marathon training

The Trouble with Tapering

Is two-fold.

1) Your Head

Has far too much free time without running quite so much to remember and otherwise fixate on just how long a marathon really is. Remember how you kinda hallucinated and/or blacked out somewhere between 21 and 24?  Remember your blisters? My god, the blisters. Remember how you could barely manage to make it off the loo?

It’s real long, you guys.

2) Your Body

Has almost enough time to relax, but can’t really because it can sense that something mildly awful and really pretty traumatic is coming. These little two-mile runs do nothing to relieve the stress because somehow you can’t even run two miles without getting sore and convincing yourself you can’t go on.

T minus 2 days!

That Time I Signed up for the Portland Marathon

Well guys, it’s a big day here in “mostly just dreaming about running rather than actually running” land.

I finally handed over the cash for the Portland Marathon and am pretty darn excited.  [Sidebar: Can we just all take a minute and acknowledge how expensive races are getting?  I’m having mixed feelings about the ROI on this particular $140 investment.  Also, don’t get me started on their website, or their registration form.  It made my web-working head want to explode a little bit, and I swear a part of me died every time I had to resubmit said lengthy form due to internal errors. ANYWAYS.   Moving on.]

Is that the right word? Am I excited?*

It’s a very loaded excitement, bound in all the baggage from my last marathon, simultaneously carrying probably too much hope that the process will be dramatically better than it was before.  There’s still an abiding sense that I don’t know how to do this.

An amazing amount of things have been done by people who didn’t know how. Don’t  let that stop you. The danger is more in doing nothing than in not “knowing how.”

– anon.

So I’m doing it, and this time, I’ve got what feels like a pretty solid strength training routine.  I’m committed to pool work outs and time in the bike saddle for my first triathlon, and I also have physical therapists on speed dial (Thanks so much to my sister and the great crew at Acceleration PT for years and years of moral and biomechanical support ) a best friend for a training buddy, and the experience of having done it once before.  That’s got to count for something? Right?

Let’s do this thing.

Motivation courtesy of The Features:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Running down the busy street, its a bustling Friday afternoon that doggy and I have set out into.  The hum of traffic is muffled by my earbuds, our cadence cools down, and we are both glad to be out of the house despite the quickly gathering dark.

Closing on the intersection, it’s as if the world cracks on its axis by the sound that shatters out from a car nearby.  In that instant, everything is on its side. Was that a gunshot? My chest so tight I can barely manage breath, I vaguely register that the lower portion of my legs are burning and doggy is loosing his highest-register yowl.  Shaking at the end of his leash it’s not a bark, just a stifled, heart-breaking whimper. My feet have stopped moving, slowly figuring out there’ve been no bullets, but probably a blown tire.

I reach down to comfort and inspect Bo, now understanding that my burning shins are the result of projectile road debris from the tire explosion. I spot the car, struggling to move down the road.  As more of my brain pieces this together, I’m immediately terrified for my dog, who is eye-level where my legs are scratched and bleeding. Still in total disbelief that a tire blowing can produce this level of heart-stopping noise, let alone send gravel straight into my skin, I watch the car lurch through the intersection, rubber flap-flap-flapping in tow.

Headlights streak past, bursts of light to brush off the gravel and dirt by. There’s a persistent wondering over what in the holy hell has just happened, standing blankly on the sidewalk, and feeling rather shell shocked over a strangely eventful split second.  Thankfully, Bo seems unharmed, but I can tell the skittishness will linger as he groans and leans into my legs, rubbing his head against my thigh over and over.  Me too, buddy. Me too. 

I pet him and pet him, shushing sounds wheezing out of my mouth. It’s Okay. It’s Okay.  

It is. In this brief moment we are reminded, unapologetically, of the important things, and though shaken we are, in fact, okay.

Sometimes you don’t get the run you planned on, you get the run you need.

It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

– JRR Tolkien

Terrible Ideas & Other Things I Tried This Week

I just wrote a race review for RunOregon and thought it was time to start thinking about the rest of my plans for racing, and running, and all sorts of other things. All at once. This is what happens when I try to not think about things so much, the rubber band always snaps back and I end up like this:

running meme

Brought to you by the awesome Allie Brosh and her brilliant blog: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

Things are stirring.  Fall must bring out a sort of claustrophobia, because I’m weirdly, acutely aware of a slow suffocation from the struggle to be something better. Between the daylight slipping away so suddenly, and the closeness of rounding out another year, things are stirring. Moving deep beneath the surface.  You can almost feel it in the air and the strands of bottled up rain wrung clean from clouds.

Plans are in motion.  Big, intimidating, amazing plans.  Portland marathon plans, NaNoWriMo book writing plans, and triathlon plans.  Blame it on re-reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, or the renewed sense of purpose that comes from setting goals and signing up for things i’m not sure yet whether I can do, but its what November seems to need from me so far- creating an plan of attack for making 2014 a year of writing and running, and swimming and biking, and then more running. And maybe some more, lots more, writing.

Best Laid Plans

So, there will be a handful of half-marathons in the spring, overlapped by a summer of pool (and hopefully lake) laps and bike training, leading up to a Tri (sprint, of course) toward the end of August, and then – deep breath- stacking up the miles and miles of training runs leading to the Oct. 5th Portland Marathon.

Part of me feels pretty nuts just to be thinking about it.  The other part can’t wait to get started training. RUN SWIM EVERYTHING FOREVER!! Then I remember I couldn’t make it through 12 weeks of marathon training without injury the last time, and land right back at being sure I’m crazy to be considering both my first triathalon and a marathon in the same year.

I can’t help it. Things are moving.

Should I maybe, possibly, to quote Ron Swanson, be whole-assing just one thing?

RonSwansonMeme

Caution: gratuitous meme-ing.

Am I actually crazy?

5 ways Distance Running feels like Tabata

The fartlekking post may have been your first clue, and its true; I’ve been branching out my non-running workouts.  In an effort to one day manage a sub 5-hour marathon, I’m trying to fill gaps my previous training left, trying to tie up those tendonitisy loose ends and fractured tarsals. So, there’s a lot more cross training and weight work to be done, and here I am in a boot camp class, erging away and facing one of the most vomit-inducing physical challenges EVER (yes, I say that having run a marathon). Tabata you beautiful twisted thing, you, you might almost be as gnarly as 26.2 miles.  In a moment of clarity during one of said torturous routines, I discovered that my brain follows a pretty familiar pattern to the one it adopts on long runs:

Denial 

It’s not that bad! I can totally handle this. These sets will be over before I know it.

Spoiler– WRONG! wrong, wrong! It is that bad, it hurts a lot, and it seems like an eternity- a lot like running a marathon.

Anger

STUPID TABATA, who comes up with this stuff anyways?! I demand answers! erg erg erg

Mile 14 of a marathon- Screw you Pheidippides, why didn’t you just send a carrier pigeon or, I DUNNO, ANYTHING besides run all that way.  Serves you right. grrr!

Bargaining

I swear, if I can just make it through this next set, I won’t come to class, ever again!

Mile 20 of a marathon- All right, feet, if you help me get through this, I promise we’ll get a massage, and stop running, and drink milkshakes ’til we’re in a coma.

Depression

If only I were in better shape, this wouldn’t hurt so badly.  I feel sad about my poor broken body.

Mile 21 of a marathon- my life is crap. there is no hope. not now. not ever. pain is my life.

Acceptance- 

Tabata- It might end, but who cares. my muscles are permanently messed up. whatever.

Marathon- It’s never going to end. My muscles are mush, my feet are in pieces, and I’ll be crippled.  sigh. might as well keep going. the hurt feeds my sad little soul.

So I haven’t abandoned tabata workouts just yet, maybe, maybe its because there’s something to them, just like there’s something to running for 5 hours solid.

By the Numbers

1,349.7.

In 2012, that’s how many miles I ran (give or take a few miles I lost track of.)  Talk about big things that have small beginnings.  It’s a very small thing, when broken down-  each conscious step that became a stride that grew over and over into a mile, and then 2, and then 12, that adds up to a year’s worth of runs.  Runs that have given me back to my sanity, my body, my happiness, and some days, I’m convinced, the best possible version of myself.

2012 was filled with some pretty world-rocking changes, of good, bad and neutral varieties, and for all the year gave me, the thing I’m second-most grateful for is the thing that helps me take it all, from the big decisions to the daily minutia, in stride.

I’m pretty easily convinced to talk running, and I recently had a conversation with a dear friend about it.  While on this topic, naturally, it usually comes up that I ran my first marathon last year.  The reactions I get to this are often of a weird strain of reverence, and hers specifically was followed by the notion that she could never do that.  It’s not the first time I had heard this sentiment, nor I think, will it be the last, but what struck me this time was just how untrue it is (not to mention how defamatory to the sport).  This reverence is unwarranted, I think.  If I accomplish anything here, let it be that I inescapably communicate that anyone, anywhere, at any time, can run a 5k, a half-marathon, a marathon, an ultra (though I can’t personally vouch for this one…yet.)  Any running goal you may have is achievable.   In no way am I particularly gifted, coordinated, or even very radically determined, and I think there are a lot of much more accomplished runners than I who would concur.

Without question, you can do it. I promise you. And I’m not just writing this because I wish more people would run. It makes running great, this quality. Its unquestionably one of the greatest things about running in particular:  that anyone and everyone can do it, live through it, and maybe even learn to love it.

Will it hurt? Yup.

Will you have days that defeat you? Undoubtedly, but tell me how that’s different from life in general.

Will you want to sit in the bath for hours eating Ben n Jerry’s and drinking wine? Almost every day (again, tell me how this is any different from standard operating procedure.)

Will you experience weird injuries and acquire a new affinity for stretching, ibuprofen, and icing? You bet.

The thing is, you won’t give up. Because if you’ve decided to do it, you’ll find the strength to get it done. Because if you’ve committed to the race, the capacity to complete it will follow.  Because you’ll have experienced the riches that running stupid-long distances can bestow, and you’ll know that just like the individual steps that turn into the miles and marathons, the rewards are there in equal number.

So go out and do it, if you want to.  In its essence, it couldn’t be more simple.  Put your foot out the door, swing the other one around, and keep it going.  Repeat.

One day you might even look back and realize you ran a marathon.

Baby Blog’s First Birthday

Just about this time last year, something magical happened. On December 6th, 2011 I took a lunchtime jog through a local waterfront park, like many other days during many other lunches.

But the trail had something else in store that day besides sweat and scenery, and it became one of my most memorable runs.  I returned and scribbled down some ideas into my notebook, which went through the tumbler of my thoughts, and  later turned into my vertrail running mile post 1y first blog post

I recall the very spot and process my thoughts went through, forming the idea of it, and topics for the first few posts.  Things that likely wouldn’t have crossed my mind had I not gone running that day.  I think of that, often, when it just seems too dark outside, or too rainy.  What will my brain miss out on if I don’t get my feet out there?

The past year has brought many more ideas, connections, and generally fun things as a result.  I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with other passionate runners, and hopefully introduced the idea of just how cool it is too others.  I’ve given myself an incredibly fun excuse to do two of my favorite things- run and write.

Being a terminally shy individual and a perpetual perfectionist, it required, and still does,  a lot of me being outside my comfort zone to write this blog.  It seemed, in the same breath, the most natural and the most terrifying thing I could do. Running outside my comfort zone pushed me to finish a marathon, which I will always recount as one of the greatest experiences of my life, so I decided  writing outside my comfort zone would bring a similar reward.

I was right.

I want to share a very heartfelt note of gratitude to you for reading.  Whether you’ve been with me from the beginning, or if you’re just now reading, please realize how awesome and important it is for me, that you’ve taken even a few minutes to stop by. It truly means the world, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

I promise to keep writing, as consistently as I can and to find more cool, interesting and thought-provoking things to bring to the table.  SPOILER ALERT: Stay tuned for guest posts from the golden retriever (In my head this is a great/hilarious idea- we’ll see how it plays out).

Reflecting on this year of running and writing, I’d  like to solicit any feedback you might have. If you can , humor me and take a second to  let me know what you think: How am I doing? Boring? Bland? Any running (or non-running) related topics you’re pretty sure I should cover? Leave them in the comments and with your help I can hopefully make this more helpful 🙂

Thank you, thank you for making this very happy first blogiversary possible.

Happy running!

Gratefully,

Mary

Marathon Mantra

At the Half Marathon finish line

Here’s me after a half marathon, the full should be fun!

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.”

~Rabindranath Tagore

Awash in emotions, I’m basking in the warm glow of happiness at the prospect of having a marathon behind me. The check mark on the bucket list.

There is a strange melancholy that descends, knowing the process will as soon be over.  The journey, fraught as it has been with its challenges and quirks, has been an incredible passage, and it is with a heart conflicted by elation and mournful reminiscence that I devote these last few days to training.

Final Marathon Training Days

Preparation is in full effect with only a few more days left.  I’ve been testing solutions to my to blistering issue, and experimenting with various powders, gels and performance snacks like a mad scientist in a lab.  Carbo-loading has commenced and high-energy fuels are the order of my days.  My footwear choice remains my biggest decision, as I’ve yet to settle on which of my lucky pairs will be anointed in the trenches of the marathon.  Should I run in my old, reliable pair?  They’ve seen me through a lot of miles, those shoes, too many, my physical therapist would say.  The newer pair that may or may not have been the source of the blisters? How can I trust them not to blister me again? I know I don’t dare try my 5 fingers, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about how awesome that would be.

I’ve tapered down to a modest mileage plan this week, which leaves me unjustifiably tired and bewilderingly jittery.  The work is done, the training runs are almost finished, and all that remains is the ultimate test to determine the worth of 3 months of dedication.

Letting Go

Its odd to me how this, endings, have yet to get easier. My logic holds that things done repeatedly inevitably become more manageable. With practice comes proficiency, yes? Not so, I’m finding.  I hold on so hard to the places I am, that letting go, even of something that has proven so devastating at times, remains perhaps the most difficult part. Change will always be the ultimate hurdle I guess. This change carries particular resonance with me, as concurrences of the universe would have it, the strange parallels and coincidences that life arrange, I face another set of changes.  As I say goodbye to training for my first marathon, I’ll also be welcoming a very new chapter in my life.  But the fact remains that the goodbye must be said, and this parting honored.

On Saturday I’ll raise my paper cup of Gatorade repeatedly:

  • To anticipating the future with enthusiasm.
  • To paying proper respect to the past.
  • To trusting in this moment, and knowing its precious impermanence.
  • To running a freaking MARATHON. 

**Special note of thanks to everyone reading, you’ve been instrumental in me getting this far.  I’ll see you on the other side of 26.2.

Born to Blister?

Like an infant being rocked to sleep in a crib, the break of surf against the beach, or the gentle sweep of a grandfather clock, relaxation pace is what my running self lives for. It’s the liberating sensation when you settle in and like subtle, easy magic your hips fall into mesmerizing rhythm.

Back & forth. Left & right.

Something elemental changes. Back & forth, just on the edge of wakefulness and daydreams. Left & right. Back & forth. Inhale. Exhale. And when you hit it, you know. Your body knows, and everything falls perfectly into place. It’s the feeling that nothing and no one can interrupt you. It’s the complete comfort of knowing that the only thing that will stop you is your own volition. It’s being so present in your stride or, in some cases, simultaneously so distant from it, you know you can run forever, and you just might. Its not an experience I get every run (though not for lack of trying). And therein, methinks, lies the magic. Its elusive, its unpredictable, but the possibility is always there. And when you’ve happened across it, if you’re like me, you’ll do anything to see if you actually can run forever. (see previous post re: marathon training)

Its been a while since I’ve tapped into this relaxation in the run. Longer than I’d like. And whether a result of its peculiar absence or something else, questioning the worth of this endeavor has officially begun. I didn’t know what exhaustion was until this process and I suppose that is a good reason why. It has brought me to tears, not just once, incited laughter, euphoria, excruciating pain and I’m pretty sure altogether altered my DNA somehow-more good reasons why. But now, so close to the end, and perhaps more than ever, I’m questioning deeply, wondering why.

The latest development to cause this type of reflection has been big, freakish blisters. With toes bandaged to within an inch of their lives and no very good idea where to go from here, I’m encountering some very strange new mental (not to mention physical) territory. In one instant i’m irate, how could I have made it this far, only to be humbled by a few toe blisters? (In fairness, they are pretty epic blisters. Apologies for the gnarliness, but It looks like I’m conducting stem cell research on my digits since you could imagine, by the looks of things, that i’m growing a 6th and 7th toe on my left foot.) In another instant I’m elated to be so close to the end and absolutely determined to push though a little boundary like blistering. The rapidity with which my mindset changes between these two ideas is unnerving.

So this is an open call for help (advice, ideas, anything!) on distance running blister abatement. I feel like I’ve tried everything and I’ve got about 11 days to heal them before its showtime. I’m pretty much resigned to the idea (after this weekend’s long run) that I won’t run again until they’re healed. I’m sure this tack isn’t great for training, but I’ve got a race to think about, and I figure the best chance I can give myself is at least to come to the start line blister-free. If I can’t hit my relaxation pace just once more before the race, I’m simply going to try for pain-free toes. And do my best to summon the sensation that made me run in the first place.