Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Last Long Run and Randomness

I had my last long run before the marathon last Sunday, a 20-miler put on by the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA). It was a point-to-point along the lakefront (with a couple of short loops), fully supported with aid stations, pace groups, gear transportation, food and beer afterwards, and then bus transportation back to the start. I took part in this before my last marathon and it was so well run I decided to do it again.

It was a beautiful day. I was a little hesitant about how I would do, since I hadn't been sleeping well for a few nights and I was (gentlemen, avert your eyes) having bad cramps and bleeding freely. Oh, and coming off of a monster mile week. But I decided that I would just take it easy and go along with my pace group - I had deliberately chosen one slower than what I really hope to do.

I should mention, again, that it was a really, really, beautiful day, and the course was magnificent. Wooded areas, beach, prairie, well-marked, great views of the city, friendly volunteers, funny signs at mile 12, well-stocked and well-staffed aid stations. A runner's delight.

I started with my pace group and warmed up with them, but within a couple of miles found myself pushing forward. Wanting to keep running every time we stopped, wanting to walk quickly when on a walk break (I usually do, I was surprised at how slowly folks were walking), wanting to pass immediately when we came up behind a slower group. And so I did. I broke away about mile three and the rest of the way I just ran on my own, no music, just enjoying myself and the surroundings.

And in the end I ran a full half-minute pace quicker than expected and felt comfortable throughout - my last two miles were my fastest overall. I think I'm ready.

Some technical stuff:
  • I've been supplementing my nutrition/liquid stores with Starburst jelly beans and water - that way I don't have to carry quite so much liquid with me. (Otherwise I would have had to carry my bladder - 70 oz. - plus two small bottles - 24 oz.  - for this run, and presumably the bladder and two large bottles for the marathon, which is a lot to carry.) The mix continues to work well.
  • I've been finding the 5:1 run/walk ratio to be a bit short, so I expanded it to 7:1, which feels more comfortable. (I only do this on runs above 15 miles. Runs that are 10-15 miles long I take a walk break once a mile, and anything shorter than 10 miles I just rely on traffic breaks to get a rest.)
  • The only trouble with the course was that it canted to the left, exactly the wrong slant for my legs (my left leg is marginally shorter than the right and I notice it in my right ITB if the road tilts left). This gave me some serious trouble during the middle section when there was mostly pavement and I didn't have a choice but to run on it. Once we got past mile 13 I was able to run on the shoulder where it's sand or dirt and the pain went away. During the marathon itself we're on city streets so I'll be able to choose to run on the right. The lakefront paths all tilt towards the lake so I don't have a choice - if I'm running south the lake is always to my left. Up north where I usually run I can almost always run on the side of the path so I don't think about it, but in the middle of the city it's only pavement.
And then some random stuff on my mind...

I seem to have gone over completely to dairy-free (as much as I can living in my household, where I have promised not to mess too much with classic baked goods - I make no such promises about new recipes, though). It makes me very happy for all kinds of reasons. And now I've successfully made almond milk hot chocolate at home, so I think I really don't have any reason for going back.

I was talking with a couple of women during the brief time I was with the pace group about recent races and I was just struck by the ridiculousness of some of the swag given away at these events. All I want is a good tech shirt, a fun medal if it's a long enough course, and maybe some very runner-specific extras (I have received, and enjoy using, a yoga mat, headband, and reusable drink bottle from different events). But necklaces? Champagne glasses? Half-naked men at the end? I'm not kidding about that one - not exactly swag in that you couldn't take them home (at least, I wouldn't try to) but definitely falling into the ridiculous category.

Okay, done ranting.

What's the most ridiculous swag you've ever gotten from an event? Professional conferences also fall into this category.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bits and Pieces

The weather has been odd here. Hot last week, cool, even cold, at the beginning of this week, and today warmer again (and humid!). I've loved running in the cooler weather and loved seeing my times drop so radically with no extra effort. I have to remember that this is Chicago and cooler temperatures now mean nothing in regards to marathon day itself. That is to say, I still don't have a good sense of what to expect for time or plan for pacing.

I had a rest week last week and enjoyed myself. It ended up being even more of a rest week than I had planned for, between work and family activities I missed a couple of low-key workouts I'd been looking forward to. Just as well, this week is a monster one. Again, due to work and family I wasn't able to do a long run earlier this week, so instead I have been running 5-8 miles every day - I'll finish up with a 7 mile run tomorrow and then have my 20-miler on Sunday.

And then taper.

This year I'm not worried about taper so much, I'm looking forward to being able to get back to swimming and going to the gym for a couple of weeks. Plus Scary Movie Month starts soon and I'm excited about that. I'll just have to make sure I'm getting enough sleep that last week...

And in other news, Buddy turned 5. Woo-hoo! And now that the celebrating is done, I have to resume the school agonizing/selection/lottery process. (He'll start kindergarten next year, in Chicago you have to be 5 by September 1 to start kindergarten.) I had visited a number of schools last year and we know which one we'd most like him to go to... but because of the lottery process we have no guarantee that he'll be able to. Or he might be on the waiting list and we find out he gets a spot August 24, two days before school starts. Or not until September 7. So I'm continuing with school visits to open up our options. I'll have him tested for the gifted schools for the same reason, though I'm not wild about putting him in a gifted program. This is all for public schools, by the way.

Why not just put him in our neighborhood school, you ask? Well, we could... and we might end up enrolling him there if it gets to be the end of August 2014 and he hasn't gotten a spot anywhere else... (or we might end up moving to a different neighborhood if we really cannot deal with the uncertainty)... But we don't like the classes we've visited and we don't like the principal and we're concerned about gang violence in the immediate proximity of the school. And, and, and. And there are such great schools close to us that we could potentially get in (because in addition to being neighborhood schools - open to children living in that district - they are also magnet or gifted option schools that can take in students outside of their district - which is based by lottery (magnet) or testing plus lottery (gifted)).

We live 1/2 block out of district for the school we want. Can I tell you how frustrating that is? And two blocks out of district for another really good school.

Okay. Done with this. (For today, anyway.) Bah.

Much nicer to think about running...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Looking Ahead and Looking Back

Had an 8-miler today that I turned into a 7-miler. I just didn't feel like fighting the humidity anymore and was feeling low about my slow, slow, slow start. My knees hurt (a sign I need to swap out my shoes) and my legs had no zip. Which is all fine, this is a rest week. But I still needed to somehow get home, with four miles still to go (and no iPod). So I practiced mantras and visualizations. I think I have one but I should get some more in my head.

I feel so much more prepared for the marathon this time around. So much more so that I keep wondering how on earth did I do that first one? And in that time? As I train this year I grow in appreciation for what I accomplished back then.

Friday, September 6, 2013

To Help Me Remember

From the discussion following my last post...

Feather Tattoos.
Not my tattoo, but have been thinking of doing something like this...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Letting Go

I had my long run on Sunday. I've gotten my attire, shoes, hydration, nutrition, etc. all pretty much worked out so now it's pacing and the mental stuff I'm still working on.

Sunday was a good test for those.

I started slow... and then kept going slow... and just didn't seem to get any faster... and then needed a pee break much earlier than I usually do... so by the time I was an hour in I was seriously behind where I expected to be by then. But still had way too much in front of me to really think about trying to run much faster.

Normally this wouldn't be much of an issue but we had brunch plans with my parents and I had already left the house later than originally planned. And despite having brought my phone I couldn't get in touch with The Dude to let him know I was running late. So, really, it was excellent practice for the marathon - what do I do when there is a time limit (real or mental) and it's looking bad for meeting it?

I was running without headphones so I had plenty of opportunity to watch my thoughts. And I noticed that when I didn't think about the time, I felt "in the flow". It was a beautiful day, I was running through my great city, with lots of varied scenery and people to admire, I could enjoy myself.

When I thought about the time, things felt effortful. I hurt more. I saw less of what was around me.

Friends, I think the lesson here is clear.

But to be honest, I'm not sure I'm ready to completely let go of time goals for the marathon. I want to be ready. I really do. Especially since I'd like to do ultras and trail marathons in the future, and the only way to do that is to move into this different mindset.

So. What to do now? I'll keep running without headphones. I thought about not running with my Garmin at all, but I like how it keeps track of the run/walk intervals. But I can turn off the lap function so it's not quite as easy to obsess over speed. I've got another long run and signed up to do it with a pace group, but I don't need to stay with them. So I guess I have another chance to practice not caring about my speed.

Because I did not have fun with my first marathon and I would like to this time. And I know what I need to do for that... Now I just need to convince myself that's what I really want to do as well.