Monday, October 20, 2014

The first week after a marathon

It's officially been one week and one day since running the Chicago marathon and I finally (finally!) feel like myself again.  Thank goodness...for everyone's sake :)  Maybe it's because I ran for the first time today since the marathon or maybe it's because I reached the one week mark...who knows, but it is nice to feel like me again.

Two words describe how I felt most of last week: hungry and tired.  Not a great combination.  I was sore the first couple of days, but thankfully that passed and I thought I felt like myself again, but I didn't....I was so tired....exhausted tired.  And I would go through periods of being SO hungry.

Here's my breakdown of the week after a marathon:

1. Recover 
Your body obviously needs to recover after running a marathon.  I committed to taking a full week off since I'm running Memphis 8 weeks after Chicago.  I wanted to be sure to give my body a chance to rest and recover before ramping up training again.  If it weren't for Memphis, I probably would've gone on a short easy run towards the end of last week simply because I was itching to do so, but I didn't.  I was really excited to run this morning.  I had to run on the treadmill and I haven't been loving that lately, but it felt great this morning.  I only did 4 easy miles, but I could've kept was great. 

As I've mentioned many times before, another favorite way to recover is with Epsom salt baths.  I didn't take as many as I would've like to this past week, but I loved the ones I took.

2. Sleep 
I normally wake up a few hours before the boys do because I'm a morning person and it lets me fit in a run, have some 'me' time, empty the dishwasher without little ones grabbing utensils and climbing inside, or prep breakfast....but for the past two weeks, I slept until I heard the boys wake up most mornings so I could get a little extra sleep in the week before and after the marathon.

3. Eat 
Your body is still recovering and needs extra protein and carbs to do so.  Following a marathon, I go by what my body is craving and eat what sounds good.  This past week, I felt as though my appetite was a little bigger than normal...and I responded accordingly :-D

4. Plan
Everyone knows the person that goes into his/her first marathon saying they just want to run one and then they'll be done...and a lot of people think that they might be running their last marathon in the middle of the race.  But what does everyone do after they finish?  Think about what other races they want to run, how they could've trained better/smarter/harder, and pick new goals.  There is something that happens at that finish line that sucks people in.  I've thought hard about my goals for Memphis this week and spent time working on my training plan.  I didn't think at all about my goals or training for Memphis leading up to Chicago, but once Chicago was over, it was front and center.

Thankfully I am feeling back to normal now because it's hard to keep up with these two when I'm tired....

How do you feel the week after a marathon?

How long do you take off after a race?

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chicago marathon recap

Not surprisingly, I have a lot to say...partially because I never followed-up to the hip injury I talked about in my August recap and I never got a September recap posted.  I will get to it all, but I'm going to cut to the chase and start with my results:

Official time: 3:59:58, 9:17/mile, a 33 minute PR
Garmin time: 3:59:57, 26.64, 9:00/mile

I didn't reach my goal and the race didn't go quite as planned (more on those two things later in the post), but I am really happy with my time and the race as a whole.  I might still be on a high from how much fun the whole weekend was and the endorphins from the race, but I think this is probably my favorite race yet.  I couldn't find a way around writing a novel, but I broke it up and labeled the sections, so read what you want :)

8 weeks before the race

Before I get into the race, let's back-up to where I left off in August.   I had been diagnosed with a TFL injury in my hip, my training had basically come to a halt, and I was unsure of whether or not I would be able to run Chicago.

After having an amazing training cycle over the summer where I was fortunate to train in cool temps and had help with the boys that enabled me to get in all my runs with minimal difficulty, we got back to Fayetteville and all of that changed.  It was hot and humid and my body was not acclimated; Brian's schedule took off at an unprecedented pace and I had the boys with me 24/7; stroller runs were back in the rotation (coupled with the heat and humidity...not a great combo); we were in the middle of moving; our treadmill was unavailable because of some construction for the new house; and all of the comforts of training over the summer were gone.  All of that, combined with the hip pain while running, made for a difficult transition.

Although we also had two very important first birthdays to celebrate and that made for some fun times :)

I ended up getting a cortisone shot in my hip 5 weeks before the race and it was really effective.  I also started to settle in a bit and adjust to the transition of getting back.  I increased my mileage and got in an 18 and 20 miler before tapering.  Speed work was still hard to fit in because I was running with the stroller a lot, long runs were basically my only kid-free runs.

My goal

Initially, my goal was to attempt a BQ.  Even when my training was going really well, I was unsure if I was making the necessary strides to run a sub-3:40.  I knew it would depend on the final stretch before I know, the stretch where everything unraveled.  I knew I had to readjust my goal after injuring my hip and when I started having problems keeping up with my training.  It was hard to know what a good goal would be because the heat and humidity affected how I felt and it was hard to fit in speed work.  I focused on what pace I felt I could run and maintain for 26.2 miles.  My mind kept coming back to a range of 8:45-8:50, which would be around 3:50.  It felt like the right mix of conservative, but challenging.  My plan was to start slow and be really conscious not to go out too fast.  I wanted to maintain an 8:45-8:50 pace for the first 20-23 miles and then inch it up if I had it in me.

While a 3:50 was my main goal, I was a little soft on it since I didn't know how accurate it was.  More than anything, I wanted a sub 4:00.  However, to be honest, I think I still would've been really happy as long as I was in the low 4:00s.

The race

As I mentioned above, this may very well be my most favorite race yet.  I have so much good to say about it.  I lived in Chicago for two years and love the city.  I ran my first half marathon there and it's where I really fell in love with running and started to see the joy in racing.  This was a race I have wanted to run for a long time.  Maybe it's because I was there to run, but it felt as if the whole city had a marathon vibe going on.

The registration fee is high compared to other races and I assumed it was just because it was Chicago, but they put that registration fee to good use.  I have really never seen anything like this before.  The thought, organization, and planning that went into the entire race experience was unbelievable.  As one of the "Big 5" marathons, I was prepared for mobs of people, long lines, big crowds, and some headaches related to 45,000 people running the same race.  Yes, there were a lot of people, but it was so well controlled and organized.

One of my friends emailed me prior to the race to wish me luck and described the Chicago marathon as "magical."  That word intrigued me and stuck with me.  I thought about it a lot over the weekend and she was absolutely right, it really was magical, the whole weekend and entire race experience.

The weekend

The weekend was made possible for me due to my mom offering to watch both boys all by herself!  Huge (HUGE!) thanks to her!  That is not a small task.  Brian had an away trip for hockey and I planned to do the race with friends.  Unfortunately, one girl ended up not being able to make it.  So that left me and Betsy - who I ran Ragnar with and whose husband happens to be the Vanderbilt hockey coach....small world.  Her husband also joined us on Saturday and was able to spectate on Sunday.

We got in Friday night and were staying right downtown, a block off Michigan Ave.  We could walk to everything, except the expo (but we took a shuttle supplied by the race).  The weather was perfect all weekend - mid 50s for the highs and low.   On Saturday, we went to the expo, walked around a little more than would be ideal (but I have no regrets), met up with Betsy's husband, had an early dinner at a great Italian restaurant, and then I settled in to binge-watch Scandal in my quest to finish season 3 that night.

My race

The race was about a mile from our hotel, so we walked to the start.  The starting area was very well organized.  Only those running were allowed into the start area and I think that helped control the crowds and amount of people.  I didn't check a gear bag because I thought it might be too chaotic, but it appeared really easy, was centrally located, and I didn't see any lines at check-in or pick-up.  The bathroom lines were reasonable and the corrals were clearly marked.  It felt like everything was right in front of me and we didn't have to walk around a lot.  Betsy and I planned to start the race together, knowing we may split up.  We were in back-to-back corrals and security was tight, so I started at the front of my corral and she stayed in the back of hers and it was easy to link up as the race started.

Chicago is flat and fast....and crowded.  The race starts in waves and Betsy and I got to start in the earlier wave at 7:30.  While it is crowded, I never felt as if I had to weave too much.  I have never run a race with so much energy - the spectators were deep and lined the whole course, there were 20 aid stations that were each 2 blocks long, lots of entertainment along the course, and the weather was great - mid 50s with a cool breeze.

The race started and Betsy and I tried to settle in to a pace in the 8:45-8:50 range.  It was not easy - between how fast the course starts, the number of runners you are surrounded by, and the excitement of the race, it is way too easy to start way too fast.  Our Garmins were really off and it was hard to rely on them, so we tried to go by effort and settle into our pace....and it basically worked.

I knew that we would be going under some bridges and that people normally lose their signal on Garmins.  That was true, but another factor was the interference from all the buildings.  My watch was really off.  I did lose my signal under one bridge, but not for too long - maybe 15-20 seconds at the most.  However, my watch was about about .3-.35 ahead of the mile markers and the total distance on my watch ended up being 26.64.

Betsy and I agreed that we would start together, but that we would each run our own race and might not finish together.  I felt great for about the first 15 miles and then I knew I would likely have to slow down and wouldn't be able to maintain that pace.  I held on for a little longer, but let Betsy go at mile 18.  She was having a great race and I didn't want to slow her down.

It got hard after that and I had to dig deep.  It's the point in the race where it's going to get hard, no matter what.  Plus I was now alone and I found myself settling into the pace of the crowd around me.  It would've been really easy to ease up entirely and I knew I could still have a PR, but I pushed to run hard and to not ease up.  I was happy with how strong I felt (relatively speaking) for the last chunk of the race and I felt as if my training had really prepared me to run that distance.

For the last 6.2 miles, I relied on the total time on my watch and used that at each mile marker to compute how I was doing.  I knew my average pace and distance were off and I knew my actual total time was a little longer than what my watch said since I lost my signal earlier in the race....but I didn't know how off it was.  In the final few miles, I knew I would just make or just miss a sub 4:00.  As I got to the finish, I really expected to be just over 4:00.  My watch was misleading and I've been snagged by that before, so I was preparing myself.  After I crossed, I looked at my watch and saw 3:59 and was sure my official time would be over 4:00.  Needless to say, once my final time was texted to me (I signed up to track myself for this very reason), I was ecstatic to see I got a sub 4:00.

I think the splits from my results page tell the story better than my wonky Garmin splits:


I'm happy to report that I really think I nailed my fueling....or at least I didn't mess it up as I have in the past.  I didn't need to use the bathroom during the whole race, which is always a concern of mine. I ate a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, and a cup of coffee about 3 hours before the start.  I had water throughout the morning until about 30 minutes before the start when I got in my corral.  I had Gu (alternating between chocolate peanut butter and chocolate) every 4.5 miles and a quarter of a banana at mile 20.  I had mostly water during the race and Gatorade about every 6-8 miles.

My thoughts

Well I finally got to see what I could do in a marathon.  Despite running 6 marathons, I never felt as if I had gotten a chance to really see what I could do.  I ran my first few marathons with someone and, at times, felt as if I was holding back.  The time that I had a great training cycle and was having a great race, I DNF-ed.  Since then, I never went into the race with a great training cycle under my belt.  While I did have some challenges and hurdles in this training cycle, it was successful on the whole and it did prepare me to race 26.2 miles.  Yes, I think I could've done better if the last 8 weeks went differently, but very few training cycles go without some hiccups.

I'm really very happy and have zero regrets.  Despite what my goal was and regardless of any what ifs, it's hard not to be happy with a 33 minute PR and my first sub 4:00 marathon.  I know that I did the best I could with what I had in me on that day.

What's next

Next up is the Memphis marathon in 8 weeks.  I have some initial thoughts on how I will adjust my goal and race plan, but want to see how the next few weeks of training go.  Minimally, I would like to PR again.  I learned a lot from Chicago and believe I can run a smarter race.  But first, I am taking this whole week completely off.

I've also started to think about next year and my goals for next year.  I have PR-ed in every distance I ran this year and feel as though I have found a new momentum to my training.  I believe I can continue with this next year and see what I can do.

Anyone else run Chicago?  

Do you prefer big races or small races?

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Life lately: August recap

To put it simply, August has been busy.  It's also had some highs and lows.

The good:
Our travels have come to an end and we are back in Fayetteville.  We said goodbye to the water and sand and hello to moving into a new house.  Thankfully we are very happy in our new home because I hope it is a long time before we move again!

Brian's season and semester have both started up again and he's busy, busy, busy.  He's also running the LeHigh Valley Marathon tomorrow.  He hired a coach this time, has had an incredible training cycle, and it should be a good race for him.

Braxton turned 1….

….and Caden is walking….

My boys are growing up way too fast!  We are having a party for the boys when our family is out in a few weeks and will do the whole smash cake then, but we couldn't resist giving Braxton a cupcake to celebrate - it was his first taste of anything sweet and I think he liked it :)

I discovered Chocolate Peanut Butter Gu and my world is that much closer to being complete.  I waited a long time for this day to come.

The bad:
My training took a nosedive this month.  A big one.  It started well and then I missed a few runs during the move, which was foreseeable and I had more or less built that into my training plan.  Transitioning to a new schedule where Brian was gone so much more and I was alone with the boys had some obstacles and was harder than I anticipated.

Then once we were finally settled in the house and had brainstormed how and when I could fit my runs in with our new schedule, I ended up with an injury and had to take some time off.

I started having a problem with my hip and initially thought it was a minor strain.  I built in some extra rest days and expected that to do the trick.  I made an appointment with an orthopedist to get something on the books *just in case.*  Neither the rest nor the orthopedist helped at all.  After that, I took a full week off and then went out for a short easy run where I was in just as much or more pain than before, my gait was off, my pace was slow, and the run felt hard.  I grabbed my phone as I finished the run and texted Brian with tears in my eyes telling him I was officially worried about whether or not I could run Chicago.

Brian got me in with the trainer for the hockey team and he has been awesome.  It looks like a TFL injury and I have been treating it with strengthening exercises, electrical stimulation, and anti-inflamatories.

The trainer asked me when my drop dead day was for deciding whether or not I'd run Chicago.  I told him 3 weeks out from the race, which is 2 weeks from this weekend.  I've had a great training cycle so far with higher weekly mileage than I've ever run before and I've run 3 18 milers and a 20 miler so far.  In order to have confidence on the starting line, I feel I need to get one more long run in (ideally another 20 miler) and have a good training week with relatively higher mileage and some speed work before I taper.

The likely cause of the injury is a lack of strength training combined with running on the same side of the road too much.  When we're home, I hardly ever run on the roads and all of my running is done on paved trails or the treadmill, but for the past 4 months, all of my running has been on roads and that can lead to injuries because of the uneven surface and it creates an imbalance where one leg is always landing lower and one leg is landing higher.

I've run marathons where I have been undertrained and I DNF-ed during one because of an injury.  I'm not going to knowingly do those things again.  While I accept that my goal of a BQ may no longer be realistic for this race, I want to have confidence that I am strong enough to run a good race and not further injure myself.  I've had my best training cycle ever and I've been more consistent with my training than ever.  I've been motivated and excited during the whole training cycle and this is obviously disappointing, but it does come with the territory.  If I am able to recover in time to have a solid week of running before I taper, I feel my training up to this point and overall fitness will put me in a position to still have a really good race.

To put it in perspective, here are the numbers:
July 28-Aug 3 = 54.5
Aug 4-Aug 10 = 40
Aug 11-Aug 17 = 24
Aug 18-Aug 24 = 15
Aug 25-Aug 31 = 6
Total mileage for August = 108 
Fortunately, I am also registered for the Memphis marathon the first weekend of December, so regardless, I have not said goodbye to a fall/winter marathon :-D

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