Rest and Reset

Erie medal and race bib hung up with pride
Erie medal and race bib hung up with pride

Let's catch up, shall we?  It's been three and a half weeks since the Erie marathon and I'm in a much different place (mentally).  I've hung up my medal and bib as I always do, and I've hung the beautiful framed print that they gave me for 3rd place.  I've had a chance to reflect on the race and take away a few lessons learned:

What went well:

  • The injury-free buildup.  I think that sticking with the strength training and a similar running schedule that had worked for me in the past helped me get to the starting line injury-free.   I'm so grateful for that.
  • Tempo runs this cycle.  I'm shocked that these went as well as they did.  I credit my friend Kevin to pulling me along on these and making me push a bit harder than I might have if I'd done them all on my own.  Having him out in front of me at 5am in the morning helped wake me a up a bit and by "chasing" him I saw faster paces on my watch than I ever have for tempo runs.
  • Competing for placement.  It's only been within this past year that I've been in races where I've suddenly been in contention for the top spots.  This is a big mental shift for me and I'm still very new to the whole idea of racing against others - I've always just raced myself or the clock.   I'm proud of myself that I didn't give up at Erie when I knew I wouldn't get my sub-3 - instead I refocused and worked on placing 3rd.

Lessons learned:

  •  Carb loading.  I think I overdid it a bit.  I felt heavier (and WAS heavier - weight-wise) going into this race.  I think a little less focus on carb loading (perhaps 1-2 days vs. 3) would have been a better idea.
  • Water & Fuel during the race.  I am terrible at water stops.  I have a hard time getting liquid from that cup into my mouth while running 6:50 pace.  I need to practice that more often.   I also need to adjust the gel intake, or be more diligent about it.  Once I started feeling bad during the race and saw my pace slipping, I got lazy on taking my fuel.  Which only led to more of a slowdown.  Not the brightest idea.
  • My mental attitude during the last two weeks and on race day.  After the half marathon didn't go as well as I'd have liked it to, I kind of got down on myself and started to doubt my ability to run the sub-3.  And on race day when I saw my friend pick up the pace during the race, I thought immediately that it was too fast for me - that I couldn't hold that pace - and slowed down.  I needed to kick myself in the pants and convince myself that YES, I COULD hold that pace, and put my head down to keep fighting for it.
  • Peaking for this race.  I think I may have peaked about 4 weeks before the race.  I'd been training since April and my awesome run in Gettysburg may have been my body telling me it was ready to go.  I did seriously contemplate just tapering for two weeks right then and then trying to find a marathon to go run, but do to logistics and costs that wasn't feasible.  But I felt READY.  I hung on for the remaining 4 weeks until Erie, but I think I'll try a shorter marathon-specific buildup for my next one.

So that's the Erie Marathon post-mortem.  Onward and upward, right?

Indulging in local spirits - had this in a cocktail out at dinner. Amazing! I love spice so this was the perfect way to make a cocktail with a kick!
Indulging in local spirits - had this in a cocktail out at dinner. Amazing! I love spice so this was the perfect way to make a cocktail with a kick!

After taking 11 days totally OFF (expect for teaching BodyPump), I was ready to get out there and enjoy a good two weeks of nice and easy running.  My usual post-marathon routine is two weeks off, followed by two weeks easy.  I didn't make it quite two weeks totally off, but the weather was so beautiful that I was eager to get out there and enjoy Richmond's limited run of Fall weather before it switches over to FREEZING.  I ran with friends, ran some with my Dad, and enjoyed eating all of the delicious bad-for-you foods that one indulges in post-marathon.  (Beer!  Doughnuts! Ice cream! Yes I DO, in fact, want that second slice of cake!)  Last week I decided to get back into a bit more easy running and aimed for 30-35 miles in the week.  Things were going great until....

Ouch.  I stepped out of bed one morning heel hurt.  "Huh.  That's weird.",  I thought to myself. I shrugged it off since it didn't hurt while running but the next morning...there it was again.  That weird heel pain.  At this point, the dreaded thought occurred to me:  Plantar Fasciitis.  My mom has had it.  My running partner Kevin struggled with it for months.   A visit to the podiatrist confirmed it:  a mild case of Plantar Fasciitis in my right heel.  ARGH.

Whomp waaaaaa.
Whomp waaaaaa.

So, this week has been filled with cross-training and lots of stretches, icing, and an appointment for Graston work on my foot.  I'm hoping that I can nip it in the bud if I take the time now to rehab it.  My hip is a bit tight (same side - right side - of my body as the heel) so I'm headed to the sports doc tomorrow to make sure that's just a tight muscle and nothing else.  Thankfully I don't have a race looming on the horizon and I can focus on getting my body healthy and ready for the next round of training.  So that's what I'm working on now.  Getting healthy so that I can get back to doing what I love.

Thankfully, I'm able to live vicariously through several friends who are running fall races!  (Hi Jessica, Shawn, Tia, Lesley and Kris!)  I will be watching Chicago play out this weekend and cheering in spirit for my friends chasing PRs in the coming weeks.

I'd love to live vicariously through you guys too - who is racing in the next few weeks? :)   

Erie (Presque Isle) Marathon 2015 Race Report

Before my sub-3 bubble burst 3:06:27.  Third Female Overall

Well.  The Erie Marathon did not go as planned.  I was shooting for a 2:57:30, ended up with a 3:06:27.  I was third female, but this race was really about me against the clock.  It was sub-3 or bust - and unfortunately, as you can tell from the time I actually ran, it was BUST. I'm still not quite sure WHY this race didn't go as planned.  I had a fantastic (for me) training season - nailed my pace mile runs (even ran the last one averaging 6:40 pace for 12 miles), had a great buildup, stayed healthy and sickness free.   Stopped teaching BodyPump 10 days prior to the race to give my body time to rebound, and carb loaded really well the day before.  I lined up at the start ready to go and get that sub-3.   Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the race details, I'll start at the beginning of race weekend when things still looked incredibly optimistic.


The view from lunch! We stopped at a cute tavern.

After putting my daughter on the school bus in the morning, I picked up my teammate Kevin (who was also running the race) and we headed up the road.  A stop for lunch and many, many hours of driving later (why is Pennslyvania so big?!!?), we finally make it to Erie around 6pm.  It was raining and would continue to rain for the next 30 hours.  We had some pasta with friends at a nice Italian restaurant, and then got some sleep.  Pretty uneventful day besides the ridiculously long 9 hours of traveling.  (Note to self:  Maybe pick a closer marathon next time)


Saturday night Mass - very calming and a much needed mental break

After a pretty solid night of sleep, I met up with some teammates and we ran a rainy 2-mile shakeout on the marathon course.  I felt pretty good!  Legs felt good, hamstring and hip felt great and I was encouraged.  It was going to be a good day tomorrow!  Thankfully the weather predicted the rain would stop overnight so race morning wouldn't be as wet.    After our shakeout Kevin and I had some breakfast and then hit a local coffee shop for some (decaf) coffee.  Yum!  I headed back to the hotel and spent a few hours lounging around watching Modern Family episodes and putting my feet up.  I snacked on pretzels and my favorite pre-race carb snack, Kix cereal.   I stuck with my ritual of going to church on the Saturday before the race and found a local Catholic church so I could attend mass.  It was very calming and the service was a great reminder that no matter what tomorrow would bring, there are bigger things in life than marathons.  After church I headed to the Presque Isle park to meet my friends for the pasta dinner.  Two years ago when I attended Erie I'd been so impressed with the delicious pasta dinner.  Ten bucks got you pasta with homemade marinara, salad, bread and a huge piece of chocolate cake.  This year the pasta dinner was catered by a local restaurant and left a lot to be desired - mainly because it was held outside in a picnic shelter in the cold, pouring rain.  I took my plate of pasta, grabbed some bread and ate it in the car.  Not quite what I'd imagined for my pre-race meal.  But I felt sufficiently carb loaded and was back relaxing in my hotel room by 7pm.  So far, so good!  I laid out all of my gear, set multiple alarms and it was lights out by 9pm.

Gear all ready for the morning

Sleep was elusive.  The air conditioning (window) unit in my hotel had stopped working and therefore I didn't get to enjoy that nice white noise I'd had the night before to drown out the sounds from the rooms around me.  No one was really loud, but the talking, TV and bumps/thumps from various rooms kept me up.  I tried downloading a white noise app on my phone but it didn't help and I began to worry that it would interfere with the alarm on my phone.   I tossed and turned and finally fell asleep after 11pm.

Race day

Standing at the start - a bit warmer than I'd hoped

I woke up with my 4:15am alarm and was a bit shaky with nerves.  I managed to eat my bagel and get ready, pack the car (since the hotel refused to give us a late checkout), and grab Kevin from his room.  We were on our way to the park and the start of the race by 5:25.   After a bit of traffic to get into the parking spots, we parked and headed to the start of the race.  As we stepped out of the car the first thing I noticed was the wind.  It was whipping off the lake and was pretty rough. I just prayed that the trees around the course would give us some shelter from the wind.  Thankfully it had stopped raining, but it seemed a bit warmer than I'd wanted at 58 degrees.  Of course after the summer that Richmond has had that felt downright chilly, but it definitely wasn't optimal racing temps.  But honestly I wasn't concerned about the temperature, and really wasn't all that concerned about the wind.  I just wanted to line up and get this show on the road!    After a bathroom stop and few minutes of warm up, we lined up and got ready to run. Issues with parking and getting the remaining cars into the park delayed the start by about 20 minutes, which gave me a bit more time to get nervous.    A speedy friend had come to cheer me on I got to see her at the start. We chatted for a few and checked out the girl who had come to try and qualify for the Olympic Trials.  I know if I was nervous she must have been even more so with such a big goal on her mind.   At around 7:20 they played both the US and Canadian national anthems and we were finally underway!

Miles 1-5 (7:09, 6:56, 6:51, 6:46, 6:45) 

Another teammate of mine was planning on going sub-3 as well and he and I had decided to run together for as long as we could.  I was grateful to have him there beside me at the start and knew that together we'd help each other nail the paces in the first part of the race.  And indeed, the first few miles were perfectly on pace.  We'd wanted to ease in and start on the slower side and that's just what we did.  So far, so good.  I noticed the wind and could feel it pushing me from time to time but it didn't feel like enough to knock me off pace.

Miles 6-10 (6:45, 6:40, 6:45, 6:54, 6:48)

Still smiling...but barely

Craig and I were still running together until around mile 7, when he started to slowly pull ahead.  At this point the pace was starting to feel...rather difficult.  I had planned to run 6:45s for a long while so to have it feel challenging so early was NOT GOOD.  The legs felt better than they had at this point in the Tobacco Road Marathon in the spring (I can vividly remember getting to mile 10 and feeling fatigue already!), but I was having trouble keeping the pace.  I decided to back off slightly and see if I could run closer to 6:50 to give myself a chance to settle in.  I passed the OTQ trial qualifier girl (she'd dropped out at mile 9-10 - later we'd find out she dropped due to the wind) I could see the big pack of runners who were all chasing that 3-hr time goal but since I'd started slower, I was a little ways back.  I eyed the gap and gave it a bit more effort to try and catch up to them...but I couldn't seem to close the gap.  I tried again and still couldn't catch them.  At this point I started to get really hammered by the wind and kept looking longingly at the pack of runners.  I felt like if I could JUST GET THERE and tuck in, they'd carry me to the finish.  My legs just wouldn't turn over any faster.   By mile 10, I wasn't feeling so great about how this was going.

Miles 11-15 (6:58, 6:55, 6:56, 6:59, 7:01)

All alone at this point and starting to struggle.  My friend who had come to cheer me on ran along side me for a few steps and I told her I wasn't sure this was my day.  The pace felt too hard and I wasn't even halfway through.   She encouraged me to get to the half and reassess.  I was very discouraged but tried to think positively - urging myself on at each mile to try and get back on pace.  But there was no 'getting back on pace' - my body seemed to lock into somewhere around a 7:00-7:05 mile and just want to stay there - no matter how hard I was urging it on.   I hit the half around 1:30 and was just so bummed that I had to run that entire loop ANOTHER TIME before I'd be done.  I couldn't figure it out - why was this so hard?  I'd done my pace miles and I felt as prepared as I'd ever been. What was the deal?!!?

Miles 16-20 (7:07, 7:11, 7:14, 7:14, 7:14)

All alone and frustrated

By this point I knew I wasn't going to get it and I wanted to quit.  I thought about it multiple times but (just like last race) I knew it wasn't fair for me to ask my family to let me go run another marathon in a week or two with the time and expense needed to do so.   So I pressed on.  With the OTQ girl out, people started telling me that I was in 3rd place.  I was already upset at myself with not being able to keep my pace, but I thought if I could at least finish in 3rd that would be something.  My friend was an amazing spectator - riding her bike around and waving a Virginia flag for me as I came by.   I was so frustrated and upset though - how could this have gone so badly?  I was ready!  I started to question my fitness - why couldn't I hold the pace? Was it just the wind/conditions of the day?  Was it too much BodyPump this season?  Should I have used a different training schedule?  Had I been training for too many months in a row?  Unfortunately, I still had 6 miles to try and silence all of those negative thoughts that were going through my head.

Miles 21-26.2 (7:16, 7:25, 7:22, 7:43, 7:40, 7:28, 7:05 (0.31mi))  I was toast.  Done, done, done done done.  I was mortified that my friend was here to witness this gigantic crash and burn of a race.  I was passing tons of people who were also doing the marathoner's shuffle but I was also getting passed by a few. I started to worry that I'd get passed by another girl - taking me out of 3rd place.  That's one of the few thoughts that kept me going - just try not to get passed by another girl.   By this point I was seeing 7:30s and up on my watch and I just wanted this to END.  Just get me to the finish so I can sit down.  I was so tired of being pummeled by the wind.  I had been running on my own since mile 7.  All of the things I was looking forward to after getting my sub-3 (taking photos at the finish, celebrating with my teammates, buying a shirt or two at the expo, celebrating with my friend at a post-race lunch, having a much nicer 9-hr drive home) were now out the window.  I dragged my body across the line in 3:06:27, narrowly avoiding being passed by the 4th place female.   I had tears for a second or two, but once I saw the rest of my team I wanted to celebrate their accomplishments.  Three of them had gone sub-3, and my very favorite part of the day was watching my teammate Matt come barreling through the finish line to snag his first-ever Boston Qualifier.  He was elated and I could not have been happier for him!


Salt on my face and a cold Pumpkin beer

After lots of hugs for teammates, drinking some chocolate milk and chatting with my friend, it was time to head back for a quick shower and get on to the long drive home.  I did end up getting 3rd female overall so I picked up my beautiful framed print as my award.  I love it - it's so beautiful - but right now looking at it makes me a bit sad.   I did get to enjoy a yummy lunch with my friend (she even brought me doughnuts!!  How nice is that??!) and had my favorite Pumpkin Beer.   After that, it was time to get on the road for the long, long drive home.  My friend Kevin also had rough day and we half-jokingly nicknamed our car the "sad car".  We called some friends on the way home for some virtual hugs, but tried not to be too sad.  At the end of the day, we both realize that running a non-PR marathon is still an accomplishment - we still RAN A MARATHON - something that many people would love to be able to do.     But it still stings to work so hard for months and still fail to achieve your goal.  To cap off a rough day, we hit construction traffic on 95 on the way home and didn't get home until after midnight.  UGH.

Post-race lunch with speedy Jessica

So.  Onward and upward!   I'm still waddling around the house like I normally am after a marathon, so I'll be giving myself some time off to recover.   I'm not quite sure where to go from here.  Perhaps I need more endurance at that race pace, or perhaps the wind was too much.  Or perhaps I struggled since I was running on my own from mile 7 on.  But I am definitely a bit sad to not have been able to cash in on a great training season, on a flat course, with good temps.  I'm not sure what to do differently next time to try this again. I feel like my training indicated that I was ready.  I was confident and prepared.   Perhaps I'm just being a wimp and didn't push hard enough.  I'm very sore, but not as sore as I was post-race at Tobacco Road (3:03).  Did I just not push through hard enough?    Lots of thoughts running through my head right now.

The beautiful framed print for 3rd Female Overall

At the end of the day, I know I'll try again, because that's what we stubborn marathoners do.  I believe I have that sub-3 in me.  I will reassess, retool my training and get my goal.  It may be that I take a season away from the marathon and focus on getting faster at the shorter stuff in hopes that will translate to faster marathon times.  I'm not sure.  But I do know that for me the training is the fun part.  And thank goodness for that!  Race day is only one day - you get one shot.  If it's not your day, you don't get to cash in.  That doesn't mean that all that hard work didn't count.  It's still building your base and making your body better at running.   So that's what I'm focusing on.  The fact that I made it through a tough season, got stronger and ran paces that I'd never seen on my watch before.  That has to count for something.  But before I try again, I'm going to rest up, take two weeks off and try not to be too jealous of the runners out there enjoying the beautiful fall weather that has finally come to RVA.

I'm down, but not out.  As Rocky said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.*”

Thanks for all of your support, guys.   I'll happily accept your thoughts/advice for how to adjust things/virtual hugs in the comments below.

*Thanks, Teal!

Taper Time: Two Weeks You Love To Hate

Have you hugged your tapering marathoner today? It's taper time over here - just 10 days to go until it's time to unleash the 1400+ miles of training on the Erie Marathon course.  I'm working this week to hold on to my sanity and convince myself that my fitness has not suddenly evaporated overnight and that yes, the hard work has been done, the hay is in the barn, etc. etc., and that there is nothing else I can do besides relax and try not to freak out.   (key word:  TRY)

These two weeks always remind me just rough the taper can be on a marathoner's psyche.  It's the feeling of being somewhat helpless while you wait and wait to finally get your chance to line up and just RUN the darn thing.  Sure, there are things you need to do this week to stay on track, to maximize your nutrition, to make sure you are physically and mentally ready for race day.  But on the whole, the theme of these last two weeks is:  DON'T SCREW IT UP BY DOING TOO MUCH.

So I'm doing my best to relax and silence the voices in my head that say "Hey, all this extra non-running time would be a GREAT time to clean the attic...or go on a house-project spree and finally install those shelves/paint/organize....or head to Lowe's and exhaust yourself by lifting 35 bags of mulch and carting them around the entire yard!! YES!!!!"

As you have probably guessed, I don't do "rest" very well.   This week has also marked the emergence of my tendencies to over-research and second guess myself.  Stick with my normal 3-day carb load w/no depletion phase?  Try a 10-day "fat load" and THEN carb load?  Cut out caffeine?  Keep caffeine in and just load up on race day?  You can see where this is going.

So in an effort to silence my own thoughts and commit to a plan, I present to you:

The FoxRunsFast Non-Crazy Taper Plan

  1.  Nutrition:  I'll continue to eat pretty normally this week, while focusing on (slightly) decreasing calories as I run less and rest more.  I'll also skew my diet towards the protein side this week to help with muscle recovery and repair.   On Saturday, I'll have my last caffeinated tea or coffee and start my week-long caffeine fast.  (Apologies in advance to everyone who comes in contact with me during that last week of taper.)  With three days to go I'll start the carb load phase, aiming to get 65%+ of my calories from carbs in the final days.
  2. Mental prep:  I've got a mental visualization CD that a sports psychologist made for me a few years ago.  I've used that in each of my past marathon buildups in the final two weeks and I'll listen to that again this time.  I'll also re-read some key passages from Sage Rountree's "Racing Wisely" and work on some mantras to use on race day.   I'll spend some time thinking about possible race-day obstacles (and how to overcome them) and then work on getting my pace chart and race plan ready.
  3. Strength training:  I talked about the optimal time to discontinue strength training before a marathon and I'll try to take my own advice.  Unfortunately I can't stop as early as I'd like due to teaching commitments (I'm teaching Thursday, Friday and Sunday this week), but I'll be using very light weights starting Friday, and Sunday will be my last day of any extra gym work before the race.
  4. Running:  Finally, I'll be cutting back mileage and resting more.  I will run my last "speed" workout tomorrow (3x1 mile) and will have one more workout next week (2 miles at marathon pace).   All that's left is easy, shorter runs and a rest day.

Goodbye, plank work - see you in a few weeks!

Since I don't do rest very well, I'd welcome any and all suggestions for (non-energy-expending) ways to combat taper madness!!  Whatcha got?