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!