Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Race Part 2

We saw many, many interesting fellow runners while on the course. There were a ton of charity runners (like ourselves) raising money for causes as varied as autism, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and the Wounded Warrior Fund. We saw participants using handcycles (many racing for the Semper Fi Fund), and an amputee runner using a carbon-fiber blade just like Olympian Oscar Pistorius. We were also mightily impressed by the soldier wearing a full Explosive Ordnance Disposal suit as he completed the course---not only must he have been terribly hot, but those suits can weigh as much as 80 pounds!

Mile 10 took us by the Kennedy Center, and then we proceeded along the Potomac to what Chris had warned me was a long, boring section of the course (granted, when he ran previously the course was different, and Haines Point was more towards mile 18-20). Haines Point is a massive golf course on a piece of land shaped like a fang; what makes it difficult is the lack of crowds. Fortunately, there was a gel stop and a water station, and people had come out before the race started to put up A LOT of entertaining signs.

As we started on to the Point, we were met with the sight of about 20-30 Gold Star Moms lining the side of the road, all wearing blue shirts (part of the "Run to Remember" movement to never forget those military members who have died). Some were holding signs of support, and others were holding photos of loved ones no longer with us. I was struck again and again by the realization that so many didn't even see their 25th birthday.

It was also on this stretch of the course that we hit the halfway mark; our split was 2:34:34, right where we wanted to be as far as pacing (not too fast, and with plenty of cushion to Beat the Bridge). The wind really picked up on this section, especially as we made the turn back towards downtown. Everyone was slowing a bit, and we were hopeful that things would die down once we had city buildings around us again.

Miles 16-18 took us around the Tidal Basin, up and down Independence Avenue, and along the Mall in front of many of the Smithsonian Museums. This stretch brought back many memories of school field trips to see the Hope Diamond, the tattered American flag that once flew over Fort McHenry, Fonzie's jacket, and the Apollo Lunar Module. These museums are truly a national treasure! It was also along this stretch that we hit the first of our time-sensitive deadlines, Beat the Gauntlet (mile 17.5). We had to reach this point in less than 4 hours and 20 minutes; we made it in about 3:30.

We continued down Madison Drive, running right in front of the Capitol building before heading down the other side of the Mall. Then the turn onto 14th Street and mile marker 20---we did it! We Beat the Bridge, and with plenty of time to spare--you have to arrive in under 5 hours 5 minutes or they pick you up in a bus and your race is over :-(. We managed it in about 4 hours. Yay!

Of course, after the elation of "missing the bus", as it were, things got tough. We never ran more than 20 miles in training, so this was all uncharted territory. My right hip and hamstring had been bothering me off and on since about mile 15 and we'd already stopped to stretch twice. Chris seemed okay, but confessed he was starting to feel it in his knees and feet. We ran on to the 21 mile mark, and I finally told Chris I had to walk for a bit. I felt a little disappointed having to walk, but I really felt at that point if I didn't ease up, I might not make it to the finish.

We walked about a mile; this was another terribly boring part of the course with no crowd support, just the whoosh of speeding cars on the highway next to us (also making us feel extra extra slow). But we could not feel too badly for ourselves as while we were walking, we saw a woman struggling to push a handcycle over the bridge. The front wheel had a flat tire and a bent rim, and it was VERY slow going for her. Fortunately, two men on bicycles approached her and offered assistance; I do not know how her race ended, but I hope she was able to finish.

We started running again just before mile 22 (back in VA), and boy was it painful to start up again! But somehow, once we got back in the rhythm, running actually felt better than walking. At this point we could see the Pentagon, but before we made it there we had to run through Crystal City. I am still not sure why it is called this, but whatever. All I know is the crowds were incredible here, blasting loud, uplifting music and really cheering us on. We both felt reinvigorated at this point and full of energy.

This good feeling lasted about two miles. We declined to eat the Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins offered at mile 24, though we certainly stepped on plenty of them. Right after this food station, I had to stop and stretch again. My hip was aching again and my right hamstring felt like it was about to cramp, which I wanted to avoid at all costs! I once again told Chris I needed to walk a little, and he supported me and stayed right with me. I'm sure it was difficult for him, especially as we were so close to the finish, but we had agreed to finish together no matter what and our team wasn't going to fall apart now.

We walked along the Pentagon, and truth be told at this point there were plenty of people with the same idea. Some seemed upset at the thought of missing time goals; a few were genuinely struggling and unsure if they could make it to the end. Everyone along the road was offering encouragement and reminding us how close we were to the finish. The sky was darkening, the wind was picking up, and it felt like the temperature had dropped 10 degrees; I was at the point where I either needed a jacket or to start running again just to warm up!

At this moment we could see the 25 mile sign, and that was definitely the inspiration we needed to pick up the pace. No way were we walking the last 1.2 miles---we had to run it in strong. The crowds were thick again, yelling and cheering and ringing cowbells all over the place. We were feeling excited and happy---we could do this! As we turned toward the Iwo Jima Monument for one last hill, we were joined by our Fisher House coach, Stacy. She congratulated us and directed us up the road to the FINISH LINE. Marines lined the way, clapping, whooping, and extending their hands for high-fives. Chris and I joined hands and crossed the finish line together, just as we'd imagined when we'd started training 30 weeks before.

Official finish time: 5:27:31 (almost exactly 1 hour slower than my time 10 years ago)

Place 18597/8 of 23515 finishers

Immediately after the finish, we received our medals, which have a cool spinny thing in the middle. They are also huge, like Flavor Flav's clock:
After picking up our warming jackets and a box of snacks, we headed back to the Fisher House tent. My legs were quite stiff and I wasn't sure if I should sit down, but my feet were so sore I gave in. Chris and I signed up for complimentary massages (heavenly) and had some Gatorade and snacks before walking back to our hotel. We packed, showered, and dressed in our MCM shirts, ready for the drive home.
Splits, for those who are interested:

5k: 00:37:5610k: 01:15:0515k: 01:51:21

20k: 02:26:46Half: 02:34:3425k: 03:02:59

30k: 03:43:0235k: 04:25:4440k: 05:09:49
Overall pace 12:30/mile


Thanks again to everyone who offered their support during our training and fundraising efforts. We thought of all of you often along the way, especially on race day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Race! Part 1

After a decent night's sleep (I think Chris slept better than I did--I was nervous and it took me a while to settle down), we woke at 530am to get dressed. We'd laid everything out the night before, pinned on our bibs, stocked our backpacks with gels, gum, and lip balm. So we just had to eat a little snack, drink some water, and head down to the hotel lobby where our Fisher House escort would be waiting.

Even at 630am, the lobby was crowded and loud. The excitement in the room was palpable. People were discussing strategies, complaining about last-minute injuries, and admiring each other's shoes. Some of the runners were headed to the 10K race being held at the Pentagon, but most of us were marathoners. Finally our guide strapped a big yellow Fisher House flag to her back and announced it was time to go. First stop: the FH tent on Charity Hill, right next to the Carillon Tower near the Iwo Jima Memorial (where the race ends). Our group walked through the dark streets of Arlington and along the edge of the National Cemetery, where the rows of white graves stood in stark contrast to the pre-dawn sky. Marines were everywhere, setting up security and barriers or just offering a pre-race word of encouragement.

Upon our arrival at the tent, we were greeted by FH volunteers and tables full of food and drink. There were also rows of portable toilets in heavy use! Chris and I took a walk over to the war memorial and stood quietly for a few moments, taking it all in. Around us the medical tent was being supplied, Marines were talking quietly as they walked by, and finish line photographers were getting into position. As we turned back towards the FH tent, we knew the next time we saw Iwo Jima would be as we crossed the finish line. I felt incredibly inspired at that moment to run the best race I could and finish, no matter what.

Soon after, it was time for our escort to march us down to the starting line. As we approached the corrals, we saw four Marines in dress uniform marching down the road, and a line of Marines in camouflage all holding flags representing different countries. We paused to watch this presentation of colors, and also for the National Anthem. Then two massive military aircraft called Ospreys flew overhead--it was funny to see the whole 30000+ crowd looking up at the sky and taking pictures with their phones. When all of this was finished, the crowd pressed us forward and we hurried past the Howitzer that would signal the race's start.

Chris and I had a ways to go to find our corral---past the 2 hour crowd, and the 3 hour crowd (which was pretty big). We intended to get to the 5 hour grouping, but the mass of people was so thick we just gave up when we saw the 4 hour marker. Our only danger here was being pushed to go too fast; a 4 hour marathon is run at a pace of a little over 9 minutes per mile, a full two minutes per mile faster than we planned to run. I didn't think we'd be trampled, but we sure were going to get passed a lot!

The median strip was littered with water bottles, empty gel packets, and clothes; the clothes, at least are picked up and donated to local charities. Chris and I added a sweatshirt and some track pants to the pile as we were starting to feel warm enough to go without. The morning was dry, overcast, a little windy, and in the high 50s; not normally shorts and t-shirt weather, but when you run, you have to add 15-20 degrees and dress accordingly. So we were perfectly dressed for a lovely 75 degree day!

The announcer mumbled something incoherent; we heard cheering from the people way in front of us and then suddenly, a BOOM! We were all standing still, and I heard someone next to me ask, "Has the race started?" After a few moments our section finally started at a slow walk to the sounds of  "Hello" by Karmin, followed up by "Gangam Style" by Psy. It took us a few songs to cross the start line, especially since I was not running a single step until we officially started--why waste energy?

We started nice and slow, and were probably passed by a hundred people in less than five minutes. No worries; we agreed we would not start to worry about pace unless we were passed by the 5:30 pace group. For us, the race was broken into two goals. First, Beat the Bridge at mile 20 and avoid the straggler's bus; we had a little over 4 hours to accomplish that. Second, finish under our own power. Both were doable, but getting to mile 20 on time was uppermost on our minds for sure.

The first few miles were slightly uphill through VA, and the streets (already littered with racers' discarded gloves, hats and scarves) were lined with people cheering us on. Many were holding encouraging or funny signs. Some of the memorable signs:

Worst Parade Ever

Chuck Norris Never Ran A Marathon

Paul Ryan Finished 10 Minutes Ago (this one was at mile 3 or 4)

Run Faster, Sandy Is Chasing You  (alternately, Zombies Are Chasing You)

We've Got Binders Full Of Runners

Because 26.3 Would Just Be Crazy

Pain Now, Wine Later

Run, Random Stranger, Run

You Are All Kenyans

Marine Corps Marathon Today, Law and Order Marathon Tomorrow

Toenails Are For Sissies

I'll tell you within that first mile we were already pleased with our decision to bring our own water. We drank as we liked and got on a schedule of hitting every other water station to supplement. Toward the end of the route we were stopping at every water station, mostly so Chris could get some Gatorade (the gels were no longer appetizing to him).

After completing 4+ miles in Virginia, we ran over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. We could see runners ahead turning right on M Street, but quickly realized we had to finish a long loop to the left first. This part of the course wrapped around the Georgetown Reservoir; the crowds were thin but the scenery was pretty and we saw lots of beautiful homes. There was a monster hill at the end of this section but we conquered it!

Running through Georgetown (mile 9) was wonderful. There were a ton of people out in support, fun music playing, and lots of Fisher House cowbells ringing. The FH volunteers really kept us going throughout; I was definitely looking for their yellow shirts and cow hats along the sidelines, and when they spotted us, we'd get our own personal cheering section with screams, whoops, and lots of noise. There were even people not affiliated with FH, who, upon seeing our shirts and hats, would yell out "Go Fisher House!"

I'll stop here for now (don't want to bore anyone) and try to finish up the race with another post in a few days.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Week 30: Everything but the race

Our final week of training was physically very easy, but mentally a bit challenging. I was dealing with a bit of "taper madness"--anxiety about the race and whether we were really ready. On top of that normal anxiety was concern about the weather; it appeared that a hurricane named Sandy was coming to town  right on the day of our race. Checking the forecast became my new obsessive pastime, ceased only for scheduled runs (3 miles, 4 miles, 2 miles) and breaks to eat some more carbs.

Wednesday evening was spent packing all of our running gear for race day. You'd think this would be simple (shorts, shirt, socks, shoes) but with the uncertainty of the weather it suddenly became a lot more complicated. We had our hydration packs, stocked with gels, gum, and bandannas. Two pairs of shoes in case something went wrong with the pair we planned to wear. Running shorts and leggings in case it was colder than expected; long sleeved shirts to go under our Fisher House jerseys for the same reason. Hats and gloves. Jackets in case of rain. Throwaway clothes to wear to the starting line for warmth---I ditched a 20-year-old ripped and frayed Brown sweatshirt, while Chris left some torn track pants (the clothes in wearable condition are collected and donated to homeless shelters). Clothes to put on at the finish to keep us warm on the walk back to the hotel (sweatpants, sweatshirt, dry socks, dry shoes). Clothes to put on AT the hotel after we showered. A lot of items for an 8 hour time span!

Our final run on Thursday was a lot of fun and very meaningful, as the whole family joined in for our last 2-miler. Even the dog ran with us! It was a wonderful way to wrap up training; the kids have been very supportive and understanding when we have been too tired to move or spent a whole Saturday morning on the trails.

Friday evening we travelled to Maryland to stay with my parents, who had very generously agreed to watch the kids while we ran the race. (In fact, I cleared this with them back in March, before we even registered--we couldn't have done it without their help!) We all had a nice breakfast together Saturday morning and then Chris and I headed off to the Expo to pick up our race day packets and Fisher House gear.

The Expo was huge, with tons of people milling about and Marines everywhere you looked. Our first stop was the packet pick-up tent. Fortunately there were no lines and we had our bibs in two minutes flat. We then headed to the Fisher House table, where we received our duffel bags and race jackets for raising over $1000. We also received special challenge coins, which were presented to us in the traditional way, through a handshake.
Our bib numbers

Lightweight reflective jacket

Close-up of jacket


Challenge coin, front and back

The Expo itself was full of booths advertising future races being held all around the world; running clothing and shoes; running nutrition; running accessories like watches, GPS, ID bracelets, and light strips for running at night; and framing services to display your race day photos, bibs, and medals. Our most important stop here was to pick up our official Marine Corps Marathon shirt. It is very nice and cozy, but being cotton, it is heavy and I can't imagine running more than a mile or two wearing one!
Front of shirt

Back of shirt

Sleeve. Oo-rah!

After the Expo, we went to our hotel in VA to rest and shower before the Fisher House pasta dinner.  This was an amazing event; we were inspired by our teammates who raised thousands of dollars, and even more so by the Allen family. Chaz Allen was wounded in Afghanistan and lost both of his legs; his wife Jessica and their two daughters experienced life in a Fisher House firsthand. Jessica spoke movingly of Chaz's injuries and rehabilitation, as well as the support and friendship she received at multiple Fisher Houses during her husband's recovery. By the end of her speech, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. We were all ready to run and conquer the marathon--for ourselves, for Fisher House, and for families like the Allens.

A little while after we returned from dinner, I noticed the message light blinking on our phone. When I called, I was told the message was simply that our room had not been cleaned that day because we had left the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. This made no sense as we had just checked in around 3pm, and the room had already been cleaned; still, we opened the door to check whether the sign was there or not. Upon opening the door we were greeted by red, yellow, and blue streamers and a wonderful note:
Better than Do Not Disturb!

A final check of the weather forecast provided some good news--Sandy was not going to be an issue race morning. However, the images coming out of the Carolinas Saturday evening were frightening enough to impress upon us that this storm was not to be trifled with. As we all know now, Sandy brought devastation, destruction, and death to many in her path. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the storm; may you return to some peace and normalcy as quickly as possible.

I will post again in a few days with a race report. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Week 29: I guess we're really gonna do this thing!

Just a quick post this week---we are nervous, excited, probably overeating and underhydrating, and getting in those last few runs. It is very difficult to look at the schedule and see 4 or even 3 miles; you think you should be running more! But this method is tried and true, so we shall obey---and if my incredibly fresh-feeling legs on our last 8-miler are any indication, the taper is working.

We have read lately about the importance of racing as you trained. We had some concerns about hydration, as the marathon course places water stops approximately every 2 miles and we are used to running with our backpacks and sipping every mile or so (as needed). We tried on our last few runs to stick to the 2 mile distance but found it a bit restrictive, so we are going to wear our packs and supplement from water/gatorade stations as necessary. Two miles for us can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 25 minutes, which is a long time if you are thirsty. This also means we will have pockets for gels, sports beans, chapstick, and bandannas, so we are fully stocked and ready to run!

We are so excited for this marathon and to meet all of our Fisher House teammates! I hope to thrill you all next week with an awesome, fun-filled race report. Stay tuned!

Weekly stats:

Tue  10/16       4.03 miles in 39:37

Wed  10/17       6.04 miles in 1:02:36

Thu    10/18      3.03 miles in 29:29

Sun    10/21     8.01 miles in 1:27:50

Total:  21.11 miles

Thanks for reading and all of your support! Fisher House thanks you too!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Week 28: Lions, Tigers, and Bears--Oh My!

Well, no lions or tigers. But there was indeed a bear---a big black bear, standing up on his hind legs and watching us from about 100 feet off the trail.  Unfortunately (or is it luckily?), we had 3 miles to go until the end of our 12 miler, and no short cuts available. Chris spotted the bear first and asked me what I had left as far as snacks (some Sports Beans) to throw behind us as a distraction if need be. He also informed me that I didn't have to run faster than the bear, just faster than him. Ha.

Fortunately the bear had other business to attend to in the forest, and we did not see him again. It's a shame I didn't have my Runkeeper app turned on as I would love to have our split times for those last few miles! We definitely picked up the pace. Both of us agreed that if we had seen Mr. Bear 3 miles into our run we would have turned right around and headed home. The joys of nature....

We are now in the taper phase of our training, which means mileage is cut back drastically over the three weeks before the race. This is supposed to allow time for our bodies to rest and recover, and for all the little aches and pains to heal. So of course Chris went out yesterday and biked 30 scenic hilly miles for breast cancer. He swears this is not why his knee hurts tonight.

Weekly stats:

Tue 10/9      5.01 miles in 52:45

Wed 10/10    8.06 miles in 1:25:00

Thu  10/11  supposed to do 4 miles but work and darkness intervened

Sat   10/13    12.03 miles in 2:06:00  (all of our runs this week fell in the 10:30 min/mile pace---odd!)

Total:   25.1 miles

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 27: Thank you, Kelly Clarkson

Phew! This week was our highest mileage week of training, and I am happy to report we made it through! It was difficult at times, as weather was not always optimal and Chris was on call---though this was not all bad, as a phone call from the hospital usually equals a nice 5 minute walk break. Showery weather forced us into one night run, which was potentially dangerous due to the incredibly uneven, old slate sidewalks lining our downtown streets. How great would that be, to twist an ankle this close to race day? We played it smart and walked a few blocks.

Our long run on Saturday was a whopping 20 miles, and yes, it felt just as long as it sounds. We got off to an afternoon start due to a morning SAT test for #1 son and two operations for Chris, but luckily the weather was cool and brisk enough for it not to matter. We were stuck in town this week, so I had to cobble together just about every single route we've ever run during training into one long meandering hilly course. Some of the hills were tough--we walked. Chris had two phone calls from work--we walked some more. In most cases we felt rejuvenated after walking, especially after that little break at the 17.5 mile marker! The last 2.5 miles felt pretty good, but we had some help...

from Kelly Clarkson. Chris turned on some tunes at that point and who should start singing to cheer us on but Miss C. She had us fist pumping down the street and to be honest we did not even care what fools we must have looked. It had us thinking of these kids and how if they don't give up, neither can we. Truly an awesome, inspiring, fun moment for a difficult part of the run:

We both finished feeling pretty strong (ha), and the short walk home was okay, but when I got back into the house my legs started trembling uncontrollably. Partly I think I was damp and cold and chilly, but I also think I may have been a little dehydrated or maybe my glycogen was low. I had some Gatorade and chocolate milk with a banana and felt much better after 20 minutes or so. I do think I need to drink more in general; I am good on the runs but really need to step it up on a daily basis. Something to work on in the next 3 weeks!

Weekly stats:

Mon  10/1          5.09 miles in 53:00

Wed  10/3         10.12 miles in 1:53:50

Thu   10/4          5.03 miles in 54:52 (our night run)

Sat    10/6         20.06 miles in 3:56:00 ( a 11:46 pace; this is certainly good enough to ensure we can finish in a timely manner and not get picked up by the straggler's bus!)

Total miles:  40.3 (ack)

Let the taper begin! Here's to all aches and pains healing and disappearing and Chris finally kicking his cold. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Week 26: A new mindset

As we prepare to enter our final month of training, Chris and I have thinking a lot about our evolution over the past seven months. We have learned a lot, both about the process of running and about ourselves. We know the science behind fueling and hydration for long runs; how to treat aches and pains and how to know when a twinge is turning into something more serious (Chris says pain is just weakness leaving the body--I say, well, I have a lot of weaknesses!); and the importance of recovery and rest. We also learned we can handle a lot more than we thought!

We have really enjoyed spending all these hours together; our runs are like little dates, time for just the two of us. Some runs we are chatty, catching up on events of the day. Other runs are quiet, as we work through soreness or lack of sleep, but we still find our steps synchronizing and definitely draw strength from each other's presence.

We also find ourselves saying things we never thought we'd say---for example, "Oh, our Saturday run is only 14 miles this week." Note the word "only"--at one point  in our training FOUR miles was a huge deal! But when you have tackled 18 and 16 mile runs, and know you have a 20-miler coming up, 14 doesn't seem like such a big deal after all. Not to say we still aren't wiped out afterwards---we will always love our naps!

Weekly stats:

Monday    9/24          5.03 miles in 55:55

Wednesday  9/26       9.46 miles in 1:41:25  (this was supposed to be 9, but the GPS was off)

Thursday  9/27          5.01 miles in 53:41 (exact same route as Mon but 2 minutes faster!)

Saturday  9/29           14.01 miles in 2:32:00

Total miles:               33.51

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Week 25: Beating the boredom

Only five weeks until the marathon, and our runs are increasing in both time and distance. One of the minor issues I have been dealing with lately is boredom (and I certainly am not implicating Chris here---he puts a lot of effort into keeping our runs fun and entertaining, and I could not do this without him).

We live in a small town, so we do not have many (or any) large parks with jogging paths, dedicated bike/pedestrian lanes, or even sidewalks--and the ones we do have are often not in the best shape. Many roads do not have decent shoulders, and at the same time, are heavily used by trucks; speed limits on some of these "residential" streets exceed 35 or 40 MPH. We also live in a moderately hilly area, which presents another challenge to our training. So when I am planning our routes, I try to take into account our safety first and foremost, as well as wear and tear on our bodies---some hill training is important and necessary, but it is not something you need or want to do every day!

So we have our tried-and-true safe routes, but at this point they are all getting old and stale, especially when you factor in that we have, for example,  four different 3-milers, which is great....but then our 6-miler is two of those routes combined, and our 9-miler is 3 of those put together, and the 12-miler is all four mashed up. Technically they may be "different routes" but really we are covering the same ground over and over again.

That's why it's wonderful when we can mix it up a little and get out of Dodge, especially for our long runs. It isn't always possible as some weekends Chris is on call and has to stay close to home, but this past weekend we were able to check out a fantastic new trail about 30 minutes away. It was completely revitalizing to run somewhere new and check out some unfamiliar scenery, especially over 18 long miles. Unfortunately, our 20 mile run (coming up in two weeks) has to be in town; this will be the ultimate route mash-up with a few unavoidable big hills---including my nemesis hill that I have yet to conquer--but we will walk them if we have to!

Weekly stats:

Mon    9/17      4.03 miles in 42:26

Wed    9/19       8.74 miles in 1:31:14 (this was supposed to be a full 9 but we had to get home in a hurry)

Thu     9/20       5.03 miles in 53:01

Sat       9/22      17.64 miles in 3:25:00  (this was supposed to be a full 18 but we missed a mile marker and so cut it short a bit. Also we walked 1/2 mile at mile 16, but ran the last mile in strong....this is what we call "good enough"!)

Total miles:      35.44

Quick fundraising update:  we are now up to $1547 raised for Fisher House---thank you!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Week 24: Step-back week before a biggie!

This week our midweek mileage increase slightly, while our long run cut back 4 miles for some much needed recovery. Of course, next week we have our massive 18 miler to look forward to, so we were quite grateful that our long (short) run this week went so well.

This past Saturday was just beautiful, and a perfect day for a nice 12 miles through a nearby forest. We ran by a lake on a shady path in awesome 55 degree weather---we didn't even have to get up that early, which was fantastic! We fueled properly and kept a nice pace (I compared this 12 miles to the 12 miles we ran August 11--when that was our longest run yet--and our pace has improved by 25sec/mile). When we finished, we made a stop at the local Sheetz for yummy egg and cheese sandwiches, perfect fuel for the car ride home.

I confess it is not all amazing runs in incredible weather--as the mileage creeps up, so do the lingering effects of all that running. We are pretty much in a constant state of mild soreness at this point; some muscle or another, a knee or an ankle...we are achy but somehow able to soldier through the hours on our feet. Only a few more weeks to hold on!

Weekly stats:

Tue   9/11      4.03 miles in 41:18

Wed   9/12      8.04 miles in 1:26:28

Thu   9/13       5.01 miles in 51:09

Sat      9/15      12.05 miles in 2:08:43

Total miles:    29.13 miles

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week 23: Thank you

It is September 11, and I think it is somehow fitting that we can announce today we have met our fundraising goal for Fisher House. Many of the veterans and families who are helped by Fisher House were inspired to serve our country by the terrible events that took place on this day 11 years ago. Chris and I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to those soldiers and families, as well as to the family, friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers who donated to Fisher House on our behalf. As of today, we have collected $1,297, and we know it will be put to wonderful use.

In training news, I can report with some relief that Chris and I were able to complete our 16 miles last Saturday. We were certainly exhausted at the finish, and truth be told we were still feeling a bit sore two days later---but we finished at a run (well, maybe a jog or a shuffle--but not a walk.)! Expresso gel at the one hour mark, Sports Beans at hour two, and full hydration packs for each of us did the trick. Both of us, though, finished with only a few sips of water left, so on future longer runs we may need to find a spot to refill our packs.

Weather has turned cooler and less humid for now so our runs should be a little more pleasant!

Weekly stats:

Monday 9/3        4.02 miles in 41:49

Wednesday 9/5    8.06 miles in 1:27:00

Thursday 9/6       4.06 miles in 40:22 (had to do this one on my own as C had yet another looooong day at work; got a late start and finished in the dark, I think that's why my pace was a little faster than usual!)

Saturday 9/8        16.04 miles in 3:01:00 (this was a mile longer, yet 68sec/mile faster than last week's debacle)

Weekly total:      32.18 miles

Again, thank you to everyone who helped us achieve our fundraising goal! Now Chris and I just have to get our creaky bods to DC---only 47 days to go!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Week 22: Improper fueling=Impossible run

Our marathon is only 8 short weeks away, and still we are learning about ourselves and the proper way to train for this crazy endeavor. Chris, even with four prior marathons under his belt, has never really prepared to this degree; 12-13 miles is probably the longest he has run aside from the marathon itself. Running regularly four times/week is also new to him. This being the case, he has never really had to deal with issues of energy or electrolyte replacement during a non-race run. Plus, he's super tough! Water is for finishers, don't you know. :-)

When I trained for my marathon 10 years ago, I followed the recommended advice to refuel---some sports drink or energy gel for any run over one hour, and about every 30-45 minutes after that. I felt pretty good doing that and was able to get through all of my long runs without crashing. Yet this time around, though we have had many runs over an hour (especially at our pace), I haven't taken in anything but water. Why? Mostly because I've felt okay. For weeks I've been carrying around the same 3 packets of fruit snacks, thinking I'd need to break them open for a little sugar, but I never did.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday we both crashed and burned around mile 12 of a 15 mile run. And we'd taken a few walk breaks even before that point. It was not how I'd hoped the day would go at all---though as Chris points out, we had to finish 15 miles, and we did. We just finished walking instead of running.

A number of factors contributed to our troubles. The day was warm and humid. Not the worst heat we have run in by far, but certainly the longest amount of time we have been out in such weather. I am a heavy sweater, and have come home from numerous runs covered in powdery salt. I don't think this is great under most circumstances, but two hours into a run, if I am losing that much sodium, I should probably be taking some in to replace it. Water is great but if the sodium and potassium levels get out of whack, there can be serious consequences.

I also had signs of heat exhaustion again--nausea, as well as goosebumps that made the skin on my arms look like an orange peel for a few hours after we got home. I was taking in what felt like a ton of water, but I was sweating so much out, I don't think my body could keep up. For me, it was these symptoms that made me finally stop running, though my legs were feeling extremely tired too. This could also have been from a lack of carbohydrates; we ate those fruit snacks, all three packs, but I don't think it was near enough to keep us going. I think this was what ultimately made Chris stop to walk, but whereas I had almost no energy to start running again (until the last 1/4 mile, gotta finish strong), he could have run much sooner.

We don't want another run like yesterday's, so we decided to check the Marine Corps Marathon website to see what food and drink will be offered on the course. Since you don't want to try anything new on race day (food, drink, shoes, socks, bra, whatever--it should be tried and tested), it is helpful to train with the items that will be available. So we are stocking up with:

Lemon-lime Gatorade

Double Expresso and Razz Clif Shot Energy Gels

Jelly Belly Sports Beans

I think we will also make sure to eat a good dinner the night before our long runs, with a good balance of carbohydrates and protein.  Next week's long run is 16 miles; we will see if our new fueling strategies make a difference. Fingers crossed!

Weekly stats:

Monday 8/27    3.01 miles in 32:14

Tuesday 8/28    7.01 miles in 1:15:44

Thursday 8/30   4.05 miles in 42:43

Saturday 9/1      15.03 miles in 3:06:32  (this is a 12:25 pace, even with mostly walking the last 3 miles. A completed marathon at this pace would take under 5 1/2 hours, still well within the 14 min/mile pace and 7 hour finish cutoff time---Phew!)

Weekly total:  29.1 miles  (we ran more than a marathon this week--yay!)

*************FUNDRAISING DEADLINE IS 9/21/12 (19 days from now)**************

We pledged $1000 and have raised $775 so far. Please help if you can by clicking here ! Here is a recent article about some of the good Fisher House is doing for our military families (with help from Newman's Own and the Armed Services YMCA).

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Week 21: Getting lost, but still getting it done

Sorry I'm a little late this week in posting---we spent last weekend at a wonderful wedding and then yesterday the kids started school--so lots going on!

Training this week was a bit discouraging for me; after feeling pretty good about our 13 miler, our midweek runs felt worse and worse. My shins were aching, though never to the point I had to stop running; my right hip was sore; and my quads burned. By the end of our run Thursday night, Chris was suggesting a new schedule to break up our midweek runs instead of doing them three days in a row. Sounds good to me!

Taking Friday off really helped my aches and pains and Saturday I felt tired but ready to go. No shin pain at all, which was a huge relief. Since we were in an unfamiliar town for the wedding (well, we did live there over 10 years ago, but were not often in need of 10 mile running routes), I had researched routes on a few websites--try US Track and Fieldmap my run, or Runkeeper-- and found one that worked. Because it was somewhat twisty-turny, I wrote down the directions on an index card and carried it in my hand the whole way. Somehow we still managed to get lost twice, but luckily with some help from a fellow runner and Chris's good eyes we only went about .3 mile out of our way.

Weekly stats:

Tue 8/21      3.02 miles in 29:03 (possibly the root of my aches and pains later in the week--this was fast for us!)

Wed 8/22     7.04 miles in 1:14:50

Thu 8/23      4.02 miles in 43:37

Sat  8/25      10.31 miles in 1:50:00

Total miles:   24.39

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 20: 13 miles in one go!

This week we hit a milestone of sorts--our long run was 13 miles, which is a half-marathon (well, technically you have to go an extra tenth of a mile, but when you've run 13 miles, who cares!). While last week's 12 miler felt a bit tough, especially towards the end, this week's long run felt pretty darn good. That isn't to say we weren't tired the last few miles, but as far as major aches and pains, or an overwhelming desire to stop and never run again? No.

The situation was probably helped by the fact that the weather was a gorgeous 60 degrees AND we had friends Brian and Ryan along for part of the journey. It is always fun to run in new places and with new people!

I would like to update all of you on our fundraising efforts. The September 21 deadline is just about a month away and as of today we have raised $725 of the $1000 we have pledged to Fisher House. Thank you to everyone who has already donated! If you know of anyone who may be interested in supporting our cause, please share this blog with them.

Weekly Stats:

Tue 8/14       3.06 miles in 30:37

Wed 8/15      6.22 miles in 1:04:59

Thu 8/16       3.08 miles in 31:03

Sat 8/18        13.04 miles in 2:26:02  (just about the same as last week's pace, includes a walk while Chris had to take a call from work)

Total miles:  25.40 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 19: He was right!

So it seems Chris was correct--things WERE back to normal this week. We had sore muscles, a lack of desire to run in the early morning hours, and somehow the fortitude to run 12 miles when our longest previous run was only nine. It is weeks like this that convince me a large part of marathon training is mental; telling yourself you can do something, manage one more mile (or even half a mile), has as much to do with success as the conditioning of your muscles and lungs. I was quite tired at mile 10 of our long run, and I really could have stopped---but my mind wouldn't let me. I had to keep going until I collapsed or threw up. Neither of those things happened, so I kept on going.

I also have to mention how crucial the support of a partner can be, especially on those tough long runs. I was strangely up and ready to go Saturday morning, while Chris slept on; I felt terrible waking him but wanted to beat the heat. He told me that I kept him going in those early sleepy miles, but I was extremely thankful for his support on those final few miles. His wonderful words of encouragement only solidified my own desire to finish strong (ie, still jogging and not crawling)!

Weekly stats:

Tue 8/7       3.05 miles in 30:05  (Chris had to miss this one due to a long workday. I went out midday and luckily the weather was nice!)

Wed 8/8     6.02 miles in 1:04:25  (we hit the trails and finished in the dark)

Thu 8/9      1.40 miles in 15:00  (we headed out late and got caught in a heavy thunderstorm--we were supposed to run 3 miles this day)

Sat 8/11     12.1 miles in 2:14:18  (a nice run on the Baltimore/Annapolis rail trail)

Total miles:  22.57

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weeks 17 & 18: Some time off and a tough return

Greetings to all! I hope no one was too worried last week when I did not post; we took some family time away and could not run for various reasons. While our vacation was wonderful, it was a tough week to miss in training. We were scheduled to run 3-5-3 and 10 miles for our long run, and though we did a ton of walking and stair climbing, it really is not a substitute. In terms of overall fitness, I don't think we lost much, but in RUNNING fitness? Yeah, it was tougher than we thought it would be getting back on the road.

Upon our return, we picked up our training with week 18 as scheduled (well, except for the long run, see below). We did not want to injure ourselves, so we did take it a bit easier on pace, which was no problem due to the ever present heat and humidity! Our first run back didn't go too badly. The second one was dubbed a "slog" due to our slowed pace and the fact that we felt like we were running through a sauna. The third run was better as it was in the morning and we had the lovely company of Christy (and thanks to Adam for getting breakfast while we were pounding the pavement).

The long run was awful! We headed out early but the heat was already coming on. We were fatigued and sore from the weekday runs; within the first few miles I had to stop and stretch my calves and Chris and I both had to take a walk break. Now, we were only scheduled to run 7 miles---it was a step-back week---but we'd had a step-back week the week before (when we didn't run at all). Next week jumps up to 12 miles, and it seems impossible (for me) to do 9, 0, 7, and then 12. So we decided to cover 9 again, if possible, even if we had to walk.

So walk we did, mostly up hills, and we kept a slow pace and drank a lot of water. We called this run a "wog". In the end, we didn't quite hit 9 miles, and we probably walked about a mile, so I estimate we truly only ran 7.5 miles or so anyway.

Stats for Week 18:

Tue 7/31       3.05 miles in 30:46

Wed 8/1       5.01 miles in 55:47

Thu 8/2         3.04 miles in 30:43

Sat 8/4          8.51 miles in 1:36:48 (an 11:24 pace--even with walking, fast enough for us to complete the marathon if necessary)

Chris says he is sure we will be back to normal next week--I sure hope so! That 12 miler looming ahead is looking a little scary....

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week 16: Weather and work try to bring us down

Training was a little tough this week---we had days in the upper 90s with high humidity and thunderstorms in the beginning of the week, and Chris had an extremely heavy workload--he was actually at work from 8pm Tue-8pm Wed (well, except for the 3 hour nap he had here from 2-5am). As our runs get longer, it gets harder to work around these things; finding 20-30 minutes to knock out a few miles is one thing, but finding 1-2 hours or more can be difficult. I have to admit this makes me nervous, especially as the days get shorter, but we will find a way!

Our weekly stats:

Run 1:  3.06 miles in 30:29 (this one was 615am as the day was very hot and humid)

Run 2:  2.63 miles in 38:24 (this was supposed to be 4 miles, but C was called in for an emergency--not that I was complaining. It was 8pm and still 93 degrees when we started! Too hot.)

Run 3:  4.23 miles in 42:40  (this one was supposed to be 3 miles but I wanted to make up for the lost distance yesterday so I went further. I did this one alone due to C's work commitments.)

Run 4: 9.16 miles in 1:35:40 or 95:40  (luckily the weather broke and it was only about 65 degrees and overcast when we went out. Chris was an awesome running buddy, especially on the hills. I sure felt tired afterward though!)

Total: 19.08 miles

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Week 15: Taking a step back

One aspect of this training plan that I like is that every few weeks, the long run is cut back. The mileage builds and builds, and then you get a nice recovery week where everything feels just a little bit easier. This week was such a week. After running six miles for two weeks, and then a seven miler last weekend, this week our long run was a more manageable five. Of course our next long run is scheduled for a whopping NINE miles, so we can't rest for long. Onward and upward!

In other news, we finally received our official Marine Corps Marathon entries from Fisher House and also signed up for the pre-race Pasta Dinner (sponsored by Newman's Own) being held Saturday October 27. This will be a great opportunity to meet other Fisher House runners and fuel up for the marathon!

Our weekly stats:

Tue  7/10    3.04 miles in 30:38

Wed  7/11    4.04 miles in 40:46 (this one we finished in the dark!)

Thu  7/12   3.05 miles in 30:53

Sat  7/13   5.04 miles in 52:56  (this one was tough--temp was upper 70s, humidity not too bad, but we went out at noon and the sun was hot....course also had a ton of hills and we actually took a water break at C's work while running by. I didn't bring my vest since I didn't think it would be so warm: lesson learned!)

Total: 15.17 miles

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 14: La tortuga blanca

The white turtle, that's me! Pale as a ghost and slow as molasses. At least that's how I felt most of this week. It was dang hot, and running in the morning didn't always work out (rain, sore muscles, the call of the cold pillow), so we did a lot of sunset running. We don't mind this so much except that it seems to mess up our sleep patterns; we wake up a lot in the night when we run so close to bedtime. Not so much an issue for me since I can catch a nap if I need to, but poor Chris has to get to work whether he feels rested or not.

Weekly stats:

Tue  7/3   3.01 miles in 29:56 (our only morning run, out at 630)

Wed  7/4   3.01 miles in 30:33

Thu  7/5   3.05 in 31:00

Sun  7/8   7.03 miles in 1:19:17 (or 79:17---even though we went out at 745pm, it was still around 85 degrees, though less humid than it had been. We also ran on local trails to take advantage of the shade.)

Total:  16.1 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week 13: Second verse, same as the first

First week of official marathon training was pretty uneventful; in fact, we ran the exact same schedule as last week. The weather was again hot and humid and I experienced a little bit of lower leg swelling and calf tightness after our weekday runs, which made me worried that my problems from last summer might be returning (my compartment syndrome/shin splints/stress reactions also happened in the middle of summer around the time I'd built up to 6 miles or so). However, as I have no shin splint pain nor the leaden, heavy feeling I had before, I think it is really due to the weather; the symptom reminded me more of the edema I got while 8 months pregnant in a house without A/C, but to a markedly lesser degree.

Accordingly, for our long run this week we were up with the birds at 615am, and while it was by no means cool, it was more tolerable and we finished the run with no swelling to be found. It is a curious thing to me that many of our shorter runs, while feeling easier on the one hand, also leave us with more aches and pains---we often find ourselves needing less recovery and feeling better after our longer runs. Maybe because we are keeping a slower pace, or perhaps because our weekday runs have left us feeling more warmed up? Whatever the reason, I'll take it.

Our weekly stats:

Tue 6/26    3.07 miles in 29:44 (had to do this one alone as C had a long day)

Wed  6/27   3.07 miles in 31:14 (this one was late, we didn't finish until after 9pm)

Thu  6/28   3.16 miles in 33:01

Sat  6/30  6.07 miles in 1:04:03 (threw in a couple of hills mile 4, it was a toughie!)

Total:  15.37 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Week 12: The end of spring training

Yesterday was officially the end of the 12-week "Spring Training" portion of our marathon prep. From week 1, our weekday runs have increased from 1.5 miles to 3 miles, and our long runs from 3 miles to 6 miles. Supposedly we are now ready to begin the down and dirty 18-week "Marathon Training" program that will take us all the way to the MCM on October 28th. I sure hope so!

In other good news, we have now raised $625 for Fisher House (of the $1000 we need before 9/21/12). We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the family, friends, and online community (Ravelry rocks!) who have donated to our cause. We think of you all every time we hit the road for a run, because we don't want to let you down.

Oh, and my back feels much better this week. :-)  It was very hot here though, so we were up at 630am getting our runs in, and I am not a morning was a challenge but good to mix things up for a change.

Weekly stats:

Tue 6/19  2.82 miles in 29:53  (we got caught in the rain and cut things short this morning)

Wed  6/20  3.32 miles in 32:07  (made up for the shorter run yesterday)

Thu  6/21  3.05 miles in 31:32

Sat  6/23  6.11 miles in 1:04:21  (pretty run along the beach in CT)

Total:  15.30 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week 11: I spoke too soon

Last week's post was all unicorns and rainbows about how good and healthy I was feeling; I should have known it wouldn't last. Last Friday I had another massage; my legs and feet were in good shape but I had a lot of tension in my arms, neck, shoulders and back. Especially my lower back--she found some terrible knots in my sacroiliac joints that almost made me jump off the table. Even so, the next day we ran 5.5 miles with no issues, and then took two days off.

All was fine until after our run Tuesday evening. As the night progressed, I started feeling a little soreness and twinging in my right lower back, just over the SI joint. It hurt a little to bend over, and it ached to turn over in bed.  (I have had this pain before, though never while training for a marathon; it has always resolved on its own within a week or so.) Wednesday morning it was a little worse, but I stretched and iced and the pain abated. I noticed throughout the day that I felt worse after sitting for a time than I did walking around, so I decided to attempt the run. Lo and behold, I did not notice any pain at all while running! After I stopped, however, the achiness returned, albeit to a lesser degree. I continued with my stretching, icing, and foam rolling.

Wednesday night I slept much better and woke up feeling pretty good, though over the course of the day the twinginess increased. I decided to run again, as long as I had no pain while running, and again, I was fine aside from one or two twinges. We had driven to do a run with a local group, and as soon as I sat in the car, everything seized up--I felt it in my lower back, my hamstring, my hip flexor, and my inner thigh. As soon as we got home, I walked around for a few minutes, and everything relaxed and felt better. I was very glad I had Friday off, and was prepared to take the weekend off if need be.

Friday I felt better, and Saturday even better---but the pains never completely went away. I continued to ice and roll and stretch through Sunday, still unsure if I was going to do the scheduled run of 3 miles. I felt good enough by Sunday evening to take the chance; we went slow and while I did feel a twinge or two, a quick reset of my posture took care of it.

Today (Monday) I think I am improved. While my lower back and sacrum still feel sore and a little tight, I do not have twinges or tenderness over my SI joint and I am able to bend over and twist side-to-side without pain. So hopefully this is on the way out.

I have looked into causes for this; they include leg-length discrepancies, a "locking" of the joint, an over-flexibility of the joint, or a biomechanical problem with stride and form. I don't know what caused it for me, except that it wasn't necessarily anything running-related as I have had this problem before in a total couch potato phase....since the activity seems to help, I am planning to keep running through, albeit as gently as possible. I will also keep up the ice/stretching/rolling. I really hope next weeks' post will be more unicorns and less Debbie Downer (waah waah).

Our weekly stats:

Tue  6/12   3.17 miles in 30:20

Wed  6/13   3.07 miles in 31:04

Thu  6/14  3.06 miles in 31:35

Sun  6/17  3.05 miles in 31:59  (I would like to add here that Chris and our eldest son B also ran the Warrior Dash this morning, covering 13 obstacles in 3.8 miles in about 45 minutes. Then he ran 3 more miles in the evening with me, all on Father's Day. Awesome!)

Total:  12.35 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Week 10: Only 20 more weeks to go!

Ten weeks down, twenty to go--and though we haven't even managed a 6 mile run yet, I feel like we have made great progress. We are still running, still committed to our goals, and feeling much healthier and tougher. Many of our aches and pains have disappeared (or at least abated) and while our longer runs are challenging, they are not exhausting. For the most part, rather than limping around the day after a run, as we did at the beginning of training, we feel pretty good! That said, I know there is probably a tipping point where we will feel wiped out again, but for now we are just enjoying the sweet spot.

Our weekly stats:

Tue 6/5  2.14 miles in 20:09

Wed 6/6  3.13 miles in 30:19

Thu  6/7  2.61 miles in 25:16

Sat  6/9   5.56 miles in 59:13

Total miles:   13.44

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week 9: Racing for a great cause

In the past few weeks, we have run quite a few races, and all of them have been for good causes. For each race we pay an entry fee (usually $15-$20) and at least some of that money goes to a charitable organization. We ran a 5k to erase polio from the planet; another 5k in support of a local aphasia center; a 5-miler to raise money for artificial turf and a cinder track in our high school stadium; and most recently a 5k to support community cancer patients and their families both emotionally and financially.

Racing adds a nice social element to training, and when you can contribute to your community in such a fun healthy way, it is an added bonus! Of course, we also never forget the reason we are training in the first place--to run that marathon and raise money for Fisher House. While our military presence in the Middle East is rarely in the news anymore, we cannot forget those who are still there, as well as all those who have come home with injuries. Many of these soldiers are struggling with life-changing amputations, burns, brain injuries, and PTSD; the support of their families is crucial to recovery and Fisher House makes this possible.

We thank everyone who has already made a donation to our LoveLife fund; if you would like to support our own very good cause, please click on the link in the upper right corner (Team LoveLife). We appreciate your support!

Our weekly stats:

Tue 5/29    2.08 miles in 20:42

Wed 5/30    3.07 miles in 31:35

Thu  5/31   2.58 miles in 25:45

Sat  6/2    3.1 miles in 29:37  (The JesVic 5k--a wonderful race in support of cancer patients--we had wonderfully cool weather in contrast to the weekend prior. Though my time is not at all fast for a 5k--the winner finished in just over 16 minutes--I somehow managed to place 3rd in my 40-44 age group! I got a medal and everything. Chris won a blinking light to clip on his clothes for night running as a door prize. As usual, he ran slower than he could have to stay with me, but it is always fun to finish together...a great morning all around.)

Total: 10.83 miles

We also ran a total of 52.4 miles in May.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Week 8: Run a mile in my shoes

SHOES. I swear I have had more trouble with running shoes lately than I ever thought possible. Maybe if they didn’t make about 3 million different kinds it would be easier to find a shoe that feels good, I don’t know. Maybe I just need to be less picky.

Chris has no issues with shoes. He has two pairs of New Balance sneakers and he likes them both. He loves these 870s

because they are bright and fun and light. And he loves this pair of 993s

because he custom-designed them (the colors as well as the embroidered LOVE LIFE) and because they were Made in the USA. They are a bit heavier than his rainbow shoes but also more cushioned, and he definitely prefers them for longer runs.

My shoe saga started over a year ago. Last spring, probably because my shoes were old, I was experiencing some arch pain. I went to a running store and got fitted for a majorly supportive shoe, even though in the past I had always worn neutral shoes. Still, I trusted the expertise of the store and ran in my new shoes (which did feel good in my arch) for a few months, as I proceeded to get terrible shin splints, calf issues, and eventually stress reactions in both tibias (worse than a shin splint, not as bad as an outright stress fracture). I had to stop running for months. Granted, this was probably not completely the fault of the shoes--I was also a heel-striker, which puts a lot of stress on the lower leg; a clomper (you could hear me coming a mile away); and heavier than I had been in the past.

So to try and ensure that I never had to deal with these injuries again, I decided:

1) drop some weight (working on that one, the running helps!)

2) go back to a neutral shoe

3) change my running form to avoid jarring the lower legs

I did some research on “injury-free running” and hit upon a few sites—Chi running, Pose, Natural Form, Good Form—that all touted the same mechanics, with some slight variations. First, try for a high cadence of 180 steps per minute; doing this will automatically shorten your stride. Pretend you are running across hot coals or broken glass---this cures you of a heavy landing. Second, think about landing your feet under your center of gravity, not out in front of you. Third, aim for a mid-foot (or fore-foot) strike rather than a heel-strike, but still be sure to let the heel kiss the ground---no mincing about on tippy toes or you will kill your calves!

So I got back into a pair of traditional neutral New Balance 1080s and set about learning this new form, hopeful that I would be able to run again without major problems. Things felt pretty good (though admittedly reaching such a high cadence is difficult and keeping it there even more so) but one thing still bothered me. The higher heel on the shoe made it hard for me to consistently avoid a heel strike. That’s when I started looking into minimal shoes.

The term “minimal” can refer to a variety of shoe characteristics. It can be how close the foot is to the ground, as in Vibram Five Fingers (essentially a rubber glove for the foot). It can be the weight of the shoe (the lightest ones weigh only 5-6 oz.). Lack of any built in supports can also be a factor, as well as how “naturally” the foot sits in the shoe (heel-to-toe drop). A traditional running shoe may have a drop of 12 mm or more, while a minimal shoe is usually somewhere in the 0-4 mm range. It’s important to transition slowly to these shoes, as your feet have to adjust to feeling the ground more, and working harder as the shoe does less; calves and Achilles tendons also need a break-in period because a lower heel on the shoe means the calf has to stretch further for the heel to touch the ground.

The first shoe I tried was a Newton Gravity. These 4mm drop shoes are beautifully bright and light on top and quite odd on the sole.

They have these orange “lugs” that are supposed to encourage a forefoot landing and give you an energy return to boot. I have to say my race results in these shoes were faster than any I’ve previously recorded, even 10 years ago. However, those awesome lugs also turned out to be the downfall of the shoe, at least in my case. My left foot loved the shoe, and had not a single complaint. My right foot--- a full ½” smaller—found the sweet spot elusive. That ½” made all the difference in lug placement and put them too close to my toes rather on the ball of my foot. I tried different lacings and even a heel insert but nothing worked for long. I believe the only solution for me is to buy another pair in a smaller size and wear two different size shoes, but that’s just not going to happen. I have to say that Newton customer service was excellent in trying to find a solution for me, even to the point of offering to send me a smaller right shoe if one turns up, but until that happens, these shoes are benched.

Upon realizing the Newtons were not going to work out, I did more research and hit upon the Brooks Pure Project line. I chose the 4mm Pure Flow—this shoe is so comfy!

It is also extremely neutral, and has almost no external support at all. I enjoy running in them, but after 3 miles or so I have sore feet and twingy Achilles. This is probably due to the fact that I am using muscles and tendons, etc that I have not had to use in years of previous running/walking in built-up shoes. Still, as my goal is to avoid injury and finish this marathon, I have come to the conclusion that these, too, are not right for my long-distance training. I do, however, love them for walking and for shorter runs. Given time to slowly build up miles and adjust properly, I believe these could be used for longer distances quite enjoyably. I just can’t afford to test that theory right now.

At this point it was apparent I needed a shoe with a few more “traditional” characteristics, yet I still wanted to avoid the high heel and bulky, heavy feeling of my old shoes. After all, though I had some problems with the more minimal shoes, I did gain a lot from them—my form is improved; I have not had a single serious shin or calf issue; my calves and Achilles are elongated and flexible; my feet are stronger. Tired of research and somewhat embarrassed by needing to look for yet another shoe, I went back to where I started—New Balance. After all, I did run my other marathon in a pair, and I have usually had good luck with them. As it turns out, they had recently redesigned my old 1080, with a few important differences. The 1080v2 weighs less than its predecessor due to the use of high-tech lightweight materials for support and cushioning, and the heel-to-toe drop is now 8mm rather than 12mm—I know this doesn’t seem like enough to make a difference, but it is. The heel stack height on the new version is also lower.

I immediately ordered these shoes and they are wonderful! I barely feel them when they are on, they don’t interfere with my new running form, my tendons don't twinge, and my feet don’t ache when I take them off. I ran 5 miles in them over the weekend and felt great! So hopefully I am DONE thinking about shoes for a while, and I can move on to thinking more about fundraising for Fisher House…

Our weekly stats:

Tue  5/22    2.07 miles in 19:59

Wed  5/23   3.05 miles in 30:48

Thu  5/24    2.08 miles in 20:33

Sat  5/26     5 miles in 58:00  (this was a 5 mile race, very hilly and it was quite hot; glad I brought my vest as I sipped water throughout. I confess we walked the two biggest hills as the heat was making my head throb and I started to get goosebumps and feel a bit nauseous....still was able to run it in at the end! Chris did great as usual and probably could have come in under 50 minutes if he hadn't stayed with me.)
Photobombed after the race!

Total: 12.2 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week 7: Running gear

This week I'd like to talk a bit about gear. Running is supposed to be a cheap sport; after all, you really just need a pair of sneakers and you can begin. Heck, these days with the barefoot running craze, you don't even need shoes! It turns out, though, that there is plenty of stuff out there geared to runners, from clothes to shoes to hydration systems to phone apps...and I admit to having bought into some of the hype. Luckily most of what we've tried has been a benefit to our training and we've even discovered some new US companies to support as well.

Clothing: Ditch the cotton! Chris will still wear cotton socks, but I prefer socks and clothes with wicking properties so things don't get too soggy and heavy. Swiftwick makes their socks in the USA, and they also have a bit of compression built in to them which feels good on your tootsies. I also have a nice pair from SmartWool that are great. I like to wear unpadded bike shorts for running to cut down on chafing; Chris found some cool American-made retro-style running shorts from Soark.

Compression: This is just for me, as I was dealing with a good deal of calf soreness and trying to head off shin splints at the beginning of training. There is a school of thought that believes wearing compression garments can speed and promote muscle healing; some just wear such garments after running, some wear them while exercising. I have only worn them after, and in MY experience, they help. I have a pair of tall compression socks from Swiftwick, and also a lovely pair of lavender calf compression sleeves from Zensah (also US made). I was wearing them quite a bit, but lately haven't needed them as much, though I suspect that may change as we cover more distance in our long runs!

App: I use Runkeeper. It doesn't always pick up the GPS correctly but I don't think anything is 100% accurate anyway. If the GPS doesn't work, you can always plot your route afterwards. I know I could just wear a watch, but I like having my phone for emergencies. If you are looking for routes of a certain length in your area, can also be helpful.

Hydration: We are training through the summer. I hate heat, and especially running in the heat. I get very flushed and my face turns purple and I need my water. So for Mother's Day I asked for this:

                                                                 Nathan Intensity Vest

It has pocketses for phones and ID and gels and wallets, plus it holds 2 liters of water. It is made for a woman's build (I think that means the clasps don't interfere with the chest area), very light, and stays put. I also want to add that I had a problem with the bladder that originally came with the vest--I could not remove the drinking hose from the bladder for cleaning purposes--but upon contacting the company with my issue, they promptly sent me a new bladder with a simpler hose detachment free of charge. I just love me some great customer service! Chris has a Camelback he likes, so between the two of us we should have enough water for those 20 milers to come.

I will have to save shoes for another post, as I have a lot to say on running form and different types of shoes (sad to say, much of it from personal experience). On to the weekly stats:

Tue 5/15   2.12 miles in 20:08  (rainy)

Wed 5/16   3.11 in 31:04 (incredibly windy and humid--there was a terrible thunderstorm to the north of us--we got the clouds and wind but no rain and I almost lost my hat on the bridge!)

Thu 5/17   2:06 in 20:46  (on trails)

Sat  5/19  3.12 in 30:15 (this was a fun race called the Anyway 5K--you could run, walk, bike, scooter, skate, or be pushed in a stroller--just nothing motorized. R finished 1st on his bike in 27 minutes flat, followed by runner B at 28:20 and runner G at 28:55. It was a gorgeous day, but warm and the course was quite hilly!)

Total: 10.41 miles

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week 6: Ice, Ice, Baby!

I'd like to tell you how much I love ice. I love heat, too, but most times when you feel sore after running, ice is where it's at. This week I went through a lot of ice, all for random aches and pains that never really amounted to much. Was this because I iced them at first twinge, or because they were really no big deal in the first place? Who knows, but I'm not taking any chances!

I am terrified of injury putting an end to our quest, and I am taking many measures to prevent that outcome (Chris still has his occasional knee issues, but otherwise he seems to be a machine). Here are a few of the tools in my arsenal:

--reusable gel cold packs that live in the freezer

--reusable heat pack filled with clay that goes in the microwave

--a large foam roller for muscle massage (when muscles are very sore or tight, sometimes it can feel better to roll them out than take the chance of a pull or strain from over-stretching)

--the Stick, for more detailed massage and working on knots

--a tennis ball, for more targeted massage of calves, hips, and feet

--a golf ball, for rolling under the arches of my feet

I use one or more of these items after every run, and sometimes before as well. I may be over-reacting a tad, but better safe than sorry...we have a long way to go in our training and I am determined we will make our goals of raising $1000 for Fisher House and crossing that finish line at 26.2 miles!

Our weekly stats:

Tue 5/8      2.07 miles in 20:12

Wed 5/9     3 miles in 29:50

Thu 5/10     2.2 miles in 20:07

Sat 5/12      4.51 miles in 49:11 (our longest run yet and we purposely slowed ourselves down--based on how we felt the rest of Saturday as well as Sunday, this was a smart strategy--we both felt great, no problems! And more evidence Chris is a machine--he ran this on NO SLEEP, he was up all night operating.)

Sun 5/13     1.7 miles in 30 minutes, a nice walk with the whole family

Total (running):  11.78 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Week 5: Music, Massage, and a Few More Miles

This week we celebrated a birthday, attended a concert and a fair, and had a fun family visit. We also managed to get some miles in, including a 5k race. So all in all, an awesome week!

Our youngest son R had his birthday on Cinco de Mayo, and both sets of grandparents decided to come into town to help him celebrate. Saturday also happened to be the day our town shut down Mill Street for a local craft fair, and we all had fun checking out booths filled with everything from cupcakes to quilts to jewelry. After the fair we had a great dinner, and then headed off to our oldest son B's spring concert. Nana's lemon cake was a delicious and fitting end to the day!

I also want to mention the deep tissue massage I had on Friday. This is the second massage I have had since our training started, and I am planning to keep up with the habit every 4-6 weeks (or as needed). My massage therapist is really able to work out all of the knots and sore spots, and believe me, I have plenty of them! I am hoping the regular massages will help with injury prevention; I also hope Chris can join me for one of these soon.

Sunday morning we participated in the March of Dimes Run for Babies 5K and had one of our fastest times yet! Though we are certainly not training for speed, it is still special to achieve a personal record.

Our weekly stats:

Tue  5/1   2.01 miles in 19:14  (on trails with a new running group Chris found)

Wed  5/2  3.04 miles in 31:11

Thu  5/3  2.16 miles in 20:32

Sat  5/5  45 minutes of walking

Sun 5/6  3.12 miles in 27:17  (this was a very hilly course, and I still doubt this time, but that is what we were told)

Total mileage:  10.33 miles

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Week 4: On the road again

Another busy week of travel, things to do and places to see! Thursday night we traveled about six hours to Roanoke, VA so Chris could participate in the  Roanoke Academy of Medicine Alliance Book and Author Dinner on Friday. This event is a fundraiser for many community organizations, and I think it is always a good thing to see people excited about books, too. We pulled the kids from school and made it a short family vacation, visiting the Transportation Museum and Science Museum, as well as walking around the charming downtown area and eating some yummy chicken and waffles.

After all of the Friday night excitement (Chris's talk was extremely well received--he even spoke about Fisher House-- and he sold all of his books!), we were up bright and early Saturday to drive the six hours back home, as B had a prom to attend that night. His presence was also required at photos, dinner, and pre-prom activities, so we were on the road by 645am. Needless to say, by the time we made it home, helped B get ready, took some of our own pictures, etc, Chris and I were tuckered out. There was no way we could think of running 4 miles that day, so we instead took a nap and put the run off until Sunday.

Weekly Stats:

Tue  4/24  2.02 miles in 19:17  (C missed this one)

Wed  4/25  3.07 miles in 30:25

Thu  4/26  1.64 miles in 15:07

Fri  4/27  30 minutes of walking (we did at least this much around Roanoke, so I counted this as our cross training day)

Sun  4/29   4.19 miles in 42:15

Total mileage: 10.92

Thanks for reading, catch you next week!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week 3: Rainy days and a race!

This week was more of the same as far as our training mileage; the only changes I'd say we are noticing are a somewhat faster pace and fewer aches and pains. We had some iffy weather this week too---normally I would never choose to run in the rain, but I figure it is something I'd best learn to tolerate. If I can't handle 3 miles getting a bit wet I'll never manage 16 or 26.2, and I'm not about to bow out of the marathon because of some drizzle. This isn't to say I don't have my limits---lightning, a hurricane, a nor'easter---but regular old rain? Gotta suck it up.

We took a short trip this week to Gettysburg, PA. Chris had a medical conference where he was a speaker and we decided to take the kids out of school for a little history lesson on the side. The drive was about two hours; we stayed overnight Tuesday and woke up early Wednesday to a gloomy, drizzly day. Chris and I headed out on a 3-miler recommended by the hotel that took us to part of the Civil War battlefield. It would have been nice to go farther but with the less than optimal weather and Chris needing to prepare for his talk, we stuck to our schedule and kept it short.

The afternoon was spent at Gettysburg National Military Park, where we saw a short film about the battle (narrated by Morgan Freeman, with Lincoln performed by Sam Waterston!), an impressive sound and light show/cyclorama, and a museum of Civil War artifacts. The boys were fascinated by the weapons and also by the doctor kits and tools. One of the exhibits showed families divided by the war (brother fighting brother, father fighting son), and the kids seemed to have a difficult time comprehending that fact. Before leaving town, we made a final stop at Robert E. Lee's headquarters, which is now smack dab in the middle of a motel parking lot. Lee had the door of this little house torn off and turned into a map table out on the field of battle; the woman who lived there wasn't too pleased but I guess she didn't have too much say in the matter.

Saturday we were able to run a very nice 5K in Milton. The course was partly through the pretty downtown area and partly on trails through a park. The weather was supposed to be terrible but fortunately the sun stayed with us long enough for a beautiful race. I felt like Chris went out waaay fast---I was huffing and puffing trying to keep up---but he said it felt normal to him (maybe I was just tired). We finished in 36th and 37th place out of 71 runners, but we had to wait until everyone finished to find out our time. While we were waiting, a raffle drawing was held and I won a nifty waterproof shoulder bag! It seems like it will be useful for camping or a day at the beach.

Now for our weekly stats:

Tue 4/17    1.66 miles in 14:45 (seriously fast for us, an 8:45 mile)

Wed 4/18   3 miles in  30:00 (this was Gettysburg, my GPS was off and I had to guess)

Thu 4/19    1.59 miles in 15:09

Sat  4/21     3.12 miles in 29:35 (I knew it was fast! Normally we can run 1-2 miles at this pace but not over 3. No wonder I was tired.And yes, I know this is considered SLOW by most experienced runners--it's all relative.)

Sun 4/22     2.57 miles in 42:32 (a chilly drizzly walk)

Thanks for reading. I also want to thank everyone who has donated to Fisher House through our Team LoveLife. If you haven't yet contributed, and would like to, there is a link at the top of the page. Every donation is hugely appreciated!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week 2: Taking the show on the road

This week was a lot of fun with family and friends. The weather was nice, no major aches or pains to speak of, and we had a great change of scenery running along the CT shoreline over the weekend. Our youngest Mr. R joined us on one of our shorter runs during the week, and Chris's sister Amanda kept us company on our Sunday walk. Besides our long run on Saturday morning, there was beach time with the kids (they even went swimming--brr!); mountain biking in a forest; shopping for new school shoes; and even some dancing that night! Needless to say we were all ready for serious sleep by the time we made it home last night.

Here's what we accomplished:

Tue 4/10    1.54 miles in 14:50 (I did this one on my own, Chris had a long day at work)
Wed 4/11   3.07 miles in 30:01
Thu 4/12    1.51 miles in 15:19 (this is the one R joined us on)
Sat  4/14     4.02 miles in 38.55 (this was only supposed to be 3.5 miles but the GPS wasn't working so we ran based on time; just went a little faster than we thought!)
Sun 4/15    2.25 miles in 39:44 (nice walk)

Most of these times are faster than I am used to running, and I won't be at all surprised if we get slower as the distances get longer. I will definitely be curious to see how this pans out!