Saturday, November 28, 2009

Only a Little Sick...

I'm still fighting with this silly cold. I'm feeling a bit drained. On my 8-miler this morning, my last "long" run, I walked 4 or 5 times, especially on the hills. I just wasn't feeling it.

My nose is runny and burning and sneezy. My throat is a little sore. I've got a headache.

And I've got SEVEN DAYS to get better before the marathon. Aren't colds usually 7-10 days? I've been feeling cruddy for at least 3 days, so I'm probably good!

Five months of my life poured into preparation for one day, for four-and-a-half to five hours of one day, technically---- cold or not, I'm running!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Home Stretch--and Looking For a Fight

I am happy to be in the home stretch for the marathon! Last weekend's 12-miler, my last double-digit run, went very well! I averaged about a 10:30 running pace. I had good company, perfect weather, and a flat road with my the sun on my face and the wind at my back. Does it get any better than that??

This week, I ran 5.6 on Monday morning at a 10:15 pace. Then I got on the dreadmill on Tuesday and Wednesday for a couple of slow, easy miles each time. Tomorrow morning, my running club is meeting for a Turkey Day 5K group run. That should be fun. Then on Saturday, I'm running 8 miles, my last significant distance before the marathon. I plan to take it slow and easy and watch for cars, dogs, holes, uneven pavement, loose gravel---anything that could wreck things one week before the race!

I'm still fighting off a cold or something---I'm headache-y and have a tiny sore throat and a little tickle--- or maybe it's allergies. I'm taking a TON of Vitamin C and my glutamine, which boosts the immune system, too. I'm refusing to drink or eat after my husband or my three kids. Yesterday, my middle child turned 7 and INSISTED we go to GERM CENTRAL---Chuck E Cheese. Yikes! I didn't touch anything or breathe while I was there. I hand sanitized about 82 times. I think I'll be ok. I *even* (don't judge me) called my church nursery director, who had scheduled me to work this coming Sunday, and told her I had a conflict. (Yes, I'm conflicted about getting sick 6 days before my race!!!) I actually kept about 20 one-year-olds last Sunday and they all had runny noses and about half of them spent the hour coughing indiscriminately. Hell--oo? Ever hear of your elbow??? (maybe not)

Another thing I've noticed these last two weeks is I feel a bit.... out of sorts.... mentally. I have been outspoken, unafraid to complain, on the verge of angry, stubborn, and giving people a hard time in general. (Feel sorry for my family right now.) Today I almost ripped a teenager's head off at the YMCA. Some kids were playing dodgeball in the gym where the preschoolers were having their nursery, and as we were leaving a dumba*# beaned my three-year-old in the head with the ball. He could SEE we had to pass through. Could he not WAIT 10 seconds to release the ball? I gave him a "I'm going to rip your arm off and beat you with it" look, while yelling, "WHAT WAS THAT???". And then, for good measure, I gave the YMCA employee the same look. If daggers could shoot out of my eyes, they would be in serious pain right now. He was very apologetic (several times over and over), but the look on my face said it all.

I saw a fellow runner a couple of minutes later, and casually asked her, "Do you ever feel like you are LOOKING FOR A FIGHT???" She, in her running wisdom, said, "Don't worry. It's just TAPER."

Thank goodness. I thought maybe I was becoming a Bad Ass.*

*See what I mean? Taper is making me curse! I never curse!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

1000 MILES in 2009

I just happened to add up my yearly mileage the other day, and yesterday I crossed the 1000 mile mark. I'm technically at 1001.2 for the year so far. I think I've made it in reasonably good condition. I'm not one of those runners you see at races in a knee brace or ankle brace (yet!). I ran with friends from my recent training group yesterday for the first four miles, but that 1000th mile at the end was on my own, which was kind of fitting. Running is such a personal journey.

I'm enjoying this first week of taper, but with runs 4, 3, and 6 miles, it hasn't felt like much of a break yet. Tomorrow is my 12-miler, my last double-digit run until race day. I'm ready to get that over with. I'm so sick of carbs! (Isn't that crazy?)

I'm excited about the marathon right now. The butterflies haven't started yet. It helped IMMENSELY that last week's 20-miler went well and the recovery went well. One of the worst things after the April marathon was laying in bed that night unable to sleep because I just HURT. My legs and feet were throbbing with pain. I think with this higher-mileage plan, I may have a different experience this time. One of the concepts behind the high-mileage plan is that the marathon beats you up less and you recover faster.

It will be fun to do only short, easy runs for the whole month of December after the race. By January 1, I'll be ready to start picking up a few extra miles for my next half-marathon in March (and maybe one in February).

That is because I am a training freak. I have to have a plan. I have to have a RACE ON THE CALENDAR. I can't just run randomly for very long. That 3-4 week break post-marathon will be plenty. I think this time I will follow Hal Higdon's intermediate half-marathon plan. I really like Hal. His plans are just so reasonable. Not too light on the mileage, not too heavy.

Still no definite word on whether I will be training folks in the spring for the Country Music Half-Marathon in April. Job...... hobby...... however you define it, I'll be out there running.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Should I Be Scared?

1. I just sneezed 6 times in a row. My runs yesterday and today have been energy-less. Is getting sick the first week of taper a terrible thing?? I guess the last week of taper would be worse...

2. I found the elevation profile for my marathon in 3 weeks.

Ummm, is that one long hill from miles 5-10 and another one from 14-19??? At least the last 7 miles seem to be downhill except for a slight incline at mile 24. I'm not super-adept at reading these, but the numbers on the left do not increase a whole lot, so maybe these are really tiny inclines?? What do you all think?

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Fantabulous 20-Miler! Hellooooo, Taper!!!!

I was not looking forward to today's 20 mile run, but it COULD NOT HAVE GONE BETTER! Thank you, God!

I met up with 3 friends at about 8:45 this morning and we started out. I had mapped out the route for us-- a mix of suburban and country roads. We kept up a constant conversation and a pretty even pace. We walked the big hills. We had an encounter with an unleashed German Shepherd (he was more curious than threatening, but one of my friends had been bitten on a run about a month ago, so we were all a little wary). Another friend joined us for a quick 5 miles in the middle, which is always nice to shake things up.

I carried my best friend Accelerade (fruit punch flavor) which just plain WORKS for me. Looking back through my running journals, my best long runs and half-marathon PR all involve Accelerade. Sure, it's kind of GROSS, but it does what it says it does! I only gel'd twice, but I did eat 3/4's of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at mile 10 a friend had dropped for us. Those sandwiches and water bottles were much appreciated!

Toward the end when I would have probably walked more, my non-walking friend kept me going. She just doesn't walk on long runs. Our little group had gotten separated, so it was just the two of us. After she was done at mile 16 (her first run over 13.1--she's training for the Disney Marathon in January), I was on my own for the last 4. Surprisingly, I felt great at 16, not bad at 17 or 18. The last two I walked for like .1 of each of the miles or less. I finished the run in about 3:44, which should put me in decent shape to break 5 hours in the marathon this time! Whoo, hoo! Aim LOW!

I believe I could have done 6.2 more at the end with some discomfort. However, I haven't tapered. I ran 37 miles last week and now 38 this week (hope to get in two recovery miles tomorrow for my first ever 40 mile week ).

Helllloooo, Taper! I've been waiting for you...... Just got to get through a long run of 10-12 next week and then an 8. St. Jude, here I come!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Half-Marathon #6 Race Report

I finished my 6th half-marathon yesterday in 2:14:12. It was my 3rd fastest half-marathon. I met my goal of a 10:15 pace exactly and worked hard to do it!

The race was tough. I had run 22 miles during the week prior to the race, so I didn't exactly have fresh legs. We ran against a headwind of 10-15 mph for at least 6 or 7 of the 13 miles. And the hills, oh the hills!

I intended to take it easy and run at a comfortably hard pace. I had no intention of trying to PR after my 2:09 three weeks ago. As it turned out, running against that wind turned the comfortably hard pace into very hard pace! I really had to fight to meet my goal of under 2:15.

But it's good to set a goal (albeit a LOW one) and meet it!

The race itself was a bit of a struggle mentally. It turned out to be unseasonably warm--it was about 65 degrees at the start. I was fine and excited at the start, but at the first water stop at 1.7 miles, they had no water. I hadn't worn my fuel belt due to the promise of water stops every two miles. At only 1.7 miles, it was a bit of an annoyance, but I figured I'd live. Then at the 2nd water stop at 3.7 miles, they were also out of water! Now I was getting mad! At this point it was probably above 70 degrees and I was thirsty and needed to take a gel. (Note: I was in the MIDDLE of the field of 850 runners, not in the back. There was no reason for them to be out of water.) Finally, at mile 6, I actually got water at a water stop.

About the 6-mile mark, we turned into this vicious headwind. At 6.55 miles, the half-way point, I was at 1:05 and change, which would have put me at about a 2:10 finish or better if I ran negative splits. However, the 2nd half of this course is very hilly and the wind never let up, so my negative splits went out the window. My knees began to ache and I was feeling nauseous from taking that gel without any fluids earlier. It was kind of miserable.

I chatted with a couple of fellow runners for 5 or 10 minutes here and there, but mostly I was on my own for the whole 2nd half of the race and not having fun. I don't think I smiled the entire time! Nevertheless, I never questioned "Why do I do this to myself??" or wanted to quit running like I did in this same race last year. I just dug in and ran into the wind as best I could.

In the last 2 miles, I realized that I could not walk any and I had to run at a pretty good pace to meet my goal. In 5 of my 6 half-marathons, I've walked a little in those last couple of miles because I was just spent. (NOT in my PR race a few weeks ago though! Got to love a flat course!) It was good to be able to push at the end and I rallied with a 10:05 pace in mile 12 (perhaps a bit too soon) and mile 13 was 10:26. Oh, and the last water stop at mile 11 was also OUT OF WATER. They gave me 1/2 inch, barely a swallow, of Gatorade and a cup of ice. All the ice was stuck together in one big block. I was thinking, "What exactly am I supposed to do with this???"

I was relieved to finish the race and quickly downed a bottle of water. I was a bit dehydrated from the heat and 3 of the 6 water stops not having fluids. It was in the mid to upper 70's when we finished. In November in Tennessee! Crazy!

I waited at the finish line for several of my training group to finish and loudly cheered them in. Then Christie, one of the runners in my group, and I headed back out on the course to run in the last few folks from our group. We saw several runners who were in distress out there. It was near the three-hour mark by this time. Muscle cramps were taking down many runners who had gotten little if any fluids on the course and no electrolytes (that one swallow of Gatorade was the only sports drink available at any of the stops) on an unseasonably hot day. We were carrying water from the finish line and several people at mile 12 asked us for a drink! We gave away all our fluids and a gel I had left over. We ran in the 2nd to last runner from our running group who was suffering severe cramps in her feet, and right behind her we cheered in the last runner from our group at about 3:02. Christie had just run 13.1 for the first time, and by running in the last runners with me, ran a total of 15 miles! That was pretty amazing.

All of the runners I had trained for the half-marathon who started the race, finished the race. (One was with her sick mother and missed the race.) As a coach, it was a great day! My fastest runner ran an amazing 1:53---and he's in the 50-55 age group. In fact, four of my runners were in that age group and all had outstanding races. I applaud their courage---deciding at age 50 to run a half marathon for the first time. I hope I have the courage to seek out new challenges when I'm there in about 11 years! I had three who almost placed for age group awards---they were each in 4th place in their divisions--- 15-19 women's division, 50-55 women's division, and 50-55 men's division--representing the two ends of the spectrum of ages in the group.

My Couch to 5Kers also ran a strong race. I missed it because it was run during the half-marathon. I've got a few who clearly have caught the racing bug. They can't wait to run the next one. And several want to train with me for a half marathon in the spring! (Assuming the Y continues this program!)

So, I'm officially UNEMPLOYED for the time being. I'll start up the new training groups in late January if all goes as planned. It has seriously been the BEST. JOB. EVER.

Here is the Pitt Crew (my last name is Pittman) in our matching shirts pre-race. There were 21 from the group who ran, but several got caught in port-o-potty line during the photo op. I'm on the far left. The back of our shirt says "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1.

And we did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stay Focused!!

I just realized a couple of days ago that I only have TWO WEEKS until taper! In "marathon speak," that means I've only got two weeks until I start reducing my mileage and letting my body recover from all I've put it through. For the last four months, the marathon has been this race far in the future, and suddenly training is almost over.

Realizing I only have two weeks until taper put this Saturday's half marathon into perspective. It's not going to be a race-race, it's going to have to be a tempo training run. This is the time to FOCUS on the big picture, i.e., the marathon. I have only done one 20-miler, and I've only had two weeks with 35+ miles. I need this week and next to be high mileage, long run weeks. So, instead of mini-tapering for the half-marathon,I've actually put in 22 miles so far this week and plan to run 13.1 + 3 on Saturday. Having a strong 16-mile run is more important than trying to beat my 2:09 PR from three weeks ago. Running 38 miles this week instead of 20 or 25 will be more beneficial in the long run.

With that said, I do have some goals for Saturday. I'd like to run a smart race with even or negative splits (2nd half faster than first half). I'd like to keep my pace between 10 or 10:05 and 10:20. I'd like to average about 10:15 for the race overall. And I'd like to beat last year's time of 2:15:41. Then I'd like for the extra 3 I do at the end not to hurt (very much).

My plan is to finish the race, then jog back out onto the course to find a spot to encourage those from my half-marathon training group who are still out there. At the end, if anyone is struggling, I'll run that last mile or two with them if they need me to. Doing that a few times should get me the extra 3 miles.

Then next week, it's another 38-40 mile week with my last 20-miler on Friday the 13th. (Also another reason not to race this weekend--it would make the 20-miler THAT MUCH HARDER. And trust me, they are hard enough!) Then it's taper and I can have my life back.

I want to wish all of my half-marathon and Couch to 5K group members good luck on Saturday! They all made so much progress in such a short time. Some of them absolutely blew me away---going from walking to running 13.1 miles in 14 weeks without injury, embracing fuel belts and Garmins and Gu's as a "normal" part of their lives, talking about their splits, and already signing up for their next races.... I feel like such a proud momma!

Here are several my "Pitt Crew" about four weeks into their journey to become lean, mean, half-marathon running machines: (I'm on bottom right in a jacket--it was chilly post race!)