Monday, September 15, 2014

Marathon Training Week 14

This picture is from week 1, but we're all too tired
to take pictures after our long runs now.
Week 14 nicely coincides with a 14-mile long run, which is actually a "short" long run compared to last week and what's a head at the end of this week, the 20-miler.

Again it was a nice cool day, actually chilly - I wore a long sleeve shirt - and so the weather was perfect. It was never hot and we had a great run.  The whole week was nice, the only day that was an posed a problem was Wednesday. Due to scheduling issues, I needed to run before work and was prepared (or was trying to prepare myself) to get up to run 9 miles at 4 a.m. I know, right, insane. However, the weather had other notions and by that night storms and wind made running in the dark, in the park, not a good idea. So we didn't. I did four miles on the treadmill at work and told myself I'd make up the five sometimes later in the week - just like I told myself last week. But then several people told me I was being silly and that there wasn't a real need to make up those miles. Since they all were either training for a marathon, had run marathons or were my sister, I listened to them and let it go (sorry those of you with little girls who now have that song stuck in their heads).

I've stuck to my training schedule much more than I did the first time around, but I am starting to get the jitters about being able to complete 26 miles. I know I can do it, but of course I want to do it faster than the first time and I'm worried I'll get to mile 20 and just fall apart.

But even if on the off chance I do fall apart, which I probably won't, at least I will have raised more than $1,000 for CARA Road Scholars. My wonderful brother donated $25 last week - though I know that was an in-kind donation since he wants me to give for his theater company (it's on it way John). But regardless, I'm just grateful that all of you out there have supported me through this, again.

Stats for the week:
Miles run: 28
Miles left to go: 126.2
Raised so far: $1075.20
Left to go: Nothing - just seeing how much I can raise now.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Marathon Training Week 13

Week 13 turned out to be quite a lucky week for us runners. After a couple of weeks of sweltering humid days - which is par for the course in Chicago but still sucks when you're running long distances, temperatures finally dropped to the low 70s with hardly any humidity last night after a rainstorm. It got into the lower 60s overnight and this morning, when I left to bike down to the lake, I put long sleeve shirt on over my running top because it was a bit chilly.

Like 15 and 16 miles, I haven't run 18 miles since I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2012 and I was a little nervous. I kept thinking back on my last 18 mile training run. You can go back and read the old blog post if you so desire, but I was pretty nervous about that run. And I knew that after the 16 miles two weeks prior to it, there was no way I was going to make 18 miles by myself. So my wonderful sister road her bike next to me. While that was great, and I did mention to her that she could do the same thing for our whole group this time, it was even better running with a group. It's great to have so many different people to chat with, catch up on what's been going on with their training and lives in general over the previous week. And then to top it off, the weather was perfect. It never got too warm and we had a great breeze. I definitely felt the miles, but I also felt pretty good at the end of it. Certainly much better than the hellish 16-mile run and even last week's half. Hell, I felt better than my mid-week 8- (supposed to be 9) mile run.

So yeah, I only did 8 miles because I Divvied (that's a verb right?), down to the lake with a co-worker instead of running along the river path. So I lost just under a mile. I realized I'd be short before I got off the path to go home, but decided that 8 was close enough. I also ended up not doing my Thursday 5 mile run at all (or yet - if this weather holds, I might do it tomorrow). I wanted to do it on Friday, but didn't get up early enough to do it in the morning and then when I had time to do it was way too hot. I hate missing runs now, but honestly I don't feel that bad about it with how crappy the weather has been.

Sorry this has turned into a weather report, it just that these things are important to runners. I could tell you about my fueling strategy. I've recently switched from Gu to Shot Blocks to Honey Stingers chews. I like the Stingers cause they're smaller than the Shot Blocks and the chews in general just seem to sit better in my stomach than the Gu has been lately. 

I didn't think it was possible to have too many shoes.
Or I could talk to you about running shoes. For the past several months, I have been alternating
between two different sets of shoes: a pair of Asics and a pair of Brooks. It's nice to go back and forth between two pairs to let one rest. But after adding up my mileage on both sets of shoes I realized it was time for at least one new pair. I have miles left on both of them, but not enough to get me through the marathon. So yesterday off to the shoe store we went. My plan was to just get another pair of the Asics. I like both, but those were what I've been doing my long runs in. Of course, I forgot they were Asics and said Sauconys (I have a pair of those at work that I use when I go to the gym). Unfortunately my most recent shoe purchase wasn't in the store computer, so we went online looking for the specific pair of Sauconys, until Mr. H. said, "aren't you running in Asics?" So then we looked on that website, found the shoe. Then they asked what size and I said 8.5 because I was sure I was running in a shoe a full size up. Turns out I was, just not in the Asics, only in the Brooks. So that's weird, I'm wearing an 8 in the Asics but an 8.5 in the Brooks. Of course, I didn't figure that out until I got home last night and it was too late to do anything about it. I had planned on running in the new shoes this morning since it wasn't a "different" shoe, everyone assured me it would be fine. But I couldn't risk running in one not the right size. So I ran in the old Brooks, and then went back to the store today and exchanged the shoes for the right size. (Special thanks to the guys at Universal Sole for putting up with my nuttiness). I guess I should keep a note about my different shoes in my phone or something.

I'll spare you the story about my quest for new shorts until next week. Now on to the stats: 

Stats for the last week:
Miles run: 28 (though I may very well still make up that 5 mile run)
Miles left to go: 159.2
Raised so far: $1000.20
Left to go: NOTHING!

You read that right, after three more donations (thanks Uncle Tim, Amy and Claire) I have now made my minimum fundraising goal. That doesn't mean I won't remind people that, should they choose, they can still give money, but I'm super happy, and grateful, that I've raised the minimum.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The steps I take today

A few weeks ago I realized that I am a runner. I finally feel I can truly call myself a runner because when I missed a run in my schedule, the first time in weeks, it felt weird. I felt off the entire day. I used to feel like that with writing. I still do in some respects, but not in that down to the core way.

To help, I picked up my copy of One Continuous Mistake by Gail Sher. I've had it for quite a while - 15 years. I know this because my sister inscribed it when she gave it to be way back in 1999. I've read it before, or at least some of it, and it's been sitting on my bedside table for several months now. Finally today I started to re-read it.

And, as with so many things, I have these moments of inspiration where I feel like I need to do everything at once. But of course I can't. Like right now, I have three different blog posts in draft form because I have all these ideas. Which is great - and weird. Normally I feel like I have no ideas for blog posts. But that is part of the process. Getting into a habit of putting things down, even if it's just in a draft form, and working on it. Not making it something that has to be done today, right now, all or nothing. That all or nothing part is where I get stuck. It's overwhelming and I end up doing nothing. But if you do just a little bit, it adds up.

The book talks about kaizen - a Japanese concept that little steps, gradual progression leads to improvement. I also have an article hanging on my wall at work that references kaizen. I look at it to remind myself of the little steps I need to take. And really that's all it is; just little steps.

My transformation from a runner to a Runner was little steps (literally). I just kept at it. I gave myself goals and broke them down into plans (actually Hal Higdon did) and then I did them. No one goes from non runner to doing a marathon in a week or a month. But if you've put in all those little steps for weeks, and months, and years before hand, you can - I did.

Today, I have put ideas into draft form for several blog posts. This is my little step. I have also read something specific to writing. This is my little step. And tomorrow, I make a vow to work on one of the blog posts even if it's just for 10 minutes, and do that every day until the habit becomes something that defines me. That leaves an empty space if I don't do it. So when I call myself a writer, which I do, I don't feel like I'm fudging, which I do, because even if I'm not "published" or being read by anyone, I am still a writer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon

Some of the lovely ladies from the 11 min. pace group.
Instead of doing a 12-mile run on Saturday with my CARA training group, I decided it would be more fun to pay to do a 13.1 mile run on Sunday with several hundred women (and about 50 men) including four gals from my training group.

I'd been thinking about doing a half during marathon training pretty much since I decided to run the marathon again. It's nice to break up training with something different. There were a couple of places I could have slotted in a half, but I kept not getting around to it. And then a couple of weeks ago one of the ladies in the group mentioned doing this race. Then there was the whole back and forth, if you do it, I'll do it, and finally someone signed up and then the rest of us signed up and then there was no going back.

By the time I uploaded this picture
to Facebook, all the cherries were gone.
Of course I wish I had committed to this race much earlier as the $90 registration fee was a hit to the wallet. Especially when it was basically a training run that happened to come with a t-shirt and a medal. There were a few other aspects to the race that were less than appealing. The first being packet pick-up only available at the south loop Fleet Feet. I live within walking distance of a Fleet Feet, and wouldn't have even minded traveling to the Lincoln Park store if necessary. But to have to take the train or drive all the way to the south loop was a bit obnoxious - though to be fair, they did offer a morning of pick up option, but that would have just made me nervous. So I made the best of it of the trip. Since Baby H. and I both had no school/work, we took advantage of the day, rode the train (which amuses him much more than me), played on the playground that's right outside the store, and then headed over to 11 City Diner for lunch and a banana split.

The other major downer of the race was something the race director can't really control other than by scheduling the race in December - the heat. The last couple of weeks have been sweltering, and after a hellish 16-mile run last week, I was hoping for a cooler half marathon. No such luck. It was pretty warm when I left my house at 5 a.m. and stayed that way. 

Running this race was different in a couple of ways. This is the fourth half marathon race I've done, but the first time I haven't specifically trained for a race of this distance. So going into it I didn't have a goal time, only to keep within my training pace. Of course, there was part of me that wanted see how close I could get to my PR, and originally I had a plan for that. But I was loath to leave the ladies I train with, so we stuck together for the most part until the turn around at about mile 8.5. After that I sped up and dropped my pace down by a minute. But I could only keep it up for a couple of miles due to the heat, and ended up finishing just under my training pace.

The race itself was pretty par for the course. We started going North on Congress and headed down Michigan Ave. turning around at Superior. Michigan Ave. is so much nicer when there are no cars/taxis/buses on it and everyone on the sidewalk is cheering for you as you run by. Heading back south, we made our way over to the lake front path turning back north at 48th. While I was still with some of my training group, we debated the merits of an out and back course. Generally we dislike them. You kinda get bored, and if you're on the path, it can get crowded. But it is nice to do a race south of downtown since I rarely go over there. The path conditions are so nice, it makes me want to change my training location.

I've done a couple of women's races before and it's fun to not have men on the course. It's not that it's better necessarily, just different. For some reason, however, there were actually about 50 men who were signed up for the race. I'm not sure what that was about and I didn't really mind the guys who were clearly running with women (wives, partners, sisters, friends). But the fast guys, the ones actually racing, that seemed a little odd. It was funny, because those two guys in the lead, they didn't get any cheering as they ran past. But the first few women, they certainly did.

The course support was great, lots of water stops, a couple of places with water misters, one stop with a band. Unfortunately one stop had a rap song with some pretty strong language - basically every other word was bitch or fuck or n***er. To each his own on their musical choices, but not something I really enjoy while I'm running by.

In the end it was a good race and I think I'm ready to train and try for my goal of running a 10-min pace half. Pretty much everyone I know says I can do it and Mr. H. said he'd even pace me if I wanted. So now all I have to do it pick out a race and start training (after the marathon of course).

I finished in 2:21:20. That's 4/100ths of a second faster than my time at the winter half when it was basically zero degrees. Now we know that 2:21ish is my extreme temperature half marathon time. So there's that.

Marathon Training Weeks 11 & 12

Clearly I took a couple of weeks off of blogging, but I did not take any time off of training.

Week 11

My first day of vacation on Aug 21 I celebrated by doing my mid-week eight-mile run in the rain. Since the weather has decided to be summer at the end of August, the rain felt pretty good and it was never too heavy. By Saturday, the temperatures were topping mid 80s and the humidity levels were hovering around 90%. So the 16-mile long run was nothing short of brutal.

It was one of the rare days I wished I had my phone with me to take a picture. The lake was so foggy that you literally could not see the buildings on the other side of Lake Shore Drive. And even though we all know the path like the back of our hands, it was very disorienting not having immediate visual clues. I was pretty much praying for rain by the end, and with the amount of sweat on my body, I looked like I had jumped in the lake mid-run rather than at the end. It was the first time we had several people drop back and/or not complete the full mileage. But, as I've been saying all summer, I would rather have this weather now than on October 12. I'm just worried that it's waited too long to get here and it won't go away in time.

Despite my smile, I am a little freaked out about being
this high up, even though I've done this before

Week 12

Even though I was on vacation all last week, I still managed to get up at the crack of dawn to do my Tuesday/Thursday runs with my running partner. It was nice to get them out of the way. Those runs are going up to five miles now, which means I need to map out a new route around the 'hood. I shorted my Thursday run by one mile because (a) I needed to get home to so Baby H. and I could make our way to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel and (b) see below. Since I was on vacation, I was able to do my mid-week long run early again. I could totally get used to being a mom who drops of her son at pre-school, goes out for her morning run and then goes home to have a leisurely coffee and breakfast. But alas it's not to be. Besides, I'm eager to try out my new running backpack tomorrow.

It was a cut-back week this week, which meant "only" 12 miles. Rather than do that, I and a few other ladies from the training group signed up for the Magnificent Mile Women's Half Marathon. This is the same race I did a couple of years ago for Team Colleen. I remember how happy I was that day I was doing the 5k rather than the half because it was so very hot. This year was a repeat of the hot weather, but that's a separate post.

Now to the stats. Unfortunately that extra tenth of a mile from the half marathon won't be deducted from my miles left to go, but such is life. Even so, I'm down to less than 200 miles before this whole journey is over. On the fundraising front, I had a flurry of donations the past couple of weeks thanks to several people including Dave, Sarah, Michelle, Aaron and Katie, and I'm less than 100 bucks away from my goal.

I'll link to my half marathon review once I write it. In the meantime, feel free to make a donation while you wait: http://www.razoo.com/story/Melanie-Higgins-Fundraising-For-Cara-Road-Scholars-2014-Bank-Of-America-Chicago-Marathon-Team?referral_code=sw

Stats for the last two weeks:
Miles run: 61.1
Miles left to go: 193.2
Raised so far: $909.20
Left to go: $90.80

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marathon Training Week 10

Some of the 11 min group.
That's me in the back with the white hat.
Fifteen miles today. It's the first time I've run that far since the marathon two years ago. I felt pretty good, but around mile 13  I actually got a little nauseous. I think it was partly my body saying "hey, 13 miles, that's when we stop right?" It was probably really because of a combination of too much water/Gatorade/Gu or just the fact that we were out there for so long and it was kinda warm.

A little before mile 13 my left leg starting acting up. It's not too bad, just tight. So I'm going to make an effort to stretch and roll it out. This last week, I've been good about doing my strength exercises. I downloaded a new app, Seven, which goes through twelve exercises, working the whole body. It's supposed to be the most effective way to get your heart rate up and do strength training without weights. One circuit takes just over seven minutes (hence the name). The app makes it fun by giving and taking hearts for workouts done and missed. I've only missed a couple because even if I don't want to do it, I know that I'll be done in seven minutes, so I do it anyway.

I'm starting to get into the right mental space to run the marathon again. Last night I was worried about covering the 15 miles since it's been almost two years running that far. So much of a marathon is mental and frankly, the thought is scary. It may be scarier when you've done it before because you know what it takes. I may very well finish and say "yep, that's it, never again." But I didn't think I was going to do a second one either.

Oh - I almost forgot. After our run, and our ridiculously long plank (that I took a few seconds break in the middle of), most of us went down to the lake and jumped (hobbled) in. It felt so good and I think counts as much as an ice bath does. I didn't even mind biking home in wet shorts.

No update on the fundraising front. I need to send my coworkers another plea - if I have to put up with them every day, the least they can do is kick in a few bucks towards Road Scholars. 

Stats for the week:
Miles run: 29
Miles left to go: 254.2
Raised so far: $734.20
Left to go: $265.80



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Marathon Training Week Nine - I am a runner

I know I'm kinda late with this update - mainly because what can I say that I haven't said before about training for a marathon. You get out there, you run, you wash running clothes, you do it all over again.

I did have an interesting experience on Tuesday of last week. I didn't go out for my early morning run with S. because I was tired. Sure, I could have dragged myself out of bed, but I just wasn't up to it. So I didn't do it. All day I felt like something was off. I felt like maybe I had left the garage door open, or the stove on or something. But I knew what it was - I hadn't run. And so I now realize that this is who I am. Not all that I am - but a big part of who I am. I'm not the fastest runner, or the most accomplished and I'm not the person who was "born to run". But now, I am a runner. And even when I'm not running, I will still probably consider myself a runner. Just like I consider myself a writer even when I'm not actively writing anything. Or a reader even if it's been weeks since I've picked up a book.

It feels weird to say that because I feel like a poser. Someone who is just trying to fit in. Maybe it comes from surrounding myself with people that are faster than me. Maybe it's because (in my mind) I don't "look" like a runner. Maybe it's because I rarely run more than 25 miles in a week, and if I'm not marathon training, probably hardly more than 15. But I think if missing a run gives you a nagging feeling like you forgot to do something, like something's missing, well, that gives you the right to call yourself a runner - regardless of what you look like, how fast you run or how many miles you log.

I know I'm the only person who's telling me that I'm not a "runner". It feels good to give myself permission to do so.

Stats for the week:
Miles run: 21
Miles left to go: 283.2
Raised so far: $734.20
Left to go: $265.80