Monday, September 28, 2009

Whoa, we're (a lot more than) halfway there!

One more week to go before taper, hell yes! Has it really been 3 months since I signed up for this ridiculous thing? Did I really set a huge weekly mileage PR and am on my way to a huge monthly mileage PR? Do I really only have to do ONE MORE god-forsaken long run before the real thing? The answer, thankfully [I think?] is YES.

Really, training for this marathon at this point in my life was one of the smartest things I could have done. As I'm randomly throwing myself around this new city hoping that a job will come my way while I bide my time before this whole 'grad school' business starts in May, running, and more specifically, having this insane 26.2 distance to shoot for, has given me a focus and kept me sane. While I really have no clue what's going on in the rest of my life, I know how many miles I'll be running on Sunday. Running has given me a reason to step out my door and explore the city as opposed to wallowing in self pity at the fact that no one has picked up my glorious resume and decided I was ideal for whatever position they were hiring for. It's like that Nike quote: there are schools you can't get into, neighborhoods you can't live in, clubs you can't be a part of...but the roads are always open. And as I basically picked up the life I've known for the past 4 years and turned it upside down, running has been the one thing that has been the center. The people and places I'm running with may have changed, but no matter where you are, 10 miles is 10 miles.

And so now here I am, standing on the edge of the end of this training cycle that more than anything else has been an exercise in me seeing what I could do. I didn't really follow a specific plan, other than "run more miles than usual during the week, and build your long run up to 20 or so". I had weeks that didn't go great, long runs that went horribly, days when I wondered what in the name of God was I doing trying to train for this stupid race. And yet, somehow, in one more week, the work will be done. I think I wrote a few weeks ago that I didn't feel like I got the whole mind blowing, "holy crap, I'm doing a MARATHON!" mindset, like in the moment I didn't feel like I was doing anything special. But as I approach the end of this journey, feeling in basically all ways the strongest I've felt in my life, I DO feel it. I can't even imagine how much I'm going to feel it when I cross the finish line of that marathon. Not only in my legs, but in my mind, and in my heart...I just feel strong, and badass, and proud of everything that I've done over the past few months.

[Apologies for the random ramblings/tangents...I tend to go off on them sometimes. It's why I have a blog, right? :)]

So one more week of hard more week to get the miles in, harden up my legs and my mind for the task I'm putting onto them in 18 days. After this past week of training, I'm confident that one more week is really all I need to give myself that confidence that, come race day, I am going to kick some ass.
Monday: 22 miles [makeup for Sunday] [8:15 pace]
Tuesday: 10.2 miles total [warmup, cooldown, 4 x 1000 @ ~7:00 pace, strides]
Wednesday: 5.8 easy [7:48 pace]
Thursday: off [planned]
Friday: 10.8 progression [7:56 pace overall]
Saturday: off [unplanned...had a couple beers while watching the Badger game downtown and then came home and fell asleep...oops! I was sore anyway...we'll chalk it up to that ;)]
Sunday: 18.25 long [8:01 pace...I am SO happy about this run!]
Total miles: 66.8...mileage PR!! :)

So even though I slacked on Saturday, I wound up with a mileage PR which was pretty great. I guess having to do 2 long runs in a week will do that though...oops. Naughty naughty...oh well. I was really pleased with my 18 miler on Sunday. It was actually not supposed to be that long...I planned on a 2:20 run to step back a bit from Monday's epic apparently I decided to run faster and make up for the lost time. WTF?! It was raining and like 60 which was pretty much perfect and I only stopped twice for bathroom breaks [random porta potties mysteriously placed along the Charles River definitely saved my life] and once for a gel. I was just amazed at how speedy my legs felt and I honestly wasn't surprised when I got back and saw that I ended up with around an 8 minute pace. Imagine if I could do THAT for the marathon...geez. But I'm definitely going to be more conservative than that since I don't feel like blowing up at 20 miles...but we'll save my pacing musings for another day.

One final thought: I got honked at SO many times while I was running it because it was raining? At one stoplight this guy seriously continuously kept honking at me and looking at me like I was insane. I was on the sidewalk, so it's not like I was in his strange! And he was definitely not the only car scared the crap out of me as I turned a corner onto a bridge (once again, on the sidewalk) and he just laid on his horn! I like to think of it as a compliment to my amazing blazing speed that people just honk because they're in awe. ;) But really, if you think my running's sexy, do you really think honking at me is going to make me stop, jump in your car, and drive away with you? If you're looking to impress me, get out of your car and run baby run! Haha, actually, I sort of doubt the majority of people doing the honking could keep up with me for more than a block. :) I'm totally used to it by now especially since during the summer I spend the majority of my time running in just a sports bra, but it still perplexes me and makes me laugh a little bit. Then again, I guess the majority of the population thinks that doing anything, let alone running, in a downpour is c-r-a-z-y, so they've got to express themselves somehow!

AND, I finally ordered my new shoes! RIP served me amazingly well, especially for $0.00 per mile. I think I'm going to take them out for one last victory lap tomorrow and then I should the the new Mizunos by Wednesday. Yippee! I always feel a little bittersweet about getting new shoes because of all the time and miles I've spent with those old worn out ones on my feet...but I guess when there is literally a hole in the bottom [I seriously should post a picture of that, haha] you know its time for a change!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Workin' hard to get my fill

I woke up on Sunday feeling like crap...lightheaded, sick to my stomach, exhausted...UGH. I wasn't feverish or anything, but a 20 mile run just wasn't in the cards. So after essentially sleeping the entire day, I woke up on Monday feeling a million times better and ready to conquer my 20 miler...solo.

I wasn't very excited about going it alone - after how amazing my run went last week, it was just like...ahhh...3 hours running by myself...this is going to suck. I mapped out a route and was really excited about it - it was going to go through the arboretum and Franklin Park, two places I've wanted to check out but haven't been yet. I threw some Dane Cook on my ipod [hey, it's LIKE someone's talking to me!] but that lasted about 20 minutes before I realized that jokes about shitting on the coats just weren't the motivation I needed for 20 miles. So I cued up my long run mix, starting off with the version of "Don't Stop Believin'" from Glee [love, love, LOVE that show!] which immediately got me feeling better. And things were going great...until about 6 miles in when I realized...something didn't seem right. I was supposed to be near the arboretum, or so I thought, and I seemed to be running through downtown Jamaica Plain...damn. Lost...AGAIN. I swear, I am the worst at looking up a route on mapmyrun and somehow managing to screw it up. [When I got home, I figured out what I did wrong - this road called the Arborway turns into Centre Street...well I got confused when I saw a Centre Street and turned there instead...thus going back in the opposite direction...because I'm a genius].

Anyway, I eventually found my way back to the Jamaicaway, which is like a 4 mile loop around a few parks/ponds and I was know what? I'm just going to run around this loop a few times, because I already messed up my route and I don't feel like getting lost again, and I know I need to run for about 3 hours, so that's what I'll do. I had stopped at a 7-11 and bought a Gatorade, which I stashed in some bushes so I could grab some on each loop - AMAZING idea, it was really motivational to be like "only 10 more minutes, then you get Gatorade! Oooh...Gatorade.." After my first loop after finding my way back to this area, I was at about 1:25 so I took my gel...Expresso Love Gu...seriously...I LOVE GU. The expresso one tasted like I was eating a frappuchino. I seriously will never go back to the Powerbar Gel...which I literally had to throw in the back of my mouth and wash down with water to even get it down. Plus, the Gu packet is really conveniently shaped and small enough to fit in my shorts pocket, which is amazing, because gel + sports bra = chafage...ouch!

On and on and on...I kept on truckin'. I really wouldn't say the run ever felt easy/good...and I discovered why later when I looked at my average pace. One side of the loop was mostly uphill while the other side was mostly downhill, so I definitely found myself picking it up on that side. As far as places to run several loops around, this was really nice -mostly shaded, running by a big pond and through some woods, lots of interesting people/dog was pleasant....well, as pleasant as life can be when you've been running for that long. I saw some swans and some turtles and got hissed at by some geese [actually at one point I had to run through a large pack of geese which was a little frightening haha]. I had a woman who was standing in the middle of the path literally SPRINT off to the side when she saw me coming which kind of made me if I was just going to mow her down haha. Saw some speedy looking shirtless guys who, for a split second, looked like 3 WTC guys [seriously, that sort of thing always happens to me when I move to a new place!]. Watching the sights kept me entertained, my playlist kept me in good spirits...overall, things were feeling pretty good...and then came the 2:30 mark.

And suddenly, the thought that came to my mind was "I am in an abyss of pain". It was just like...waaaah all systems are shutting down! I think if I my legs and my mind could have had a conversation at that point, it would have gone something like this:
Legs: Mayday! Mayday! We canNOT do this anymore!
Mind: But...come on guys...seriously? You only have a half hour left. That is REALLY not far. That is like, a really short run. We're even done running that loop you've been running for the past 2 hours. You don't have to worry about stepping in goose poop anymore. Come on!
Legs: Yeah you do realize this has been going on for 2.5 hours, right? And that the rest of the way home is UPHILL? Are you insane?
Mind: No, seriously. I am not letting you stop. I really don't even care about how much pain you're in. You can sit down when we get home. I'll even put on Don't Stop Believin' on repeat for the rest of the way.
Legs: Ugggh, fine. Just don't blame us for how crappy you're going to feel tomorrow.

And so, with Don't Stop Believin' at full blast, I continued on. I stopped a couple of times just to stretch/regroup a little bit, but for the most part I kept going, even up the HUGE hill that leads up to my apartment. Arms pumping, legs churning, headphones screaming "DON'T STOP BELIEVIN'....HOLD ON TO THAT FEELIN'" [it's my theme song...of running, of marathon training, and of life :)]...I finally slammed my watch at 3:01:24. I was doooone!

So I figured that 3 hours would be ~20 miles, right? Uh, wrong. Try 22 miles. OK, well, THAT explains a lot. I just averaged 30 seconds per mile faster than my long run last week. This is what happens when I run by myself! I have no concept of how fast I'm going, ever. So, run stats? 22.0 miles on the dot, 30:24, 8:15 pace!! What what! It's funny because during this run, I was not feeling the confidence that things were going well at all. In retrospect however, that's pretty effing ridiculous, and I'm really pleased that I was able to knock it out, especially by myself.

For some reason I am still going to put myself through the torture of a track workout tonight. Really, I can't even explain why I would ever do this. I'm sure it's going to be terribly unpleasant and I once again won't even come close to finishing the whole workout [10 x 1000 at current 5K pace...that might be the funniest thing I've ever heard. I will be one of the "slow" runners sticking to 800s, thankyouverymuch] But whatever. After yesterday's run/this past week of running, I'm really feeling excited, as opposed to terrified, about this marathon for the first time. And with less than a month to go, I definitely think that's a good thing!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Somebody call 911, fire burnin' at the reservoir!

Sorry for the awkward/ridiculous title...sometimes I seriously can't think of what to name these things. But it's fitting because: a) I feel like I'm on fire [in a good way] with running this week, and b) because I actually saw a car burst into flames on my run today. Yeah, kinda weird. I found yet another awesome reservoir to run around [seriously, whoever planned all these glorious dirt reservoir loops in this city? Genius.], this one ~a mile around, so I decided to do 4 loops there and then run home for a total of about 9.5. A couple laps in, I saw some steam/smoke coming from the road, but I thought it was just a crappy car with a bad exhaust system or something. When I got to the other side of the reservoir, there was not only smoke, but also fire! Cop cars and fire trucks showed up soon after and it looked like they had things under control before I left...but geez! I can honestly say that's the first time I've seen something like that on a run...

So running-wise, things this week so far have been pretty great. Maybe it's because I don't have a job and so I just have time to run a lot? Not actually very funny since I REALLY need a job...but I digress. On Tuesday night I went to a track workout with the Greater Boston Track Club, which I'm probably going to officially join was INTENSE. Basically, everyone who runs with them is really, really good. The majority ran in college, and not like me where yes, I competed in DIII in college but wasn't actually on a team, no, these people all ran for schools, and for the most part good ones. I heard one girl talking about how she got 2nd last at D3 XC Nationals...and it was just like...yes were RACING at nationals! So yeah, they're pretty ridiculous. Luckily I had a group of about 4 girls to run with who were training for a marathon vs a 5K and around my pace, including my WTC running buddy, for the actual workout. But before the workout we did like a 4.5 mile warmup. Is it just me, or is that a little excessive? I was running with a couple girls who are also new to the club, and we were like...uh...are we ever going to turn around? We've been running for like 18 minutes...

So that was an interesting thing to do before a workout which was insane by itself...and I didn't even do the whole workout. The "plan" was 8 x 200 at 800 pace, then 6 x 1200 "steady" with 2 minutes recovery...with the estimated time for the 1200s being 4:30. Um, yeah. No. Since I did a similar workout to that ONCE in all of my life, and it was right before I peaked last XC season, and I did 6 x 1200 in the range of 4:35-4:45. So basically, that right there tells you how good these people are. Anyway, I decided not to worry about it since "speedwork" in my scheme of marathon training really isn't that fast, and went with going for a goal pace of similar to my Yasso 800s, so like 5:30. I really didn't feel that great going into it, but I managed 5 with only 1 that was really that was good I guess. Probably could have managed some better times had I eaten before the workout...oh well. It's just kind of a weird reality check for me that right now, I can't run with the XC runners and that ~7:20 pace is "interval" pace on the, what? I get on the track and I just want to go FAST! And it was weird being way, way, WAY in the back of the pack as opposed to right up with everyone like I was with WTC. I guess that's what you get when you come into a club that's really well known for having really good runners.

The thing that was awesome though, was just how NICE everyone was. This is something that I will love until the end of time about distance runners - literally, I've never met one who wasn't just super friendly. No one really gives a crap that you're slower than them - its not like anyone is looking down on you at all. Everyone was still asking me how my workout went, when the guys would come around and pass us doing their mile repeats or whatever, they would be like "lookin' good Greater Boston!" - the team aspect of this team is very apparent, and it's awesome. That's one of the main reasons that I think, even if I'm not quite up to the caliber of a lot of these girls, that I'm going to stick with them because who knows? Maybe in a few years I could be that good, if I've got such an incredible group of people to train with. More than anything, it was just nice having that team/people around on the track atmosphere - even when no one is running at the same pace or even doing the same workout, it's like, hey, we're all here for the same reason. And then you feel just that much better about the fact that you're doing intervals on the track at 8:30 at night in South Boston. :)

I guess related to the crazy mileage I've been putting down since arriving here, the Etonics are on their last leg. I have to say, I wasn't crazy about them at first, but they've gotten me through a summer of some of the highest mileage I've ever run with no injuries, and for $0.00, that's about all I can ask. That said, I have also almost worn a hole in the toe of the left shoe - I have astounded several of my friends with it. "How the hell do you toe-off THAT much?" I have no idea. All I know is that soon I'm going to be able to poke my finger through the bottom of my shoe, and that's when you know you need some new kicks. Mizuno Wave Inspires...I'm coming for you!! The only question is...which color? :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Longest. run. ever.

So today back in Madison was IM WI, which I was sad to not be volunteering at/watching this year. But here in Boston, I was experiencing my own personal challenge: an 18, possibly 20 mile run. I won't leave you in suspense...I did it!! Actually, 21.2 miles, to be exact...happiness! Joy! Fabulousness! And to be was absolutely awesome.

I was honestly really, really nervous about this run - maybe because my last 18 miler was so crappy, or because that was like 3 weeks ago...but I kept waking up hours before my alarm this morning like I was freaking out about racing or something. I finally just got up at 7:30 before my alarm and had a Special K bar with some peanut butter and a Hammer Gel...because that was literally the only running-acceptable food in my apartment [yeah, I miiight need to go grocery shopping] and met up with my running buddy at 8:30. And...we were off! We took off at a nice easy pace which I think made all the difference, and being with someone just took my mind off the distance I still had to go and made me just focus on getting there. We looped around by Boston College, went downtown, then crossed the bridge into Cambridge where we ran into some sort of charity walk...going in the opposite direction, obviously. After a little over an hour, we stopped for some Gatorade and Gu [Chocolate Gu tastes like Best gel I have come across so far, by far] and then...just kept going! Really there isn't much exciting to say about the majority of the run...running...talking...eventually the sun came out and burned off some humidity which was nice...and there really wasn't any point in the first couple hours where I ever really felt tired. Weirdly, I even kind of felt myself picking up the pace a bit around mile 13 or 14. After about 16 miles, we stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts where we asked the guy behind the counter for some water...he never actually said yes, just walked away and returned with 2 big cups of not just water, but ICE water...amazing!

So then...we just kept going! By the time we got back to my house, ~17 miles, I had put a pretty good distance on my running buddy, and so we just kind of went our separate ways at that point. At the time, I thought I had to run 4 more miles to make it 20, and it was just kind of like...huh...why not...feelin' pretty good....let's do this! Of course, the last half hour of the run was like...HARD. As in, I definitely started regretting my decision to pound out the extra 4 miles, especially when I realized that after I turned around, my last mile was going to be up a giant hill...rockin'. But I just kept going. And eventually, there I was at the top of the hill. I had been running for a little over 3 hours. And there it was - I did it! I ran over 20 miles.

I hurt. I bought a Slurpee and ate some leftover gumbo, which was possibly the most delicious thing I've ever eaten. I've been totally ravenous the rest of the day [though I guess that's not much of a change from ordinary me haha] But I still kind of couldn't believe it when I mapped the distance and it was not 20+ miles, but 21+ miles! All along I kind of thought that was what it might end up as, based on my estimate of the pace...but still. Only 5 more miles, and that's a MARATHON! And it's like suddenly, my entire outlook on everything has changed.

The reason I don't have a super long-winded summary of this run is because...well...honestly, it wasn't that thrilling! I really never was particularly tired, besides the last 15 minutes. Legs, lungs, everything felt good throughout, but I think the most important thing I found is that despite getting psyched out before starting the run, once I was out there I didn't even give a second thought to how long/far I was running...I just...went. And now it's, I CAN do this. And I can do it reasonably well. I averaged 8:45 pace, which in my eyes is damn good if my super-crazy-insane-unlikely-best case scenario race pace is only 20 sec/mile slower. While the run didn't seem that mind blowing while I was in it, the aftermath is that now I really feel confident, 5 weeks out from this marathon, that when I start to doubt myself and the question bubbles up in my mind of "Can really I do this?" the answer should undoubtably be yes, yes, and yes.

And, related to the longest run of my life...I HIT 60 MILES THIS WEEK!! Did I ever think this would happen, like, in my life? Not at all. Then again, I guess until pretty recently running a marathon wasn't under consideration so...yeah. But I guess Boston is having a positive effect on me, since I've run more in my first week here than in any other week of my life...rock on.
Monday: off [planned]
Tuesday: 10.9 easy [7:53 pace]
Wednesday: 7.85 easy [7:43 pace]
Thursday: 6.5 easy [7:31 pace]
Friday: 9.75 w/ 4.75 fartlek - 5 minutes 10K pace/5 minutes easy [forgot my watch, because I fail]
Saturday: 4.2 easy [7:40 pace]
Sunday: 21.2 long [8:45 pace]
Total miles: 60.4 [ding ding ding ding!!! we have a winner!!]
Days off: 1

I don't even know...I'm so pumped about this week. I'm also very, very, VERY pumped for my planned day off tomorrow. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Marathon on my radar

I'm running a marathon in 5 weeks, didn't you hear?

I put up that stupid little countdown box on the side of this today, and all of a sudden it was like...crap, am I ACTUALLY running a marathon in 1 month and 6 days? That isn't possible! I'm not ready! I won't be ready! I haven't really been training for a marathon...have I?

Oh, wait...

I guess when I started off on this marathon training business, I thought it would somehow be fundamentally different from all the other training I've done in my life. But really, it hasn't been. I mean, yes, I've been doing more mileage and longer runs and not racing as much and keeping the easy peasy short runs to a minimum...but essentially, I don't feel like I'm doing much different than I would have done in any summer of base training...a little higher mileage obviously, but the basic fact of just throwing myself out the door 6 days a week and getting my run in remains the same. So I guess maybe this is why I'm feeling kind of apprehensive with only 5 weeks to's like, I KNOW I've put in the training, but I don't feel like I have? Does that make any sense? I just don't feel like I've done anything earth-shattering and in a way I feel like I should have, as I'm trying to conquer this ridiculous distance. Or maybe I just feel this way since I haven't done a LONG long run in awhile thanks to moving...perhaps 18+ miles on Sunday will change my mind...:) Either way, the marathon is now officially on my radar [and I've also had the Britney Spears song of the same name in my head for some reason today, hence the title of this post].

Speaking of which, I MIGHT hit 60 miles this week!! If not, something very close like 58. And it's ridiculous, because that will be my highest mileage ever and my legs are feeling freaking awesome this I really don't know what's going on there. Training finally starting to pay off? Who knows. I also had a really great run today with an old WTC friend/coach at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, which I think is at the top of my list for favorite places to run here so far. It's a 1.5 mile loop around the reservoir on a dirt path [yay for not running on cement] and it's pretty and I loooove it! We did a fartlek sort of thing, doing 5 minutes at around 10K pace, 5 minutes easy, and for the first time in I don't even know how long, I felt fast! And strong! It was like...uh...excuse me? Where has this been the past few weeks? Maybe it's the cooler weather, or maybe it's running at 8 am [yes, I dragged myself out of bed...impressive I know] but I was feeling good! So that was nice, who doesn't need a little confidence boost once in awhile? It was also just fantastic to see a familiar face and have someone to run with...I'm doing my long run on Sunday with her and another woman and I can't WAIT to actually have people to run with [and talk to, and keep me from running at suicidal paces] on a long run!

And finally, on a non running related note, the BF and I discovered a bar here that has 112 beers on tap, and 380 bottles. No, you didn't read that wrong. Over 500 different types of beer. Plus amazing pizza, and lots of specials. I was pretty much speechless when I walked would think with Wisconsin being a state known for its beer that they would have created a place like that by now...but nope, here in Boston is where it exists. Sadly, the only 3 Wisco beers featured were Leine's Sunset Wheat, Leine's Berry Weiss, and Miller Lite - not a very good representation, I would say. :P But there are more than enough amazing looking options to keep this bar as my new #1 place to go for...uh..."recovery" drinks. :)

Well, I may or may not be doing another early run tomorrow morning, because I need to get my 5-7 miles in before noon...Badger game kickoff! Thanks to the glory of the UW Alumni Association, we have a bar to meet at and a place to watch the game!! GAMEDAY: still the best thing ever, even when you're 1000 miles away from Madison. :)

Monday, September 07, 2009

I'm here!

Things I already adore about Boston:
-Basically the city itself. It's BEAUTIFUL, so many old buildings, green space everywhere, cute neighborhoods, history, but still a big city feel...basically, everything I could ever want in a city. I love it!
-My apartment. I'm pretty sure that the BF and I have more space in this 1 bedroom than we did in any of our previous places. The living room is enormous, as is the kitchen, and I have an entire HUGE walk in closet all to myself, which has become essentially my haven for all of my running stuff, since I'm sure the BF wouldn't be thrilled with my race numbers and medals and other crap cluttering up the rest of what actually looks like a "grown-up" house.
-The fact that I can go on an easy 6-8 mile run and be downtown halfway through. Where have I ever lived where it's like "oh, I think I'll just go run downtown" like its no big deal? And there are runners EVERYWHERE. I can't wait to explore more running routes by the river/ocean.
-Oh, did I mention I live within running distance of the OCEAN?! Amazing.
-The subway/rail is so easy to get anywhere and everywhere.
-The fact that I can be running downtown and see tourists all over the place and realize that I am not a tourist, but I LIVE here!
-Etc, etc, etc.

So basically, Boston is awesome already. Minus the fact that looking at pictures from the first WTC XC meet gave me a little pang of nostalgia, I love everything about this place already. The 18+ hour drive straight here? Not so much. Staying up for 30+ hours straight, spending half of that time driving a 16 foot truck, and eating nothing but coffee and whatever fast food junk could be found at travel plazas off of the turnpikes of various states was not the most amazing experience of my life. You know you're doing something ridiculous when it's 4 in the morning and you're dancing in a bizzarre caffiene-induced haze [I kid you not, 24 oz coffee + 12 oz coffee + 20 oz coffee + 2 Mountain Dews + caramel frappuchino = I'm not liable for anything I do] to Miley Cyrus somewhere on the Ohio turnpike, laughing at road names such as "Fangboner Road". Yes, it's a real road - look it up - apparently it's in Tremont, OH. Definitely a highlight of the trip, along with the giant semi truck that simply said JESUS in huge red letters on the side. Yeah...I really hope that's the last cross country drive I take for quite awhile.

The plus side of leaving at 6 pm on Friday was that I was able to get my run in on Friday, so I only was forced to take 2 days off this week and somehow managed to squeeze in just over 42 miles. Not a great showing of mileage, but all things considered, I'm pretty proud of myself. I got in 2 pretty strong workouts early in the week, and I had pretty much written off Thursday-Sunday, so the fact that I got in 3 runs during that time I'm pretty impressed with. Alas, that damn long run has been suffering. I need, need, NEED to get in at least 18 miles this weekend. Luckily, the one person I know here is doing 21 miles on Sunday, and while I'm not sure if I'm quite at that point yet (though I just might have to try, since, hello, marathon in like 6 weeks) it will at least motivate me to do my damn long run. By that point unpacking should be pretty much done, and if I've spent the next several days job hunting like a fiend I won't feel too bad about spending 3 hours of my Sunday running.

OK, well, I haven't done this in awhile since my internet the past few weeks have been questionable, but I'm FINALLY done living like a hobo so I can give the weekly rundown of my running!
Monday: off [planned]
Tuesday: Yasso 800s x 10 [total mileage: 10.2, average interval time 3:36]
Wednesday: 8.1 mile progression [7:26 avg] + 1.2 mile easy cooldown
Thursday: 7 miles easy [7:39 pace]
Friday: 7.25 miles easy [7:39 pace] - actually didn't realize until now that my pace was the same both days, sweet!
Saturday: off [spent the entire day driving, unpacking, and then passing the hell out after being awake for 36 hours. If that doesn't deserve a day off idk what does :)]
Sunday: 8.5 miles easy [7:30 pace] - I honestly was so enthralled by running through the city that I completely forgot what I was doing
Total miles: 42.2
Days off: 2

And also...August rundown! Not quite as good as July, but considering the circumstances I'm pretty impressed that my overall monthly mileage didn't drop that much.
Total miles: 181.3
Days off: 9 [I can only IMAGINE what my mileage totals would look like if I hadn't had to deal with moving/vacation and had been able to stick to my 6 days/week schedule...damn]

So onward to September! A new city, new running routes, and a month completely devoted to marathon training madness. Let's go!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It's not every day you get a medal for finishing your long run, or MMM Race Report

I warn you now, I've been gone for almost 2 weeks and just left Madison for the last time for a long time...this is going to be a long, rambling, and possibly ridiculous one, half of which really doesn't have anything to do with running...

Last night, I couldn't fall asleep. Not because I was thinking about the fact that in 3 days I'm moving across the country to a bigger city than I've ever lived in before, not because I was concerned about how I was going to find a job or have enough money when I get there, not about packing and the 20 hour drive overnight in a truck and the hassle of moving again...
But because I was thinking about running.

Unfortunately, too much of the past couple of weeks has been about thinking about running rather than actually doing it. I ran a total of once while I was up north, for a lovely grand total of 19.1 miles on the week. I feel a little guilty, but not completely awful about that - I mean, I was hiking through forests and climbing on rocks and waterfalls the whole time, not sitting on my butt. The one time I did go running, I was fairly terrified the entire time that a bear was going to show up and eat me [yes, there are bears in the north woods of Wisconsin] so that was kind of was a deterrent too. Then I got back and got off the week to a good start with a 7.5 and an 8 miler, but it has just been awkward finding time and motivation to run when I'm either sleeping in someone else's house or at home attempting to organize my life into boxes. I'm starting to worry that I made a mistake getting myself into this madness, that I'm not going to be ready, that I've been lazy [yes, some how 50 mile weeks represent laziness to me?], that I'm tired of the training and why the hell am I doing this? But more on that some other day.

And then there was the half marathon. Short story: it did not go well, and there are many reasons, even legitimate excuses, for that, the main one being that I woke up the morning of the race and could not take a deep breath without hacking up a lung. I honestly thought about DNSing. I honestly could not forsee how there was any way I was actually going to be able to run 13.1 miles on this day. It didn't help that I had gotten approximately 2 hours of sleep from a combination of bartime noise, a man playing a saxophone, and an ill-fated attempt to use a beanbag chair as a pillow the night before. Not to mention - I was just NOT in the mood to race. But then again, I had never thought of this as a race, I had never planned to do it as a race, it was just kind of...there...and as good an excuse as any to come back to Madison one last time.

So I did it, and it was awful. I ran the first 2 miles with Claire and Nicole, the WTC girls who have been there from the start. Claire had to peel off to go work the "back of the pack crew", but I wanted more than anything to be able to stay with Nicole. As I think I've mentioned before, she was one of my first friends I met when I got to college, and we've both made this utterly absurd transition from 100 meter hurdler to 800 runner to miler to half marathoner [and god knows what else we'll do in the future haha]. She actually ended up finishing in 1:37 something, which is a) AMAZING, and b) I don't think I could have done that even if I hadn't been feeling like utter crap! But anyway. So sadly I watched her pull away at around mile 3 and pretty much just focused on not dying. I actually just felt sick. I couldn't breathe and my stomach was sloshing around and I just didn't feel good at all. As I continued to watch my mile splits unravel and swarms of people kept passing me, I honestly just wanted to sit down on the side of the road and cry. This wasn't how it was supposed to be at all - this was supposed to be a glorious victory lap to end my career in Madison, not a death march that felt like I'd backtracked right back to where I started. I thought about stopping more times than I'd like to admit. And the one thought coming through it all was - if I can't even do THIS, how am I going to run a marathon?

My pain during this half was so different than the other two I've done, because I was so focused on how much my lungs hurt as I struggled to breathe and how sick I felt that I hardly noticed the leg fatigue which is usually my demise at around mile 9 of the race. In retrospect, that also probably had something to do with the fact that I wasn't running very fast...but whatever. Jade and Claire eventually found me and decided to run along with me to the finish, since I was obviously in need of some support and they really had nothing else better to do. And while, in the end, I finished only 15 seconds faster than my first half marathon [which, uh, doesn't make me very happy], I give those two full credit for the fact that I didn't finish any slower. Because they would NOT let me give up. The entire last 2 miles pretty much went like this:
"Audrey, relax your arms, just think about that and you'll go faster!"
"Get around this pack, they're not speeding up, you can!"
"OK, that mile marker was a lie, there's more than a mile to go" [I will admit, that wasn't that helpful haha]
"Come on, FINISH!"
And my personal favorite/the one that almost made me burst into tears with a quarter mile to go:
"This is the last race in Madison....GO!!!"

And I will admit, with all of that, I managed to run like a 7:20 last mile, though I seriously almost killed myself to do it. Finish time: 1:48:31. Ugh. But what are you going to do. And as the BF put it: "You said you just did this race so you could do your long run with people...well, it's not every day you get a medal for finishing your long run!" [And I will say, the finisher's medals are SWEET. Huge and very shiny = win] And I guess, if the goal was to run 13.1 miles at around marathon goal pace...mission accomplished!

It's funny, because I was thinking about that comment - this is the last race in Madison - and I thought of kind of a pattern that I see with "last" races. My last 100 hurdles race of my high school track career, I tripped out of the blocks and missed out on a bid to state. My last cross country race of college, I had dead legs and was never in it. My last 5K on the track of college was crap, and my last actual track race - a steeplechase - sucked because I felt like throwing up the entire time. And it always makes it extra devastating that whatever thing I loved was ending, because I ended it on that shitty performance, and I always beat myself up extra hard as a result. That didn't happen as much in this case, because this time there was a perfectly good reason for why I didn't run well: I was sick. Also, it's not like this is going to be my last half marathon ever. Oh no. This distance kind of pisses me off. I still haven't put together a good RACE at it yet...but I will. Oh, I will.

And as for my last actual run in Madison, well, that turned out to be beyond incredible. You see, all I wanted was for my last run there to be amazing. It sounds kind of stupid, but that city is where I became a runner. The roads and trails and parks that I ran year after year, mile after mile...they mean more to me than the city itself. The past couple weeks I lived there I had a lot of crappy runs, my last one before I left especially so, but I figured, hey, I've got the half. Well we all know how that turned out. But when I woke up Sunday morning, albiet a little hungover, the sky was a gorgeous shade of blue, it was a perfect 65 degrees out, and just to make things a little more perfect, there was an event going on with a 6 mile loop of major roads closed to traffic, open only to walkers, bikers, and runners. I was going to get my perfect run.

I ran with Claire, which was amazing, and I was practically on the verge of tears the entire time. Because you see, this lovely road closure deal led us along my favorite route, the Lake Monona bike path. The sun was reflecting off the lake as the most perfect puffy white clouds floated by, there was a cool breeze blowing and I felt incredible. If only the race had been today! But really, that didn't matter. I was purely and utterly in heaven. I think there are some experiences that go beyond words and for me, this was one of them. It seems so mundane - an easy 6 mile run with a friend on a late summer Sunday. But it. Was. Perfect. Forget the awful race - here was my victory lap, along the shores of Lake Monona, soaking in every last blissful moment.

And that run was the beginning of what, I swear to God, had to be one of the most magical days I've ever experienced. When I say magical I mean it was like everything in the world had conspired to make mine and the BF's last day in this incredible place the best one ever. Our hangovers magically dissapated. Every single animal at the zoo was out and playing, even the ottters, the red panda, the baby deer, the ones we NEVER see. The sun reflected perfectly off the flowers at the botanical gardens as butterflies fluttered around. A blue heron flew by as we gazed off Monona Terrace over the lake. We turned on the radio just as the opening strains of "Don't Stop Believin'" began to play. I had orange custard chocolate chip ice cream on the terrace with Nicole - fitting that, as the first friend I said hello to that I'm still close with today, that she would be the last I would say goodbye to - watching a perfect sunset over the lake.

I don't mean to be super nostalgic or cheesy - but lets face it, that's kind of my style. And I feel like I'm being completely truthful when I say that the 4 years I spent in Madison have made me into the person I am today. I am confident. I no longer feel like I need everyone's approval to be who I want. I am a runner. I am a better person. And I am all of these things because of the people I met and experiences I had there. I am thrilled, and excited beyond belief to move to Boston and for everything that's in store there, but it is strange to be ending this chapter of my life which I think has really changed me as a person. And the track club, the glorious glorious WTC, had so, so much to do with that. My teammates and my best friends, these were the people who were by far the hardest to say goodbye too, and it was fitting and perfect that I spent this weekend with them. But the wonderful thing about the running community is that I know we will stay friends. And 10 years down the line, when there's a marathon in somebody's hometown or a national cross country meet, or maybe even someday at a WTC sponsered race, we'll meet up and reminisce on those days when we ran all day and drank all night in a beautiful place called Madison, Wisconsin.

And as I drove out of the city, watching the silhouette of the Capitol fade in my rearview mirror for the last time, all I could think was of this quote:
"But for those of us who have had our lives shaped between these lakes, Madison means hope, it means promise, and no matter where our lives take us, for those of us who have been touched by this city, Madison will always mean home." -Mayor Dave [as the mayor is known]

And that, I think, pretty much sums it up.