Friday, October 1, 2010

I Finished :) about 6 1/2 hours. I walked the last 6 miles. But holy crap, I finished a marathon! 26.2 miles in one day!

I ran the first 13 and only stopped at the water stations to walk. I made pretty good time compared to my long training runs. But my hips and ankles were hurting and from my experience on my 16-mile training run I just knew I had to take some meds or my body was gonna give out on me. The next 7 miles I alternated walking and running. By mile 20 my feet were way too sore to run anymore and I just walked.

"Hey little lady! We're gonna finish this!" At mile 20, in steps my marathon angel sporting a fedora and harmonica. That's my kind of angel! For the next 6.2 miles I was able to take my mind off my exhaustion (my body was absolutely spent and I was going solely on will power). John, my marathon angel, peppered his colorful stories with some blues songs. He told me about hunting, about his music, and about his other races. He knew exactly what I needed--distraction--and he filled it shamelessly.

I slowed down throughout the race but I never "hit the wall." I never got desperate or discouraged. I smiled and ran. I thought I was free and clear, especially with John by my side making me laugh and asking nothing in return other than that I just keep going. Then we hit mile 24.

The Quad Cities Marathon is a fantastic event, well-organized and suited for beginners as well as top athletes. It's location is stunning and makes for a lovely run. I would recommend it for anyone.

However, there is something cruel lurking in this race. That something is an out and back.

Out and back? That doesn't sound so bad, right? Half my training runs were out and backs. This out and back had something special attached to it. It was at the very end of the race. And it started near the finish line--you could see the finish, hear the other finishers cheering--and then took you out a few miles before you were allowed to turn around and head back. Cruel!

At 24 miles I hit the wall. My chest was pounding, my head felt light, every muscle and joint ached (I mean EVERY--my toes, my shoulders, and the muscles behind my knees to name a few) and water no longer solved any of these complaints. I needed to stop. With only 2.2 miles to go I was sure my body wouldn't make it, I was sure I would collapse. I slowed my pace, tried to catch my breathe, and stuck some Skittles in my mouth.

"You OK, kiddo? You're slowing down on me!" And so I kept up what felt like a merciless pace. I kept smiling, barely. And kept walking, somehow.

And it is here that I would like to take a moment and thank Japan for helping my get across that finish line. I didn't realize it until I was out there running, but my time in Japan gave me all the confidence and all the mental fortitude I'd need to finish that race. In Japan, everyday was a marathon mentally. Everyday I had to reassure myself that I was going to be OK, that I could get through another lonely winter night or another difficult class. And so, on marathon day, I just ran one mile at a time. No matter how tired I was I knew I could get through a mile. In Japan, no matter how lonely or frustrated I got I knew I could be a good teacher for one day. I could smile when I wanted to cry. And in doing so I was able to relish the small joys that came my way.

During the marathon there were Elvis impersonators, peppy high school cheerleaders, community members in lawn chairs on their driveways, and ever-cheerful water station volunteers. If I only focused on the 26.2 miles ahead of me, or the aches in my body, I would have missed these smalls moments of joy, these bursts of togetherness amid the long, lonely stretches.

I'll probably run another marathon someday. Until then, I'll keep running. Because I like to.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Marathon is TOMORROW!

I'm here in the Quad Cities. Waiting for the marathon to start :)

Sunday, September 26th, 2010. My first marathon.

I interviewed for a job in Des Moines, Iowa earlier this week and stayed with Jordan. Friday night I went on my last training run before the marathon. I ran with Jordan. We went running after all. Along the way a woman shouted from her truck, "That's great motivation for me! Thank you!"

I couldn't help but laugh. It made me happy. If I had to pinpoint the single most important thing I've learned during this training it would be the this beautiful impression of the running world I've gotten. Running seems like such an intense sport; full of people talking about power gels and their 400s workout. Full of ultra-fit stick people. And yet, here I am. I don't feel out of place in the least. Of course I have a stubborn will but the main reason I feel like I belong in this running world is because overwhelmingly people (including truck ladies in Des Moines) have been so supportive of and encouraged by my efforts.

I am so grateful to have this chance to run.

Let's Marathoning!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last Long Run

Miles: 16 RPE: 7

Well, I'm definitely behind schedule. Or put another way, I'm on my own schedule. Though I should be winding my training runs down by now I had yet to run more than 12 miles and I really felt that my physical and mental preparation wouldn't be on if I didn't complete this run.

To be honest, I've tried to run this for at least three weeks but each time I had an excuse for not finishing it. Sometimes I just didn't run at all to avoid it. Monday I planned to run but couldn't get out of bed early enoough (partly because I had gone to bed late but mostly because I didn't want to do this run).

I was afraid.

"What if I can't do it? What if it takes me really long? How terrible is my marathon time going to be then?! What if I walk a lot?"

Monday I finished an 8-mile run. And I had a breakthrough. Yes, two weeks before I run 26.2 miles I'm still learning how to run, in my mind. I got to a part of the trail that's in an open field, no shade. The midday sun was more fierce than I anticipated. I started getting a headache. "Oh no! I'm getting dehydrated! What if I pass out?!"

And then it dawned on me, caution and fear are two different things. Caution is what compels me to hydrate before each run and bring Gatorade with me. Caution is what compels me to stretch after each training run, even my 4-mile jaunts. Fear, on the other hand, is what keeps me in bed, keeps me from running, keeps me from pushing myself. My loops Monday were 3 miles. The sun was hot, but not that hot. I wasn't going to pass out. It was going to uncomfortable, yes, but not dangerous.

I rested Tuesday and hit the trail today at 8:30am. It's a mile walk to the trail from my parent's house so I begin and end each long run with a walk. A good mental prep for what lies ahead. I ran 8 hard miles. I tried to convince myself my body and breathing were fluid, tried to focus on my 2-mile loop and not the many, many miles ahead of me.

On mile 9 I got a call to be interviewed for a job! The good news invigorated me, but only briefly. Soon it became a distraction and I thought to myself, "You've run 8 miles, you'll have gone 10 total miles once you get back. Preparing for this job interview is more important." I stopped at my bench to drink. I almost went home.

Then I turned on my iPod and kept running. I didn't want to tell my support circle (my parents, Stephen, Jordan and another running friend, Marc) that I didn't make it.

At about mile 14 my joints stopped cooperating, particularly my ankle and hip joints. My feet were swollen and hurt to run on. I walked the last mile and then that mile home.

And by walked of course I mean hobbled :)

These last few days leading up to September 26th I'll focus my mind during my runs on visualizing the marathon: when I'll start loosening up, when I'll have to toughen my focus and start my mantras, and when to use my iPod to will another step out of my battered legs.

No fear. Let's Running!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Run Again

Well, here we are again! The last two weeks in Japan FLEW by and I only got about half my runs in. The first week in August I spent at my grandparents' house in Upper Michigan. I ran and my parents biked beside. Then I was off to England to see the sights and my love. Unfortunately while I was there I got some kind of horrible stomach bug and didn't run at all during the two weeks.

I got off the plane Saturday the 21st and the 22nd I was on the run again, completing a 12-mile long run. At first I was terribly discouraged because I was completing my miles in double the time it usually takes me but then I realized I was reading the trail map wrong and I was actually running a two-mile course! So no worries there :)

Lately I've been having trouble getting up early and running. In Japan it was my only option because the humidity at any other time of the day was horrible. But back home in Chicagoland it's cooling down nicely so I don't have the same motivation to get up early. I've been running about half the time in the morning and half the time in the evening.

My run yesterday was a really nice 5-mile run. I decided to try out some of the mental techniques in the book. I modified one: using the alphabet, think of characteristics that make me a good runner. It was really motivating! When the hills started slowing me down I just said anything that came to mind as quickly as I could. "Optimistic, Ready, Not-intimidated, Strong..."

I started having stomach cramps (I'm pretty sure they're stress related) and was about to stop and walk the last mile but I just wanted to run. I just needed to feel confident that I can do this. So I started yet another mantra, "No fear, no pain, just legs." With this I just tried to shut off all doubt and pain so I could finish my run.

And I did.

I've modified the schedule again. My last long run was 12 miles. I'm scheduled to run an 18-mile this week but after reading some marathon tips in Runner's World "Complete Book of Running" I've decided to be cautious to make sure I stay healthy for race day. This week I'll run a 16-mile and next week I'll run an 18-mile. That means I'll only have one 18-mile under my belt before the marathon but that should be fine. At this stage I know my body is ready. What I need to focus on is training my mind.

Let's Running!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let's Packing!

Scheduled: 4 Actual: 3 RPE: 5

This weekend is jam-packed with good-byes. Three other English teachers that I came to Japan with two years ago are also returning home this summer and so we had a good-bye party together. Then I'll visit Stephen, go to our last Hiroshima soccer match and also go on one last trip with a co-worker of his that is an archaeologist and seems to have, at some point, curated every natural history museum in the Chugoku region. And then Monday night is a farewell party with my co-workers. Phew!

During the week I'll need to get most if not all of my packing done both at work and at home as well as preparing the house for the new teacher moving in. That being said, I know I can't do it all. I'll need to spend some concentrated and late hours packing and cleaning. I'll skip my other two runs this week and spend that time packing. I'll do my long run, though, because I want to stay on schedule with those. I think I'll push it up to ten miles since it's summer vacation now and I don't have a strict time that I need to be in the office.

So, Let's Packing/Running!

Friday, July 16, 2010

And Just Like That...I Enjoy Running!

Scheduled: 8 Actual: 8 RPE: 5

I got out late as usual but the difference this time is that I told myself it didn't matter. I was going to finish the 8 miles no matter what time it was. If I had to rush out my door and risk being late for the morning meeting, that's what I'd do!

I walked half of mile 1 and ran all of mile 2. I stopped for a drink break (sports drink). I ran another two miles then stopped to hydrate. I walked all of mile 5 and drank a lot before heading out to finish the last three miles in succession. I finished 10 minutes sooner than I anticipated!

The interesting thing about this run is that it wasn't easy. I felt slow the entire run. My hips, knees, back, and ankles were sore by mile 5. But I kept running. I can't really explain it. Usually when I know I'm stopping for a water break I'll start walking a block before my house. Today I ran right up to my house. Even as I was doing it I didn't know why. I just wanted to.

I was slow and in pain but I knew that it was ok. I'd drink a lot of water and stretch my aches out. I knew I was going to finish my run. I kept telling myself that I would. That I'd run as long as I needed to. That this run was great and that my marathon was going to be great. Not because it was going to be easy but because I was gonna finish it.

Today it felt like someone turned a switch on inside me. For no particular reason, I enjoy running. It's not any easier. I just like it.

Let's Running!

Total This Week: 18 miles Cumulative Total: 75 miles

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's All in My Head

Scheduled: 5 Actual: 4 RPE: 6-7

I'm not sure if I could have woken up in worse mood if I tried!

I had a pretty relaxing and productive night yesterday but also pretty lonesome. I feel like I am in so many places at once: trying to pack and leave Japan but also trying to apply for jobs and get ready for my life back home as well as trying to forget the part where Stephen will be in England and I will be in the States.

I haven't been sleeping enough all week and my dinner last night was popcorn and soda so as far as physical preparation goes I more or less stabbed myself in the back. I thought about skipping my morning run and doing it after school but I knew it would be too hot and I don't want to skip a run.

I laced up my shoes and tried to finish a mile. I barely made it. On a day like today no amount of mental focus was going to get me out of this rut. So I went back into my house and got my iPod. I mouthed along to the words and tried to forget how much I didn't want to be doing this and how stiff I was. Non-Runner's Trainer recommends not using a music player during the runs so you can focus on the mental techniques and pay attention to how your body feels. It makes sense to me. But not today. I needed to run so I needed to tune myself out.

I'm not sure if the mind is this powerful but I almost think my sore muscles were more mental than physical. I hadn't felt any soreness or stiffness until I started running. It may have been all in my mind.

A friend of my mom's is an amazingly dedicated runner. She's emailed me some tips. Just today I got the perfect email from her: Don't worry about the miles as much as working on your mental fortitude. Remember you can walk 1 minute for each mile you do. Take time to catch your breath, and rest. Take your time, remember the run is about a lot more than just the mileage, it is about your ability to withstand difficult situations and make it through. Perfect timing for those words, I think! Sometimes I give myself a hard time and have a little too high expectations. This isn't going to be a breeze. I'm going to have days like today. But showing up, that's important. Showing up and running.

I am a marathoner!

Let's Running.