Tag Archives: Running

Marathon Training: Chicago Here We Come

I am on week 13 of my preparations for the Chicago Marathon and I’ve reached the point in my training where I have begun to doubt my sanity. I’m averaging about 50 miles a week, by rising so early that the glowing digital numbers of the clock often make me cringe when I set my alarm. I dream about GU and rest days. My foam roller is my best friend. Actually, there is no doubt, I’m likely insane.

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I ran my first marathon in Nashville a couple years ago and made all the rookie mistakes.  When my running buds decided to put their names in the hat for the Chicago marathon lottery, I couldn’t resist the chance to run the windy city and hopefully redeem myself on a flatter course. When all four of us got bibs we were ECSTATIC.  However we quickly calmed down and realized we had to to actually start training for this monster.

The commitment that it takes to put in miles to properly train for the most honored of distance races, is not something I take lightly. Last time we went with the good ol’ Hal Higdon training program. At the time I felt like the training was going well, but due to combination of heat, hills and going out too fast I crumpled at mile 20. I wanted to try something different this time, so I decided to go with The Hanson Method. This plan skips the super long runs and instead embraces the philosophy of “cumulative fatigue” (I often insert some more colorful adjectives to this term under my breath when I’m on my 54th mile of the week, but since my grandma might read this, I’ll leave those to your imagination). By spreading the mileage out over the week and focusing on speed work and tempo runs the Hansons hope to train your legs to improve their lactic acid threshold (that’s fancy talk for teaching you how run with stupidly tired legs). There is only one rest day and they down play the need for crosstraining and weight lifting (so no crossfit for me lately).

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How do I like this training? After a particularly painful speed workout, we recently googled Mr Hanson’s home address to determine the feasibly of toilet papering his house but alas, luckily we were too stinking tired to follow through on our plans with all the cumulative fatigue. Joking aside, the training seems to be going well. My legs are tired, but nothing hurts and I’m rarely sore. I’m actually really enjoying the the challenge of the speed work. Even though the mileage is higher, the plan seems to work better with my schedule since my entire Saturday is not wasted on running. I guess we’ll find out in October how well it really works.

Despite a full schedule I have only missed 1 run so far this summer. Usually when I’m on vacation, I don’t always run everyday if I’m walking a lot, but this summer I stuck with the plan no matter where we ventured. On a recent trip to NYC I ran 10 miles one morning only to walk an additional 11 miles around the city throughout the day. I slept quite well that night.

Birthday run in NYC. We ran through the "Highline trail" and then along the Hudson River trail.

Birthday run in NYC. We ran through the “Highline” and then along the Hudson River trail.

Run though Central Park.

Run though Central Park.

Felt very safe running in Central Park. However, it was far hillier than I expected.

I felt very safe running in Central Park. However, it was far hillier than I expected.

Running through Pigeon Forge on another weekend trip I ran past this quaint old mill at sunrise.

Running through Pigeon Forge on another weekend trip, I ran past this quaint old mill at sunrise.

I have 2 new pieces of running gear that I AM CRAZY about. First is my Garmin 235 and second are my perfect running shorts. If I know you IRL you can skip this next paragraph because I am sure I have already told you how much these items have improved my running life whether you wanted to hear about them or not.

My old Garmin went to GPS heaven (which is ironically difficult to find) right as I started marathon training. I got the Garmin Forerunner 235 as a replacement and I love it so much that I want to marry it and have little Garmin babies. It is a combination running watch/ smart watch. I can and do wear it all the time. It tracks your heart rate on your wrist and sends your texts from your phone. You can program it with training runs and it will prompt you with a vibration if you get off pace. I have found this especially helpful for a tempo run.

Recently I discovered that it can also predict your “race finish time” which I found a little presumptuous, until a friend who has run a million marathons told me his watch accurately predicted his PRs. When I checked my predicted marathon time my jaw hit the floor. MY WATCH THINKS I CAN BQ (that’s qualify for Boston, for you non- runners… not that any non runners would read a entire paragraph dedicated to praising a fancy running watch). I have very mixed emotions about this. While I’m pleased my watch thinks so highly of me, I do feel now feel a little pressure to up my goal time. I was originally planning to try for sub 4 hours, but now I know that my watch thinks I can run 3:36! I feel like an Olympic gymnast who’s coach tries to push over her limits; not caring that I have sprained ankle, but demanding I do the vault anyway.

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Being blessed with “athletic quads,” I have a hard time finding running shorts that I can tolerate, let alone really like. Most traditional running shorts chafe and a lot of biking style shorts are too short for me. My new Lulu Lemon Speed track shorts are the perfect length, comfortable, don’t chafe and have pockets on each side that are the perfect size for my smaller water bottle. I have now bought them in every color.

New shorts accompanied by what has to be the best running shirt ever.

New shorts accompanied by what has to be the best running shirt ever.

While my first marathon training took place during a crazy cold winter, this time I’m training in heat and humidity. Even in the wee hours of 5 am when we are often out pounding the pavement, the air already feels like jello. Well, hot jello. I guess it feels more like pudding, but you get the point. I’m not sure which is worse, running through pudding or tundra; but I’m definitely learning the art of electrolyte replacement and hydration.

The car gets really stinky when you've just ran 16 miles in 90% humidity.

The car gets really stinky when you’ve just ran 16 miles in 90% humidity.

We have 7 weeks to go and I’m feeling ready. My planned pace is 8:50 which would give me a finish of 3:50. Faster than my original goal, but not as crazy fast as my “smart” watch wants me to run. This pace has felt comfortable in my tempo runs. Plan A is to run negative splits so I may start out a little slower, so I can finish strong.  Plan B is to finish and have fun.  Regardless, I looking forward to running down Lake shore Drive in October.

 

 

 

 

The 5 Most Surprising Things About My Marathon Recovery

Like the studious gal that I am, I had read about post-marathon recovery in order to avoid the pitfalls that had befallen many a runner before me. However, much like the race itself, reading is not the same as experiencing it. Here are a few of my most unexpected findings.

1. Post Marathon Depression is Real

I had read about post marathon depression, but much like R.O.U.S.’s, I doubted its existence. “Depression” is too strong a word, perhaps the “post marathon blues’ would be a better description, but whatever you call it, I was surprised to find that I did not feel like myself for the next weeks after the race. Perhaps it was the carb withdrawal (no more carrying around a bag of bagels) or maybe the lack of long run endorphins, but I felt more moody and irritable than normal. It may simply have been the normal let down after such a highly anticipated event. Luckily, I felt back to normal in a couple weeks.

2. Recovery Wasn’t That Bad

Headed to church the morning after the race

While the race itself was entirely harder than imagined, the physical recovery was not so bad. Many had warned me “that I wouldn’t be able to walk for a week” after the race. While I was sore, I was back to regular activity the next day. I followed the a post marathon taper I found in Runner’s World and it worked well.

3. I Was Ready to do it Again

I’d heard many people say that their marathon experience really burned them out on running in general and especially marathoning. Even though my experience wasn’t perfect (and maybe because it wasn’t) I definitely want to give my legs another chance to try 26.2. Not this year, the timing won’t work, but perhaps next fall, I’ll try the monster again.

4. Losing a Toenail Ain’t no Thang

I made it through the race with no major chafing or blisters, but about a month after the race, one of my toenails decided to pop off. It never turned black, it simple wiggled out like a lose tooth. No pain or drama was involved.

I'm a "real" runner now!

I’m a “real” runner now!

5. I Enjoyed Exercise Again

While the race didn’t ruin me for running, It was nice to run/walk/swim/crossfit without checking boxes or worrying about pace. While I’m still too type A to be all ‘wild and crazy’ and run without my Garmin, I’m not absorbed with mileage this summer. I’ve even slept in here and there and eaten pancakes with kids.

 

While the race itself was a stinker, other than feeling a little moody and losing a small, expendable piece of my toe, my recovery was rather harmless. Of all the many things I stressed over about the race, the recovery should not have been one of them.

Happy 4th of July

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With low humidity and record low temperatures, my run on July 4th was perfect. Since the marathon I have been mainly running between 6-8 for my long run. This weekend I felt antsy  to go farther, so I dug out my fuel belt, dusted off my Goo and belted out 10 miles. It felt great. I ran an ‘out and back’ from Sullivan Farms to down town Franklin. This is one of my favorite courses. It takes me through several beautiful neighborhoods and past the Carnton plantation (a civil war cemetery).

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The first hour I merely took my time and absorbed the scenery: bubbling brooks, the sunrise and multiple flags along tree lined streets. As an extrovert, I love running with people, but sometimes you just need to be alone with the pavement. As I ran, my mind wandered as much as my feet. I alternated between silent prayers for the many people in my life who are hurting right now and being thankful of all the many blessing that I have as an American. For most of my run the sound track was merely the cadence of my feet hitting the road. A peaceful start to a loud weekend. I’ll admit that I did resort to my ipod for the last 3 miles as I let the tunes of Katy Perry and U2 motivate me back home.

I got the feeling that my legs had been going through lactic acid withdrawal. Like a pair of big dogs who had been kept in their kennel too long, my legs were ecstatic to run so far. Yes, it’s definitely time to start training again.

Fall running plans:

Labor Day : Franklin Classic 10 K

The Franklin Classic is a fabulous race through my home town. It raises money for an excellent cause: Mercy Children’s Clinic. I have done this hilly race before and I love the finish up main street. My goal is to finish under 50 minutes. My crazy goal would be to finish under 48 minutes.

Oct. 11: The Middle Half

I ran this flat half marathon in Murfreesboro, TN last year and set a PR. I am running again this year with 12 other gals from my neighborhood. It will be a blast. I’m a little scared to try to beat last years time(1:48), but anything under 1:50 would be great.

Oct. 24-25: Ragnar Tennessee

12 women. 2 Vans. 200 miles. Sound like fun? I can hardly wait. Me, my marathon peeps and 6 other crazy ladies are running from Chattanooga to Nashville Oct. 24-25. {Assuming we can agree on a team name}. Our only goal here is to finish (and not kill each other). I’m sure I will be writing a lot more about this one.

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th as well. Anyone else doing a Ragnar this fall or training for a crazy race? 

Why are You Running?

Recently someone asked me, “Why do you like to run so much?”

My reply was a stoner-esque prolonged,”Uhhhhhhhh.”

It was similar to asking me why I eat or sleep. Running is merely a part of my life. Why would anyone not run?

I became a runner 17 years ago, when I got married. At the time we lived in Tulsa, OK near the River Parks, which contain miles of beautiful running/biking trails. One day I randomly decided I should start running, so I bought stupidly expensive running shoes. My enthusiasm wore off quickly and I felt like quitting after 3 weeks like most people, but I kept going anyway. My secret: guilt. I was a poor college student newly wed who blew her budget on running shoes. Initially I kept running, to get my money’s worth out of those Nikes.

Somewhere along the way, I learned to love running. It was not love at first sight, but rather a gradual transition from dread, to tolerability, to love. The first time, I ever remember ‘enjoying’ a run was when I ran 3 miles without having to stop to walk. I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I slowly began to feel like a REAL runner, like an athlete.

Next came races. I began collecting a stack 5K t-shirts. Let me clarify, that I’ve never been a fast runner. The only medals on my wall are ‘finishing’ medals, but from the pre-race butterflies to the exhilaration of crossing the finish line, I learned to love the process. In the fall on 1997, I signed up for my first Tulsa Run 15k. It was by far the biggest and longest race I had ever ran with 2000 participants running 9 miles. I would have never imagined being able to run 9.1 miles, so crossing that finish line was truly amazing.

Over the years, my running intensity has waxed and waned with the stages of my life. As an OB/GYN intern working 100 hours a week, I barely slept, let alone ran. However, as chief resident I picked up where I left off and enjoyed the trails of Northern Ohio. Upon moving to middle Tennessee, the hills have gotten their revenge on me a few times. I had 2 stress fractures 5 years ago and learned the importance of cross training.  Now I run smarter, increase my miles gradually and strength train with cross fit style workouts twice a week.

My first year running I dropped 20 pounds with minimal dietary changes. Throughout my 20’s I basically ate what I wanted and ran 5 miles a day and all seemed to balance out. Sadly, this no longer worked in my mid-30’s. I now have to watch my diet, in addition to exercise to maintain my weight.

Running has become my Prozac. When I’ve had a bad week, I take it out on the pavement. While I don’t enjoy every second of every run, I always feel better after I run. Many times I get lost in thought or conversation and forget I’m running. I rarely listen to music, mostly I let my thoughts wander. No matter how tired I am when that alarm goes off at 5:30, I always feel a burst of energy as I go through my morning routine, on days I run.

Running is also my escape. On my runs, I am not a doctor, mom or wife. I’m just another Garmin wearing, chia seed eating, sweaty mess of a runner.

Running is my example. I practice what I preach. I don’t just tell my patients to take care of themselves, eat right and exercise, I do it. As my kids wake up and shuffle down the stairs in their jammies, they see me coming in from my morning run, sweaty and smiling, as I set a healthy example for my wee ones.

This fall I’m hoping to make it back to Oklahoma to compete in the Tulsa Run for the first time in 10 years, also I’m tossing around the idea of a full marathon next spring. Much like running, writing has been become a big part of who I am, so I plan to use this site to track my progress.

Why do I run?

For the post run high, the energy, the stress relief, the camaraderie, the cute gear and the exhilaration of crossing the finish line.

I run, because I can.