Thursday, March 27, 2014
This week I feel excited and happy; I can see the light starting to shine at the end of the tunnel! This is the first week that all my runs and Crossfit workouts have felt good. My legs and lungs feel strong and ready! The hills aren't so daunting, though 18 miles will be another story all together. None the less, I feel good heading into the final weeks of training. I feel that my training has done me well thus far, and I can see and feel the results of all the hard work paying off. I'm knocking on wood as I write this, hoping to not jinx myself into muscle fatigue or soreness. Even though I feel ready and excited, I need to remain focused and committed; to continue to put my best effort into the training weeks I have left, and not feel satisfied with where I am now. I have a few more longer runs in sight, and each one will give me an opportunity to try new things to see what will work best for me. My current challenge is the long gap between when I will eat breakfast before being dropped off at the buses to go to the starting line, and when I will actually begin the Marathon. I'm currently used to eating a moderate sized breakfast about 30 to 40 minutes before each of my early morning runs. Being in the last corral, I will have a lot of time before I start, so I need to fuel accordingly. This weekend I will start my long run around 11:00 am, similar to when I will start the Marathon. I will have breakfast early, and then a snack before heading out for my run. I'm hoping the food I choose will sit well in my stomach and fuel me well throughout my run. These last few weeks will be a lot of fine tuning after most of the long, hard work has already been done.
It’s hard to believe that the Marathon is less than four weeks away. Although the training has at times seemed almost endless, it’s rapidly coming to a close. Taper begins in two weeks, and I’m both excited and terrified at the same time. I’ll be happy to have some relief from the nightly runs and the weekend 18 and 20 milers. However, I’m worried that I’ll forget how to run and that my body will somehow be less conditioned after those two light weeks. I know tapering is part of training for a marathon, but it’s been a big source of anxiety for me. I know it will be difficult to change my routine so drastically after 14 weeks of serious mileage. I hope I take the adjustment well. In order to force myself to let go of some of the anxiety and to not be tempted to over train, I’ve booked a last minute trip to Miami the weekend before the race. I’m fairly certain that white sand beaches, poolside drink service and a golden glow will help usher me into taper relaxation. I’m sure this taper anxiety will itself taper, but it’s got me anxious in the mean time!
Friday, March 21, 2014
This past weekend I decided to change up my running route and took a trip to South Boston. While in echo school I lived in Southie for a little over two years. I loved running to the JFK Library and to Castle Island while I was living on L Street. When I trained for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2012, I was working in Boston and did a lot of my training runs in Southie. I usually started where I parked my car, near Andrew Station, and ran throughout the neighborhoods of Southie and along the waterfront.
Despite being relatively flat compared to Newton, I decided I needed a change in scenery, and Southie sounded like as good a place as any. I waited until late morning when the weather cleared, and headed into Andrew station for a two and a half hour run. I ran by all my favorite places, the Harbor walk by Umass Boston, the JKF Library, Carson beach, Castle Island, the cruise port and on and on. I ran by the Harpoon Brewery and up West Broadway. The day before the St. Patrick's Day parade, the streets of Southie were alive with young and old alike, warming up for the next day’s events. I loved being back in the area, and each landmark I passed brought back many happy memories. I fondly remembered running down Summer Street, through what my roommate and I dubbed " the swear out loud wind tunnel", because the wind gets stuck between all the building for a couple hundred yards on a particular section of Summer Street, and it gets so cold and windy in those few hundred yards, that you just can’t help but swear out loud. Luckily no young children were around, but just the thought of it and all the memories of the many times my roommate and I had run that road together brought a smile to my face. I ran by my favorite coffee shop, and went back and got an iced coffee after. It was a great afternoon in one of my favorite parts of the city!
It wasn’t the most challenging run I've done to date, but it was the longest amount of time. I'm glad that despite the impending pressure of all the hills in the Boston Marathon route, I decided to change up my course and enjoy some old familiar spots. That’s probably my favorite aspect of running, I can do it anywhere. I don’t need a gym, an instructor, fancy clothes or anything else. Just me, my shoes, headphones and some good tunes and I'm set. I can take myself anywhere, for as long or as short as I want. I can run hard, with my head down and lungs burning, or I can run slow and enjoy the sights. This past weekend was a little of both, sometimes hitting the pavement hard, other times taking my time and soaking in the sights and sounds of familiar places.
These past eleven weeks of training have been all out, living and breathing marathon-training mode. Everything I've done has revolved around running. Long runs, short runs, sprints, hills, meal planning, sleeping, missing nights out with friends. Everything has been a means to get me across that finish line. I'm glad I took the opportunity last weekend to make my longest run yet feel like less of a chore and more of an experience. After all, that’s what this whole race is all about, the experience, to finish the best I can and enjoy it as I go.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
It took roughly 12 weeks, but it finally happened. On my 18 mile run last Sunday I had my first experience “hitting the wall.” I was surprised how accurate of a description that really was for what I was feeling – it really did feel like I was trying to run through a concrete barrier. I was pushing with all of my might, but I could not penetrate it. My legs were heavy, my arms were sluggish and my head was spinning. It came on so suddenly, and to my horror, I was completely unprepared to address it. I hadn’t eaten enough that morning, I had only brought one Gu with me, and I had no electrolyte replacement. It was my own fault. As frustrating and scary as it was, I am grateful it happened. Training isn’t all about tempo and long runs. It’s also about preparation. If I had spent more time preparing for my long run by eating a balanced breakfast, hydrating well and carrying the proper amount of the energy replacements, I wouldn’t have gotten myself into trouble. I definitely learned a lesson last weekend – I didn’t want to learn it, but I’m glad I did. I’m even more glad that I learned it five weeks before the Marathon and not the day of. Our bodies are amazing machines, and I’m astounded how resilient mine is. I test its limits daily – I don’t nourish it properly, I don’t rest it and then I force it to run as hard as it can for nine miles. Rarely does it ever let me down despite the fact that I don’t take care of it as well as I should. The sad realization that I’ve come to is that I take better care of my Asics than I do my body. I dry them after every run, clean the mud off them, alternate them frequently and change my laces to keep them snug. So why don’t I show the same care to my body? After all, it’s my greatest tool. Good sneakers won’t allow you to run a marathon. A nourished, rested, strong body will. I’ve learned so much about myself in the last 12 weeks, but this may be the most important thing I’ve learned. Take care of yourself. You only get one body – you can’t replace it like a pair of sneakers when it wears out. Be good to it.
Mental toughness is an important part of training for a marathon, and perhaps one of the most valuable benefits from your weekly long runs. Even if you are injured or unable to make your long runs due to other commitments such as work or family, you can prepare your brain for the rigors of the marathon through visualization.
Start by finding a quiet space to sit comfortably. Visualize yourself in the race. Where do you imagine yourself? Which mile marker or aide station did you just pass? How are you feeling?
Then identify any negative thoughts you might have. Write these thoughts in a journal to help you find patterns of negative thoughts like “I always get tired here,” or “My calves always hurt when I run up hills.” Replace all of your negative thoughts/images with positive ones. By thinking, “I’m going to relax while I’m climbing the first half of the hill and then accelerate up the top” and visualizing yourself running the hill, you will have practiced that particular hill dozens of times prior to actual race day. While this may seem like a challenge at first, the mental practice of positive thinking is an incredibly powerful tool.
On the day of the race, harness any nervous energy by reminding yourself that you are prepared. You have created a “blueprint” of the race day with your visualization. Persevere through the tough patches in the race to meet your goal: of finishing, a new PR or smiling the whole way through.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Throughout the last eleven weeks of training, I have incorporated Crossfit training twice a week into my program at Vagabond Crossfit in Easton, where I have been a member for almost two years. Most people have heard of Crossfit at some point or another, but many don’t truly know what it’s all about. In the fitness community, Crossfit is a love it or hate it form of exercise, with it getting some bad press due to injury. While there is certainly a risk of injury, there is a risk of injury with any undertaking of physical activity or sport. Crossfit incorporates all styles of physical fitness; Olympic lifting, gymnastics, running, calisthenics and body weight movements to achieve the goal of overall fitness. Crossfit values ever changing, varied routines over various times, distances and number of repetitions. One thing Crossfit does not encourage is specialization (read me, marathon running!). This is the very reason I continue to Crossfit during my training. I do not lift heavy weights at the moment, but I do lift weights quickly to increase my heart rate. I find the variation in the Crossfit workouts keeps my body guessing, and allows me to push beyond the steady state of my long runs. I also enjoy the mental break from my long runs. While at Crossfit, someone else tells me what to do and I only have so much time to complete a certain task, or I have a task that I need to complete as quickly as possible. This helps break up the week mentally and is a great physical challenge!
Two weeks ago, the Crossfit Open’s began, and to many in the Crossfit world it was like Christmas morning. The Crossfit Open is a series of five workouts, released over five weeks that anyone in the world can participate in. Each workout is judged and given a score based on the amount of work completed, or the time the work is completed in. The results are logged and ranked, with each person competing to be among the top in their region by age and gender. Statistically speaking, most people will not make it out of the opens into regional competition or further to the Crossfit games. Still thousands of people all over the world compete in the Opens to see where they stack up, or just to see how well they’ve improved from last year.
Each Saturday for these five weeks, my Crossfit gym organizes heats to allow members to complete the workout. This is probably the best time of the year to be a part of a Crossfit gym like mine because during each Opens workout, the gym comes alive and becomes so much more than a gym. It becomes a place of personal records, a place of triumph, and a place to try again after a workout didn't go as planned. It becomes a place that families come to watch their loved one compete, children come to watch their parents and everyone cheers for one another. The last two weekends I have gone to watch, and each time I leave more and more impressed and inspired by my friends. It’s for this community and the motivation they provide to one another that I continue to be a part of it even though I'm not doing the Opens myself. I know they'll be right there next to me pushing me beyond my comfort zone in classes during the week. Even when I'm out on the road, I have the voices of my coaches in my head telling me to "get better!!" while I'm running miles on end these days. Their enthusiasm carries over in me and has helped in countless training runs, sprint sessions and sometimes the hardest task of all, getting out of bed. I feel fortunate to have this group of people to help me achieve this goal of mine, and even though they won’t be running those 26.2 miles with me, they'll be by my side the whole way.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
March 10 – Six weeks till race day.
As March rolls in, it reminds us that April is next month and the 2014 Boston Marathon will soon be upon us. Six weeks to go, the final stretch is coming! You are in the midst of doing some of the longer runs in your training regimen. Preparation is key to staying healthy and having a successful Marathon. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Think about your footwear: Your running shoes are generally built to last about 400-500 miles of running. That means the shoes you started your training with should not be the ones you run with in the Marathon. Logging how much distance you have put on each pair of shoes can be helpful. The stability and cushioning that the shoe provides can degrade before showing obvious outward signs of wear. Try not to get to the end of life of one pair of shoes and then move to another; instead break in a new pair while still using the old pair by alternating runs.
Stick to your training plan: This will help you get to your goal of finishing April 21, but will also reduce your risk of injury along the way. Generally, we would not want to exceed a 10% increase of total weekly mileage. Most training plans keep this ‘rule’ in mind. So, even if you feel like you could keep running longer, you’re better off sticking to your planned mileage.
Practice your race day routine: While you are thinking more about adding miles as we get closer to race day, don’t forget to think of the other big things that go into running a successful marathon. Make sure you plan for what types of foods you will eat the day of and night before; what clothes you will be wearing; and other things you might need like sunscreen, sports lube, band aids, etc. The day of the Marathon is not the time to try something new. Taking the time to figure out what works for you is important and will make everything go smoother!
Don’t ignore pain: With all the training and miles you are doing, sometimes pain or discomfort can be part of the process. If this is getting in the way of your training or preventing you from running, go see a medical professional. Factors that are associated with having pain with running include running every day without a break, weekly mileage over 40 and having a history of previous injury. The sooner the better, especially at this point! Most of the time some advice or small changes in your training can make a big difference.