Sunday, September 10, 2017

Big Cottonwood 2017 Marathon Race Recap

I wanted to train for a marathon during the summer (instead of the wainter like my last 5 marathons) and felt so strong after the Phoenix Marathon that I really wanted to go for a big PR.  The Big Cottonwood Marathon was the perfect choice-fast course, early September, not too far away from home so I signed up in April and started training in the middle of May.

I had previously used Hansons Marathon Method beginner plan and had such great success with it that it was only obvious that I use the advanced plan this time around.  It really wasn't much different from the beginner, except the recovery runs tacked on a few extra miles.

I used the goal finish time of 3:25 to determine the pace of my training runs.  I knew this was a lofty goal, but I felt up to the challenge.  I'd say I hit all of my paces, although they never quite felt comfortable.  I only missed a handful of easy runs, like when we were at Lake Powell for a few days or when we went to Roosevelt.

The week before the race was uneventful.  I did a few easy runs and was feeling good.  I looked up race reviews from previous years and was starting to get a little freaked out about the downhill, but there was nothing I could do about it now.

I was planning to drive to SLC by myself, but Steve was adamant that he was going to drive me.  I was so thankful he was there for me.  I don't think I would have finished if it weren't for him being at the finish line waiting for me.  And I definitely would have struggled driving home by myself.

On Friday, we got to SLC  around 4:30 and went straight to the packet pick up.  Then, we headed to the hotel and laid everything out, and went to dinner at a Cafe Rio nearby.  We also had to stop at Target for a few last minute things and were back at the hotel by 8 and asleep by 9:30.  I actually slept really well considering it was the night before a big race.

My alarm went off at 3:41 and I got dressed, put in my contacts, and was out the door by 3:50 so Steve could sleep.  In the lobby I drank some water with nuun, and ate my usual Starbucks banana nut bread.  At 4:15 I headed outside to meet the bus in the parking lot.  On the bus ride up, I slowly ate my banana and talked with some other ladies about the race (what else?!).  As soon as we got to the top, I used the porta potty right away and then sat in my blanket and tried to stay warm.  I was actually expecting it to be colder since we were 8,000 ft up, but it wasn't too bad.  The whole time I kept sipping on my water with nuun, and around 6 I got back in line for the porta potties.  This line took a lot longer so at 6:15 I started to drink my UCAN while in line.  Once I used the bathroom, I took off my sweats and sweatshirt, loaded up my gels, iPod, and headphones, and dropped my gear bag off.  Then I sat by the start line and had about 5 minutes til the start.  I started to feel like I needed to go pee again, but I didn't think I had time with how long the lines were.  I couldn't take it anymore and went back to the porta potties.  Luckily the lines were short, only 2 people in front of me, so I was back at the start right on time.

I didn't see any pacers cause I was towards the back so I wasn't really sure how to pace myself.  I've always heard, "Don't start out too fast!" so I really tried to hold back that first mile even though it was STEEP.  My watch beeped at 8:03 and I knew that wasn't good.  I was hoping to stay under 8:00 for all 26 miles.  Looking back, that should have been my fastest mile.  By the end of mile 2, my calves were not happy.  They were already feeling the strain of the downhill and cramping up.  At mile 3 there was a pretty big uphill and flat section so I knew that would be a slower mile.  I was passing a lot of people on this one as there were a lot people walking.

Around mile 4 I started to get really uncomfortable because I had to pee so badly!  I couldn't believe it as I had used the porta potty 3 times before the race.  It's normal to feel like I have to go at the beginning of a run, but that usually goes away pretty quickly and I don't even need to go until an hour or so AFTER I've finished the run.  But this was just getting worse and worse.  I even considered peeing my pants because I didn't want to lose any time, but it's a lot harder to pee while you're running than you might think.  Between miles 6-7 I sipped on my first GU and took some water, hoping to get my mind off my bladder.  However, when I passed mile 9, I noticed we were at the start line for the half marathon.  There were tons of empty porta potties so I did something I've never done in a marathon before.  I ran off the course and used it.  I probably lost about 1:30 off my time but it was so worth it!  I peed a ton and felt so much better after that.

Finally I was settling into a groove.  I had my audiobook going, The Champions Mind, and was feeling good.  For the first time this race, I felt like I might actually make my goal of sub 3:30.  Most of my miles at this point were around the 7:40s and felt effortless.  While my calves were still throbbing, I knew there was nothing I could do about it so I kept telling myself to Deal With It, a mantra I had just heard in my audiobook.

I took another gel around miles 11/12 and again at mile 17.  At this time, I switched to music and tried to get pumped up for the hardest part of the race.  I knew at mile 18 I would see Steve for the first time so I was really excited for that and spotted him right away with his Ohio State shirt!

somewhere around mile 21

Miles 18-22 were death.  There were gradual rolling hills and we were not in the shade of the mountain anymore.  It was hot, my legs were heavy and cramping, and it would have been so easy to just stop and walk.  There were people everywhere stopping and stretching.  I just put my head down and kept going.  I took another gu at mile 20 and was getting a little nauseous.  I tried to pass one person at a time and just focused on that.  My paces were in the 8:30s and it felt so hard.  I saw Steve again at mile 21 and he said I'm still on pace for a 3:25 finish.  He ran with me for a second and it gave me a little boost to keep going strong.  But at mile 22 I did something else that I had never done in a race before...walk.  I was running up a hill and I was going so slow that I figured I could walk just as fast, so that's what I did.  It lasted maybe 30 seconds, but it gave me the rest I needed to finish strong.

Check out that form just seconds from the finish line!  

At mile 23 there was another uphill, but I actually went up it feeling strong.  At mile 24 there was a big time downhill and I flew down it.  My legs were hurting so badly, but I knew I was so close.  I thought maybe I could still get my sub 3:30, but math is hard when you're delirious from running 25 miles.  The last mile I passed a lot of people, and noticed a few others laying on the ground with medical help around them.  I just kept thinking how mad Steve would be if I didn't at least PR so I ran as fast as my legs would take me.  I finished in 3:31, a 3 min PR!!!

The best thing that ever happened was when they handed me an icy towel as soon as I crossed the finish line.  It was amazing.  I went over to Steve and started crying and laughing.  I was happy to be done and have a new PR, but I was hurting all over and a little sad from missing my goal of sub 3:30.
My calves were crippled at this point and I literally couldn't walk, but otherwise I felt totally fine.  I didn't have an appetite for anything other than cold water, so we left right away.  We went back to the hotel, showered, and left for the long drive home.  I'm sure sitting in the car for 8 hourse was the worst thing to do after a marathon, but I just wanted to see my kids and sleep in my own bed.

While I was in the race, I was thinking about how miserable I was and that I didn't want to run any more marathons.  But here I am now thinking about which race I want to do next and how much fun running marathons is.  We runners are funny people!

A few things to celebrate from this race:
  • No injuries, besides being very sore, not even a single toe nail is gone!
  • Never hit a wall, nutrition was on point.
  • Qualified for Boston by 9 minutes!
A few things to learn from this race:
  • Prepare for the race you are training for!  If your race has 18 miles of downhills and 5,000 ft of descent, you should probably do a few downhill runs to prepare.  
  • Stop drinking water an hour before the race begins

Monday, February 27, 2017

Phoenix Marathon 2017 Race Recap

Although I've run 4 marathons, this was the first time I was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I knew I would have to beat my previous PR of 3:54 by over 14 minutes.  Right away I decided to use Hansons Marathon Method for my training.  I had read about it a few years ago and fell in love with it, but I wasn't quite ready to try the high mileage weeks it demanded with my young family.  Now that my kids were older, this was the perfect time to try it.

Even though the 18 week training plan officially started on October 26th, I really started building a good base in August.  I wanted to get my body used to running 6 days a week.

I was laser focused and disciplined all through training.  I literally followed the training plan to a tee, including both distance and pace.  I only missed 3 runs (all easy recovery runs) due to strep throat in January.

The week before the marathon was rough.  I was so excited, but also nervous and began to let doubts creep in.  I could hardly run even a few miles cause I felt so sluggish.  I kept giving myself pep talks and read every motivational thing I could.  I even listened to the audio book Elite Minds on my drive to Phoenix and got some good advice.

I met Moni, Larissa, and Christie at Olive Garden for our pre race dinner.  FYI my pesto is waaaay better than Olive Garden's.

After dinner I went straight to the hotel, made sure my race stuff was ready, and watched netflix.  Lights out around 9:30, but to be honest I don't think I slept much.  I woke up around 2:30 and couldn't fall back asleep so I finally got out of bed at 3:05 and drank some warm lemon water (my morning ritual).  Then I slowly got dressed, ate my banana nut loaf, and drank a water bottle full of nuun.  I finally left the hotel around 3:50, which I'm glad I did because the freeway on ramp was closed so I had to drive through main streets all the way to the race.

On the bus ride to the start line I ate half of my banana.  I got to the start area at Usery Mountain around 5:15 and went straight for the porta potties since there was no line.  Then I huddled around a fire pit with some random people and talked about running (what else?!) and finished my banana.  After one last stop at the porta potties, I dropped off my gear bag and headed to the start line.  Right away I found the 3:35 pacer and stood a little ways back from that pack.  I didn't want to run with a big group of people, but knew I needed to keep the pacer in my sight at all times.  I also did something I had never done before...I ate one of my gels right before the race started.  I was feeling hungry and it had been awhile since my breakfast so I figured, why not?

The first few miles are downhill so I wanted my pace to be effortless.  I started my audio book (Elite Minds) and just tried to think that this was no big deal, just another long run.  I stayed right behind the 3:35 pace group and didn't even check my mile splits.  After 1 mile I threw my long sleeve shirt off and dropped my gloves.  Things were starting to heat up!

Miles 5 and 6 are a pretty significant hill, more so than I remember from last time.  I definitely felt like I was working harder now, but I knew it wouldn't last long so I didn't let myself get psyched out.  Although the 3:35 pace group had gotten a ways ahead of me, I could still clearly see them.  Right on track.  I had my second gel at the top of this hill, around 45 minutes in.

Finally the course started going downhill again and I got back into my groove.  I was pretty close to the pace group at this point and just litening to my audiobook.  I wasn't checking my watch at all yet. I was focusing on taking in a gel every 30 minutes, so I took a third one around mile 10/11.

When I got to the half marathon start, I rewarded myself with music and another gel.  I also checked my watch and saw that I was at 1:47.  A little faster than I had thought I could do, but nothing to worry about.  I still felt really good at this point.

I don't remember much along the next few miles, except that I was happy.  I kept smiling and picturing myself crossing the finish line with a BQ.  At mile 16 I started the countdown for how many miles left.  I thought about all the training runs I had done around 10 miles and knew that I could do this.

I continued to take a gel every 30 minutes, and also got water at every aid station (every odd mile).  I think I took Gatorade a few times, but mostly stuck with water.

Miles 21, 22, and 23 were my hardest.  I could feel myself starting to slow down, and usually I would just give in at this point and let myself.  However, this time I kept talking to myself and refused to give in.  I saw a lady run past me who had good running form.  I told myself I was going to stay right with her, and I did.  I talked to her a little and we kept encouraging each other.  I used the beat from the music and the thought of crossing the finish line keep pushing me forward.  Surprisingly, I wasn't in any pain (besides the usual fatigue/discomfort from running 26 miles) and felt pretty good.

At mile 24 I started to pick up the pace because I knew I was going to meet my goal, possibly even better than I imagined.  I couldn't believe it, but in the last mile I passed so many people I had seen at the beginning of the race who I thought I could never catch up to.  When I turned the corner and started coming down the last stretch, I saw my sisters waving and jumping up and down.  I yelled to them, "I'm going to do it!" and got a little teary eyed.  I ran as fast as I could until the finish line and threw my arms into the air.  I was smiling and sobbing at the same time.  I did it.  I freaking did it.

3:34:59.  A 20 minute PR, and qualified for Boston!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Desert Classic Marathon Race Recap

After 12 half marathons in 12 months, what better way to celebrate than with a full marathon?

I wanted to do one in January, and the Desert Classic Marathon was the only one on a Saturday.  This didn't give me time to properly train for a full, which is usually 16 weeks, but since I had just been doing half marathons I figured I was in pretty good shape.  I also didn't want to run too much and get injured.  I was trying to keep it low key and relaxed.

The Saturday after Christmas I did a 14 mile run, the following Saturday a 12 mile run, then 18, 14, and finally 9.5 the Saturday before the race.  I only ran once during race week, a 4 mile easy run, with the middle two miles at tempo pace (7:40ish).

I took Friday off work and drove to Gilbert.  After running a few errands I got takeout out from Cheesecake Factory and settled in for the night. 

My alarm went off at 4:41 so I quickly dressed, ate my banana nut bread from Starbucks, and got in the car.  The race was in west Phoenix (aka Los Angeles) with a 7 am start time.  It took an hour to drive there!  I ate my banana and drank a Nuun on the way.

I got registered, used the porta potty, and waited for the start.  It was cold, but I tried to enjoy how it felt cause I knew it was going to heat up during the race. 

Miles 1-13 were easy and uneventful.  Which was a good thing.  I kept my pace around 8:40 and listened to my audiobook.  I took in a GU at mile 6 and 12, along with water from every aid station.  I tried to keep my mind from the reality that I had to run 26.2 miles and just pretended I was on a training run.  It felt like a LOT of the run was uphill so once I hit the turnaround at 13.1, I was ready for some relief.  It never came.  As soon as we turned I was surprised at the strong headwind I had to run into for the last 13.1 miles.

Miles 14-26 were somehow ALL uphill.  Or at least they felt like it.  Between that and the headwind, my pace really took a dump.  I was pretty consistently between 9:00 and 9:20 now, so I knew my goal of 3:49 was out of reach.  I took anther GU at mile 18 and got water and Gatorade from the aid stations.  I also switched from my audiobook to music at this point for some motivation.  I repeated the mantra "I can do hard things" about a thousand times during these miles.  No joke. 

My right foot was hurting pretty badly by this point (although not as bad as during the Phoenix Marathon).  My right IT band was also really starting to feel it, which is weird cause I have never had problems with that side before.  I'm guessing it was from changing my gait to compensate for my foot?   I took in my last GU around mile 23, but really only ate half of it.  I was feeling good and didn't want to make myself nauseous.  I also started dumping water on my head, back, and chest.  I've never been so happy to see a finish line before that I actually "sprinted" in!

A 5 minute PR of 3:54:09!

The good news is I never hit a wall or felt hungry/or weak because my fuel was spot on.  I had three goals going into the race.  My A goal was 3:49 (which I think I could have done on a flat course with no headwind).  My B goal was 3:55, and my C goal was to finish with no injuries.  Considering I only did one long run of 18 miles, I'll happily take my B goal! 

The bad news is I can hardly walk, between my right IT band and a few toenails, which I'm afraid are goners. 

But it was so worth it!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Stress Reaction

The Diagnosis
After 5 weeks, 4 doctors, 3 x rays, and 1 MRI, the results are in.  They are determining my injury a "stress reaction".  Basically, the radiologist and 2 foot specialists reviewed the MRI and couldn't find an exact fracture site, just an area in the 4th and 5th metatarsals that had some edema, inflammation, and trauma.  If I continued running on it, eventually I would have a fracture in the bone. 

The Treatment
I'm supposed to stay off my foot for a week or so, and use crutches or a walking boot. It could take 6 days to heal, it could take 6 months to heal.  I'm allowed, and encouraged, to cross train.  Then, when I don't have pain walking in my normal shoes for a week or so, I can slowly start adding in running. 

The Cause
The foot specialist says he doesn't know what caused it.  I would love to know the reason so I know how to prevent it in the future.  Since my training has been legit (NOT too much, too soon) and my diet is healthy and well-balanced, the dr speculates that when I had the pain in the ball of my foot, I may have altered my gait.  This may have put undue stress on the outside of my foot, hence my 4th and 5th metatarsals. 

The Good
It is encouraging that there isn't a broken bone.  Which means it should heal faster than a normal stress fracture (6 weeks).  I've also been running for 33.5 years without ANY type of foot pain or injury.  Hopefully this is a one-time fluke and not a regular occurrence. 

The Bad
As previously stated, the doctors and myself don't really know exactly what "this" is, and what caused it.  Therefore, it's hard to prevent it from happening again. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Phoenix Marathon Race Recap

Marathon #3 is in the books. 

After my foot scare and getting the green light to run, the big worry going into race day was the weather.  All along we had planned on running in sun and heat.  Two storms were headed our way though and there was a 100 percent chance of rain for the Valley of the Sun.  And 15 mph winds.  I was pretty nervous, but then remembered that we have done all of our training in northern Arizona, where wind is an everyday occurrence.  And, who can forget when we ran 12 miles in the freezing, pouring rain on the day of the Christmas Parade?

The night before was very uneventful; drove to Phoenix, made a quick stop at the expo, carbo loaded at Olive Garden, went to the Gilbert house and laid out race stuff, and in bed by 8:30.  I think I slept pretty good until 2:30.  Then I was tossing and turning until my alarm went off at 3:45.  We left the house at 4:15 in time to get on the bus that takes all the runners to the start line at Usery Mountain Pass.
Usery Mountains photo courtesy Arizona Oddities
As the full marathon runners were loading the buses, some guy asked, "Is this the the bus for the fun run?".  Then as we were getting off in the middle of nowhere in the dark and wind, another guy said, "Are we at six flags?"  We had a few good laughs and lightened up a bit after that.  On the twenty minute ride to the start I ate my banana bread and banana and drank a bottle of water.  We hit up the port-a-potties right away, then found a place to sit down to get our wardrobe and gadgets finalized.

At this point it started to rain!  We dropped our gear bags off, put on our trash bag ponchos, visited the port-a-potties one last time, and made our way to the start line.  Just as we found the 3:45 pacer the cannons shot off and the race started. 

Miles 1-4 were downhill and easy peasy.  I said adios to Larissa after the first mile and settled in with the 3:45 pace group.  It rained for about the first 20 minutes, but I didn't mind.  It was a nice distraction.

Miles 5-6 were uphill, but I stayed on with my pace group and had a GU.  I couldn't believe how fast it was going by. 

Miles 7-10 I was loving life!  I was so happy to be running and felt great.  I ate half of my PowerBar and was still with the 3:45 pace group.

Miles 11-15 I started noticing some ball of foot pain and it was getting uncomfortable to run.  Not good.  As I passed the half marathon point I checked my watch, 1:51.  Not bad!  I finished my PowerBar and hoped the pain would go away like it did on my 20 miler a few weeks ago.

Miles 16-20 were into a headwind and now the top of my foot started hurting too.  I took another GU and knew my goal time of 3:45 was slipping away. 

Miles 21-25 I was miserable, wincing, and limping. I promised I would drop out as soon as I saw Jason or a medical tent.  But I saw neither and I didn't have a cell phone with me so I just kept trudging along.  I alternated between walking and jogging. 

Mile 26 I was in a sad and pitiful state, but when the 4:00 pace group came up behind me I said, "Oh heck no, not again!" and started running as fast as I could all the way to the finish line. 

I finished in 3:58.



I walked around the finishing line looking for medical help or Larissa, but could find neither so I did the worst possible thing for my muscles and sat down in a chair.  When I took off my shoe and saw what I had done, I started sobbing.

Just then Larissa walked up to me and immediately left to get medical help.  The people all around me were freaking out that my foot was broken and offered me ice and Advil.  They brought me a wheelchair to get to the medical tent and that was the most embarrassing thing ever.  How can I possibly run 26.2 miles but need a wheelchair to go 30 feet?  A doctor examined my foot and recommended I get an x-ray.  They gave me some ice and sent me on my way. 
I wish I had a different ending to this story.  My training partner (who did every single run with me for 18 weeks) ran a 3:34 and qualified for Boston; I limped across the finish line and may never run again. 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Best News Ever

Turns out it wasn't a stress fracture after all. 

After a few days of wondering and thinking the worst, I couldn't stand it anymore so I went to a sports med doc.  Luckily I got a physician who is a runner, and therefore sympathetic to runners.  She spent lots of time asking questions and poking and prodding my feet.  Then, she brought in another physician who did the same.  He said that he was "reaching into the very bottom of his bag of tricks" but he thinks that somehow I got a broken blood vessel.  That would explain the bruising and pain.  A lot of the symptoms were similar to a stress fracture, but in my heart I just KNEW that I couldn't have a stress fracture.  I have slowly and safely built up my mileage, I take rest days, cross train, and have a healthy diet.  But I let negative thoughts and Google searches take over.  I was convinced that I wouldn't be running the Phoenix Marathon, or even running at all for a few weeks. 

The sports med docs suggested that I go for a test run and call them if there was any pain to schedule an MRI.  It's amazing what some ice, elevation, and rest can do for an injury.  I ran the happiest 4 miles of my life that night...PAIN FREE! 

I learned a few things from this little experience.

1)  Running is pretty important to me.  I always knew I liked it, but when I thought I couldn't run I can't believe how devastated I was.  This could be a good thing or a bad thing. 

2)  Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.  Everyone has a running blog with their own story.  Just because it happened to another runner doesn't mean it's going to happen to you the exact same way. 

3)  Hope for the best.  When the podiatrist told me, "it could be a stress fracture...or a broken blood vessel", I only focused on the part about the stress fracture.  I should have instead treated it like a broken blood vessel from the beginning.  If that didn't heal, then I should have started considering a stress fracture. 

I can't believe how grateful I am to be able to run 26.2 miles this week!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

4th Metatarsal Stress Fracture?

Things were going just as planned during the taper.  I hadn't experienced any more ball of foot pain on any of our runs for the past two weeks.  Tuesday morning I set out for a 3 mile tempo run.  The pace was fast and easy, and I was well rested. 
About a mile and a half into it, I felt a pretty strong pain in my foot.  I want to say it was in the top and the bottom and just all around, but it's really hard to even describe where it was.  It hurt bad enough that I considered stopping right there, but being a mile and a half from home I decided to keep running.  I was slowing considerably and wincing by this point, and the pain certainly was not getting any better.  Another mile into it and I couldn't go any longer.  Unfortunately, at this point even walking hurt.  I limped home and was making some moaning/crying sounds.  As soon as I got in the house I took off my shoe and noticed some bruising on the top of my foot going into my 4th toe.  Not to mention it hurt like heck.  Not good.   
This was the first time since I experienced ball of foot pain a few weeks ago that I wore my Newtons.  I don't know if it has anything to do with it, but it seems like they put more pressure on the balls of your feet.  Maybe not my smartest move regarding running shoes? 

 From my research on metatarsalgia, I knew that bruising on the top of the foot likely meant a stress fracture.  I iced and elevated for the rest of the day and made an appointment with a podiatrist for the next day.  I sent Larissa a text that said, "Have fun running the marathon by yourself."  I don't think she believed how serious it was.
The xray didn't show any signs of a stress fracture, but the dr said it probably wouldn't show up for a few weeks when it starts to heal.  (So what was the point of the xray?)  He also said there was a small chance it could be from a broken blood vessel and that I could still run the marathon in ten days.    
With how much pain I've been in, I highly doubt that.  It's been a constant ache since it happened. 
I'm supposed to take a test run in a few days to see if it hurts again, and honestly, I'm gun-shy and don't know if I even want to try.