“Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible”…

So, milestone reached!!!!

Last Friday I completed a 21 mile run! I even actually RAN 99%of it. I only resorted to run/walk intervals for a few miles near the end ( more on that in a bit).  I have now managed to complete all but 5.2 miles of the marathon distance. I have reached the ‘Marathon Possible” zone!

Friday’s run started out well enough.  I was stocked up with GU and Shot Bloks for nutrition, water belt full, GPS watch fully charged.  I set out feeling pretty good.  I had mentally broken the run up into four sets of 5 miles each, planning to refill water and take bathroom breaks at designated stops along the way.  I kept a nice comfortable pace for the first 13 miles.  Around mile 14-15 it started to get tough.  It was a really hot humid day ( 82 even in mid morning), and the wind was picking up to an uncomfortable level.  I was sweating buckets but hydrating well.  At mile 16, I stumbled and stubbed my toe.  When you stub your toe in toe shoes, you take notice my friends! I knew it wasn’t broken, but man did it smart. Combined with the heat, the wind, and fatigue and I was a sad little runner-puppy for sure. By mile 18 I resorted to run walk intervals. In spite of the heat, the sweat and wind factor were combining to give me chills.  We were approaching 4 hours at this point, and my phone’s battery gave up the ghost.  I made it to mile 19, and my GPS watch was threatening to mutiny as well ( so much for the 5 hour GPS mode battery life…thank you Garmin ).  At this point I was beyond tired, but so close to home.  I mustered the energy to pick it back up and run the 2 miles home in hopes of out lasting my watch battery.  I made it with probably 2 seconds to spare, but the bottom line is that I made it!

The next day I had to work, so I limped around and managed.  I iced my knees that night, and got up the next morning to actually run- yes run people- a brisk 3 miles before walking around Legoland for the remainder of the day.  The following day ( today) I got up and dropped Super Son off for school. I ran a slow 6 miles ( my legs were exhausted), showered, hopped in the car, and drove to Cocoa for chaperone duty for his field trip.  I MAY have possibly fallen asleep for a BRIEF moment in the middle of the planetarium show…but it was JUST a moment, and there was no drool ( that I will admit to anyway).

And that my friends, was my Friday through Monday in a nut shell! Whew!

I will admit, Its getting hard.  I feel like my life runs around my training schedule now.  The hours on my feet are getting to be overwhelming, leaving little time for grocery shopping, much less any semblance of a normal life. On my longest run days, I am on my feet for 4-4.5 hours at a time, followed by a cool down period of about a half hour, then icing down my complaining joints for another half hour, then showering and hydrating ( another half hour), and finally some form of lunch ( I can’t run with food in my stomach, so I am starving soon after a long run).  All in all, the entire process from long run-to cool down-to refueling, takes around 6.5-7 hours from start to finish…and THEN I get to start my day! I generally spend the next 2 days exhausted, ravenous, and stiff.  My knees have started to swell and complain for any runs over 15 miles, requiring icing at night as well.

I know, I know, it sounds awesome right???:)

And YET, I find myself praising God more and more for every run that I take.  There is Joy hidden in there, in the completion of these long days.  I am tired, but I am THANKFUL.  I really don’t have room to complain, because God has taken me right where I have asked to go.

( warning…it may get a bit preachy from here on out…so hold on to your hats folks).

I am utterly, completely, thoroughly exhausted.  My house is a wreck, I am a wreck,  I have exhausted my emergency clean clothes stash…and YET…This Marathon is becoming Possible.  So many months ago, when God put the idea in my head, it was an absolutely impossible dream, one I couldn’t dare to expect to achieve.  At the time, I could barely even drum up a wisp of hope, but I threw myself out on faith.  I asked God to run with me, to make it Possible to finish a marathon…run, walk, crawl, whatever it took.  Little did I realize when I flung myself out on faith, just what was in store. God laced HIS shoes up and ran right along with me, every single step.  As a result,  I have had more quiet time with God over the last few months than I have had in the last year.  It turns out that running is one of the only times when my brain is tired enough to be still and listen to what He has to say.  I’ve been in spiritual training as much as I have been in physical training.  I’ve graduated from listening to music when I run, to just Listening period.

It hasn’t been EASY.  As a matter of fact, its been downright HARD-physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And  I realized as I was running some of my  hardest, grittiest runs over the last few weeks, that it SHOULD be hard.  All those months ago, I prayed for this marathon thing to be possible.  I knew it was a really tall order, and I was going to be ecstatic if I could even crawl across that finish line.   So why in the world should I expect it to be EASY?  Easy was never part of my prayer…I simply prayed that the impossible be possible.  He’s answered that prayer.  How in the world could I possibly gripe about how much time or physical effort it has taken, when He has given me exactly what I asked for?

How many times in our lives do we pray for the seemingly impossible…’if only You could fix my broken heart, broken marriage, broken _____’…and in the midst of that prayer, we simply care about it being possible…you know those ‘please God if only’…moments.  Yet, when He comes through with a miracle and actually makes the impossible possible, we gripe because it is hard work getting there.  Every once in a while God WILL make it easy as a bonus, but most of the time, He is going to require some physical or spiritual sweat people!  I believe he’s a hands on,in-the-trenches-kind-of-God, who is in the middle of all the messy stuff in life, getting his hands dirty to help his children…but he wants us there, beside him, getting messy too.

So yes, My life is whirling chaotic dustball of crazy right now.  That’s OK. To be honest, it was pretty crazy and dusty before all of this running nonsense.  In the middle of it all though, I have Joy.  I am doing the physical work and God is making it possible.  He is equipping me as he has promised, and I am grateful for every minute of this crazy exhausting schedule.  He is making the impossible possible, and for that I will drag my tired butt out and run!

Faith can move mountains…and muscles!

So its “keep it real confession time” again! I promised when I started this blog to tell you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

So here’s the deal: I had an awful week of running last week.  I had really pushed hard the weekend before: new record 10 K race Saturday, 13 mile run/race the very next day, and the I walked 4 miles Monday because I just couldn’t run the 9 miles that my plan called for.  I had an awesome trip on the horizon, so last week I had to squeeze in major miles with no rest time.  I had a 13 miler on Thursday, a 10 miler Friday, and a 5 K race scheduled for Saturday in Tennessee ( I got to fly up and visit my sisters, brother in law, and brand new nephew….yaaaaaaay).  That was a pretty tall order.

The Ugly:

Thursday I started out my 13 miler in a rough, herky jerky trot that just felt off.  I hoped I would relax and run better after a few miles, but nope….it was just a horrible, gritty run.  My legs were just run out…no gas.  I ended up running and walking intervals just to get through.  I was so tired that I had to run the last 3 miles by running  a quarter mile, walking a quarter mile, etc.  When I finally did finish I was crushed physically, emotionally, spiritually.  13 miles took me 2 hours and 55 minutes to finish! That is a 13:21 pace y’all!  I ran the 10 miler two days earlier in less than 2 hours at an easy 10:30 pace!   Not only was I slow as molasses in January, but I was SORE! I limped around all day and evening wondering how in the world I could possibly run 10 more miles the very next day.

The Bad:

Friday,I woke up still sore, but determined. I tentatively shuffled down the road and started ticking off 10 more miles.  This run sucked too, although a bit less than the day before.  I still had to use run/ walk intervals, but this time I was able to walk a quarter and then very slowly run 3/4 of a mile.  I managed to finish this run at  13:00 pace.  This was marginally faster than the day before, but I was still horribly sore and very discouraged at not being able to run the whole distance.   I went from feeling like a finely tuned running machine to a broken down busted hot mess of an old VW bus flopping along on 3 flat fires and a bare rim. Dang! Not only had I lost my Mojo, it felt like I had never HAD any in the first place.

That afternoon I was hopping a plane to head to Tennessee ( happy dance happy dance! ). I was so excited to get there and relax and see the new addition to our crazy family, but there was an hour and a half drive to the airport….NOT fun on my poor swollen knees in a stick shift, and then the plane ride itself.  Needless to say I was rather stiff and sore by Friday night! Alas, I had signed up to run a 5K while up there.  I needed a few more  miles for my training plan, and the race was called the “fainting goat 5K” how could I resist that???!!! I was not at ALL sure how I would be able to walk, much less run the race on Saturday, but I decided not to cancel.  I limped to bed, hoping for the best  on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning dawned with a frigid 20 degrees! I could walk just fine though, and felt relatively pain free for the first time in 2 days, so went ahead and bundled up for the race.  My sister and brother in law bravely bundled up the new baby and we headed to Knoxville!

The Good:

My brother in  law gamely decided to run the race too ( his first 5 K…way to go Bro!!!) so I had company at the starting line! By the time we got there and the race started, it had warmed up to a balmy 30 something.  I gamely pointed my poor numb feet ( toe shoes are COLD in the winter time) toward the start, took a chilly breath and took off!

After a couple of moments …I realized I felt GOOD!!!! No pain AT ALL!  Now Tennessee is hill country, and when we got to the first hill I waited for my legs to just have one final tantrum and give up- period… NOPE…I just kept chugging. Inexplicably, I was actually managing a brisk pace. I kept looking at my watch in disbelief as 3 or 4 more hills passed me by.  Not only that, but by the half way point I was speeding up a bit! I was actually able to run well, tackle the hills, and finish strong!  My average pace was a 9:30. To put that in perspective, I generally run a 9:20 pace for my 5 K’s on FLAT terrain with rested legs.

That race was like a big hug from God Almighty Himself.  It was like a warm hug, an atta girl, and a pat on the back all at the same time.  I was just blown away and amazed…there is NO WAY I could have run THAT well, as sore as I was, and as crummy as I had run on Thurs/Fri. That was pure God Power simple as that.  In spite of my feelings of disappointment and discouragement, in spite of aces and pains, I faithfully showed up. I put my toes to the starting line and God filled my gas tank…vroom!

It was an amazing learning experience and confidence boost.  I know God’s got me, even when I stupidly run myself ragged and over reach my abilities. When my body has given in and given up, he is there.  As long as I am willing to try and have faith, he’ll lift me up.

I was so discouraged, but I showed up anyway.  I am so very glad that I did.  God obviously had something to show me on Saturday.  If I had let my disappointments and doubts cancel that race, I would have missed something amazing.  In the wake of physical pain and defeat, He had a priceless gift of confidence waiting for me at that race.  It makes me wonder how many times in the past, discouragement or self doubt have kept me from seeing what amazing thing God had in store for me if I’d just had faith and kept trying, kept showing up.

Running Down a Dream

Ok, so I decided to run the 10 K race as an actual race and not a training run.  I know, I know, it WAS a good idea to run it slow and easy…it really was.  I am not much of a competitive person when it comes to most things.  I know I will never come close to those speedy elite runners who take all the shiny medals at the races.  I AM however extremely, brutally, obsessively competitive with myself.  If its a race, then I just HAVE to see if I can beat my former time.

You see I had run the Eye of the Dragon two years ago as my first ever 10 K.  I was prepping for my first half marathon at the time.   At the time, I was happy just to finish the darned thing.  The causeway portion was brutal and I made it, but it was tough…I ran it in 1 hour, 11 minutes, at an 11:30 pace.  I just HAD to see what I could do two years and 3 half marathons later.  This year, I managed to finish in 59 minutes, 11 seconds, at a 9:32 pace…OH YEAH!  I actually felt pretty good through most of the race too, only really struggling on the first trip over the causeway, running into a VERY stiff headwind.  BOOYA!  WHOOP WHOOP! Apparently all of the tortuous miles of late have made a difference:)

Now as you recall, I also had enrolled in a 10 mile race the very next day ( not my brightest idea, but I did have to log 13 miles for my long run this week and it would at least help with the boredom of miles 1-10).  Super Husband had also enrolled.  This was to be his longest race yet.  I decided to help him pace throughout the run.  We settled on a 10:30 pace and toed up to the starting corral.  The first 5 miles were a slog I won’t lie, my legs were beat and were confused as to why we were running again so soon.  Once I hit mile 5, my legs gave in and started working properly.  I started to feel good, runner-like even! I kicked up the pace a bit, and was able to slowly increase it a smidge each mile from here on out to about mile 8.  At mile 8 I reminded myself I was pacing, not racing.  I had set my sights on the pace group in front of us and was intent on slowly running them down and passing them…once again I reminded myself, pacing not racing and settled down a bit and focused on getting Super Husband to the finish in his pace window ( yes, I had been slowly creeping farther and farther ahead…BAD form for a pacer apparently).  Anyway, I got my head back into the pacing game and Super Husband and I ticked down the remaining miles.  Lo and behold, we managed to cruise past the finish line at 1 hour and 45 minutes, at an average pace of 10:36… woohoo!:) I was and am so very very proud of him!  He’s become quite the runner in his own right this past year!

After getting our finishers’ crowns, Super Husband entertained Super Son at the finish line while I pounded the pavement for 3 more miles to round out my long run of the week.  I felt fairly good at the finish, but I was BEAT by the time those last 3 miles were done! Everything hurt…feet, quads, calves…even my back was barking.  Apparently a 10k,10miler, and 3 miles all in 2 days is my limit at this point!

The following day was Monday, and my running plan called for a 9 mile run( running plan is Evil).   It called, but my body just couldn’t answer.  I was sore, no lie.  I had once again, over done it.  Instead of running 9 miles, I managed to walk 4.  It was a brisk walk mind you, but I am still a bit upset at having to forfeit those other miles.  At this point, every mile in my training schedule COUNTS.  I only get 3 days a week to cram in what most runners manage in 5 days of running.  I have only missed a very few runs here and there, and never a long run, but its scary to miss any at all at this point.  I have to remember though, as bad as missing some miles here or there is, it would be far worse to push into an injury at this point.  Its a fine line between fit and broken from here to the marathon.

I have exactly 6 weeks of running left before my 2 week taper.  Its getting harder and harder to fit in Family, Work, and Running.  I am now running on average, as many hours as I am working in a week…and my running hours are on the increase.  Even my shortest runs are 7 miles at this point.  In addition to the actual hours spent running, there is cool down time, shower time, and refueling to be done after a race.  I have a lovely travel opportunity on the horizon, but in order to go and manage my miles, I will have to run a 13 mile run, followed by a 10 mile run the very next day, and  still have running to do at my destination.   Its become one big exhausting puzzle from week to week!  I will confess that running is becoming a chore as of late.

On one hand 6 weeks is a fairly short time.  I just have to tough it out and then I will be in taper town.  On the other hand, its 6 weeks of the most grueling, scary, demanding running schedule I have yet to run.  I two mind numbing body breaking 20 milers to go, and one beast of a 23 miler in addition to countless filler runs of 7, 10, and 14 miles.  I try to only look at one week of my schedule at a time because looking at more than that just makes me want to get fitted for a straight jacket and reserve a padded room…

And yet, I am so close. If I squint I can see a hazy horizon line ahead.  Yes, it will be a very very difficult and trying 6 weeks. Yes, I will have to give up even more time to squeeze in the schedule. Yes, I will have to carefully listen to my body and try to push far enough to complete my miles and yet not so far as to get injured.  Yes, it will be insanely tough, but it will, in the end, help me to run over that finish line 26.2 miles in the near distance. I have come so very far.  I am so very close.

I’m running down my dream

Just the Facts Ma’am…

No words of wisdom today.  I just thought I’d give an update on how my Marathon training is going. The start line is marching closer and starting to loom in the visible distance.  I have all of 2 months and 1 week before I suit up and go toe to toe at the start line of the Flying Pig Marathon. That means 7 more weeks of heavy running before I hit Taper Town. YIKES!

To that end, I am starting to tick off the ‘BIG RUNS” of the program.  I am following the Hal Higdon 3 program that is set up for 3 days a week of running.  Its a stretch to be able to get in enough miles in only 3 days a week, but its what I have so there ya go.  I generally begin the week with a modest run, end the week with a long run, and get in a shorter run ( 3-4 miles) a day after the long run. The Big Daddy runs were made up of a 17 mile run, 18 mile run, 20 mile run, 23 mile run, and a final 20 mile run before taper.

Last week I ran 6 miles, 6 miles, and then on Saturday I ran 2 miles at a race, then came home and ran 17…it was a nasty run, and I had o run intervals just to finish, but I ran a grand total of 19 miles for that day.

This week was supposed to start with a 9 mile run, but I felt good and ran 10.  Friday was to be my 18 mile run.  It was 34 degrees that morning and I really had to pry myself out of bed.  Once I got going though, I ran really well.  Apparently I am a cold weather runner trapped in a tropical climate zone…who knew???  My legs revved up from the beginning and I ran well.  I felt great until I hit 14 miles.  From that point on, I felt every inch of every last mile.  My feet started to feel bruised, my quads and glutes and hip joints started barking. At mile 17 I got a small second wind and decided to go just a bit farther and make it a 19 mile run instead of the prescribed 18.   Not only that, but I managed to slice 10 minutes from last week’s long run! Once I got home, I had time to quickly stretch, shower and limp on through my day.  No rest for the weary, or the mother runner!

I cannot deny though, that I was feeling really beat from mile 14-17. It makes sense, my body has been trained to run 13.1 maximum miles.  Once I run over that it tries to send up a white flag.  The trick from here out, will be to let my brain override my body’s desire to quit, but not to push myself past my actual ability to run.  This is a razor’s edge line once the miles pile up past 18.  I am in that yellow zone of training where many runners’ bodies break down rather than continue to build up.  I am trying to run my long runs at a relatively easy pace, and listen for any serious pings or engine knocks along to way.  These are uncharted  shark filled waters, and I have to be careful not to get injured this close to my goal.

I am still a bit sore a day after that long run.  Honestly though, I am no more sore ( and perhaps less) than I was after my first half marathon race. It used to take me 3-4 days after a half marathon before I could even think of running again, now I am feeling run ready in 1-2.  I am however, sore in different places.  It used to be my calf muscles and shins that seized up after a long run.  Now I find its my upper legs, quads, glutes, and hips.  I hope this means I have conditioned my lower legs sufficiently and am now moving on to whipping my upper legs into shape.   At any rate, its a familiar ache and day-after limp…just in new places.

Next week I get a nice lower mileage week.  I have a 6 mile run, then a 10 K race ( which I am planning to run slowly as a training run), wrapping up the week will be a 10 mile race followed by 3 additional miles that day. I will follow that with another week of similar mileage before I tackle my very first 20 mile run (eek!).

So far I have only missed a run or two here and there, and never one of my long runs. The mileage is getting long, and it is getting tough to find enough road to run on in familiar neighborhoods…and convenient yet clean public restrooms to use.   It is also a challenge to engage my brain for 3-4 hours at a time.  I have however conquered 2 of the 5 big runs in the plan, so that is progress!

Anyway, enough of my ramble! Gotta run :)!

These are Not the Droids you are Looking For…

“Quitting isn’t your body giving out, but your mind giving up.”

This is such an important quote for runners.  You see, the mind is biologically designed to tell your body that it has to quit long before it really has to.  That is a biologically sound over ride system built into each and every human being.  Yes, there IS a time to stop pushing your body, there IS a danger zone, beyond which lies injury and worse…BUT this line is much farther away than your mind would have you believe.  Your mind generally wishes to stop any physical activity as soon as it becomes the least bit uncomfortable, but it is precisely in that zone of discomfort where you build muscle,  stamina, cardiovascular strength, and character.

As an athlete of any type, it becomes very important to know your body, to understand the line of discomfort, vs training, vs true injury or overexertion.  I want to be clear that I am not advocating pushing your body to dangerous limits, but rather training your mind to understand the TRUE limits of your body.

Distance running is all about this.  My mind used to push the panic button at 2 miles…literally, “all stop, we are going to pass out or puke if we run one more step” type of panic button.  As I trained my body over time and mileage it learned that I would not pass out or puke with one more step, or mile, or miles.  I have gradually built up to running for 17 miles at one time and 19 miles in a day with more to come, and I can honestly say that I have not, as of yet, either passed out or puked in spite of my brain and its panic button’s promises.

I say all of this because as you know, I keep it real here.  Some runs are harder than others…even the relatively short ones.  I have found that there are a few mind tricks that can be played, that can help on days when your mind is screaming, and your body really wants to give in.  Lots of people have mantras, songs to sing to themselves, etc… the bottom line is, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve for days when your mind wants to hijack your run!

A few weeks ago I had a rather short run to complete.  I had only 6 miles to run before I could hit the road, bound for a relaxing cruise vacation.  Now I had run a low mileage week the previous week, so this 6 miles should have been no big deal.  As my foot hit the pavement for the very first step I knew it would be a fight.  I felt clumsy and wrong, more so than usual.  Knowing this was going to be a fight, I set out on an out and back route…I mentally told myself I only had to run 3 miles.  I only focused on getting to those 3 miles.  Three miles felt so much better than 6.  Of course when I got to my 3 mile point, I had to turn around and run 3 miles back home…BUT I could congratulate myself at that point on completing my run.  If you run an out and back course, once you reach your half way point you know you’ve got this…after all, you have to get home right? Somewhere around mile 4, my brain stopped yelling at me and my legs showed up and I RAN.  I ended the run feeling great, but had I stopped when my brain told me to, I would have left for vacation kicking myself about cutting my run short.  As it was, I left feeling great and also proud of myself for sticking it out.

Breaking up a run into smaller chunks is a helpful trick.  Once onboard the cruise ship, SuperHusband and I had yet another 6 mile run to complete. Now running on a cruise ship has its challenges.  Besides the yaw and pitch of a ship, you also have to contend with a very small track to run on.  In our case, this track was 11 laps to a mile.  With 6 miles, we were facing 66 laps…THAT was daunting. No WAY could my brain run 66 laps!!! Here’s how we broke it down: The track was surrounding the mini golf course, so SuperHusband collected 6 golf balls. I ticked off 10 laps as we went around.  When I ran out of fingers, we walked lap 11 and chucked a golf ball in the bucket.  I only had to count to 10 and focus on that many laps and then we took a walk break.  The disappearing Golf balls were a great visual aid that we were reaching our goal, and the breakfast aromas wafting up from the Lido deck spurred us to run faster…mind over matter and bacon in my belly! Winner!

Last but not least, on those days that I can’t run past my own feet and things just don’t shape up…I bribe my tired body with the promise of a short walk break.  Run/walk intervals are nothing new.  Jeff Galloway has a whole tribe of followers that run/walk entire marathons with great success.   Walking intervals throughout an entire run doesn’t work well for me, BUT I have found that it can help to scatter them throughout a really hard gritty run.

Last Saturday I ran the Zebra Zoom at the zoo with SuperHusband and SuperSon…we ran as a family and didn’t push it too hard.  It was a great warm up ( so I thought) for the long run that I needed to complete.  I had a total of 17 miles to run that day, and figured I would run the Zoo Zoom and then finish up with 15 miles at home.  Well as soon as I started out on my 15 mile loop, my brain hit the panic button.  My legs felt like lead, and I felt like I had bricks on my feet.  I tried to relax and told myself I would feel better by mile 4, but it just didn’t happen this time.  Turns out joy of joy, that this was one of THOSE runs.  My legs never did shake out and show up…at least not for a LOOOOOONG time.  I had no option but to run the 15 miles before me, so in desperation I started run/walk intervals.  Because I’m being real, I will admit to walking more than running for the first 6 miles…it was gnarly and tough.  My brain wanted ever so badly to call SuperHusband and abort the run, but I dug in and swore to finish even if I had to walk the whole darned thing!  I picked visual milestones…”just have to run to that mailbox, fencepost, intersection, and then you can walk”…kind of thing.  I finally started running more than walking around mile 7 or so.  Even then I allowed myself to walk for just a couple seconds at every large driveway.  Once I managed to get to mile 13 ( yeah, mile 13!!!) I started to get a second wind.  In spite of it being a VERY hard run/walk/whatever…I was able to finish out not 15 miles as I had planned, but 17 miles…making the grand total for the day a staggering 19 miles.  All on a day that I wanted to call home by mile 4!  Had I given up I would have never known just how far I could go.  I started the run defeated, and ended up elated and encouraged.

So what I am trying to say really, is don’t give up.  Yes, you need to know your body’s limits, but make sure you know your ACTUAL limits and not your imagined limits.  Don’t listen when your brain hits the panic button and tells you to quit. Instead, take physical stock of where you are and what you can do and find a way to push through if you can.  Break that run up into small chunks and celebrate as you conquer each one.   Give yourself visual milestones and just ‘run to the next light, mailbox, fencepost”.  And don’t be afraid to bribe your legs with a walking break or to use run/walk intervals.  Even miles walked are miles in the bank!

Find out what you need to do to pull the plug on your brain’s panic button and realize your body’s true potential.

How long is your runway?

So this my friends is the time in my marathon training schedule where the rubber on my toe-shoes meets the road.  Most of my runs are 9 miles or more now.  Its not really all that much fun to drag myself out of bed and hit the road knowing that just about every run will be from 2-4 hours long.  Just keeping it real people…its not fun.

In addition to the long, boring miles on my feet, my legs have decided to play a FUN new trick on me.  When I started running, it took me between 0.5 to 1 mile to warm up.  I knew without a doubt that EVERY single run would start with whiny, sore, complaining legs.  My calf muscles would cramp, my feet would feel like bricks, I would struggle to breathe…sounds like FUN right?  But the key was, if I could just push past that half mile to a mile…tough it out and grit through it, everything would miraculously shake out.  My legs would quit complaining, I would untangle and find a rhythm, my breathing would even out, and I could shift into gear and RUN. Like an airplane trying to fly, I had to use that runway to get me in the air.

Well now that I am in such better shape, now that my legs are better conditioned to running for hours at a time, you would think that my legs would warm up faster. You would think that my runway would be shorter. Yeah that would be LOGICAL alright!  My oh so special legs however, have decided that they will stage a much longer strike.  It NOW takes me a whole 4 MILES to pound my legs into submission…how crazy and unfair is that????? I get into better shape, but now I need an even longer runway to get flying!

It doesn’t matter if I am running 5 miles or 19…somewhere around mile 3.89 my feet start to feel lighter, my breathing evens out, my legs stop hurting, and I can literally feel my body shift into some gear that wasn’t there from mile 0-4.  I even out, run faster and more smoothly…every time.  Now mind you, I am still running at a virtual snail’s pace compared to most RUNNERS out there, but for me it feels like cruise control kicks in. Some people would probably call that my “runner’s high” I think that is false advertisement.  There is nothing “high” about it.  I do not feel like a million bucks, I simply stop fighting by own body, and am able to run without cajoling, coercing, and dragging my butt down the road.  In other words, I am able to untangle and get out of my own way.

My point in all of this, is that most days I have to fake it til I make it.  I have to drag my butt out of a warm cozy bed and hit the pavement knowing that I have at least 4 miles of discomfort and grit ahead.  I have no way of knowing for sure that my legs will kick in at mile 4.  Each run may be the run that they just don’t shake out, that remains gritty and miserable to the very end.  I have to have faith when I put my foot to the pavement… that if I run those 4 hard, awful miles that things will get easier, the run will get better, that I will have the strength to complete the miles set before me that day.  I also know that there will be days that those legs just don’t shake out.  Some runs ( and some days) are like that.  I have to have faith that God will get me through those runs as well, help me tough it out and show me in the process just how far I can go, even when it stays tough to the last mile, and trust that those types of runs will be few and far between.

God has asked me to run this Marathon and I know he is running with me every step.  It’s in those tough 4 miles that I chat with him the most…and BOY do we ever chat on a long run!  It is here that I ask for strength and acknowledge that I cannot run these miles strictly on my strength alone.

Perhaps it takes longer to warm up into a run, because the distances are longer now, and  I need God even more, to endure the miles before me.  I need a  longer runway to prepare both my body AND mind for the long grueling hours ahead.

It’s funny, but as I write this I realize the parallels in my life to those training runs.  I used to desire less time with God as a young woman…my life was busy but the miles were short compared to the Marathon life training I am in now.  I have longer races before me now as a wife, mother, working mom, and runner.  The ‘miles’ are much much longer and I need my warm up with God ever more to get me through.  As my days become longer, I find I chat with him so much more than I used to.  I have  faith that He is running beside me, and will untangle my legs, preparing my body and mind for the day he has laid out for me and my family. There are so many days as a mom or wife, that I feel  I start the day all tangled up and clumsy.  I need to trust in God, that if I spend my warm up time with him, and run beside him through my day, that he will even me out, and help me to RUN as he intended all along.

Run Faithful my Friends

The Baconrunner guide to gear

OK..I have been thinking about this post for a while now.  You hear a lot about running being an inexpensive sport…and it certainly CAN be less expensive that some.  I believe however, that there are some essentials that you simply MUST have to make your life easier and keep your parts in place ( more on that later).  I have been running now for almost 3 years and I have figured out what works well for me.  I thought I might pass along my gear philosophy.  Having said that, we are all individuals, and running is an individual sport more than most, so you must find what works for you and go with it.  Here are a few things I have figured out along the way…

ESSENTIALS:

1. Running outfit:  Unless you want to make a SERIOUS impression upon your community and become acquainted with your local police force, you must wear running clothes.  While you do not need to spend a mint from an outdoor outfitter, you DO need a good running shirt and a pair of shorts or capris, or a running skirt.  Please please please stay away from anything cotton.  You need fabric that wicks and breathes. Your pores will thank you.

  • Running top: My preference is for a tank top here in Florida…you can find short sleeve tops, tank tops, etc in any sports store.  The important thing here I think, is something that makes you feel good when you put it on.  Looks aren’t everything, but lets face it, when you are a beginning runner you feel self conscious enough just getting out there.  You need a top that makes you want to wear it so you can go running!  Once you run a 5K race or two you will start filling your closets with plenty of shirts to run in, but for now, pick something fun.
  • Bottoms: Many women like to run in shorts.  I wanted to be one of these women, I really did.  My thighs however, got in the way.  You see shorts are fine, but if you happen to have womanly thighs like I do, then there is friction, and with friction comes the dreaded CHAFFING.  Chaffing is NOT FUN.  Chafing makes you curse like a sailor and walk like a duck. I decided I could either stand at the starting line of a race, lubing up my thighs with Glide ( oh such a pretty sight)…or simply find a cute pair of running capris.  I opted for the capris.  Capris, or a running skirt with long compression shorts underneath solve the friction issue nicely.  Capris may be a bit warm to run in, however I have found an awesome pair that has ventilation at the knees. I love these pants…you have my permission to bury me in them. Love. Them.
  • Sports Bra: for the love of the tatas, find yourself at least two really really good sports bras!  This is an area you really can’t skimp on.  I went through several cheaper brands til I found my perfect sports bra.  I wish I had saved my money and went right for the better made versions.  I personally love the Moving Comfort series..there are tons of really good brands out there, but that has worked for me. My favorite version is a racerback with a back clasp, because who wants to fighting bra straps on a run?!
  • Undies: Yes there are special undies for running…who knew? Some women prefer to wear undies, some wear shorts with a liner, some even go commando.  Ahem..bottom line here..snicker…is that you need to find what works for you.  The only thing I would warn, is stay away from cotton.  Again, your parts need to breathe and move.  Cotton is just not the fabric for that.  Most sports stores sell athletic panties and you could try those…they are usually seamless and light.  They are NOT however inexpensive.  I went into sticker shock at the idea of spending 20.00 on a pair of functional panties that didn’t have lace or leopard spots on them…BUT they do their job.  I didn’t really think much about undies until I ran my first 10 miler.  Lets just say that while my THIGHS didn’t chafe, other things did. After that incident, $20.00 seemed a very wise investment.
  • Socks: Again, cotton is your enemy.  You need a good pair of synthetic running socks. Your blister less feet will thank you.
  • Shoes: Here is a topic that I know very little about.  I happen to be a barefoot runner: I run in those funny monkey toe Vibram Five finger shoes.  I run til they wear a hole somewhere, and then I replace them, simple as that.  Now for most people, you WILL need a good pair of shoes.  This is probably the most expensive but important piece of running gear you will buy.  You really should have a pair of RUNNING shoes, not sneakers or such from a department store, but an actual pair of running shoes from a running store.  Do yourself a favor and go to an actually running store where they will look at your foot, your arch, your gait, and help fit you for a shoe.

2. Important accessories: Here are some of what I consider to be “essential accessories”.  There’s a ton of gear out there that you can live with or without, but these are, in my opinion the most useful.

  • Fuel: if you are running long distances, you need to fuel up.  For me, the line is at 6 miles.  Anything over 6 miles, and I eat a shot block every 3 miles.  This is really really individual.  You must figure this one out for yourself, but please don’t deny your body fuel on a long run.  Some runners eat jelly beans, sports beans, GU, pretzels with peanut butter, gummy bears, or shot blocks.  The list is endless.  Your stomach will dictate to you what works.  Try out several options on your training runs, so that on race day you have a fueling strategy down.  Do NOT try anything new on race day, or risk the wrath of your colon and risk spending the race in a porta potty…NOT FUN.
  • Water holder/belt: You need to hydrate. Period.  Even if you are out for a 2-3 mile run, you really should have water.  Anything longer than that and you MUST have water.  Some people can carry a water bottle and run and that is great.  I wish I were one of them, but I am just not that coordinated.  There are also water bottle carriers that strap to your hand.  What worked best for me was to break down and buy a water belt.  They are clunky looking and not so pretty, but they WORK.  My belt is by Nathan, but there are lots of them out there. I have space for 2-4 wear holders, a key stash, and a pocket to put my shot blocks in for the long haul.  I thought it would bouncy, heavy, etc…but it does its job beautifully.
  • ID Band: this is a band that carries your important medical and personal information.  Generally you will have your name, any medical conditions or allergies, and the phone number of 1 or two people to contact in case of emergency.  Think of it as a medical alert bracelet for runners.  Your loved ones will feel much better when you go for a run knowing you have ID.  I rarely carry ID with me on a run except for this bracelet.  Its just the responsible thing to do.  They are inexpensive and practically indestructible. I use a company called road ID ( roadID.com)  but there are several companies who make them.
  • GPS watch/app, etc: You will want to know how far and how fast you ran that work out.  There are many options.  There are tons of free apps for your phone.  Many of these are fairly accurate and work well.  I found for me, I needed a GPS watch.  I like to be able to glance at my watch and adjust pace, or know that I only have to run 0.3 more miles.   There are several brands and cost brackets out there.  I will say my lowest end Garmin has lasted years and been a perfect match for me.

3. Other stuff: Here are some extra bells and whistles that I have added to my running arsenal.  They are certainly not essential, but helpful and some are just plain fun.

  • Glide: Ok, this should probably be on the essential list for me. As we have discussed, friction is not your friend as a runner.  I’m a girl, and things jiggle and bounce. Friction happens, and it can be ugly, but we have weapons in our arsenal  to combat the dreaded chafe monster.  Glide is a stick of chapstick like stuff that you can apply to any friction spots.  My frequent offenders are underarms, bra line, shirt collar, etc.  This stuff works like magic.  I generally apply before a race and take a small travel sized jar of aquaphor with me to spot treat on the run.  I have heard of others using vaselline, and actual chapstick as quick fixes while on a run.
  • Arm band and headphones: If you want to bring your phone and listen to tunes,you will need an armband.  There are fifty thousand options out there and it takes trial and error to see what works for you.  I had one brand that I adored that suddenly started chafing after 13 miles and I had to retire.  This really is trial and error here.  For headphones, I would suggest the kind that actually wrap around your ear.  These seem to stay put so much better than the ear bud type- for me anyway.  I would also suggest a sports type set of headphones…these are generally water and sweat resistant.
  • Tracking app: I run with a road ID tracker app.  This app allows me to signal  my SuperHusband’s phone when I am running and gives him a GPS readout of where I am on the run.  It will send an alert if I am stationary for more than the allotted time, and will send him an alert when I have completed my run.  This app was free but is priceless in the peace of mind that it offers to both myself and my SuperHusband!
  • Cold weather gear:  Living in Florida, I don’t need much in the way of cold weather gear.  It is important though to have a few essentials to run through the winter.  I have one pair of cold weather tights, and one long sleeved shirt that is a nice, vented running shirt.  I have a pair of gloves that convert from mittens to fingerless gloves, and a hat. I have used them all of twice this winter, but were very glad to have had them!
  • A water bottle with Bling: When you run you must hydrate. You will find yourself drinking more water in general throughout your day.  Find a really cute or blinged out water bottle that makes you feel like a runner…carry it with you throughout the day, and smile when you think of your kick butt morning run!
  • Clip on light: I am not much of a pre dawn or dusk runner, but if you are, you really should invest in a clip on light to wear.  Once again, safety first!
  • Compression socks: These have changed my world.  They are oh so ugly and I couldn’t care less!  I had a tough time with shin splints leading up to my first and second half marathon.  Compression calf sleeves/socks have completely eliminated  the pain.  In addition, I truly believe they have helped speed my long run recovery.  I have 2 pair, one for the run and a clean pair to wear all through the day after my run.
  • Bling Catcher: You need somewhere to hang those medals! You usually get a medal for just finishing any race that is 10K and higher…find a medal holder and hang that bling up! There are many web sites that sell race bib holders, medal hangers, as well as other cool race stuff.  Invest in something to remind you of all the hard work you have done! I save all of my race bibs and write my finish time and date on the backs…its really fun to flip through them and see how far you’ve come.
  • Money for race entry: You’ve put in the time, you really should put your toes to the starting line and see what you can do! Yes, races can be costly, but they are great motivators, and also just plain FUN!  5 K races are generally in the 20-30 dollar range, and 10 K’s, halfs, and marathons go up from there.  Its a great idea to start a fun fund to put aside money for race entries.

A cheap sport? Not so much!  However, many of these are things I have gathered a little at a time, over the years.  I have found it to be worth the high cost of investing in one or two good items from a premium running store.  For example, I have two pair of running capris from the Athleta store.  They are the only running bottoms I have and I run in them 3 days a week.  They have lasted almost 3 years and show no signs of wear and tear. They were an investment, but have lasted so well and are so very perfect for me to run in.  I bought the first pair at full price and loved them so much that I stalked the website until they went on sale and snagged the second pair.  Running gear is expensive, but if you are thrifty you can wait for sales and find great deals.  Generally around the holidays or at the end of season is when I start lurking and looking for sales!

Once again, this is what works for me.  Everyone is different, from clothing choice to fuel options.  Just go to any race and look around.  You won’t find two runners dressed alike or using the same gear combination, and yet they will all run the same race and pass the same finish line.  This is just an outline of some things to consider when gearing up.

This has been my 2 cents on gear, Baconrunner style!

A is for Ambivalence

I’ve reached an interesting point here in my marathon training.  I’m at the cusp of really ramping things up in the mileage department.  I have come so very very far, but here is where the rubber ( and my complaining butt) will start to hit the road.  Last friday was a long run of 15 miles.  That was a great milestone to be sure, but from here out to taperville, I will basically be running a half marathon or more every week.

Now that just starts to make me a bit cranky when I think about it.  All those long runs with no bling to show for it.  2.5 to 4 hours of running running running.  Sunday I will be racing in a half marathon (at least I will get some bling there).  As soon as I cross the finish line and get my medal tho, I will have to turn around and hoof it back over the causeway and then back again to the tune of 3 more miles…ugh!

Here’s a peek at my training for the next few weeks:

9 miles,18 miles,4 miles

6 miles, 6 miles,13.1 miles

9 miles,13.1 miles, 8 miles

10 miles, 20miles, 5 miles

7 miles, 14 miles, 7 miles

9 miles,  23 miles,  7 miles

8 miles, 8 miles,6miles

9 miles,  20 miles, 6 miles

6 miles, 12 miles, 6 miles

4 miles, 8 miles, 5 miles

MARATHON

Keeping in mind, this is a bare bones program.  I’m trying to add in some cross training and such too, but this is the minimum I will need to get me over that finish line period.  Proper training, for those who actually have a time goal is MUCH more intense!  I will be running a total  of 39 miles in a week at my maximum, and that is still the minimum I will need to cross that finish line!

So as you can see, I’m a bit ambivalent as I look forward.  Gotta start hacking away at it one mile at a time, but its getting tiresome I admit.  I’m getting whiny.  Its harder to get up and put on those shoes and go for those long runs.

I will say though that I have a new found joy in running the short runs.  Those 3-6 mile runs feel almost like I am skipping out on a long run…like I am getting away with something ( how crazy is that?).  I went for a 3.1 miler this morning.    I didn’t pay much attention to my GPS pace for once, and just ran.  I had so much fun.  It felt so good to forget about pace and timing and just run my happy pace for an easy 3 miles.  Two years ago I would have thought anyone who said such a thing was certifiably nuts! But it felt GOOD!:)  And happy dance of surprise and joy, I found at the end of my 3.1 miles, I had managed an easy 9:50 pace and completed the run in 30 minutes!

One year ago, a 30 minute finish was my dream time for a RACE and here I was running that pace for fun.  I was grinning like an idiot for about an hour this morning.  My happy pace is getting faster.  It is nice in the midst of all the ambivalence, to see that all of those long runs are indeed making difference. It felt like a warm hug from the Almighty himself.   So I will run on.   Yes, A is for  Ambivalence, but  D is for Determined and that’s good enough for me!

This little piggy ran 15 miles…

Ok people, I have reached a milestone! Today I set out for the Longest Run Of My Life.   Today was the day to go beyond 13.1 for the first time ever.  Drum roll…….I DID IT! Happy Dance Happy Dance…well happy limp anyway…I’m not much for dancing this afternoon.

It took me just under 3 hours, but I did it. I ran without stopping ( except for two essential potty breaks and short walks while I sipped water and refueled).  I have not yet mastered the drink and eat on the run bit…and it’s likely I never will.  I tried it a few times,  and the seizure like fits that ensued while I hacked water out of my trachea were not pretty and alarmed passing motorists.  But I digress.  I. DID. IT.

It was gnarly, and tough, and I am beat- I won’t lie.  It took me  4 miles to untangle my legs and get out of my own way and run.  That has become my standard lately.  I think it takes 4 miles for my legs to accept that we are NOT running just a 5 K and to shift gears appropriately ( my legs are stubborn like that).  From mile 4-10, I found my happy pace and cruised along nicely, feeling all runner-like and content.  At mile 10 I started to get a bit tired. I managed to run through a fire ant hill and pick up a lone, angry little hitchhiker.  He managed to nail me on my ankle just before I made him hit the road.  I gritted it out and promised my legs a quick rest at mile 12 ( my scheduled potty stop).  From mile 12-13 my legs were cranky but still agreeing to work.  At mile 13 I was elated.  I had finally passed into uncharted running waters!  My legs however, had their heart set on 13 miles and were NOT HAPPY when I kept going.  In fact, they convinced my feet to join the rebellion too and tried to make life miserable for the final 2 miles.  It seemed like everything hurt for the last stretch: my quads, my calves, my glutes, even my back started barking.  In spite of it all, I dug down and got stubborn and made it home.  Mind over creaky matter and all that.

I made the run in just under 3 hours.  That’s NOT a fast pace people…but did I mention that I ran for 3 hours? 3 Years ago I remember looking at my couch to 5 K program and stressing because I couldn’t run the 5 MINUTES it called for.  I am so very greatful for the journey that has brought me this far.  God has been ever so good!

As elated as I am about finishing 15 miles, it does scare me to look ahead.  My training plan calls for two long runs of 20 miles and one of 23 before marathon day.  Right now I can’t imagine running one more step than I did today.  That will be 8 miles more than today….and race day will be a full 11.1 more than I ran today. That is no joke! I can’t imagine running that far right now!

For now, I am aiming for around a 5 hour marathon finish time. Its slow ( Oprah made it in 4 hours 30 minutes…Oprah people), but I have to keep reminding myself that 26.2 miles at 3 hours or 7 is still 26.2 miles.  I have come farther than I thought I could, and God willing I will go farther still. Next week calls for a long run of 16 miles, so I will run a half marathon and then run 3 more miles once I cross the finish line..how crazy is that?!  The following week is a 17 miler, then 18 and so on to the starting line.  I am so far from where I started that I can barely see where I was, and yet the miles ahead are uncertain and foggy.  Going to have to trust God yet again, and venture forward into even more uncharted waters.

For today however, 15 MILES…and Bacon for lunch :) Now that’s a good day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks.

Running confessional time today.  I did not run all of my scheduled miles this week.  This is a big, giant, in your face no no when you are training for a Big Race.  I’m feeling a smidge conflicted about this fact.  On the one hand I feel a bit sad that I didn’t measure up, on the other I am quite proud of little old me for what I DID manage to do.

Quite honestly I knew this week was going to be a stretch.   My long run called for a 13 miler yet again(ugh).  I generally run my longest run on Fridays.  This Friday I had an appointment in Orlando smack dab in the middle of the morning and then every last hour of the day was scheduled with one thing or another.  Saturday was pretty packed as well.  That would leave Sunday for my long run, and hopefully time to squeeze in a 4  miler on Friday or Saturday. Yeah, you can see where this was just not ideal.

Well I never found time to squeeze in that 4 miler.  However, Sunday rolled around and I DID manage to drag my hiney out of bed fairly early ( point for me).  Unfortunately is was both chilly AND wet this morning ( oh joy).  In addition to the oh so helpful weather, I literally woke up with a pounding headache ( oh Joy squared).

In spite of all this, I suited up and hit the pavement.  I had a little chat with God, asked for help, and headed out for no less than 6 miles.  At about mile 4 my,  headache receded and I decided in for a penny, in for a pound and turned my feet towards the BIG LOOP that would log 13 miles long miles.  I made the commitment to do this long run after  all.

It had been drizzling since I first headed out, but somewhere between mile 4 and 6 it really started to rain.  It was that fine, drenching rain that makes everything foggy and removes visibility 5 feet in front of you.  Wishing I had brought my hat, I splashed on.  I got completely, thoroughly, soaked. My vibrams are not even close to water resistant, and every step was squishy and sloshy.  But squish, squish, squish, I flopped my way along.  I would also like to add that I was COMPLETELY alone. No New Years Resolutionists out for a run or walk.  Not one other soul was out braving the elements.  I’m sure every driver that passed me thought I was insane.

I lost my happy pace somewhere around mile 9.  I was just plain tired.  My legs hurt, my joints ached, I was wet and getting chilled.  I dug down and got gritty.  The last 4 miles of the run seemed to take forever!  At the end of the day though, I didn’t do to badly…I came in at the same time I had run the Wine and Dine half.  I was a whole minute per mile slower than last week though…and man were my legs tired and sore!

I was puzzled at first at how tough this run had seemed.   Just one week ago I had run this very same course, faster and feeling relatively fresh.  This week I felt like I was barely able to shuffle home.   Yeah, just last week….oh….right…LAST WEEK.  Just ONE SHORT WEEK AGO I had run a half marathon… then TWO DAYS LATER, I ran 7 tough causeway miles…AND just 5 SHORT DAYS after that here I was, running another HALF MARATHON distance! No wonder this run was hard! In the past I would have taken at least a whole week off from running  before easing back into a 3-4 mile run schedule…This was a significant change in routine.  And I hadn’t even realized what I was asking myself to do.

Yet again I will say,’ Oh how I have changed”.

So I end this week with 20 total miles in the bank rather than the hoped for 24.  I  wish I’d made time to squeeze in that 4 miler, but I’m really proud of the miles I did run.  I’m seeing big changes in my stamina and my grit-ability.  I’m getting stronger and tougher week by week.  Thankfully next week is a slightly lower mileage week, and then I bump up to a scary 15 miler.  In two weeks I will be asking myself to run farther than I have ever ran before.  All the while, I am becoming, I am becoming, I am becoming a new creation in Christ. Trying to stay gritty, commit to the miles, and remember how far I have come rather than worry about the mileage in front of me or the few miles I may miss along the way.