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 :)!

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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