running population – an interloper – not actually a spectator – but  more of a  “don’t mind me, I’m just passing through” presence. 

Is it because I’m not fast? Is it because I am only dedicated when I have a race distance that scares me?   I tell myself that I’ve been coerced into the races, and that I can (and do) blame my running buds for getting me to register. Is it because they were a pair, and then they invited me in, and I always run behind? (They’re faster.)

I’m not sure why I haven’t given myself the credit that I apply to every other runner I see on the road… but today, I realized I *am* definitely “a runner.”

This is how I know:

1. I was up before the sun so that I could start the barn chores and still drive to Janet’s house by 6:30 a.m.

2. I put on shorts and a t-shirt even though it was only 48 degrees outside.

3. I rubbed silicone stick all over my skin in any place that I thought might rub against fabric.

4. I drank pickle juice to keep the cramps away. (I’ll come back to this one.)

5. I took 2 pit stops in the woods (this is Janet’s fault.) 

6. I ran 16 miles.

7. I got back to my house, filled the tub with cold water, poured in three bowls of ice, and then SAT in it.

(I’ve just paused, thinking, “I only have 7 items – 10 would make a more legit list.”  But then I just re-read my list of only 7 and I think those are enough highlights to prove the point. 😉 )

 

I’ve heard that runners, whether they know it or not, are part of what’s sometimes called “a closed community” – meaning that they bond strongly to one another through the shared experience of endurance and sacrifice, and are sometimes not in touch with how their extremism affects or impacts others.  I disagree. I don’t think it’s a “closed community.”  I think it’s Crazy Land.  And I’ve just moved in.

Crazy Land is not  a closed community at all – it’s wide open -everyone is invited, especially runners. And, what I realize now, is that anyone who puts on sneaks, puts one foot in front of the other, over and over again, despite the body’s readiness to stop, IS a runner, including me.  The distance doesn’t matter. The pace doesn’t either.  Stepping to the challenge makes a runner. And, the challenge is *always* self imposed. Sure, I freely point the finger at Janet and Margaret, but the truth is that I’ve always had the power to say “no”, but I never have.  Even this morning, Janet was planning on running 17 miles. My training plan suggested 14.  We agreed that I would shoot for 15 and Janet would keep going to get her 17.  But then, when we got to the 7.5 mile turnaround, Janet said, “Let’s go for a full 8 before we turn back – can  you do 16?” and I said, “Ok.” 

I’m pretty sure that’s proof that I’m a runner and that I did it to myself.  Janet just suggested the distance. I actually made myself do it.  I am a runner.

 

NOTE RE CRAMPS:  My 2 previous distance runs were really wrought with gut splitting cramps.  More than one person suggested drinking pickle juice, which sounded a bit out of bounds, even for Crazy Land, but I Googled it and it does seem popular.  This morning, I poured about 1/4 cup of dill pickle juice from the pickle jar into my 6 oz water container.  I have to say, I only drank a portion of that concoction and I just couldn’t do more.  At one of our water stops (shout out to Janet’s husband, Michael Griffin, for stashing water along the route for us), I poured out what I had and refilled with just plain water. Then I burped and sweated pickle juice for about the next 5 miles.  Just not my thing.

BUT – this was a CRAMP FREE RUN.  Maybe it *was* pickle juice, maybe it’s because I started taking probiotics, maybe it’s because my body has finally calmed down, OR, maybe it’s because I shared 16 miles with my friend, Janet, and in spirit with my friend, Margaret.

 

NOTE RE TEAMMATES:  Janet is in fine form. She’s ahead of me in mileage and polished off 17+ miles this morning after a particularly grueling, sleep deprived week of work related stresses.  Margaret is recovering from emergency surgery. She will be fine, but she needs some recovery time.  Of course, some people in her situation might just bail on the marathon, but I’m pretty sure Margaret will be back to her training without a doctor’s note.  Inspirational teammates for sure!

 

AGE: perception and reality… and running through it

Today an amazing thing happened. But, before I tell you what it was, let me give you the back story.

When I turned 45, I was feeling a bit unhinged – mainly because I felt so much younger than the perception of what 45 would be. (Mind you, this perception is leftover from when I was a kid and 45 seemed “old”.) It’s odd, because in my real life, my peers don’t seem old. My parents don’t seem old. We’re all just “scaling up”, more or less. But, in my head, it just didn’t add up and I felt like, at any second, I’d all of a sudden become the “old” that I had been imagining as a kid.

In a vain and desperate attempt to preserve things, I went to the mall, cruised the cosmetic section, and landed at the Lancome counter. I am *exactly* who cosmetic companies count on for selling overpriced, over promised products.

Me: “I need wrinkle cream, toner – basically, hit me with your age-defying products.”
Saleswoman: “Ok. Let’s get a good look.”

She got close, moved my hair away, squinted, turned my head right, then left. It was a full-on flaw and wrinkle inspection. She hustled around in drawers and cabinets and unloaded products on the counter in front of me. One for removing make up, one for exfoliating, for hydrating, for wrinkle filling, for skin rejuvenation, and a bunch of other things that seemed redundant but were apparently necessary for the whole system to do it’s magic.

The creams smelled nice and she oohed and ahhed as she smoothed them onto my face. I looked in the mirror. Hmpf. Looked the same to me.

Me: “So how long do I have to use all of this for it to work?”
Saleswoman: “Well, of course, it’s different results for different women.”

I pondered the possibility of basically handing over a mortgage payment to arrest the aging process playing out on my face. She could tell I was undecided.

Me: “I just don’t know. Maybe I’ll think about it.”
She leaned in close so nobody would hear her, and said “Honey, I can sell you all this stuff, but really, the only thing that’s gonna stop all this is… DEATH.”

There you have it. Straight up truth. The brutal kind, but the kind that allowed me to leave without spending a dime.

FAST FORWARD to this evening. I went to pick up some beer for my husband and some snacks for me. I hopped into the express line with beer, chips, and ice cream. The saleswoman seemed a bit exasperated, looked at my items, glanced up at me, and sighed, “ID, please.”

I was so stunned, I just pulled out my license and handed it over. She punched my birthdate into the register and waited for it to calculate my age. Then, she peered up at me, raised her eyebrows, and said, “Ok, I was not expecting that. Looking good!”

I was *this* close to giving her a hug.

Why is any of this in my running blog? Because the only thing that is different between the Lancome death speech and the Shaw’s carding episode is that I’ve signed up for a marathon in the meantime.

I’ve adjusted my diet and (except for some slips like tonight’s purchases) I’ve been making sure it’s full of healthy volume and balance, including tons more water than I would normally think to drink. I’ve run hundreds of miles in between these two events, and I think I’ve toned up some. I’ve worked hard at positive self talk while pushing through grueling miles. I’ve made time in my crazy schedule to complete distances, alone with my thoughts, and in the company of friendship.

The marathon commitment, in spite of my complaining, is really a force of good self care that is necessary to endure the training. Do I really look young enough to get carded? Of course not. Even I know that. But, I have to think that this effort is having a positive effect. And, that is the best kind of motivator.

I have a mantra for when the hills are hard and the cramps are chomping at me. I repeat in my head, “I am strong, I am ready; I am strong, I am ready” over and over again.

Now, I think might add, “I got carded, yes I did; I got carded, yes I did.” 🙂

Planning for 14-15 miles on Saturday run. I’ll let you know if the new mantra works.

Onward!