Final check-in before race day

In six days I’ll be running my second marathon. Just typing those words is terrifying to me. I haven’t run any long runs since April 12th at which time I felt pretty great. Me and GinnyIt was the third week in a row with a long run in the 30km range.The pain in my right leg was only a little niggling, I felt strong, and I enjoyed a gorgeous spring run that day running the first 16km with Ginny and the last 16km by myself. It was on that run, about 25km in, that I caught myself from a near fall and further strained my right hamstring and that’s when all my troubles began. Since my last post 16 days ago, I’ve had 12 days of complete rest (even walking was painful), missed my last 2 long runs in the training schedule, and had 2 of the most painful runs I’ve ever experienced. The pain in my right leg has moved into my left leg as well and I have been struggling with myself for 2 weeks knowing that I am probably not in any shape to run a marathon. FullSizeRender (4)I was having a hard time coming to terms with that. I don’t quit. Anything. I kept telling myself (as stupid as it sounds, even to me) that I’d rather go out on the course, try my hardest and not finish, than not try at all. I had to try everything I could think of to keep this commitment I made to myself 6 months ago. This past Saturday I had a 16km race pace scheduled and decided that this run was going to be the final deciding factor as to whether I was going to run Ottawa or not. I went into the run in full race day gear, with a slower race pace in mind, popped a mild muscle relaxant before we started and hoped that this would be enough of a tweak to have a pain-free 16km run. The result was interesting to say the least. The run was totally pain-free which was great, but also, since then, I have had almost no pain at all in either of my legs even though I’ve been pretty active and gone on a number of extremely longs walks. So, barring anything crazy happening in the next few days, the decision to run has been made. I’m still terrified. I’ll be running the whole race on my own. I had been hoping to use one of the last long runs to test my mental ability by running it solo, but those runs never happened. The longest I’ve ever run by myself is about 21km, about 2.5 hours. I’m expecting to have a slow finish, somewhere longer than 5.5 hours, and I have no idea what to expect mentally. I’m keeping a positive attitude (nobody would know how terrified I am unless they read this), I’ve filled my iPod with favourite 80s music that I haven’t heard in years to keep my mind occupied and outside of itself, and I’m going to run just run the race 1km at a time. Of course, if I feel like I can’t finish, I won’t risk further injury by plowing through. I’m not that crazy. But at least I’ll know that I tried my hardest, pushed myself as far as I could, and that’s all I can ask of myself. IMG_0360 (1)

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22 Days and Counting

It’s been a tough month or so since Around the Bay. My troublesome right hamstring took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when I took a near tumble and strained it causing further injury. I’ve been struggling with myself trying to do the right thing by resting it, but the fear that I’m going to lose everything I’ve done over the past 4 months has kept me from really giving it a good rest. Until finally, this past Tuesday I realized I just can’t keep running through the pain.

Right from the start of that run, my leg felt sore. Worse than usual. I thought that once I warmed up it would feel better. And it did. Not 100%, but the pain that I was feeling gave way to the familiar ache of the last few months and I continued on my way. Slowly. The difference was that I noticed at the end of the run that my right leg, felt as fatigued as it normally would after I run 25-30km. In fact it felt more fatigued that it did after I ran Around the Bay. The thing was, that I had just run 7.6km.

It was then that I had to concede. I have more issues with that leg than I’ve been letting myself believe. I could not deny it any longer. I decided that was it. No more running until after I saw my physiotherapist a few days later where I would need to make a game plan to get me to the start line of my second marathon.

So after another assessment, the plan as it stands right now is lots of calf stretching, light hamstring stretching, physio treatments twice a week and no running. In fact absolutely no activity that engages my hamstrings at all. Not an easy task. I’m hoping that another week and a half of rest along with the physiotherapy will allow me to get in some easy runs for the last 10-14 days before the marathon. We’ll reassess at each treatment to see where I stand.

Right now, the challenges are: trying to figure out how to get in some cardio workouts doing an activity that does not include activating my hamstring, and keeping myself from going completely bonkers. It’s like going through the taper crazies but you’re not supposed to be tapering yet.

To paraphrase something my very wise running buddy Ginny recently said, for the next few weeks I’ll need to control the struggle between the smart and stubborn runners on my shoulders yapping their opinions at me.

If all goes well, the smart runner will win the fight and make it to the race.

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Around the Bay recap

Race date: March 29, 2015

I’ve never gone into a race with the mindset of treating it like a training run. Hell, I’m way too competitive for that. But here I am, training for the Ottawa Marathon with 29k on the schedule for ATB day so that’s exactly what I set out to do. I had to think of it as “just another Sunday LSD run”. I wasn’t sure how that would go since I really am competitive by nature but I had to give it my best shot. Luckily, my run buddy Julie had the same idea in mind so I thought, between the two of us, we had a good chance at keeping each other in check.

This race has THE best pre-race set up being inside an arena with lots of warm places to sit and plenty of bathrooms available. It also has the best finish line which is on the floor of the arena and spectators can sit in the stands, in comfort, as they wait for their friends and family to finish.

FullSizeRender (2) The forecast was for sunny but cold temperatures so we put on some warm sweaters that we could throw off at some point on the course once we warmed up. Based on the forecast, I thought I might be wearing that throw-away sweater for at least an hour into the race.

11088994_10152675281955178_7953191851255306693_oWe headed out to the start a few minutes before race time and squeezed into the corral just as the gun went off. I was running with Julie and Stacey to start. I ended up beside Stacey and then noticed Julie running right behind me which was my reminder that Stacey was racing this race, I was not. So, I slowed down and met up with Julie. Within about 500 meters, Stacey had been swallowed up by the sea of runners and Julie and I were left to run our own run. It was a lot warmer than I thought it would be, with the sun shining so bright, and before the 2km marker I was throwing off that old sweatshirt.

The race itself was good. I ran comfortably not really looking at my Garmin to check my pace at all. I ran my regular 10 & 1s and walked through the water stations to grab a quick sip. Through the rolling hills in the middle third of the race we ran most, but did walk the top half of a couple of them. Due to construction, there was a course change this year and the big hill at around 25km was taken out. The new part of the course was a nice substitution after all the hills we’d run for the first 23km of the race. It was nice though, to see the man with his big boom box playing We Will Rock You on the new part of the course and Grim Reaper had a helper this year. As we ran by, Julie gave the Grim Reaper a high five and we carried on into the final 3km of the race.

IMG_0562At about 28k I was feeling really great and decided that I would run through the last walk break and try and pick up my pace a bit. As I approached the final intersection before the descent into the arena I saw Mike who took a few (dozen) pictures as I ran by.

Down the final stretch, turn into the arena, down the ramp, turn another corner, out onto the floor of the arena and cross the finish line. I walked for a minute taking stock of things. I felt pretty good. No, I felt great! Then I heard a loud cheer of my name. I looked into the stands and saw a group of my buddies. Some who had run the race, and others who had come out just to cheer us all on. I smiled and waved. I really love my running friends!

When I finally was able to see my official time I was pretty ecstatic. I was just off my 30k PB and I had run this race comfortably. Not pushing the pace at all. What this told me is that all the training I’ve been doing is paying off. At the end of the race, I felt like I could have kept going past 30k.

The weeks leading up to the race, I had started to feel tired, worn out, started to wonder what the hell I was doing training for another marathon. This run has boosted my confidence, renewed my commitment. And with eight weeks left of training, I’d say it couldn’t have been timed any better.

Official Time: 3:48:20.5

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A whole different experience

It’s been two months since I’ve written here and a lot has been going on as I continue training for my second marathon.

First off, let’s talk about this ridiculously cold, long winter we’ve been having. I know we live in Canada and it is just part of life, but this winter was exceptionally cold with more extreme cold weather warnings issued than ever before. A big part of the cold were these crazy strong winds that have been whipping around and have literally lifted me off the ground on two separate occasions. All that being said, I’ve had to move a run or two around, but the weather has not caused me to miss any runs.

Mike and I took a trip to Florida for an extra, extra long weekend in February. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you look at it) they also experienced a cooler than normal winter this year. The heat and humidity weren’t as bad this time and I was able to get in all the runs I planned which was great.

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13km in Miami Beach on a cloudy day

I started training with the Running Room Marathon Clinic again in January. The coaches this season are great, the members of the clinic are very supportive and I’ve made a few new friends as well.

The clinic is especially important to me because my training buddy, super-sad my biggest motivator, has  had to back out of this marathon due to injury.  Although she’s had to drop out, I’ve had her continued support as well as the support of the rest of the ladies I run with, and there are times when I have a buddy or two join me on some of my runs, but for the most part I’d be running on my own without the support of the clinic.

Next weekend is the traditional Around the Bay 30k Road Race which I will be running as a training run as I move toward the ultimate goal of the Ottawa Marathon. I’m running with two of my buddies with a few more cheering us on from the sidelines. This will most likely be the last long run with friends (who wants to run 30km++ when they’re not training for a marathon?) before I have to really dig deep within myself and start mentally preparing for marathon race day.

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Now, two months into training, I’ve settled into a routine. The long runs are getting longer and in preparation for the marathon, I’m going to try and do some of the really long runs completely solo. I’m a back of the packer, so being out on the course for over 5 hours on my own, I really need to be able to enjoy my own company. Or, at the very least, keep my mind occupied with happy thoughts. To that end, I’m looking to increase my running play list and fill it with some great, upbeat, 80’s and 90’s music. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

I’m going to Ottawa!

So apparently I’ve been bitten by the marathon bug. What was supposed to be my “tick off the bucket list one and only marathon” has become my “first marathon” and this year promises to be another busy one with a lot of plans in the works already.

So far I’ve signed up for Around the Bay 30k on March 29th and I’ve also committed myself to the Ottawa Marathon on May 24th. I’m not sure which came first but they actually fit really well together. The training program I’m following has a 29km run scheduled for March 29th so I’ll probably try and run that race as a training run. Hey, if you have to run 29km, you might as well do it in a race with a few thousand people right?

I’m really excited to be running Ottawa as my second marathon. The Ottawa Half Marathon was my second half marathon which I ran in 2012 and I really loved it. 389656_437145026303140_1622318527_n The city makes a whole weekend of it with races in the 2k, 5k and 10k distances on Saturday afternoon/evening and the half and full marathons take place on Sunday morning. A ton of people come out to participate, and to watch all the races. The course is nice, has pretty great crowd support and has sponge stations. That’s right, sponges filled with cool water just when you need them! Hopefully that hasn’t changed from a few years ago.

Training officially began this past weekend. I’ve been keeping a good base since Chicago, so I’m hoping it’ll be fairly easy to get back into the swing of the 5 day a week running schedule.

I do expect that I’ll have some challenges. Not so much with the winter training. Though I may complain about it at some point, and I am definitely not a winter person, I prefer to run in the winter rather than in the heat of the summer.

The challenges will be in getting the night time training runs in during the week. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it home in time to head to my run club meet-ups so I’ll have someone to run with. I’m fine with running alone, and in fact enjoy a peaceful solo run. But night time running is always safer in a group.

The other challenge will be getting my miles in during a five day trip to Florida in February. We took a similar trip at the same time of year a couple years ago and after training in the cold air, the humidity kicked my butt. I had a hard time running even 5km. The schedule has an 8km, a 6km and a 13km run that weekend.

Whatever challenges come my way, I know that staying focused on my goal, will help me to face them head on.

Look out Ottawa, here I come!

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A few km into the Ottawa Marathon – May 2012

 

Final pre-race check-in

Well that’s it for the long runs. I’m officially in taper mode for the next 11 days.

When I look at the training cycle as a whole, I think I have faired pretty well. In the last month or so I have noticed a surge of strength and yes even a wee bit of speed. I can now run comfortably for pretty much any distance (at least up to my longest run of 33km) without my cardio giving out and my legs make it to about 25km or so before they start to get tired. I’ve been virtually injury free with the exception of some aches and pains in my lower back and right hamstring that have been kept under control with some physiotherapy and a regular daily stretching and strengthening routine. In fact, my back is feeling better now that it has in months. Of course I’ve had some soreness after the long runs and my calves are in a constant state of achiness, but that’s to be expected.

Yes, everything seems to be under control and with 11 days left until the big day I was feeling pretty confident. Until last night.

About halfway through my regular 7km Tuesday night run, I started to feel some pain in my left shin. I figured I was just still warming up and carried on. By the end of the run, fully warm, it had worsened rather than getting better and had me a bit concerned. I decided right then that my body just needed a rest and I cancelled my run for today.

I had a physiotherapy appointment scheduled for this morning so I had her take a look and she told me that it’s probably the start of shin splints and with a little rest and the avoidance of walking or running on any-sized incline, FullSizeRenderI should be fine by the time the gun goes off on October 12th.

I may not be an experienced marathoner, but I’m experienced enough to know that missing a couple of runs at this point in the training cycle is not going to hinder my success in the marathon, but running on a sore leg unnecessarily could very possibly sideline me.

So, for the last 7 scheduled runs over the next 11 days, I will assess myself each day, cancel whatever runs I need to cancel, supplement with a stationary cycling workout if I feel I can, and run virtually flat when I feel that I’m up to it.

The starting line is in sight and getting to my corral is what’s most important now.

We’re almost there

It’s 40 more sleeps until marathon day and I’ve just finished the longest, and hardest run I’ve ever had to endure.

A 32 km run which turned into a 33 km run thanks to a missed turn, in 33 celsius temperatures (that’s just over 91 fahrenheit). Not my idea of fun but absolutely necessary in order to keep with the training schedule. My Chicago Marathon training buddies and I spent what felt like an eternity fighting off countless negative thoughts, at times talking ourselves out of jumping in a cab or hopping on a bus and calling it a day. We walked a ton more than we normally would (did I mention it was hot?), and it wasn’t until our Garmins registered 32 km and we had hit our goal did we get any sort of spring into our step, and incredibly, that last km (km 33), was the strongest km of the whole run. Of course that may also be in part because of the splash pad that appeared at km 32 like a godsend. That cold water felt so refreshing for the minute we dunked our heads in it.

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I’ve spent the last 24 hours reflecting on that run. Talking to my training buddies, listening to advice from some of my friends who are multi-marathoners and I think I’m really ready to take on the marathon challenge set before us almost 2 years ago. Or at least I will be on October 12th.

Health-wise, my back has started to act up a little again. I’m not sure why but I’ll give it a few days and if it doesn’t improve I will make an extra trip to the physiotherapist. But other than that I’m feeling great. Mentally, I’m already starting to experience some of the pre-race crazies. Obsessing over everything race related (sorry guys). Corral assignments have been published and we’re just waiting for bib numbers now.

This week is a bit of a step-back week for mileage so I’m going to enjoy the break. I’m running a 5k race this Sunday (only because I loved this race last year), but not expecting to race it too hard and making up the daily mileage by going out for another 18 km run later in the day – always keeping Chicago top of mind. After that, there’s two more long runs before the taper starts.

Wow! I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now.