On the Eve of My Second Marathon

Ok, Ok, technically it is not the eve of the marathon…I have two days until the Duke City but I feel like everything I do from here on out is going to effect my performance on Sunday so let’s take a look at where I am at.

After getting over strep throat four weeks ago, I went out and kicked some serious a$$ on my 20 miler.  I averaged a 9:53 and felt pretty decent when I finished…and by decent I mean completely spent but think I will be able to push for the last 6.2 at something close to that pace.

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Now, I know that running race pace for a long run is frowned upon, but I had such a horrific 19 mile run two weeks before that I really needed a confidence booster.  So I did it.  Race pace on my longest run.  And then I decided to not follow conventional wisdom the next week either – 16 miles at 9:30 pace.

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 Yes – a long run at FASTER than race pace, but it gave me the ego boost I needed and made me feel like I was ready to tackle the race.

Then came speed bump number one: Achilles Tendinitis.

While out on an easy 4 mile run two and a half weeks from race day I was stopped in my tracks by a pull in my calf.  I knew right away it was my achilles and it did not feel good.  I hobbled home and rested for a few days, iced, road my bike like a crazy person around town and yes, perhaps cried, because I was again going to have to DNS another marathon I had signed up for just like last fall.

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Circa 1994 Schwinn Mountain Bike that weighs 1,000+lbs. It gets the job done, though.

I immediately went in for an assessment with a PT and it was recommended I get deep tissue massages, rest, ice and take some time to let it heal.  After all, I was two weeks from the race and my training was done – I wouldn’t gain anything by pushing through long painful runs now.  I had two fabulous massages that loosened both my achilles and my bum hamstring that has been bothering me since March and followed the strict PT directives to take it easy and am feeling so much better.  I also went out and bought a new pair of shoes.  About two weeks before the achilles strain happened I switched to a new pair of Mizunos – a type that I had never worn before because they discontinued my current Mizuno line.  I just had an inkling the switch might have something to do with my injury.  The minute I put on the new Brooks Adreneline I felt almost immediate relief.

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Shoes sent from heaven to save my achilles.

They are much more supportive, and while heavier than the Mizunos, I feel like these shoes are going to get me across the finish line.   If you are a runner you know that I am about to commit one of the cardinal sins of running: switching to a brand new brand of shoes days before the marathon.  I know.  I know.  I have run in them for my short taper runs this week and they just feel so good on my achilles.  I have to do it.  Stay tuned for the race report next week when I am either going to be praising Brooks or posting pictures of my blistered and battered feet.  Lets hope for the former.

Speed bump number two: Sickness (again?!!!)

Our household was hit with another round of sickness within a months time. I started with the kids and then, as most moms do, I came down with it right after they got better.  The dreaded cold with congestion in my head and chest.  It caused me to skip my long run three weeks out from the race and couple other runs and suffer through my last long run of 8 miles with all sorts of walk breaks and nose blowing.   After 10 days of complaining and barely running and taking every supplement I could find, I have turned a corner.  Congestion has cleared, I have slept well and I feel like I have my strength back…JUST IN TIME!

Race day in Sunday.  I am monitoring everything I eat from here on out.  I have the world’s most sensitive stomach so nothing but white bagels, plain chicken, potatoes, and oatmeal for the next two days.  I also have some Immodium tablets in the waiting for Sunday morning.  The weather is calling for low of 49, high of 75 with ‘sun and clouds’.  I am super excited about the ‘clouds’ part of the forecast because we don’t get a lot of cloud cover in the Land of Enchcantment and a little shade will be nice on the trail, which is mostly exposed for about 24 of the 26 miles.  I plan to wear a tank top with my new Oiselle Roga shorts (don’t worry. I have tested these out on a couple long runs.  Wasn’t going to make a second cardinal running mistake by wearing new shorts!) which I absolutely love!  I have a pair of knee socks that I cut the feet off to wear as arm warmers for the first couple miles when it is freezing out and then can toss in the garbage when I feel I don’t need them any longer.  I plan to fuel with GU along the way and will pack one bag of honey stinger chews just in case my stomach can’t take another GU after 20 miles.  I have three salt tabs to take each hour to ward off cramping and will take water and powerade along the race course.  The pace plan is to start slow for the first 3 miles at 10:00/miles and then pick it up at four to race pace of 9:45.  There is a particularly hilly part to the course from mile 10 to 14 that I would like to really hold on to race pace, and then if I am feeling good at 14 I plan to push a little faster on the way back (the course is out and back).  This is all  hypothetical of course, because with my last marathon being a total bust (due to mono) I really don’t know how I am going to perform.

Goals:

A: 9:45 pace for the race.  This would translate to a 4:15 completion time.  This is a big stretch, but maybe if the stars align I can get there.

B: Beat my first marathon time by an hour.  This would be a finish time of 4:39 or a 10:15/mile pace.  This may be the most realistic goal.

C: Not walk.  Have fun.  And remember that this is just the start of my marathoning journey, because I already have my eye on some 2015 races.

Happy racing this weekend everyone!

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#342! If you see me on the course give me a shout out! I am certainly going to need every good vibe I can get!

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A La Luz Finisher!

Yesterday I completed what I consider the hardest race I have ever participated in. The La Luz Trail Race.

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The La Luz Trail is a beautiful trail that runs up to the top of the Sandia Mountains – the mountains that border one side of Albuquerque.  I have long thought of the La Luz Trail Race as a right of passage and something I NEED to do as a runner from Albuquerque. This year, I threw caution to the wind and put my name in the lottery even through I rarely ever run trails and had only hiked the trail once before in the 12 years of living in New Mexico. I was lucky enough to be one of 400 people selected to do the race, and so my ‘training’ ensued. With other race commitments and travel plans this summer, I only made the accent up the trail three more times before race day. I did do some extra hill repeats this summer, but not necessarily at the altitude the race runs at.
Yesterday I got up at 5am to run up a mountain. The race begins on a twisty, turn-y, steep Forest Road that leads to the trail, which I was not excited about but now realize that it is a great way to ‘sort out the runners’ before hitting the single track trail.

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I started near the back of the pack because I knew I was going to have to employ a run/walk approach right from the start and I was so pleased to see others doing the same thing. The first few miles on the trail are a slow incline of switch backs and I found myself sticking with a group for awhile until I had an opportunity to pass and catch up to the next pack of runners. By mile 5 (of 9) of the race I had found ‘my people’ – the group running the pace I could keep up with and that helped me keep pushing forward. At around mile 6 the dreaded ‘rockslide’ starts – 7 or 9 switchbacks across loose boulders that you have no choice by to walk across and the trail gets increasingly more steep from here on out.

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This is where the mental toughness starts to kick in. One foot in front of the other. Hike with purpose. Don’t slow down. Just keep moving. I focused my gaze to the persons shoes in front of me and just tried to keep up. As we neared the final turn off at 8 miles, I was really feeling the altitude effects – light headed and my legs were burning and fatigued. Up to this point I hadn’t stopped once on the trail, but found that I had to catch my breath two times before getting to the finish line. This portion of the trail is the more brutal – steep and a set of stairs that just seem like a cruel joke after what you have already gone through.

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I would say this is the portion of the race that I most regret not being familiar with. I had only run the last mile of the race once before and it would have been nice to be a little more familiar with the twists and turns during this section and to be able to judge how much more of the race was left. The second time I stopped was just about 200 feet from the finish, but I didn’t know that until I rounded the corner after I caught my breath.

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This ‘finisher’ picture should be titled, “EXHAUSTED!”

Every race is a learning experience. This race I learned that I am stronger than I thought. I ran about 1:30/min per mile faster than training runs, and in some portions even faster.

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In trail racing, it is nice to be familiar with the race course – probably more important than road racing because the terrain can very so much. If I do this race again, I will do a lot more training runs covering the whole course.

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The shirt only finishers receive. I think I will wear for a week straight.

Up next: preparation for the Duke City Marathon on October 19th. I have two half marathons that I have committed to – the Rio Grande Half next weekend and the Chips and Salsa Half in September. Both these races fit nicely into my training plan for the full marathon and it will be nice to try out my pace for race day and see how it feels.