Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bring on the taper!!!

And no, I'm not talking about tapered jeans....although that does make me think of the Saved by the Bell episode I watched this morning at 4:30. Apparently that's about the only actual show on that early. Today was my last long training run! Can I get a woo hoo?!?!

This morning started before dawn. I am NOT a morning person, so this could have been a very bad thing. But since I was meeting up with Aldona, Pat, Meilssa and Julie to get 4 of our 20 miles out of the way, I got my butt out of bed. Ate my bagel with cream cheese, a banana, and drank some water after getting dressed in my running gear. Oh, and LOTS of body glide was applied to the feet...not that it mattered a lick (more on that to come...). I made it over to Dick Pond in my town about 5:10, and we were off right after that. It was actually a pretty easy 4 miles! I've been doing a run/walk method for my long runs, so it was nice to see I could still run some straight miles. But oh, how things would change.

It started to drizzle right before we started, which was actually a welcome addition to the start. It kept things cool as the sun was starting to come up. Then, about 3 or 4 miles into the 16 miles, the skies just opened up and it POURED! Not just a steady drizzle - I was soaked in about 5 seconds. But it didn't look too bad to the west, so I hoped I would just dry out as the run went on. Apparently I'm just that naive.

It rained a little bit off and on until I hit about mile 8 or 9. I could see the skies darkening to the west, and thunder was starting to rumble. I got another mile down the trail and it poured - again! I did stop for a few minutes under a bridge since the lightning was getting pretty bad. But I didn't want to hang out too long, so once the worst past I got back to work. At that point I just gave up trying to avoid the puddles. I knew my feet were already trashed at that point, and the water actually gave a little cushion for a bit. I met up with some other runners with the Fox Valley Marathon group, and we all kept plugging along through the rain, thunder and lightning.

I was so happy to make it back to St. Charles! My calves had started bothering me with about 2 miles to go, so I was probably doing more walking than running at that point. Looking back, I'm pretty sure it was due to dehydration. I actually still had Gatorade left (that never happens on a long run), and I only filled up my water bottle once. It's a good lesson for me to keep in mind for race day.

Another upside of getting the 4 miles done early is that I actually was NOT the last one back today haha! Of course, the other people coming in after me had run 20 miles in the time it took me to do 16, but it was nice to have others joining me. My dear friend Michelle had just come back a little bit before me, and I sat with her for a little while since she was having some calf/knee issues...I hope some R.I.C.E. will help her!

Several of us headed to The Office afterwards to celebrate the last group training run. Luckily I was able to get out of the wet clothes first (I could literally wring out my socks and shorts), and we had a great lunch. After that I finally made it home for a most welcome hot, hot shower. I feel like I'm human again!

So for the next three weeks I get to lower my mileage, and let my body rest and recuperate. I am so ready for it, and can't wait to cross the start line in three weeks! A huge thank you goes out to all of my friends and family who have supported me, encouraged me, and run with me. I could not have gotten to this point without all of you.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It's getting closer!'s hard to believe I only have five more weeks until my first marathon. Today was our second to last group training run, and it looked like it was going to be a cooler day for the 18 miles we would be running. The sunrise was beautiful at 6:00 a.m., and I just wish I could have gotten a picture of it.

It was great to get there and see some of my great friends, and I hung out chatting with my pace group while we waited to start. Our little pack of runners has grown quite a bit over the last couple of runs - it's great to see! We all seemed ready to go, and started off strong.

The first 4 miles flew by, and right about then I saw this:
Turn-around for the Half Marathon trainers
Did I wish that was where I turned around? I'd be lying if I said no, but it was still pretty cool at that point, and I thought "hey....what's another 14 miles!" Ha - it's amazing how the mind works on these long runs. Although it really is nice seeing my friends as their pace groups make the turnaround and head really keeps me going. Still, it was great to see this right around mile 9:
Not quite half-way there, but it was still nice to see!
I knew we'd be running pretty far south, but I honestly didn't realize just how far down we'd go. It kind of sunk it once I was heading back and came up on I-88...yes - we went PAST 88 into Aurora:
For any Fox Valley friends...this is the trail south of 1-88...I remember when I didn't even like to drive that far!
Luckily the rest of the miles pretty much flew by until I hit around mile 15. The sun was out, the temperatures were rising, and my calves were getting pretty sore. I saw Sara coming up to the 16 mile water stop, and she and I finished off the last two miles together. The Japanese Garden "tour" was a killer, though...but it's good prep for race day when we'll have to do that twice. We speed-walked the rest of the training run, which I was totally fine with at this point. It was great having a chance to chat with her again! And yay - we got Freezie Pops when we made it back to Geneva!!

I did break two of the cardinal rules of the long run...I wore a brand new running tank AND tried new food/fuel for the course - OOPS! Luckily the new tank felt great. I didn't have any issues with it all, and it kept me cooler. The new fuel I tried was Fig Newtons...haha! I've notice the last couple of weeks that I would be starving around mile 12 or so, and the Gatorade chews just weren't cutting it. So I grabbed a few Fig Newtons, stuck them in a Ziploc bag, and ate one of them around mile 11. It worked!! I wasn't hungry at all until about 2 blocks from getting back to the FVM group.

Afterwards Pat, Jeanne, Christine, Colleen and I headed over to Geneva Diner for a wonderful breakfast. I have to say - I have met some of the BEST people since I started running. We had a great time chatting, and finally figured out what they REALLY put in those Gatorade jugs to keep us going...hahahaha! We've all "drunk the Kool-Aid", so to speak.

So now I look to the rest of training for this amazing experience. We'll have one more training run in two weeks (20 miles - yikes!), and I'll need to keep up my training on my own as well. Sadly it's supposed to be hot hot hot again this week, so I may move to the treadmill for my mid-week long run. I'm just glad that, less than 12 hours since I started running 18 miles, I'm really not that sore at all. As long as I keep moving, it makes a huge difference. I'm just definitely ready to get a good night's sleep!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Feeling SO much better about my marathons!

My marathon mindset over the last 2+ weeks has done a complete 180 degree turn. My last blog post, for those that read it, was a reflection of how low I was feeling at the time. I had been struggling with some pain, and the 10 mile training run was brutal. My right calf hurt for a good portion of the week, and I was doubting myself...big time. My training was not where it needed to be, and my mileage was much lower than where I wanted to see it.

I think the turning point came when I did the 14 mile training run with the Fox Valley Marathon group. While it was still a warmer day, it was much better than we had seen in the days leading up to it. I made it through that run, and while I was slower than a sloth, I felt so much better at the end than I had when I finished the 10 mile run. Plus, I was able to get a couple of runs in that week as well.

Thank goodness my awesome running buddy Pat asked me if I'd like to do my 15 miler with her last weekend! 10 miles, even 12 miles, are okay if I'm by myself. But anything over that would be sooooo loooooooong without someone to chat with. Pat is great about running whatever pace I need to do, even though I know I'm slowing her down. She always says "miles are miles, no matter what your speed is". And we had such a beautiful morning for our run! We headed out to the Great Western Trail, and it was actually chilly at times. Never thought I'd be able to say that in July around here!

I also joined up with the Dick Pond Speed Club that meets on Thursday evenings (thanks Karla!). The first night I was there we did 400 meter relays, and it felt great. This week we did hills. And other than feeling like I was going to throw up around the third time up the hill, it was a great workout. Okay, so maybe the post-workout Summer Shandy helped with that (maybe it was the second one....). Between the miles I was doing on the training runs, the workouts, and other runs I've done on my own, I actually hit 50 miles for July! I was really happy with that, since the beginning of the month started off so slowly.

Wow...over 300 runners for Training Run #4!!!!
So that brings me to the most recent training run, which took place yesterday. There was a HUGE turnout, I'm sure in part to both the gorgeous day and the longer distance we had to do. I swear I've done many 5Ks that didn't even have this many people! I had 16 miles looming ahead of me, but I was pumped and ready to run! I had time to chat with some friends, and get some pictures as well:
Karla and me rockin' the pre-run attitude
Seth and me getting ready to run!

I was still pacing the 12:30 group, although it's really 12:30+++...I'm known as "The Sweeper" now...haha! Our little group has actually grown quite a bit, and I saw many new faces mixed in with the people I've gotten to know over the last month with our runs. I also met a new woman, Sarah. She had checked with one of our awesome race directors, Dave, to see if here are slower paces with these runs. It was great she did that, since Dave could let Jeanne (our fearless training run leader) know, and she sent me an email to alert me as well. I met Sarah right before we set off, and another running friendship was born :).

The weather was SO much better for our run!! It was cooler, with much lower humidity, and beautiful blue skies. I felt great when we started off, and our group sort of spread out, but I could still see some runners behind us. At the first big turn, I stopped to make sure they all followed the group, then took back off to lead the pack. Karla was also pacing the 12:30 half marathon group, I could see her up ahead. Around mile 2 1/2 I caught up with Sarah, and we spent the next 5+ miles running together. I've been following a Jeff Galloway plan of run 2 minutes/walk 1 minute, and she stayed right with me while we did that. Around mile 7 we were getting in to Red Oak Nature Center, and that area has a lot more rolling hills. I still felt strong and kept up our 12:25-12:30 pace, and Sarah dropped back a bit. I saw so many friends passing back by, since they had already hit the 8 mile turn around. It was wonderful and uplifting to see all of the! It really hit home again what an awesome community us runners have. 

I waited at the 8 mile turn-around for Sarah to hit that point, along with Ann, another woman I've gotten to know. There was a great sign telling us to turn around, but I wanted to make sure a)they were both okay and b) they didn't miss it. We all took back off, and started our way back. I was a bit ahead of them, but we caught back up with each other at the 9 mile and 12 or 13 mile water stops. I stopped at Island Park in Geneva for a quick bathroom break, and they got up ahead of me. I came back up on them around mile 15, and we made our way back to Dick Pond. My last mile was slower, although we did run some of the time. Sadly, my phone died with 0.5 miles to go, so my Runkeeper app didn't log the full run. 

We made it back to the store, and got hugs and high-fives from our race directors and great friends that were still hanging out in the great backyard area. Luckily Christine and Karla saved a freezie pop for me! I felt incredible when I finished. Yes, I was tired and yes, I was sore - but I just added another distance PR that day, and I felt like I could keep going. Probably not another 10 miles at that time, but at least a couple more miles. 

I'm looking forward to another long run this weekend, along with additional runs I'll do this week for training and speed workouts. And I'm finally realizing that yes - I can do this! It's less than 2 months until the Fox Valley Marathon, and Chicago is just three weeks after that. I'm starting to visualize myself crossing the finish lines at both races, and the chills have already started. I can't wait to see what the rest of training brings!