Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 21

How is it even possible that I am finished with the hardest part of my training? It seems like it was just yesterday that I took a dive into the sidewalk during our first MTT training run.

So, without further delay, may I present my highest-mileage-ever-week:

3 runs for 36.2 miles
2 miles of swimming

Running miles logged so far: 506

Training highlights:

  • Greg and I totally kicked butt during out speedwork session on Monday. Our best pace during the 10 x 400 session was a blazing 6:47. 
  • A super cold but fun outing on Wednesday with Shawn, Kit, and Greg. Rain threatened for the whole run but luckily held off until mile 9, at which point the cold drops just  made us run faster to the finish. This was the last double digit weekday training run, which seems impossible. Back in July, the idea of getting up early enough to run 10 miles before work seemed impossible... and now it's over! Not only that, but it turns out that I kind of liked getting up at 4:50 a.m. and getting such a big run accomplished before most people even get out of bed. 
  • Second (and final) twenty miler accomplished on Sunday with the company of my Navy teammate Marie, who was also unable to go out with the team on Saturday per usual. Finish time was 2:59:37... maybe this 4 hour marathon thing is possible after all. 
  • This week, I crossed the 500 mile mark in my training, which is very exciting. Even MORE exciting is that with addition of this week's mileage, I have met my new year's resolution to run 800 miles!

Training lowlights:
  • Missing out on this awesome view that the Saturday MTT folks got as they crossed the Huguenot Bridge.
Photo credit to Greg

Gold star of the week:

  • Marie for sticking with me for the entire 20 miler. I'm so glad that we had each other. She thinks that I pushed her though it, but really, her company helped me just as much as she thinks I helped her (for the record I don't think she needed me at all).
Marie and I at the end of the 20.
Greg met us at the Stadium to document the occassion.

  • Big FAT gold stars to Kit and Teresa, who both ran the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. Kit finished in 4:07:11 and Teresa in 3:57:09. I am not only incredibly proud of both of them, I'm also so inspired by their accomplishments. I can only hope that I am able to make them proud in Richmond.

I know I've already said it 548054 times, but I really cannot believe that the hardest part of training is over and I'm into the taper already. Did I really run two twenty milers? Is the marathon really just 17 days away? 

Pinch me.

But on the other hand, I am more than ready to get this over with. I think this sentiment is shared by many on our team. We've been going at this for 3 long months. We are as ready as we're ever going to be. Let's just do it! 

As for myself, right now I am feeling very confident. I was telling Jason this past weekend that I'm not scared of the marathon at all. I'm not worried that I'm going to be wishing I was dead by mile 20, or in a lot of pain, or crying, or struggling. Based on the way those two twenty milers went, I think I'm going to be fine. Of course the great unknown of the last 10k still looms ahead of me, but I am choosing to not think about that.

Not worrying about what's ahead until I get there is how I've gotten through this whole training experience. On Sunday, the course covered much of the marathon course, including the notorious section on Riverside Drive, through Forest Hill, and over the Lee Bridge. Many people say this is the toughest part of the course. At each of the water stops sprinkled through that section, everyone was saying, "Are you ready for the hills on Riverside?" or "Still gotta tackle the Lee Bridge" or "The hardest part is still coming." Marie and I just covered our ears and said "la la la", choosing to deal with things as we came to them instead of fretting about what terrors lay ahead. Our strategy was to just keep putting one foot in front of the other - and it worked.

So that is going to be my race day strategy too. One foot in front of the other until I'm done. It's what has gotten me through 500 miles so far.

Seems simple enough at the moment, right?

Now I just have to get through the next 17 days without getting sick or doing anything stupid to injure myself.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 20

I am officially the most boring blogger on the planet.

3 runs for 27.3 miles
2 miles in the pool

Running miles logged so far: 469.8

Training highlights:

  • Hm. At this point, all of the weeks blur together and I honestly can't think of a highlight. It was a drop back week and therefore it was a nice reprieve maybe?
  • Oh yeah... the twelve with Team Navy was actually a pretty fun time. There were no Pace Police this time, so we just ran and the result was an 8:10 average pace. Whoops!

Training lowlights:
  • Learning the hard lesson that the first run after a 20 miler is in fact much worse than the 20 miler itself. On Monday I usually do speed work. That wasn't going to happen, so I did an easy 5 that felt more like 25. Given that my previous long runs didn't really affect me all that much, I didn't think that adding one more mile would make of a difference... but it did.
  • Saying au revoir to my most beloved Pinks. I wrote a while back about how difficult it has been for me to part with my old running shoes. I was finally able to talk myself into doing it this past Saturday after I got the weekly MTT email announcing that SportsBackers organized a shoe donation drive for the Sports Outreach Institute. I thew my old Ravennas on the pile without batting and eye, but even though I knew they were going to a great cause, I still had a lot of trouble letting go of my Pinks. Even after I had put them on top of the pile, I had to walk far away from it on my way back to my car because I was very tempted to go snatch them off and take them home with me. Yes, I know this is all crazy.
So many good memories with these shoes.
Greg was good enough to take one last photo of us together.

I think what made it so hard to say good bye was that
they still had their Gelato stain from our trip to Italy.

Gold Star of the Week:

  • This week's Gold Star goes to Greg, who throughout the week kept saying "I'm going to try to keep up with guys on Saturday during the 12." You see, Greg has this problem in that he really underestimates what he is capable of on the long run. He can totally hang with the front pack of Navy, but he has convinced himself that he can't. Anyhow, on Saturday, Greg not only hung with us, he was in front of me, Kit, Mark, and Teresa for the entire run. He and Giles were speed demons on Saturday, always at least 20 yards ahead of the rest of us (if not more), and finished before us too. Just goes to show that you shouldn't ever underestimate yourself - every one of us is capable of more than we ever dreamed.

So, the week ahead. Um, well... I just wrote a giant paragraph about giving away a pair of shoes, which is a pretty good indicator of just how tenuous my hold on sanity is at this point. This week is not only my highest mileage week of marathon training, but it is also the most stressful week of the year at my job.

Since my update is late, I once again have finished 2 of my 3 runs for the week. This morning was my last double digit mid-week run, which is just insane. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was looking at the months of September and October and was wondering how in the world I would ever be able to fit in 10 miles before getting to work. Now I blinked and it's over!

Twenty miles on the schedule for Sunday and then coasting it until Marathon day.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 19

Oh look, I'm late again with my weekly check in.

Having a completely insane work life and hitting the apex of marathon training during the same month isn't very fun.

4 runs for 33 miles
2 miles of swimming

Running miles logged so far: 442.55

Training highlights:

  • Finally joining the 20 miler club on Saturday!

Training lowlights:
  • Doing the 20 miles in a persistent drizzle.
  • It was kind of just a bleh week all around. My feet were really bothering me through Wednesday's tempo run and I was really worried about my ability to run 20 on Saturday. Thankfully, it ended up being not so bad.

Gold star of the week:
  • The Navy Team Posse that stuck together throughout the entire run on Saturday: Giles, Kit, Mark, Paul, and Teresa. It was a miserable morning but the company of these fine folks is what made running 20 miles on a windy, rainy, raw morning not only doable, but kind of (dare I say) fun. Giles and Teresa navigated, Kit and I were assigned to be the Pace Police (we were trying very hard to not run too fast and stick to an 8:50 - 9:10 pace), and Paul and Mark kept us all in line. But the best thing that happened was that after waiting at a stop light, I forgot to turn my Garmin back on and didn't realize it for about .3 miles... so that meant that I was going to have to just keep running until I officially had 20 miles showing on my watch. Instead of going directly back to the stadium, my awesome teammates went that extra .3 miles with me so that I would have some company when I hit my first official 20 miles. I can't even tell you how much it meant to me and how lucky I feel to have such great teammates and friends. 
Saturday's Dream Team
Giles, Paul, Teresa, Me, and Kit
Mark is hiding behind Giles
We still look relatively happy because this is only mile 4.
Since I'm so late in posting, as I'm writing up last week's report, I am already finished 2/3 of my runs for this week. Monday flat out sucked... the aftermath of running 20 miles hit me (more like hit my legs) like a ton of bricks. Tuesday's swim wasn't much better. Thankfully, today's 10 miler finally seemed to do the trick to loosen up my incredibly tight calves and hamstrings. I felt much more like myself and was able to pull out 10 miles of tempo training at an 8:36/mile average pace.

Thank goodness it's drop back week... "only" 12 miles with the team on Saturday.



Monday, October 7, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 18

Just like that, I'm 75% of the way there. Three Quarters. Only 25% left. Six weeks until the big dance.


3 runs for 30.5 miles
2 miles of swim

Running miles logged so far: 409.55

Training highlights:

  • Speedwork on Monday went really well.
  • Frighteningly enough, I'm getting used to waking up at 4:50 am on Wednesday and don't mind running 10 miles before work. 
  • Both of my swims were great and felt too easy - I'm thinking about adding 200 yards this week. Maybe...
  • Getting to unexpectedly run with Team Navy on Saturday, which was both a highlight and a...
Training lowlights:
  • Saturday's run was incredibly difficult. Last week we had something of an Indian summer here in good old RVA which meant helloooooo heat and humidity. For some reason, putting in 3 extra miles with Kit, Teresa, and Greg before the official team start seemed like an ok idea. By mile 12, we were all regretting that decision big time except for Kit, who, being his usual super-runner self, seemed fine (of course). It was very warm, about 72 when we started and 80 when we finished and humidity levels were hovering in the high 80s. After weeks of being spoiled by spectacularly perfect cool fall mornings, this was quite the slog.
  • Cancelation of the Wilson Bridge Half. I'm now on the hunt for a mostly flat Spring 2014 race that I can PR the crap out of. If anyone has any ideas, let me know. I can't do my usual (Shamrock Half in Virginia Beach) because I'll be playing Bridesmaid to my Sister In Law that weekend. 
  • My feet are swelling. A lot. The worst day was Thursday, which wasn't even a running day. By the end of the long run on Saturday, they were not only swollen but also felt terrible. My right arch was especially painful. So I did what every runner does the second their feet start to hurt - I blamed my shoes and went to Road Runner Sports directly after the run to obtain new shoes. Then, I iced them.

Hydration Belt Status  - this subject area is being retired. 

Gold star of the week:
  • Coach Shawn, for helping me surprise Husband on our anniversary by lending us his boat so that we could arrive to our anniversary dinner at the Boathouse at Sunday Park by boat. It was pretty darn cool. Based on our previous week's conversation about junk food, he even provided two Quarter Pounds (which made me laugh every time I looked at them), some brie, and crackers. Perfection! I said to Husband, "See, sometimes it does pay off to have a wife who is a crazy runner."
  • The organizers of the Wilson Bridge Half, who handled the postponement with amazing efficiency.
I think this week is going to be rough. Yesterday my feet were still hurting. Against my better judgement, I did speed work this morning and it was absolutely the worst speed work session I've had. Not sure whether that's because of my tired legs and achy feet or because of the 90% humidity I was running in... probably a combination of both. 

Of course this would happen during the lead up to my first 20 miler (gulp). I don't think I will be able to do it in my old shoes, so I have to run on Wednesday to break them in. But part of me wants to not run on Wednesday since my feet hurt.

In good news, a cold front is coming through as I type, which is bringing back the fabulous running weather.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Right now, I should be writing an entry telling you about how I did at the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon this morning.

Instead, I'm sitting on my couch watching the Cards/Pirates game (earning serious brownie points) after a marathon session of purging clothes and shoes from every closet, dresser, and plastic bin in this house.

Yes, for the second year in a row, I was unable to participate in the Wilson Bridge Half due to reasons beyond my control. Last year, it was the incident-that-shall-not-be-named. This year, it was because of the collection of fools that occupy the US Capitol and spent their time squabbling like children instead of running this country.

Because most of the WBH is run on National Park land including Mt. Vernon and the George Washington Parkway, the race had to be postponed. Big kudos to the race organizers, who were transparent and provided clear updates about the situation almost every day. They made the call on Thursday, giving runners plenty of time to cancel travel plans and even try to fill the weekend with an alternative half. We were all given the option of either running the race on the rescheduled date of November 10 or deferring to 2014.

I chose to defer to 2014, as November 10 is just 6 days before the big dance.

Am I disappointed that I didn't get to race this morning? Yes and no. I am bummed about it because I was looking forward to doing this race with Shannon. I'm also pretty sure that I could have absolutely crushed my half PR. Given my horrible experience at the Divas Half, I wanted to redeem myself.

However, I was also kind of relieved. This has been an insanely busy couple of weeks with no "free" weekends, and we have a packed October as it is. Not having to get in my car and drive up to DC was just fine with me. It also helped because Husband is a federal employee and is currently, for all intense purposes, out of work thanks to the shutdown. Out of work means no paycheck. No paycheck means that the $100 or so that I saved in hotel, gas, and food is good for us right now.

Postponement of the race also meant that I got to run with Navy on Saturday. My team members have become such a big part of my life that when I don't get to see them on a weekend, I get sad.

My journey into the sport of running has taught me many things and changed me immensely. I think that one of the most profound differences in the Before and After Running Kathryn is that I have learned that sometimes, you just have to give up control. Kathryn of yore was a control freak to the nth degree. Why do you think I am such a Planny McPlanerston? I used to get completely bent out of shape when an event - any event - didn't go exactly as I had constructed it in my head.

The thing about running is that no matter what you do and how well you've planned something, there are any number of things that are out of your control that can impact your run or race: weather, traffic, unexpected bad stomach, charlie horses, stomach issues, falls, broken bones... the list goes on and on.

Over this summer, I've learned that the only way to mentally survive marathon training is to let go of the things that you can't control. If I had spent every day obsessing over Saturday morning's weather forecast, I would have gone insane. I could have completely freaked out when Marcey and I were stuck in traffic trying to get to the Divas race. When I fell at the first training team run, I could have sat down on the sidewalk and cried about it. Instead, I just got up and kept going.

This has helped me learn how to dial down Kathryn the Control Freak in every day life. Back in February, when the sequestration was happening, I posted a very dark entry about how there is nothing worse than knowing that you have no control over your life. I was really, truly freaking out about the sequester and its impact on our lives.

As October 1 approached and the shut down became inevitable, the old me would have been losing it. But the new Kathryn has been rather ambivalent to the situation. Yes, we have planned what we will do to make up for the lost pay and adjusted our household budget accordingly. But I am not allowing myself to get overly upset or anxious (yet). There is nothing I can do to change what is going on in Washington, and it is just silly for me to grind my teeth and lose sleep over it.

So yes, I'm sad that I didn't get to run the WBH. But it's ok. Life will go on.

... but I think I still will freak out if it rains on marathon day.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, October 4, 2013

Unsung Heros: Non-Running Spouses/Significant Others

On this, the day of our 5th wedding anniversary, I wanted to take a moment to recognize Husband.

As is obvious by the increasingly narrow focus of my journal entries lately, training for a marathon can consume your life pretty quickly. By default, this means it also impacts the lives of your family whether they like it or not. I knew it would be hard, so before I even made the decision to train for a marathon (last May), I consulted Husband to get his feelings on the matter. Thankfully, he was supportive and always has been.

Now deep into marathon training, I'm finding that these days I get on my own nerves when just about every decision must first be vetted against my training schedule. I can't even imagine how irritating I am my to my non-running husband.

In fact, sometimes I wonder if he would have gone through with it had he known that his artsy fartsy fiance was going to change into an obsessive runner woman.

I'd like to think he still would've married me.

Luckily for me, it turns out that Husband is gifted with a saintly amount of patience when it comes to me and my neurosis. So thank you, dear Husband, for putting up with:

  • My hours of absence spent training.
  • My decidedly old-lady sleeping schedule of 9 pm beditme and 5 am wake up.
  • Constant paranoia regarding the state of my feet.
  • The lack of cheese, beer, and wine in the house (all decidedly not ideal pre-run consumables).
  • All the money I've spent on races, shoes, and Lululemon.
  • Weekends shot to hell because of MTT.
  • Me on crutches.
  • The fact that I more often than not smell like chlorine or sweat.
  • Long, boring recounts of my training sessions.
  • All of my stories about my running friends, their injuries, their races, their training, etc.
And for being my personal valet at races. 

And for holding all of my crap at races.

And for reminding me that there is much more to life than running.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Runner in a Strange Land

So many bloggers have already waxed rhapsodic on the glories of discovering a new place via running, so I'm not going to try to reinvent the wheel on that topic.

Instead, I'm going to tell you how I went about figuring out how to fix the problem of getting in a long run (15 miles+) in a city you hardly know and whose recent runner-centered headlines have all been about female joggers getting assaulted.

Ah yes, Baltimore, Maryland. Since I am a Marylander, it is perfectly OK for me to say that Baltimore is definitely NOT my favorite city. In fact, it is in my list of "Top 5 Cities That I Hate". Nothing personal to any Baltimore readers, but I just can't really find anything redeeming about the place. And yes, I've been all over the city, not just to the Inner Harbor.

So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Husband was going to be a groomsman in a wedding that was taking place in Baltimore. And that it was going to happen on the day of my first scheduled 20-miler.

(The answer is "not very")

Being the Planny McPlanerston that I am, as soon as I discovered that I was going to need to cover 20 miles  at some point that weekend, I hit Google in search of a Baltimore training team. The thought of running 20 miles on a tread mill at our hotel seemed like a fate worse than death and going it alone seemed like a bad idea too. I know Baltimore from a tourist/visitor perspective, but not well enough to know where the best areas to run are. So it seemed like the best bet was to find a group that was training and try to reach out to them or bandit a run.

I ended up connecting with the Baltimore Road Runners club, who have a marathon training team. Unfortunately their scheduled mileage didn't work out for me (they were tapering and only doing 10), but the very helpful lady I emailed with suggested I check out the Baltimore Pacemakers group. A quick jump onto Facebook and a wall message later and I was set to join the Pacemakers on the Saturday morning of the wedding.

I carefully researched a carb-loading opportunity for Friday night and happily discovered Grano's Pasta Bar, which was fairly close to our hotel in the Hampden neighborhood. Authentic Italian build-your-own pasta? I'm there.

I wanted everything on the menu, but settled for bread and olive oil, penne pasta, and pomodoro sauce. I desperately wanted to have a giant meatball, a cannoli, and a cappuccino, but knew that those could be a very big problem the next day. My pasta was cooked to Italian al dente perfection, the olive oil was absolutely divine, and the bread was just the right amount of squishy.

It was probably the best carb loading I've ever engaged in.

On Saturday morning, I was very nervous as I drove myself to the meeting point. Per my usual modus operandi, I arrived extremely early. Happily, our meeting spot was a Starbucks, so I was able to go inside and use the facilities. Also happily, the organizer of the Pacemakers, a very awesome man named Bob Hilson, was already there and wearing a Run RVA hat! I introduced myself and answered the usual set of questions that happen when a runner meets another runner for the first time:

Where are you from? Richmond, but I grew up in Maryland in Hagerstown.
What race are you training for? Richmond
Is it your first? Yep
How long are you running today? However long you guys are.

Bob dubbed me "Hagerstown" and we chatted for a few more minutes as the gathering grew to about 50 runners. I started asking around to see who else was planning on doing 18 and wasn't having much luck. Most of the folks there were training for the Baltimore Marathon on October 12 and were therefore tapering. So, when Bob handed out the route, I diligently tried to study it - I say "tried" because although I've been all over Baltimore I'm not overly familiar with the city and the written route meant pretty much nothing to me.

Heck, usually the written routes for our Team Navy runs in Richmond mean nothing to me, and I live here!

When we took off, I was nervous. I was afraid of getting lost, so I let the group dictate my pace. I fell in with another runner and started chatting with her. We stuck together for the first 8 miles, which was basically an out and back down to the Inner Harbour, up Federal Hill, then back to our starting point in Charles Village. Going down to the Inner Harbor seemed easy... the climb back up the hill not so much.

After a quick regroup at the Starbucks, a core of 5-6 of us continued on to the next 7 mile leg, which took us north through Loyola's campus and through the fancy-pants neighborhoods of Baltimore. Again, this was all uphill.

I lost Kim but fell in with another woman and we got to talking. I never asked her name, but we stayed together for the last 6 miles or so. We talked injuries (she has delicate feet too), past race experiences (she has done I can't remember how many marathons - but a lot), and admired the architecture of the fancy houses we were running past. She was very speedy... I stuck with her pace of 8 min miles, but it felt fine because the last 3 miles were downhill.

My elevation chart ended up looking like quite the roller coaster:

I ended up with 16 miles instead of 20, but I wasn't worried. I could have kept going but honestly, I didn't want to run the last bit by myself. There are two more opportunities for me to run 20. My companion said, "You breezed through that. You're going to do great in Richmond."

That made me feel really good.

As more runners joined us back at the Starbucks, we were all standing around chatting jovially and I realized that one of the best things about runners is that they are pretty much the same everywhere. Whether you're in Baltimore or Germany or Richmond, you will always have something to talk about and share that same special brand of crazy.

As I left, Bob called, "Hey Hagerstown, good luck at Richmond!"

That made me feel like part of the family.

I am so very thankful that I found this great group to run with, and eternally grateful for their hospitality to me! I left feeling great, and like I earned the Starbucks Bacon Egg and Gouda Sandwich that I couldn't resist.

Getting my run in also let me relax and enjoy myself for the rest of the day. It was fun to accomplish the 15 miler in the morning, get all sweaty and gross, then take a nap, shower, and get fancied up for the wedding festivities. Kind of like Cinderella.


Husband looks handsome, doesn't he?

So, in conclusion, a big huge THANK YOU to the Baltimore Pacemakers and Bob Hilson. Because of you guys, I have finally (after 30 years) found something redeeming about the City of Baltimore.

And, if you find yourself in Charm City, do yourself a favor and go to Grano's. It was the most authentic pasta experience that I have had outside of Italy. I loved it so much that I insisted on going back for lunch on Saturday, this time taking Jason with me. We had a meatball. And cannoli. And I had a moment of Italian cappuccino zen.

Doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 17

3 runs for 30.25 miles
1 mile swimming
11.5 miles on the bike

Running miles logged so far: 379.05

Training highlights:

  • Joining the Baltimore Pacemakers running group to get my long run in on Saturday while I was in Baltimore for a wedding. More on that in a later entry.

Training lowlights:
  • On Thursday, I decided to hit the stationary bike again after a long hiatus. I was quickly reminded of why I hadn't biked for so long. Because I hate it.
  • Continuing on the theme of cross-training suckage, my swim was also not fun this week. The pool jets were turned to the max and it was pretty much like swimming upcurrent. In other words: exhausting.
  • I am feeling pretty sad that I wasn't with Team Navy for the 20 miler. Selfishly, because I can't say I'm a member of the 20-miler group and unselfishly, because it would have been really fun to be with my other teammates who were accomplishing their first 20-miler. We've run so many miles and hit so many milestones together that I feel like I really missed out on the comraderie.

Hydration belt status:
  • Four months after obtaining my iFitness hydration belt, I finally used it. And I really didn't like it. At all.

Gold star of the week:
  • Coach Shawn, who, in the absence of my running sensei Kit, slogged out the nearly 11 miles with me at 6:00 am on Wednesday. He even kept with me even after I made a wrong turn and accidentally added mileage. We talked junk food (Pop Tarts and McDonald's!), Vietnamese wedding customs (he carried the pig!), cooking, crazy injuries, and of course, running. Couldn't have asked for better company at the butt crack of dawn on a Wednesday morning.

This week I'm hoping to run the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on Sunday, but because of the a-holes in Washington who can't figure things out, it appears that the race might have to be canceled (most of it is on National Park land). 

I guess if it does get canceled, at least I'll save some money since Husband is also furloughed. Again.