Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Marathon Tale

Gather round, kids, and let me tell you all a little story about the importance of not being greedy.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a fair maiden who loved to run.  She trained hard for a big marathon, logging over 550 miles over the course of her 14 week training plan. She felt confident of her ability to run a sub-4:00 marathon, something she had done only once before.

The maiden and her Prince Charming journeyed to the lovely village of Champaign, IL on a fair spring day to begin the epic marathon quest.  On the night before the big race, she and her prince carb-loaded on delicious pasta and bread, and went to bed very early, in order to gather up plenty of energy for the quest ahead.

The fair maiden's gourmet pasta feed. Yum-o.

The fair  maiden awoke the next morning feeling energetic and ready to run. The maiden and her prince met up with some of the other villagers and walked to the starting line on a beautiful, crisp, clear April morning. They rejoiced how perfect the weather was for a long-distance quest such as this.

The villagers. Not to be confused with the Village People.

Fifteen minutes before race start, they participated in a completely different, but equally important quest:

And they peed happily ever after...

The maiden and her prince lined up in their assigned starting corral. The prince was running the half marathon and was planning a faster pace than the maiden was going to run for her full marathon.  So they bid each other adieu and then they were off.

The maiden and her prince, ready for battle.

The maiden spotted the 3:55 pace group and decided to run with them. She felt wonderful and the pace felt easy.  Maybe even a little too easy.  The fair maiden, thinking she could run faster than her goal, pulled ahead of the 3:55 pace group. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the maiden's greed would come back to haunt her.

Early in the maiden's quest

Despite the increasing heat and her tired legs, the fair maiden stayed pretty much on pace for a full 20 miles (20 mile split: 2:58:23, pace 8:55).  Then at Mile 21, the evil antagonist of the story, The Beast of Cramping Calves, arrived to battle the fair maiden on her quest to the finish line.

The fair maiden ran as far as she could while Cramping Calves attacked, until finally she was forced to walk.  The cramps subsided with walking, so the fair maiden spent the next 5 miles alternating walking with running. Eventually, Cramping Quads joined in the battle as well. The 3:55 pace group ran ahead and out of sight.. The fair maiden would not be defeated though.

Rather than spend the last five miles pouting over a failed quest, the fair maiden decided to embark on a different quest: enjoy the final miles as much as possible. After all, the marathon is more than just a race; it's an adventure! She waved to spectators, high-fived little kids, thanked every volunteer and police officer, and encouraged other runners who passed her.  She even enjoyed some beer at Mile 22, and it was oh-so-refreshing!

With only one mile to go, she spotted her Prince Charming, holding this sign, cheering for her. He had constructed it in the short amount of time between finishing his own half marathon (and showering and changing!) and the fair maiden's arrival at her 25-mile mark.  The maiden nearly wept, she was so touched.

A true Prince Charming!

Cramping Calves could no longer hold back the fair maiden on her quest.  She mustered all the strength she could, finishing her quest and slaying the beast on the 50 yard line of the U of I football field.

Beast slain.

The maiden may not have met her original goal, but she still succeeded in finishing her 9th marathon.  And it was her 2nd fastest marathon ever, at 4:09:21.  She also learned a valuable lesson about greed, which she will take with her on future marathon quests.

How not to run a marathon

So the maiden, her prince, and the villagers celebrated the destruction of the beast of Cramping Calves with a hearty feast and refreshing beverages.

And they all ran happily ever after.

Peace. Love. Train.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Marathon Panic Attack Threat Level: Red

Um, guys?  The marathon is three days away. THREE DAYS! Do you know what this means?


It means I can focus on nothing but marathon preparations: planning my marathon gear, checking marathon day weather, planning pre-marathon food, planning mid-marathon food, remembering to bring my shoes, remembering to charge my Garmin, not forgetting to set my alarm on marathon morning, cursing whatever deity decided this spring would be a great time for me to develop seasonal allergies for the first time *cough cough sniffle*, trying to get plenty of sleep, not being able to sleep due to panicking about the marathon, trying to decide whether to run with a pace group, wondering if I trained smart enough, analyzing every mile in my training log, feeling like a sloth because I am running so few miles this week, making a list of everything I need to pack, making a list of everywhere I need to be, making a list of all of my lists, and being generally obsessive.  

*takes deep, cleansing breaths*

*experiences brief moment of calm clarity*

*resumes panicking

CODE RED! CODE RED, PEOPLE! Out of my way! I have to pack my shoes before I forget them!!! 

*runs out of room flinging energy gels and tech socks everywhere*

Peace. Love. Train.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Today, I present you with a list of things I have learned and experienced in my first 6 weeks of training for the Illinois Marathon.  I will even bullet this list to make it seem important.
  • Things almost never go according to plan.
  • I did not include a "Flu Week" in my original training plan.  I was made painfully aware of this oversight.
  • The flu vaccine is less than 50% effective at preventing flu this season.
  • It's very difficult to run when you have a 101° fever, head-to-toe muscle aches, and an overwhelming urge to never ever get out of bed.
  • Never underestimate the healing power of Girl Scout Cookies. Especially the peanut butter ones. And especially the ones that magically materialize in your mailbox thanks to a sneaky and loyal friend (you know who you are).
  • The first post-flu run can make an experienced runner feel like she is just learning to walk.
  • It is possible to come back from illness even stronger than before.
Flu bug nastiness aside, my training for the Illinois Marathon has been going exceptionally well.

Maybe a little too well.

I mean, I know it was my plan to go for another sub-4:00 marathon.  But now that I'm actually training for it, and my training is going even better than my training for Lakefront 2011, I'm starting to get nervous. I'm actually going to have to do this. And it's going to hurt.

The last time I ran a sub-4:00 marathon (and incidentally, the only time), it was a beautiful, crisp fall day in Milwaukee, and everything, I mean everything, was on my side that day. The wind was at my back, the temperature was near perfect, the course was a net downhill (though, to be fair, there was still plenty of uphill).  I had also just been crowned the Bung Queen by Lakefront Brewery the day before the marathon.  Nothing could go wrong. I was Bung Queen, for crying out loud!  I ran the race of my life that day, and it was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done, even in perfect conditions.

But what if the stars and planets don't align this time around? What if it's 80° and pouring rain, or 20° with 25mph wind? What if I'm not crowned the Bung Queen???  What if.... what if.... what if?  Will I be well-trained enough to pull off a sub-4:00 in less-than-ideal conditions?

These are the voices in my head that could spiral out of control if I let them. But there will always be more marathons. Heck, I'm already signed up for a fall marathon.  If Illinois doesn't go according to plan, due to forces beyond my control, I'll pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back to work so I can try again in the fall. That is the beauty of running, and of life in general.

We may get knocked down, but we can always get back up again.

And admit it; now you have that song stuck in your head. You're welcome!

Peace. Love. Train.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Confessions of a Delinquent Blogger

Forgive me Michele, for I have blog-sinned. It has been 84 days since my last blog post. 

My dear friend, and only blog fan Michele (who tries to cheat in 5k races), pointed out to me today that I haven't updated my blog in, like, forever. So I am here to rectify that, and keep Michele from crying over my lack of blog posts.

I tried to tell her that I have nothing interesting to say.  I haven't been running with the FAST group, because it just doesn't fit well with my schedule.  I haven't seriously trained for anything in months. I haven't even run any races at all since October. So what should I talk about?

*scratching head*

Well, I guess I can talk about my future running plans.

My big running news for 2013 is that Marathon Evily is on her way back. I have not seriously raced a marathon since October 2011. I took a year off due to major personal life changes, and I am just now regaining my 2011 fitness levels.  I have now built my running base up to 40 miles per week, consistently, and I feel I am truly ready to begin serious marathon training again.

I am registered for the Illinois Marathon on April 27. And, as of today, I am also registered for the inaugural Naperville Marathon on November 10. That gives me two chances this year to prove my marathon prowess.     I am really hoping at least one of those will be a sub-4:00 victory.

Of course, simply hoping for a sub-4:00 really isn't enough. I'm going to have to work my ass off to get there, just like I did in 2011. My training plan for Illinois is aggressive (for me, at least), and similar in total mileage to my training for Lakefront Marathon 2011.  I figure I may as well start with what worked for me before.

I will peak at about 55 miles per week in this training cycle, barring injury or illness or total burnout. It's scary to think about running that much mileage after a year of barely being able to get in 30 miles per week. But I am in a better place now, mentally and physically, and I feel well-prepared to handle it.

Also, I have new shoes.


There is nothing more motivating than shiny, pretty, colorful, cushy new shoes to run in. I mean, aside from the desire to achieve one's goals, blah blah blah.

So remember, there are three important benefits of marathon training: (1) the satisfaction of achieving one's goals (2) improving one's fitness and performance, and (3) pretty new shoes. Not necessarily in that order.

Peace. Love. Train.