Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What 17 Marathons Have Taught Me

In the last (almost) four years, I have run 17 marathons.  I ran my first marathon on December 5, 2010 in Las Vegas, back when the race was still held in the morning.  Over those four years and all those miles I have learned a lot. Here are some of the things I have learned about myself, people, and life in general.

- Runners are awesome people. Seriously. I have met many incredibly people at races (including my BFF). I have seen the very best of the human spirit in those last few miles of a marathon. Runners cheer each other on. They root for each other and wish the best for each other. They help and encourage each other. The support and camaraderie that you see at the start line, on the course, and at the finish line of a marathon is in my opinion, unique in sports and one of the things that makes it so great. 

- No matter how many times you run a marathon, 26.2 miles is still really dang far.

- To be successful at the marathon you have to put in the work and you have to show up prepared. There are a lot of things you can fake in life. Being ready to run a marathon is not one of them.

- Do not forget the Body Glide.

- When you feel like things are at their worst and you can't continue, if you have faith and keep pushing forward one step at a time, things will get better. This is true in all aspects of life, and in running.

- Smiling and laughing always makes you feel better. I always read the spectators' signs and love the funny ones the best. This one is still my all time favorite I think. (I have no idea who this guy is but he was at the Houston Marathon).


- There are no guarantees in life or on race day. Sometimes you put in all the work, you fuel just right, you wear the perfect shoes, you get a good night's sleep, and you show up as ready as possible to that start line, and you still don't have a good race or hit your goals. It happens to elites and it happens to the rest of us. Sometimes in life you do everything right and you still are faced with unforeseen challenges and struggles. You can let it knock you down for good or let it motivate you to come back and try again.

- The best reason to do anything is because you love it and it brings you joy (even if it is really dang hard).

- Carbs are your friend. :) You have to fuel properly to make it through a marathon, and if you are going to have the energy to train for a marathon you need plenty of healthy carbs in your diet (and some of the unhealthy ones once and awhile too).

- Mother Nature is not a nice lady. I have raced in 90 degrees in Boston in April, in 40 degrees and pouring rain and hail in Utah in September, and everything in between. I have done track workouts in ridiculous wind and long runs in sub zero temps.  Mother Nature doesn't care what you have planned and you can't control her, so be prepared for it all.

- Spectators are heroes. Often the people at a race there to cheer you on have gotten up as early as you have, they have been outdoors in the same weather, they have waited in crowds for long periods of time just to see you run by for a few short seconds, they are on their feet and working their way around to see you at multiple spots and then get to the finish, they are hungry, they are worried about you, and they don't even get a medal at the end. Hug a spectator!!

- Volunteers are heroes too. They too are up as early as you or earlier on race day, they are out there in the same weather and they are on their feet for hours on end. They answer the same questions over and over, or fill up endless cups of water, or pick up endless empty water cups, or point thousands of runners in the right direction for hours, just so you, and all the other runners, have the support you need for your race. That's awesome. Hug a volunteer. :)

- Doing big, hard, crazy, awesome, scary things makes you feel alive. Find your "crazy"... your passion... and go after it. That is what makes you who you are. 

- Runners (and their supporters) are generous. In just the Boston Marathon alone in 2014, over $38 MILLION was raised. Many runners find that running for others gives additional purpose to their races and most runners I know have run at least some of their races for a chosen charity.

- Crazy is a compliment. I can't even begin to guess how many times I have been told I am "crazy" for getting up at 4:15am to run. Or when I tell someone I ran 90 miles in a week. Or when I tell someone I am running another marathon. Or when I share my goals with someone. And I hear people say it all the time about other runners. "That guy is crazy...." Well, I think that "crazy" just means "different than what most people do". And in a time when such a huge percentage of our country is obese and so many would rather sleep in or watch TV than get up and exercise, I take crazy as a compliment.

- Misery loves company. Just kidding! But sort of. :) Nothing makes a long run, tough workout, or hard race a little easier like having someone to run with. That is like life too, isn't it? It is always easier to get through something hard with someone by your side.

- You can do more than you think you can. I remember the first time that a friend suggested I run a marathon and my initial reaction was, "there is no way I could do that!". I honestly never imagined I could run a marathon, never mind be sort of good at it. Then I remember wondering if I could possibly get under four hours, and then wondering if I could possibly qualify for Boston. Now I have gotten under 3:15, and the next big step/goal is under 3:00. On the days that doubt creeps in I remind myself that the biggest thing running has taught me is that I am stronger and tougher than I think, and that I can do more than I think I can. That belief and strength has trickled into every aspect of my life.

These are just some of the things I have learned through the training and racing of 17 marathons. I have many more races ahead of me and much more to learn, but I am grateful for all that running has taught me so far.

What would you add to the list?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Argh

I ran this morning!! Yay!!!!

And now my Achilles is all irritated again. Boooo!!!!

Ugh.

It felt pretty good while I was running, and I was so so happy. There was no pain or soreness, but I could just feel a little "something". It didn't get worse throughout the run, it didn't change my gait at all, it wasn't anything painful, etc. (MUCH much better than when I tried to run on Sunday) so I was feeling really optimistic. I got home, did the eccentric heal drops/raises and then iced it. Within the hour I could tell that it was "creaky" again. When I got up this morning there was no creakiness at all. It isn't swollen or painful like it was over the weekend, but running on it today definitely got it irritated again and it clearly needs some more rest.

The very LAST thing I want is to be injured again. What is frustrating is that I am not really sure what caused it. I went into this race feeling 100%. I had not had any aches, pains or niggles throughout the training. My energy levels were good throughout this cycle and I felt great. I had never had so much as a twinge from my Achilles. I wore the same New Balance 890's as I have been wearing all year (a new pair that was broken in just right). I just don't know what caused this. Wet roads? Being so wet and cold? Cambered roads? None of these are new conditions for me or things that should have bothered me much. I just don't know...

Over the past few days as I have realized that this Achilles really is injured, I have felt really grateful that I was able to finish the marathon. 

I am telling myself that this rest period will be good for me in the big picture and that with the PT exercises, rest, icing, etc. this will resolve fairly soon. I won't be running on it again until it feels 100%.

I do have some fun spectating to help keep my mind off of things. Tomorrow Shane, Ben, and Ryan will run in our Cross Country Regionals championship race. The boys are so much fun to watch, and as a freshman, Shane is a favorite to place in the top few runners (and then will go to the State Championships next week). Go Braves! :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pics from Hartford

Today is my fourth day of no running. I know that isn't a big deal to most people, especially right after a marathon, but I hate not running. That said, my left Achilles is much, much, improved since the race on Saturday. Yesterday I could tell that the swelling was gone and the pain was too. I had normal range of motion with just a bit of stiffness. The crepitus (creakiness in the tendon) was still there, but when I got up this morning that was a lot better too. I would say that creakiness is about 80% gone, and as of today the pain, swelling, and stiffness are all gone. Coach said to rest again today and I am going to try a short, very easy run tomorrow and see how it feels. I know that Achilles problems can be tough to get rid of so I plan on being super careful with this so I can be at 100% again as soon as possible.

I have never had Achilles problems and I have no idea what happened to cause this during the race. Cambered road? Wet roads? Cold temps? All of these are things I am pretty used to. I just don't know.

Anyway, there was a lot of good during my long weekend in Hartford and here are some pics.

The day before race day, at the finish line area. It was a beautiful day!
At the expo with Kathrine Switzer. She is amazing!
Pam, Kathrine and I
I could have talked with her all day
Coach Ray, me and my Daddy, shortly before the race start
Early on in the race. Mile 6ish I think
Late in the race. Mile 26 ish
My friend Nancy took this (after volunteering and waiting out in the rain for hours!!!) right after I finished.
Apparently this was the only face I could make at this point.
How adorable are my parents??
Yea, that is a gluten free chocolate cheese cake. (It definitely had dairy. I cheated for a day or two).
After four days of no running (and eating way too much)  I am itching to get back into my routines again of running and eating like an athlete most of the time. At this point it will just be easy running (especially until the Achilles is 100%) and then I will follow Ray's guidance to ease back into heavier training. I am as determined and excited as ever to keep training and racing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hartford Marathon post

Marathons are hard. The training is hard, and the racing is hard. But it's a hard that I love.

Yesterday I ran the Hartford Marathon in 3:25:01, which, since I was shooting for 3:05-3:09, was 15+ minutes off of my goal.

There was good, not so good, and bad.

The good -

- my stomach was great. (One quick pit stop - lost about 90 seconds).  Knock on wood, I think I finally have this figured out.

- Mentally I stayed positive and strong, even when the going got tough and even when I knew I wasn't going to hit my goal. I never quit physically or mentally. Despite the challenges, I enjoyed the day, the race, and being a marathoner.

- I had a wonderful weekend with my parents (they are the very, very best), got to spend time with friends, and got to spend time with my incredible coach, Ray. I had a lot of support out on the course, which meant the world to me.

- Matt Pelletier, who Ray also coaches, WON the whole marathon with a 2:17:00. Amazing. Totally amazing.

- I really like the Hartford Marathon. They put on a fantastic event in my opinion and the field size (about 2,500 marathoners) is my favorite. I would definitely do this one again.

- I met a lot of great people, including the charming and inspiring Kathrine Switzer.  I love her!


The not so good -

- It poured rain. The ENTIRE RACE. And it was very cold. Now, I would choose being cold over being hot in a race on any day and I don't mind being cold usually (and am quite used to it), but I was soaked to the bone and didn't wear enough clothes (I actually got colder as the race went on) and even had my teeth clattering while I was running at times. I felt so bad for the spectators and volunteers! They were so dedicated.

- I hurt my Achilles. I have never had an issue with my Achilles and there was not so much as a twinge in it before yesterday. I felt great for the first 10-11 miles and was right on target pace (7:05-7:10). And then I started to feel tight all over and it started to feel harder than it should to run at that goal pace (especially that early on). I kept telling myself that it was a rough patch and would pass. I got through the half very close to my goal and knowing a PR was still very much in reach with even splits and my goal of sub 3:10 was in reach with a negative split.  I made one quick pit stop at mile 12 and my stomach felt awesome so I was excited about that. I was in a good place mentally even though I was struggling a little physically.

Then somewhere around mile 15ish my Achilles started to hurt. At first I thought maybe it was just tight and would loosen up, but it just kept hurting more. When I eased off the pace a little it hurt less, and any time I tried to push the pace it hurt more. At mile 17, I started to wonder if I would be able to finish, but as much as the thought of stopping and getting dry and warm was SUPER appealing, I wanted to FINISH. I stopped for a minute around mile 18 to try and stretch my calf/Achilles, and a medic (they were out on bikes) stopped and told me that I had no color in my face (and I was shivering) and they were worried I was hypothermic. I told him that I was cold, and I am sure that everyone was, but that I was ok to keep going.

The next two miles were rough, but somewhere around mile 20 the Achilles felt a little better and I felt a little better overall. I actually felt better from miles 20-26.2 than I did from 15-20.

I finished in 3:25:01, and fourth in my age group of 35-39. I am not proud of the time on the clock, but I am proud of the effort put into it.

- My only complaint about the course is that there were about 12 million turns. I am really good at running the tangents usually and am pretty good at consistently getting 26.3 ish on my Garmin for a marathon, but in this race I was at 26.51. Lots of turns.

The bad -

- I was hopeful that since the Achilles felt better the last few miles of the race, that it would not be a big deal, but it is definitely injured.  I had the green light from coach to do an easy recovery three miles this morning, and within half a mile I turned around and walked back to the hotel.  The Achilles HURT. If you know me, you know that if I don't finish a run, I am hurting pretty good. Back at the hotel I found it to be swollen and "creaky" which is know is bad news. So I will be taking at least a few days off in hopes that this will heal and resolve quickly. I don't regret finishing. I know I need some recovery time anyway from the race and training. I just hope this heals fast.

I am not going to lie and say that I am not disappointed at all... I am.... but in the big picture I am ok. I "felt the love" again this weekend and I do believe in my heart of hearts that a break through is just around the corner. I wanted it to be this weekend, but I am willing to be patient and keep working towards it. Ray believes in me and is making some tweaks to the training and we will move full steam ahead once the Achilles is well for what is next... maybe Tallahasee in February.

THANK YOU to everyone who cheered me on in person and virtually. It was great fun to get all the messages and meant so much.

A post with lots of fun pictures coming soon. Now it is time for 12 hours of travel home... bleck. But I can't wait to be back with my family. :)  More soon.

****Edited to add - I got this lovely comment via email and I just thought I would respond here -
"I don't want to post this on your comments for everyone to see ... but I for one am getting tired of reading your excuses. Every time you don't hit your goal - it is always something.  It’s too hot, too humid, wrong shoes, your stomach, your toes/blisters, your period, your cramps, too many down hills, too many up hills, somebody following you too close…… blah blah blah.

Why can’t you just admit you simply didn’t RUN FAST ENOUGH?

I think people would have more respect for you that way."

Well thanks for taking the time to kick me while I am down. 
Yes, it is true... at the end of the day, I simply did not run fast enough. And I guess I could just post that.... My marathon recap = I didn't run fast enough. Again. End of story.
I completely own that I did not run fast enough or hit my goal and yes, I have had my fair share of bad races. As I said, everyone was cold and wet yesterday, everyone was in the same conditions, and many people had a great day. I am not making excuses, I am sharing my experience. Sharing my journey means sharing the ups and downs, highs and lows, good and bad. Some races I have placed overall (or won) and set big PR's, some I have gotten sick and failed miserably.

And I am not doing this for anyone's respect. I am doing it because I love it, and because I am trying to reach my goals and dreams. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. Maybe I am just a mediocre runner and racer. But I am giving it my all and do believe that my best is yet to come. If I "fail" then I fail, but I sure won't ever regret trying. But I absolutely would regret not trying to see how good I can be and pursuing the goals I have in the sport that I love.

There are millions of blogs out there. If you are "tired of my excuses", don't read this one.
 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

4 days to go!

I have never chosen the easy path in life and I wouldn't have it any other way, but sometimes life gets a little extra hard.  Everything is ok, it's just that sometimes the stress and pressure of trying to handle everything I have to handle, taking care of everything, trying to keep everything running smoothly, trying to keep everyone happy, and keeping a smile on my face is really dang hard.

The last couple of days I have been able to relax some and shift focus now that it is race week. Running has been going really well. I look back over my training log and there isn't anything I can say I should have done or anything that I can say should have gone better. Training went super well up until Pocatello, and has gone even better since Pocatello. I have done runs and workouts I look at and amazed I did them! And I did them consistently. I have more than put in the work and I am more than ready to race. I am ready to reap the rewards of the training I have done and to run a race I can be proud of. And I am ready to have fun doing it.

The truth is I have had some really awful races the past few years. I have not enjoyed them. I have not done well. I have finished feeling like I let down family, friends, and MYSELF, because I have not done what I have worked hard to do and what I know I am capable of.  I have been frustrated. I have been discouraged. I have been disappointed. I have doubted myself. I am ready to change that. I haven't given up because I truly love this sport and I know that I have the ability to reach my goals.

Right after Pocatello I was not looking forward to Hartford. Part of me was even dreading it. But I worked through that. I read the posts I wrote after I ran some great races. I reminded myself of why I do this and why I love it. I have been telling myself that this weekend will be exciting. It is going to be awesome. This is my opportunity to cash in and get that PR that I have worked for. It's going to be a great experience. I know it will be hard, but I can do hard things and I am grateful I have this opportunity, and this ability. I love being a runner and a marathoner!

I leave tomorrow night for Hartford and get in Thursday morning, with plenty of time to rest up before the race on Saturday morning. My parents are coming, Ray is coming and some friends will be there too. I will have support there and from home, as always. I will also get to meet the rest of the Inspiration Team, and it should be a wonderful weekend centered on running. I am ready to rock and roll. :)

Here are three great quotes from three marathon greats.

"Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging and present obstacles, however if you believe in your dreams and never ever give up, things will turn out for the best." - Meb!

"Marathons are extraordinarily difficult, but if you've got the training under your belt, and if you can run smart, the races take care of themselves. When you have the enthusiasm and the passion, you end up figuring how to excel." - Deena Kastor

"I want to run every race with a big heart." - Ryan Hall

Remember that October 11 is the International Day of the Girl, and it is the also the day that I will be racing the Hartford Marathon. Since I am a board member for the Girls Gotta Run Foundation and our work fits in so perfectly with the mission of the International Day of the Girl, we are using my marathon as a way to raise money for Girls Gotta Run Foundation.

This is Hiwot. She is 13 years old and my family sponsors her through GGRF. She has five sisters and one brother, and with the help of the athletic scholarship she gets from GGRF Hiwot is able to stay in school and participate in running instead of dropping out of school to work or being married as a young teen. She is just one of many girls having their lives changed by GGRF.


If you are willing to donate to my marathon fundraiser, you can do so quickly, easily and securely through Crowdrise at our fundraising page here. I think donations of $26.20 would be awesome, but any amount would be appreciated! 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Twice as fast

Whew! It's taper time!! There are now less than two weeks until the Hartford Marathon (it is on Saturday, October 11). This Saturday I ran an easy paced 20 miler, which gave me 90 miles for the week. So my mileage for the past three weeks was 86, 86, and 90. I am thrilled with how my body has handled it. Yes, I am tired, but you are supposed to be tired at this point in marathon training and it isn't an overwhelming tiredness and my runs and workouts have still been great. I have remained blissfully free from injury and am feeling as fit as ever.

On Friday I had 12 miles, with a five mile "time trial" in the middle. Being honest, time trials scare me. They have all the stress and pressure of a race, without any of the fun and benefits of a race. There are no other fast runners, no spectators, no excitement, no finish line, no medal ...and yet you need to give a race day (or close to it) effort. You know it's going to hurt.

I did this time trial starting at 4:55am, alone on a dark and windy track, after a late night of some challenging teen parenting. It was less than ideal conditions for sure, but I practiced my focus, positive self-talk, etc. and was ready to just do it. (I did this on the track because I really don't like trying to run fast on the roads in the dark).

I did a four mile easy warm-up, then a few strides and dynamic warm-ups. Then I took a minute to focus and got started. Ray wanted me to shoot for a 6:24 average for the five miles, running progressively. I ended up running the five miles in 31:18, with splits of 6:24, 6:22, 6:17, 6:11 and 6:04 (a 6:15 average). The second mile was the hardest for me, and miles four and five felt really really good (in a 'hurts so good" kind of way). After the time trial I did three miles easy to cool down and was back home before 6:45am.

I was really relieved to have this workout done, and was really excited about how it went.

Later that day I was thinking about it and wrapping my head around the fact that I had run that pace for five miles.

Just over five years ago, when I was running my very first miles ever, I ran a three mile loop most days. I vividly remember getting back to my mailbox one day and looking down at my watch and realizing that for the first time, I had finished the three miles in under 39 minutes... which was under a 13 minute per mile pace. I remember being so excited and so proud that I had run a pace that started with a 12 for three miles. I was making progress. I was getting better. It felt awesome.

And then it clicked in my head that on Friday, I had run five miles at a pace that is TWICE AS FAST as the pace I was thrilled to run my three mile loop at five years ago. TWICE AS FAST. From 12:xx pace to 6:15.

If you had told me five years ago that I would ever be able to run that fast for any distance, I never, ever, ever would have believed it.

This realization has given me a really big boost. It has shown me how much progress I have truly made and how far I have come, and it has made me excited to think about where I could be in a few more years.

Believe.

Believe in yourself. Believe in progress. Believe in dreams. Believe in possibilities. Believe in the power of hard work and dedication. Believe that you can.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Girl Power!

Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights”
-United Nations Resolution 66/170
October 11 is the International Day of the Girl, and it is the also the day that I will be racing the Hartford Marathon. Since I am a board member for the Girls Gotta Run Foundation and our work fits in so perfectly with the mission of the International Day of the Girl, we are using my marathon as a way to raise money for Girls Gotta Run Foundation.

What is the International Day of the Girl? From their website,

"Just two years ago, the UN declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world. It’s a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere.

October 11 is not just a day; it’s a movement.

A worldwide revolution.

We want ourselves, and girls everywhere, to be seen as equals, in the eyes of others and in our own eyes.
"

I have written about my involvement with Girls Gotta Run Foundation often. As a runner and as a mom of four Ethiopian children, it is very near and dear to my heart. 

Girls Gotta Run Foundation helps support and empowers young female runners in Ethiopia. Girls Gotta Run is helping young women in Ethiopia pursue their running dreams, and at the same time helping them to find pride, self-respect, confidence, a sense of well-being and personal power. While most of the girls do not become professional athletes, some of them do, and training allows the girls to stay in school, avoid early marriage, and to enhance their personal economic opportunities. The girls also become role models in their communities to other women and younger girls.


What do we do? How do we help? Where does the money go? Through the development of strong partnerships with local and international organizations and with the support of an enormous number of individuals, Girls Gotta Run Foundation has cultivated several successful projects that empower Ethiopian women runners and their communities. In each of the projects that Girls Gotta Run Foundation has co-created and supported, female athletes have been reaching their educational, athletic and individual goals. Additionally, many of the projects have become financially self-sustaining through their involvement with Ethiopian institutions. You can find a link to the projects we have in Ethiopia here

The Center for Creative Leadership made a short film with GGRF about the impact that our Athletic Scholarship Program and Life Skills Curriculum are having in Sodo, Ethiopia and you can see that video here.

If you are willing to donate to my marathon fundraiser, you can do so quickly, easily and securely through Crowdrise at our fundraising page here. I think donations of $26.20 would be awesome, but any amount would be appreciated!