Guilt and Balance

This picture pretty much sums up how my long run went this weekend….

17309020_10103512922611913_6794013764562306823_n

I was hoping that after 2 days of just being a bum in the mountains, my legs would be all fresh and springy and 21 miles would feel like rainbows and butterflies. Clearly not the case. It was just a hot mess, to say the least. I stopped and cried twice. I questioned my sanity more than twice. I ran out of water. It felt like a disaster, but I survived all 21.1 miles.

We are less than a month out from Boston and I am working through my toughest training weeks. My motivation is lacking, my body hurts, and everything feels really hard. I’m also learning that I can be super Type A and if left to my own devices, I could let training totally consume me. I’ve been so focused on my training that a lot of other things (and people) have taken a backseat. Training takes time and energy… at the end of the day, I often find myself too tired to do very much. I often feel that I don’t have the energy to invest in other people, which pretty much sucks.

Training takes its toll on relationships. I was perusing the wide world of the internet and found that “divorce by triathlon” is a real, and unfortunately common, thing. I can see how it would be easy for people to be resentful of their significant other’s training, especially if they are not also endurance athletes. I can also see how someone might feel guilty for not being fully present during their training cycle. I love running – but I feel bad for being tired, for being unmotivated, for being a little boring during my training buildup, for being a little obsessed with my training.

I didn’t even make it 2 miles before it all set in… my lack of motivation, my guilt, everything. This run already felt hard, I hated it, it has put some tension into my relationship, why the hell was I even out on the road?! I felt tired, I felt guilty, I resented the race, I resented my choice to train for a marathon. Why would I do a thing that makes me and those close to me miserable? What a stupid idea.

Three hours later, I had a sunburn but no answers. As the emotion settled, I realized that what I need in my life is balance. Not every race has to be an “A Race”. Not every race has to be a PR attempt. I can go out and run races and do my best and not take it so damn personally (I think!). I enjoy being active, but training doesn’t have to be this all-consuming ordeal.

And that’s the best I have come up with. Somewhere in this mess is a place of balance. Where I can train hard and enjoy it, be present in my life, and not get so wrapped up in a number that I don’t have anyone to celebrate with me at the finish line. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but like so much of life, I’ll just keep failing until I get there!

 

Mind Games

Some of my hardest runs are the ones that say “easy” in front of them on my training plan.

The long runs are obviously hard as the time on your feet grows longer. The interval work is hard, but they are supposed to be hard. They are supposed to hurt a little bit.

But the ones that say “X miles, easy” are deceptive. They seem like they ought to be easy. What it doesn’t say is “X miles at an easy pace on legs that feel like they have been through a meat grinder”. “X miles at an easy pace on a body that is beat up and tired”. “X miles at an easy pace as you push through mental fatigue”. “X miles at an easy pace, which will take all of your mental fortitude”.

I talk myself into these runs by breaking them up into chunks. “1 hour run and then a 15 minute run”. “2 sets of 40 minutes”. “30 minutes, 20 minutes, and then 10 minutes”. “Just a 10k and a 5k”. I’ll change playlists every 30 minutes to break up the time – “just 2 x 15 minutes per playlist”.

Just to make it seem manageable. To focus on something other than the long lonely miles in front of me.

I felt mentally broken before I even started my long run today. My body hurt, my mindset wasn’t where it needed to be, and I can tell when I am especially unmotivated – I will find literally anything else to do besides run. I’ll starting cleaning out my closet or reorganizing things or taking care of bills or whatever is not running.

There is a great quote by General Patton – “Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

But what if your mind is tired?! How do you push through? Today I broke 21 miles down into 6 miles, 5 miles, 4 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, and 1 mile. I changed playlists at the beginning of each section. I think it helped. It made me feel like I was making progress and not just running for an eternity.

How do you keep your focus during training?? I’d love to hear your ideas!

How to Train for a Marathon

I tell people that I am training for a marathon and the response is “I could never do that”. For the record, I have also uttered those words and here I am getting ready for my 6th marathon and my 3rd Boston. Never say never.

I am about 10 weeks out from race day and would like to share the wisdom I have gathered over the last few years.

How to Train for a Marathon (11 easy steps!):

1. Let yourself go a little bit insane.

Seriously, it’s easier if you don’t care about your sanity. 3 hours of running on a Sunday? Totally normal. Start saying “just” in front of every distance you run. “Just 20 this weekend”. “Just an easy 8 miles this morning”. “Just a half marathon”.

2. Obsessively check the weather.

Mostly so you can dress yourself. Also, in case you need a backup career.
If it is a rest day, it will probably be perfect running weather.
On a long run day, the wind will be blowing in your face whichever way you are facing, so checking the weather is pointless. Running in the wind is good for your character.

3. Eat all most of the food.

There is an overwhelming amount of information on what you should and shouldn’t eat, when to eat it, and so on. I’m not going to give you more.

Eat food that makes you feel good. Eat enough of it. Marathon training is a convenient excuse to indulge every now and then. Word to the wise – you can actually gain weight marathon training, so perhaps not every pizza needs to be a personal pizza.

4. Buy “fat shoes”.

Ideally in black, so they match everything. Your feet will thank me. Trust me, there will come a day when your feet don’t fit in normal shoes. You will have a new sense of sympathy for pregnant women. I like Sanuk shoes… they are made out of recycled yoga mats and stretch to fit nicely.Image result for stair chair

5. Move into a house with no stairs.

Those things are awful.

Or find yourself a chair lift.

 

 

6. Invest in body glide/aquaphor/your anti-chafing drug of choice.

Apply liberally and often. It’s like sunscreen… you think you have everything covered, and then you find out that your back muscles can get chafed by your sports bra. Surprise!

7. Be prepared to cry a lot.

Because breaking out of your comfort zone and doing something big does not only challenge you physically.Because you are hungry and tired and overwhelmed. Because your feet hurt and you need a nap. You will probably revert to a 3-year-old version of yourself. Your significant other will be thrilled.

9. Buy good shoes and socks. 

This is not negotiable. Unless you like your joints to hurt and you want a bunch of blisters. Go to a running store and get some quality gear. Trust me.

8. Wake up earlier than you want to most days of the week, work harder than you want to, and repeat for 12-20 weeks. 

I’m not going to pretend to be the most motivated person you know. I’m just dedicated. I’ve committed myself to doing this slightly ridiculous thing and I know how bad it hurts if you don’t train. I built a habit. I get up, I run, and that’s just what I do. It’s so much easier if you don’t have to think about it. You just accept it and go. Some days feel great, some days suck a lot, and some days are a little bit of both.

9. Break things into manageable chunks.

It’s not a 12 miler, it’s just two 10Ks. Or a warmup 5k, a 10k, and a cooldown 5k. My last 18 mile run was just three sets of 6 miles. An hour of running is really just 4 sets of 15 minutes. I’ve gotten myself through a lot of awful things this way. Runs, nasty Crossfit workouts, lectures that never seemed to end, long car trips, you name it. Break it down into smaller pieces and tackle the “mini-goal” at hand.

10. Find at least one person who doesn’t think you are insane.

Talk to them often. Let them remind you that you are actually doing a cool thing. Remind yourself that you are actually doing a cool thing.

11. Don’t quit.

Even if you really, really, really, really want to. The finish line is worth it. I have felt completely exhausted and completely invincible at the same time – it’s an amazing experience. And you can ride that glory train for the rest of your life.

Image result for crawl if you must

 

Boston

I’m finally here! This trip is already off to a better start than last year. I made it to the expo to grab my bib before things got totally insane, the weather is nice, things are good.

My plane was full of people ecstatic to go run Boston. It was the coolest. I love the energy and the excitement that surrounds this event.

I’m still super nervous.

I’m staring at this year and last year in Training Peaks to reassure myself that I am, in fact, faster. My mileage was sufficient.

This is my 5th marathon and my 2nd Boston. I’m still in awe of how far 26.2 miles is… I am going to cover that on foot. 3 hours is a long time to run. A lot of things can happen. I felt so good last year though… really relaxed through the first 14 miles. And I am in better shape this year than I was last year, so I do have high hopes for a sub 3:25 finish.

I went for a short shakeout run today. It kind of felt like crap. It felt like crap last year and I ran a great race. It usually feels like crap and I am just fine the next day. I forget that.

I met up with an old friend of mine today. He reminded me that the mind always wants to find a reason to quit. He has run a number of marathons and said that before every race, everything hurts and he is dying. I’m paraphrasing slightly. But the mind always tries to find a reason to quit. There is a tiny voice in our head – the voice of doubt, the voice of worry, the voice that wants to avoid discomfort – and we have to shut that voice up.

Last year, I felt honored just to be here. Getting to Boston, running this marathon, being a part of something so big, was reward in itself. It symbolized how far I have come. I don’t know why this year is any different.

Tomorrow will be a celebration of how far I have come. I will run to show myself not how good of a runner I am, but what I am capable of.

Here’s to my best Boston.

 

 

Race Recap!

I made it!! I not only finished my marathon, but I finished with a huge 16-minute personal best!!

10593106_10203075212456165_2843924825393311762_n

I experimented with some high volume training for this race – 55+ miles per week along with Crossfit 2-3 times per week. Mondays were usually a rest day, but otherwise I was training at least once every day. It is the highest volume plan that I have ever tried to use. And I hurt. I was sore, tired, and completely burnt out. Six weeks before the race, I contemplated scrapping the whole thing. Not running at all. I was so mentally fried from training. My body hurt. I was exhausted on so many levels.

This is the first time that I’ve run a marathon on my own. I’ve always had someone training for the same race. We don’t necessarily run together, but we run the same race. So there was a bit of loneliness in my training. I felt like I was dreaming big all by myself. Dreaming big is inherently scary and to do it alone is terrifying. However, the more I started sharing my dream with people, the less alone I felt in my training. People were encouraging me, affirming me, and my support group started growing. Sometimes the best way to get something is to simply ask for it. Sometimes it really is that easy. After that, I felt more encouraged in my training and I pushed on.

Tapering felt like Christmas. That might be a little dramatic, but when I eased up on my mileage, I felt so much better physically and emotionally. Hard training definitely requires a good taper. In my previous marathon build-ups, I usually had heavy legs right up until a few days before the race, which was challenging mentally. That’s not something I noticed this time around, which was awesome! I think my body responded very well to the reduction in mileage. Race week, I scaled way back and by Friday, I was amped up and ready to go! I don’t remember feeling so ready to run before my other races. I was antsy and energized – I’m sure some of that was nerves but it was nice to feel so energetic right before a race. Saturday morning I ran a few easy shakeout miles and tried to relax as best I could until I headed to packet pickup. After that, it was up to Estes Park, where the race started. My mom and I hung out at the hotel until my sister came up to join us for dinner. We went to the Grubsteak (which is phenomenal and food-allergy-friendly!) and I ate a yak burger. Delicious. I think I might make yak burgers and sweet potatoes a new pre-race tradition.

IMG_4492.JPG

The race was scheduled to start at 6am, so on Sunday morning, I was up at 4am to eat and caffeinate. Same routine as before my other long runs. My mom and sister dropped me off at the start and I jogged around to warm up/ keep warm (it is chilly before sunrise!), talked with a few people and tried to calm my nerves. The start was delayed by about 15 minutes and there was no starting mat, but otherwise, it went off without a hitch! I forgot how much of an effect altitude can have, so my first mile was a bit slow – but that’s how it should be! The decline started early, the course was beautiful and I felt good.

I was on pace to break 3:35 by mile 6. The course was mostly downhill and fast, so I just tried to relax and ride the downhill while everything still felt easy. There weren’t many spectators, but my mom and sister would stop every few miles and cheer and wait for me to pass. It was so great to have that support!! I hit the half split right on pace and felt good. I tried to keep myself relaxed as best as possible and not kill myself by pushing too hard too soon. We drove the course and I knew I was in for some ugly hills at the end. The real work would come in the last 10k. And it did.

At mile 18, I was feeling relatively good, at mile 20 I didn’t feel as great but still relatively good, and by mile 22 I was definitely struggling. With 5K to go, I was real uncomfortable. When I hit mile 24, I decided that running a marathon was the dumbest idea I ever had. Mile 25 felt like hell and mile 26 was just me holding on for dear life. The last 385 yards was a “sprint” with the minimal energy I had left. There were some serious climbs in the last 10k, which certainly didn’t help. The mile 25 marker was on top of a hill. It was terrible. Mostly because you had to run 25 miles before that hill!

I crossed the finish line and couldn’t decide if I wanted to cramp, vomit, cry, dance, fall over, or all of the above. I’m not sure you can do that simultaneously, but I would have figured something out. My official time: 3:31:26. A 16-minute PR and fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon!! I’ll take it!

Most of the other runners had a positive split – the second half of the run was slower than the first. Mine was just about even – I negative split by 40 seconds. Which makes me wonder if I should have taken more advantage of the first part of the course. Would that have helped? Would I have broken 3:30? Or would I have absolutely died in the second half? Was it wise to spare some energy instead of pushing it on the downhill sections? Who knows?! Maybe I’ll run it next year and see how that strategy goes. There is a chance that I could have run it faster and there is a chance that pushing it early would have killed me later. That’s why marathon pacing can be tricky. A lot can happen in 26.2 miles. Regardless, I set a huge PR, I qualified for Boston, and at the end of the race, I felt like I left it all out there. I felt like I ran the best race that I had in me.

Overall, it was a pleasant race experience – a fast, beautiful course, no real issues to speak of other than fatigue, and I blew my “break-3:40” goal out of the water. I felt like I laid it all out on the line. I had this tiny hope that I would qualify but I knew it would take everything I had. It was a big dream and sometimes it’s scary to dream big. It comes at a cost – usually discomfort of one type or another. Maybe I could have shaved a minute or two off my time with a different pacing strategy, but when I crossed that finish line I felt like I earned it. Like I left it all out on the course. One of my mom’s running mantras is “find what is strong”. You pick a muscle group that still feels strong and you let that carry you. By the end, the only thing I had left was determination and heart. So I ran the last two miles with my heart. Fueled by hope and the dreams that I was brave enough to chase.

And now I get to take time off!! I have been looking forward to this since I started training for this marathon. I haven’t taken an off-season in several years. And I am so excited to finally have a real one. I have bounced from race to race to physical therapy to racing without giving myself much time in between. Physically, I am able to recover in that short time, but to be continually training hard and trying to PR every race gets exhausting. Training is very much a mental battle and an exercise in perseverance. It’s definitely a good thing and it helps you grow as an athlete, but being “on” all the time is exhausting. I don’t have to start training again until December and while I will probably pick up casually running again before that, it’s nice to know that I have up to 3 months off.

My plan for recovery this week: Normatec on Monday at my chiropractor’s office and a massage on Wednesday. I’m gonna try to do some easy walks and bike rides, but I don’t really have any plans to run. Maybe crossfit on Friday or Saturday if my legs are feeling up to it. I have friends who sell essential oils and they were kind enough to give me samples of muscle recovery blends, so maybe the combination of the Normatec, massage, and essential oils will bring my poor body back to a functioning state. My quads feel like they went through a food processor and my calves feel like they might actually explode. The joys of marathoning!

I submitted my application for the 2015 Boston Marathon on Monday – I’ll find out on Wednesday if I am officially in or not! Fingers crossed!