Thursday, January 5, 2012

Has it been a year???

Has it really been a year since my last blog? I guess so! How do I sum up a year of my running adventures in one post? I won’t be able to do it justice, but I can tell you that I ran 6 marathons in 6 different states. That makes 19 marathons total in 16 states. While I am very proud of this accomplishment I think that 6 marathons in one year were too many for me. My fellow Marathon Maniacs and 50 State Club Members might laugh at this statement as many of them run 25 marathons a year or more. My body held up fairly well as I slowed my pace down in order to ensure I would successfully complete each one; however, I think the toll of training and traveling was just too much for me. I used to finish marathons in just under 5 hours; now I’m closer to 5:30. I had to re-adjust my time goals once I started running so many marathons close together. This strategy has worked as I’ve made it to the finish line of every marathon I’ve started. I should share, however, that I almost didn’t make it to the finish line in Savannah, which was my 18th marathon. But I’ll write a separate blog about that.

The marathons I ran this year:

April: Boston Marathon. What can I say? Boston is my favorite marathon by far because the crowds are simply spectacular. Being a Boston-area resident adds to the excitement. I train on the course many times so to see it transformed on marathon day is amazing. I knew it would probably be my last Boston for a while since I want to concentrate on finishing marathons in other states, so I went into race day with one goal: have fun from start to finish. And that is exactly what I did! I smiled from start to finish and took time to stop and greet spectators with hugs or brief conversations. I even posed for pictures along the way. My finish time was not important; what was important was that I was having fun!

May: I ran 2 marathons 6 days apart. The first one was Delaware. The special part of this race is that I got to share it with my 19 year old niece. We spent some of the race weekend together and she came to cheer me on at the marathon. That was awesome!! I was also excited that one of my students (I work with college students) came to the marathon and walked with me for a little bit (conveniently when I spotted him on the side of the road I was walking up a hill so we could easily walk and chat). Then 6 days after Delaware I ran the Fargo Marathon. I was very nervous about running marathons 6 days apart but it turned out just fine. I did have a little bit of a mental breakdown around mile 21 in Fargo because my knee was bothering me a little bit. However, just at that moment I came upon the famous Larry Macon (who runs 100+ marathons a year) and asked him for advice. He was so helpful and cheerful that I knew I would be okay. My childhood friend Peter accompanied me to North Dakota as he had always wanted to go to Fargo. We had a great time exploring the area and especially enjoyed the zoo.

October: I ran the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Maine. All I can say is this: SIMPLY SPECTACULAR SCENERY! This is by far the most scenic marathon I have run. It’s in the Acadia National Park area and much of the course runs along the ocean. Almost everywhere you turn is a beautiful sight, from the ocean to the mountains and the trees. The course itself is incredibly challenging due to the relentless hills (both up and down but mostly up). You don’t run MDI for the finish time; you run it for the scenery. I fell in love with Bar Harbor and am trying to figure out a way to get back there next year. They do have a 2-person relay and I’d love to convince a friend to do it with me.

November: I ran the Rock ‘n Roll Savannah Marathon in Georgia. This was my first and last Rock ‘n Roll race; the organization was pitiful at best. I had heard that the Competitor Group (which manages the Rock ‘n Roll series) had issues so I thought I prepared myself well for some disappointment. It was a cluster f**k! I won’t go into all of the details here but let’s just say I will never again run a race managed by the Competitor Group. The more important news from this marathon is that I got sick for the first time during a marathon and I freaked out about it. Around mile 21 I started to feel very dizzy and nauseous. This scared me. I had to slow down to a walk, and even then I was dizzy. I stopped at the medical tent around mile 23.5 and talked to a doctor. Unfortunately he had no equipment with him (one of my complaints about the race!) but he did feel my pulse and said it was regular. He said that as long as my pulse stayed regular I could keep walking. I walked the last 5 miles of that marathon to the finish. Around mile 24 I met up with a woman named Robin from Atlanta. She came along at the perfect moment, and we supported each other during our walk to the finish. I finished in 5:49 which was by far my slowest finish time ever, but I FINISHED!!

December: I ran the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL. This was a great small-town race and a good choice for Alabama. I ran it this year because I met a fellow member of the 50 States Club in Fargo and he is from Huntsville; he encouraged me to run Rocket City this year. So I did! Since it was my 6th marathon of the year I had no idea how I would do and frankly my only goal was to finish in less than 6 hours because they stopped timing people at the 6 hour mark. I was REALLY worried about running this race after what had happened in Savannah the previous month. If the 6 hour time limit was not in place I might not have worried so much. However, around the halfway mark I realized that even if I walked most of the 2nd half of the marathon that I would finish in less than 6 hours. This was a HUGE relief. The biggest relief, however, was that I did not experience the dizziness or nausea I felt during the Savannah Marathon. Any time I felt even the *slightest* twinge of “not feeling right” I just stopped to walk and that turned out to be a great strategy. I met a man named Graham from the Marathon Maniacs during the second half of the race, and he was a great inspiration. He is in his 60s and has run many more marathons than me. He and his friend kept me motivated. In fact, I credit Graham with pushing me to finish in under 5:30, more than 30 minutes faster than my goal. With about 4/10 of a mile to go, I was walking. Graham came up behind me and said “Let’s go, Marathon Maniac, let’s finish in under 5:30.” This was just the push I needed and I ran the rest of the way to the finish, getting there about 40 seconds before Graham.

After Rocket City, I took 2.5 weeks off from all exercise. It was exactly what I needed both mentally and physically. However, the break is over as training started this week for my next marathon! My 2012 marathon schedule has been reduced to 4 marathons. I ran 4 marathons in 2010 and it worked out well so I figure I will see if it works just as well this year. I set my PR in 2010 when I ran 4 marathons that year so I feel confident it’s a good strategy.

My 2012 marathon schedule:
April: Kentucky Derby Marathon in Louisville, KY
June: Utah Valley Marathon in Provo, UT
October: Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, MN
November: Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, OK

I am hoping to keep up with the blog this year, so keep reading! 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

tortoise pace

My pace lately has been the slowest it has ever been in my life. In fact, last week most of my runs were around 12 minutes/mile. I'm usually in the 10 minute range (which is already pretty slow compared to a lot of runners!). What gives? Well, I can think of a few things to use as excuses. The first is that I'm sick with chest congestion. This has diminished my energy and has made me even struggle to climb the stairs! Some people would say I'm crazy to run with chest congestion but I figure I might as well wait until it gets REALLY bad before I take some rest. It's still in the stage where the mucus in my chest is just hanging out there. Once I start hacking like crazy I'll probably rest. Another reason (excuse) for my slower pace is likely that I took a month of from marathon training. I ran slow short distance; not a great recipe for pace on longer runs! Finally, my pace has slowed down due to the weather. Running on snow and ice slows me down. There are times I have to climb over snow banks, like at intersections. I usually run at night, when I typically run slower anyway since I can't see as well (even with a headlamp). Add the darkness factor to the snow/ice factor and you're reading something typed by a tortoise! But you know what? I am just happy to be out there! I am grateful that I am healthy enough to have two legs that get me going at any pace. So I'll plug along as a tortoise...and maybe one day I'll become a turtle again! :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Break or Boston or Both?

I intended on taking the entire month of December off from intensive running, since marathon training for the Delaware Marathon didn't start until January 3rd. I planned to run a few times a week at 3-5 miles per run. Nothing like marathon training! And I wasn't going to "squeeze in" a run when I didn't really have time to run (like I have to do when training). And I wasn't going to give up precious hours on the weekends to do a long run.

Then I got a number for the Boston Marathon. That would mean I would have to start training on December 13th which would put a major damper on my plan to take some time off. Long story about how I got the number for Boston, but the bottom line is that I came in 2nd place in a year-long competition in one of my running clubs and an invitational bib was my prize. The club was even going to pay half the registration fee. If I ran Boston on April 18th, this would mean I'd run 3 marathons in the course of 6 weeks. I consulted running expert Bart Yasso, who not only told me to run Boston, he told me how to train in between each of the marathons.

With Bart's blessing, I accepted the bib to Boston. Yet I didn't give up on my plan to take some time off. My marathon training program, as dictated by Hal Higdon, lasts 18 weeks. I decided to start at week 3, thereby cutting down the training to 16 weeks. As a veteran of 13 marathons, I figured I would do just fine with a 16 week training program. This gave me a month off between the Richmond Marathon and the start of training, which commenced on December 27th.

Thank God for breaks!! It was so well-needed. And I think it did my body good. I am slower now, but who cares? I've got 15 weeks until the Boston Marathon. Plenty of time, right?!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Runner's World Challenge in Richmond

I had not planned on running 4 marathons in 2010; however, when I discovered earlier this year that Runner’s World magazine was holding a Runner’s World Challenge marathon in Richmond in November, and that it involved Bart Yasso, I just had to jump on board. I first met Bart at the NYC Marathon in 2009, and I have seen him several times since then. Bart is one of the most inspirational and encouraging people in the running world; he is known as the “Mayor of Running” in the USA. He also works for Runner’s World and has written a book called “Life on the Run.” The chance to participate in a marathon weekend with Bart was far too good to pass up. And I am sure glad I did it!

The Runner’s World Challenge in Richmond turned into something above and beyond anything I could have anticipated. I met teammates from around the country online via Facebook and Twitter. And then when my October marathon was over, I started getting involved with the Challenge team message boards. Many of the team members had been developing their friendships online for over a year, so I “joined the party” extremely late. However, everyone welcomed me with open arms and I felt totally included. By the time I made it to Richmond, I felt like a solid member of the team.

Meeting everyone at the shakeout run the day before the race was amazing. It was cool to recognize people from their online photos! There were so many hugs and smiles. It was really heartwarming how everyone came together. Friday was busy from 7:30am until 9:00pm: shakeout run, course tour, lunch, team meeting, and dinner. Then all of a sudden it was time to run a marathon. Being on the Challenge team provided us with a lot of perks. One of the greatest perks was having a warm and dry indoor space to wait in before the marathon. We had our own bathrooms, food, and drinks. We were able to walk right out to the start 5 minutes before the race started. Awesome!

I had been experiencing some really bad stomach problems for the two days prior to the marathon, and they did not go away on marathon morning. And besides that, Richmond was my fourth marathon of the year. And I had just run a PR marathon 5 weeks before. Given all of this, I was just hoping to finish before they closed the course at 7 hours. I ended up running with my teammate Amy for most of the first 6 miles or so. At the very beginning we were with teammate Colleen and then when she left us we caught up with teammate Chris. It was really cool to run with teammates. Amy was dealing with back pain and had hoped to break a total time of 5:30, so I thought it would be good to stick with her. But eventually she and Chris became too fast for me so I dropped back. I was sorry to see them go but I didn’t want to run too fast in the early miles. For most of the rest of the marathon, I didn’t run with anyone in particular, but I was surrounded by plenty of people.

My motivation, stomach issues, and fatigue all seemed the worst in the first 9 or so miles. But as the race progressed, I felt a little better. The course was lined with tons of spectators, bands, DJs, cheerleaders, etc. I thought I preferred smaller quiet marathons but Richmond showed me that it can be really fun to see so many people on the sidelines. I stopped to dance at some of the music stops, and I high-fived so many spectators (mostly children). Interacting with the crowd kept me going. It was much warmer and sunnier than I would have preferred, but I actually felt okay. There were a few stretches with no shade that were tough, but overall I was okay.

At the halfway mark I noticed that my time was around 2:24 or so. I figured that even if I walked a bit in the second half I might still get under 5 hours. But to be honest, I really didn’t care what my time was. I was just so grateful to be out there and to be a part of the Challenge team. It felt so good not to worry about pace! I just relaxed and enjoyed the experience. This strategy paid off, as I was feeling pretty good all the way to the finish line. I didn’t end up walking very much in the last 5 miles. The finish line is at the bottom of a hill, so I was able to fly down that finish. For the first time, I raised my hands in the air at the finish of a marathon, and jubilantly crossed that finish line with a big smile. The best part was seeing Bart straight ahead and getting a hug from him. Then I turned around and noticed teammates Cintia and David Bock finishing just behind me. That made it even better! I also got to see Bart cheering for us at mile 4.5 and mile 16. That was awesome!

The Challenge Team had its own special area in the hotel at the finish, and we got our own masseuse, food, drinks, etc. And when each one of us walked in after finishing, we received a huge applause from those already in the room. That was awesome! Lots of hugs were exchanged, and lots of pictures were taken. It was a huge celebration of an amazing accomplishment and a wonderful team experience. I made friends for life, and I know that we will see each other again soon. And in fact we are talking about finding a race to do together again next year, maybe even a relay race. All I know is that I will definitely keep in touch with my teammates and I have made some new friends. My finish time (4:50:41) ended up being my second fastest ever but to be honest the experience of the marathon with the team was so much more memorable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A New Personal Record in New York!

On 10/10/10 I ran my 12th marathon (10th state): the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in the Albany area of New York. I usually travel to marathons alone, but this time my friend Jen was running the marathon as well and was accompanied by her husband Chris. They were kind enough to allow me to travel with them, and it was a great experience.

It was significant that it was my 10th state, as that earned me membership in the 50 States Marathon Club. A couple of months before the marathon I emailed the race director to ask if my race number could have the number “10” somewhere in it. She said she would do her best. When we arrived at the Expo the day before the race, I was flabbergasted to discover that not only did they give me a race bib # with “10” in it, but they gave me number 1010!!! To run in my 10th state on 10/10/10 with bib # 1010 was so exciting. To top it all off, they wrote a nice note on my race packet thanking me for including their small marathon in my journey to pursue the 50 states. It was so touching.

Jen was kind enough to find us a great restaurant for our carbo loading dinner, so we headed to the restaurant soon after the Expo. Luckily we both preferred an early dinner so our reservation was at 4:30. It’s nice when marathoners’ schedules/routines match up when traveling!

I was in bed by around 8:30 the night before the marathon. I couldn’t fall asleep right away, but as Hal Higdon says, as long as you are horizontal you are getting the rest you need! I had to be up by 6:30 the next morning to meet Jen and Chris at 7:00 to depart for the starting line.

We arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare. It was COLD! I had bought throw-away clothes and was wearing fleece pants, a long sleeved shirt, a fleece sweatshirt, a hat, and gloves. Our one mistake was waiting to go to the bathroom until after the buses arrived with the majority of runners. We stood in line to use the port-a-potty for 35 minutes, and barely made it to the start on time. I also needed to drop of my bag at the baggage bus, and had to run to the start.

It was a beautiful day, and I shed all of my extra clothes (except for the gloves) within the first half a mile. The sun was shining and it got up to the mid 50s. I would have preferred some clouds, but was just grateful that it wasn’t too hot out. It was a small marathon, with about 800 runners. I was never running alone, but it was never crowded. There weren’t that many spectators along the route, but the ones who were there were very enthusiastic. The majority of the route is on a paved path that runs along the river, and that made for a very scenic route. The only not-so-scenic part was in downtown Albany around the 18 to 21 mile mark.

I talked to several runners along the way. I met a woman from Texas who said that 31 Texans traveled together for the race! Fun! I asked her what was the best marathon to run in Texas and she said “hands down” it was Houston. I met a man who told me he was from Amsterdam. I thought that was so cool! Then about 10 minutes later I discovered that he meant Amsterdam, New York which was only about 20 minutes away! LOL. I also met some women who were running their first marathon. They asked me about my tattoos. I usually wear several temporary tattoos on marathon day, most of them saying “26.2.” I get them from I also have a permanent tattoo that says “26.2” on my upper back but you usually can’t see it even with a tank top.

I was feeling good the whole race but wasn’t so worried or concerned about my pace. I was just trying to enjoy the scenery and the whole race experience. I always hope to finish in less than 5 hours, but otherwise I was unconcerned with my time. I kept telling myself to just run as fast as I could but still be comfortable. I noticed at the half way mark that my time was 2:21-something. Since I normally run pretty even splits (same time for each half of the marathon) I realized that I might be able to run a PR (personal record; fastest marathon time). At the time my PR was 4:53:41, which I had run in Tampa at the Gasparilla Marathon in February of 2010.

Knowing I had a PR in my sights, I decided to keep running as fast as I could without pushing myself too hard. I knew that if I kept my pace under 11 minutes per mile that I would definitely get a PR. I wear a Garmin watch that tells me my pace at every moment, and in the second half of the race I looked at it quite often. This is not a practice I normally engage in, and it’s not something I would recommend to most marathoners. But for some reason this strategy worked well for me at the time. I think perhaps knowing that I was trying to reach a certain goal, and having the data to help me get to that goal, really pushed me forward. It was not until mile 23-ish that I stopped to walk for a short while. I normally take short walk breaks throughout my marathons, but not this time. Knowing I had a PR on the horizon kept me running. But at mile 23-ish I knew that even if I walked for a bit I would still have a PR. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t taken that walk break. I don’t think I really needed it; however, since I knew a walk break wouldn’t affect my PR I guess I just decided to take it.

In the last couple of miles, I knew I was going to run a PR. At that point it was just a matter of by how many minutes. I told myself I was going to take one more electrolyte capsule at the final water stop as one last boost to the finish. Unfortunately that stop was only about .6 mile from the finish. But I stopped anyway as I was mentally counting on it. I probably didn’t need it, and it took about 30 seconds off my time, but I didn’t really care. As I approached the finish line I gave it all I had and ran as fast as I could. I heard my friend Jen cheering for me and I also heard the announcer call my name. I was absolutely jubilant as I looked at my watch and saw that I ran a 4:44:37 (a 9:04 PR). I was also thrilled that I had completed my 10th state and that I was now a member of the 50 States Marathon Club. I was smiling excitedly for such a long time.

After a few pictures and consuming some food and beverages, we headed to the hotel so I could take a shower. Then we were on the road for our journey home. We stopped at Applebee’s for a post-race meal and I had my favorite post-marathon meal: a burger and fries! YUM! There was not much time to rest when I got home, though. I had 5 weeks until my next marathon and training began again on Monday!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall Marathons

Has it really been over 2 months since I posted on this blog?! Wow, time sure does fly by. It was a VERY hot summer and that made marathon training more difficult, but I was able to keep on track. That often meant getting up at 6am to do my long runs, which was REALLY hard as I am not a morning person in the least. But getting up early was the "lesser of two evils." I don't run well in the heat, humidity, and/or sun so I forced myself to get up. There were definitely times I couldn't get up, which resulted in switching around my training schedule, but I have not yet missed a long run. And this weekend is my final 20 mile run so I am in good shape.

Yes, believe it or not, I have another marathon in 3 weeks and 2 days. I'm running the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in the Albany area of NY. That will be my 12th marathon in the 10th state, so I'll be eligible to join the 50 States Marathon Club!! Woo hoo! I will have my application all ready to mail in when I return from NY. You see, you need to complete marathon in at least 10 states to join the club. I can't wait to be an official member. I've been lurking for a while. :)

The NY marathon will be extra special as a friend of mine is also running it (we independently decide to run it and were excited to find out the other person's plans). We are going to travel together; thankfully her husband is coming and can drive us. I am usually traveling to marathons by myself so not only is it a luxury to have other people accompany me, but I don't even have to drive. Yay! It is certainly a tough task to drive a few hours after running a marathon, so I am thankful I won't have to do it. The marathon course is mostly flat and downhill, with only one significant hill about halfway through. Most of the course is on a bike path next to the river, so that will be nice and scenic. They close the course after 5 1/2 hours, so I just hope I finish in time. I've run 11 marathons so far, all in under 5 1/2 hours. But my PW (personal worst) time was 5:20 so it's not that far off!

Once that marathon ends I will immediately begin training for my next marathon, which is 5 weeks after NY. I am following a special training program for that. More on that marathon after I finish the NY race! :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes open. And I'm supposed to run 6 miles in an hour. am I going to muster up the energy? For the past two days I've run 3 miles in the terrible heat/humidity and then gone straight to boot camp at the gym where I participated in hard-core exercises for an hour. I think 2 days in a row of that has put me over the edge of exhaustion. I was thinking maybe I could put the run off until tomorrow but I don't have any time to run tomorrow at all. And my last day of boot camp is tomorrow and I don't want to do both in one day again. Usually when I feel this way I just tell myself to take it slowly on the run and do a run/walk if I have to. But I have dinner plans immediately following the run and have no extra time to spare. I guess what I will do is take it slowly and if I don't feel the energy pick up at all, I will run 5 miles instead of 6. It's early enough in the training (3.5 weeks into it) that reducing one run by one mile is not going to make a difference. I just need to make sure I don't consistently do this during the training or I won't feel ready on marathon day.