Week 16: Eye of the Tiger

“Rising up, straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight” – Survivor, Eye of the Tiger

So, I had to pick this song as the title for the week I ran my last 20 miler because of the Rocky connection to Philadelphia. Thanks to Jen for suggesting it.

I went into this last really long run with a sense of dread. I mean the last one went so badly (puking, walking, unhappy IT band) why did I think this one would go well? Are middle-aged, pudgy moms really supposed to run 20 miles at one time? Are we supposed to pound the pavement for 16 weeks with no break and expect to remain still standing at the end? Apparently, we are.

I laid all my clothes out, like I always do the night before an early morning run. Dimity suggested using the run as a true dry run for Philly. I chose the capris, shoes and warm weather option shirt I plan to wear at the race. My long sleeve option is in the works – Another Mother Runner is getting custom special shirts to wear in Philly. We’re also getting gray hoodies so we can re-enact the stair scene from Rocky!

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This is after the run but you get the drift. My shirt is courtesy of Another Mother Runner and it says “Are My Kids Still Chasing Me?”. The answer is no because no one is chasing you after 20 miles! This shirt got a lot of laughs from the other mothers in my group.

Jen and I agreed to run this last really long run at an easy pace. We have trouble pacing ourselves and you have to pace yourself when you are running 20 miles. The half marathon ladies from Team Indiana Jones had to run their 13 miles before the taper so we knew we’d have lots of company for at least 13 miles. We made sure to stay behind the half marathoners for the first 13 miles to insure we maintained an appropriate pace. It saved us in the end.

I have to give major credit to Jen for her positive attitude during this run. She framed everything in a positive way – instead of “we have to run 20 miles”, it was “we get to run 20 miles”. She kept my spirits up. For the first time ever, I ran a significant distance without turning on my music once. There was no need when you have such great company along the way! The group talked about all kinds of things during the run. I can’t even begin to put into words what happens when you run long with the same group of women for 12 weeks. Nothing is off limits and nothing is TMI. The miles just fly by. I am so lucky to be a part of the great Fleet Feet running groups. I have made wonderful friends and met people I would not have met any other way.

Something really sweet happened while we were still with the group. One of the women in our group is training for her first half marathon. The group was running 13 miles and it was going to be her longest run, ever. On the trail, at one of the cross-streets, her husband met her with her two kids. They all ran out to give her hugs and she continued on the run. We all got a little teary, I think. There is nothing I love more during a run or a race than seeing a fellow mother runner getting some love from her kids.

Jen and I knew we were doing well, when each time my Garmin beeped for our walk interval, we were surprised that the 5 minutes went by so fast. There have been runs where I am praying to hear the beep and it does not come for an eternity. Always, a bad sign. Not so on Saturday. Sara is finally on the mend from her glute injury and agreed to join us for the last 6 miles of our 20 miler, which was wonderful. Having someone with fresh legs makes a huge difference. At the turnaround on the last stretch, Jen started singing the theme to Rocky, Sara and I joined in. A couple of bikers passed us with weird looks but I don’t think we cared at that point!

IMG_2335Jen, Me and Sara

 

I learned some valuable lessons on this run. The first lesson is that I CAN do hard things. I now know that, while it will be hard, I can and will finish a marathon. I also learned that the last 6.2 miles will probably be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I finished 20 miles and did not feel awful but I will have to stay on my feet for another hour beyond what I just did. I learned that you really do have to eat a lot of food the day before a very long run. The idea of not eating and torching massive amounts of calories is not realistic (thank you, Eating Disorder I Developed in College, for continuing to warp my eating habits). I also learned that I still have not perfectly nailed my nutrition challenges out on the run. I did much better this time but I got a little headachy and light headed at about mile 18 and had to take a few more walk breaks. I have 26 days to figure this one out. I also learned that Jen and Sara are two of the best running friends a girl can have.

So, what do mother runners do after nailing a 20 mile run? We go shopping, of course. Our post shopping spree picture! I love Jen’s new top and I envy her height and long torso because I covet that running tunic!! I, of course, opted for yet another article of running apparel in black because I will stop wearing black when they invent a darker color.

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I knew Dimity was probably at a Saturday morning sporting event with one of her kids but I had to call her when I got in the car to drive home to tell her I nailed it. She was genuinely happy for me and I think she is probably less worried about whether or not she is going to have to give me a piggyback ride to the finish in Philly. She posted this awesome quote on Twitter after we got off the phone and I felt the AMR Tribe love from afar. Now, we start the taper and I have no idea what I am going to do with all my free time! I don’t do waiting well.

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Week 15: My Stunning Mystery Companion

“What with all my expectations long abandoned
And a life that just gets more and more demanding
There’s no doubt that you’re the reason I’m still standing
My stunning mystery companion” – My Stunning Mystery Companion, Jackson Browne
I suspect Jackson was singing about a woman in this song. This song shows up in my Van Morrison Pandora mix a few times a day while I am working and, when I heard the last chorus of the song the other day, I thought about running instead of a person (not that I don’t think of my husband in these terms).

 

I started out this week sick with the crud that is going around my office. I think that is one of the reasons why last Saturday’s planned 20 miler sucked so much. I was exhausted on Sunday and feverish by Monday. Chest was tight, head hurt, glands swollen. It gave me a small amount of consolation – I don’t completely suck at running long distances, I was getting sick! That’s the ticket!

Heather bought me this book from Amazon and gave it to me on Monday. It brightened an otherwise horrible day of trying to sit at my desk and make it through work because we already planned time off at the end of the week.

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This book is hilarious. I have already read the cartoon about thoughts one has while running a marathon but had not read the book. I loved a lot of stuff about the book but I like this quote the best:

“Reason 7 to run long distances: Become a drug addict. And so, motivated by fear, I choose to be a different kind of drug addict. And make no mistake: running is an addiction, both chemically and spiritually. There are euphoric highs, terrible lows, and the constant desire to ‘squeeze in a quick run’ in order to feel whole. But unlike other drug addictions, running is socially acceptable. It’s like being able to smoke crack every day, but instead of getting strung out you get bananas and compliments” – The Oatmeal

I’ve said before that I realize this is just a blog about running and, training for a marathon, is just a lot of running but, what I hoped to convey is that, for me, it really is a drug. I’m beating my blerch – the fat kid still inside of me who has all the doubts and fears, who wants to quiet the world while she runs down the miles. And I really love bananas.

Dimity cut me back this week and I was very grateful. I ran the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon (and Food Truck Rodeo – can’t forget the food trucks) on Sunday as a training run. Laurie ran it with me but we were supposed to run with Sara and Heather, too. Heather is still in a boot with a foot injury and Sara is recovering from a glute strain.

It was an epic run. I am now the owner of a brand new, shiny half marathon PR. I shaved 6 minutes off my prior PR and 9 minutes off my less-than-stellar performance in Montreal, where I had secretly hoped to PR. I will hold onto this PR during the times when running is hard, again. I am grateful that all this training has yielded me something more than 5 plus hours on my feet, slogging through the streets of Philadelphia!

IMG_4604 In the chute, on my way to my PR

The weather was amazing. Heather and Carly volunteered to be course monitors. I found Laurie right before the start so we ran together the entire race. She is the world’s best pacer and an amazing motivational running partner. She earns her living writing and speaking on HR matters but I think she should look into charging people to run long distances by their sides! Fortunately, I get to run with her for free but I’d gladly pay to have her by my side. We kept up a lively conversation for some of the way but some of the way we kept up a comfortable silence. There is a special kind of bonding that happens when you run alongside someone for so many long, hard miles. Although you complete distance running out in the open for the world to see from afar, what happens up close is personal and intimate. I’ve had the pleasure of spending many of those miles with Laurie, Sissy, Sarah, Heather and Jen. We’ll always be bound together as the Fleet Feet Fall Half and Full Marathon Group (or Team Indiana Jones).

Towards the end of the run, right before Laurie pulled ahead of me in the last mile and a half, she teared up a little and said she knew, at that moment, that she was really ready for her marathon on Nov. 2. You could see how much it meant to her to know she had done everything right. Having witnessed it all this Fall, I know she did. She pushed herself, she cross-trained, she ate well. She is ready and I am honored that I will be at the finish line in Raleigh to see her success. I’m not sure I will feel the same way two weeks before the Philadelphia Marathon. I am sure there is more that I could have done. I am still in the “ignorance is bliss phase” since this is my first rodeo but Laurie knows from experience what this takes and she gave it her all.

IMG_2171 She looks gorgeous after the run!

Running is my companion and so are the wonderful people I have met along the way. You know who you can really count on when you’ve got to find someone to run 20 miles with you. Laurie is tapering so Jen and I have agreed to tackle the elusive 20 miler on Saturday. I have no idea what to expect (yes, I do – pain) but I do know I will have someone by my side, helping me make it home. Fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory (our team motto).

 

Week 14: The River

“You know a dream is like a river, Ever changin’ as it flows, And a dreamer’s just a vessel That must follow where it goes, Trying to learn from what’s behind you, And never knowing what’s in store Makes each day a constant battle Just to stay between the shores I’ll never reach my destination If I never try So I will sail my vessel ‘Til the river runs dry” – The River, Garth Brooks

you are strong enough!

So, yesterday was rough. I set out with one of my favorite running partners, Laurie, to attempt 20 miles. It was just the two of us left from our marathon training group to tackle this milestone on the American Tobacco Trail. Lena and Sara are too injured to continue. I made it 19.3. Laurie made it 22.5 because she is total badass. I was looking forward to this run all week. I really felt like I could do this after 17 successful miles last week. What a difference a week makes.

I wondered if I would be in trouble on Saturday when I struggled during Thursday morning’s 6 mile hill run with my regular crew. Kelly and Nancy pulled way ahead of me. Sissy, being the wonderful friend that she is, waited for me at the top of each hill but I was gasping for breath. I don’t know what the problem was but I just was not feeling it. I went to bed early on Friday night but did not eat much. I just was not hungry. I woke up on Saturday morning not feeling fabulous. I went out to get in my car at 6:45 and it was already 78 degrees with humidity in the low 80s. Ugh.

Laurie and I headed out with the half marathon training group for the first 11 miles and I knew I was just not feeling it. At mile 12, my asthma acted up and I did not have my inhaler because I never have trouble on the run. By mile 14.5, I was worried I might see my Uncrustables and Sharkies, again. My intervals were more like 2/2 and less like 6/1 when the nausea set in. I told Laurie to run ahead and she knew I meant every word of it so she did.

Somewhere along the side of the ATT at mile 15ish of my run when it was a sticky 82 degrees, I saw every thing I had eaten on the run come back up, again. Some nice older man walking his dog asked me if I was OK. I considered calling Sissy, who I knew was done with her half training run and was waiting at Starbucks, to come pick me up in her car at the nearest cross street. If I had known what that cross street was, I am pretty sure I would have finished my day in the front seat of her car!

“Just put one foot in front of the other and get back to Fleet Feet” I told myself. So, I walked the last 4.5 miles. I walked it as fast as I could. I averaged 14 minute miles for the last 4.5 miles. I had an internal argument with myself about whether or not I could really stay on my feet for 26.2 miles. I made it back to the store (I actually ran the last .25 miles hoping to end my misery a little faster) and Nora, our training program director, was so kind. She brought me water and tired to make me eat. So, what went wrong? I don’t really know. I think it was the heat. I think it was the humidity. I don’t think I ate enough on Friday. I think it was those damn sport chews that my system absolutely hates, no matter what brand.

What I do know is that I did not quit and I kept moving forward for 19.3 miles. I did not cry (remember, there is no crying in running). Dimity was so kind when I texted her that it was ugly. She said my 13:04 per mile average pace was at the top range of my long run pace (I’ve been averaging much faster than that). She said I developed mental toughness for Philly. She said she was proud of me. We’ll re-group and I will attempt 20 miles, again. You really never know what is in store. I can learn from this run which is, thankfully, behind me. I’ll keep trying to stay between the shores and I’ll keep sailing this vessel. I knew this was going to be hard.

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Week 13: Superheroes

“When you’ve been fighting for it all your life
You’ve been working every day and night
That’s how a superhero learns to fly
Every day, every hour
Turn the pain into power” – Superheroes by The Script

IMG_2108I met my local Saucony rep, Erin, at the 10K race! Finding our strong!

I chose this song for this week’s post title first, because I added it to my running mix and it fires me up and second, because I was reminded this week about the real meaning of perseverance. I raced twice this week: once at the end of my 17 mile training run for the last 6.2 miles in the Carrboro 10K and once at the Rambln’ Rose super sprint triathlon, where I was the runner on a relay team. While I enjoy “racecations”, I love racing at home.

Saturday’s long run was just one of those runs that works out. I won’t say 17 miles was easy but it was not as hard as I once thought it would be. I ran solo (except the last 6.2 miles with 500 of my fellow Carroborians but I did not have any friend running this race with me) and I enjoyed it. I was able to stick to my run/walk ratio, something I have been horrible about doing when running with my group. I don’t want to make anyone do intervals with me and I think it has cost me at the end of long runs. Dimity keeps (very nicely) chiding me for not consistently doing the intervals we agreed we would do. I learned my lesson on Saturday. From here on out, I will stick to the plan. Hold me accountable, friends. I can run non-stop for a long time but I can also run longer and better with planned walk breaks. I am a new runner. I need to be patient with myself. I also set a 10K PR at the end of a 17 mile run so the intervals are certainly not slowing me down.

During the 10K, I ran for a bit behind a local running legend. She is in her 80s and has competed in many full Ironman races. She has an Ironman tattoo on her calf. She did not start running until she was in her 40s. She is my inspiration. She comes to all the local races and, in years past, she has beat me. I want to still be doing this when I am 80. She is a total badass (but very nice) and I love that she shows up to races in full make-up and a USA triathlon suit – y’all know I love a good outfit! Reminders that I need to suck it up and move these 43 year old legs on down the road without bitching.

IMG_2109Me, Heather and Jessica (Team Splash, Flash and Dash) before the race – do we look cold? We were!

Even more inspiring this week were two of the athletes I saw at the Ramblin’ Rose. The Ramblin’ Rose is a beginner triathlon series for women only. Their message is truly that ANYONE can be a triathlete and I have seen it with my own eyes. Being on a relay team means you get to stand in transition and see everyone coming in and out. You also get to moonlight as a cheerleader for all the women who are getting it done. There are women who I know must weigh over 300 pounds, in stretchy fabric, out there on the course moving in a forward motion. Some folks have to walk their swim in the pool. Some folks have to get off their bikes and push it up the hill. Some have to walk the run but they all finish. Yesterday, I saw two disabled athletes finish the race. One woman was the swimmer on a relay team even though she had to walk with two canes and her teammates bought her in to cross the finish line with them. I saw another woman with a quad cane, moving so slow, on a recumbant bike and walking her run. She had a friend helping her every step of the way. I was completely inspired. So, maybe I am slow. So, maybe my core is covered in a layer of baby fat. I can walk without assistance. I can run. I can shut up about my aches and pains. Everyone has a struggle and some are real.

IMG_2122 All done with a 6th place finish.

I was also inspired by Carly, yesterday. Carly struggles to stay motivated with trianing. She is not one to aspire to long term goals. She had not trained for this race even though she was signed up for months. Early in the week, she decided she was not even going to do it. Then, on Friday, she decided to race it. The child got up early, put on her triathlon suit, waited a really long time in the cold for her turn in the pool, rode her bike wet and cold and walked her run but she did it. She was brave. I might not have taught the perseverance lesson I had hoped to teach but she did learn a lesson about being brave and doing what you say you are going to do. I am really proud of her!

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So, this is how a superhero learns to fly. Doing things when conventional wisdom says you are too old. Doing a triathlon even though you can’t walk without assistance. Taking a chance on a race when you know you are going to come in dead last in your age group. Putting one foot in front of the other every day, not just in running, but in life.

Week 12: Learning to Fly

“Unladened, empty and turned to stone
A soul in tension — that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try” – Learning to Fly, Pink Floyd

You are welcome!!! ;-)

This past Sunday I ran the Rock N Roll Montreal Half Marathon (Demi-Marathon, if you are a cool French Canadian). I was asked to write a race report for the Another Mother Runner blog so you can read the full, official report over there. I did not have a PR. I did not stick to the race plan Dimity and I discussed. I finished on a hot, cobblestony, slightly hillier than expected course and that counts for something. No matter how much I run, I don’t ever feel like I always get it “right”. That is why I consider endurance running “learning to fly”. I’ll never be fast but I am determined to try.

I really admire the fast runners. I know the dedication, the adherence to a training plan, the diet it must take to be in top shape to perform at such a speed. Many people who are fast runners can finish a half marathon in under 2 hours. They can finish a marathon in under 4 hours or even under 3 hours. I am not one of those people and sometimes, I wish I was one of them. It takes me about 2:30 hours to finish a half marathon and it will probably take me between 5 and 5.5 hours to finish the full marathon, if everything goes according to plan; Longer, if it does not. Running often does not go according to plan. Sometimes, you feel like you can fly and you set a PR. Other times, you aren’t sure you are even going to make it to the end before the sag wagon gets to you.

In Montreal, in Corral 24 (out of 28 corrals) I looked around at my fellow runners and considered the guts it takes to sign up for a race, show up and head out on the course, knowing that you will be out there for the long haul, on your feet, making forward progress of some kind. The aid stations will be littered with crushed cups and the ice in the water will be melted by the time you get there and you will pass thousands of discarded packs of GU. There were full marathoners in my corral. Those people were in it for the real long haul. They were going to help close down the course. We are the mid-to-back of the packers. The turtles not even trying to race the hares.

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I am often surrounded by similar runners in my corrals. I suspect they think the same thing about me. They are my people, my tribe, my inspiration and my new best friends. They are often fellow mother runners, a little pudgy, like me. We often end up running near each other during the race and I see their kids on the sidelines, exited, yelling, “Go, Mommy” and giving high fives as she passes. The husbands snapping pictures with their phones. The dads with knee braces and baggy shorts, also running past their kids. I am not saying there are no parents in the fast corrals because I know there are but I always notice the parents in my corral. There are a lot.

As we run along together for so many hours, we chat with each other. We have time to talk, to take it all in and to encourage one another. I am sure the fast runners do the same thing but there is a certain camaraderie in the back of the race, a shared determination to finish the race no matter what because, for us, it might not be a sure thing. We’re brave because we know just how long this race is going to take us and we do it anyway, eyes wide open. Rarely is this our first rodeo.

I have no misconceptions about how hard the marathon will be. Half marathons have a tendency to remind you that 26.2 miles is a long damn way. Five plus hours on your feet, constantly moving forward, is not a cake walk. I will struggle. I will feel pain. I may want to quit but I won’t. I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and one day, I will finally learn how to fly.

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