Welcome to Taper Town!

I did my last really long run yesterday so I have official begun my taper!  This weekend I have “just” a half marathon (when did 13 miles become “short”??), followed by 12, 10, 10, and MCM!

I was a little fretful after my 20 miler two weeks ago. My pace wasn’t great and I wound up with a 15:39 average.  I need to maintain at least 16 minutes per mile in order to make it past the two time checks.  I wasn’t thrilled with just a 21 second cushion.  I thought that the 20 would be an ideal indicator of my marathon time as it was a pretty flat course and there was course support.  I was expecting yesterday’s run to be even slower.  It was a hillier course and I would have no extra support.  Plus I was solo and couldn’t have music for parts of it due to safety concerns (busy road, no sidewalks).

I started at 7 am and the weather was just perfect. In fact, I was actually chilly at times.  That’s almost unheard of for me.  I was worried about the return loop because I wouldn’t have any shade for about 7 miles but it wound up being partly cloudy by that point so it wasn’t an issue.  I was able to run from my house to a local rec center, along a trail, and then to the lake that I run on a fairly regular basis and back again.  I stopped at the bathrooms at the lake to refill my Camelbak and I carried most of my food in my new Roo pocket (but my Bonk Breaker had to ride in the pack – too big).

I didn’t walk except to eat and I kept it to the bare minimum.  I also tried very hard to keep my pace to an even 12 minute mile at all times.  My over-all pace wound up being  13:26!  I couldn’t believe how much faster I was!  So, what happened?

  • I did not let myself go out too fast.  I know at the 20 miler that I was close to 10 minute miles for the first three miles.  The hills on the route yesterday helped slow me down.
  • I didn’t let myself walk too long and stiffen up.  I often become a bit despondent at mile 15 and just want to walk it all but this time I kept going.
  • I knew the course.  I knew exactly what was coming and when and that was a huge help for me, mentally.
  • My fuel was spot on.  I ate “Pumpkin mash” 30 minutes before the run and then alternated my food so I had a little bit every three miles after mile 6.  I have a long wait before MCM so I’m not sure what I’ll do on that one.  I might have the mash in the hotel room before I leave and then have banana and almond butter at the start.
  • I had plenty of water at all times.  I went dry a couple of times at the 20 miler.  I’m so sweaty, I need to make sure I stay fully hydrated and stop at all of the water stations (I skipped 3 last time.  Bad runner!)
  • The weather was perfect!  I can’t control this one but I am a bit of a shrinking flower in the heat and full sun.  I will remember my visor for MCM. A partly cloudy day would be perfect.

Other stuff I noticed:

  • I purchased a new pair of Belega socks and still got blisters on the tip of my second toes.  I even used tons of Body Glide on them.   I don’t know.
  • I put a little dab of Body Glide at the outside corner of each eye and they didn’t sting at all.
  • The Roo pocket chafed just a bit.  There is a (pretty useless) piece of velcro that requires you to line up the tiny squares just so or else the scratchy hook side is rubbing on your skin.  I think I will just remove it.
  • I immediately ate a cup of Trader Joe’s whole fat Greek yogurt with mango and apricot, half a bag of plantain chips, and a glass of electrolyte water as soon as I returned home and I didn’t feel at all sick later in the day.  The protein/carb ratio worked well for me.
  • I took a super cold ice bath and then strolled around Target for an hour or so with Little Runner and my legs feel pretty good today.

I know I’ll still be plagued by self doubt but, over all, I’m feeling much more confident about the end of the month.  I won’t be setting any world records but I will finish and I will do it in a way that is best for me.

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Weekend Update

A little smorgasbord of this and that:

  • My plantar fasciitis is still being a pain in the foot.  I skipped my Friday run but went out Saturday with not too awful pain.  Sunday was bad enough to affect my gait so I skipped that, too.  I’m now wearing my faux Crocs at all times (other than at work) and that is helping.  You know it’s bad when I’m willing to wear those monstrosities!
  • I ran with some of my obstacle course friends on Saturday and had a lovely time!  We ran around a local lake and half of us did a little extra portion that had a nice, Iwo Jima-ish hill before the turn around.  You know what I was visualizing the whole way up!  The weather was perfect and we were able to do 7.5 miles at a 11 minute pace.  The first time I ran that route in the spring, I honestly thought I would die and/or throw up.  Forget talking, I needed that air just to breathe!  This time I was chatting up a storm and felt like I worked but was not whipped.  It is amazing what constant persistence can do!  
  • Related to the run, we all went for coffee afterwards.  It’s great to be around like-minded people who are as warped as you!  It was some of the funniest, and inappropriate, conversations I’ve had in some time!
  • Sunday was no run but we did tromp around a local farm for 3+ hours with mud, hay, etc.  I even did the rope swing a few times and climbed some things! 
Ropeswing
Me, Jane!
  • MCM has announced a ban on Camelbaks.  Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth!  I had ordered a Roo Sport Pocket earlier in the week, before the announcement was made.  I’m hoping it will be big enough to hold my fuel.  I also plan on having my friends and family all have bottles of electrolyte water that they can pass out to me.  I jokingly (kind of) told my husband that I would put very large yellow Xs on the sidewalks so he would hit his marks!
  • I’m about 80% certain that this is going to happen.
  • In case you missed it, I’m holding a little fuel sampler give-away on Facebook.  It ends on 9/27/13 so don’t wait too long!

 

Pain in the PF

I’ve been trying to hide a little secret for a bit but it is becoming impossible. I am currently battling a nagging case of plantar fasciitis. It started a few weeks ago with just a mild pain in my heel. I was worried about my long run last week but, while it was sore at first, it settled down and I was able to finish without too much pain. I think the ice bath and compression socks after helped a great deal. On Tuesday, I wore a new pair of minimal shoes to kickboxing and TRX, hoping to improve my stability. Three steps into the warm up run and it was back in full force! I stupidly pushed on but I could hardly walk the next day. My day job gives me access to clinical medicine databases so I decided to play armchair doctor (don’t do this!).

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV. Do not follow my half-assery in lieu of seeking professional medical advice.

The course of treatment, according to MDConsult, is RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), stretching, orthotics, night splint, then more aggressive interventions if it doesn’t resolve after 6 weeks. The stretches are:
– Heel raises performed on the edge of a stair
– Toe-only and heel-only walking, forward and backwards
– Rolling a vegetable can on the floor under the arch of the foot

I’ve heard people using a frozen water bottle as a roller so I opted for that approach. I also found some more stretches at Runner’s World that I like. The fascia release is especially effective. I’m also foam rolling my calves because there some talk of tight calf muscles being a contributing factor.

I am now stretching and icing religiously and wearing my Tevas for work. Im also not going barefoot at home. The pain yesterday was much more manageable.

What does this mean for my running? As long as the pain is moderate, I plan to continue on. I am doing just five miles on Saturday and my long run on Sunday will be broken into two runs and done on the treadmill for less impact. I hope to resume my outside schedule next week.

Have you ever had plantar fasciitis? How long did it take you to recover?

Plantar Fasciitis. Clinical Topic. MD Consult Web site, available at: http://www.mdconsult.com.proxygw.wrlc.org/das/pdxmd/body/424904200-3/1476168865?type=med&eid=9-u1.0-_1_mt_1010016 Updated July 31, 2013. Accessed September 20, 2013.

Penguin Post-Mortem

I need to do a post-mortem on Sunday’s race so I don’t forget what I learned!

The Good

I think I handled my fueling well.  I wound up taking something every 3 miles but that did fall apart a bit in the end because, I swear I’m not making this up, I could no longer divide by 3.  I took four of my fuel options (2 Huma gels and a whole Bonk Breaker) plus two root beer barrel candies when my mouth was dry towards the end.  I did not eat anything before the start but I don’t think that was a problem.  There was a time when I wanted some honey but I just didn’t feel like messing around with getting it from my pack.

I wound up using my Camelbak because I was carrying so much fuel and I decided to half fill it with EFS.  I used it all and sucked it DRY, even with taking two cups of water at eight of the ten aid stations.  For MCM, I will use the whole pack, just to be safe.

I had a small carton of chocolate milk and an applesauce squeezer waiting for me in my gear bag.  I quickly downed both within minutes of stopping – plus a bagel, two small bags of sour cream and onion chips, and a cookie about twenty minutes later at the finish area.  I did not feel sick later that day.

I took a half-assed ice bath and wore compression socks immediately upon returning home.

Image
You use what you have!

I also made my family take me out to dinner 🙂  My legs were sore but more stiff than pain.  I did not get blisters on my toes so that problem was definitely a sock issue.

The Bad

I found two new areas for chaffing 😦 Under my arms where the edge of my shirt was rubbing.  Random!

I had problems with salt stinging my eyes and I had to be careful not to wipe them so that I didn’t scratch up the skin around them. I will bring a small, wet cloth with me to MCM in case I need it.

I will have a longer wait at the start at MCM so I need to remember to bring food and a throw away bottle with me.  I forgot on Sunday and wound up dipping into my water pack a bit.

My pace was terribly inconsistent.  I started out at 11:30 for the first 10K, then 12:30 until the half, and then it all went to hell.  I wound up with a 13:39 average pace.  Need to work on this!!  I need to be 100% positive that I can stay below a 14 min. average pace in order to “beat the bridge” and avoid the course sweep.  Twenty seconds is not a comfortable cushion for me.

Hope

The course was packed dirt for most but some looser gravel in parts.  It was also a false flat on the second half.  I desperately hope that both of those things contributed to my pacing problem.  I will do one more 19 miler in two weeks.  I plan to do it on a fully paved surface that has normal, smaller hills that I can accurately judge.

40 more days!

Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler

Yesterday I ran the Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler.  It is billed as a low key race that is really a training opportunity for the Marathon Charity Cooperation members.  The focus of MCC is to support charity runners who are raising money for underprivileged children.  They have an organized training group and a couple of events during the training cycle.  Sunday’s was for those who are prepping for fall marathons, mostly Marine Corp.  They offered a ten mile course and a twenty mile course option that was held along the the section of the  C&O Towpath around Carderock, MD.   (Until just now, I had no idea that the towpath is almost 185 miles long!)

Registration, Packet Pickup, SWAG

Registration was $54 and we received a $25 gift certificate to Potomac Runners store if we carpooled so it was an extremely inexpensive event.  Registration was a breeze but the event was not highly publicized.  Luckily, someone who ran it last year clued me in so I was able to get in before the SWAG cut off.  The first 250 registrants received a nice wind jacket with their little penguin logo on the front.  It’s nice to have a change from the usual shirt.  The race began at 8 am.  Packet pick-up was available the day before but you could not get your timing chip until the day of and we had to be there by 7:00 if we were carpooling so I think most everyone waited to pick up their things.  It was a pretty uneventful pickup, other than me losing my timing chip in the grass!  Thankfully, I found it before the start.  It was pretty chilly while waiting for the start – I’m not sure of the temp but I could see my breath – but I knew that the sun would be in full force so I savored the feeling.

The Race

A total of 305 runners were present for the race – 108 did 10 miles and 197 completed 20.  We had a joint start, self seeded.  I was with a woman who was pushing a stroller so we were at the far back, which was fine with me.  The course consisted of two out and backs.  The first was out 1.5 miles and then back to the start and then out in the other direction 8.5 and back to the start/finish.  It was all along the packed dirt tow path with some gravely spots.  We had the canal on one side the entire time and some glimpses of the Potomac River through the foliage on the other.  It was extremely pretty!  I wish I had gotten pictures but I didn’t feel like messing around with my phone.  Quite a bit of the course was shaded (except for a few miles towards the end of the second loop) and it wasn’t too uncomfortable, weather-wise.  The best part was seeing the old wood and stone locks.  Very cool!  The course was entirely flat, except at a few of the locks where there were short hills.  The course was open to regular use and the bikers whizzing by were annoying at the end but it wasn’t too bad.

Course Support

There were five aid tables that we hit a total of 10 times.  Each one offered water and Gatorade.  The water was even cold for me, bringing up the back.  It was greatly appreciated!  There were bottles of water right at the finish line but we had to walk back to the park pavilion for the food.  They had pizza, bagels, chips, cookies.  I think there was fruit earlier but that was gone by the time I arrived.  The food was good and plentiful.

The nature of this course did not lend itself to spectators.  It was a bit lonely around mile 16 but some of the bikers and runners coming from the other direction shouted out encouragement.  Again,  greatly appreciated!  There were also two (maybe three) volunteer bikers who were doing regular sweeps and they would shout out encouragements as they passed me.

Overall

This was an excellent training run.  The event was well organized and supported.  My only quibble is they were over by about .5 miles according to my Garmin.  Several others reported the same discrepancy.  I give this race an A-.  I would definitely do it again.

Pros

Super friendly, low key environment

Great course support

Inexpensive

Nice warm up jacket

Cons

Late start. Not starting until 8 and being a slow runner means you lose your entire day.

The course mileage wasn’t accurate

Only one set of port-a-potties at one of the locks – but plenty of nature…

I wore my MCM training shirt, capris, and a newer pair of wool socks.  I was a bit hot at the end and was kind of wishing I had worn a tank and arm warmers.  I did not get the odd blister on my toe so my old woolies are the problem 😦  I guess I know what I will be using my gift certificate to purchase!  Thankfully, I grabbed my visor at the last minute.  We were in shade a lot so wearing sun glasses wouldn’t have worked for me but I definitely needed the visor when were in the sun portion.

I also wore my Camelbak to hold my fuel and some extra water.  I only filled it half-way and wished I had filled it completely.  As much as I hate it, I think I’ll have to wear it for MCM.  Even through I was drinking two glasses of water at the later aid stations, I was still feeling dry.

The Long Run

Sunday will be my longest training run.  20 MILES!  When I started training, I thought this weekend would never arrive and now I can’t believe how quickly the time sped by!  Of course, I feel like I’m not ready – I always feel that way – but I am doing what I can to make this a smart dress rehearsal for the marathon.  Here is my game plan for the day:

This run will be supported as it is part of the Marathon Charity Cooperation’s Revenge of the Penguins run (so named for us back of the packers who wouldn’t be able to finish in the old time limits that used to exist – they now provide support until the last runner is done).  It’s an out-and-back with five aid stations of water and Gatorade plus medical support.  I will not run with my Camelbak as I hope to not use it for the marathon but I will have my Simple Hydration bottle filled with EFS.  I will carry with me one Bonk Breaker, a packet of honey, and 3 Huma Gels.  l will  cut the Bonk Breaker into four chunks and eat two at a time.  I plan to start fueling in 30 minute intervals.  I’ll start with a gel, then 1/2 of the BB, then honey, then repeat.

The night before, we are having dinner with my husband’s coworkers so I don’t know what is in store there.  I plan to eat as clean as I can and then have a sweet potato when we return home.  No Drinking!  On Sunday, I need to meet my carpool people at 6:15 to be at the race site by 7:00 for an 8:00 start.  This is perfect for my marathon timing practice!  Breakfast will be a serving of my Paleo Porridge and a cup of coffee. I have been drinking two liters of water a day this week and I plan to drink a gallon on Saturday.  I will also have a throw-away bottle of water to drink before the start.  I will also have something small to eat while waiting to start but I haven’t decided on what. 

The weather is scheduled to be seasonable (a nice change from the we are currently experiencing) so I should be fine in just a short sleeve shirt and my capris.  I will wear a pair of wool socks that I haven’t worn much to see if that helps with my weird toe blister. 

My goal is to stick to a steady 12 minute pace.  I will set my Garmin to beep if I go over 12:20.  I am trying for no beeps!

So, that’s it!  I think I am as prepared as I can be!  Now I can’t wait for Sunday 🙂

True

 

Lessons Learned

I had my second mud/obstacle race this past weekend (full report pending).  I had a lot of fun, more so than the first one, but I think a lot of it had to do with my awesome team.  While it wasn’t perfect, I did some things better this time and learned even more for next.

What I Did Well

Instead of using my sports glasses, which distorted my vision last time and made it difficult for me to track quick movements, I used  a Croakies retainer on my regular workout glasses.  My glasses didn’t budge once and I didn’t have any problems on the multi-level terrain.

I relaxed and had fun, even when I blew the first obstacle and tore up my hands (which made some of the wall obstacles impossible).  I didn’t beat myself up too much – okay, I did cry for a minute after it happened but I moved on and didn’t let it ruin the race.

I pushed as hard as I could.  There was one obstacle called the Spider Wall which was a multi-level climbing wall over a pit of water (unknown depth).  I was able to complete it even though it hurt like crazy and, apparently, I’m a touch afraid of heights.  I had to really push myself to move my hands down from the higher hand holds so I could move my feet to descend on the other side of the water hazard.  It was a mental and physical challenge for me and I’m proud to say I did it.

Spider Wall - I had to cross towards the camera and the last handhold almost did me in
Spider Wall – I had to cross towards the camera and the last handhold almost did me in

What I Need to Improve

Core, balance, arm strength.  Man, even though I’ve been working on these areas, it is very clear that I have a LONG way to go.  Our team wants to do the Spartan Trifecta next year so I really need to step up my game!

Hydration.  I drank at the aid stations on the course but I didn’t have my water bottle with me at the finish and there was no water to be found.  I did have a (large) beer but I was definitely a bit dehydrated.  I downed a large glass of apple juice as soon as I could but it was too little, too late.  I should never assume that there will be water at the finish.  I should also keep a throw-away bottle with me at the start.  It’s not a good thing to feel thirsty at the start.

Post-race nutrition.  I attended a birthday party with Little Runner and then a neighborhood movie party that afternoon and evening and I ate items that were very much off my plan (plus, had another drink and a jell-o shot).  I paid DEARLY for it the next day.  Between my hands, my head, and my stomach, my long run for Sunday did not happen.  I now need to play catch-up on my miles.

This was my last organized obstacle event for this year and that’s probably a good thing.  I would like to continue my training on the local course since it’s great cross-training but I don’t want to tempt the fate of a broken something or other this close to GO time.  46 days…

Doldrums

How are my fellow fall marathoners doing?  I don’t know about you, but I’m hitting the doldrums.  I know there is a lot of work ahead of me but I feel like I’ve lost my breeze.

ImageI’m starting to feel pretty tired almost all of the time, my sleep is less than optimal – even on heavy workout days, and new pains and niggles are popping up.  I have two “new mileage” runs yet ahead – 19 this weekend and then 20 next – and then I start cycling down to the Big Day.  Almost exactly 52 days from now, I will be crossing my first marathon finish line!

Thankfully, I planned for this low point so I have some nice “carrots” waiting for me.  My 20 miler will be basically a very large training run with support (no Camelbak! Whoot!) and then I have some fun races all ready to go.  They are almost every other week but I really need that race energy to help me through the back half of the training plan.  While I do plan to test my pacing strategy at the half marathon 3 weeks before MCM, I am just looking to cruise the Army Ten Miler.  I’ll be sure to stay in the last corral for that one  🙂

In the meantime, I’m trying to take better care of myself.  I’m bumping up my chiro appointments to every other week (and not with the quack who I think misdiagnosed a rib problem last weekend), trying to be more mindful of my nutrition and hydration needs, focusing on stretching more, and I’m seriously considering a sports massage for after my longest run (even though I have “issues” when it comes to massages).  I also have one more “treat” in mind but I’m not ready to share it yet…

How about you? Do you find the second half a training plan to be more difficult?  How do you keep your focus, especially with a longer schedule?