Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chasing a Dream: the 4:15 Marathon (part two)

I made it through the two week taper period leading up to my 5th Full Marathon with the usual mix of questioning if you trained enough, hunger for carbs, and unexplained tears in the grocery store.  

The weekend of the race I headed downtown on the Friday for Race Kit Pick up with my friend Janice and WITHOUT KIDS! A first for me! I so enjoyed actually being able to wonder about the expo and shop without having two kids in tow.  The Saturday before the race I spent the entire day nursing phantom pains in my leg and calves that came out of no where and were likely only in my head.  My amazing husband gave me more then one calf massage that day.  I hydrated, and rested like a boss and went over my race strategy a thousand times.  I even managed to sleep fairly well the night before the race. 

The morning of the race I was up before my alarm, the butterflies dancing already! I had my breakfast fuel, packed my kit, got dressed and took 26.2 Selfies of myself in my run gear LOL.  I was heading to the race with my girlfriends Sharon and Janice, also running the Marathon.  We were smart and had executive cab booked to take us downtown.  

GOOD LUCK SIGN NO. 1: I used executive cab for my first marathon and he remembered me! 

The weather the morning of the race was cool and not hot, I decided on not taking my Camel Back and to use the water stations instead.  Sharon and I found the 4:15 pace bunnies and got in our Corral. 

GOOD LUCK SIGN NO.2: same 4:15 pace bunny as my first marathon! Seriously same guy! 

The gun was off and so were we! My goal pace for the race was 9:47 min/mile and I hoped to stay around 9:50-9:55 for that first 3 miles and not go out to fast.  Writing this blog so many months after the race I can't remember how well I did at that.  I do know that around the third mile I met up with my freind  Sharon who was doing 10 and 1's and running with the RUN/WALK 4:15 Pace Bunny.  We said hi had a quick chat, which was so surreal as I have never talked to anyone DURING a race like that before. Just meeting up and saying hi like you ran into them on the street.  I was stuck in the walk/run group at that point and it was not fun.  I am a wee bit competitive and they RUN FAST in their 10 min before they take a walk break.  I had been doing so well at ignoring the crowd and running my own pace, and not weaving and surging around runners. I found myself trying to keep up with the pack.  I chatted some more with Sharon and was enjoying the company and even started to question if I should just ditch my plan and run 10:1's with them.  But I decided to stick to my plan and moved way off to the side, and mentally put my head down and tuned into my own race. 

I checked my watch often and was surprised to see that my avg pace seemed to be around the 9:30 min/mile mark.  Much faster then my planned pace. But I felt really good. I kept trying to tune in and dial back as well as to not watch my watch to much.  My goal was to hit each 5km in 30min and I was doing that ok.  Around 15km I ran into some knee pain running on a slanted road and my mind went instantly to the OMG I am screwed place.  But I calmed myself down, slowed a little, and even took a quick walk break to shake it out.  I focused on my music and it went away.  

I feel like this having been my 5th Marathon, I had a lot of experience that came into play to help that day.  I knew to step to the side and run my own race.  I knew that taking a short walk break early on to shake the tightness out would be better then slowing down more and more with pain later on.  I also knew not to get ahead of myself and that despite the fact things were going really well, I knew that they could all go to crap pretty quickly.  

Having decided to walk through the water stations was a really good idea, unlike the last time, I didn't feel like I struggled to get my pace back.  I felt renewed after each little break and less stiff and my pace came back "fresher".  

I remember hitting the half marathon point and being surprised that I was there was all so surreal.  I think my time was 2:07-2:08 pretty much what it was on my first Marathon.  I was feeling very hopeful but again trying to not get too excited.  

I caught up with Sharon and the run/walk group sometime after that, we had another little check in and chat.  I loved that we kept meeting each other and having little chats.  We would separate again and meet up again.  My pace starting picking up around mile15, I was feeling really good, mile 16 still feeling good and really starting to feel hopeful.  I was ahead of the 4:15 pace bunny.  

Mile 17 I was high as a kite on endorphins, the runner's high hit me! That has never happened that far way from the finish before.  At one point I looked down and I was running my 5km pace! I slowed down right away knowing this was not smart.  I remember saying loudly in my head. "MARATHONS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!" My pace that mile was 9:03 min/mile.  

Mile 18 I slowed right down to a 10:03 min/mile pace and no longer thought that Marathons were awesome. 

At this point I KNEW, I BELIEVED that my goal was in sight! I just had to keep it together, be smart and keep going! It was hard not to feel the butterflies building.  

Before long I hit 20 miles and now it was RACE TIME! The last 10km, this is where goals are met or  lost.  I had prepared a special playlist of songs and motivational audio files to keep my going.  I had stuff like this playing for me. 

I ran with goosebumps! I also had messages from kids, the same ones from that first race playing.  Their little 3 years ago voices cheering GO MOMMY! Your strong Mommy, Your Awesome Mommy! 

22.6 miles, yes that exact point, I looked at my watch and thought OMG I still need to get to 30! I can't do this, I'm done.  I got confused here, my mine was fuzzy, I thought I had to hit the next set of 10 miles. I forgot that I "only" had to go to 26.2.  I ran for a little bit feeling defeat coming.  Then I clued in that I had just about 5km to go.  I can could do this.  

Those last 5km hurt! They hurt! My hips were so tight, my legs so heavy.  I was so tired.  The Pace Bunny caught up and passed me at some point.  But I had my messages playing.  

For the first time, I did not start the negative reel in my head.  I did not start giving myself excuses and reasons why I did not meet my goal.  I kept going. I was slower.  But I knew that if I just kept going I would make it.  I have limped the last 7 miles of a marathon, I could do this! I did not give up on myself that day.  

I hit 26.2 miles on my garmin at 4:11:58!  I was so proud of myself.  I could hardly believe it.  But the finish line was not even in site.  This is the part of the marathon that is truly the worst.  I am done, mentally I am done.  My watch pace had me getting here...but now I have no idea how far the line really is and will I squeak in my goal? How much zig zagging did I do?  I had to pick it up!  It was incredibly hard to push here, it took so much effort.  I saw some green arches finally and thought thank God! But no! It wasn't the finish line, WTF! I actually said something to that effect out loud!  

Finally I crossed the finish line at 26.64 miles with a time of 4:15:47! I'm taking that as goal met! The 4:15 is in there and I hit 26.2 well under that! 

Most of all I ran with joy that day, I took it all in and actually enjoyed myself.  I ran because I chose to, and not because I felt I should.  

The very best part of the day, the part that made it all worth it was when I finally saw my kids waiting for me at the finish line.  I did the Ugly Cry!  

This is my very favourite picture of the day.  One that I actually hesitated posting because you can see  my fluffy tummy in it.  I can't believe I almost let my silly self consciousness take away finally achieving my goal after 3 long years of chasing it! This is my fluffy belly that I PR'd my 5th Marathon in! Damn proud of it! 

I did it!!!!!

Chasing a Dream: The 4:15 Marathon (Part 1)

I've been chasing a Marathon PR for three years! Every since running my first Marathon in 2012, I have been trying to recreate not only that time but that feeling! I ran with such joy in my heart that day.  I swear I cried tears of happiness for 26.2 miles.  

I made this picture college right before running my 5th Marathon to remind me of where I had come from. 
I ran two more marathons right after that, all 3 in a 9 month period, which I know wasn't smart but I was on a high. My 4th was the following year and still I was struggling to recreate that first experience, but I am proud to say I finished happy waving at my kids for the first time, my heart full.

I took the following year "off" from the Marathon, and started road biking and did my first Duathlon.  I trained over the winter running and biking and ran a fun half marathon with friends at Pelee Island, in the Spring.  A few weeks later I did my first Duathlon, an Olympic Distance! It was an amazing experience and thanks to a small race I even placed first in my age category (there were two of us lol but I will take the props wink) and 3rd over all female! 

I got a little cocky after that and signed up for a half iron duathlon in late August.  I continued training, stepped it up and also travelled with my bike for 6 weekends straight with my family on our summer travels running and biking and wearing myself out.  I ended up backing out for the first time in my life on a planned race.  I was done. Burnt out.  It was the best decision for me, and I spent the rest of the fall finding the joy again.

I took my time deciding to sign up for another full.  I told myself I wasn't even allowed to think about it till December.  When December rolled in, I really really thought about it.  I had been out doing runs, garmin free, just reconnecting with my body and soul running. I needed to rediscover why I loved running so much.  It didn't take long to remind myself, because I am a runner, an endurance girl at heart.  I love the way my body feels when it's running (injury free) and I am free! So I did it and hit submit on the OTTAWA MARATHON 2015! I was going back to where it all started! 

I took my training one step at a time, trying not to look to far ahead and just work at the week in front of me.  I was not used to winter running.  That first year of winter training wore me out and made me hate the winter.  The year prior training for a spring half I admit I ran in the snow ONCE!!! It's much easier to run 21km on a treadmill then 32km.  

The funny thing is I found myself ENJOYING the snow runs! They forced me to ditch the pace watching and just focus on getting through the snow and roads.  It allowed me to let go of the pressure I put on myself and just focus on the moment.  I found myself smiling through the snow covered roads. 

Another benefit to running in the snow was that I think it helped me get stronger! I think it was one of the keys to that first Marathon success. I often would ditch the planned distance and just run for time.  If the plan was 10 miles I would run for about 1:35 using effort and time vs. distance.

In terms of training I did do some things differently this time around.  I am a 3 day a week runner, it is what works best for my body.  I struggle with foot pain and more then 3 days gives me pain in my feet.  So I bought a 3 day a week plan, after looking at a variety of plans on line.  I liked this one because it had a lot of recovery built in.  It had the dial back every 3 weeks but it would dial back to 10 miles! I nice recovery run.  The first long run started at 10 miles too, which is my base endurance.  The other two runs in the week were an "easy run" and a "work" run.  The work run varried from a tempo run, Mile repeats, or Hill work.  I bought the 4:15 plan, and it had pace goals for all the runs.  I admit I did not follow them.  They were to slow.  Instead I focused on my effort, putting out a mile speed effort, or tempo effort.  During the winter I did my short runs for the most part on the treadmill, I can't run speed work in the snow :(  I used the incline to simulate being outside.  One day I did my mile repeats on a 2% incline and OMG it was hard!  Once the roads cleared I stayed outside and worked my pace.  The other thing I did differently this training period was adding fast finish long runs into my training.  I would do the first half to 3/4 of a long run at a LSD pace and then pick it up and practice my goal marathon pace.  I got used to running on tired legs.  I did two 20 mile training runs this time.  In the past I have done 3, I struggled with what to do and should I go further, but in the end I stuck with the plan.  I'm glad I did as I didn't feel over trained or stressed. 

I should note I am far far from any kind of expert, I am not even close to Boston Awesome and this is what worked for me and helped me get a little better this time around :) 

The other thing that I did this time around is I still focused on my strength work!  In fact, I made strength the main focus from Sept till Dec and worked on my posterior chain.  I worked hard building my glutes and hamstrings, as well as core.  I am quad dominate, and tend to not activate my glutes well when running.  All of which leads to IT band and knee issues. Once my marathon training began I still made it a priority to get TWO full body strength workouts in. I didn't go heavy, I used my TRX mainly and did a lot of single leg work.  I did not do 2 other days of cardio cross training like years past.  I wasn't on the bike two days a week, instead I did strength.  I also was somewhat better at getting one yoga like class in a week.  I added other cross training in here and there, when I had time and felt like it.  I truly believe this played a big role in running injury free for the first time! I didn't have any IT band or knee issues! I did have a small "issue" with my foot, that lead to limping and cutting a run short and needing to cross train a long run with a bike.  I had new inserts and tied my shoe to tight and it caused bruising and pain for a week.  Other then replacing that one long run with a bike, I made all my long runs on my plan, and switched out two of the shorter runs for cross training during my training when I was feeling pain in my feet.  I think I did a pretty good job of staying dedicated but also listening to what my body needed.

The highlight of my training was my first 20 mile run, which I did away from the flats of Barrhaven and in the very hilly cottage roads of Norland.  My Husband and kids drove out to the half way point and had signs, water refills, and BODY GLIDE (which to my children's horror I stuck down my pants lol).  I set off feeling renewed and ready for the next 10 miles.  With about 8 miles to go, I saw my parents on the side of the road waving at me.  As I ran by my Dad slipped a pic of my grandfather and I in my hands and said run the rest of the way with him.  CUE THE WATERWORKS! I grew up watching my dad run at the lake and my grandfather would be waiting for him with water and a leg rub down when he got home.  I was charged up with emotion and memories and picked up my pace.  At 5 miles to go, I was running up a bitch of a hill when I saw my dad start to cross 3 lanes of highway traffic to get to me.  (I was silently praying go Daddy go, don't get run over!) he made it and high fived me! I powered up that hill! 3 miles to go and I was tired, and starting to get sore.  Running down the steep slanted hills really hurts my knees.  I was beginning to think do I really have it in me to do this?  That's when I saw my mom up ahead and she pulled her pants down and MOONED ME! I was dying of laughter! I might add that it was pretty cold and windy that day!  My parents were there for the last mile spaced apart cheering for me.  I ran the last 8 miles or so of that 20 miler faster then I have ever run a 20 miler! Even with all the hills.  I ended that run, so full! I was so full of love and support from my family.  I said that as of that moment I had gotten everything I could possibly ever want from a run/race.  I am so blessed.  3:19:46 was my time.

Signs from the kids and the pic of my Grandfather and I 
My second 20 mile training run was run at home and in the heat.  I wore my camel back because at the time I thought I might wear it for the race.  It was a chance to start practicing the hydration for the race, now that the bitter cold and snow was gone.  I have to say this run wasn't nearly as fun without my family there to cheer me on, but it was very good practice for the long and solitary moments in the Marathon.  I did get to check in every now again, via text with my good friend Janice also out running her last 20 mile run.  It was fun to take those wee mental breaks.  I focused that day on practicing my starting pace, keeping it slow and not speeding up.  I tried to hold a steady pace and then pick it up and practice that race pace again.  I remember struggling with very tired legs, and tightness in my knee in the last 3 miles.  I remember crying when I only had one mile to go.  I pushed hard that day and did it just a tad faster then Norland in 3:19:01.  

My last 20 mile training run! 
So if your still with me after all that babble, wow, thank-you! You must be a runner! I think we like these race reports :) So that's was it, last 20 miler in, I was ready....the training was in the bank so to speak.  Two weeks taper to mentally get through and then the big day.   Would I recreate the joy of my first marathon and maybe just maybe squeak in under 4:17 for a PR? I'll let you know in yet another gripping long winded post.