Back in the Saddle again…

Well it has been 4 weeks since the marathon.  I was hoping to run twice a week until half marathon ramp up begins in August/September.  Life has interrupted that just a bit.  I did not run on Monday since it was Memorial day and things just got in the way.  I was surprised to find myself feeling anxious and just plain antsy all week.  Thankfully I was able to run on Friday.

Super husband and I took off for a 5 mile causeway to beach and back run.  It. Was. Glorious! There was a breeze lovely sea breeze.  In addition, it was so so so nice to run a different route than I had been training on for months and months and months.  There were new sights to see, and a causeway to climb….ahhhhh:) We made it to the beach and took a brief break before hoofing it back over the causeway.  At the top we stopped to watch a long line of sting rays swoop under the bridge.  There was a beautiful Manta Ray in the lead…a sight I have never seen in the Indian River! In short, it was a really nice run. My legs felt strong, I felt happy and relaxed…I repeat, it was a Really Nice Run.

I was worried when I signed up for the Marathon, that I would lose my desire to run after such intense training.  I mean really…I went into training only marginally tolerating running in the first place.  I was afraid that so many months of intense training would burn me out and turn me off of running entirely.

Luckily, I have found the opposite to be true.   I enjoy running now even more than I did before.  I will admit to even…gasp…NEEDING to run.  I was all spun up this week after missing my Monday run, yet the stress just melted away as the miles flew by this Friday.

I will finally admit it…not only am I a runner…but I do really like to run…and part of me really needs to run on a regular basis.  Running has become my reboot button if you will.  Running is me time…God time…and when Superhusband joins in, its also us time.  Its the few times in the week where the phone, TV, to do list, endless demands, cleaning chores, and inner critique just shut off…I move, I run, I breathe…Ahhh.  No matter how inadequate I feel for the demands of my day…when I am running I feel strong, I feel capable, I feel like I am enough.  Its really nice to be reminded of that first thing in your day…it certainly sets the tone for the rest of the day!

I am a new creation from what I was when I started my running journey, and yet I know I am still a work in progress.   In August/September I will start officially training again, and ramp up into those longer, grittier runs…but for now I am truly enjoying running for the joy of it.  I can’t even imagine how strange that would have sounded to me 8 months ago!

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A Royal Flush…

So this past weekend was my very first 5K since my Marathon of madness!  I ran the Booty run, beachside, at 4PM…in Florida…in the Summer.  Yeah, that was NOT my brightest moment I’ll admit.  Now for anyone up in the Arctic North, you may actually run past 8 Am in the morning.  Here in Sunny Sweaty Florida you don’t even venture out of the house past 8 Am without SPF1000, a gallon of water, and your own personal fan.  Its hot y’all. Too. Hot. To. Run.  I know this, but occasionally I get crazy runner ambitions and lose all common sense.  Anyway…4 PM…86 degrees in the shade…running my booty off at the booty run.

I will confess, I had fun.  I probably lost 4 pounds in water weight in less than 30 minutes, but it was so nice to be running for fun again.  The heat slowed me down no doubt.  There were sections of road that literally radiated heat up while the sun radiated it down, making me feel like a chicken broiling in the oven.  Heat aside, though,I felt good!:)  I ran an 8:56 minute/ mile, a 9:12, and finally a heat weary 9:59.  My legs felt strong and my cardio held out nicely.  If it had been cooler, I think I could have cut a good chunk out of my final time of 28:47.  That was not my fastest 5 K to date… but it WAS fast enough to net me my very first, first in my age group award and 27th over all out of 200 runners AND 12th place in the ladies group. Granted,  it was a smaller race and fewer elites showed up, it was a hot day and all of our times were a bit slower than usual…BUT that aside, I was for once ,near the front of the pack rather than the end of the middle where I usually huff and puff.  I’ll take it for the personal victory that it is 🙂

So here’s what things are looking like for me right now.  I’m working on starting a running group at my church.  We’ll be having our first group devotional and run in June.  In addition, I’m trying to stick to a pared down training plan…actually write mileage on the calendar and stick to it, just as I would if I were training.  I am letting myself slow down to 2 days a week rather than 3, and then will ramp back up to 3 days a week once half marathon season approaches in the Fall.  I’m shooting for a short, fun 3 miler on Mondays, then a longer run at the end of the week.  I’m going to  alternate a 5 mile causeway or 6 mile flat run, with an 8 mile or a 10 mile run on my long days.  I figure that way I’m switching up mileage and routes on a weekly basis so I don’t get bored or in a rut, but it won’t be too hard to ramp up to half marathon shape when I need to. I’m all hoping to get in a 5 K each month..that’s just fun for me.  I  really enjoy the all out dash to the finish and instant gratification that a 5 K holds.  That’s the plan anyway…we’ll see how it goes and what God has in store for my time…he may have other plans and that’s OK!

Right now I still feel like I should be out there running more than I am.  I miss the regularity and commitment that a focused plan holds.  I was worried that I would be burned out and not want to run again, but I find myself wanting to run more than my schedule will allow right now.  I was hoping to get back to a modicum of normalcy in my work/housework routine…but so far it hasn’t happened.  I am just so far behind from months of training that I am still playing catch up in a losing race.  I’m trying to chip away at the to do list and cleaning schedule one bit at a time, but as of right now I don’t feel as if I am making any headway. It HAS been wonderful however, to have my weekends for family time and not be tired or sore for most of my waking hours.

Oh, and back to the Booty run…I earned my very first first in age group trophy this weekend.  It sits in a  place of honor in my curio cabinet for all to see…and yes, it IS a golden, gleaming toilet bowl…makes me chuckle every time I see it.   Run happy my friends!

Don’t Stop Believin’….

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Well it is officially over and done.  I made it from starting line to finish.  I didn’t puke, pass out, get carried off the course, or die.  I am now officially a marathoner.  I will however, reserve the  Marathoner with an uppercase M for those who made it across the finish line hours before me.  I’m thankful, grateful. blessed…but not proud.  I know I finished this race on God’s power and not mine.  As we’ve discussed, I missed training runs here and there…did the best that I could, but this distance was much bigger than me and my jalopy engine…no doubt.  I give full glory to God on this one.  I did the work, put in lots of miles, and trained my booty off sure, but this was one tough race!

We arrived on Saturday afternoon, went to the never-ending expo, and ate at the pasta buffet in the hotel that night.  My feet were killing me by the time I went to bed at 9 PM.  I woke up at the insanely silly hour of 4 AM to choke down a bagel and banana ( side note: Super Husband had to work hard to find me a banana in a hotel full of marathon runners, but he heroically managed to track one down for me).  I dressed, greased up with Glide, and paced the hotel until we could walk to the start.  It was blessedly crisp at around 50 degrees…and I was nervous but hopeful as we walked to the starting line.  Once there, we corralled up.  I was in the second to last corral…the BROWN corral…ew.  We all packed in like sardines, listened to the national anthem, and were off!  Well at least Corral A was…it took us a solid 20 minutes to toe up to the starting line…and THEN we were off!

The start was insanely crowded, making it impossible to more than shuffle along for the first few minutes.  There were people in my corral who immediately spread out 3-4 people wide and started at a walk…ugh!  Now I am NOT judging at all…but if you are going to start at a walk, then please start in the last corral…and PLEASE do not spread out 3-4 people wide.  I’m just saying…

I finally got enough room to do a slow jog and turned the first corner….to see my fist hill of the course.  Now this course was supposed to have only 2 big hills, a very few rolling hills, and be  mostly flat other than that.  I quote from the FAQ section of the marathon web page:”The hills are in the first nine miles of the race. The first two are just going over the bridge into Kentucky and the one coming back. After several miles of flat there is a 300 ft. climb between miles 6-9 to a beautiful park with a panoramic view of the river and downtown Cincinnati. After that it is gently rolling and from mile 19 to the finish it is pretty flat.

I suppose if you lived in an above sea level state, you MIGHT say that.  For a Florida girl, this course was almost completely rolling hills with 2 very big monster hills, and one or two flat sections. period.  I was totally unprepared for THAT! According to my Garmin watch, I ran a total elevation gain of 943 ft and a loss of 911ft through the entire race.  Within the first 5 miles we had gone over 3 bridges and several whoop de do hills.  I was really worried.  My legs were really unhappy.  I made the choice to walk some of the hills right then and there.  I had wanted to run all but the 2 mile hill at mile 6, but it was a matter of survival at this point.  All in all I would say that I ran 85-90% of the total course…I did have to walk some of the hills, but I also managed to run quite a few.

I finally got into a rhythm around mile 5.  My legs untangled and I was running more than I wasn’t for sure.  I was managing a brisk 9:30-10 on the flat stretches, and even a bit faster  on the downhills.  At mile 6 we began the long 2 mile climb up, up and up to the park.  It was a nasty long climb, but it stair stepped a bit, so I could catch my breath and run here and there. Half way up, we passed an Elvis impersonator, singing Sweet Caroline…that was um surreal to say the least! The view from the top of the park was truly worth the climb! It was spectacular, and just the warm fuzzy I needed to spot the 5:30 pace group and pass them never to be seen again.  A few more rolling hills down, and I caught and passed the 5:15 pace group.  I kept looking for the 5:00 pace group, but never did find them.

Once we hit the split point where the marathoners peeled off from the half marathon pack things got real.  It was an amazing feeling to split off and follow the marathon group. The pack thinned out dramatically at that point, and you started to feel like you were part of something really amazing…a much smaller group who were sticking it out for the whole 26.2.  I was still running well here.

The crowd was amazing, and the weather was beautiful.  The water stops were generally every mile, so that really helped the miles slide by.  Even if I got tired, it was only a mile until I could catch my breath and get a drink.   The food was awesome too! There were fig newton stations, twizzlers, hersheys kisses, and even a bacon station!  I loved reading the signs people had made.  My favorites were “you’re chafing the dream”, I like pig butts and I cannot lie”, and “blisters are braille for awesome”.

Round about mile 19 I started to get worn down.  Everything was hurting.  My knees and feet were NOT prepared for the pounding down hill sections and that was taking the biggest toll.  I was getting hot and tired, but still in relatively good spirits.  From mile 20-23 I was getting slower and slower.  I got a boost though as I ran into mile 23.  This was it…deeper water…this was farther than I had ever run in my life! I had run past my training and into the unknown! It was here that I stopped briefly and called SuperHusband to tearfully tell him I had made it to the edge of my running map and was stepping out into the deep end!

Miles 24-25 were probably the worst of the race.  I was sore, tired and just wanted to be done.  Here and only here, I pulled out my music and listened to Thrive and Bigger Than Me.  This was to be my hardest and slowest mile of the entire race.  From mile 25-26.2 I put away the tunes and hauled my tired booty.  I had hoped to run this race in 5:15-5:20 based on my training runs and the hills on this course.  I had run 23 flat relatively easy miles in 4:55, so I figured adding in the hills and the race day adrenaline, I was hopeful for a 5:15 or 5:20. I never truly hit the wall this time.  I had hit it in every training run over 20 miles, but not here.  I was tired, exhausted, and everything hurt, but that I can run through.

By mile 25 I knew I had at least a chance of making it in under 5 hours…and that was just too good to be true.  I knew I’d have to really run hard for the last 1.2 miles so I kicked it in with all I had and just ran flat out. 

I crossed that finish line in 4:59:30! I just squeaked in under, but I did it! I tried my absolute best, and God rewarded it with a faster time than I had even dared hope for.  God is good!  I got my bling, and hobbled to find Super Husband and Super Son.  After a shower and some food, we spent the day walking ( hobbling ) around the Cincinnati zoo.  I was really, really, really sore.  My knees felt like grapefruit and my feet were pounding and sore, but I knew if I stopped moving I’d rust up like and old engine left in the rain…so to the zoo it was!

For those of you who like numbers, here’s how I did: 2:28:53 First half, 2:30:38 second half, last mile:9:43.

So I hobbled and limped around for the first few days I was back, but really nothing worse than I felt for my first half marathon, or for any one of my 23 mile training runs. It took me about 3 days to stop hurting.  By Friday I actually felt like running a little bit.  Super Husband and I went out for a slow 1 mile out and a fast mile back ( I ran an 8:40 on the way home).  I was really, really pleased at how not horrible I felt!  This Monday, I was able to run a pretty fast 3.1 miles ( a 10:06, a 10:04, and finally an 8:20).  I am so very glad to be off the crazy cycle of mega miles, but feel a bit drifty…its odd to not have a schedule to run when I have had one for the last 8 months.

Many people have asked me if I will run another marathon. I have to honestly say I don’t think so.  It wasn’t the distance so much as the training that was so hard to take.  It was just overwhelming in the amount of time such a thing demands.  I will admit though, to being curious as to how I could do on a flat course…but not curious enough to sign up for anything in the foreseeable future.

Which brings me to the next chapter in my running history.  It seems God still wants me to swim in deep waters.  He hasn’t called me to another marathon thank heavens…but he HAS called me to start a running and devotions group at my church.  Like the marathon, this is uncharted waters for me and I am anxious, but also excited to see what God has planned.

As far as my blog, I still plan to ramble on here, so please do check in from time to time! I have 3 more half marathons planned this year, so plenty to whine and chat about between now and then! Thanks to all of those who followed my journey.  And an even bigger thanks for those who lifted me up in prayer on Marathon Day.  I truly felt lifted up and surrounded by so much love and prayer.  It was an amazing experience, and I cannot thank you all enough.

Until next post: run angry, eat bacon, and dream for the stars people!

On your Mark….Get set…

Well here we are at 1 day and 18 hours before the big show.  I have stuck ( mostly) to my training plan, endured the endless taper, and stuffed myself with the requisite carbs.  I went for my last pre race run of 2 miles this morning.  It felt glorious.  God gave me a BEAUTIFUL 60 degree morning to run in.  That in and of itself is a miracle here in Florida in late April!  I ran really well and felt like I had lots to spare…so YAY!:)

I’ve been really terrified leading up to this week.  Everyone around me has been getting a nasty upper respiratory virus.  I have been bathing in hand sanitizer and washing my hands raw for days.  I have been endlessly worried…about the race, about getting sick, about life, the universe in general…you get the idea. As of yesterday evening though, I felt a switch flip…I am…drum roll….getting excited!  I’m still scared ( respect the distance and all that), but I’m feeling just a bit giddy.  My legs feel strong and I have gotten an unexpected energy boost ( maybe its all the hand sanitizer and vitamins).  I feel bouncy and just a bit jittery…caffeinated even.  I find I ready to GO!

I sat down and read all of my posts today from beginning to end. Its been quite a physical and spiritual journey.  Its amazing to go back and read where I was when all of this began.  To remind myself of how far this journey has taken me.  Its fun to see how I have changed and stayed still the same old me.

Turns out, I did finish most of my plan, I didn’t get injured, and I have managed to Listen to God along the way.  I think that has been my biggest surprise.  I feel much more connected spiritually than I did when I started all of this.  Hours on the pavement with no excuses and no one in the way have made me feel a true connection that just wasn’t there before.

I have gone from a love /hate relationship with running to at least a love/like relationship.  Even though I am tired of the long long miles, I DO miss running when I don’t get to run at least 2-3 times a week.  Running is still hard for me…and likely always will be.  I am stronger and faster than I was, but I am a runner by determination and intent and not by genetic ability. I was not born to be a runner, but rather choose to run. Running will never come easily to me, but that is one reason why I value it …I have to work for every mile gained. With that said, running has become an important part of my identity, it has become a part of me, of who I am,  and I am glad for that.

Along the way, SuperHusband has picked up a running habit…and I have really enjoyed running with him.  Its been a fun new aspect to our Marriage, and its nice that he will truly understand what I am facing this weekend. I have really enjoyed watching him grow as a runner right along beside me.  In the midst of this adventure, he has become a half marathoner and I am so very proud of him and his own running journey!  My friends and family have been amazingly supportive of this crazy endeavor.  I have has so much love and support along the way that its kind of overwhelming to think about!

So I am hopeful that I can complete this Marathon in 5 hours.  Less would be a dream come true, but I will be happy with just crossing that finish line darn it!   Part of me cringes when I admit to someone that I am going to take that long to run the marathon.  The elite runners will likely clock times of 2 hours and change.  Five  hours is slow…its well below the ‘average’ for people who run marathons.  I have never pretended to be fast though, and I am not about to start now.  I just need to finish after all.  I am not fast, but I am determined, and I am Faithful…and that will have to be enough!

A very dear friend pointed me to an awesome song by Tobymac that has become my theme song this week.  It’s called “Way Beyond Me”…and it really just sums up this whole marathon journey. It talks about God giving us tasks that are beyond our reach to remind us that we need Him.  How appropriate as I stare down that starting line! Here’s a sample:

Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin’ on You
I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin’ it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me

I have done all that I physically can…now its time to simply let go and let God get me there.

This BaconRunner is all packed and ready to GO.  There’s nothing left to do now but run the race that God has set before me. Just point myself down the course and do what He has trained me to do. 1)Pray. 2) Run….Really  Really far. 3) Collect Bling. 4) Eat Bacon…that pretty much sums up my plan!  Tune in next week, for the recap and further adventures of BaconRunner;)!