Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Consistency of Change

This week was full of examples of how life sometimes gets in the way of my running.  Balance is a key theme to this training cycle.  It has taught me to be flexible and roll with the punches.  When you have two small children and a husband who works crazy hours, you take your running time when you can get it.

On Tuesday, I woke up to do a six mile recovery run.  I was getting ready to head out the door and Kenny woke up telling me that he had to be at work by 7 a.m. to prepare for his early meeting.  Since it was already 6, it didn't leave me a lot of time.  I didn't want to push the pace, since I had just run a half marathon, so I went out easy and just shortened the run.  I ran 3.81 miles.

Wednesday, I had a hard time waking up early.  It was raining and that really does a number on my motivation.  I dilly dallied doing my morning routine and left later than I would have liked.   I ended up running about four miles (I forgot to charge my Garmin, so that is a pretty good estimate).  The rain was pretty light and let up completely by the end.*  It felt nice, actually.  I think that, for me, the anticipation of running in the rain is worse than the reality.  It rains so rarely here, that it gets built up into more than it really is.

On Thursday, I was volunteering in my son's class while my daughter was in preschool.  I knew I had about an hour to kill after classroom time and before I had to pick him up, so I  planned on running in daylight.  I needed to make up some miles from the days before, so I went out for a short run before everyone woke up.  I ended up running three miles before 7 a.m. and almost six after my class time.  See what I mean about getting it in when I can?

Saturday is my day to run with the girls.  Kelly, Heidi and I ran an easy 7.66 miles in Heidi's neighborhood and through the dry lake bed behind her house.  None of us were up for a heavy run.  Heidi was still recovering from her first half marathon and nursing a sore IT band.  Kelly had just recovered from a pulled muscle and hadn't run in over a week. Heidi decided to stop and rest and ice her leg.  Kelly and I contemplated going on and running a couple more miles, but both of us had family commitments.  I also knew that I had a long run planned for the next day and thought it best not to push it.  The rest of the day was filled with a playdate in the park and babysitting a friend's kids.

So that brings me to Sunday.  On the schedule was the last long run of the training cycle.  Twenty-two miles.  I was torn between being excited and completely dreading it.  I mapped out a route that goes along the majority of the Surf City Marathon course.  I have never been to Huntington Beach and I was looking forward to a nice preview of the race.  I wasn't looking forward to four hours of running by myself, however.  The plan was to get down to the beach around 7 or so.  As I was getting ready for bed, my dear hubby dropped a bomb.  He had to work in the morning, a meeting at 9 a.m.  WHAT????  My heart dropped, but I can't really complain about it.  Kenny's work is our priority.  He works very hard so that I can stay home with the kids.  Giving him a hard time won't wake matters better, will it?

I tried to make the best of the situation.  I knew I couldn't get twenty-two miles in before 8:30.  I considered running half before his meeting and half after, but I wanted to try to get four hours in a row, if possible.  If he could get out of his meeting by noon, I could get a four hour run in before dark (and maybe before the rain came).  I knew how his meetings sometimes run long, but I thought since it was on a Sunday, he might be able to wrap it up quickly.  It was a gamble.

So throughout the morning, I thought that I would get word that he was on his way.  I had my normal Luna Bar that I have every day, but nothing else.  I ran some errands with the kids to try to be somewhat productive.  When I fed the kids lunch, I failed to make something substantial for me.  I thought that Kenny might be home any time and I didn't want to have to wait to digest.  The only thing I ate other than my Luna Bar was a couple of pretzels and some Hawaiian bread.  I think I was relying on the food I ate the day before to get me through.  This was a mistake.

He finally arrived home at 2:30.  At this point, I just wanted to get as many miles as I could.  I scrapped the plan to drive down to the beach.  A half an hour down to a community completely unfamiliar seemed a waste of time at this point.  I decided to run down to the river and run out and back.  As I was getting on all my gear (hat, Garmin, iPod, Fuel Belt, etc.) it started to rain.  This disappointed me, since the entire morning was gorgeous.  Unlike some blogger friends I know, I don't relish running in the rain, especially when I knew that the rain was likely to stick around for days.  I started running around 2:45-- not a lot of time before dark.

I felt fine starting out.  The rain was light and it wasn't too cold.  My pace felt easy as I kept it around 9:30/mile.   I ran the mile to the river trail (which might be unrunnable later this week) and headed west.  With the weather, the path was a bit dark and dreary.  There weren't the normal runners, walkers and bikers on it.  I knew that it would be really creepy after dark, so I figured out that I needed to turn around after seven miles in order to get off the path by 5 p.m.  I had forgotten my pepper spray and didn't want to see what lurked under the bridges after dark.  I turned around just past 4 p.m.

It was about that time that the rain really started coming down.  My nylon windbreaker was definitely not a rain jacket and was now just a cold, wet, nylon cover that clung to my arms making me cold.  It works fine for short runs in light drizzle, but not in real rain.   I enjoy seeing other bloggers and their self portraits, so I thought I would attempt one of my own.  I stopped, sent a tweet to Penny about the rain and got my phone soaking wet.

A note to self:  when you are running in the rain and have warmed up nicely, do not stop for more than a few seconds.  It is much harder to warm up and get back in the groove.   As I ran back to my entrance to the river trail, my pace was much harder to keep up.  Where two hours ago, running well under 10-minute miles was easy, now it was a chore.  I tried to push myself to "race pace" of just over 9:00 and it was a huge task.

Once off the river trail, I had a decision.  It was getting close to dark.  I could run home and call it a day at fourteen miles.  But then I felt like I needed a twenty miler next weekend to make up for it.  But next weekend starts my taper with sixteen miles.  Would throwing a twenty miler in two weeks before the marathon be a mistake?  I didn't want to risk it.  Although it was now getting legitimately dark, I knew that I could run on the streets of my neighborhood in the dark.  Usually, however, when I run in the dark, it is before dawn and it gradually gets lighter and lighter; not the other way around.  The other issue, besides the dark (and rain) was the fact that the only flat place to run is the river bed.  If I added miles now, they would be hilly.

I decided to do a loop I had done several times.  It was very hilly, but I thought it might make up for the fact that I wouldn't get all twenty-two miles in.  I figured that I could add about five miles onto my run, giving me a little more than nineteen miles.  I might be able to do a couple loops around the park to make it an even twenty.

These last five miles were akin to the last five miles of a marathon.  As I headed up the first hill, I realized I was getting pretty tired and worn out.  I ate my third Gu and headed up a very long, steep hill.  That hill was nothing short of torture.  If I was smart, I would have turned around and ran straight home, calling it a day at around fifteen miles.  But I was determined to finish that loop.  I made deals with myself.  If I made it to the top of the hill, I would eat some candy.   If I made it to that street lamp, I could walk.  I talked to myself for close to an hour.  It was dark, it was wet, I was tired and I was hungry.   My legs were DONE.  I realized that it was close to 6 p.m. and I hadn't had a real meal all day.  I had a pretty good feeling that was why my legs hurt so much.   By the time I reached the top of the big hill, all I wanted to do was get home.   When I reached the next big hill (right before mile seventeen), I was close to tears.

When I arrived at my house, I was done.  I couldn't have run another step.  I couldn't get an even twenty miles, let alone the planned twenty-two.  If it was marathon day, there is no way in hell I could have run another seven miles.  I ran just over nineteen and my legs hurt more than both the marathons I have run previously.  My confidence level dropped a few notches.   At this point, I am three weeks from the marathon and there isn't much I can do now.

I know that nutrition played a big factor in how I felt on Sunday.  I also know that ending a long run with such a difficult route played a factor.   I am disappointed that my last really long run was so hard.  I wanted to enter the taper phase on a high note.   I have a sixteen miler planned for next weekend and part of me wants to tack on a few miles, just to boost my confidence.  Experienced marathoners out there... what do you think?   Should I stick with the planned taper of sixteen (1/24) then ten (1/31) then race (2/7) Sunday schedule?

To go along with the theme of changing up my schedule, this morning Kenny had to be at work at 6:30.  I am off to do my run now, instead of running errands without kids.  It is all about finding the time and making it work.

Happy Running, everyone...

Oh, and I wanted to let you know about a great giveaway!  I am not sure I want more people to enter because I really want to win this one.  However, Marcia has a nice blog and if you haven't checked it out, you should.  giveaway:  http://teamarcia-runningmouth.blogspot.com/2010/01/well-ideclare.html

*funny side note: the rain had stopped by the time I walked my son to school.  The ground was wet and there might have been a little drizzle here and there.  Usually, before school all the older kids play on the playground until the bell rings to line up.  We weave through the playground every morning on our way to the kindergarten classroom.  On Wednesday, the playground was empty.  This is a school with no gymnasium or cafeteria; everything is done outside.  This means that the kids were all in their classrooms.  Only in Southern California would you bring kids inside after the rain had stopped.  Growing up in Oregon, if they kept us inside every time there was a drop of rain, we would have never had any fresh air.  Even after school when our kids usually play a bit in the park next to the school, all the parents took the kids immediately home. Can't kids here stand a little rain or mud?  It makes me laugh.


MCM Mama said...

I'm hardly an experienced marathoner, but I would not add miles next week. You've built the fitness, now let your body get ready. Given the lack of food and the hills, I think you should feel really good about finishing those last miles.

Enjoy the taper.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm not really experienced, but I would stick with your taper plan. You've been doing solid work this training cycle and the difficulties you faced in this long run (HILLS!) will help make up for the missing miles.

You're doing awesome!

Alissa said...

When was your last marathon again? Was it in the last year? I'd say stick to your schedule. Those 20 and 22 milers are for both mental and physical endurance. I would say you gained more mental endurance than you would of had you had a perfect 22 miler that morning. You got the bad run out of the way, now you can just feel good for the marathon. And you are definitly right about the nutrition. Remind yourself you'll have eaten right on race day and it will make all the difference! I hope you replenished really good after that. A run like that without food can really break down your body! I've learned that the hard way.

I can't believe how flexible you can be with your runs! I'm so regimented, I hate going at odd times and without warning! I guess I will have to change when it comes time to have kids. You are tough! I never would have been able to do a long run like that in the afternoon in the rain with hills. You are my HERO! :)

Marathonman101108 said...

Hey stranger! Do NOT change your marathon training plan. Numbers wise you ran over 19 miles of your planned 22 miles. However, in reality physically and mentally you ran far greater than the 19 plus miles. Congrats on doing so well when it would have been so easy to quit.

Lindsay said...

i know how tough it is for myself to juggle and squeeze in workouts, and i'm not a mom/wife! i know it's not easy - you definitely deserve some praise for making it work :)

i must echo everyone else in saying good job on pushing out those 19+ miles! there were many obstacles trying to get in your way, but you kept pressing on.

as far as winding down for the marathon, i would stick to the plan. 19 is still a good long run and i'm sure you had another 20+ miler not long ago? another thing to remember is that you probably aren't doing ~20-ish miles every weekend, and doing it again next weekend might do more damage than good for the race! plan the work, work the plan!

Angela said...

I love it when you blog about your runs b/c I get to read them outloud to Matthew while he does something...like the dishes. ;)
He wanted to respond to this one personally, so I am handing the computer over to him! :)

I LOVE your blog, but enough mushy stuff...:) I am far from an experienced marathoner as I've only run three. However, my advice is not to stress about it too much. I know you will think about and constantly try to evaluate your training strategy, which is perfectly appropriate. However, don't stress about it. There is a difference.

My last long run before Disney was supposed to be 21 miles, the longest of my training. Stupidly, I tried a new strategy for my long run and purposely went out fast. (Who tries a new strategy just two weeks before the actual race?) Obviously, this came back to bite me at the end of my run and I could only go 18.5 and had to walk the other 2.5 back to my car. Two weeks prior to that run I had run 19 miles. So, not only did I not make the scheduled 21, but felt like I had lost ground. What a bad way to finish training. However, all was not lost. I ran the entire 26.2 miles of the Disney marathon (26.6 miles if you count weaving in and out of the crowds of runners), and set a PR under four hours.

I have found there are two things that cause me to have a bad run, 1) when I start out way to fast, as mentioned above, and 2) when I can't get into a groove because I'm constantly having to figure out where I am and where I'm going. I don't know why, but trying to figure out directions during a run completely wipes me out.

My point of this is that I believe, based on your blogs, you are trained enough to run the marathon as long as you can relax and find your groove. Don't let your last run dictate how the marathon will go as you've done a lot more training for this race than that one run. I would stay with your planned taper (16 miles, 10 miles, then race). Use the taper to build your confidence about the race as tapering is just as much about recovering mentally as it is physically. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!

Irene said...

If it weren't cold or windy I also wouldn't mind running in the rain. I thought I would get in a run BEFORE the rain, but Mother Nature is speedy and rain set in with two miles left in my run.

Yeah, So Ca people are a bit wussie when it comes to rain. :) That being said, we did have tornado warnings yesterday... Yikes.

Happy Running!

Glenn Jones said...

Lisa - remember the purpose of the long run is to stimulate glycogen storage and get your body to use fat as an energy source. It's not about going 20 miles, or 19 miles, o anything like that. If you put in 19 miles and were on your feet over 3 hours you accomplished the task. Don't beat yourself up about it!

I vote stick to your taper.

I used to live up by you - over off of Jamboree and Chapman, so I used to run Santiago Oaks, Irvine Regional, and Peters Canyon all the time. I really enjoy the way that all the trails interconnect. I miss it!

I hope your staying warm and dry!


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