Saturday, May 30, 2009

No Guarantees

I have been on a quest. A quest for the perfect fall marathon. Not too steep, not too crowded, not too cold, not too hot. Just right. Goldilocks would be proud.

Then I got real. There is no perfect marathon. Bottom line is that you still have to conquer 26.2 miles wherever you go, whatever race you run. You still have to have the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional fortitude to go that far. The will to run approximately 52,400 steps. The guts to go 138,336 feet. The strength to dig deep for hours on end. The power to hopefully meet that PR goal that takes you or me to Boston on Monday, April 19, 2010.

I did realize that you can try to make sure your marathon choice optimizes your chances of that PR. Average good weather, flat course, good support on the way. But after that - it's all me and what I've got to give.

That said, it looks like the San Antonio Rock 'n Roll Marathon on November 15, 2009. Average temp: 60 degrees. 400 ft. elevation. Few, if any hills. Lots of fans along the way (as in people, not those devices that spin and give off air). Fun place to visit (pre race margaritas, yes!). And the best part: Julie, The Pacer will be there with me.

The Pacer is one of my best friends. I met her in graduate school. She is a running machine. A gazelle. An aberration. Until recently I haven't been a runner, so I never truly appreciated just how fast Julie has been over the years (since she was 14). She is so incredibly humble, she would never dream of bragging about her abilities or weaving her race times into a conversation. But when you look at her race times, you are in awe.

Months ago, I asked The Pacer if she'd take me to the finish line in my next marathon and get me there in 3 hours, 50 minutes, my BQ time. If anyone can do it, she can. The Pacer lives in Breckenridge, Colorado and trains at that altitude. Running a 3:50 marathon is nothing for her. She could probably do it tomorrow morning before her oatmeal.

But even with a flat course, good weather, and The Pacer, there are no guarantees.

That's what keeps me in the game. Risks. The unknowns. Race day is a big crap shoot. You could train endlessly and feel fully prepared to meet your goals. Then you could awake to a torrential downpour and driving wind. Or you could soil yourself to the point where you need to stop. Or your body might just give out and say, "no more." Fortunately, there's always another race. The great thing about running is there is always more. You can always go faster, you can always go further. And there is always, always a do-over.

What's been your biggest race day surprise, for better or worse?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is This Really Important? Because It Sucks.

Speed work, ugh.

I am a self proclaimed novice runner. Or should I say novice "serious" runner. I'm definitely new
at marathon/long distance training.

I did a teeny bit of speed work on a torn up middle school track with Team in Training but only because they told me to and because they told me exactly what to do. Yes, I am a sheep. Yes, I will do whatever you tell me if I think you know more than I do.
How important is this torture anyway in the overall scheme of things? Because it sucks.

Today I went to laps at a nicer middle school today. I don't know track talk (meters and all that), but I did one warm up lap (400m?), then a fast lap, a slow lap, two fast laps, a slow lap, a fast lap, a slow lap....I had intentions to do more when my stomach started misbehaving and I thought I better get started on the mile run home (BTW, I made it just in time, but that's another post).

Do you do speed (not as in drugs, that's another post). If so, how crucial is it for training? And why? And what's your formula?
Today when I was running around the track, heaving, I decided I am more of an endurance runner (i.e., I can hang in there for long distances at a steady pace) than a speed runner. I just don't like feeling like I'm going to keel over at any minute. But I guess that is the point of that quote about not dying and things making you stronger.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beer by 9:00 a.m.

Wow, thanks for all the great feedback regarding the subject of kids and racing. Most of you supported it as long as the kids were on board. I thought Chris from made an excellent point, and one to think about:

I ran as a kid - started when I was 11 or 12, and eventually developed stress fractures in both of my tibias as well as knee problems. My parents were advised to watch my mileage until my growth plates closed. Also? I burnt out for a few years in my late teens. I think it's just balance with your kids. The cool thing about running is they can take it into their adulthood. I wanted to run a marathon when I was about 14 and my parents said no, as did my doctor. Too many miles for a still growing kid. I'd just keep it in perspective for them.

I definitely think one of the risks of starting early is burn out and risk of injury. When did you start running? Are you glad you started when you did?

So the results are in. Drum roll please!!

Emma (8 years old) with dad: 1:23. She ran the whole thing which shocked the *&!@ out of me. I never saw that one coming. She was so pleased with herself and loved every minute of it. She said she can't wait until next year. WTF?

Sam (11 years old) with mom: 59:21!!! His goal was to make it in under an hour. And he just did that. We kept a decent pace most of the way, but he started to tire around mile five. That's when my annoying pep talk kicked in. I knew if we were going to make it in under an hour, we were going to have to pick it up. I kept telling him that he only had about ten more minutes then he could rest for the day. That if he quit or slowed down, he might be mad at himself. That it would be worth it in the end. That how he felt was how crappy I felt at the end of my marathon, but to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. And he pulled it out. He was so psyched. So proud. So glad he stayed in there. And he said at the end, "I wouldn't have done that if you hadn't been there." It was quite a mother/son moment, I tell ya.

Then it was beer and soda all around. Sometimes it's good to have low expectations. You can only go up from there.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Presents in the Bushes

Two fantastic things happened yesterday.

#1: I went running and immediately my stomach went sour. I was 3 miles in and had to leave a couple "presents" behind the bushes, if you know what I mean. I had no choice. I figured it was good fertilzer for the city.

#2: My toenail that turn black and blue and died during my January marathon finally fell off in the middle of Emma's piano practice. I had it beside the computer all day so I could take a picture and post it on the blog next to the naked place where the toenail used to be. Unfortunately I did some dusting today (not a common occurrence around here) and must have misplaced it. I think the dog ate it.

Tomorrow is the Bolder Boulder 10K in Boulder (duh!). Last year Sam, 10 at the time, ran it with Ken and I. He managed to run the whole thing in 66 minutes, which I thought was pretty great for a ten year old. He wants to run again this year and he and I are going to try to get him in under an hour. I say try because I think this is an almost unattainable goal for him. I do tell him, however, when you're running you always need a goal and the bigger the better. If you don't reach it, it's okay as long as you give it 100 percent. Shoot for the stars and see what happens. You might surprise yourself.

Emma, 8 years old, will be making her 10K debut tomorrow. She has run a couple 5Ks and a two miler, but nothing near the six miles. I expect she and Ken will be doing quite a bit of walking/running. I am just glad she is getting out there.

The Bolder Boulder is one of the biggest races in the country hosting 55,000+ runners. It is something everyone should experience in their lifetime. The accomplishment the kids feel when they run into the CU stadium at the end of the race is pretty phenomenal.

My question is: I know lots of you don't have kids, but lots of you do. Regardless, what are your thoughts on kids and racing? Do you think it's good/healthy or child abuse?

Thursday, May 21, 2009


This is kind of funny.

I'm at the gym today, trying to do a speedy treadmill workout before yoga class. Since it was only going to be 30 minutes, I thought I'd pick up the pace. I was going along at 7.5 miles an hour, feeling pretty proud of myself.

I don't know about you, but there are TONS of people at the gym who seem to be always wandering around aimlessly. Like they might lazily head over to stationary bike, spin for ten minutes, get some water, meander over to a set of weights and do some reps, talk to a friend, wipe down the weights, check out what's on CNN, etc. Is it just my gym, or is this universal?

Anyway, so one of these roamers gets on the bike behind me. I see him staring at me. I'm thinking, "yeah, he sees my speed. He thinks I'm fast." (which is really funny that I am that self centered to think that anyone even gives a crap about what I'm doing on the treadmill). I finish my workout, and take myself into the yoga room in front of the full length mirrors and realize that two things are going on: my white sport's bra is slightly see through, AND I have major headlights going on, if you know what I mean. So Mr.-guy-on-the-bike apparently was checking this out. Which is very funny because if you knew me (and if you've seen any of the pictures) and am flat, flat, flat. I do, however, still have nipples.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What a Slug

Wow thanks for all the comments on my blog and for taking pity on me for having no running friends. At least I feel the love from my blogger buddies. Maybe I won't, in the words of Tony Soprano, have to off myself after all.

I am not taking myself too seriously today. I spilled coffee all over my white pants and am still wearing them proudly. I didn't shower. I didn't run. I didn't exercise at all. Matter a fact, I ate chocolate chip cheesecake with lunch while watching Dancing with the Stars on Tivo. My in laws just left and I felt I deserved this.

Also, the kids get out of school the day after tomorrow, so my days of crap eating in front of crap TV are numbered. I have to set a good example, after all. To them I am the athlete mom who eats apple slices for a snack and encourages seltzer water with lime over soda. If they only knew what went on while they were in school. It's one big party here during the day.

Tomorrow is another day to run - there is always another day to run - I am hoping to find out how to set my Garmin to show me the mile splits. I asked Chad in the Desert. But if someone else knows, please tell me. I'm too lazy to pull out the manual. Did I just say that out loud? I will run a marathon but I will not by any means go over to the closet and find the manual. I will also not walk to the grocery store or even walk my dog (I make my 11 year old do that).

Kind of funny that we go out and do these gargantuan workouts, but then we don't want to exert ourselves in other day-to-day ways. At least I admit it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Want Ad

Man, I was running today thinking, "I really need a running group." Here's why:


Training with Team and Training was great. I always had a running buddy, and we shared a common goal. Since then, I've been pretty much on my own as everyone has settled back into their busy lives. I like myself and all, but telling myself about what I did over the weekend is getting old.

Running on your own all the time sucks. I don't mind it some of the time: actually I love it some of the time. To think, to be alone, to work things out. But on those long runs, especially, I want companionship.

I have scoured the Internet looking for groups. There is a Road Runners Club in Boulder I could try. Anyone have experience with the Road Runners? I could put an ad on Craigs List but then I run the risk of running with psychotic people who find running partners through Craigs List.

Here's my want add:

In search of running group to train for fall marathon. I am a disciplined person. I always show up. I usually do what I say I will do. I don't complain. I run in all weather. I run if I have my period. I even run with stomach upset and I try not to fart when I'm with other people. I would be a great addition to your group, be it mothers, drinkers, marathoners, professionals, you name it. Please have me.

How did you find the group/partner you run with? Am I just a loser for not having a group? I'm pretty nice, really.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is It....

Is it buck naked or butt naked? Just wondering. Never been sure.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What Happens During a Real Marathon

I think we are all in agreement that chugging Cap'n Morgan, passing out and snowboarding does not qualify as a "real" marathon.

In a real marathon you:
  1. Finish, look in the mirror, and wonder what that white stuff is caked all around your face: salt!
  2. Poop in places you never thought possible
  3. Are willing to pee on yourself and flush it away with water at the next aid station if it will save you some time

  4. Might listen to the same song over and over again on your iPod just because it gives you that extra bit of inspiration

  5. Chafe in places you didn't expect

  6. Cry, smile, grimace, laugh in the same mile

  7. Let the joy of seeing a loved one on the sidelines stay with you for miles and miles

  8. Dig deep to places you didn't know you could go

  9. Pray more than you've ever prayed before

  10. Get really weird sunburns

  11. Run for miles on blisters you wouldn't consider even walking on normally

  12. Tell yourself "this is insane, I will never do this again," yet sign up for your next race the following week

  13. Fixate on the backs of people in front of you running about the same pace. Maybe you make up stories about them, maybe you feel a bond with them, maybe you don't care but they keep you somehow grounded

  14. Take food from strangers on the sidelines offering sliced oranges and pretzels

  15. Fantasize about post-race indulgences like beer and pizza, but find your stomach can't handle the stuff after all

  16. Wonder how that person with that type of body could finish a marathon. And you're impressed that they can

  17. Smile for that professional photographer even though you want to kick him at mile 20

  18. Understand why Pheidippides dropped dead after running the first marathon in Greece (and you worry you just might do the same)

  19. Ask yourself numerous times "I paid $100 bucks for this?"

  20. Love every minute of it in a really weird way

  21. Think about how you'll blog about all of the pain and joy later

  22. Are at one point too cold (usually the start) and later too hot

  23. Get energy by passing people later in the race - maybe you even make a game of it to pass time

  24. Think you're going to appreciate the entertainment along the course (bands, belly dancers, etc) but find you're too engrossed and in too much pain to care

  25. Know the finish line is only .2 miles away, but where the *&#! is it?

  26. Cross that finish line with the biggest sense of accomplishment you've ever had.

26 experiences for 26 miles. And there are hundreds more. Anything you'd like to add to the list?

Take that, Captain Morgan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Which Would You Rather Do?

Just to make the point that the entire world does not interpret the phrase "running a marathon" the same way...the urban dictionary defines it as such:

Running a marathon:

When you become extremely intoxicated off of Captain Morgan and pass out in someones trailer. Then you are awoken by friends 3 hours later and go snowboarding. This is known as "Running a Marathon."

So if you've never run a marathon, but want to be able to say you have in your social circles, go to the liquor store on Friday, find a trailer park, tell your friends where to find you 180 minutes later and head for the hills for some mountain surfing (also an UD term).

Personally, I'd rather run the 26.2 painful miles than indulge in this crap, but that's just me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Go Out Fast, Tire Your Ass

This is how I'm hoping to qualify for Boston
Kim over at sent me a great article this week about marathon pacing strategies. It was written with the Kansas City Marathon in mind, but could apply to any marathon, really.

When I was getting ready to run my first marathon, everyone including Dean Karnazes told me to start out slow (OK, he didn't tell me this in person, but I'm pretty sure he was speaking to me in his book). Dean says, "if you think you are going slow, go slower." Being such a novice, I won't question anything the Ultra Marathon Man tells me. Hell, if he told me the secret success to running a marathon was wearing only a thong and flip flops, I would probably do it. So I blindly took this advice. It seemed logical - you go out too fast and you tire your ass, maybe even miles and miles before the finish.

I never totally understood the physiology behind this advice until I read this:

The body needs to warm up for at least 2 miles. During that time, it goes from an inefficient fuel burning (converting oxygen, sugar/fat, electrolytes to energy) and waste removal (getting rid of lactic acid and built up heat) machine to a more efficient one.

If someone pushes it too hard (even doing even pace) in that time period, they will use up an inordinate amount of stored glycogen while accumulating an inordinate amount of lactic acid to set up an almost certain bonking for the last 1/3 of the marathon.

Makes sense, right?

Then take this into account:

Honor the Domino Effect. Imagine 26 dominoes lined up. Which domino has the greatest impact? The first one, right? In the same manner, the first mile is the most crucial, make-or-break mile of the marathon. Therefore, you need to be the most conservative with this one. Vice versa, the last mile is the least critical so you can afford to be the most aggressive on that one. But, what do most people do? The opposite!

Just like the first mile, the first aid station is the most important, make-or-break aid station to determine how well people can keep their ‘gas tank’ from going on empty while the last aid station is the least important towards overall race performance. Again, what do most people do? They rush through the first ones until they’re forced to walk through the last ones. Get what you need in the first 20 miles of aid stations if you want to have any hope of getting what you want in the last 6.2 miles.

I have to say this "start slow" strategy worked well for me. I let all those crazies pass me the first couple of miles, which sucks for someone like me who can be competitive. I wanted to tell them all, "hey, I can run faster, but I have a strategy in mind," like they would care. I kept hoping I'd be passing them later (not sure if this happened or not). I had to hold back.

I remember panicking when I hit the one mile mark and saw I had run it in nearly 11 minutes. "That just won't do," my ego screamed. So I picked it up slightly, but ran the second mile in maybe 10 minutes. My plan was to hold back until half way, then see how I felt. And I have to say that at mile 13 I was feeling incredibly strong and maintained that through mile 20. At that point, I started to break down a bit mentally and physically, but was able to maintain my pace. My average pace for the entire marathon was 9.1 min/mile, so I did make up for those slow miles in the beginning.

As far as being sure to hit the first aid station - I make it a practice to hit all aid stations, but to never walk or stop. I like to be cool and throw my half drunk cup of water at someone on the sidelines while I run away (just kidding). I think this is why so many of us go faster during races - aside from the adrenaline of the crowd and it being do-or-die-race-mentality, we probably fuel more adequately than we do on our solo runs (that is if we take advantage of the aid stations). If you're an elite runner or just incredibly fast, I'm not talking to you. (But if you're one of those people, you probably don't read my little insignficant blog anywya).

So, it seems it's all about holding back a bit at the beginning, settling into a steady, yet doable rhythm thereafter, and hanging in there through the inevitable bumps in the road that we encounter (cramps, gas, toilet issues, crying, gagging).

You marathoners (or to be marathoners) out there - what's your pacing strategy?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Stop Fighting What Is

Me, tired and whining with dog in face

I felt like a bit of a whiner after my last post. WAH!! Thanks for all of your comments of support and understanding about my love/hate affair with running. In my infinite wisdom I've decided and realized that running is hard. There is no way around it. It is physically, emotionally and mentally intense and challenging. That said, I thought my friend Macker (and resident sport's physiologist on my blog and in real life) made an excellent point in response to my post:

Welcome to the club. Everybody that has any kind of ambitious running goals hits the point of "What's this all about"? Happened to me a couple of years ago and I'm just now coming out of it. There's the sport. To be your absolute best, you've got to push the envelope; unfortunately past the point of it being fun. There's other fun on the other side. You start hitting workouts that were unimaginable and when the races pay off, it's way fun. However, there are days, weeks, even months where it really is an absolute chore. I don't know anyone who trains seriously and enjoys it like they do when they're doing 15-20 miles/week. Everyone has to come up with their own cost/benefit. There have been times where the benefit was worth having running as a part-time job and there were times where I didn't need the hassle. I think that you've been doing great training and will continue to improve regardless of where you go from here.

What I loved about this response is it didn't let me, or any of you off of the hook. Macker's point is: yes, running and training are tough, especially when you have lofty and challenging goals. That's the point. If marathons were easy, if BQ'ing was easy, if any of it was easy, everyone would do it and we distance runners would not be doing anything out of the ordinary; would not be pushing ourselves so that when we crossed that finish line we are so overcome with emotion and bodily pain that we simultaneously cry, shit, and breathe a sigh of relief. In essence, it has to be this hard for it to be the accomplishment it is.

My solution? To keep running and running hard with goals in mind. The difference is, I am expecting it to feel really tough. I will stop fighting what is and realize it is part of the process for all of us. Not just for me. And it is never wasted time or energy, even when you don't get that PR.

So keep on everyone and I will too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What Happens There, Stays There

I hate my home treadmill. It sucks. It's like running on an old piece of plywood. I know - I should be grateful I have a treadmill at home. At least I could watch the rest of Survivor this morning while doing five miles. And some of yesterday's Oprah. My, Kirstie Alley had gotten big again. She was acting kind of wacko on the show if you ask me.

I still haven't decided on my fall marathon, but thanks for all of the great advice. I am trying to choose between the California Intl Marathon, the Santa Barbara Marathon or St. George...they all have pluses and minuses, so it is a matter of weighing the pros and cons.

So for the next few days, beginning tomorrow night, I will be making an effort to do the opposite of running, healthy eating and taking care of myself.

I will be in Vegas. Land of complete and total excess. Erika (BFF) and I go at least once a year, and here are our rules:

  • Absolutely no exercising
  • Drinking is allowed to start and stop at any time
  • No going to shows and/or fancy meals. Money is to be spent playing blackjack
  • No paying for drinks. Get those free at the tables.
  • No giving out our phone numbers. We are married ladies after all. (although I broke this rule last year and gave out Erika's number to someone kind of scary. I am still in trouble for that one)
  • No sit down meals. We can grab something on the fly between casinos
  • No slots except $20 on Wheel Of Fortune
  • Adopting a sugar daddy is fine as long as there are no strings attached. We are married ladies after all.
  • Making up a fake name, occupation, sex is okay and can make for some good stories

So this is why I love Vegas. No clocks, no time schedules, no rules (except those above). For me, mother of two kids, PTO president, blah, blah, it is my total escape. And I know it's time to go since my 11 year old son and I got into it this a.m. when I asked him why his homework wasn't done and he told me to "mind my own business." Time to get out of dodge.

You knew I'd ask it. Where's your escape? Where do you go to completely unwind and let it all go? What are your rules, or lack thereof?