Running through…

Marathon training is hard. It’s physically grueling, time consuming, and not even a necessary part of life. Everyone who does it has their own reasons and I have mine. But, whatever the reasons, the mileage stays the same and everyone training for a marathon has to figure out how to press on – or not.

I took 2 days off after my long run last weekend.  I did lunges, squats, kettlebell, and the BodyBlade. And longish walks with my dog, Stella. But nothing that was really very difficult. I was resting. When I went out for some mileage on Wednesday morning, I was struck by how bad I felt, and realized that’s almost always how I feel when I step off the driveway for a run. I noticed tightness in my calves, a strain in my foot, a knot in my right shoulder blade, and just overall fatigue.  In the first mile, I thought, “I need to listen to my body – it says it’s tired, this is too much, I should back off.”   But, I also remembered that I usually feel better somewhere between 2-3 miles.  The first mile isn’t a good gauge.  The first mile is just a succession of whiny fake out excuses.

I kept going and told my mind to think about other things besides aches and pains and before I knew it, I was cruising through the 4th mile, warmed up, breathing easily, with a steady cadence, … and comfortable.

I realized that it’s much like other things in life – when faced with discomfort, don’t give up. Check it out. Check in with that discomfort. Try it on for a while. See if you can move through it and get comfortable.  Because if you can move through it, you might be able to keep moving and cover a lot of ground. But, then again, sometimes you can’t. Like, last weekend when my IT band got into a fight with my knee and there was no “running through it.” There was only stopping.

But I had a goal this week – I wanted to get past that 18 mile mark that has been eluding me.  So, I used that goal as my focus – and I made time to use the roller twice a day, to roll out my feet, to stretch my hamstrings and my hips. And went to a massage therapist (HEAVEN) to really try to loosen up all that tightness. I wanted that 18 miles.

In the meantime, my Super Friend Julie came to visit me for a couple of days.  I’m a country girl. She’s a city girl. As in, she hasn’t had any yard work responsibilities in 20 years.  So, how especially sweet and exciting was it that she mowed my lawn so that I could fit in time for a training run before it rained? THIS sweet:

julie mowing

 

Because Julie freed me up to run for an hour, I had a chance to test out my bod after all that therapy work and I was feeling good – feeling like maybe I could get to the 18 this weekend.

As I mentioned in my post last week, friendship is an amazing thing. In Julie’s company,  I started to feel better physically, I laughed a lot.  We also quietly hung out on the coast near my house and I appreciated the peace of watching the water and giggling at the clams that were spitting at us on the shoreline.

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As an aside, one example of how Julie is the greatest kind of friend is how much she loves my dog, Stella. I mean, really, who takes selfies of themselves with someone else’s dog? And lets that dog lick her face??

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Julie had to leave me and head back to NYC, but she left me lifted up, leaving me energized, and feeling ready to go after that damn 18 miles.  Janet couldn’t run with me this weekend because she was busy going to pick up her new dog!  But, Kat was good for 8 miles and was happy to put her 8 into my challenge. So, I ran 5 on my own, picked up Kat in my driveway for the next 8.  We kept a steady pace, slow enough that we could talk and catch up.  It was really slow for Kat, but she kindly matched my steps instead of leading me into a faster pace that I wouldn’t be able to sustain.  After we finished the 8 mile loop, I had 13 miles behind me and continued on to get the next 5.

Usually I need music for long mileage because it helps me keep pace when I get really tired. But, since I had been with Kat, I didn’t have music with me, so I had to soldier into that last stretch without any assistance.  I had moments of thinking, “I should stop now before my knee hurts” but it wasn’t hurting, so I kept trotting along. I realized that I might be able to get to 20 miles.

I had two good reasons for stopping at mile 19:

1. I wanted to stop, for real, before my knee hurt. It was so stunning to me that I had made it that far without the knee acting up that I really didn’t want to make it happen.

2. Mile 19 was at my house. For me to get to 20 miles, I would have had to run PAST my house, which was just really hard to do when I had already gone 19.  So, the 19 seemed good. I stopped.

I was happy.   For dinner, I made this tasty plate of sauteed turkey sausage and kale, melon, corn, and roasted sweet potatoes.

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And, just in case you think I’m all righteous with my healthy eating, I finished off the meal with a bowl of ice cream the size of a melon. The size of a watermelon, specifically. Dee-lish.

I have much travel coming up in the next couple of weeks, so I need to figure out how to get the mileage in.

Onward!

 

Head and Heart – another 20 miles

Today was the last “peak” training distance of 20 miles.  I won’t have to run that far again until Nov 17, thank God.

Last weekend, I was in Gettysburg, PA watching my daughter, Ellie, run with her xc team.  This weekend, I was in Groton, MA, watching my other daughter, Lucy, run with hers.  Both girls are inspiring to me as they push themselves.  Yesterday, Lucy was not feeling tip-top health wise, but she managed to kill it on the course and shaved more than a minute off her best time. A big PR day for her!  Here is Lucy taking out a hill and a post-race photo with me  (photo credit, her grandfather, Grumpi):

IMG_1772  lucy and mom Groton race

OK, onto my 20 miler day, which was actually a 20.12 mile day.  Definitely the longest distance I’ve run by .01 miles. (Last 20 miler day was 20.11. 🙂  )

Here is how the day started:

  • 4:00 a.m.  – my alarm goes off.
  • 4:07 a.m. – my second alarm goes off (well planned, I’d say.)
  • 4:20 a.m. –  1/2 cup coffee, banana w/ peanut butter
  • 4:30 a.m. – feed the horses but don’t let out into the pasture because there is *definitely* a skunk skulking around  -do not need skunky anything to deal with at 4:30 a.m.
  • 4:31 a.m. – rush dogs back into house from front lawn morning business to get away from where the skunk might be lurking.
  • 4:32 am. – all living things at Soule household safely behind closed doors and skunk -free-fresh.

And the day continued:

  • 5:40 a.m. – arrive at Janet’s, see that she’s wearing shorts and t-shirt and I’m bundled for winter running (it was 41 degrees.)  I brought other clothes in the car. Quickly changed to shorts and long sleeve tech shirt.
  • 5:45 a.m. – we’re off!  IN THE DARK.
  • 6:30 a.m. – already past 1st water stop – still kinda dark, but enough daylight coming for us to see our feet. Phew.
  • 7:00 a.m. – feet really, really hurt.
  • 7:30 a.m. – we stop talking.  We’re 2 hrs in, starting to separate a bit (Janet leads and tethers me), and we’re just moving along.
  • 8:45 a.m. – I start to fall apart from the waist down – feet pain moving through ankles up to calves, knees ( this is new).  We’re almost there, but we’re hurting.
  • 8:46 a.m. – I think to myself, “no body left – body broken – only thing working to keep me moving is my pumping heart and my head forcing signals to my feet.
  • 8:50 a.m. – really worried – we’re moving at a slow pace, slower than I hope to run the marathon, and I’m breaking down but not quite to 20 miles – how will I add another hour of running on race day?  Answer:  “Head and Heart“.
  • 9:23: – back in Janet’s driveway, 20.12 miles behind, NO walking.  We were slow, but we finished.  Heads and hearts in tact.

Then back to my house for recovery plan:

  • 9:45 a.m. shovel out horse stalls and let horses out (no skunkiness to worry about now)
  • 10:30 a.m – ice bath. I stay in for 12 minutes.  This is the last ice bath until Nov 17. Yeehaw.
  • 10:43 a.m. – hot shower that was environmentally careless because I was probably in there for about 30 minutes, but…  I’m not really sorry about it even though I used up an extraordinary amount of resources to run hot water on my body for that long.
  • 11:30 a.m. – warm, in cozy comfy clothes, and looking to take a quick nap on the couch. But Stella was already on the couch, looking how I felt, so I joined her:

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GOOD NEWS – I did NOT have a side stitch today!  I received a lot of advice since last week’s post, but unfortunately, I was stuck between “You’re drinking too much water” and “You’re not drinking enough water” from two equally fast, equally experienced runners.   I went for the mid-way and drank about 2/3 of my normal amount. I switched from Gu Chomps to Power Gel thinking that I might do better with paste version of energy supplement rather than chewing something with gelatin that could bounce around in my tum.   I also did not eat any ice cream last night (to avoid bad effects of fat, if there are any.)  Not sure what mattered most, but I am so happy that there was no stitch.

Tapering starts now – that means that the distances just get shorter from here until the race day. Next weekend’s long run is 12 miles with manageable length mid-week runs.

Onward!

 

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!