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Sunday, October 30, 2016

9/2016 Why transitioning to the full marathon has been difficult for me

When I started running half marathons, I told my friends and my coach I had no desire to run full marathons.  It wasn't the distance, or that they required more training time, or that running 26.2 miles at once seemed impossible.  It was just that I love running half marathons.  I love the combination of speed and distance, and I loved that I could basically race one every other month (not that I did) without injury.
However, we all know how it goes.  5ks are the "gateway drug."  Then you're running 10ks.  Then you're running 13.1.  My best friend and coach, Amanda, qualified for Boston in her first marathon.  My great friend and first coach, Terra,  is a former pro triathlete.  She'd never run a full marathon outside of running them in the Ironman distance, and she qualified for Boston in her first full marathon.  If it's true that you're a reflection of the people you spend the most time with, then I'm looking darn good.
I started to crave longer distances.  14 felt good.  Then 15 felt good.  And if I had two close friends who could not only run marathons, but qualify for Boston, then it didn't seem so impossible.  The problem was that I was a pretty decent half marathoner and I kept getting faster.
I registered for my first 26.2 in September of 2015, while I was training for the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon.  I registered for the Glass City Marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston (F18-34, 3:35:00).  When you took my half marathon race times into consideration, this didn't sound like a crazy goal.  A 1:36:36 half marathon (my 2015 Freep time) predicts a 3:23:18 (avg. 7:46) full marathon.  My original plan was to run conservatively and average 8:00/mile.  Training was going great, but I'd never run a full marathon before, so I didn't know how much I didn't know about pushing through when it got tough mentally, or when my legs were exhausted, or when I just wanted to stop.
The hardest part was learning to SLOW DOWN, and it only got harder when I ran a 1:34:30 half marathon a month before my first 26.2.  I was now predicting a 3:18:53 full marathon, and I think I got greedy.  It didn't matter how many times I read that you have to go out slow in the first half of a full marathon; I went out and ran the first half of Glass City averaging 7:30-7:40, because that was the pace my March half marathon predicted I could run.  Needless to say, I crashed halfway through and ended up finishing in 3:34:54.  I still qualified for Boston, but no where NEAR my original goal of 3:23:18, or even my B goal of 3:30:00.  It was the most inconsistent race I've ever run, and I'm a negative split half marathoner through and through.
Even after that experience, I've still had a LOT of trouble slowing myself down.  I went to the Henry Ford Human Performance Clinic, where, after testing, Eric prescribed me slower paces than what I'd been running while training for a half marathon.  Even thought these paces felt right, I still kept pushing, because, in the back of my mind, I was worried I wasn't working hard enough, and because I still had half marathon training in my head.  For example, a long run while training for the 2015 Freep half marathon might have included several 2 mile repeats at 7:20-7:30.  Now, running 8:15 for 18-20 miles seems so slow, and makes me worried that I won't be able to achieve my goal of averaging 8:00 at the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October.  However, I've crashed on some long runs and some speed work lately, and I KNOW the slower paces are right.  I KNOW I'm pushing the faster end of the paces too hard.
Part of the reason I'm having trouble adjusting is also that I've been tossing around two conflicting schools of thought regarding the long run.  On one hand, the goal is to practice race pace and become more economical and running race pace.  On the other hand, YOUR LONG RUN ISN'T YOUR RACE!  The purpose of the long run is to train the body to burn fat, increase aerobic capacity, train the body and mind to keep running past fatigue, etc.  If you run race pace during your entire long run for 18-20 miles, you're going to burn out before race day.
I finally ran long run pace during my 18 last Saturday.  My goal race pace is 8:00; I averaged 8:20.  The result was that I felt GREAT.  No stopping or walking, no pain, negative splits, and finished with gas in the tank.  I'm looking forward to 20 this Saturday.  Sure, I'm still a little worried I won't be able to hit my goal paces at the Freep, but I have to just run where my body is and trust the training and research.  I'm back to running happy, and that's the most important part!

9/2016 Another part of my running story

Freep in Vancouver, BC
I posted this on Facebook at the end of August while promoting my favorite race, the Detroit Free Press Marathon.  Every so often, a conversation, hard run, or something I read will help me tell another part of my running story.  Thanks to Heather of Finding Her Happy Pace for helping me tell this part.

"You're tough. So is Detroit."
So are you running the Detroit Free Press Marathon international 13.1 or 26.2 or what? Registration for international events ends tonight at 11:59 pm. HAPPYLEGS for 10% off registration for all events. In one last ditch attempt to convince you of how cool it is, I'll share another portion of my running story.
I ran in high school. I guess, in retrospect, I was pretty good, but mentally, I was weak. I let an injury turn into an excuse. I didn't run at ALL my senior year. I didn't run my first year of college until I had a serious breakup and felt like I was putting on too much weight and needed to run to get away from it all. I ran sporadically through college. Sometimes I'd take a year off or more at a time. Sometimes I'd train really hard. When I was working two jobs and doing my masters degree, I didn't run for almost three years. Finally, towards the end of the summer of 2013, I was at least 20 pounds overweight. Jason and I went on a cruise and I threw a major tantrum towards the end because I couldn't find a damn thing to wear to dinner. I literally threw shit and screamed.
That's when I FINALLY got it. It took 15 years from the time I first started running to actually feel like I was a REAL runner and like I was committed. For 5 months I did it on my own. Thankfully, I sort of new what I was doing because of my HS experience. Then, for some unknown reason, I signed up for my first Freep half marathon. I still have NO idea what made me think I could run a half marathon when the furthest I'd raced was a 5k. When I signed up for the Freep, I finally started using Run Coach. Best choice I ever made. It didn't matter that I was so much slower than when I was in HS. I finally felt like running was a PART of me and not something I was just doing to loose weight or get over a guy. I can't tell you why.
I share this with you because NOW I'm happy. Happy with my weight, happy in my relationships, happy with my running, and even FAST! But I wasn't always. Not by a long shot. It took a LOT of false starts. But I can easily say that the Detroit Free Press Marathon played a HUGE part in the story that is now my life as a runner.  #happylegshappyheart

7/2016 Speed Work & Once a Runner

I'm almost finished reading John L. Parker, Jr.'s classic, 1978 novel Once A Runner.  It's a must-read novel for anyone who identifies as a runner.  One review describes it as,
Part training manual, part religious tract, part love story, and all about running, Once a Runner is so inspiring it could be banned as a performance-enhancing drug" (Benjamin Cheever, Runner's World).
I've laughed out loud, I've cried, and I've gone into more than one run with renewed love and inspiration.
Tuesdays are my speed work days.  The other day, I read a passage from the book that perfectly described how I feel about speed work:
"An interval workout," Cassidy once explained to a sportswriter, "is the modern distance runner's equivalent of the once popular Iron Maiden, a device as you know used by ancient Truth Seekers."  Although over distance laid the foundation, intervals made the runner racing mean.  Quenton Cassidy liked them.  Others preferred bamboo splinters under their nails.  Cassidy figured that a natural affinity for interval work was the difference between those who liked to race and those who liked to train.  And there is a difference.  Racers express little enchantment with training for its own sake. (Parker, p. 216)
When the intervals get tough, I just think to myself, "Racing mean, baby girl.  Racing mean."

7/8/2016 Deeper Thoughts on Why I Love the Freep

Their is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like the crowd support and atmosphere in this race.  We've run a lot of races in both Detroit and New Orleans.  I was born and raised in NOLA.  You'd think that, given New Orleans' reputation for being a party town, a race in New Orleans would be one giant love fest.  It wasn't.  People there didn't seem to "get" what running a race at ass-o'clock on a Sunday morning was all about.  Here's the reality:  In Detroit, we know it's NOT all one big party.  We know what it's like to be down and out and we know what it's like to fight our way back.  When I run Detroit, I feel like I'm surrounded by people who are ready to go to work.  Not one runner or one spectator is out there half-assing it.  When it comes to crowd support, there's not one dead zone on the course, save the underwater mile.  You never feel like you're alone and, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, there's always some guy on the sidelines ready to pull you out of your own misery.  The Freep takes you through some areas where a lot of people wouldn't think twice about getting out of their cars on your average Sunday afternoon, but on October 16, it's the most beautiful 26.2 miles in the entire world.

4/27/2016 Glass City Marathon Review

On Sunday, I ran my first full marathon, the Glass City Marathon.  26.2 miles and 3:34:54 is a lot to reflect on and decompress from.  I'm extremely proud I finished. I'm proud that I qualified for The Boston Marathon.  I'm proud for sticking it out when it got tough. When you're 13 miles in, and you're normally finished at 13.1, but you have another 13.1 to go, things can look bad. But I did it.
Time for some real talk.  I'm grateful for the people who've said I've inspired them to start working out again or to sign up for their next race, and I want them to know, when things are tough, that this wasn't easy for me.  I stuck to my training. I had the BEST coach (love you, Terrara ♥) you could wish for.  But my legs weren't there on race morning.  I could feel from the start that they were a little tired.  I was so nervous I was shaking.  My head wasn't right. And when I got to the point where the half marathoners went left and I went straight, I was so worried I wouldn't be able to finish.  I kept my goal pace for 10 miles and then I had to slow down.  I knew I could still qualify, but I didn't feel like I normally do when I race.  I normally feel strong, confident, fierce, fast, and tough.  I felt like a total newbie.  I felt like everyone knew I was out there with an unrealistic goal.  People were passing me.  Jason texted me to let me know he had finished and PRed and had safe blood glucose.  Then I was really on my own.  While I wish Geo had finished his race, I was grateful to see him at mile 14.  He told me I WAS finishing this race, and to go ahead of him, so I did.  I needed that. Then, around mile 20, it all went to shit.  I was running in the 9:00s.  EVERYTHING hurt SO BAD. I walked water stations.  I had given up on fueling. People were passing me.  I gave up on qualifying.  I just wanted to finish.  Again, so thankful for my Be Bold Crew family.  Romeo, Amanda, and Julie's cheering gave me enough zip to not walk and to pick up the pace a little.  Bridget got me through the finish chute.  And I saw that I was just under 3:35, the qualifying time for my division.  I knew Jason was at the end and I wouldn't have to worry about anything.  Each one of you gave me the little extra boost I needed to pick it up just a little and get that BQ.
Med tent.  Didn't think it was necessary; glad I went.  My legs hurt so bad that I was in tears.  Again, grateful for the Crew.  Grateful to my runners, Leah and Jason, for sitting there with me the whole time.  Grateful to Geoffrey for staying with me when he hadn't had the day he had planned.  Grateful to Amanda for making sure I was okay.
I didn't have the run I wanted.  I wanted to run my first full marathon strong, confident, and BOLD.  Instead, I felt like I made it through with luck, grace, and sheer force of will.  But I made it. And I'm totally okay with it.  People kept telling me, "Enjoy it! You only run your first marathon once!"  But that's not how I roll.  This was my trial and error marathon.  Now I get to run my favorite race, the Detroit Free Press Marathon with one under my belt, not a newbie, and mentally prepared, on my home turf.  I'll just pretend I planned it this way, because in retrospect, this is awesome.
And I couldn't be more grateful for my sister, Lauren, and Jason, for continually telling me that I inspire them.  To me, I'm just doing something I love, but if it inspires someone to do something positive, that's awesome.  And my friend, Amanda, believed in me so much that she got me my first piece of Boston gear while she was racing there a week ago, long before I toed the starting line. Talk about a good friend.
In the end, I can't wait for Oct. 16. 26.2, here I come, and next time, we dance.
Reposted from Facebook, April 27, 2016

3/5/2016 Running. The Individual, Team Sport.

Be Bold Crew at Rock CF
I don't care if you're an elite Kenyan marathoner or a run-walker training for your first 5k.  Everyone needs a support system.  And my team has recently grown.  I have an AWESOME coach who plans my runs and monitors my progress and problems.  I'm also lucky that my awesome coach also coaches my Mechanics class (strength training, balance, mobility, flexibility), so she oversees all of the physical elements.  I get healthy meals for athletes from Better Woodman LLC.  My new BFF is my sports dietitian.  Because being a lazy ass who eats Easy Mac worked for 13.1, but it's NOT going to get me through a marathon or a BQ.  The sports medicine doctor at the DMC pointed me to the dietitian when my regular doctor said my anemia wasn't bad enough to be causing my exhaustion.  My local running store, RUNdetroit, gets me in the right shoes, gear, and nutrition.  And my runner-friends and husband support me, encourage me, and hold me accountable.  I'm not an elite Kenyan marathoner, but anyone who loves their sport deserves the support necessary to allow them to enjoy it for a lifetime.

2/29/2016 New Freep Post

Check out reason 33 I love the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank marathon.  And if you want to enjoy the awesomeness that is the race, sign up for the 5k, 13.1 (U.S.-only or international), or 26.2 and use code "happylegs" for 10% off.
Saturday was an exciting and humbling run.  20 miles.  On one hand, "the wall" finally found me.  Except I'm pretty sure my wall was actually a gigantic hill.  We're talking a Dante's fourth circle of hell kinda hill.  The Glass City Marathon is supposed to be "flat and fast."  If it's even half as hilly as Higgins Lake, I'll run like a freaking gazelle.  On a positive note, I RAN 20 MILES.  And I'm not incapacitated.  And there are still eight weeks until the race.  I ran 12 of the 20 miles by myself, so I'm looking forward to crowd support.  I'm also finally learning the serious value of mantras.  I never used one when racing 13.1, but "It's mostly in your head" and "No matter how much you have to slow down, just don't stop" really helped yesterday.

2/21/2016 Let's Get This Party Started

I've been wanting to start a blog about running for quite a while.  I actually purchased this domain name back in the beginning of December.  But I'm a little particular and, even after I deemed myself worthy of publishing my personal opinions, I couldn't determine a logical approach to blogging.  Never mind that I know plenty of other runners who blog and do a fantastic job of it (Vegan Road RunnerFinding Her Happy Pace).  Then, after attending our first Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon Race Ambassador meeting, I had the idea to post about why I love the Freep so much.  I FINALLY had the creative prompt I needed to start my blog!  Once I wrote that page, the rest of the ideas started falling into place.  Internet, I present to you yet another website dedicated to running, that mystically joyous and torturous sport beloved by so many in our humble tribe.  If I'm happy in running, I'm generally able to get past the rest of the garbage life throws me.  Happy legs, happy heart.