Today was a great day to run a half-marathon! We awoke to cool breezes that promised to keep the air temperature down, and, although we were promised VOG and high humidity, by the time our group finished running the race, the weather was still holding out.
While I did not achieve my goal of running the race in less than 2 hours, I did take a few minutes off last year’s time and ran it in 2:02:31. I am happy with how I ran the race; for the first half, each time I looked at my watch, I was running faster than a 9:00 mile, which for a slow-poke like me, is quite fast. I’m not sure I’ve ever kept a pace like that up for such a long distance, and I ran my fastest 10k in 57:55; remember two years ago when I worked so hard to run a 10k in 75 minutes? Yeah, I sure do, and it felt really good to know that I could easily accomplish 6.2 miles in less than an hour today.
I would never have dreamed, that just two years later, I would be running distances far beyond 6.2 miles and doing an adequately mediocre job of it! It might seem to you that I’m selling myself short, but I’m not, and nor am I disappointed to have attained the status of being an adequately mediocre runner. I have no delusions of grandeur; I’m not going to be selected for any sort of competitive running event (hello Olympic pasta-eating team!) and I’m never going to be the winner of a race (unless I design another race of one, but then I’m both first and last place, and what is the point of that?), but to have gone from somebody who would rather lie down on a treadmill and get belt-burn on her chin than run one goddamn step to someone who signs up to run (when not being chased by a predator) kinda far for fun is pretty remarkable.
In thinking back over my race, I am happy with my pace, and I think the only way I could have saved a little time (aside from running faster, obviously) would have been to skip some of the water stations. Because I carry my water with me (on my back, like a two-legged camel), I usually don’t stop at every aid station, but, because we were warned about high-humidity and VOG, I was worried about dehydrating and stopped, briefly, at each station. I don’t know if it would have saved me three minutes to skip an aid station or two, and I’m not all that concerned about it. I’m happy with my results and now have something to work on for next year- getting faster!
We have a brief break from serious training until August when marathon season begins again. In the meantime, I’m going focus on getting stronger and faster, and, in general, fitter. I’m hoping to jump in on some longer training runs with friends who are going to run a 100 mile run around (literally, around) the Big Island of Hawaii. I’m DEFINITELY not running 100 miles… not today, not tomorrow, not ever… but I am hoping to go beyond the 26.2 mile marathon distance. We’ll see what kind of stuff I’m made of!
The 2016 Honolulu Marathon has come and gone, and, for our running group, it was a great success! Mother Nature, once again, blessed us with a mostly overcast, cool day and, best of all NO RAIN! Thank you, Mother Nature.
As the fireworks sounded the beginning of the race and we shuffled toward the starting line alongside 30,000 other runners, Don and I each had specific goals in mind for our race. After running last year’s marathon in a respectable 5:02:51, I hoped to run this year’s in less than 5 hours. I had in mind a goal of 4:45, but didn’t expect to knock the more than 15 minutes off of my time to make that goal; it was more of a guideline to help me stay under 5 hours.
Starting the race in the dark of early morning is kind of exciting, and the couple of hours before the sun is fully up feel kind of like a head start. I got a little caught up in the spirit of the moment and kept finding myself going above my pace for the first several miles and needing to slow myself down (at one point my watch said I was running a pace of 8:45, who was I kidding?). We wound our way around Waikiki and past the Honolulu City Lights; it was fun to see them lit up for Christmas without crowds of people milling around them, but my favorite part of the whole course was the first trip up Diamondhead. The race crew there was a group of enthusiastic high school kids cheering and high-fiveing every runner who passed by. Their enthusiasm was contagious and lifted the spirits of us runners as we trudged up the hill in the dark. It’s one thing to be up that early on a cold Sunday morning because you’re stupid ambitious enough to want to run a marathon, but it’s another to be up early on a cold Sunday morning just to support people who are crazy enough to run that far. It was great to see their smiling faces and their cheers made it easier to charge up the hill.
I had hoped to be up the hill near Diamondhead by the time the sun was up, and I managed to do it. I felt pretty good, buoyed by the many miles logged in training and the enthusiasm of the onlookers, until about mile 15 when I started to fade. Last year I didn’t eat enough during the race, and it caught up to me by mile 18 where I began to do a lot of
walking. I didn’t want to do that again this year, so I made the plan to start eating gels earlier and to eat more of them. It’s hard to know exactly what does the trick nutrition-wise (it’s so much easier to know what doesn’t do the trick), but I think having some extra nutrition along the way helped keep the fade from becoming a full-fledged walking spree. I still swear by the lemonade flavored Huma energy gels; they have the least booger-like consistency and the best flavor of any gels I have tried thus far. A friend who is a veteran marathon runner recommended something called Li Hing Mui, which is dried plum with lots of salt, for cramping. I don’t usually get muscle cramps while running (knock on wood), but I do sometimes feel like I need more salt, so I took a couple Li Hing Mui from him the night before the race. They taste really good, kind of sweet, sour, salty and earthy all at once, and at about mile 18, where I really began to flag last year, I had a couple of nibbles to perk myself up.
It wasn’t until mile 23 that I had to start talking myself out of walking for the rest of the race- five miles farther along than last year! Small victories!- and, as usual, when I started to think about walking, I also started to remind myself that, after this race was over, I NEVER HAVE TO RUN ANOTHER STEP FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Unless, of course, if I want to. People often tell me that they could never run a marathon, that they could never run even 3 miles, and they’re probably right. The hard thing to master about running isn’t the actual putting one foot in front of the other part, it’s the mental part. The talking yourself into doing something that’s hard for increasingly longer distances and amounts of time. The ability to identify a desire to stop versus a need to stop- I wanted to walk at mile 23, I wanted it more than anything on Sunday, but did I need to? Nope. When I finally made it in sight of the finish line, I had to dig down deep to find the power for a strong finish, but I managed to find it partly because I just wanted to cross that goddamn finish line and be DONE with this already and partly because I refused to look as fatigued as I felt.
It was a long, tough race, but it was also a fun race. I worked harder this year than I did last year when my only goal was to survive. It is amazing how much I have learned about running and about myself in the past year; one of the most important things I have learned how to do is to pace myself so that I don’t go out so strong that I can’t finish my planned route. For this marathon, I had hoped to shave a few minutes off of my time and finish under the 5 hour mark. Despite the fact that I ran the first 10k faster than I’d planned, I still managed to conserve enough energy to finish with a time of….. wait for it….. 4:39:48!
I really can’t believe that I managed to shave almost 23 minutes off my time, but it made me so grateful that I didn’t walk the last three miles. I think there were a lot of factors that went into making this year’s race more successful than last year’s. The weather was extremely helpful, so were my shoes. As much as I love the lightweight Topos, they just weren’t enough shoe for such a long distance and the Newtons proved to be more cushiony without being too much shoe. I think having had the experience before was also helpful; it’s a lot easier to build on a foundation than it is to start from ground zero, and it’s easier to talk yourself into pushing through the fatigue when you’ve been there before. As always, the running group was instrumental in getting me both to the starting line and the finish line. Misery loves company (which I think should be our group motto since the slogan is already “we run for the hill of it”), and it was great to run into group members out on the course and be reminded that we were all suffering and we were in it together.
While I am glad that the race is behind me, I am sad that the group is on hold for the next couple of months. We’ll start training again in February for the Hapalua half, but it was strange to not get an email with this week’s running workouts on Sunday night, and I felt a bit lonely as I laced up my sneakers (now dry but still smelly) for a short recovery run this afternoon. I’m going to take this break to focus again on making my core and legs a little stronger (read: more ab and leg days at the gym, insert eye-rolling emoji here), do more yoga to increase my flexibility (going for more ballet-dancer and less Tin Man), and sleep in past o’dark thirty on a Sunday morning.
We are just one week away from the big day; by this time Sunday, the marathon will be a fond (hopefully) memory. Yesterday, Don and I walked to the local running store to stock up on last minute supplies and now our kitchen counter looks like a repository for space food.
The group had its final long run on Sunday morning, and we got lucky with the weather. We had a beautiful 10 mile jaunt over hill and dale under cloudy but dry skies with temps only in the low 70s. Hopefully Mother Nature was giving us a sneak peak of what is to come next Sunday (pretty please?).
I was texting with a friend after our run and she asked what it was I loved about running, and I had a hard time coming up with an answer. There are the obvious benefits- better health, better sleep, better looking physique- but, as you well know, I’m not sure I would call my relationship to running one that embodies love.
It’s much easier to identify the things I HATE about running: I hate the sweat, I hate the sore muscles, I hate the chafing, I hate the burning sensation in my lungs as I start up yet another hill, and I hate the sweat (which I know I mentioned once before, but I really don’t like it, so I think it is worth mentioning again).
The things I love about running are harder to pin down because they are more mental. I love that running is something I can do anywhere at any time as long as I have a pair of sneakers, I love the last quarter mile of every run when my destination is in sight and I know that soon I can STOP, I love getting to explore the less traveled roads, and I love that twinge of pride I feel when someone looks at me in disbelief when I tell them that I have run a marathon and am planning to run another one- I look less like someone who runs and more like someone who loafs; like I’m better acquainted with the ins and outs of the La-Z-Boy than I am with every back road on the Windward side of Oahu.
I guess I like pretty much everything about running… except maybe for the actual running part! This weekend it will all come down to trusting in my training and finding the resolve to talk myself into pushing a little bit harder for just a little longer. Until then, I will enjoy having the license to eat every carb in sight (a license that expires on Monday) and enjoy the fact that, regardless of how Sunday goes, I am once again the fittest I’ve ever been.
Any of these noises could characterize how the past two weeks have felt. Work has been busy (and that means a lot of sitting in front of a computer because if I’m not seated in front of a computer, I’m not really getting anything done) and on top of the extra-hefty workload, the computers and/or computer systems I need to use for work have been unpredictably unreliable. I’ve been playing this clip from Office Space in my head frequently.
Most days I return home from work with only the energy it takes to crawl from my garage onto the living room floor-where my dog tries to revive me with his smelly kisses- and the desire to put on my bathrobe and lie on the couch with a gallon of ice cream and a remote control. It takes all the will power I have- ALL of it!– to put on my gym clothes and get back in the car to go workout or go running. With the stress of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in, my workouts have been critical in keeping my sanity. Even if I get to the gym late and think I would rather drop a kettle bell on my foot and call it a day than actually expend the mental energy it takes to plan a workout, I leave the gym feeling more refreshed and centered than when I arrived.
Keeping to my routine of alternating gym days and running days not only makes sure that I unfold myself from seated-at desk-with-fingers-on-keyboard position and use my muscles once in a while, but it also insures that my body, my poor, hunched-over body, is as tired as my mind is at the end of the day so that I can sleep well and take on the next day with all my faculties functioning at 100%.
The days when I most feel like giving myself a get out of jail free card and excusing myself from the gym are generally the days that I need it most. I can tell how my day is going by how tempted I am by the sugar-laden office snacks that seem to spontaneously emerge like fungi in a damp forest. The more stressed I am, the more likely I am to eat something with frosting, and the more critical it becomes that I talk myself out of going to bed as soon as I get home and into some exercise. I need that break to force me out of my own head and into the realm of the physical world; it’s sort of a re-set button for my brain and body.
Along with keeping me from turning into a crazy asshole, I’ve been using my fitness regime as a treat to motivate me to get out of bed every day and go to work. Nothing motivates me to earn money like spending it. Some might call me cheap frugal, and they’d be right. I don’t like spending money. I’d like to save all of my money in a pile and sleep on it like Smaug, so sometimes I make myself buy something that costs more than $20 just so I don’t become a paranoid money-hoarder who stuffs every last nickel into her skirt hems and lives on dandelion greens and bits of food salvaged from other people’s garbages.
A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a new pair of running sneaks (and they cost so much more than $20 that I almost threw them back at the nice man offering them to me and ran out of the store). After the marathon (actually, it was during the marathon, around mile 17), I decided that my beloved Topos weren’t quite enough sneaker to stand up to the mileage I was putting on them. All of the things that I love about the shoe- their lightness, the fact that it feels like there is nothing between me and the road, the spacious toe box- started to count against the shoe on my long runs.
They are light, and I like that, but they don’t seem to be made of sturdy enough material to stand up to continuous, rigorous use (never thought I’d say that about a pair of running shoes. LL Bean slippers, maybe, but not running shoes). I wore a hole in my first pair 5 months in. The roomy toe box I still love, but the entire shoe feels a little shapeless, and I needed to buy a pair of inserts to give more stability to my narrow feet. The feeling that there is little between me and the road is really what made me think about relegating my dear Topos to the “10 miles and under ” category of runs. There is too much pounding and not enough shoe to absorb the concussion; every pebble on the road and every inconsistency in footing is felt, and after a while, it’s uncomfortable.
One of my running buds, Kelly, who, for some strange reason likes to run for hundreds of miles consecutively, but good thing for me because girlfriend knows her shoes, suggested I try a show made by Newton that she really loves. She even had an old, tired pair for me to try. I borrowed them for a week and was hooked.
The Topo’s claim to fame is that they are a pretty minimalist shoe and they sort of let your foot do what it wants to do, and I like that, but my propensity is to run a little flat-footed and I think not having a lot of stability to support my foot within the shoe was part of the reason I was having some IT band/knee pain leading up the marathon last winter. This show, the Newton Gravity V, has a little more going on, but is still pretty light and gives my toes enough freedom to be individuals. The biggest difference with this shoe is the lugs that span the ball of my foot.* They make me want to run more on my fore foot (no more slappy feet, I hope!) which I think will help prevent any IT band flare ups (insert ‘praying hands’ emoji here).
These shoes, while different from the Topos, are pretty great. I’ve been adjusting to them; going from a well-loved pair to a new pair was a more drastic change than I’d anticipated, and they make my legs tired in different ways than the Topos do. Today will be their long-run debut; I’m about to test them out on a fairly flat 10-miler this morning. I think they’re ready for it and I hope I am too. I’m starting to understand why most runners seem like the Imelda Marcos of sneakers with a vast collection in every shape and for every possible kind of run.
*Don’t know what lugs are? That’s ok, I didn’t either until someone said “these shoes have pretty big lugs” and handed me one. Upon inspection, I noticed that it has rubbery, sticky-outy thingies on part of the tread. Those are the lugs.