Monday, March 25, 2013

Trot Trot to Boston!

Three weeks from today is the Boston Marathon, meaning that three weeks and one day from now you won't have to keep hearing from me about the Boston Marathon.  I can't help it, I just can't stop talking about it!  Everything in my life seems to revolve around the Boston Marathon.  Every training run, every "race that I run like a training run", every night I don't go out for beers with friends because "two days from now I have a long run and I need to be hydrating already", every carefully planned meal which is tweaked, tested, and analyzed, and every bottle of Pepto.  Fortunately I have a lot of running friends that are going through this all with me, and pretty much all any of us talk about now is Boston.  And I have this blog, which helps me communicate my thoughts to absolutely no one in particular.  Even still, I find myself assaulting people with my Boston-excitement, including people that have absolutely no desire to hear about my long runs, missing toenails, hectic poop schedule, or snot rockets.  But here you are, reading this, so I'm just gonna go ahead and keep talking about Boston a little longer.

Last Tuesday I did another set of hill repeats, this time making it up my dreadful hill six times (my previous record was four).  I was pretty happy with myself, and my muscles definitely didn't feel as sore as the week before.  On Wednesday I planned a 5.5 mile run at lunch, but shortly after starting off, I felt a sharp pain on the outside of my left knee while I was running downhill.  I figured it was one of those random aches (after running this much, these things happen) and waited for it to shake out.  When the sharp pain started lingering more and then radiating to the inside of my knee, I realized this wasn't just a random ache and decided to cut my run short to 4 miles.  I wasn't overly concerned about it since we are bound to have off days when running this much.  Thursday I took a rest day to see if that helped, and I wouldn't say it was worse but it wasn't really better either.  On Friday I ran a slow and easy 5.6 miles at lunch, and I still felt the pain, especially running downhill.  At that point I started getting nervous, with my 21 mile run scheduled for Sunday, I didn't have a whole lot of time to get this knee issue resolved.  The condition my knee was in Friday, I knew that 21 miles would not have been possible.  This close to Boston I hated having to think about doing anything different, but I was getting desperate, so I went to Sports Authority and picked up some KT Tape.  I had never used it before and never really gave it much thought, but I remember nearly every single person in the Disney Marathon was wearing it so there must be some benefit.  The KT Tape website has instructional videos to properly apply the tape based on whatever area hurts, and after a quick tutorial I gave it a shot.

This is how I roll on a Friday night
I was instantly impressed with the KT Tape.  It definitely gave my knee support and immediately decreased the pain.  The inside of my knee hurt as well, so I added a strip there too.  On Saturday, I still had the tape on, and spent much of the day icing my knee.  I also took very generous amounts of Ibuprofen because I could tell it was swollen.  I'm not a huge fan of taking medication and I'm sure I'll end up with a bleeding stomach, but I was desperate to get this under control before Sunday's run.  Saturday afternoon I went with Mom to the Milford bike path and did a 3 mile walk, which I hoped would help loosen up the knee.  The bike path is a good place to walk because it's mostly flat, and my knee seems to get extra cranky going downhill.  After a little while it definitely seemed to loosen up and I could almost feel the swelling go down, and my mother compared it to how our older horses get puffy legs, but after they walk around for a while, the puffiness goes down.  It made sense, and I made a mental note to walk around a bit tomorrow before the run.

Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30am, tested the knee, and even though I could feel it wasn't quite right, I took a gamble.  It was very important psychologically for me to get this 21 mile run in, so I decided it was worth the risk of hurting the knee more.  Once I made that decision, I had to be at peace with it.  I have found that anxiety has definitely been the culprit of a few lousy runs lately, so I couldn't keep second guessing my decision to run.  Either it would work, or it wouldn't, and that was that.

Leading up to this run I was very careful about my nutrition.  I halted all vegetables and dairy products as early as Thursday.  By Saturday, I had a banana for breakfast, and then nothing but rice and chicken for the rest of the day.  On Sunday morning, I had a mini bagel with peanut butter, half a banana, and a dose of Pepto Bismol.  I wanted to eat this as early as possible so that I could have at minimum two hours to digest before running.  Then I took a long hot shower, got dressed, and took another dose of Pepto before heading out.

Getting dressed is complicated!

I ran the 21 mile course with the Hopkinton Running Club.  They organize an on-course run and I had heard good things about it.  The start times are staggered, with the goal that everyone finishes their run as close to 11am as possible.  Since I planned to go at a 10:30 pace, that put me in one of the earlier start times.  And man, was it freeeezing!  29 degrees at the start, I was really excited to get moving!  I threw my bag on the bus and checked in.  I asked what would happen if my knee exploded, and how would I get back.  The organizer assured me that she would be driving the course and I would definitely have a way back in case anything went wrong.  That was the final peace of mind I needed, and after that I was ready to rock.  Since I was going slower than the girls, I started earlier with Brad.  Brad's plan was to run with me until the girls caught us (which he guessed would be somewhere around the half marathon mark) and then pick up the pace and run with them the rest of the way if he was feeling good.  

The miles just ticked away so easily, and Brad had to frequently remind me that we were going faster than I planned.  Brad was really fun to run with and kept it entertaining with a lot of conversation.  The Hopkinton club had four water stops set up, at miles 5.5, 10.5, 14, and 18.  I thought these were so well spaced apart, and really helped to break up the run. Because they needed to keep track of all the runners, we all had to stop and check in, and we had to drink the water right there at the table.  They also had Gatorade and jelly beans and some first aid equipment.  Some people ran by and shouted out their names, but I welcomed the stop, drank my water (and got killer brain freeze) and then headed out again.  I never stopped my watch during these breaks (some lasted 1-2 minutes) so I was curious to see how that would impact my pace.  I was really surprised at how well I was feeling.  I could feel my knee wasn't quite right, but nothing to cause a problem.  The best part was that my energy level was high.  One of my most successful long runs was an 18 miler I had done in Upton, so I decided to take the exact same approach to fueling.  I started off with Clif shot blocks in the first 6 miles, and then I switched to a caffeinated Perpetuem drink.  This seems to be the perfect combination for me, and it's what I'll do on race day.
We flew into Ashland, and kept ticking off the miles through Framingham and Natick, and the closer we got to Boston the more runners we started seeing.  Finally at the 14 mile water stop, Marie and Julia caught up to us, so Brad ran with them and I ran with a couple girls from the Hopkinton club.  It was a good thing I hung around with them, because they nearly missed the turn onto Commonwealth Ave in Newton!  
Something weird happens when training for a marathon.  Your perspective on distance gets really warped.  Like when you reach mile 17 and you think, oh cool, only 4 miles up these hills and I'm done!  There was a day when I couldn't run 4 miles.  Or even 1!  At almost mile 18 I stopped at a water stop and then realized it wasn't the Hopkinton table (oops!) but the girls there were really nice and gave me some water.  At this point, Commonwealth Ave was completely overwhelmed with runners of all shapes, sizes, and speeds going up and down the hills.  It was a truly amazing sight.  I stopped at "the real" 18 mile water stop, checked in, and then continued on for the final leg of this journey.  At this point I was in no rush, and I was at complete peace knowing that I had this.  I had already run 18 miles and felt good.  Strong.  Prepared.  And then it hit me.  In three weeks I'm running the Boston Marathon.  THE Boston-Freaking-Marathon!  I'm watching all of these amazing runners on Heartbreak Hill, and then it occurred to me, I am one of these people. I finally get it.  This is a really, really big deal.
When I arrived at the bus, we were treated to tables full of tons of snacks, coffee, and drinks.  I grabbed a Powerade and sat with Brad and the girls on the sidewalk, and I was full of smiles.  They were shocked.  (They've never seen me smile after a long run).  I was clearly buzzed on fumes, endorphins, and caffeine, but I just couldn't stop yapping about how awesome that run was, how awesome I felt, how great my stomach felt, how great life is, how much I love everyone and everything.  Finally I got really cold and went into the bus to change, and then I grabbed a bag of Frito's.  I guzzled a Gatorade recovery shake, a bottle of regular Gatorade, and half a bottle of Coke.  There was a whole lot of liquid sloshing around in my stomach on the way back, so maybe I should have spaced it out a bit more, but who cares.  I just ran 21.25 freaking miles!

Here are a couple observations about the course:

  • The downhill at the start of the marathon is so much steeper than I expected.  It's easy to see how people can start too fast in this race, and have really, really sore quads afterwards!
  • Framingham is ugly.  Hopefully the crowds will be so thick on marathon day that we won't notice how ugly it is.
  • I'm really looking forward to not having to run on sidewalks and yield to traffic on race day!

Now it's time to taper.  The short runs will be about the same as they have been, but there will be no more super long runs.  The weekend runs will be cut down to about 10 miles each weekend to give our bodies time to recover from all the hard training, and get rested for race day.  It will give me a chance to tend to my achy knee and very tight heel.  I'm excited for this day.  We've worked so hard all winter for it.  All systems are go for launch!

Click here to see today's run!

PS. After today's run, I went home, showered, and then stopped at the liquor store on my way to Jackie's house.  Naturally, I couldn't get out of the liquor store without telling the clerk how I just ran 21 miles and "in case you were wondering why I haven't been around much lately, it's because I'm training for the Boston Marathon".  What can I say?  It's a really, really big deal!

Oh and one more thing...
I woke up this morning to discover a little article about yours truly in the Milford Daily News!  Now I'm officially "on the record" and totally jazzed up for this race!  Just one question... what exactly are they trying to tell me?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Road Rants

Training for the Boston Marathon means that I have spent a lot of time on the roads.  I would say about 75% of the people I encounter on the roads are very respectful.  The other 25% suck the big one.  Today was one of those days where that 25% was the majority.  Once last fall I remember going out for a run right after the Patriots lost a game, and drivers were visibly crankier.  I'm not sure what was happening today, but the fact that it's late March, temps in the 30's, and there's still snow all over the place might have something to do with it.

Here's my list of things that are absolutely going to happen when you spend enough time running on the roads:

  • If you are on a deserted road where there is absolutely no traffic, and you come up to a narrow bridge, there will suddenly be a car coming from each direction.  The two cars will squeeze together and you will be left trotting on the edge of the bridge like you're teetering on a balance beam.
  • If you are on a quiet road where not a single car has passed you for miles, and you come up to a sharp blind corner, a car will come bombing around the corner and will have to do a very dramatic swerve to get around you.  Frequently in conjunction with a hand gesture.
  • If you are running along on that nice quiet, dry road where you haven't seen any traffic for miles, and there's only one puddle and it's right in front of you, a car will come towards you and will drive as close to you as possible so that you can't run around the puddle.
  • You are not obligated to run on a sidewalk; you are technically allowed to run on the street even if there is a sidewalk.  And keep in mind that when you do, certain drivers are going to "teach you a lesson" about it.
  • A dog will chase you (or at least "aggressively follow" you)
  • Someone will look at you with disgust when you spit on the street
  • Someone will wave at you and you won't know if 1. they're just being nice, if 2. you know them, or if 3. they're using the "I can smell you from here" gesture
  • Someone will speed up and swerve towards you, and you will hope a cop will be there to see it, but there won't be.

On today's run I was passed by Joe Stud driving an old fixed up sports car, revving the engine louder as he sped up passing me.  He did this while unbeknownst to him, his directional was blinking away for no reason.  Driving around with your directional on is the vehicular equivalent of walking around with your fly down.  It makes me giggle.  

So is it just in New England that we have rude drivers?  Or is it like this everywhere?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Bedford Half Marathon - 2013

Two years ago I ran New Bedford for the first time, just before tearing my hip.  I was a little faster and thinner back then, but after re-reading my race report from that day, I've found that some things never change.  I was whining about my sore foot and painful stomach that were slowing me down, which sounds eerily familiar to how I've felt leading up to this race.  It's kind of sad that after two years, I still haven't gotten a handle on these issues.  The biggest difference this year is that, unlike two years ago, this year I was more than prepared.  Boston training is peaking at this stage, so this 13 mile run is nice and short!  Never thought I'd say that!
This year I went into the race looking for redemption.  I had disappointed myself two years ago because of my stomach problems and never really got to enjoy the race.  I was so sick that Hiroshi and I never got to enjoy anything after the race.  We immediately hopped into the car and high-tailed it home, me turning green and rolling down the window for fresh air.  We still laugh about it.
My goal for today's race was to run it faster than a training run and beat my time from two years ago (2:02 something).  I prepared well for this race.  I ate well all week, shutting down vegetables and other fiber by Friday night.  I hydrated well by drinking tons of water all week and no alcohol.  I got ridiculous amounts of sleep (8-9 hours a night).  On Saturday I did almost nothing but read a book, and then took my horse out for a little light ride in the afternoon.  Nothing strenuous.  Nothing would foil my plans.
Despite my first encounter with this race, I was really looking forward to running it again.  This is a great race, very organized, tons of crowd support, and the course is awesome.  I consider this course to be a condensed version of Boston.  There is a long stretch of downhill running in the early miles of the race, and an uphill at the end when you're good and tired.  And of course, down along the water you can be sure to endure some serious winds, and today was no exception.
I carpooled to New Bedford with Kerri (so weird that Hiroshi never called, haha).  The race doesn't start until 11am, but since I wasn't 100% sure where I was going and I have a phobia about navigating through cities, I wanted to get there early.  Kerri and I made great time getting there, arriving at the YMCA just before 9am, just in time to snag one of the last parking spots in the lot.  When we started opening the car doors and struggled to push them open against the winds, we knew we were in for a world of hurt.  We went inside, grabbed our numbers, and hung out inside the gymnasium while other club members arrived.  Crowds started getting really thick so we decided to make our way to a restroom and then head back to the car.  Back outside, the wind continued to howl and we opted to stick it out inside the car for a while before heading to the start.  It is at this time that I should have put my phone away.  If I had, I might not have seen a couple of text messages come through that I wish I hadn't seen, that really stressed me out.  Angry and a bundle of nerves, I decided it was time to head to the start line.  On the way, we'd stop in the porta-john line.  We were horrified to see the line spanning the length of a city block, and wondered if 30 minutes was going to be enough time to get to the start line.  Leave it to me to arrive two hours before the race and still nearly miss the start.  We got to the start line just in the knick of time, but couldn't get into our pace area.  I think we were stuck in the 14 min/mile section, but at least we found Ronnie.  He was pretty easy to spot with his awesome St. Patty's Day hat.
The horn started, the race was off, and after a couple minutes of standing still the crowd slowly shuffled across the start line.  We started off at a pretty decent clip, not too fast, and Kerri, Ronnie and I stuck together.  Around the 2 mile mark, Ronnie made a quick burst past a few runners, Kerri stuck with him, and I just couldn't be bothered.  I stuck to my planned pace and enjoyed the run.  Starting so close to the back has its advantages.  Psychologically it was pretty awesome passing so many people!  I remembered there being a hill at mile 3 and mile 12, and in a sick sort of way I was looking forward to them.  I wanted to prove to myself that the hill work I have done this season has been worth it.  I was definitely pleased with the way I powered up the hills at mile 3, passing tons of other runners, and by the time I reached the top I had finally warmed up.  And the best part about being at the top was that I knew the next 4 miles were downhill, and then another 3 miles after that were flat, before the next hill.  I sped up a bit, letting my legs just roll down the descent.  My foot felt totally fine which made me so happy, and the sun almost felt warm.  I even rolled up my sleeves for a little while!  About halfway down the hill I felt nearly toasty and decided to chuck my $1 throwaway gloves.  I heard someone yelling my name and turned in time to see Jackie, Hiroshi's fiancee, waving to me.  How exciting!  I hardly ever see a familiar spectator during a race, and that was so great!  I truly enjoyed running this race, seeing the spectators, all the different dogs on the side of the road, the St Patty's Day house parties, and the different costumes. 

La dee da, feelin' groovy, definitely beating 2:02. Maybe break 2:00!
 I hit the bottom of the hill and ran along the coastline, soaking in the great views.  Then the wind picked up.  The "flat" felt hard after running with the benefit of a downhill for so many miles.  Then my stomach rolled over with a nasty bout of nausea.  This isn't happening.  Yes, it was happening.  I had passed a row of porta-johns thinking I was fine, then realized I wasn't.  I marched along as quickly as possible, determined to find somewhere to make a pit stop.  I wasn't happy about having to stop, but if it meant having a strong finish and feeling good at the end, I could deal with that.  Just as I spotted another row of porta-johns, I hear my name.  Hiroshi had caught up to me.  "Jill! The hills are coming! The hills are your friend! How you doing?" he shouted. "I gotta pooooooo!" I exclaimed, and bolted to the toilet.  There was a line to use the facilities where I got a chance to practice my deep breathing while trying to calm the cramping.  Finally I got in there, and man I really did need to go!  So imagine how it felt, after nearly crapping my pants, to be heckled by the runners in line behind me waiting to go.  "Hurry up... the rest of us gotta go too ya know!"  I wouldn't say that it was necessarily directed at me per se, since there were 3 toilets, but it sure made me feel like crap.  HA! 

You can see where the pace started to falter, then got serious, and so on...
 The good thing about the pit stop was that afterwards I felt heroic.  It was like I was just starting a run fresh.  I booked it out of the porta-john (kindly holding the door for the lady that just heckled me) and settled into a good pace.  I was encouraged seeing some people that I had already passed just a few miles ago, so I didn't really lose that much time.  The mile 12 hill finally surfaced, and I don't remember it being anything like this last time.  I remember last time I had to talk myself up every step of that hill.  I wanted to quit so bad.  It had been agony.  This year it didn't seem bad at all.  Of course, I didn't feel sick this time, and I was in better shape.  The wind, on the other hand, was brutal.  The last few miles of the course included a bitterly cold head wind, which seemed like a cruel practical joke going up the hill at mile 12.
Strong finish!

One of my favorite things about running and racing is looking at my Garmin activity afterwards, seeing the split times, and checking out the elevation.  For some reason, once we hit sea level, the Garmin couldn't register any elevation.  I thought this was a problem just with my watch, but a search on Garmin Connect revealed that other runners complained about this too.  I took the liberty of correcting it.

You can see here the life-like self portrait of me, complete with flames shooting out of my feet, powering up the hill
 I crossed the finish line, without intestinal cramping, in 2:05:37.  Ronnie was there to give me a big hug and tell me how someone handed him a beer, which he drank, while running up the hill at mile 12.  Kerri was there too, and told me that she heard from Jackie who heard from Hiroshi that I had to poop.  We made a beeline to the car to change into dry shirts, and then headed to the beer garden for a beer and soup.  The piping hot soup really hit the spot, and we all relived the best and worst parts about the race.  And as usual we got a good laugh about my delicate bowels, and I have promised to try even harder to get this straightened out.  Preferably before April 15th! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hills and track: necessary evils, or just plain evil?

For lazy people like me, if asked what I prefer: A. hills or B. speed work, the answer is D. None of the above.  (Here's where half of my readers are shaking their heads saying, "Are you kidding me? Lazy? You're about the busiest person I know! Why, you do more in an afternoon than I do all week!"  And the other half of my readers are nodding their heads saying, "You know, she really is lazy.  Always whining about the hills.  Always whining about going to track".)

Training for the Boston Marathon has me at odds with my laziness, because there are no short cuts to that finish line.  How I feel that day will be a reflection of all the work I've put into preparation.  Adding to my inner inertia is the very real issue of my very unhappy foot.  Ever since breaking it in October I've had to baby it, wrap it, and do whatever I can to avoid excess pounding on the ball of my foot.  Running fast = pounding.  Pushing up hills = pounding.  Steamrolling down hills = pounding. My foot isn't exactly giving me the push out the door I need!

Just running around town gives me a lot of hills to hate, but only one time have I actually done a run to focus specifically on hills.  That was in October, just a week before I broke my foot.  Whether or not it was a contributing factor to the break I'll never know, but ever since then I've been very hesitant to put any undue stress on my foot.  With Boston just around the corner, why risk it?

While I think I've done the right thing in terms of being cautious, it comes at a cost.  What came clear to me after analyzing my Garmin data is that the pace of my short runs and long runs were all blending together.  I like my short runs to be faster, so that the long runs don't seem so hard.  Over the last couple of weeks, although I haven't done any track work, I have focused on trying to speed up a bit on my short runs.  It's worked, and I've finally got some 4-5 mile runs at paces in the 8's.  The funny thing is, I really enjoy the harder effort of running faster.  Unfortunately, after a couple weeks of incorporating faster runs into my routine, my foot started hurting.  A lot.  Right in the same spot where it broke in October.  I was pretty upset about this, and did the right thing by taking a few days off.  I did a short run on Saturday (4.5 miles) just to test it out, and there was still some pain but not unmanageable.  I had a 20 miler planned for Sunday but opted to shorten it to 15 (actually 10, but Anthony gave me a bonus 4.5 miles).  Oddly enough, my foot was 100% fine that day.  One thing Anthony suggested on our run was to try to introduce more hill work into my week if I could.  Just once a week, throw in more hills.  It will be good for Boston.  So then he says to me, he says, "Even just the hill right on your street.  Just run up and down that 10 times, and that's probably all you need".  If I could catch Anthony, I would probably punch him in the face.

Well, the last thing in the world I want to do is hill work.  It hurts just thinking about it.  That hill in front of my house is horrible.  Sometimes I skip running simply because I don't want to have to run up that hill.  Now Anthony is suggesting that I do it 10 times in a row.  Holy hell.  On the other hand, I may be lazy, but I'm also logical.  They say, "train hard, race easy".  So the harder I make my training, the easier it should feel on race day.  If I can run up this hill until I'm ready to collapse, I should be better prepared for Heartbreak Hill, and for the last six miles of the marathon when my legs are shot and it's all I can do to keep moving forward.  That's really what it's all about.  I don't want to suffer too much in Boston.  This isn't so much a "training plan" as it is a "means of survival".

So today for the first time since October, I did "hill work".  I realize that with five weeks left until the Boston Marathon I'm a little late to the party, but may as well give it a try.  I refused to commit to Anthony's recommended 10 repeats, but instead loosely committed to running up and down the hill "a whole bunch of times".  Well, "a whole bunch of times" = 4.  And it really was horrible.  The fourth time I made it to the top of the hill I had decided I'd had enough, I just kept on running down the street to get in more mileage before returning home.  While torturing myself, I couldn't help but compare it to my other nemesis, track work.  It's fun trying to think of which activity I hate more.  Today I'm confident that I hate hill work more.  Of course, that may change.  Here are a few observations of hills vs. track.

  • I've never puked on a hill, only on a track
  • My muscles have never screamed as much on a track as they did up that hill today
  • At track I have friends that I love running with.  Even the ones that yell at me.
  • Tracks are flat.  And springy.  And sometimes come with a marching band.
I'm not sure if any of the above observations are Pro-hills or Pro-track, but I guess that's up to interpretation.  While I wait for track season to start up again, I'm just going to keep on hating these hills, but I'll keep on running up them with the hopes that if I run uphill long enough, eventually the hills will feel flat, and the flats will feel downhill.

Today I was proud of myself for conquering the hills, and was excited to upload my Garmin activity to check out the elevation gain.  (I estimated it to be about 1,000 feet gained).  After all that, it was only 441 feet of climbing over 4.5 miles.  I guess I have some work to do!  I sent a quick text over to Anthony simply stating that my quads and butt muscles were pretty ticked at him for suggesting hills, but that I had given it a shot.  He congratulated me, and then told me that he just finished a trail run for his birthday, with 2,500 feet of elevation gain.  I guess deep down we runners are all just a special breed of masochist.

Click here to see today's run!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Boston training - those stinkin' long runs

We're six weeks away from the Boston Marathon, which makes me feel excited, nervous, unprepared, tired, and wired.  And that's all in the span of a single run!  Luckily we have a great group of girls all training and supporting each other, making the long runs just a little more tolerable.  All week I look forward to the weekend to meet up with my friends for a run, and then halfway through, I can't remember why I was so excited to see them. Honestly I'm surprised we're all still talking to each other after spending so many painful, exhausting hours together!

After the Disney Marathon I had taken almost a week off of running because of a really bad head cold.  When I did start running again, I found that I was very lethargic.  I felt fit, but just so tired.  Every run was exhausting.  Even 3 miles.  I couldn't  believe I had just run a marathon, was training for another, and I wanted to bail on a 3 mile run.  Two weeks after Disney I did a 10 mile run in some bitter cold and although my feet were hurting still from Disney, I did okay.  Jess, who I ran with, said, "wow 10 miles must feel like nothing to you now".  Actually, yeah 10 miles still seems like a long run!  Man, this just doesn't seem to be getting any easier!

The following week, on February 3, the Boston-bound girls decided to run part of the course.  We wanted to get in 16 miles, and encompass Heartbreak Hill.  So, we started in Framingham at La Cantina restaurant and ran to Boston College.
Excited, just about to head out!
Something was off right from the beginning with me.  I wasn't super-energized like I had hoped to be.  Starting off, I certainly didn't feel as though I had the energy needed to run 16 miles.  By mile 6 I was already tired, and by mile 8 I had to find a restroom, stat!  I hopped into a gas station quickly, and then caught back up with the group.

Running through Natick, trying to keep up!
I started getting further and further behind, and fortunately someone always fell back to run with me.  Finally at Heartbreak Hill I started taking walk breaks.  My plan to start slow and finish strong backfired, and I was completely spent by the end.  After finally reaching BC, we stopped into Dunkin' Donuts where I got a turkey-bacon-cheddar sandwich, which has since become my post-run go-to meal.  On the drive back from Newton I reflected on the run.  I wouldn't consider it a "bad run", I just couldn't keep up with everyone and felt tired right from the beginning.  Every run is a learning experience, so I needed to figure out what was happening.  Jackie said she felt a lot of it had to do with the stress I was under at work.  At the time I thought she was wackadoodle, but I've since changed my mind about that.  I was a little discouraged though, not because of my pace, but just because of the way I felt.  Everyone else seemed to have a great time and couldn't say enough good things about the run, and I honestly didn't like it at all.  I felt like something must be wrong with me.  Why is everyone so happy and I feel like junk?  When everyone started talking about "the next time we run this course" I decided I wanted no part of that.  I think sticking to local roads for my long runs is a better idea for me, where it's okay if I get left behind or need a short cut or a pit stop.  The stress of being worried about getting too far behind, lost, or injured out on course was too unpleasant to go through again.
The following week we had the blizzard, so I only ran a couple short runs and missed the long run altogether, although a few die-hards got out there in the snow.  Not me.  I was too wiped out from plowing and shoveling.  I managed to get in some snowshoeing, which was quite a challenge in 2-3 feet of snow!
The week after the blizzard we scheduled an 18 miler close to home.  I ran a few short runs that week, and then met Jackie, Coleen, and Kerri on Saturday.  I felt rested and fresh at the beginning of the run, took a few Clif shot blocks in the first few miles, and then switched to Perpetuem for the rest of the run.  

The fresh snow was kind of refreshing!

Aside from running out of water at mile 13 (but Jackie's mom's house was right nearby for a refill!) I felt really good.  It was a complete 180 from the previous long run.  My legs were tired at the end of course, especially with the hills in the last few miles, but I honestly felt pretty good at the end.  What a huge confidence booster!  Hey this running thing ain't so bad!

All smiles after 18 miles!
Since this run was so much better than the last one, I felt like I should think about the reasons why.  Here's what I came up with:

  • The 16 miler may have been too close to Disney
  • The stress in the days leading up to the 16 miler probably did impact my energy level
  • I didn't eat enough before the 16 miler

Click here for a view of the 16 mile run on the Boston course

Here's what I did better in the 18 miler:

  • I ate better before the run (2 mini bagels and half of a banana)
  • I was not stressed in the days leading up to the run
  • I was much better fueled with the Clif blocks and caffeinated Perpetuem

Last weekend was the Hyannis half marathon, so it was kind of nice to do a "short" run on the weekend!  Still, I ran that harder than I would normally run a long run, so it was a good workout.

Tomorrow is an exciting day - I have a hair appointment in the morning, and Jackie's fundraiser party at night, so I knew there was no way I was going to get in a long run.  Coleen, Julia and I all decided to take the day off and do our 18 mile run.  Although I was really looking forward to running with them this morning, I was a little worried because I just didn't seem to have the "get up and go" I was hoping for.  We met at Jackie's house with the intention of doing the same exact route we had done two weeks ago.  We started off really strong, probably faster than we should have, but it was a nice day and we were enjoying it.  Then around mile 6 I started having some serious tummy trouble.  I toughed it out for a while, but at mile 7 I asked them if we could stop for a minute.  I was hoping that if I just stopped for a couple minutes that would be enough to settle my  bowels, but it didn't help.  We contemplated options.  There were plenty of woods, but no toilet paper.  What a rookie mistake!  Julia reminded me that 11 miles was a really long way to go, so we better find another solution.  Since my house was 2 miles away, Julia made the executive decision to run to my house.  Only 2 miles, sure, I can make it. As we ran, I thought about what caused this sudden stomach problem, and started realizing it probably had something to do with the unusually large volume of carrots I ate yesterday afternoon.  It also occurred to me that I didn't have a house key with me, so I was really hoping someone would be home.  Which meant, obviously no one would be home.  I scrambled to find an unlocked door or a spare key with no luck, and started casing the house for unlocked windows.  As it turns out, I'm really good at securing the house.  Eventually I made it in the house, using a little tactic I like to call "What Would Gloria Do".  (Gloria is my clever mother).  Relief!  And yes, I do believe the culprit was carrots.  (You're welcome for the visual).  We headed back out and had to call Jackie, who was planning to meet us out on the course at the 13 mile mark.  Since it was 9 miles to my house, we decided to just backtrack the same exact way back to Jackie's.  This is where I got really, really tired.  I was so thankful to see Jackie at mile 12, and then she continued to leap-frog us all the way to mile 17.  There were several points along this stretch where I wanted to give up, but seeing her on the side of the road kept me going. This was not one of my best runs, but I was thankful when I got to her driveway and proud of myself for not giving up.  I still managed to average a 10:20 pace, even with being so drained.  I am starting to think the training is paying off, and if nothing else, I am getting really good and running when I'm really tired and just want to give up!

When we got back to Jackie's house, my brain died.  I could no longer speak.  When everyone asked how I was feeling, I said, "mm. uh. eeeh".  We then staggered into the house so we didn't get too cold.  Jackie asked if we wanted anything to drink and I said, "purple" and sat on the kitchen floor.  So she gave me a grape Gatorade.  I drank it all, and started to slowly come back to life.  Then I got up and changed into a dry shirt and played with her dogs, and felt more normal.  I voiced my concern about how I'm going to deal with Boston.  I've demonstrated several times now how mushy my brain gets after a long run, and luckily each time I've been at someone's house or I've had friends nearby to steer me in the right direction.  I'm worried that I'll end up kidnapped or something worse after I finish Boston.

After we all came back to life, we headed to a little coffee shop in the center of Upton where we all had awesome sandwiches and coffee, laughing about the silliness of our run today and already planning the next one.  It's a good thing us runners have a short term memory for pain!