Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Big 2-0

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I have good news, and I have not so good news.

The good news is that a week ago, we completed our 20 mile training run! This was the last of our super long runs leading up to the marathon (now three weeks away, might I remind you!), and, after a month of rest and two short training runs earlier in the week, Don re-joined our group… and promptly annoyed us all by being the first one to finish in a little over three hours. We find ourselves now in the tapering portion of our training where our runs are less intense and we get to recuperate a bit before the big day.

The bad news is that I really need this recuperation time.

I finished my 20 mile run in 4 hours 12 minutes. I’m pretty happy with that time because I had what I think is the worst run of my life. Our run began in Ka’a’awa along the coast and, while we watched the sun rise over the ocean, we battled a pretty strong headwind for the first 5 or so miles. I was feeling alright and glad to be out of the wind when, around mile 7, I suddenly needed a restroom.

Immediately.

I fortunately found a pair of well-used port-o-potties near a boat ramp and one of them was stocked with toilet paper- what luck! Unfortunately this was only the start of my struggles because something I ate on Saturday had decided to wage war against me and I found myself frantically searching for a bathroom every few miles. Needless to say, these bathroom breaks really slowed me down, and I got even slower during the last 2 miles when my right knee started to hurt.

I assumed that my knee, after an afternoon of stretching, ice, Advil, and relaxing poolside, would feel better on Monday morning, and when it didn’t, I took some Advil, did some yoga in place of going to the gym, and assumed that it would feel better on Tuesday. Again, I assumed incorrectly; it didn’t feel good enough to run on, so I sat out our Tuesday night run (which made me very sad because I’ve come to really enjoy the company of my fellow runners). On Wednesday I tentatively hopped on the elliptical at the end of my workout and the knee felt ok, so I gave Thursday night’s run a try and was disappointed to be in pain not far into our route.

I started slow, and got slower, and, although I was determined to finish in a run, I had to walk up a small hill. My friend Mel offered me one of her neoprene knee bands, and, although it made my knee feel better at a walk, it didn’t have much effect on it while running. I was feeling pretty discouraged because I was (and still am) worried about what this means for my marathon.

I’ve been so worried about it this week that I’ve been whining to Don about my knee quite a bit. In fact, he suggested that I put a disclaimer at the beginning of this post advising you to read it in an irritating whining voice, but I think that simply reading the following sentence in a self-pitying tone will suffice: I REALLY want to do the marathon, and I want to RUN it like a real runner would!

I know that I could walk the marathon. I could crawl, I could do the electric slide, heck, I could probably even lie on the ground and roll like a log and not get disqualified, but the amount of work that goes into training for a marathon deserves to be rewarded with the opportunity to complete the race in the manner intended: at a run. Since August, I’ve been diligently running up hills and back down them, I’ve pushed myself to go faster than is comfortable, I’ve gotten up early, I’ve run in the rain and under the blazing sun, and I’ve felt this training make me into a faster and stronger runner; I want the chance to run my marathon as I’ve trained for it.

I know that in the big picture this is a small thing. I’m trying to look past my disappointment and feeling like I’ve been betrayed by my body to focus on the positive things. Guys, last week I RAN FOR 20 MILES! I’ve been running regularly since March when I decided to see if I could run a 10k, and, somewhere along the way (I think when we were running over the Pali) I realized that I no longer hate running. I kinda even like it a little. There is pleasure to be found in being alone with your thoughts, of having the time to let your body go on autopilot while you ponder life’s BIG questions (“what should we have for dinner…?”), or to let your mind go blank while you focus only on putting one foot in front of the other, and there is joy to be found in noticing yourself and your running buddies getting better with each step. If nothing else comes from this, if I have to forgo my marathon plans in favor of something more conservative, at least I’ve learned to find the enjoyment in running. And also, I’m a badass who can run for 20 eff-ing miles.

I skipped out on today’s 7 mile run (again, sad to miss my social time) in favor of doing an upper body and core workout at the gym followed by LOTS of stretching. It seems like my knee pain might be caused by tight leg muscles. Although I’ve been stretching, I probably haven’t been stretching enough for the amount of running we’ve been doing, so I’m taking it easy, getting some quality time with my foam roller, making sure I can touch my toes (or at least my ankles), and will try to restart my running this week. Send me good karma, guys!

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Getting to the Starting Line

Running over the Pali to town a few weeks ago. I live in Fern Gully. (photo cred to Mike Flartey of Windward Endurance Training)
Running over the Pali to town a few weeks ago. I live in Fern Gully. (photo cred to Mike Flartey of Windward Endurance Training)

This Sunday’s run was much easier to endure than the last one because the trade winds have returned to our island and have blown the oppressive heat and humidity away- hopefully far, far away. Technically this week’s long run was supposed to be more challenging than the previous week’s because it was longer (only a little, it didn’t quite end up being 18 miles) and had more hills, but the temperature drop made all the difference for me.

I think, with the extra loop my running buddy Mel and I walked at the end of our run, that we ended up going just under 17 miles on Sunday. This weekend, we will tackle our longest run before the marathon- 20 miles!- and I’m shaking in my sneakers at the thought of it. I think the scariest thing about these really long runs is the sense of the unknown. Each time we jump in distance, I worry that it will be too much for me and I won’t be able to finish. I wasn’t sure I could actually run for 10 miles before I did it, and now that I have done it, I have that sense of accomplishment as reassurance when I feel too tired to continue, but I don’t have that reassurance when we increase our distance. I find that lack a little bit exciting because it feels good to conquer new challenges and a lot terrifying because- what if I really can’t run that far?.

20 miles is a long, long way to run, and the marathon is even longer. I’m nervous that our longest training run still falls 6.2 miles short of the final destination because I feel like a lot can happen in 6.2 miles, but I also understand that it is important to not overdo it while training and if you’re going to get within 6 miles of running a marathon, you might as well just run the whole damn thing-  let’s face it, I’m not going to do that unless I’m getting a medal, a t-shirt, and free doughnuts.

I know that at the end of our 20 mile training run, I’m going to feel tired. I’m going to feel sore. I’m going to think that I hate running and it was stupid to even sign up for a marathon when the farthest I’d ever run before was 6.2 miles and that felt really REALLY hard to do and why would I ever think that running an extra 20 miles on top of the 6.2 that were really REALLY hard to do was a good idea for me because I hate running, and I’m tired and sore, and I’m really, REALLY not a fitness freak.

I know this because it is how I’ve felt at the end of every run longer than 6.2 miles- I’ve been both delighted to have finished and also filled with doubt about my ability to go farther and actually accomplish this goal of running a marathon, but I’m doing it. So far, I have been able to answer the challenges put in front of me, and I may not be fast, I may get a red tomato face 5 miles in, and I may be wearing a dorky water bottle belt, but I’m doing it and I’m getting faster and less tomato-faced with every run (there is no cure for the dorkiness of the water bottle belt, I’m afraid. C’est la vie.). So, I guess, bring it, 20 miles; show me what you’ve got. (I really hope what you’ve got is friendly and gentle and accompanied by temperatures in the 70s with a light breeze and slightly overcast skies).

holeIn addition to my first run longer than 16 miles, I reached another milestone on Sunday- I got a hole in my sneakers. It’s not that I’ve never worn a pair of sneakers until they had holes before- anyone who’s  known me since my early twenties knows that I will wear an article of clothing (shoes included) until it is more hole than article of clothing- but I’ve never worn a hole in my shoes by RUNNING in them. It’s only a small hole in the toe of my left sneaker made, probably, by my big toe pressing against the fabric, but it’s there and I made it by running.

I’m nervous the hole will continue to grow, so I headed to Be Fit to get a back-up pair on Monday so that they could be properly broken in before the big day. I bought the same shoe, the Topo Fli-Lyte. I really do love them and I think that, at this stage in the game, the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is probably a good one to live by. While my feet and knees are a little sore the afternoon after a long morning run, I don’t think that is an unexpected experience when regularly running double-digit miles, and I usually don’t feel any residual soreness the following day. I’m going to stick with what seems to be working: plenty of water, lots of stretching, and my trusty Topo sneaks. That starting line is getting closer with each day.

There's a new shoe in town... same great sneaker, different color.
There’s a new shoe in town… same great sneaker, different color.

 

Hazy, Hot, and Hilly

Yesterday was the perfect beach day. The sun rose in fiery glory above Koko Head crater, the air was thick with the kind of humidity that encourages a beach blanket snooze, and temperatures were already creeping into the high 80s by 6:30 am. What was I doing, you ask? I was running 16 miles.

It's getting very real.
It’s getting very real.

We gathered early at the Kalapawai Cafe and were disappointed to feel the sticky heat of the day already making itself known. From the cafe, we were shuttled to Hawaii Kai, about 16 miles away, and dropped off to run back to Kailua. Sunday seemed to be a busy day on the island and we met many other runners and large groups of cyclists as we made our way home, and everybody looked as if they were melting in the heat. I felt myself fading early in the run, and, when we stopped at an aid station and someone mentioned that we were at the halfway point (ONLY the halfway point!), I wanted to cry. I was moving pretty slowly, but I focused on staying hydrated, eating enough to keep going, and making it to the end of our route. The heat made everything else feel worse: my knees hurt, I was tired and thirsty, my armpits were chafing, and it was so hot that to run another 8 miles felt impossible.

The other things that were starting to feel impossible were all of the hills that we had to climb. It seemed that as soon as we crested one, another was in sight and I began to understand how Sisyphus might have felt; struggling to the top only to have to do it all over again. But, like Sisyphus, maybe there is an element of joy I can find in the struggle because here’s the thing: the marathon doesn’t have many hills. While I was running up yesterday’s steep inclines in the blazing sun, I questioned the purpose of running all of these motherf@#&ing hills when there is, I’ve been told, only one real hill on the entire marathon course, but, in all honesty, these mother@#%ing hills are making me stronger.

I think that if I can make it through 16 miles of heart-stopping hills without my heart actually stopping, there is a chance that the marathon will seem not necessarily easy, but also not like a death-defying feat. If my legs are accustomed to propelling my sad little body up steep hills again and again, then maybe they won’t buckle underneath me at mile 23. And if I’m used to talking myself out of lying down in the bushes on the side of the road and hoping a wild animal eats me when I’m at the base of YET ANOTHER HILL- OH MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MIKE????, then maybe I’ll be able to talk myself out of veering off course, breaking into someone’s house and having a nap on their couch at mile 24. I think this is Mike’s plan; he’s putting us through torture now so that we get to mile 20 without even realizing it, and when the going gets really tough, we’ll be tougher.

I’m at the point in my training now where some pieces of equipment have failed me, and some have proven their worth a million times over. I’m still in love with my Topo Fli-Lyte sneaks because of their lightness and roomy toe box (although I was starting to have some mild foot pain after runs over 10 miles, so I did get some SuperFeet inserts for them and this seems to be just the ticket for my big ‘ole footsies), and I’ve recently fallen in love with Lululemon’s Pleat to Street running skirt. I love this skirt because it has all the benefits of wearing tight spandex shorts (no chafing, no shifting) without the embarrassment of wearing tight spandex shorts (ummm….they are made of spandex and are really tight, need I say more?). I bought this skirt (off the clearance rack, total score!) on a whim, and after wearing it on a couple of longer runs and then switching back to running shorts yesterday, it has become my bottom of choice. I love it so much that I’m considering going back to the store and buying another at full price.

Charge
The FitBit Charge HR in tangerine; ain’t she cute?

Sadly, my Polar FT4 heart rate monitor was a total fail for any run longer than 8 miles. Even when I applied copious amounts of BodyGlide to my ribcage, the strap caused a lot of chafing. I even tried to put an extra-big bandaid over the chafed spots, but it didn’t help. I was pretty disappointed because I had become accustomed to pacing myself based on my heart rate, but I managed well enough without it until I found an alternative. Two weeks ago, my FitBit broke (it was old and had lived a hard life) and I upgraded to the Charge HR that tracks my heart beat using sensors on the back of my wrist. And, in true FitBit form, even though my old one was too old to be covered by a warranty, the company offered me 25% off the purchase of any model of new FitBit. I dug the discount, and so far, I’m digging the new technology.

ChargeHR
Tracking my heart rate while I bench press.

My water bottle belt is a mixed blessing. I enjoy the luxury of having a drink of water available whenever I need it, but occasionally one of the water bottles will get bounced out of its holster. I think I’ve solved the problem by tightening the strap and placing the belt a little higher on my waist (I hate to toot my own horn*, but I do think I’ve lost a little weight- even if it is just from sweating) because I think the problem might be that the belt was sliding too low and getting bounced more than normal. I’m looking into some other portable water options for the race just in case the belt proves to be more trouble than it’s worth. One other downside to the belt is that the storage pouch is a little small. I wish there was another one on the opposite side of the belt so that I could fit my gels and my keys without having to worry about busting the zipper.

Things seem to be aligning as we get closer to marathon day; I’m nervous about our upcoming 18 mile run this weekend, but I won’t start worrying in earnest until Thursday night after I’ve made it through our weeknight runs. 18 miles seems like such a long way to run, but I remember feeling the same way about each double digit distance, and so far I’ve managed to make it and feel pretty good at the end of each run. I know some of us, yesterday, were questioning our desire to run the marathon, but I think that is probably a good sign that we are giving the distance the respect it deserves. We are not in danger of being unprepared. Although yesterday was very hot and I was going more slowly than I did when we ran over the Pali, I actually felt better at the end of this run than at the end of the other, and I think it might be because I ate more snacks along the way. In addition to a gel, I also ate a few Clif Shot Bloks, and they might have made the difference.

This morning I expected to feel stiff and crippled, but I hopped out of bed and felt no worse for the wear. At the end of our run, the proprietor of the Kalapawai Cafe (who met us at the finish having run 20 miles himself) treated us all to breakfast and I enjoyed the most divine egg and cheese sandwich ever to grace my lips. I didn’t think I was hungry, but I remember taking the first bite and then looking down to see an empty plate. I did some pretty extensive stretching after I hobbled home, and then joined Mel, a fellow runner, and her family poolside to finally enjoy the weather the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I didn’t do much swimming, but I did enjoy a Mai Tai and leaned my elbows on the edge of the pool, kicking my legs lazily while her children showed off their jumping skills. It really was a perfect afternoon and I wonder if that brief hydrotherapy made the difference in my lack of soreness and stiffness today. Perhaps it was the Mai Tai; either way, I’m considering giving it all a go again after Sunday’s 18 miles. It can’t hurt, right?

Post run R & R. Thanks Mel!
Post run R & R; just what the Doctor ordered. Thanks Mel!

 

*No I don’t; that is the entire purpose of having a blog- tooting one’s own horn.