Friday, October 30, 2009

I can eat anything I want, and I choose...

Brussel sprouts? That's right, Mom. Brussel sprouts.

It dawned on me tonight, when I was deciding what I was going to have for dinner, that something about me has fundamentally changed over the last 5 years. That I have become what could be described as addicted to running is obvious if you've read any of my posts over the last few months. But what really snuck up and bit me tonight, was the fact that I actually crave good food. I always believed that people that said they were craving butternut squash or a radicchio salad were full of crap. Who craves that kind of stuff? I was convinced that they were just a bunch of liars because real people craved deep-dish pizza, Snickers bars and Krispy Kreme Donuts.

In fact, my junk food crackhead ways were so fundamental to my persona that I used to take great pride in (perhaps even flaunt?) my sugary, anti-leafy-green habits. This was all personal choice, of course, and it started at a young age despite my Mother's best attempts at forcing green shizzle down my throat. I became very adept at faking a cough into my napkin thus masking my regurgitation of green beans which would later be flushed down the toilet post-meal. My favorite childhood snacks were frozen pizzas and a 1/4 brick of cheddar cheese melted in the microwave and glopped atop saltine crackers. Mmmmm.

I may have reached an all-time low when I had my Mom ship boxes full of Chef Boyardee Sir Chomps-a-lot bite size canned raviolis to me while I was stationed in Germany because I was having trouble finding good (junk) food there. Yowza.

I initially took up running with a goal to complete a half marathon, but I can't lie and say that the thought of shedding a few pounds from my then 143-lb lard butt didn't have me secretly trembling with excitement. While I am nearly 20 lbs lighter now, that didn't come off quickly with the addition of running to my life. I started out like so many newbie exercisers/runners thinking that I was burning so many calories that I could eat even more junk. No surprise that I lost only 10 lbs over the next 4 years even though I was running 90-100 miles per week at the height of my marathon training.

The truth is, I can't eat anything I want if that anything is chocolate covered snickers pie and canned ravioli. As I've said before, achieving my lofty athletic goals requires discipline in many areas of my life with nutrition being at the top of the list. This article in Running Times describes the different relationship that African runners have with food compared to Westerners. They view it as sustenance in the very literal sense of the word: no emotion attached. Mike Kibe, a Kenyan runner interviewed in the article says it this way, "nothing is bad when you eat it with discipline...we eat to help our training not like there's no tomorrow."

I can't say whether forcing myself to cut out the crap and embrace good foods created the shift in what I find in my feed bag today, or whether the demands of hard training created a craving for these foods in my body. While it might just be a chicken and egg dealio, I can't deny that the cravings I have for foods like squash, brussel sprouts and mache are very real.

This post should give parents of junk-food-craving kids some hope, though it may take 42 years for them to finally swallow their beans.

Guten appetit!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Marathon Lessons 12-15: Marine Corps Marathon Style

I know others have said this before me, but it is certainly true that you learn something new from every marathon that you run. The Marine Corps Marathon was my 15th marathon race in less than 5 years, and it was novel in a couple of ways that add to its value for learning. So, I offer the following lessons as an addendum to my 10 lessons learned following my Twin Cities Marathon race a little over 3 weeks ago. I added number 11 in another post.

12. Try something unconventional. Certainly, running two marathons in 3 weeks is unconventional, but racing two marathons hard might be seen by some as a recipe for disaster. No doubt, some people were predicting all kinds of nasty outcomes for me. This was the quickest turnaround I had ever attempted for two marathons, so I was viewing it as an experiment. I have said before that I don't let fear rule my world in running or in life. With running, this means that I don't let the fear of potential injury limit how high I push my mileage or, in this case, deter me from running two marathons within 3 weeks of each other. I also don't let the fear of potentially being attacked by a psycho while running alone limit when or where I train. These are, of course, calculated risks I take. If something bad happens, then something bad happens, but I will always give it a try just to see. Whether things do or don't work out, well I've learned something new either way. I think this lesson applies to everyone from the beginner to the seasoned runner. You can always try something new and learn from it whether it's wearing a sweet terry cloth headband for the first time in a race to keep the sweat out of your eyes or running over 120 miles per week in your training. Take a risk!

13. When in doubt, surge. I have received a lot of feedback about the situation I faced with my Ethiopian shadow over the last 3.5 miles at MCM. I now believe that there was little I could have done to win that race. Gurmu was out for a stroll that day and had been told to just sit on the leader, whomever that might be, until the last 1/4 mile and then kick it in. She was running the race as a favor to her coach who had been in the Army and wanted her to win there. I do think that I could have given her more of a run for her money, however, had I sped up rather than slowed down when I passed her. I had lots of energy still at that point and needed to mess with her mind. By slowing the pace, I was playing to her strengths. I had the upper hand in terms of surprise, clearly based on her reaction to my Forrest-Gump-like appearance next to her at mile 22.5. I wonder how the race may have played out if I had kept pushing the pace. By the way, the woman she drafted off of for the first 22 miles dropped out of the race right after I passed her. She was worn out, and I can see why! Having someone tailing you for the entire race like that has a psychological effect to be sure.

14. Don't let small children put lids on your coffee cup. While I hate to disappoint, I am not invincible. I have come down with a cold. I am convinced that the germs originated on a coffee cup lid that was given to me by a small vector, I mean child at the Amtrak Train Station in Emeryville, CA last week before the marathon. I ordered my coffee and was stirring in my sugar when a little girl who was being super helpful walked over chewing on a coffee cup lid and handed it to me. The smile on her little face was so huge because she knew she was being very helpful. I tried to think of clever ways to get out of putting the slobbery lid on my drink, but I just didn't have the heart to turn her away. I took the lid knowing that I would likely get sick soon thereafter, and I did. Luckily, it didn't kick in until after the race.

15. Listen to your coach. I have stated before in my blog that I am blessed to have a super coach that is both supportive and not afraid to dish out the tough love (in a very nice way, of course). She understands that ambitious runners like me (and her too I might point out) tend to push so hard that we can lose focus on what's best for us in the achievement of our goals. I sent an e-mail to her today with a suggestion that I run the half marathon in a couple of weeks as a race rather than a workout as my training plan currently suggests. I got a very wise response from her suggesting this might not be the best plan. She reminded me that I have bigger goals than placing one place higher in an age-graded race series. I want to try to qualify for the Olympic Trials 6 months from now. Most importantly, she reminded me that what I do now will have either a positive or negative impact on how I perform then. That right there was the reminder that I needed--the long view. I know that I forget to think about the toll that continuous training and racing takes on my body. The kicker is that you generally don't see the effects of overtraining right away. It plays out little by little until, wham! One day, you can't run without pain or you're feeling tired all of the time. I am lucky that I can push myself pretty hard and still perform well, but I need to perform at my peak in 6 months. So, tracking back to lesson number 12, it's fine to take risks, but don't lose sight of your end goal. I will rest and make sure that my body is 100% for my spring marathon attempt at the Olympic Trials marathon qualifier.

I think that's enough learning for now, friends. I am looking for suggestions for that spring marathon, by the way, in case you have thoughts you'd like to send my way.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Now, that was an effin' race!

I'm still a little giddy right now and slightly confused by what has transpired over the last 24 hours. I'm not sure I could have ever imagined it, honestly. And, it all makes for a good story that includes everything from me chasing down an Ethiopian runner at mile 23 to being handed an impressive Commander's Coin from a 4-star Marine General as Robert Duvall (yes, THE Robert Duvall) looked on.

It all started last night at the Marine Corps Marathon Dining In. This is actually quite a good option the night before the race with tons of cooked pasta and tons of mild red sauce to fill your belly. Add a couple of rolls and cookies, and you have a perfect pre-race meal.

Katherine Switzer and her husband, acclaimed running writer Roger Robinson, were the guest speakers. I have to say that Roger may be an awesome writer, but his account of Ancient Greek History and the inaugural running of the marathon found a few head bobs from the crowd. Katherine is a great speaker, but she went on a lot longer than most could tolerate. She has a great story about being the first woman to run the Boston Marathon but was nearly pulled off of the course by the race director because he didn't want a woman running his race. She has done an impressive amount of work getting women's sports, particularly running distance events, recognized in the Olympics as well as in foreign countries.

The Marines lure you into sticking around after dinner by offering a raffle at the end of the night with some impressive prizes. You only have about a 1 in 500 chance of winning anything, but those are actually pretty good odds. Guess who won something? Me, me, me! I won this fantastic tote bag made out of a former finish line corral at a past Marine Corps Marathon (check them out at, a book about the Marine Corps Marathon and a camouflage beer koozie. Winning these items, especially the beer koozie, made me feel very lucky and gave me a very good feeling about the next day's race.

I had a bit of pre-race excitement coursing through my veins at bed time last night, so I decided to read my new book. Turns out, it is an account of all past MCM races including all of the finish times sorted by year and age group and military and local finishers... In other words, it was an account of everything MCM and clearly a labor of love for a guy that just loves this race. In it, I found some very important information that ended up giving me a special goal for my race today. The all-time MCM female Masters' record was set in 1983 and was 2:50:51. I thought to myself, now that's something worth trying to beat. Winning a race is cool, but going down in the record books is effin' cool.

So, let's recap my goals for this race. I needed to finish among the top 4 military women to go to Athens next fall; I needed to run, not walk up the very last, steep hill to the finish; and I needed to try to pass as many military women as possible to help the Air Force Team regain the winner's trophy lost last year to the Navy.

And now for the race deets...

The morning's pre-race routine went like clockwork. We were driven to the start in rented vans, had a special parking spot close to our special military team tent, and were shown wonderful hospitality by our Marine hosts. In our military oasis, we found our own personal porta-potties, a sweet spread of food, and lots of nervous energy buzzing about as my military competitors readied themselves for battle on the roads.

I slipped a garbage bag over my shivering body 15 minutes before the start and headed down the big hill to the starting line. As we walked down the hill, the cannons fired a super loud shot announcing the start of the wheelchair competition. In 10 minutes, the same cannons would announce the start of the 34th running of the Marine Corps Marathon (can you find me in the photo?).

I can definitively say that this was a race against real people instead of the clock for me, and it became all too clear to me by the end of this race that I lack experience racing real people. I had seen some of the other female runners at the start (also in the picture) and they looked fast and fierce. And, they were. Seeing the speedsters with their toes actually touching the starting line psyched me out. I was also a little afraid of the top Army female runner who has a recent 2:45 marathon PR, ran the '08 Olympic trials and just ran under one hour in the Army 10 miler here in DC a few weeks back. I was told she was shooting for 2:45-2:50 today. I decided I would run by feel as much as possible even though I did make pace bands that read 2:50:25 to make sure I at least beat the course record.

The start heads uphill for about 2 miles, and I really worked to hold myself back to allow my body to warm up a little. Looking at my 2 mile split, I did a great job of this running an average 6:45 pace for those miles. As I crept up the second set of hills just before mile 4, I saw my Army competitor tucked into a pack of guys about 100m in front of me. I sat back for a few minutes and weighed the plusses and minuses of expending the energy to move quickly up that hill in order to catch the pack. I was in no-man's land at that point, running by myself and knew that I would need the draft and excitement of the group to keep me going in this race. So, I kicked it into gear, risking dead legs at the end of the race and caught the group at the top of the hill. I tucked in behind my military competitor and her posse and hung out with them for about 10 miles.

This proved to be a great decision. The group maintained a nice even pace, though it was a bit faster than I had planned to run. We ran through the half in 1:23:43 or so, but I was feeling reasonable at that pace, so stuck with the group. There was some idle chatting going on in our group making the miles pass quickly. I thanked the tall boys for allowing me to draft off of them. My Army competitor asked for more cowbell at one point, which endeared her to me. I did get a sense that some of the boys in our group would fade soon, and I was right.

After the half way point we started getting a lot of 411 about the competition. My friend, Mo Weiser, was on the course at every important juncture it seemed to report to me personally on the status of my competition. His reporting was very accurate and really helped to give me encouragement. He also took most of the great pictures I have posted. I saw him at mile 10 and he told me that we (Army and I) were in 4th and 5th place. By the 16 mile mark, we had passed one more woman, and he said we were not only in 3rd and 4th place now, but that we were only 3 minutes behind the leaders. Well, 3 minutes is a lot of time to make up, so I disregarded that information.

I saw a banner proudly flying on the side of the street soon thereafter and my friend Cindy cheering wildly from the side of the street. At this point, Army and I were running together along with a super strong Army General. I was sitting on Army's tail like a tactical runner, but I didn't realize that she was starting to fade. I finally figured that out and went around her to offer some draft. She didn't come along and I started to widen the gap between us. I turned back once and yelled at her, "Come on! Stick with me here. We need each other to get this done." I slowed to see if she would follow, but it didn't last.

So, I set out on my own, into the wind on the loneliest stretch of the race--the 14th Street bridge. This is essentially a 1-2 mile long freeway, luckily devoid of traffic, but also mostly devoid of people other than runners. I passed a lot of runners on this bridge including the Navy guy I'm chasing down in the picture to the left. He told me, as I passed him and offered random encouragement, that I was in the wrong branch of the service.

As I was approaching the 20 mile marker, Mo Weiser relayed the news that the lead women were only a minute and a half or so ahead of me. Then, as I ran up the freeway, the Navy and Marine coaches told me that these leaders were fading fast while Army was about 50m behind me. I was feeling really strong at this point. My legs felt as fresh as ever and I had all the energy in the world.

Over the next few miles, I would hear that I was getting closer and closer to the lead women so I picked up my pace from 6:30 to 6:22 just to test my legs a little more. Then, as we were about to exit the freeway into Crystal City and mile 22, I saw the two leaders and, I have to say, they did not look strong. I had one more gu to take at the 22 mile aid station, so I didn't run up on them right then, but let me tell you, it felt amazing to feel strong enough this late in the race to even consider trying to pick them off. I slammed my gu and a sip of water and took off after them.

At this point in the race, there is a nice out-and-back section where you get to see people that are about a mile ahead of you. I got to see several of my Air Force male teammates in this section and watched The Genius glide along on his way to a PR of 2:45! He also got to see me chase down my Ethiopian competitor. There were two women to track down around mile 22.5. The Ethiopian, I found out later, had been sitting on the lead woman for almost the entire race. The leader was truly worn down and clearly struggling. Just before I made my move, the Ethiopian decided to make hers and started to pick up the pace as the leader started to really slow. I passed the now second place female and said something stupid to her like, "stay strong". That always sucks to hear from someone that seems really fresh when you're suffering, but I couldn't just pass her without saying something.

I finally caught the Ethiopian, now the leader, and said something like, "you're doing great" as a greeting of sorts. She looked over at me with a look of both surprise and disbelief like nothing I've seen before in my life. She did a double take, looking me up and down, mostly focusing on my Air Force uniform and number as if to ask where the hell I had come from. Then, she tucked in behind me and became my unshakeable shadow for the next 3.5 miles.

So, here I am at mile 23, leading this effin' race with an Ethiopian on my tail. This is when I became confused. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. Was I supposed to conserve my energy and just let her tag along? Was I supposed to surge or something? I had no idea what kind of runner she was (though I would later learn that she is 25 years old with a marathon PR of 2:39). Did she have a kick? I was at a loss, and then the headwind started to just batter me. Not her, of course, because she was using my popular Swiss frame as a windshield. Damn my Swiss heritage!

I decided I wanted to draft off of her, so I began to slow down. I mean really slow down--to like 6:50 pace. I wanted her to go around me. Of course, she had no incentive to do so. She knew she had a kick, and she was quite happy to conserve even more energy riding my butt for a couple more miles at a slower pace. I didn't try my usual tactics of spitting or throwing water on her because I was in military uniform and that would be unsportsman-like conduct. In retrospect, I should have sped up, which I did somewhat around mile 25, but not a big enough surge to shake her. I was too worried about having to walk up that bloody finish-line hill.

The thing that I will remember most about this race was the wonderful feeling I had leading the race with everyone looking at my Air Force singlet and screaming, "Go Air Force! Go Air Force!" with such pride that an American military gal was leading the race. This was amazingly inspiring. Winning or losing did not seem to matter as much to me though maybe it did to them. I tried to take that moment in as much as I could.

Of course, I knew that I would not have a lot of get-up-and-go on the killer hill to the finish. I could only hope that she didn't either. Well, she did have a kick. She made a decisive move at around mile 26 and took off like a lightning bolt. I stuck with her for about 10 strides but knew I was out of the competition. I did finish the last 1.25 miles at 6:23 pace, all uphill, so that shows just how strong she was at the end.

I huffed and puffed and pumped my arms up that GD hill and am proud to say that I did not even think about walking. I crossed the finish line strong and proudly bowed my head to receive my finishers' medal from a Marine Lieutenant. That Lieutenant became my escort for the next 2 hours with his sole responsibility being to get me to the awards ceremony. I was ushered into the media tent right away where I signed some document and was immediately surrounded by a mob of reporters. I was interviewed by about 8-10 reporters who seemed to be interested in the strangest details like what those sock things are on my calves and what my first 5k time was from 5 years ago. This might explain why the first story out today shows me as Captain Jaymee Marty rather than the Major (pain in the butt) I am. My Mother was very upset by this misidentification.

All in all, this was a spectacular day for me:
  • I placed second overall female;
  • I ran my second fastest ever marathon time (2:50:13) 3 weeks after Twin Cities on a very challenging course;
  • I won the gold in the military competition;
  • I earned my spot on the US Military Marathon team competing in Athens, Greece next fall;
  • I led the Air Force Women's Team to a victory over Army;
  • And, I go down in the record books with a new Masters' course record, beating the old record set in 1983 by over 30 seconds.
Not bad for a day's work.

The military ceremony was great and I received an immense amount of hardware including the cool shadow box pictured at the front of this blog. I was handed a Commander's Coin by 4-Star General James Amos, 31st Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps for my achievement. And, in the audience, watching me receive these awards sat Robert Duvall, the actor. I have no idea why he was there, but I was excited to see him, so I winked at him. Well, I had my sunglasses on so he probably didn't see it, but I want to think he got the message.

And, guess what? My legs feel great. My shins did not bug me at all (thanks to my compression sleeves!), and I have a feeling, I'll have a speedy recovery from this second marathon like I did post Twin Cities. While I'd like to say that I won't be racing long again for a while, there's a little matter of a local age-graded series wrapping up in the next few weeks. In order to finish in the top three, I have to race at Clarksburg in either the half marathon or 30k.

And then there's CIM... Oh my God am I ever kidding!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Go Air Force!

That's what I heard shouted at me throughout the Marine Corps Marathon last year and it really lifted my spirits. And, boy did my spirits need lifting. I entered last year's race with very high hopes. I had PR'd in the 5k, 1/2 marathon and 10 mile distances during the training cycle leading up to the race. I was running 6:25-6:30 pace with ease during my training runs. All signs were pointing to a sub-2:55 race for me. I was really hoping to run closer to 2:50.

I still can't put my finger on what exactly went wrong that day, one year ago on the streets of our Capital City (dramatic music plays). My guess is that there were a number of smallish things that ended up amounting to a bad race day which included my feeding plan in the days leading up to the race, lots of airline travel prior to the race, walking way too much during the 2 days before the race, and 'female' issues. All of these things conspired to make me feel particularly poopy race morning.

Hoping this 'off' feeling would pass, I went out still trying to target 2:50+ on this rather hilly course. What I failed to realize last year was that this course sets you up to suffer at the end even if you think you're going out at a reasonable clip. There's a reason coaches tell you to use the first few miles as a warm up in a marathon. Heading up a couple of steep hills right off the bat gives you little chance to save your glycogen stores for later.

By mile 9, I knew I was in trouble. I was at close to 6:30 pace when I looked at one of my AF teammates on the sidelines in Georgetown and said, "I'm going way too fast right now." She didn't quite know how to respond except to offer encouragement and told me that it would pass. It didn't. I kept getting slower and slower with each passing mile until I settled into about a 6:45 pace.

The best part of the race is between miles 16 and 20 where you run around the National Mall. There were tons of people cheering for us and awe-inspiring monuments to distract us from the pain of pounding the pavement. It was in this section that the real race for the women's military title began. I had 3 Navy girls pass me in this section and I passed the Marine front runner around mile 17. I passed two of the Navy women back after mile 20 and that helped keep me motivated. Over the last 10k, I wondered whether I would blow up even further as I continued on the long, lonely road to the finish.

The last couple of miles of this race are rough because you're running along sections of freeway with gentle rollers the whole way with no crowd support. As you turn off of the freeway to head for the finish, you see a 1/4 mile long hill that goes straight up to the tape. My legs had been screaming and seizing up on me in the last 2 miles of this race--something I had never experienced before in a race and have luckily not experienced since. When I turned for the finish, my legs stopped running, and I started to walk up that hill. I really didn't think I had anything left. Then, some random guy came up behind me and scooped me up with an arm behind my back, pushing me up the hill and said, "come on Air Force. Let's go!" The crowd was now an angry mob screaming at me to run, and I somehow found the mojo to get my legs moving again up that hill lest I get skewered by a pitch fork from the sideline. I'm not sure that I've ever been so grateful to cross the finish line of a race.

I ran 2:57:04 last year and won the silver medal in the military competition. Our AF Women's and Co-ed teams took second place as well. I was also the first old gal to cross the line. And, I earned a spot on the US Military Marathon Team competing the following April in Serbia. The military awards are taken very seriously with all of the pomp and circumstance you might expect. I walked away from the event with a lot of hardware and a feeling of pride for the part I had played in the military competition that day.

One thing I will say is that my tough race at MCM last year made me a stronger runner. I really thought long and hard about the things I thought went wrong and considered the things I wanted to try out in my next marathon. I also didn't want to waste any time. I took the MCM lessons learned and used them in my marathon 5 weeks later at CIM resulting in a 2:50 marathon, a huge negative split race and new PR.

Fast forward one year and I sit in the same hotel thinking about my strategy for MCM 09. I have had great training runs over the last two weeks that made 6:15-6:20 pace feel easier than it did leading up to Twin Cities. The only hitch I've had was not running related but is still bothering me today. I had to travel to San Francisco Monday and Tuesday and thought it would be a good idea to wear my sassy new boots and carry my 25 lbs of luggage several miles to my hotel since it was such a beautiful day. I looked super cute in my boots and skirt, but my shins suffered terribly. I still feel the effects of this ill-advised fashion caper today! I think my compression sleeves will come in very handy tomorrow and I might try out that support tape they put in my race packet to see if that can help relieve some of the discomfort.

So, what are my goals for tomorrow? From a personal standpoint, I really have only one goal: to qualify for the International Military Marathon competition in 2010. I have to place in the top 4 among military women to be on the team. While I think this is well within reach for me (most years the 4th place military woman runs a little over 3:00), I have to be cautious that I don't go out too hard and risk a major blow up at the end of the race that leaves me as road kill in the last few miles. This is really a team competition after all, and I do want to see the Air Force Team take the gold this year. I will do my best tomorrow to pass other female military competitors. I understand that there is one in particular that will be tough to chase down. She has a faster marathon PR than me, didn't run a marathon 3 weeks ago and is 12 years or more younger than me. So, she just better watch out!

I'm not sure it makes much sense to throw out a time goal. I would much rather do tomorrow what I did at CIM last year: go out at a reasonable pace and then pick it up in the second half if I have the legs for it. I think this will be the best strategy for me. I hope to be somewhere around 2:50 at the finish. Seeing a 2 and a 4 on that clock may just give me the extra umph I need to make it up that last, steep hill and across the tape.

Ending on a final fashion note: While I appreciate all of the military swag I got here, I wish I was running in the uniform I got from my friend Cindy with I got the new stealthy camo skirt with a sprinkling of hot pink mixed in to make it a little more feminine. Cute cute. Thanks Cindy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Military Booty

One of the things I love about being in the military is the fashion. Take a look at the photo to the right. Can you tell which uniforms are worn today in the Air Force? I doubt it. I'm thinking the white dress on the far left was the running outfit for women in the olden days based on the footwear displayed.

The modern women's uniforms tend to be 5-10 years behind in trend and made for a slightly slim man rather than a shapely woman. I would love to see Isaac Mizrahi take a crack at revamping the uniform. There would definitely be a lot more color, and it would not be so matchy matchy, that's for sure. In fact, that bright orange jumpsuit hidden in the back may have been an Isaac original that didn't quite make the uniform prime time. A shame.

In contrast to the lack of options and out-of-date style of my day-to-day military attire, I am overwhelmed with the plethora of cool running gear I receive at these military running events. I received my gear booty this morning and inventoried the following items (all in the proper sizes!):
  • 1 each, super cool Brooks air force logo wind breaker jacket
  • Two pair, Brooks running shorts
  • 1 each, Air Force running singlet
  • 1 pair, Brooks lightweight running gloves
  • 1 pair, Brooks 'Beast' socks
  • 1 pair, Brooks capri running tights
  • 1 each, Brooks lightweight technical shirt w/ AF logo
  • 1 each Marine Corps Marathon windbreaker
  • 1 each, Brooks 'whiffle bill' running cap
I definitely have options for race day and beyond with this fantastic stash of gear!

The Genius and I arrived in the city last night around 10 p.m. EST but didn't get to sleep until well after 1 a.m. once we got food in our bellies and unpacked. We ran around The National Mall this afternoon (after sleeping until nearly noon EST!) and it was gorgeous. The fall colors are out, the weather is fabulous and it is always so inspiring to run amongst the giant monuments. We will meet up later this afternoon to tour the Capitol with our resident friend, Mo Weiser.

Tomorrow, I plan to recap last year's Marine Corps Marathon race and divulge my racing plans for Sunday. I have already gotten some 411 on my military competition, and it looks fierce!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wait! I forgot # 11

As I was doing my long run this morning, I realized I had forgotten one of the most important lessons I learned at Twin Cities:

11. Have a pacing plan. What I really mean here is, if you are trying to achieve an exact time goal, you need to both train and race faster than the exact pace that you need to run to come in at that time. Why? Because, despite your most diligent efforts, you will never run 26.22 miles for a marathon. You will always run longer. The more curves and turns in a course, the better the chances that you'll not run the shortest possible distance. The shortest distance I've ever come up with on my Garmin in a marathon is at CIM where it shows about 26.3. CIM has very few turns and the roads are not winding. Every extra 0.1 miles adds somewhere between 36-50 seconds to your total time depending on your pace. That can be significant. So, do a quick check before you start your marathon training to see what your pace would be for 26.3 or even 26.4 miles and expect you'll be running that far. I think a good rule of thumb is to train and race about 2-3 seconds faster per mile than the pace that will meet your goal on a 26.22 mile course. Just look at what happened to me at Twin Cities. I trained for sub 2:46 and ended up running 2:96:29 all because I didn't think about running longer than 26.22 (or maybe the clock was screwed up, but whatever).

UPDATE: I realized that this lesson needed a bit more explanation. I am talking about pace here in the context of wearing a Garmin or similar GPS device. These devices show your actual or average pace over the distance that you run. If you rely only on this pace information and don't keep track of what your overall time is at the mile markers, you will not hit your time goal. However, if you just run with a pace chart and are right on your correct splits at the mile markers, then you'll be fine. It's only if you rely on the pace shown on your Garmin that you need to run a faster pace.

Back-to-back Marathon Training Update:

This week has been a mix of running and cross training. I've run 5-7 miles every day except yesterday and added an hour of elliptical madness after my run on Wednesday where I did 12 x 3 minutes hard, 1 minute easy. That was like running 12, 800s at 10k pace, I realized after I was done with it. I was a spectacle, sweating like a garden hose and pumping my arms in a furious running motion on this machine as I knocked out those hard repeats (I hate holding on to those flippin' arm pumping handle thingies). My total mileage for this week was 45.

Today, I had a great 16-mile long run despite some unfavorable headwinds during most of the speed work. I was using this run to gauge my recovery and my fitness for next weekend's big competition. It was a progression run that went something like this:

5 miles moderate (7:37 average pace)
2 miles – 50 sec’s slower than GMP (7:11)
2 miles – 40 sec’s slower than GMP (6:53)
2 miles – 30 sec’s slower than GMP (6:44)
1 mile – 20 sec’s slower than GMP (6:31)
1 mile – 10 sec’s slower than GMP (6:22)
1 mile – run GMP (6:19)
1 mile – run 10 sec’s faster than GMP (6:12)
1 mile easy cheesy

And, guess what? GMP felt easier than it did before Twin Cities. So, it looks like I've blown through 7 of the 12 steps to marathon recovery. I hope to complete steps 8-12 this next week. I may be able to pull off a good race next Sunday after all. I am still not ready to set a time goal for myself. In fact, I may not do that at all. I might just size up the competition and run how I feel. Novel idea, I know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top 10 Lessons from My Twin Cities Marathon Experience

After every marathon I do, I spend a bit of time cogitating on my experience. What did I do differently that worked? What didn't I do that I should try next time? How did I feel leading up to the race and afterward? By thinking long and hard about these things and discussing them with my coach, I am able to better prepare for my next training cycle and race. I have found that it's best to treat each marathon as a learning opportunity so that, regardless of how you do in that particular race, at least you'll walk away with a lesson that you can apply to your future races.

Here is my list of lessons learned from the Twin Cities Marathon (TCM):
  1. Pump up the volume. My body responded really well to the increased volume in this training cycle. This is not really a surprise since I have gradually bumped up my mileage with each training cycle I have done for the last 5 years. My average weekly mileage for the 17 weeks leading up to the Belgrade Marathon was 75. My coach increased my average weekly mileage for Twin Cities to 80. I was able to do every workout, I never felt overly tired, I didn't get sick and I didn't get injured. So, I believe this bodes well for bumping up my mileage more for my next shot at a Trials qualifier. I do recognize that incremental increases in volume at this point in my development as a runner will yield lower and lower returns, but I have about 30 seconds to shave off of my marathon, so I'll take every increment I can get.
  2. Get your taper on. Last year, I requested that my coach adjust my taper to maintain a bit more volume in the 3 weeks leading up to race day. I did this to see whether or not it would make a difference in how I felt in those final weeks before the race. As I have stated before, the taper weeks leave my legs feeling like cheese puffs with lead filling. So, my taper changed from 86, 74, 57 miles in the 3 weeks leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon last year to 87, 80, 60 miles leading up to Belgrade. Not a huge change, but I felt it. I ended up with a bit less volume than was planned for Twin Cities due to the calf issue I had 3 weeks before the race with 84, 62, 64 miles the 3 weeks prior to the race. This actually may have been a blessing for me. The reduced volume left me feeling much more refreshed than I did before Belgrade. This leads me to think that lower volume while maintaining intensity may be the ticket for future training cycles.
  3. No racing the weekend before the race. This was a great suggestion from my coach and something that I will maintain in my program into the future. In the past, I have always run a short race (5k or 10k) within 10 days of my goal marathon race. The idea is that you're in super shape and can probably PR at the shorter distance as a result even though you've not been training for the shorter race. It serves to boost your confidence a bit if you run well, but it can also pummel you if you have a bad race. The problem is that, in general, your speed in a 5k may or may not correlate with how you perform at the marathon distance a week later. Not running a short race may have been another reason that my legs felt better, and I felt generally more rested on the days leading up to the race. If I want to run a fast 5k, I'll train for it. My focus is on running marathons for now, and I don't want to sacrifice my marathon training and racing for a fast shorter race.
  4. Carbs are my friend. Concentrating on increasing my carbohydrate intake for the 3 days leading up to the marathon was key. I have done this every training cycle while working with Nicole, my current coach. Until I started tracking my caloric intake and parceling my diet into bins for carbs, protein and fat, I had no idea what 70% of my daily calories from carbs looked like on my plate. The thing that wasn't clicking for me was that it was necessary to both increase carbs while simultaneously decreasing protein and fat intake so my consumption of these only added up to 30%. Since I generally stick to a pretty low fat diet, the protein has to take the hit which means little to no meat, peanut butter or cheese and definitely no sports drinks or bars with added protein for those three days before the race.
  5. Race in a pack. I learned this lesson back in 2005 when I ran CIM for the second time. I ran most of the race with the 3:20 pace group led by ultra-marathoner extraordinaire Tim Tweitmeyer. I stuck right on his caboose the whole way along with about 20 other upbeat and happy runners. While we can use physical equations to calculate the benefit of reduced wind resistance from drafting in cycling or running, there's a psychological and possibly a spiritual benefit that you get from running with a pack of runners with good energy. It's as if there's electricity in the air that propels you forward with the group. My experience at Twin Cities running with a small pack of women was entirely positive. We ran a steady pace, there was definitely a draft benefit, and there was that magical energy generated by everyone trying to achieve a common goal. This is a rare thing to experience in most races, so I recommend you savor it when you have the chance to race with a pack.
  6. Have a fabulous fueling strategy. My race day fueling strategy has become a routine, and I see no need to change it. About 2-3 hours prior to the race (if the race is at 7 or 8 a.m.), I eat one packet of oatmeal, a bagel or some bread with peanut butter and sometimes jelly, and drink my special SPORTea with a little bit of sugar. During the race, I take in 5 Roctane gu packets. That's right: 5. While it seems like a lot, it works. My intake schedule is now tried and true as well. I changed it after Marine Corps last year because I felt like I was running low on fuel at the end of my marathons and wanted to try a new plan. So, at my next race, I took my first gel early in the race (mile 2), then one gel every 5-6 miles with the last gel taken at mile 21-22. Taking 4 gels (one every 5 miles), like I had done previously, left me taking the last one at mile 20. My new plan gives me 100 more calories total plus the last shot later in the race to carry me through the last few miles. Also, I NEVER mix sports drinks and gel. My coach sent me an article once that described the insoluble mass of goober that forms in your belly when you mix these two substances and how it leads to major stomach distress. In fact, I remember watching Kara Goucher run the World Marathon Championships held in Berlin and the commentators said that she had a bottle full of Powerade (or something like that) with a shot of gu in it. You saw what happened to her: she threw up something like 6 times in the race. Maybe it was coincidental, but I remember wondering when the commentator pointed this out why in the world she would mix those two things.
  7. Don't trust heart rate. Maybe this one should read: don't spaz out like a monkey in the weeks leading up to the race because you all of a sudden start measuring your heart rate and it isn't in the range the books say it should be leading you to think that you are not trained to go out and run at your goal marathon pace. Enough said.
  8. Specificity of training is where it's at. If you tracked my training leading up to this race, I think you may have noticed that I didn't do much traditional speed work. My training was packed with long, goal-marathon-paced and half-marathon-paced workouts. I wasn't running 400s, 800s or even 1000m repeats at break-neck speed on a regular basis. It seems that the key for marathon training is to get your body used to burning fuel for the long haul. It will not do that automatically. I also had lots of hill work in my training including a couple of runs that had me mirroring what I would experience on the course at TCM--an uphill finish. Likewise, I do a lot of downhill running leading up to CIM to get my legs ready for the pounding of the downhills on that course. Train for the course you will run and you will give yourself a big advantage.
  9. Lose weight: run faster. As much as I would like to say that weight doesn't matter for a runner, it does. It simply takes less energy to move a 124-pound runner across 26 miles, especially up hills, than it takes to move a 128-pound runner along the same course. Is it a coincidence that I lost 5 pounds between my 2:55 marathon in Eugene and my 2:50 marathon at CIM AND I lost 4 pounds between that 2:50 CIM marathon and my 2:46 performance at Twin Cities? Maybe. If I had lost 4.5 lbs. would I have gone under 2:46? Of course it's not that simple, but I know that it helped. Most importantly, I lost weight without jeopardizing my health and it helped me get faster. For those of you who are already teetering on the low end of the BMI scale, this will not help you. For those of you with a little extra to love, you may find a few less cheeseburgers can help you get up that hill a wee bit faster.
  10. Feel the Love. Support and love from friends, family, fellow runners and random folks in Minnesota helped me succeed at TCM. I definitely put in all the work, but it would be foolish to think that what I accomplished was all on me. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how the most successful people in the world, the outliers, rarely if ever achieve this success through just natural talent and hard work. Circumstance and timing matter immensely. I had ideal circumstances leading up to this race on a number of levels with support and patience from The Genius; friendship and support from my Early Girlies; a supportive and gifted coach; patience and support of my family (remember the RWI story?); support from my Impalas Racing Team and teammates; financial support from the race organizers and my team; understanding and flexibility on the part of my fine employer; and the constant positive energy and encouragement coming from my extended circle of friends and family scattered throughout the world. Yeah, I put in a little time running, but you guys added the yeast that helped me rise to the challenge and kick some marathoning arse.
Thanks to everyone for your support!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Don't try this at home

My next race, The Marine Corps Marathon, is two weeks away, and I am starting to get excited about how that race might play out. Some of you might be asking why I am doing this race so close to Twin Cities. I can explain.

October 2009 marks my 20th year of military service. My plan was to retire from the military this month since my AF Reserve position was being recycled into a more combat-appropriate function and I really couldn't picture myself retraining into another nose-picker specialty this late in the game. In August, however, I was given the option to stay in my current position in the Reserves out at Travis Air Force Base. Coincident with the news of this position extension was an announcement that the World Military Marathon Championships would be held in Athens, Greece in October 2010. The qualifying race for a berth on the US Team would be the Marine Corps Marathon held on October 25th, 2009 with the top 4 men and women military finishers comprising the US team. Staying in the Reserves was an easy choice for me given the fact that I find the work I do at Travis very fulfilling. Admittedly, the fact that the Championship Race is in Athens may have tipped the scales a tiny bit to the side of further military service. So, the road to Athens required a stop to prove my mettle in Washington DC.

How does a runner train for back-to-back marathons? I'm not sure that there's one right way to go about it, but my coach has put together a plan for me that will help me maintain the high level of fitness I achieved leading up to Twin Cities while allowing my body to recover from a hard marathon race. It is a tricky business since there's a much higher risk of injury and sickness associated with hard training and racing in the weeks following a marathon. I also know that most people shouldn't try this. In fact, when I originally proposed this marathon double to my coach, she replied that I had to go for it given what was at stake. She also said that she wouldn't have advised any other runner to do it. I was an exception given how quickly I recover from my marathons, my history of running injury free and the fact that I listen to and understand my body.

This marathon recovery period has been exceptional thus far in that I feel even better than normal. I had very little soreness in my legs even the second day post marathon with just a bit of calf tightness to contend with. I felt fine during my first run back, which I did yesterday. I was worried about coming down with the flu or a cold especially after receiving a call from my Mom on Monday whose voice was barely recognizable through all of the phlegm she had accumulated after only a single day of viral conquest. For me: so far, so good (knock on wood).

I also have a solid history of success with the marathon double (Effin' J definition of a marathon double: running two marathons within 8 weeks or less of each other). In fact, this will be the 4th time in my short running career that I have pulled a marathon double. My first double was between my 3rd and 4th marathons. I ran the Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon in 3:35 in October 2005 and then went on 7 weeks later to run CIM in 3:20. My next double came in 2006 where I ran the Chicago Marathon in 3:07 in late October and ran CIM 5 weeks later in 3:03. My third double was last year, running Marine Corps in 2:57 and 5 weeks later running CIM in 2:50. There's a pattern that emerges here: I run faster in the second race, but that second race has always been CIM.

How am I training between marathons? In the first 4 days after Twin Cities, I walked my dogs for exercise for a couple of miles each day. My program had the option of pool running on those days, but I have never done pool running so, it would have taken a lot more effort than I wanted to expend to make that happen. Thursday, I spent 60 minutes on the elliptical machine at the gym. Luckily, Sprinkles kept me company, so the time flew by. Yesterday, I ran for 6 easy miles (it was supposed to be 3--I know, bad Effin' J). After the run, I hopped on the elliptical for 74 minutes to get in a total of 2 hours of training between the run and the machine. Part of the reason I ran a little longer was to avoid having to sit on a machine for 90+ minutes. As it turned out, I was able to read a magazine while listening to music and finished up listening to a book on MP3. I was surprised how fast the time went by. I start back to regular running tomorrow, but it is all easy running until the weekend. I'll do a couple rounds of my weight training program next week too and a few days with cross training in addition to the daily running. Next Saturday, I'll do a longer and harder workout and then will begin my taper for the marathon as normal.

I am quite a ways away from predicting what I might shoot for in DC. Right now, I have a range of goals that span the gamut from winning the race (typically the female winner hits the tape between 2:47-3:00 since there's no prize money) to sitting on the tail of the 3rd place military female runner to just barely qualify for the International Military Marathon Team. I will be gauging how my body feels in my runs this week and will test out marathon pace on Saturday. I do like the idea of leaving the whole thing wide open especially given how meticulously I planned my pacing at Twin Cities. The Marine Corps course is relatively slow with some challenging hills and almost no crowd support in the last 10k because you're mostly running on freeway overpasses. Nonetheless, this one will be a race against my fellow military competitors rather than against the clock, and I look forward to watching it unfold in real time. Semper Gumby.

Monday, October 5, 2009

2:46:26. I'll take it!

For those of you who are worried about mentioning my race to me, possibly wondering whether I will crumple into an emotional ball of goo when being reminded about those 29 elusive seconds (yes, 29 since they use gun time for qualifying), rest assured, I am thrilled with my race at the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday even though I didn’t break the 2:46 barrier. I have already received numerous wonderful congratulatory messages from people, so I imagine you figured that out on your own.

Here are the reasons for my enthusiasm:

  • I ran 2:46:26, which is a 4-minute PR at the marathon distance.
  • I also ran a 30k PR in the first 30k of the race running 1:56:52 (old PR was 2:08:23).
  • My half split (1:21:45) was my 2nd fastest half marathon time ever.
  • I ran with a pack of fabulous women for most of the race.
  • I did not get passed by a single runner after the half marathon point.
  • I ran strong up the 3 or so miles of hills between miles 20-25.
  • I placed 5th overall Master runner in a National Championship Race having gone into the race seeded 16th.
  • I won a bit of prize coinage for my trouble.

So, you can see why I might be pleased. Actually, the whole weekend was a great experience from the elite athlete hospitality, to the athlete and team camaraderie, and of course sharing the experience with my Mom and The Genius. It was inspiring to have so many people wishing me well both virtually via e-mail and Facebook as well as physically on the course. Thanks to everyone for the fantastic support.

{Picture taken by the Dissin' Genius just before the finish using his iPhone. The course looks a little wobbly, but I'm liking how it makes my feet look small.}

Now for the deets:

I got a chance to preview the course on the course tour Saturday. I have never done a course tour before a race, but I think it was a good thing. I had created a very detailed, mile-by-mile pace plan for this race. This was another first since I generally just use an even pacing split chart. I adjusted the splits for a few of the miles based on what I saw on the course. I knew the course would be rolling for most of the first 20 miles and that I would be heading up a gradual hill in the last 10k. From the bus, the uphill at the end didn’t look too bad though I knew that it wouldn’t feel easy on foot at that point in the race. My pacing plan had me positive splitting the course with about a 1:22:30 first half and a 1:23:29 second half.

As usual, I created a redundant pace band system with each band laminated using packing tape and dots carefully placed next to the miles with water stops. I had one pace band on each wrist and tucked one under my race bib on my chest. I go with this redundant system because I have lost my pace bands in other marathons when removing my gloves or when they got completely soaked with water. This system worked brilliantly for me. I didn’t lose a single one.

I was able to get the nutrition I needed before the race after just a bit of panic the day before when I realized I didn’t have any bread or condiments for my race morning meal. I ended up going into a sub shop that had a pudder (PBJ) on the menu. They didn’t get at first what I was asking for when I said I wanted a deconstructed PBJ. Then, one of the employees jumped on it saying, “I can do that for you.” She came out with a half of a loaf of wheat bread and two containers of peanut butter and strawberry jam. Yay for me (and the Genius who needed fuel for his long run too)! So, after a nice pasta dinner with my Impala teammates Saturday night and a couple of hours organizing my race day goodies, I went to sleep. Well, I tried to sleep.

Generally, I have no problem sleeping the night before a marathon. For whatever reason, this one was different. I tossed and turned, got up to pee multiple times, and was generally restless most of the night. I was up like a lightening bolt when all three alarms went off simultaneously at 5:00 a.m. I showered, dressed, ate and met the bus downstairs where we were taken to the elite staging area in the basement of a building next to the starting line. It was a great set up with real bathrooms, lots of (good) nervous energy and plenty of mentholated air to breath in case your sinuses were plugged up.

The weather was ideal. I think it was in the low to mid 40s at the start with just a touch of sun breaking through the clouds. There was some wind, but I don’t believe it was a factor in the race at all. We were on well-protected stretches of road for almost the entire course, so if there was any wind, it was probably blocked by trees and buildings.

I had to utilize an alternate fuel plan for this course due to the location of the water stops. I typically take 5 Roctane (blueberry pomegranate flavor) gels during the race. I do this by taking the first one very early, like around mile 2, then one every 5-6 miles until mile 21-22. I like this plan because I get carbs early in the race and late (but not too late). I train for it by taking gels at the same interval in my training since you have to get used to the feeling of having it in your belly the whole way. Sometimes, it starts feeling like a blob in my belly that won’t digest, but it’s a feeling I’ve learned to live with in order to make sure I have enough fuel during the race. My alternate plan had me taking a gel 15 minutes before the start of the race, then one at miles 5, 11, 17, and 21.

At exactly 8:00:00, we were off, cruising down the streets of Minneapolis and headed for our first turn. I immediately started working with a pack of familiar runners and would hang with them through 20 miles. We had Hard-Coordt, Lis-bot, Em-bat and T-Meat in our group along with a couple of other runners that I didn’t have enough time to get to know to assign Rave names. I have never had the pleasure of working with a group running so consistently for this long in a marathon and was super excited to have the company.

Unlike in my training runs, 6:15 pace felt easy race day, and I was happy to have the pack pushing the pace early on. Last Tuesday, 2 miles @ 6:18 pace seemed like a struggle and my MaxHR had me close to 90% max for those 2 miles. All I can say about this is trust the magic of the taper, and well, maybe I need to recalculate my MaxHR.

The first 10 miles wound along tree-lined roads surrounding several lakes in Minneapolis. The course was just lovely there. The good weather brought out lots of cheering crowds to many parts of the course, which helped to keep us motivated. Lis-bot never passed up a chance to pump her arms at the crowds as she passed a musical venue or a really loud cheering section. Fun, fun. I made a rookie mistake at my first gel stop when I tried to release my gel packet that was pinned to my running tights with my gloves on and it shot out of my hands behind me, open and oozing gu all over the curb. I heard a couple of gasps, and an “oh, Jaymee.” I quickly recovered, grabbing another one from my tights and successfully got the gel down my gullet. I only had two left and needed three. I remembered that they were offering gu at the 20.5 mile marker which was just when I needed to take another. Crisis averted!

The challenge of running in a pack is that you are at the mercy of the pack’s pace. You can speed it up by heading to the front and hopefully having others follow, but you have to keep up lest you drop off the back and end up running by yourself. I knew that we were going faster than I had planned for the first half even before we hit the halfway clock. I felt great but I had a little tinge of worry in my brain about going out too fast on this course. Nonetheless, I decided it was more important to stay with the pack than to go off on my own in order to stick with my pacing plan. We went through the half about 45 seconds faster than I had planned.

The miles that I thought would be the fastest on the course, between miles 15-20, did not turn out to be so fast. Again, I was with the pack and not using my pacing plan. We slowed our pace through these miles and by the time we hit 20, I was pretty close to my projected time. Much to my chagrin, I got a nice little bite of a side stitch in the middle of mile 19, ala Buffalo Stampede, and started to get concerned about having to stop to walk it off. This time, I maintained my pace and was able to slowly breath through it, pushing it out of my gut by the time I got to mile 20.5 just as the ascent began in earnest.

It was at this first uphill climb that I lost the pack. Lis-bot and Hard-Coordt took off up the hill like the machines that they are. This was truly inspiring to watch. I couldn’t stay with them and others in the pack ended up falling behind me. So, I was pretty much on my own for the last 10k. I reminded myself how strong I was on hills and that I just needed to get to the top of the hill in mile 23. After that was a downhill stretch where I could pick up my pace again and get ready for some more rollers. Though I felt like I was slogging up the hills, I was right on my projected paces and felt relatively strong. I could slowly see Lisbot and Hard-Coordt in the distance getting closer and closer to their qualifying time and wondered where I was in relation to a 2:46 finish.

This wasn’t an easy thing to know even with all of my redundant inputs. I had a GPS that I knew was reading long, about .25 mile long, so I couldn’t trust the 6:17 pace it said I was on. The mile markers were off for a lot of the course, so we were getting erratic splits (up to 30 seconds off in a couple of places). That makes it particularly tough to judge how well you’re pacing. At one point when I was climbing the hills in the last 10k, my split chart showed I was right on time given my overall time at the mile marker split, but the next split showed me 30 seconds slow. I just concentrated on moving up that hill and tried to catch more runners along the way.

I was happy to see the crest of the hill at mile 26 and a nice downhill finish ahead of me for the last quarter mile. It was easy to pick up the pace at that point with gravity working for me. I saw in the distance a 2 and a 4 on the clock and was very excited. I looked at my watch and it read 2:45:15. I knew I wasn’t going under 2:46 at that point, but I couldn’t believe how close I was. This was thrilling. I wanted to believe all along that I could run that fast for a marathon and there I was doing it. Wow.

Of our original pack, Hard-Coordt and Lis-bot spanked the Olympic Trials Qualifying standard. I was absolutely in awe of them after witnessing them run this incredible race. They are two strong, focused runners. The others in our group hung right in there finishing slightly behind even though they stopped feeling the love long before the hills hit. It takes great courage to push hard when you are feeling like crap. Big props to T-Meat and Em-bat for their hard fought races.

Congratulations to everyone who competed in the National Championship races.

The Future:

I sit here hopped up on Ativan on my flight home typing this blog (it was too early for red wine on my morning flight) and am now starting to think about my running future. I have another marathon to run in 3 weeks—the Marine Corps Marathon. So, my mission right now is to recover from this race while trying to maintain the high level of fitness I achieved over this last training cycle for one more marathon race. I actually have a good track record of doing well in back-to-back marathons and typically run faster in the second one. I don’t suspect that will be the case in this double because they are very close together and MCM is a hilly monster of a course. I am excited about what I might pull off there given the fact that I escaped the Twin Cities with little soreness except a claw of a toenail that always falls off after a long race. A quick pedi, and I should be good as new.

For those of you who may be wondering whether or not TCM was the end of the line for my blog, I have decided that I will continue to blog about my running and racing at least until I meet the Olympic Trials Qualifying time. When will I try again? I want to give my body a good rest after MCM and see where I feel like going from there. I have 2+ years to get there after all and a whole slew of potential qualifying races. No doubt what I learned in this one will make me a stronger racer next time around.

I just ran a 2:46 marathon—somebody pinch me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Runner number F116 sets her goals

This is going to be a quick post because it's getting late here in St. Paul, and I need to think about getting some shut eye. I did promise a blog about my marathon goals, and I believe I finally have enough data to formulate these.

I generally give myself three goals. There's a safe goal, a reasonable goal and an 'if the stars align' goal. So, here we go:
  1. My safe goal this time will be to PR. I set my marathon PR (2:50:22) last year at CIM when I ran the best and most comfortable marathon race of my life. If I can run fast enough to see a 2 and a 4 in the first two numbers on that clock at the finish, I will be thrilled. I mean that too. Just because I'm setting lofty goals (even though I believe I can achieve them) does not mean I will be disappointed with a PR. Are you kidding me? How could I be?
  2. My reasonable goal is to run under 2:48 AND try to place in the top 10 in the Masters' field. I am seeded 16th in the field, so that means I'd have some moving up to do.
  3. Of course, my goal for if the stars align is to run under 2:46. I rode the bus along the course route today and adjusted my pacing plan accordingly. The weather is lining up to be perfect. I feel good, though I really hate the feeling in my legs during the taper week. They're just not used to being treated so nicely, and they respond by feeling like overstuffed suitcases.
So, there you have it folks. I'm looking forward to this race and honestly don't know what will happen. Every marathon is an adventure and a learning experience. I did get a little misty- eyed as we crested the hill on our bus tour between miles 25 and 26 thinking about seeing the right time on my watch and sprinting downhill to a sub-2:46 finish. Let's see if the stars will align for me in the morning.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Choose your poison: Ativan or red wine?

I chose red wine even though I know this means I am now officially off the wagon. One of my many shortcomings is that I am a nervous flyer. So, in many ways, just getting to a marathon that is not within driving distance is the biggest challenge I face. While I believe deep down that there is a gene responsible for this affliction, I can't dispute the environmental factors at play in my particular strain of aviatophobia. My father was so afraid of flying that he did not fly for as long as I knew him. Apparently, he had a bad medivac flight from Germany to California back in the 1960s that was so horrific, he never set foot on a plane again.

As a result, I did not take my first flight until I was 18 and surrounded by Air Force cadets who were addicted to the sport of flying. My first flight, as a matter of fact, was spent one evening in a stolen (okay, it was borrowed) Cessna flying at tree-top-level doing aerobatics over the University of Puget Sound and my mother's condo complex. We literally were chased by police down 6th Avenue in Tacoma, WA to the airport where we landed without lights and left the plane idling as we ran away from the fuzz. Some of my ROTC buddies will read this and say, "so that was you!" I feel it's safe to let this out 20+ years after the fact.

After the excitement of my first flight, I really enjoyed the time I spent in airplanes, mostly in military aircraft like the C-141, C-130 and KC-135. In fact, I ended up spending a few wild flights learning to jump out of these beasts at a very low altitude at US Army Airborne training in Ft. Benning, Georgia when I was barely 21 years old. I actually turned 21 while I was there and was shown a good time by a colorful Marine who took me for my first legal drink to a local nudie bar. And, I had to buy! Still some of my fondest life memories were spent there. I remember thinking how strange it felt to actually land in a plane after having jumped from them 5 times prior.

Okay, back to the fear. So, at one point, right after my Dad's death, I was so afraid that I would not fly. Perhaps it was because I had chosen an Air Force career as an aircraft maintenance officer and knew all of the bad things that could happen to the plane let alone getting to know the jokers flying them (JWs excepted). Regardless of the reason, I refused to fly for about a year and missed a nice family trip to Hawaii as a result. Since then, I have learned to control my fear with drugs and alcohol, though my doctor advised against mixing the two telling me that it would result in a Jimi-Hendrix-like experience that I didn't want any part of.

So, here I sit, with The Genius, in the local airport wine establishment getting my drink on waiting on a twice-delayed flight. Some of you may be new to my blog having read S-Diddy's splendid article in the SacBee today. Welcome. For the regulars, you know I'm not supposed to be drinking right now and might be a bit disappointed in me. Too bad. I am human, you know!

So, I am anxious about my flight, but not so much my race. That's pretty typical for me. I don't see the point in fretting at this juncture. I can't do any more hard work. All I can do is concentrate on getting to the starting line as fresh and healthy as possible. So, I'm flying in three days early, though that's mainly because of the Judi Marty mandated shopping trip scheduled for Friday at the Mall of America. I'm giving her that day to drag me around the mall, but Saturday is all for me to get my geek on and make my pace band and calculate my splits and program my Garmin and (geeky snort, geeky snort)...

I'm still formulating my three race day goals and plan to reveal those Saturday night after getting a feel for the course and the weather in the Twin Cities. I am mostly grateful to have so many supportive friends, family, teammates and Sacramentans cheering for me both locally and from afar. It means a lot to me to receive all of your support and I will try to do you proud.