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!