Month 3 of Marathon Training: It’s Getting Serious

Last week I ran a total of 36 miles.

I’ve been dreading March since I started training. The mid week runs are 5-8-5 miles. That means that now my mid week tempo run of 8 miles is longer that my first “long run”. The long runs themselves are stretching to obnoxious lengths of 17-20 miles through the month.

Of course the highest mileage week of our training also fell on a challenging week for me personally and a hectic week at work. I knew this would happen at some point in my training.  It did and I made it through. A significant part of training is overcoming the mental hurdles of the tough weeks. You come out exhausted, but stronger on the other side. The next time you look ahead to a week that seems insurmountable, you can look back at previous victories and know that you can make it.

Our naive enthusiasm has been replaced with a confident determination. With each additional long run we check off the list, that little voice inside us that says “You CAN do this” grows a little bit louder.

Lessons Learned by Running 17 Miles:

1. The Crocket Park Greenways are Gorgeous

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I’ve taken my kids to Crockett Park in Brentwood to ride bikes, but I never realized that the trail system was so extensive. Though a little hilly, the trail was beautiful as it passed alongside a small river, by gorgeous neighborhoods and through a wooded area. I probably would not feel comfortable running alone there (Brentwood is known for its gang activity*), but it was an awesome group run.

2. Kids today are silly

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I’d heard that teenagers go “all out” thee days asking their sweethearts to prom, but we saw the adorable evidence of this on our run. As we came to a fork in the trail, a boy had asked a girl to prom with sidewalk chalk, with one direction marked yes and the other marker no. I just hope she chose the path marked yes, just as Abby did as we reinacted the scene.

3. People do strange things to their dogs

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We passed a random couple with a dog that was carrying a sign that said “wide load”. That was our inspiration to keep running, so no one would need a sign like that for us.

4. You can’t “scare” away a side stitch

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Shannon, Abby and Me

At about mile 10 Abby got a side stitch. After she failed to get relief with the usual tricks I decided with all my advanced medical learnin’ that perhaps I could “scare away” her side stitch. I know that hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm muscle and we don’t really know what causes side stitches but they are near the diaphragm, so perhaps they could be physiologically related (this was my medical reasoning after running for 2 hours). I randomly just stopped and screamed at Abby and scared the crap out of her. She then she nearly punched me, which could have easily lead to my second assault charge. Luckily there was no violence, only a failed experiment  and some minor comic relief.

5. 17 miles is EXHAUSTING

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Christina relaxing in the grass after our run

The first 2 hours weren’t bad but by hour three my legs were tired. I figure this is normal. Nothing “hurt” and by nothing I mean pretty much everything ached but I could still move so I assumed I was OK. By hydrating, stretching and making friends with my foam roller on my long run days, I haven’t been too sore afterwards.

*Not really. It has the lowest crime rate in the state, but it was a very secluded trail at points.

The Marathon is about 6 weeks away. I think if we can survive March, then we should be home free for our April taper. However, that 20 miler is still looming ominously around the corner.

Hot Chocolate 15k Nashville

Shannon. me and Abby "winning" the Hot Chocolate 15 K

Shannon. me and Abby “winning” the Hot Chocolate 15k

Our training schedule called for a race in February, so when we heard about the Hot Chocolate 15k it seemed like a great idea. the race boasts an adorable hoodie for swag and hot chocolate with fondue at the finish. Chocolate, running and hoodies? Sign us up.

I could hardly contain my excitement for Friday’s prerace expo. With all the chocolate hype, I was expecting the exhibit hall to look something like an 80′s Dairy Queen commercial. On arrival it was only a small room with a couple vendors. The promised chocolate was a single puny square. {Insert sad trombone.} The tables were well organized and picking up the packets was easy but my marathon training appetite was hoping for something more like this:

The morning of the race, the temperature was a bone chilling 5 degrees. Granted, we are accustomed now to running in this weather, but we are not accustomed for waiting around for an hour in the cold before we start running.

Waiting for the race. (Most of the 5,000 participants are huddled in the merchandising tents attempting to avoid frostbite)

Waiting for the race. Most of the 5,000 participants are huddled in the merchandising tents attempting to avoid frostbite.

When we finally started the race, my hands and feet were completely numb. It was the craziest sensation. It felt like I was running with 2 concrete blocks attached to the bottom of my legs.

The course started at the bicentennial mall in downtown and took Broadway down to the Parthenon. The course was hilly, but again cold and hilly is pretty much our specialty.

After about 3 miles, I finally warmed up enough to feel my extremities. All things being equal, it does help to be able to feel your feet while you are running. You may want to tweet that fine bit of running wisdom.

Overall the race was fun, enough people where running to get your adrenaline going, but it wasn’t crowded enough to effect your pace. The event was well organized, and I was floored by the number of volunteers who showed up in the cold to cheer us on and staff the ice water stops. There were 2 “chocolate stations” on the route where they were handing out the chocolate squares, however the idea of eating chocolate at mile 6 of a race was not very appetizing.

The last mile of the race was downhill and we finished strong. I set a PR of 1:21 and we all three placed in the top 20 in our ages groups. At the finish, my “land of Dairy Queen” dreams finally came true. After hydrating with water, we headed to the chocolate tent. Despite the crowds, the lines went quickly and the hot chocolate and fondue was every bit as delicious as promised. The hot chocolate was super rich. The chocolate fondue came with a banana, pretzels, rice crispy and cookies for dipping. It was truly a perfect ending to the race.

Gorging ourselves on delectable chocolate after the race

Gorging ourselves on delectable chocolate after the race

Overall, the Hot Chocolate 15k was a great race. The race course was well organized and the hoodie was stylin’. Despite the absence of chocolate rivers at the expo, I would definitely run this race again next year.

The Day I was Nearly Arrested on Assault Charges

Earlier this week I found myself stuck at a “doctor-y” event. As I made small talk with a colleague, I mentioned that I was training for a marathon. Despite that fact that I am currently blogging about running and training consumes most of my thoughts, I promise I don’t talk about it incessantly to random people, but in this instance it did come up in conversation.

After I mentioned my training, her face contorted into what can only be described as a scoff. She then replied, quite condescendingly, “Must be nice to have THAT kind of time.”

My face turned beet red and my blood began to boil. Then without thinking I pulled my hand back and smacked her right across the face, leaving a bright red hand print on her left cheek. She was was stunned at first, but then her instincts took over and she kneed me in the gut. Before I knew it, we were in an all out fist fight in the middle of a cocktail party. My husband broke up the fight, but not before someone called the cops. I am currently writing this from jail. 

Ok. So, nothing in italics ACTUALLY happened (except in mind. repeatedly. for about a week). In reality I smiled and walk away, like a good girl, who didn’t want to have to explain a criminal record.

Obviously in a state of pure boredom, I decided since there was nothing else going on in my life, I would run a marathon. I’m busy and so are my running mates. The expenditure of our time is not something  we take lightly. We all have a lot on our plates, but like all things that are important to us, we are finding the time for this marathon.

How do I find the time for this?

5. Follow a Plan

We are following Hal Hidgon’s Novice 2 training program. The best way to avoid injury and reach my goal is to stick to the plan as close as possible. Each week I check off my boxes as I pound out each mile.

4. Run When I Can

The only time that works for me is mornings. Some mornings have been painfully early and cold, but nevertheless I’m out there.

3. Accountability

When my alarm goes off at 5:30 and I check the temperature and it’s 13 degrees, knowing that my friends are out in the Arctic air waiting for me is what gets me out of my cozy bed. There are 6 of us training in the neighborhood. Though we can’t do every run together, we are each other’s cheerleaders.

2. Giving Myself some Grace

I have missed a few workouts. If I’ve been at the hospital all night delivering babies and I have to choose between running and sleep, then I choose sleep. I don’t make up my runs in the evening, because that’s my family time. Yes, my Type A personality would like to follow the plan to perfectly, but life happens and that’s OK.

1. Have an Awesome Husband

Obviously, somebody has to get the kiddos ready in the morning while I’m out torturing myself, and that somebody is my super husband. You need your spouse to be supportive (or a least tolerant) of your crazy hobby when you start logging this many hours.

Long Run: 15 Miles in the Snow

Our "snowy" run

Our “snowy” run

Despite all the crazy cold weather we have had, there has been no snow in Middle Tennessee. This week on our long run we got a light dusting of snow through our entire 15 miles. It was a gorgeous treat. It melted off within a few hours, so most people who slept in that day missed the “snow” completely. The temperature was 30 degrees (warmer than what it has been), so it didn’t feel that frozen.

Shannon running with me in the country

Shannon running with me in the country

Sickness hit our little running group hard this week, so only Shannon and I made it out for the long run on Saturday. Andrea and Christina had to bust out their 15 miles on a treadmill, which I think is insane and should earn them extra awesome points for the week.

At least I managed not to slip and fall

At least I managed not to slip and fall

We felt strong through most of the run, except miles 12-14 were tough. I got a boost of energy for the final mile back into downtown and finished strong.

Next week we are doing the Hot Chocolate 15k in Nashville for our long run. Looking forward to the race (and chocolate). What better way to spend Valentines weekend?

14 Miles on Sore Legs

As a OB/GYN, my life is rather unpredictable. I can’t really tell my patients, “Hey hold that baby in for another hour, while I log 4 more miles.” This week was one of those crazier weeks at the office, causing me to miss one of my runs and reschedule a crossfit workout to Thursday.

In addition to work’s stress, this weekend’s impending 14 miles long run was haunting my thoughts all week. It would be the farthest I ever ran.

My Thursday WOD (workout of the day) was insane. It included 100 wallballs, 75 burpees, and a new exercise that KILLED my quads called ‘little man in a tree’. I hate that little man. Luckily, I had Friday as a recovery/rest day.

When I took my first step down the stairs on Friday, my quads nearly buckled out from under with me. The pain felt like a  thousand tiny daggers were stabbing me in the leg. I was not injured, merely sore. So stupidly sore that I had to walk down stairs side ways.

I realized, in the famous words of GOB Bluth, “I’d made a huge mistake.”

Friday I hydrated, carb loaded and stretched to get ready for the big run, reassuring myself I would feel better by the next morning.

My Favorite Card Loading: Breakfast for Dinner {My kids loved it too}

My New Favorite Carb Loading: Breakfast for Dinner {My kids loved it too}

Long Run: Bongo to Bongo with the Nashville Striders

I was hobbling Saturday morning, but the long run was still almost perfect. After weeks of running circles around or neighborhood in the freezing dark, we got to run 14 miles in 45 degrees through the heart of Nashville.

Nashville striders organizes training runs for the Marathon, complete with water stops and signs. It was great to simply show up and run and not have to worry about the course or getting lost.

Shannon, Me and Abby (Christina was still in the car)

Shannon, Me and Abby (Christina was still in the car)

The course was 7 miles out and back from Bongo Java in East Nashville to Bongo Java in West Nashville. My legs were really sore and tired from the beginning. I was hoping they would loosen up in a few miles. While the sharp pain with each stride went away at about three miles, they felt sore the entire time.

My favorite stretch was running past LP field right after sunrise. It was light enough to dodge the road kill, but left over shimmers of pink and orange were still peaking over the horizon.(this picture does not do the view justice).

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Shannon leading the pack past the new Nashville convention center

Shannon leading our pack past the new Nashville convention center

The energy of running with the crowd (and also lots of goo) really helped me get over my tired legs and the mental challenge of running further than I’ve ever gone.

Even though it was an official race we still had a huge crowd com,e out to cheer us on. {sure, the said the were trying out for the Voice, but we know the truth}

We had a huge crowd come out to cheer us on! {sure, they SAID that they were trying out for The Voice, but we know the truth}

The course took us through the heart of downtown, so there was always something to look at, distracting us from from the fact we were running so far.

Abby and Christina

Christina and Abby

Running downtown The girl in purple is NOT me.  Though she kinda looks like me circa 1994.

Running downtown. The girl in purple is NOT me. {Though she kinda looks like me circa 1994.}

The final 2 miles were the toughest. Last weekend when we did 12, and I remembered how tired my legs were. I wondered how I could do another 2 on top of that, especially since my legs felt like crap. My friend Shannon is the training for her fourth marathon (the rest of us are newbies) and had the best advice. She encouraged me the the last mile always feels like your legs are dead, no matter if you’re running 10, 15 or 20. So much of it is mental, just push on through. The last few miles were also ridiculously hilly, but her words kept me going all the way back to the coffee shop.

We got back to Bongo Java and cooled down. I’m so thankful for them letting us use their facility, they even provided free coffee (that I accidentally poured in my water bottle as I was still in my post run delirium).

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It is socially acceptable to stretch on the floor of a coffee shop, right?

We made it ALL 14 miles. The farthest we’ve ever been. It really helps that we are doing this together. Honestly, 15 next week doesn’t seem quite so scary now.

My kids insisted since we had "breakfast for dinner" we should have "spaghetti for breakfast"

My kids insisted since we had “breakfast for dinner” we should have “spaghetti for breakfast”

5 Reasons Why Running in this “Polar Vortex” is Awesome

When I chose to do a Spring marathon, I knew I would be training in the cold. Luckily I didn’t know it would be this stinking cold, or I may have rethought the whole plan. During our first week of training, the temperatures began their plummet. Most runs have been in numbingly cold temperatures (usually less than 20 degrees).

No those aren't highlights. My friend Abby's hair recently froze on long run.

No those aren’t highlights. My friend Abby’s hair recently froze on a long run.

Running in this polar vortex is the intersection between dedication and sanity. Some days, I’m not sure which side of that intersection we’re on. But it’s not all crazy frozen hair; there are a few good things about running in the cold:

5. Your Joints Feel Awesome

Your knee is sore? It will take it about 3 hours to thaw out from your run. No need to tote around an annoying ice pack.

4. Toss the Razor

Not that we’re super good at shaving in the winter, but this year we can definitely justify an extra layer of fur: we need that insulation.

3. Gatorade Slushies

No need to worry about your drinks getting warm on your run, actually the opposite has happened: our drinks freeze sometimes. When our chocolate ‘goo’ freezes we just pretend it’s a fudgesicle.

2. Butt Fleece Pants

I get to wear my fleece lined Lulu pants, and they are super cozy even in this obnoxious weather. They have an extra panel of fleece on the backside to keep your glutes extra warm.

1. 30 Feels Like a Heat Wave

When we actually do run in temperatures above 20, it feels so amazing.

This Week’s Long Run:

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We are following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, and this week we ran 12 miles. We started in downtown Franklin and did an out and back on Del Rio. Wooden fenced hay fields, country bridges and gorgeous homesteads made this a beautiful quintessential Williamson county run. It was 20 degrees, which was tolerable after we were warmed up. That last mile, my legs felt heavy, like I had a toddler clinging each of them. But when we rounded the corner and saw downtown, I felt like a horse headed back to the barn. After our run, we drove 2 blocks to Frothy Monkey for lattes to warm up. Walking a step further than our Garmins told us we had to seemed ridiculous.

Next week our long run is 14 miles. This will be the longest I’ve ever ran. I’m a little nervous. I feel like our training is about to “get real.”

2014: The Year I’ll Run A Marathon

I am currently registered to run the Country Music Marathon on April 26, 2014.

Gulp.

Despite being a runner for the last 17 years, I have never ran a full marathon. In my early 20′s, I did races all the time, but never more than a 15 K (The Tulsa Run, which is still my favorite race). Over the years the responsibilities of life kept my running to 3-4 miles a couple of times a week, barely enough to stay fit.

Something quite terrible happened when I hit my mid 30′s. Running alone wasn’t enough to stay fit. Despite staying active, my pants were no longer fitting. Rather than buy a new wardrobe, I started eating healthier.

Over the last 2 years, I began to eat “paleo-ish” and do crossfit in addition to running. These changes have made a huge difference in my energy and fitness level. At 38 years old I set a PR this fall for my half marathon (1:48).  For the first time since high school, I feel like an athlete.

Running a marathon is not a decision I have made lightly. I’ve counted the costs. Literally, I made a spread sheet to determine how many hours it would entail to properly train. I choose my “slowest” time at work (first quarter) and  picked a time when we have no other major commitments.

Since I made the decision, I’ve been almost giddy with excitement. Devouring books on running and nutrition. I can’t quite find the proper words to express just WHY this means so much to me, but I get teary every time I picture myself crossing the finish line.

Running is something I truly enjoy, but it can be time consuming. I’m done with most of my runs before my kids wake up, but I still struggle with working-mom guilt over spending my time exercising. But taking care of my self is not a luxury. I’ve realized that running is my sanity, and it’s OKAY to be sane.

This marks my 5 weeks of training, so far I haven’t missed a run. Anyone else out there training for the full Music City Marathon?