Sunday, March 10, 2013

Greetings and salutations!!!  As you may have seen from the title, yesterday was marathon day, and I did it!!!  And to be honest, it wasn't awful.

To be truthful, my training over the past month has been a little sketchy.  I was getting pretty burned out on training, so some of my short mid-week runs simply didn't happen.  I did, however, complete every long Saturday run and all of my longer mid-week runs.  I was a little worried that my slacking in the final month would hurt my ability to finish this race, but when race day arrived, I realized that I was much more prepared than I though.  I can't say enough about the Hal Higdon plan I used.  I only ran 4 days per week, but as the miles ticked off on marathon day, I felt surprisingly good.  Better than I felt in any of the 4 half-marathons I've run previously and MUCH better than every single long training run I completed.  I did tweak the Hal Higdon plan a bit...I added one extra mile early in training on a long run so that I could have two 20 mile training runs under my belt before marathon day, and I used Wednesday as a rest day (my day to volunteer at the animal shelter).

One resource that I feel was a true benefit to me was a book I read about 3 months ago when I started this journey.  It's written by Matt Fitzgerald and can be found here.  I really learned a lot about pre-workout, during workout and post-workout nutrition and hydration, and it helped a ton during the full marathon.  I never felt that 'crash' that many marathoners feel somewhere in the later miles.  I had energy, my muscles didn't cramp, and I felt pretty solid on my legs in that last hour.  Granted, my training paid off, but I think my pre and during race nutrition and hydration efforts were key as well.

So, let me tell you about the Columbia marathon.  It's HILLY!  Not just meandering, rolling hills, either.  The race begins near the capitol building, and is gentle enough, but right after mile one, it gets serious in a hurry.  There's a climb that rises about 100 feet in 8/10 of a mile.  It doesn't seem like much at the time, but the course is a double loop.  The 2nd time up that hill, you wonder if it's ever going to end!  Between miles 2 and 8, the course is gorgeous.  It meanders through some beautiful neighborhoods over rolling hills, past a lake, and then you make a turn back towards downtown.  This is where the going gets tough.  Miles 8 through 11 1/2 are pretty much uphill and then you meander through downtown until you're at the finish...for the half marathon!

There was a great crowd for the half marathon finish, and as the half runners were veering to the right towards the finish line, I had to head left.  It's nice to have your name on your number so that people can cheer you on.  As I headed away from the finish area, it got lonely REALLY quickly.  I never realized how sparse the runners are on course when 3/4 of the field goes away.  When I got to the first aid station at that point, it was like I was in a ghost town.

I caught back up to the 4:45 pacers on that big hill at mile 1 (now mile 14) and ran with them for 4 or 5 miles.  One of the men has run 157 marathons, and did 54 of them LAST YEAR!!!  That means he did a marathon a week and sometimes, did two on the same weekend.  That's CRAZY!  The other pace runner was from Charleston and does triathlons, my next big adventure.  We chatted for awhile, and I was amazed that I could carry on a conversation uphill at mile 17 in a marathon. 

The 2nd loop seemed to go by much faster than the first 13.1 miles.   People were still out cheering, and I even managed to see these two girls three times while out on course.  They were incredible, and I wish I'd known their names (If you know who the girl in the green shirt and the girl in the red UGA shirt are, tell them I said thanks!).  The energy they brought was contagious and helped tremendously, particularly in the final miles. I even saw them 2/10 of a mile from the finish where I had the chance to thank them and give them high fives. 

Speaking of spectators, I have to give a huge shout out to my sister, Lynn.  She woke up in the early hours Saturday morning to drive me and was my on course support staff.  She was AMAZING!   I saw her 4 times...right around mile 10, again at 15, again at 23 and at the finish.  She'd made 4 different signs that had me in hysterics each time I passed.  She even convinced a police officer to hold one of them and shout it to my as I ran past (He literally yelled, "My sister, Nancy, can kick your sister's bootie!").  The one to the right is my favorite because it was so perfectly placed...right at the bottom of a huge hill going back into downtown.  No stopping...didn't want the buzzards to get me!

The spectators that were on the course over the final 5 miles were FANTASTIC as well as the volunteers who were at the aid stations.  NEVER have I been to a race that had better on course support.  There were 11 aid stations throughout the 13 mile course, ALL had water and medical personnel, most had Gatorade, and three had GU gels and bananas.  In addition to that, many people within the community were passing out cut up fruit and bottles of water, and I even received a nice cup of Gummy Bears from a sweet child right around mile 17.  Some of the aid stations were blaring music, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM was cheering and calling out your name.  About 4 miles from town was a huge group of people blaring music, shouting out encouragement, and passing out adult beverages!  A few of the half marathoners good as beer sounded, I figured I'd pass out in a stupor if I did!

Once I got up the final climb (right at mile 24), I was able to turn the corner and know that the final 2.2 miles were flat or downhill.  Well, there was a bit of a 'false flat' involved, but it was much flatter than the rest of the course.  I managed just over a 10:15 pace the final two miles which really made me happy.  My overall pace was just over 11 minutes per mile, and I lost a lot of my time on those four climbs and waiting at a Port-a-Potty at mile 6.  My official finish time was 4:54:19.  I didn't achieve any land speed records, but I did manage to come in under 5 hours.  I didn't set a time goal when I first signed up...I merely wanted to finish, but finishing in under 5  hours made me pretty happy.  The medal is pretty sweet, too!

Here's the question I've been asked by about 15 people:  "Would you do another one?"  My response so far has been, "Well, it wasn't awful."  I honestly think I would because as challenging as the training was week after week, the run itself was actually quite enjoyable.  That said, I don't plan on doing another one soon, though I am signed up to run the Palmetto Half Marathon the 2nd week of April.

My next big goal, though, is triathlon.  I've got a sweet tri-bike and a half Ironman literally in my backyard.  Need I say more?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Marathon update--5 weeks to go!
Greetings and salutations!

It seems so long ago that I started this journey to my first marathon.  I'm finding it hard to believe that the big day is a mere 5 weeks from today.  FIVE MORE WEEKS! 

Well, today's run of 20 miles was a rough one, so the fact that the marathon is looming so close is making me a bit nervous.  Fortunately, I've got two more weeks of training before I start to taper, so train I will do!

Along the way, I've learned a tremendous deal about running.  I've read books on marathon training, marathon nutrition, and the camaraderie that can be created when running.  These are things that I expected I would learn...I'm not one to jump into something and not educate myself on the subject (I am a teacher by trade, so that shouldn't surprise you).

What I didn't expect to learn are some of the 'other' things that you learn or realize once you venture past mile 13.1.

First, and I can't say this enough, I love my shoes.  LOVE THEM.  I don't think I could possibly be wearing a better shoe for my foot and my running style.  They're light, they're cushy, they fit me like they were made for me, and I can take them out of the box and run 10 miles in them with no problem.  If you're going to run, GET GOOD SHOES!  If your shoes give you blisters, foot pain, foot fatigue, or a variety of other issues, get rid of them!  My current 'ride,' New Balance 890V2s are about to be replaced by the 890V3.  I'm a little nervous because often those little tweaks that manufacturers make can be the difference between a great shoe and a good shoe.  I hope mine stay great.

Second, all runners should own stock in Glide.  I never had any issues with chafing of any sort until I ran on a particularly warm day for 16 miles.  Once that sweat dried and the salt just sat on my skin, I developed some really weird chafing spots in some weird places.  My biggies are the bottom of my triceps when I wear short sleeve shirts and my eyelids!  Yes, my eyelids...I learned through running that I might just be a good candidate for an eyelift sometime in the near future.  The good news is that if I smear a little Glide in those spots, I'm chafe free.  I do some preventative 'Gliding' in some other areas, too, just to be on the safe side.  Be especially mindful of Glide application if your regular running wardrobe changes due to weather (i.e. going from long sleeves to short sleeves).  If that skin hasn't been in play for awhile, slather on the Glide so you don't find yourself screaming in the shower later that day when the hot water hits that chafed spot for the first time.

Third, and this might be a little TMI for you guys, but for my lady friends, we must discuss, "the girls."  My girls aren't very well-endowed, but let me just say this:  Running 20 miles while you're PMSing is NOT fun.  I actually had to stop right around mile 17 (and yes, I was running next to a major 4 line road on an overpass to the interstate) today to readjust my girls because they were just sick and tired of being jostled and strapped down.  Now I'm sure they were feeling a bit sensitive today, as this is the first issue I've had with them complaining, but bear in mind, your body isn't going to feel the same day in and day out.  When you feel something 'off,' don't panic.  Dump the pride, adjust and carry on like no one saw you.

Fourth, I have experienced the power in compression sleeves for my calves.  Talk about a joyous experience!  Seriously, for me, they diminish the amount of calf pain I have after long runs.  Just finish your run, take a shower, slip them on, chillax and watch your calves recover. No more DOMS for my calves.

Fifth, don't let yourself bail.  Now that I've moved into runs that are longer than 14 miles, I can longer just keep doing the circuitous loop near my neighborhood.  The nice thing about it, though, is that I also can't cut a run short.  My current long loop takes me 10 miles away from my house before I'm allowed to turn around and come back.  I seriously almost cried around mile 17 today, but because I was still 3 miles from home, there wasn't anything I could do about it.  Suck up the tears, move the arms, and get running.  I figured if I ran instead of dropping into a brisk walk, I'd get home faster and the run from hell would be over that much faster.  If my loop had gone near my house earlier in my run, I may have been tempted to cut it short.  My running 'strategery' prevented me from doing so and will make me stronger in the long run.

There you have it...I'll check back in soon to let you know how my Feb. 24th half goes and how the big marathon day unfolds!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The World is Your Oyster...
Greetings and Salutations!

I think Shakespeare must have been a runner.

What?  You think I'm wrong?  Alas, if you look into the lines of his play, "The Merry Wives of Windsor," you would know that one of this characters delivers the line, "Why, then, the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open."  Surely he's talking about running, and running long distances, isn't he?

Okay, so maybe Shakespeare wasn't a runner, but I think those of us who are into fitness can utilize that adage in our own lives.

You see, if you've ever shucked an oyster, you know how challenging it can be.  You can pry away at that outer shell for hours on end, and that bad boy isn't going to open without a fight.  That barrier is our challenge, and in order to revel in what's inside the oyster, you have to be able to fight through that hard outer shell.

For the last year, I've been running, and I'm going to be completely honest.  It's STILL not easy.  In fact, I ran a half marathon two weekends ago and I thought my legs were going to fall off somewhere between miles 9 and 10.  I finished the race wondering, "Why do you do this?"

The answer isn't so easy.  Do I do it because I LOVE to run?  Absolutely not.  I don't love running at all.  In fact, there are days when I despise every. single. step. I. take.  BUT, I do love some aspects of the entire running process.  I LOVE the way I feel after a 10+ mile training run.  I LOVE finishing a run under a time goal that I've set.  I LOVE when I'm somewhere in a long run and I think, "Wow, this almost feel easy today."  In addition, I LOVE crossing a finish line and having a medal draped around my neck.  It's like my own personal Olympic Games.  I also LOVE the people I've met along the way.  It's a pretty cool experience to be grinding around 13.1 miles with people who encourage and cheer and joke and commiserate.

At this time, I've run 3 half marathons.  My times haven't been world beaters, I can only run (I know, I know...that word "only") about 7 or 8 miles without having to stop to give my legs and my lungs a 30 second break, and 13.1 miles HURTS.  I could train and improve my half marathon time and it would be a great goal.  The thing is...there's that oyster left staring at me. Nobody at the shucking table could get through his shell.  It even looks as though he may be mocking at me, saying, "Neener, neener, nee-ner."

I think I've just started to open the oyster that is my world.  To me, it would make tremendous sense to keep improving and keep training to work on my half marathon goal of finishing in under 2 hours (right now I'm running between a 2:12-2:16 half marathon).  Yet I set my eye on the biggest oyster at the shucking table, the one who places his little oyster fingers in his ears and sticks his tongue out at me.  Why run for 13.1 when you can run for 26.2?  You see my logic, right?

Today I signed up for the Columbia (SC) full marathon on March 9th.  I have my 18 week training schedule mapped out, and I'm currently 2 days into week #3.  When I come out on the other side, when I get through that oyster shell, I will be a stronger and better person because of fight. I'm sure there will be days when I wonder what I've done.  Days when I wish I hadn't set this goal.  On March 10th, I'm pretty sure it will all be worth it.

My mom thinks I'm nuts.  My sisters say that if I'm going to run one, that I had better get it done before I'm their age!  My high school friend and marathoner, Angela, has been an incredible motivation (and the one that told me to just quit thinking about it and sign up already!) and sounding board.  And my husband always opens the door for me after a long weekend run, smiles and says, "Everybody stand back.  Stand back.  There's an athlete coming through."

Maybe he's right because the world is my oyster.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Running isn't my thing...but I do it anyhow
Greetings and salutations everyone!! As you probably could tell from the absence of my blog over the summer, I hung up my running shoes in late April and didn't dust them off again until July. I had every intention of running 3-4 miles two or three days per week during the summer, but I'm going to be honest. It's hot in South Carolina in May, June and July (and August and September!), and I just didn't feel like it.

The dilemma, though, is that I signed up for a half marathon late last spring, and the day of the half (Nov. 4) started staring me in the face come late July. I just knew I had to get started, so I did. During that first week back, three miles was a horror. hurt, I got blisters, and it felt like I was running into a wall of heat every step.

Alas, I had to keep trucking on. There's NO WAY my sister would let me back out of running the City of Oaks half marathon with her. I think it's something that my mom instilled in us as kids. If you agree or sign up for something, you ARE going to do it. No ifs, ands, buts or hot weather about it.

So I ran...three days per week. Late July and August were misery. Every. single. Step. Tuesdays and Fridays are my 'easy' days where I only run 3 or 4 miles. Sundays are my long runs where I build and build until two weeks prior to the half. Today I ran almost 8 1/2 miles. You'd think by now running would seem easy and that I'd like it. Yeah, you'd think that...

I have yet to feel that 'runner's high' that everyone talks about. Every step for me is a mental game. Even going downhill, which should be easy, requires having to force myself to pick up the pace and not dog it. When I'm starting to tire and I want to take a walk break, I have to push myself to keep going. I make deals with myself. "If you get to the 3rd mailbox up ahead, you can stop." Third mailbox arrives and I ask myself, "Are you truly out of breath or just hurting a bit?" It's generally the 2nd, so I make another deal. "Okay, when you get to the Lakes and Streams sign, you can walk." I play this game for miles and miles. When does it get easy? When will I love to run?

Now don't get me wrong. I don't hate to run. If I absolutely abhorred it, there's no way I would lace up my shoes. So why does someone who doesn't like running keep doing it...and for 13 miles?! Running isn't easy...I'll never be one of those people who just looks like they float as they run. In fact, when I run, I look as though I'm dragging an anvil in my pants. That said, I do like physical challenges. If I did 12 push ups on my toes yesterday, I assure you I'll do 13 the next time I do them. I don't like to slide backwards. Running is about setting challenging goals that are realistic, and achieving them. That, for me, is what it's about.

A few weeks ago I was out running 3 miles and got caught in a deluge about 1 1/4 miles from home. In the time it took me to run home, my Droid phone (that I use for my running app, Endomondo, and my music) was completely fried. There was no saving it. Fast forward a week and my replacement arrived in the mail. I wasn't about to start running with it again for fear of ruining it as well. I have an i-pod touch, though, that I could use for music, but without the GPS function available, I'd lose that voice that tells me how many miles I'd run, how fast I'd run them, and when I'd met my goal for the day. WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT HER VOICE IN MY EAR?

I've found that not having the GPS might actually be a good thing. After running near my house for the past 11 months, I know the approximate distances of my 'loops,' so I have a pretty good idea how far 8 miles is. The nice thing about goal setting, though, is that you can push yourself when you don't have that little voice saying "Your workout is complete. Good job." There's no one telling you to stop.

Today I didn't want to short myself on my run. I wanted to make sure I got 8 miles in, so I added one extra 3/10 of a mile loop at the end. I was exhausted and my butt was dragging, but you know what? My 8 mile run turned into an 8.44 mile run. How about that? It didn't kill me, either, and in the end, is going to make that half marathon in November that much easier.

I'm signed up for another half marathon in late February. I'd really like to run that one close to the the 2:00 mark. In order to do that, though, I really need to accomplish something during my training runs. My typical 7+ mile route takes me through a neighborhood near mine called Lakes and Streams. Obviously there are lakes and streams in it! My run takes me to the far end of the neighborhood right around mile 5 and then I have to loop around and head back to my own neighborhood. From that point, it is uphill for just over one of the 1.25 miles back to my house. There's a short steep section, followed by a gradual climb for 3/10 of a mile, followed by "the hill." The hill busts your butt just to walk up. I can't even imagine running up it, particularly because there's the 4/10 of a mile climb prior to it, the 2/10 steep, steep, steep climb up the hill, followed by another 4/10 gradual climb, a tiny breather, and another steepish climb for 2/10 of a mile and then downhill that last bit to the house (where I stash my water and a Gu gel). If I can conquer that section of my run without having to stop and pick up my left lung, I can meet my Augusta half goal in February because the Augusta half has the Patridge Inn hill right around mile 4-5. It's steep and it's long. If you want to make time, you have to be prepared for that.

So, if you live in Lakes and Streams, I'll be the one running up that hill all winter. If you see me, honk, wave and cheer me on. I'd love the encouragement.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Time for a RESET!
Greetings and salutations my friends! Don't you love it when your computer freezes? You mash on key after key, trying to get some semblance of life out of it, hoping beyond hope that something miraculous will occur that will breathe life back into it. You know the feeling, right? And you know the inevitable next step...Control...Alt...Delete.

My body was my computer. Stuck. Frozen. Paralyzed. I was in a rut nutritionally, making some bad choices that just made me feel 'icky' (for lack of a better word), didn't have great energy, didn't have motivation (though I was still working out 5 days per week), and just needed somebody to lean over and say, "Enough!" while hitting a reset button.

Fortunately, there's a 21-day program designed to do just that called Ultimate Reset. Beachbody, the same company that created P90X, Insanity, ChaLean Extreme, Turbo Fire, and a ton of other fitness programs (most of which I've done since I'm a coach for the company), put together a program designed to release toxins from your body, reset your metabolism, and teach you to listen to what food says to you. Some of my friends had done the program, and I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park...headaches, muscle pains, new was a bit daunting, but the benefits at the end piqued my interest: lower cholesterol, lower body weight, more energy, no bloaty belly. I was in. My husband, however, thought I was nuts.

The nice thing about the program is the support. There are Facebook groups for each of the 3 weeklong phases and Dr. Wheeler, the creator, even posts and answers questions on there. In addition, the guidebook is phenomenal, with recipes for each meal along the 21-day journey, and the online resource/webpage and e-mail newsletter all provide tremendous insight, support and encouragement along the way. I assure you, that support is VITAL...there will be days when you need it.

The first thing I noticed when I began was that the food prep took a lot of time. I invested in a really good chef's knife and bamboo cutting board. My husband about fainted when he saw I paid $29.00 for a knife (I told him that I could have spent $100 instead!), but that knife actually MAKES me want to eat better! As the Reset progresses, you'll completely eliminate animal products from your diet, and by week #3, you'll find yourself following a vegan eating plan. That scared me a bit (it actually scared me a lot--I grew up in the Midwest on a farm. I'm a meat and potatoes kind of girl), but I found that vegetarian/vegan eating is tasty and actually makes your body feel SO much better in the long run.

In addition, there are supplements that come with the program...prebiotics, probiotics, alkalanize, detox, oxygenize, etc. that you take in different phases of the program. Many of the foods that are common in the diets of many people today put the body into an acidic state. What we truly need, in order to help prevent disease and other health issues, is to do our best to keep our body in a more neutrally balanced Ph.

So how did I do with my reset?

The first three days were a bit of a horror...I had a SPLITTING headache. Yes, my morning coffee addiction required a bit of caffeine withdrawals. I'm glad I was down to only one cup of coffee and hardly any soda prior to the reset. I can't imagine the headaches if your caffeine consumption was much higher than mine was. After the headaches relinquished, I felt pretty good for a few days, but everyone that I was chatting with on the Ultimate Reset Facebook pages warned of body aches as the body's detoxification was underway. Everyone's body detoxes in different ways...most people commented on lower back pain and pain in their legs. I experienced something a little different.

Right around day 8, I started feeling this nagging 'tweak' in my right shoulder. I thought that was a bit odd because I hadn't been working out at all (other than walking my dogs) since I began the reset. As the next day rolled around, the tweak became an ache and by the end of day 9, it was painful. I had difficulty sleeping that night, and the next day the arm was tingly and on a pain scale of 1-10, it was an 8+. It was agony it hurt so bad.

 I volunteer at a local humane society, and while I was there on day 10, I ran into a massage therapist. I explained what I was going through and she worked on my shoulder for a bit. She asked a few questions about my workout programs and if I ever got tendonitis in my right arm ("Why yes, I get it in my elbow when I do pullups"). Well...all of those months of working through the tendonitis, not stretching properly, and making the other muscles in my arm work harder because the bicep couldn't do the job had come back to haunt me now. I never felt as though I had 'injured' the arm, but my body was doing some serious 'release' of something at that point in time. She left me with some stretches to do and I have been doing them religiously since. The pain mysteriously vanished on day 12 and the mobility in my shoulder was better than ever!

As I was going through the 4 days of pain, I chatted with others in the support group that had experienced similar bouts of pain in similar areas. It was nice to know that I wasn't some freak, and that my body was doing what it was supposed to be doing...releasing toxins in areas that had been stressed, probably for years.

Venturing into phase 3, I chose not to eat any of the optional grains that are allowed as part of the nutrition plan this last week. There were a few days that I probably should have eaten the grains, but I found along the way that if I ate a mainly fruit and vegetable diet, I wasn't bloated, I never had that feeling of being 'full' and I still had good energy.

When my 21 days came to an end, here are the major things that I've learned. First, vegetables prepared well are really very tasty, and greens aren't so scary if you know what the heck to do with them! I've found that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE collard greens and kale. Seriously, I could eat collard greens every day. Second, there are foods that were in my regular diet prior to the reset that really don't jive with my body. Sadly, the number one culprit (and this makes me sad beyond belief to say) is oatmeal. I LOVE oatmeal. But post Ultimate Reset, oatmeal automatically made me bloated and gave me that feeling of just being 'full' and feeling icky. I've since switched out my oats with quinoa (which was an okay swap) and today I tried millet (which was FABULOUS!) and I think I won't miss oatmeal so much.

In addition, during the Ultimate Reset, I really learned to slow down and take my time while eating. My palate seems to be able to pick out different flavors when I do so, and leaves me with a feeling of enjoyment with the food I'm eating without any feelings of guilt afterwards. In fact, just this morning I was eating my morning millet with raw honey, toasted walnuts and blueberries. There were 3 or 4 bites left in the bowl, and as my spoon went in after them, my brain said, "You're actually full. You don't HAVE to eat the last bites." It was a bit of an epiphany for me(though I'm sure my grandmother is jumping up and down saying, "Somebody's eyes were bigger than their stomach."). I put the spoon down and didn't go back. That's a bit of a big deal for a 'plate cleaner' like me.

I also have a better sense of how different foods that I've added back in make me feel (see oatmeal story above). I can see myself eating more like this (with a few modifications--I'll more than likely add fish/shellfish back into my eating plan, and the occasional foray with chicken or turkey), but I like how my body feels with a diet with more plant based nutrition.

Now for those of you who like numbers (which I'll admit, I like numbers, too!). I lost just over 8 pounds (and lost another one in the 4 days post reset), two inches off my waist, an inch off my hips and thighs (which was HUGE for hips and thighs are almost always the LAST place that I see changes. I shouted "Amen!" when I read the tape measure), and my belly is no longer bulgy and bloated. I feel more aware, more secure about myself, and I have a sense of pride in what I did.

If you're interested in learning more or want to ask me specific questions, please feel free to contact me. The Ultimate Reset might not be what you're looking's a tough 21 days. But if your body needs to become 'unstuck' from what you've been doing, I think it's well worth every moment you're willing to invest.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This just in....I might be a runner!
Greetings and salutations everyone! As you may have been able to figure out, I ran a second half marathon, the Palmetto Half Marathon in Columbia, South Carolina, this weekend. Unlike my previous attempt, I wasn't sick for the ten days prior to the run, which, I assure you, was to my advantage! That said, the two weeks leading up the half, my brain really wasn't in training mode. I was pretty ready for the half to be over the day before it began, but on race day, it was quite obvious that I was far more prepared than I thought I was.

I changed up my running schedule a bit after the Augusta Half in late February. I still only ran three days per week. My long run was always on Sunday (building to my longest run of 11.2 miles 3 weeks prior to the half), I did a short, but faster, 3 mile run on Tuesdays with another 2 miles of hill work afterwards where I simply would run up hills in the area that take between 30-60 seconds to climb, walk down, turn around, run up, turn around, run get the picture. I really believe that my Tuesday runs helped my training substantially. Friday runs were generally 4 miles at a leisurely pace. I'll admit, though, that my Tuesday and Friday runs (which I had to do after work) were a BEAR compared to Sunday's runs of 10+ miles. I'm not a huge fan of running at the end of the day. Another thing that I think REALLY helped my ability to chug up the hills in Columbia was that I started a fitness program called Les Mills Pump. It's a strength training program that is very similar to the Body Pump classes offered in gyms around the world. All of those squats, lunges and dead lifts with the barbell really did make a HUGE difference.

My sister (who graciously agreed to run another half with me although she says, "I'm too old for this crap!") and I had to drive to Columbia on Friday evening to pick up our packets and figure out where to go for the race. You wouldn't think it would be difficult to find an indoor sports complex that was next to a large shopping center, but after an hour of driving in circles, we finally found our way! Of course, that meant we didn't get home until after 8:30 p.m. and had to be back on the road at 5:00 a.m. the next day for a 7:00 a.m. start time.

The day was absolutely gorgeous with PERFECT running weather. It was chilly in the morning, but I figured that I'd be warm enough by mile 2...and I was right. I actually ran the first 7 miles non-stop, which is pretty rare for me. There's still something in my head when I run more than 3 miles that tells me I need a very short walk break (we're talking 20 steps of walking) every now and then. I didn't feel the need and had a really good pace for the first 7 miles, even running mile 6 in UNDER NINE MINUTES--Go me!!!

The course was hilly, but didn't involve any butt burners like the two that haunted me during the Augusta Half Marathon. The best part was that once I hit mile 11, I didn't crash and burn like I did 6 weeks ago in Augusta. Sure, I was tired, but I actually felt pretty good, even in the uphills. I finished the last 3 or 4 miles with a great group of people who were all about encouraging one another to keep going. I crossed the finish line strong, and if forced, could have run a few more miles. I'm glad I didn't have to, though!

In Augusta, I finished in 2:18:08 (and according to my GPS app, the course was actually 13.3 miles). In that race, the final 3 miles were pretty pathetic. It was serious agony and I had major battle waging inside of my head in order to force myself to shut up and keeping running. In Columbia, my chip time was 2:12:20 (and according to the same GPS app, the course was 13.39 miles). I had to have a couple chats with my legs during a few uphills, but it was a much better running experience for me. It's quite clear that even though many of my training runs felt as though I was in my own personal hell, the training I did prepared me for the challenge.

Now that the dust has cleared, I think I can say that I am a runner. Do I LOVE it? No, not really, but I do enjoy my runs once I get started and I appreciate the feeling of accomplishment I have after I finish a run. I'm never going to be one of those people where running is 'easy,' but I can definitely put one foot in front of the other and keep going for quite awhile.

What's next, you may be wondering? A month ago, when my running training was going REALLY well, I contemplated a full marathon in the fall. However, that moment of running euphoria vanished about 19 hours after it popped into my head. I just don't know that I want to take the time it would require to be able to run 20+ miles. I'll be signing up for 2 or 3 half marathons in the fall (I'm tentatively looking at a half marathon in Athens, GA in October, the City of Oaks half marathon in Raleigh, NC, in November and the Columbia (SC) half in December). I'll run through the summer just to keep my 'running legs' and start back up with a real training schedule in August.

For those of you who are saying, "I could never do that." Think again. Seven months ago, I couldn't run for 1/2 of a mile. Couch to 5K is a great program for getting a 3 mile base on anyone. From there, the running world is yours based on what you want to accomplish.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Success!!! Now what?
Greetings and salutations everyone!

Well, yesterday was the BIG day...the day of the Augusta Half Marathon. I was a bit worried the week prior to the race as I had come down with some sort of bug that gave me headaches, nausea, achiness, and both head and chest congestion. Rather than try to train through it, I decided that the previous 4 months of training had been good enough. I had run 10+ miles the 2 Sundays prior, and the best thing I could do was just rest. I felt ridiculously guilty doing that, though. You always tend to think that if you can just do one more workout, one more run, do one more of 'something,' and you'll be just that little bit more prepared.

I was up right around 5:00 a.m., wanting to make sure my body had sufficient time to work through my morning oatmeal before an 8:00 a.m. start time. I met my sisters at 6:30, so we could travel over together, and we arrived about 35 minutes prior to race time. Just enough time to do some stretching, hit the port-o-let one last time, drink a bit of water, ditch some extra clothes, and warm up the muscles a bit. We weren't there too long before the 1000+ runners lined up and we were off!

My oldest sister and I stayed together most of the race, but once she crossed the starting banner, my other sister wouldn't be seen for another 13.1 miles (she finished in 2:05!!!). I felt pretty good for the first 10 miles, walking up 2 particularly steep sections of hills, but maintaining just under a 10 minute/mile pace until I hit mile 10. That's when I really started to feel tired. I had to nurse myself through the final 3 miles, and my pace dropped to 11:15-11:40 minutes/mile. That said, I finished in 2:18. I'm happy. I'm also proud of myself for setting the goal, pushing through the training, and finishing in a decent time.

So, now it's over. I got a cool running shirt and medal...what next? At first I thought that I was glad I don't have to train anymore and that I would start a new home fitness program (Les Mills Pump) as my primary workout. But then I started to think...and sometimes my brain makes quick decisions when I start to think about goals and such. I'm already fit. I know what I would do differently if I ran another half marathon. Why not run another?

I'm contemplating another half on April 1st. Another five weeks of training...I'll let you know my decision soon.