Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The aftermath....

Typical Maine October. It goes from glorious and 70, to dismal and 30 overnight.

Glorious and 70
Maybe not dismal. But definitely cold.
As planned I took a full week of rest after Hartford. Since my job keeps me so mobile I was getting plenty of active recovery. A few years in the marathon business has taught me not to eff around with the week after a big race- I have never gained anything from getting right back to the grind!

I took a short run exactly one week post race. It felt quite good. I had been pleased with how my body had recovered and despite feeling like I was catching a head cold (which never really happened) I was basically back to normal.
I headed out the following day, still feeling good.
Exactly 2 miles out I got a stabby ankle/calf/instep pain that decided to stick around. Eric and I immediately aborted the run and called my very helpful Dad to get us home. (thanks dad!)

Post aborted run. Clearly not too upset. Look at that yard, what a mess!

The next day the pain was still there so I called up my chiro for some serious help. Pain in that area is very unusual for me and I wanted to get to the bottom of it before resuming the kind of prancing that is normal for me.
This bump in the road meant that a few more "rest" days were in order but the timing was ok. The serious races are over for the year and it is important to heal!

My chiro found that a weird tight big toe tendon had caused the issue and quite a bit of painful work was done on my foot/calf which I really hated. I was declared otherwise in great shape so after another couple careful days I got back to some easy short miles.

So far, so good. It's always excellent when it's an easy fix!

In the meantime....

Eric and I are in the 10 day countdown of going BACK to Disney for a bit more racing. (more on that later.) What I'm saying is that our "quiet time" is over!!

However, we enjoyed our quiet post race weeks, we actually cooked nice dinners, kind of cleaned the house and had a bit more free time. We hung out with Andy at a friends wedding which was fun, we don't see him enough and he is NOT coming to Florida with us this time, boooo!
We made the most of the evening, even though we weren't playing Disney trivia!

Wedding time!
File this next bit under "things that don't normally happen to me"

Stride box contacted me a while back to see if they could send me a free box.
I dubiously, and honestly replied that they certainly could, but that I am not really a big fan of monthly subscription boxes.
The box was filled with the usual suspects, samples of running fuel (all caffeinated so not for me) a couple snacks (again, the caffeine- so I'll pass...) Some oatmeal which was tasty and a buff type thing.

Would I subscribe? No. This box did not change my mind.

It might be a cute gift for a new runner in your life who isn't yet sure what they like to snack on mid run, or someone who isn't familiar with runner specific brands. Since I know what I use, and what I like I really just don't need something like this, cute thought it may be.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement but hey, I'm honest.
I think "boxes" in general are a fun idea, but (for me) too expensive for the value they bring to my life. 

Stride Box contents
So that's it from here.
More soon about the upcoming Florida adventure!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hartford Marathon: Why can't marathons end at mile 23?

This might seem like a pretty delayed reaction blog post from a race that (by now) everyone knows went well. Know this: I had more than half of a great post written and *puff* it vanished into the interwebs.


I took it as a sign that attempt number one must have been crap, so after taking a few days to allow the pain of literary failure to dull, here is another try.

So. The Hartford Marathon. My first trip to this race and my first trip to Hartford.
Let it be known that traveling to Hartford on the Friday of a Holiday weekend is slow work. If you want more than 28 minutes at the expo take the day off.
Luckily, you don't need more than 28 minutes at this particular expo!

We were in, out, free sampled and on our way with time to spare.
Step two was a slightly sketchy super basic pasta dinner.
Our final stop was to check out the finish line. I'm very glad that we made the short walk because not only was it lovely and peaceful but I absolutely did NOT notice the lovely scenery at the actual race finish..

This is one of the most picturesque finishes. 

I actually slept a bit, but woke up long past when my alarm was *supposed* to go off.  I then proceeded to peer out the window at all the runners making their (early) way to the start and yell at them menacingly.
Weird behavior, yes. But when I wake up feeling race ready I am aggressive. Hah!

The trip to the start and the start itself was quite easy and uneventful. Since we were staying about half a mile away it was quick to get there and you basically walked right up to the corrals with no stops. Because I was a bit late it was hard to get from the 11:00 pace area to the lead corrals but I made it in the nick of time. (typical)

The weather was great. About 50, overcast, damp and foggy. I felt excellent and with the exception of a pee break at mile 2 I ran steadily and happily for the first 10k.

Yay! Running!
Per the usual I had my watch running but just as a watch. There is nothing on race day that my watch can help me with so I worked on steady pacing and all that crap. I hoped that I could locate the 3:35 pace group, stick with them until the half and then try to move up steadily for the second half for a glorious 3:33 damn finish. AS USUAL, I tried to train for a 3:30 but friggin 3:33 seems to be my perfectly acceptable but growing old norm.

At mile 7 or so I saw a pace group and caught them! Friends!!! The crowds were growing thin and after a whole summer of mostly running alone, I enjoyed the idea of a few people to shoot the shit with. "What pace group are you?" I inquired. "3:30" they cried.
OK. A bit of a surprise there but nothing too worrying. A glance at the time told me that they were on pace so I decided to stick with it. After all, those mile repeats had to start paying off sometime right?

Sitting in the middle of the 3:30 pace group.

WHAT A GOOD CHOICE. It was a great, big, fun group of people. There was a little chatter here and there. If you got blocked off from a water stop the person behind you would grab a cup and give it to you.
I felt really great about being in this group of people and essentially shut my brain off and ran steadily for quite a while. Hours actually.

Another GREAT and fun thing was that Isaac, a friend of mine and Eric's and an incredible runner in his own right happened to be in the area. He popped up ALL over the course all day, shooting pics and shouting encouragement! If you ever need someone to restore your faith in humanity call Isaac, I think that everyone who knows him will agree that he is a great person! (and congrats on your recent engagement Isaac! Eric and I will crash your wedding and shout motivational phrases!)
*thanks to Isaac for all on course pics*

Jazz hands,
Until mile 23 I ran the best, strongest and one of the fastest marathons of my life. I felt terrific. I did not have to poop in anyone's yard. My legs felt strong and I was being smart, eating, drinking, and just chugging along.
Around mile 20 I had noticed that we were about 2 minutes ahead of pace per the on course clock, but I didn't think much of it. 2 minutes can vanish fast in the final 10k, especially with one of the largest hills of the course in the final couple miles. At this point, quite a few people had dropped off the pace but there were a decent number still hanging on.

Anyway. As mentioned, at mile 23 I began to have some marathon issues. Nothing horrific but my stomach wasn't playing nice anymore and I was dealing with nasty waves of nausea. Gross. My legs were feeling a bit funky but I was much more troubled by my deteriorating GI. Furthermore, I found myself really falling behind my pace group. Where there were (just a mile before) about a dozen runners left, now maybe 5 were close to the front. Then 3. Then the pacer and one woman, as the rest of us fell back....

Down to two. Chasing the lead pack.
Sure enough, there was a big giant heart attack hill (or, like the onramp to I-84 or something) in the final stretch. Isaac had popped up and was very chatty to which I replied "OOOFFF" and "GRUNT" which is pleasant. Knowing that I was toast, he hollered "WELL, there's only a mile to go. NO POINT IN GIVING UP NOW!!!" A very true statement and one that has been quoted frequently in my daily life since then.

And then I was alone..... "no point in giving up NOW!!!"

Just after that, I saw Eric who I grimaced at (he says I waved and smiled) and I tried to keep on slapping my feet down since, honestly, there was very little race left. My mental capacities had been heading downhill and I was completely confounded every time I tried to figure out how fast I needed to be in order to finish in 3:30. (you don't, after all, run 23 miles to give up the ghost in the final 3.)
I knew I had slowed down and figured that I was screwed since I could no longer even see my pacer.
However, when I could see the finishing clock it still read 3:29:xx so I got my hustle on and scooted under the clock before it ticked to 3:30 (and my net time was 3:29:35 so I probably didn't need to hustle.)

Fucking HUSTLE.

As soon as I walked I felt better. I didn't feel very very smart, but I did feel better. I easily found Eric and kind of cried a bit because I was REALLY tired.

So tired and a little drained and not too smart at this point. 
I also saw the 3:30 pacer who let me in on a little bit of info that I had not been aware of. As a group prior to the start, they had agreed to go for a 3:25, hence the buffer at 20 and the pace increase (for them) in the final 10k. UGH. Good for them, but a 3:25 was NOT in my realm of reality.

I blundered my way to medals, dropping things left and right and trying (and failing) to drink from the bottom side of my water bottle (a blunder that did NOT go unnoticed.)

I collected my fabulous medal for completing the New England double! If anyone wants a May and October marathon challenge there is no better one. We got VIP treatment for picking up bibs, extra swag, and the huge medal to boot.

Nice bling
After about 12 cups of Gatorade, more pics were taken and then some beers (or about 1 inch of beer) was consumed.

Maybe you were supposed to get up on that thing? I couldn't. 

And THAT was THAT.
A good race. It might not have been the "perfect" pre-Boston training cycle, and I certainly had a few insecurities going in but the race reflected my hard work.
I'm very excited to be able to re-join the ranks of people who have a 10 minute Boson buffer. Easy for some, not for me. If I can crack out anything faster than a 3:33 then hard work was done, and it was done in Hartford for sure. I left it all out there, no regrets, no "if only's" no "what if's."
It wasn't easy but it was 100% worth it!

We then drove over to the Boston area where my family was waiting to feed us a feast of food which included cheesecake, give me jars and jars of pickles and cans of the very best beer! What a lovely time!

Post race gifts are always appreciated!

(and thanks as usual to everyone who gets me there- it takes a village for christ sake! Eric, my parents, my extended family, and friends. Marathon training has become no big deal in these parts but the peak weeks and final few days require so much extra food, and dealing with me wearing sweatpants and compression all the time that everyone deserves a HUGE thank you!!!!)


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hartford Marathon training. Week 14: All done

I had hoped to find the time to knock out a weekly blog post for the past 6 weeks. Clearly that has not happened. It seems that the first thing to go when I am quite busy is the blog! That was indeed the case in this situation.

How do I condense a 14 week (YES, FOURTEEN week!!) training cycle into one blog post without turning it into a 10,000 page novel. I'm not entirely sure.
*for those of you new to the blog: know that, for me, a 14 week block of structured running is nothing short of a miracle. Previously (for Boston 2016) I managed 13 which was quite good, and I was very fit at the beginning of that 13 week period.  This one started at a lower base fitness level because June was my recovery month, where I ran 80 miles, did strength work and got rid of some minor muscular issues so that I could stay healthy all summer. I have been known to run a 9 week cycle which is indeed insane.*

So how did it go, training through the hot hot summer??
(prepare to get REALLY sick of hearing about the weather. Now that is is basically winter running seems like nbd. Just last week it was like, 86 though. Remember that..!!)

Thank heavens for Eric and his bike/portable water stop
There were many days where it was jarringly hot and/or humid. There was a stretch of time in September that certainly was cooler than the 95 degree days of July but was SO incredibly humid. I have never sweat so much! I was lucky to have Eric join me on his bike on a few of my longer/hotter excursions. Having a few extra bottles of water made my life much more enjoyable (and the company was pretty good too!)

The dark line is most certainly sweat.

There was structure to my running but flexibility as well.
My weekly goal was to have a hill workout, a speed workout, a run that was part easy and part base pace (which would progress towards MP as time marched on), a long run and a recovery run.
According to my training log I actually managed to do this. I always plan on one "slacker" week where things are allowed to go downhill but with the exception of that week I was right on track.
I am quite flexible on what days my workouts fall on, I might have a plan going into the week but with the ever changing conditions of my job flexibility is key. For me, it is never a disaster to have to swap things around. As long as it is all done at the end of the week I am happy!

I ran 114 miles in July.
193 in August.
208 in September.
*and now I quit!!*

My hardest workout was on September 7th and was HM pace 6x1 mile repeats, in absolutely brutal humidity. I made the lovely discovery on this particular day that, when you sweat like a pig no matter HOW much body glide you use your shorts will STILL chafe you until you bleed. Mmmmm.

It was a good workout, but VERY hot. And chafed.
My best workout was the Lake Auburn Half- a day where 13.1 miles at MP was remarkably comfortable, especially considering (MORE) cloying, dripping humidity.
The nice thing was, at that point in time I was extremely well adjusted to bullshit weather so it didn't cause a single problem. There was even a huge thunderstorm! It was really quite exciting.
I felt excellent throughout and the pace felt great. It was a good day.

Lake Auburn Half, 1:45 felt easy
My WORST workout was my final 20 miler. I was exhausted, I could not get my GI system to cooperate and to add insult to injury I fell down face first at mile 14 like a total spaz.
Eric came to rescue me at the end and the car promptly died.
WT actual F.
(thanks to my Dad for coming to the rescue. and then, to the car for starting right up as soon as he got there, no jump start needed. my car fears the dad wrath perhaps...)

At the beginning of this training cycle most of my long runs were pushed off to the end of the day because of the (previously mentioned....) hot weather. It is a beautiful thing to head out in 86 degrees and feel it plummet like a night on Mt Everest to a frigid 79. :-)
What REALLY is nice is finishing up around 8:30 or so and still having daylight.

8:30PM, August
My "early season" long runs were slow and (guess what!) hot. I was happy simply to struggle through them and finish. Sometimes completion is better than style....
By late August I had gained both fitness and acceptance of dying a horrible heat related death and knocked off a few totally decent longs. The days were getting shorter though....

7:15PM, early September
With the exception of the Lake Auburn race (plus extra miles) my last few long runs have been less than fantastic. Really not special at all.
(ok. looking back they weren't ALL bad but my last 2 have been downright ghastly and that's all I can remember right now!!!!)
I think the cumulative fatigue that comes at the end of a training cycle, plus 5 days of insane horse showing, plus a variety of other small issues gave me that less than fresh feeling. Add to that the inability to get my stomach to behave and there has been some genuine misery. Luckily, the misery only lasts as long as the run does because I feel fine after and am not one to mope over a bad run.
Oh, I also lost my daylight over the past 2 weeks. It's now dark all day.

Sunset: 6:20PM
So what has been good about this training cycle?
I learned to wear spandex on really hot days to avoid the bloody chafing. This is a good tip as clearly I am a newbie runner.....

I was consistent af. I chugged along and got it done. I might not regard this cycle with the reverence that I still have for my Boston training plan- which I felt was perfect- but I worked hard. (and despite my truly shitty, in so many ways, final log runs I did continue to enjoy running even through the summer quagmire.)

I tried to have a fridge full of amazing beers at all times. (I am OUT now. Hint hint beer loving friends, beer mail would be most appreciated!! (doug. jeff. I'm talking to you ;-))
Be still, my beer loving heart....
Despite my protestations about high mileage weeks in my last (long ago) blog post they happened very organically. My highest mileage week was 54 and I had 3 weeks of solid 50's and a few more in the mid/upper 40's.
I'm basically Shalane Flanagan.
(at half her speed and half her mileage but honestly, WHATEVER.)

I did not get hurt, I did not throw up, I did not quit running. (all good things to avoid.)

I got to see pretty things.
So idyllic.
Much nature. 
It really is one of my fav views though.
I hatched a metric fuck ton of pokemon eggs.
I love pokemon. If you say you don't then you are missing out!

Oh look a stupid zubat in the yard.
I also did not have to run in the dark at all and I did not see any bobcat.

In the midst of all this I also had a wonderful season of work, a successful show season for several people in my barn and (just last week) I got my own horse into the FEI arena (international level). A big accomplishment that took a lot of work and patience and which I am tremendously proud of.
I'm also beyond thrilled for my young rider student who walked away with a giant 6th place ribbon in her Regional Finals class- in a stacked division of beautiful riders on gorgeous horses! (lucky for her, she is also a beautiful rider on a glorious horse and she has a damn good work ethic which is more important than anything.)
Anyway. All of this was very good.

My fresh little FEI horse!
With 6 days remaining until Marathon day all I have to do now is chill.
I put in some good work and I am hopeful for good results, decent weather (who am I kidding?) and a cooperative stomach as I really don't want to have to run from porta-potty to porta-potty...
Fingers crossed.