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Archive for the ‘Marathon’ Category

Oh yeah…

So I’m running a marathon this Saturday. To be more specific, I am running the Keyes Peak Trail Marathon in Florence, WI.

It was kind of last minute, but I found out about the race, and Steve and I decided to head up north for our anniversary weekend. I am running the marathon and he is running the 10k. I have never run that far on trails before, so it is sure to be quite the challenge. I am not nervous though, I am doing this for pure enjoyment, with no pressure to go fast at all. I am sure I will be walking some of it, especially if it is really hilly. I know the course will be really beautiful, so I am trying to devise a way to carry my camera, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

My longest run since the marathon on May 1st was this past Friday, when I ran 11.5 miles on the Ice Age Trail in 90 degree heat and humidity. I really did a number on myself by not carrying enough water, and ended up super-dehydrated and sore. Now I am just taking it very easy until Saturday and trying to rest my poor muscles.

It didn’t help that this past Saturday and Sunday I was pretty much sitting all day and didn’t get any change to excercise or move around to flush out my legs. I was attending a course in Green Bay to become a certified running coach. Now I just have to pass the test and you can call me Coach Laura!

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Before I post about how I was able to improve my running enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I thought it would be fun and helpful to give you a history of the previous marathons I have run, from the beginning.

I have been running marathons since 2003. My first one remains one of the most memorable. I raised $4200 for Team in Training, traveled to Alaska, and completed the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage in 4:07:47. Ever since that first race I was hooked. I knew that someday I would break 4 hours, and that was my ultimate goal. My next 3 marathons were all Chicago, in 2003 (4:15:18), 2004 (4:27:10), and 2005 (4:17:00). I really wasn’t getting any closer to the 4 hour mark, in fact I couldn’t even beat the time from my first marathon. I decided it was time to do something different in training. Up until this point, I had never really done speedwork, and I’m sure all of my running was probably done at the same steady (slow) pace.

The next marathon I signed up for was the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee in 2006. I decided this was the year I would break 4 hours. I started using a 3-run-per-week training plan that included one interval run, one tempo run, and one long run per week. I also cross trained twice a week, usually biking. That October I ran a 3:57:03 at Lakefront. I was so happy to have finally accomplished my goal. I ran Chicago again three weeks later and finished in 4:27:20, thus running my fastest and slowest marathon to date in the same month. I considered giving up marathons at this point because I honestly didn’t think any other goals were possible. Yes, maybe I could beat my time, but Boston qualifying or even a 3:50 was so far out of reach I didn’t even consider the possibility.

In 2007 I did not run a marathon. I can’t remember the reasoning, other than I had a friend’s wedding on the date of Chicago, and I just didn’t sign up for anything else. I still ran throughout the year, but nothing longer than probably 6 or 7 miles. I didn’t think I would miss the marathon, but by the end of 2007 I was hungry. I decided that I would run Chicago again in 2008. I also got into triathlon around this time and signed up for my first half-ironman. Running in 2008 was memorable because I ended up training my friend Cammie for her first marathon. We did our long runs together amidst hours and hours of good conversation. I didn’t have any goal for the race other than to run for fun. I finished in 4:10:58, though deep down I knew I had the fitness to run a lot faster than that. Without a goal pushing me it just didn’t happen. I went home feeling a little bit unsatisfied.

In 2009 I heard about the inaugural WI Marathon in May, and decided I would carry over my fitness throughout the winter and go for a PR in the spring. I followed the same 3-run training plan, and I was feeling so good about where I was at that I made my goal for the race not only to PR, but to break 3:50. Though I was on pace for most of the race, my stomach got the best of me and I had a horrible finish. I still PR’d with a 3:56:31, but it was a huge disappointment.

Fall of 2009 was Ironman WI. Though I did not do another fall marathon, I ended the year in the best shape of my life and decided to go for a major PR at the WI Marathon in 2010. As I started training my goal was to break 3:50, but my running was going so well that thoughts of Boston started to creep into my head. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I started to wonder if the impossible had become a possibility. My long runs were on pace and I was feeling great. I knew that if everything came together on May 1st I would be golden. Well things obviously came together and I was able to finish in 3:37:49, good for Boston qualifying and also a huge 18:42 PR. I am still amazed with how far I have come in one year, and next I will try to go into specific detail on how I was able to get faster.

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Warning: This race recap is ridiculously long, sorry.

I always manage to completely stress myself out in the days leading up to a big race. With memories of last year in my mind, I was determined not to get sick, so I started in with the precautionary Airborne tablets on Wednesday. I was completely convinced on Thursday that I was coming down with something. I had a headache and what I swore was the beginning of a sore throat. I was so upset about it that I started dreading the race. This snowballed for the rest of the day, and I was having thoughts like what was I thinking trying to qualify for Boston? It’s too hard, I’ll never make it. I can’t wait until this is all over, etc, etc. I went to bed at 9:30 on Thursday night determined to knock out my non-existent impending illness.

I ended up getting 9 hours of pretty good sleep and woke up Friday morning in a completely different state of mind. I was excited about the race again, though I still couldn’t wait until it was over. I work half-days on Fridays, which worked out well. After work I stopped over at Performance Running Outfitters in Brookfield to pick up my new team jersey. I joined their racing team (sweet!), so the jersey is a really cool perk (see photo below). After that I headed over to REI to look for some new running shorts and pick up some gels. I was originally planning to wear capris for the race, but when I saw that it was going to be in the mid to upper 70’s, I knew shorts were the way to go. I haven’t bought any new running shorts in several years, and the only ones I had that are confortable were either neon green or white with neon green, neither of which would match with my sweet new jersey. I ended up getting these:

Let me tell you that they are the most awesomely comfortable running shorts I have ever owned, and are worth the steep price tag of $38.

After my little shopping trip I headed home for some afternoon relaxation. Unfortunately, I did have a bit of work to finish up at home as well, but I got that done pretty quickly. I got all of my stuff organized for the race, and then it was time for an early dinner. I had a small salad topped with a veggie burger, half of a sweet potato with cottage cheese, and some crackers. I know it sounds random, but it’s the sort of thing I have been eating before all of my long runs, so I knew it would sit well. A little bit later I also had a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin with dark chocolate peanut butter for dessert. Holy yum.

I got into bed a little before 9pm and put on a movie (movies usually have the effect of putting me to sleep unfortunately). Within 20 minutes I was really tired so I turned off the TV and was out. I woke up a few times during the night, but not as much as usual before a race. I woke up at one point wondering how many minutes before my alarm would go off at 4am, and when I looked at the clock it was 3:59. Don’t you just love that?

I got up right away and immediately made a cup of coffee. I had my usual bagel with peanut butter and honey, and then another cup of coffee for good measure. I got dressed and gathered all of my stuff, and before I knew it my friend James was picking me up at 5am. We made the drive down to Kenosha, stopping at a gas station along the way to use the bathroom. We luckily found a free parking lot about three blocks from the start/finish area. I put on my running shoes, then snacked on a banana and 2 big dates (they are nature’s miracle energy food if you ask me). We jogged down to the starting area, and of course by now I had to pee again, so to the port-a-potty line we went. I should mention here that there was a woman announcing over a microphone all sorts of information about the race. She said that after the race there would be brats for the runners or pancakes. This was music to my ears because I love me some pancakes, and brats are really just not my thing. We made out way to the starting line around 6:45 and waited for the start. My plan was to start out holding steady at an 8:15 pace, banking about 7 seconds per mile (overall goal pace was 8:23).

The race started and we were off. The first 6 miles were fast. 7:57, 7:47, 8:02, 8:07, 8:09, 8:10. There was a lot of energy because the half-marathoners were also on the same course. After the first turnaround I started to see some people I knew and waved to them. I took a Hammer gel around mile 6, after which my stomach felt a little weird. All I could do was hope it would hold out, which thankfully it did. Miles 7-12 stayed really consistent. I knew the pace was fast, but I felt great and decided to just hold steady and bank as much time as possible, knowing that I would need it later in the race. 8:05, 8:10, 8:10, 8:04, 8:05, 8:02. Somewhere around here the half-marathoners split off towards the finish line, and the marathoners kept going for the southern portion of the course.

I felt like I was pushing it a little, but I still felt comfortable. I think I took another Hammer gel around the halfway point. The southern portion of the course takes runners all the way to the Illinois border and back. We were headed into the wind here, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. It was also starting to get pretty hot, but I actually don’t mind the heat too much. James and I just kept pushing forward at a consistent pace. I was starting to get tired, but I knew that after the final turnaround we would have the wind at our backs for the rest of the race. Miles 13-18 were 8:17, 8:19, 8:00, 8:14, 8:15, 8:14. By now we had banked over 3 minutes, and I knew I was in good shape for a 3:40 finish. We reached the final turnaround at mile 18.5 or so, and the wind was at our backs. Why is it that when you run into the wind you can really feel it slowing you down, but then when you turn around and have it at your back it feels like there is no wind at all?

Miles 19 and 20 stayed consistent at 8:19 and 8:16, and then things started to slow down. Somewhere in here I took another Hammer gel. By the time I hit mile 21 I was hurting. I was just tired all over, and I knew the last 5 miles were going to be killer. To me miles 21-24 are always the worst. I was in so much pain, and at the same time so close but so far away. 8:25, 8:37, 8:36, 8:28. Somewhere around mile 23-24, my calves started to cramp up. They were really twinging, but luckily it never progressed to a full-blown seizing and I was able to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. With two miles to go I knew I just had to hang on and I would be headed to Boston. I was hurting so so badly and all I wanted to do was stop. I just kept telling myself to push a little longer. This is it, I didn’t work my ass off for four months to come here and lose it in the last two miles. Mile 25 was 8:42. With 1.2 miles to go, I tried to pick it up a little, but I had nothing left. Mile 26 was 8:37. With about 400 meters to go and the finish line in sight, James looked at me and asked if my endorphins were kicking in for the finish. I couldn’t even respond out loud that no, they were not. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3:37:49, and my Garmin had the course measured at 26.45 miles. There were quite a few turns, so that’s not really surprising.

Boston, here I come!

I collected my cheezy finisher’s medal, and DailyMile friend Krista came over and congratulated me (thanks Krista!). I seriously could barely walk over to the water table. I grabbed two bottles of water and a banana and collapsed on the grass. I thanked James for running with me, because seriously, I don’t think I could have pulled that off by myself. He is super-speedy (already qualified for Boston with a smokin’ 3:13:something in Phoenix earlier this year), and I was very grateful to have him pacing me.

After sitting for a while on the grass, I wanted my pancakes, so we headed over to the food tent. That is when I saw a sign that said “runners with food tickets, brats only.” WTF? You are telling me that I just ran a marathon and I can have a free brat, but I have to pay $5 for pancakes?? I was pissed. That’s when James offered to trade me $5 for my food ticket, so I got my pancakes and he got another brat and beer.

After we ate, it was time to make the trek back to the car. Only problem was, I quite literally could not walk. It was as if my hip flexors had been completely deactivated, and I could not lift my legs whatsoever. It was weird, and something that has never happened to me before. I tried walking backwards and sideways, but nothing was helping. I didn’t know how I was going to make it three blocks. I was also shivering, which was making things worse because my muscles were just locking up. James finally had to walk ahead and get the car while I kept inching my way pathetically down the sidewalk.

I didn’t remember to take a finishing picture until we got back to Milwaukee, so here I am outside of my condo:

I pretty much just relaxed and ate for the rest of the day. I was so incredibly dehydrated I probably drank 2 gallons of water, and I was just constantly thirsty. Steve and I went over to James’ place to grill out for dinner. It was really nice out so we ate outside, then indulged in chocolate angel food cake with strawberries and ice cream for dessert. We also had quite a bit of wine, and by the time we got home around midnight I was toast. I crashed hard and this morning I slept in until 9:45! That is a huge feat for me, as I am usually up by 6:30-7:00 even on the weekends. My legs are quite sore today, and stairs are presenting a bit of a problem. I still managed the walk down the street to Trocadero for some delicious brunch, and the rest of the day has been spent relaxing. This week will be a bit of recovery, and then I am going to ramp up into tri training. I think my bike is feeling a little neglected, so hopefully the weather stays nice and I can start racking up some serious mileage.

What a great start to racing season!

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Boston bound!

I did it! I qualified for the Boston Marathon today with a time of 3:37:52 (unofficial). The beginning was great, the middle was great, and everything after mile 21 was pure torture. I am home, showered, and in the process of feeding. Back tomorrow with a full report!

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WI Marathon Eve

At this time tomorrow the race will be over. Months of hard work and ass-busting will have either paid off or not. Simple as that. I am feeling good, confident, ready. I had some moments yesterday where I convinced myself that my goal was out of reach, that I couldn’t do it. I realize now that subconsciously I was sabotaging myself in order to have an excuse if I don’t meet my goal. No excuses, I can do this.

After a great 9 hours (!) of sleep last night, I woke up this morning feeling good and the negative thoughts are gone, pushed completely out of my head. I know I am ready. I have done the work and it is time for the payoff. I am doing the usual pre-race things. You know, hydrating, eating well, obsessively checking the weather. Looks like we may be dealing with some wind, but it is what it is. Other than that it will be a beautiful day for a race. Back tomorrow with results!

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Well I can’t leave my big downer marathon post on the top of the page. I am mentally recovered now, and in a much better place. I am proud of my PR, even though I know I could have done better. Here’s the thing: we can always do better. Whether I smashed my PR or beat it by a measly 30 seconds, there is always room for improvement. I can only move forward from here and set new goals for myself. Warning – this post may be a little random.

For two days following the marathon I debated signing up for the Green Bay Marathon on the 17th. I wanted revenge, redemption, whatever. I wanted my 3:50. Three days after the marathon I came to my senses. It was it a terrible idea. Not only would it have been for the wrong reasons, but I probably would not have even been recovered enough to even run fast. I would have run a terrible race, beat myself up about it, and gone into Ironman training with a negative attitude. No thanks.

I am still sick, mostly in my sinuses. I have been waking up in the morning with a pounding headache and ear pain. Hopefully it is not a sinus infection. I don’t feel terrible any more during the day, so that’s good. I know I said I wasn’t going to run this week, but it was so nice out after work today I just wanted to get out there. I set out for a 5 miler, and 15 minutes in it started raining. I love running in the rain (when it is warm out). My legs felt pretty good, though I could feel some stinging in my quads towards the end.

What I do not love – gnats. There are massive swarms of gnats all around the lakefront. They attack without warning and usually when your mouth is open. Yum! And they end up in places. When I got home, the little buggers were plastered to my face, under my shirt, and even in my sports bra. Delightful.

I wish I never had to hear Brett Favre’s name in the news again. Pathetic dickhole.

I am obsessed with going on a Caribbean cruise later this year (like November), even though there is no way we can possibly afford it. I found a really good deal on a balcony cabin, and lord knows I love a good deal. The problem comes in when the great deal still involves dropping a couple grand. But oh how I long for the beach, the sun, coconuts, pineapples, palm trees, and rum drinks. I get a little giddy just thinking about it.

That is all, carry on…

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WI Marathon Race Report

One day after the WI Marathon, I am pretty much overwhelmed with disappointment. My official time was 3:56:31, and though I should be happy because my goal was just to PR, I am pissed off about things that were out of my control, and I am having my own little pity party up in here.

Let’s start with Friday night before the race. I had an early dinner of chicken and pasta, and as I was relaxing on the couch, I started to get a headache. I decided to just hit the hay around 9pm, and I fell asleep right away. Around 2am I woke up with a sore throat. This has got to be a joke. I drank some water and went back to sleep, until I woke up at 3am. Yep, sore throat. I dozed on and off until I had to get up at 4. I felt groggy and generally crappy. I had my coffee and pre-race breakfast, and tried to put the fact that I was getting sick at the back of my mind. Bear in mind, I do not get sick. Ever. It is very rare, so I couldn’t figure out why this day of all days, my body decided to bring on an illness.

My training buddy James picked me up a little after 5am, and we were off. We arrived at the race and met up with some other friends in the parking lot. I was feeling a little better, probably because of the race excitement, and we snapped some photos. Here I am waiting to use the port-o-john.

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Since it was pretty chilly, James and I decided at the last minute to sport our “Feeling gouda” shirts for the race. Notice my cheesy pose:

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And here are my friends Ben and Maritza ready to take on the half-marathon (don’t know what he’s doing with his pants there):

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We all finished using the facilities and jogged to the race start. Because of our super-awesome shirts, we were allowed to line up in the “cheesy start corral,” which was right in front. This would turn out to backfire slightly, as you will soon see in my split times. Right before the race started, I was excited and feeling pretty good, but I was really worried about my stomach holding up, as it was already feeling a bit off-kilter.

The rest of the story is going to include my mile splits, because they are just so wacky. Here we go…

Mile 1 – 7:48  “Oh Shit!” I actually said that out loud. Waaaay to fast.

Mile 2 – 8:01  Ok, slooooow it down. This is what I meant about starting in the front. We were amongst all of the front-of-the-pack runners (marathon and half-marathon), so it was hard to slow down.

Mile 3 – 8:18  Better…

Mile 4 – 8:42  That’s more like it

Mile 5 – 8:29

Mile 6 – 8:32

Mile 7 – 8:44

Mile 8 – 8:48

Mile 9 – 8:36

Mile 10 – 8:28  Miles 6-10 were really comfortable. I was really happy with the pace, and I was feeling good. It was shortly after this that things started to go downhill.

Mile 11 – 8:30  My stomach was really starting to bother me here. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stomach much more nutrition, so I forced down some Clif Blocks.

Mile 12 – 8:27

Mile 13 – 8:42  Still holding a great pace, but I was starting to feel really sick. We hit the half way point around 1:51 or so, about 3-4 minutes ahead of schedule to run a 3:50. Though I just wanted to PR, a 3:50 was my ultimate goal, and it was in sight.

Mile 14 – 8:36

Mile 15 – 9:00

Mile 16 – 8:51

Mile 17 – 8:44  Here I was toughing it out, but my lower intestine felt as though it was going to explode at any moment. I was also starting to feel a bit dizzy. It felt kind of like I had taken some cold medicine, which I hadn’t.

Mile 18 – 8:57

Mile 19 – 9:41

Mile 20 – 10:45  Here I actually had to stop abruptly and walk. The pain was so sharp, I didn’t even know if I could finish. I waited to use a port-o-potty at the aide station, but there was a guy in there taking forever, so I decided to wait until the next one.

Mile 21 – 11:59  Here was another walking break, and I actually did stop to use the bathroom.

Mile 22 – 9:01  I felt a little better, and got back almost on pace. I didn’t think a 3:50 was still possible, but I figured I would still PR by a few minutes.

Mile 23 – 10:26  Here my stomach problems started up again, and I had to walk for a minute. Now I started to see my PR slipping away. I wanted to cry thinking about how hard I had worked for this, and through some cruel twist of fate, it was being taken away from me.

Mile 24 – 9:18  The last three miles were pure torture. Not only did I have incredible pain in my gut, but by now my legs were just done.

Mile 25 – 9:25

Mile 26 – 8:51 

Mile 26.2 – 2:and change

I think it was just by sheer will and determination that I finished those last 3 miles. I knew at the end that my PR was going to be close, so I just gave it everything I had. So that’s that. I PR’d by 32 seconds, almost collapsed at the finish line, and then wobbled over to collect my cheesy medal.

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I have no finish line/post race photos because I was so sick and shivery I thought I might die. In the aftermath, I am trying to sort through what happened, and it just boils down to the fact that it wasn’t my day. That’s a hard pill to swallow when you have given over 4 months of your life, dedicated to becoming faster, stronger. Never missing a workout, even if it meant running 15 miles on a treadmill because of a blizzard. Going into race week with the utmost confidence that you have done what was necessary, put in the hard work, and that it will pay off. At least I know that it wasn’t for lack of effort. I did everything right, and it wasn’t my day. As awful as I felt during those final miles, I am already beginning to forget the physical pain, to put it behind me. It’s what we as runners have to do. Believe me, if we carried that pain around with us, no one would sign up to do it all over again.

A few times during the race I wondered to myself what I was thinking in signing up for Ironman. I was doubting myself, doubting whether I have what it takes. Today I feel differently. As disappointing as the marathon was, I can’t go back and change it. I can only look forward. I do have what it takes, and I will put in the work. I have to trust that it will pay off, that it will get me to the finish line.

I am still sick today, though feeling slightly better than last night, when I could barely swallow. My legs aren’t that bad (or I should say not as bad as usual after running a marathon), which just confirms in my mind that I could have run faster. I am going to lay off the running this week and use it as recovery, and then it is right back into the swing of things with Ironman training.

And finally, a few thoughts about the WI Marathon itself. Being as it was the inaugural race, I think overall they did a good job with it. The course was very scenic, with much of it run right on the lake shore. The first half of the course was shared between the marathon and the half marathoners, which was nice because there were a lot of people. After the half-marathoners split off towards the finish, things really thinned out. The southern portion was still along the lake, but it reminded me more of running on Lake Drive in Milwaukee. You could see the lake beyond the beautiful houses that lined the streets.

One thing that was promised on the race website was “cheesy course entertainment.” There was not a single bit of entertainment anywhere on the course that I saw. Crowd support was very limited, which was kind of to be expected. Especially at the end of the race, it would have been nice to have more people in downtown Kenosha cheering us on. Also, there was supposed to be a Hammer Gel station at mile 17-18, and unless I am totally blind, it was not there. Not that I wanted Hammer Gel, but it was stated on the website, so I think it should have been there. And finally, the Heed energy drink that they had on the course was disgusting. I understand that they were a sponsor, but I would strongly advise them to try and get Gatorade or something else for next year. Yuck.

So there you have it. I am already considering throwing in a fall marathon after Ironman this year to chase that 3:50, but we’ll see. It might just be too much to mentally handle. One thing at a time, one foot in front of the other.

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