Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Small negotiations

After 2 weeks of recovery from Dopey and the nasty cold I got when I arrived home, I finally went for a run this weekend. Two runs actually, back to back. Because I need to start training for my back to back marathons coming up in May.

Saturday while some of the east coast was being buried by a blizzard, Lowell was protected by a lovely bubble of high pressure, but it also brought with it ridiculously cold air. The temps were in the teens with a "real feel" in the single digits. I convinced my friend Lisa to get out there and do a quick easy 3 miles with me. Well, actually we convinced each other. It was a text conversation back and forth that went a little like "we should go for a run" "it's really stupid cold out though" "just a short one" "we will be done before we even realize it's cold" "I have a lot to do today" "it won't take us long" "it's not going to get much warmer, if we go we should go soon" "I could do 3 miles right now" "ok let's do it" "I'll get dressed" "me too"

My legs definitely felt a little heavy and it took about half a mile for them to remember what this running thing is and how to do it. And right about half a mile in was when the wind kicked up and we realized how friggin cold it was. It was ok though, we were already out there and running, nothing left to do but get it done and we did. Afterwards I felt a lot better. I had been feeling antsy and kind of lazy because I rested SO much after Dopey, but clearly my body needed it. The run was a success and I was back at it again. Officially training for my next marathon.

Sunday morning I was very pleased to wake up and see the sun AND no snow (sorry rest of the east coast, but Lowell got enough last year). I headed out for a slightly longer run. Aiming for 4-5 miles, 4 if my legs and body didn't feel good and 5 if everything was ok. As I was running and reaching the decision point of my route, it occurred to me that every run is in a way a series of small negotiations between the brain and the body. This could not be more true in a marathon.

On this particular run I was debating between, easing into my training and not over doing it but going a little bit further if I felt like it, but not too far. I play these weird mind games with myself. Like if my iPod shuffle plays a motown song next instead of rock or pop I will turn around now and call it a day. Or maybe I'll just run to the next mailbox and THEN turn around, that might be far enough for the day. Then this other voice in my head chimes in and says, stop it you feel great and you can go a little further. Then the OCD side of my brain kicks in and thinks if I do 7 miles today that makes a nice even 10 for the week with yesterday's 3 miles. And the type A planner in me starts thinking long term, if I do 3 and 7 this week, what should I run next week?  I ended up pushing through the negative Nelly that tried to make me cut the run short and did the full 7 mile loop.

The same sort of small negotiations happen during a marathon only there is no turning back. It is either keep moving forward or stop. When I start to suffer towards the end of a race I think to myself "just get to the next water stop or mile marker". I forget where I read it and which marathon training book it was in, but one of the best mantras I've learned is no matter how far you have gone or how far you still have to go, just run the mile you are in. I use that one a lot in the last 10K of a marathon. I sometimes try to do math (depending on how delirious I am sometimes I succeed sometimes not so much) - how many miles left? If I can at least maintain my current pace for the next X miles I can still finish under X:XX time.

No matter how much it hurts and how much I suffer I somehow always manage to negotiate just a little more out of myself. I have even thought before, "as long as I slow down a little I'm not going to die". "This might take me a lot longer than I wanted it to, but I will finish." "I can go straight to the medical tent AFTER I cross the finish line." "Just stay upright" "Don't close your eyes" "Don't pass out." "The faster you move your feet, the sooner this will all be over." "Run for just one minute more or 30 seconds more."  All of these little conversations I have with myself somehow eventually lead to the glory at the finish line that I have been chasing ever since my first marathon. Then I start the debate of I'm never doing this again vs. what race should I sign up for next.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Year, New AWESOME!

It's going to be really tough to top last year, but that won't stop me from trying. Here's a quick 2015 recap: Dopey Challenge #2, Ice Climbing, Flying Pig Marathon (#20), flew a plane, went sailing, hiked Franconia ridge solo, completed the New England Mountain Goat Series, played Polo, rappelled down an 80ft. waterfall, did a high ropes obstacle course, went to Hollywood, took a pottery class, went to Niagara Falls, ran marathon #21, played BINGO, went dog sledding, and a whole lot of other awesome things.

My total mileage for the year was pretty low, but I went into the year with the goal of doing more non-running things so it makes sense. I think I checked off something like 50 items on my "to-do" list and reached a total of 150 things checked off (out of the growing list of currently 475 things). Looking back, it was in a word - EPIC. I know people tend to overuse that word, but I think it really applies to 2015 for me. I accomplished A LOT for one year and had A LOT of fun.

So far 2016 has had a decent start. I rang in the New Year at a Gatsby style red carpet gala. Then got up the next day with a bit of a champagne headache and ran a 10K. It wasn't fast, but I felt good so I didn't care.
This past weekend I completed my 3rd Dopey Challenge in Disney World. As usual, the weather was my biggest challenge, not the 48.6 miles. The 5K and 10K went well, although thinking about it now, I might have raced them a little too fast in preparation for the half and the full. I finished the 5K in about 40 minutes (stopping for a picture with Chip and Dale about a mile into the race). I finished the 10K in about 75 minutes. It was pouring rain and a little cold, but overall not too bad.

For the half marathon, I dressed as Tinkerbell again and tried to get as many fun photos as I could, saving my legs for the full marathon. It was hazy and humid. Not as bad as 2015, but still muggy. I was drenched within the first mile. I stopped at almost every character to get a photo and I think I finished in a little over 3 and a half hours. Afterwards I refueled and relaxed the rest of the day at our hotel and even got to spend some time floating around in the lazy river. 

The morning of the full marathon I felt pretty good. It was really humid again, but the temperature was cool so I wasn't too worried. The forecast was 68-70 degrees and partly cloudy for the whole day. As soon as I started running though my legs felt heavy and my quads were not happy. I made it to the castle and through Magic Kingdom feeling pretty good. The sun started to peek through the clouds around mile 10 right before Animal Kingdom. Lucky for me it stayed behind the clouds and didn't really come out.

Running into Animal Kingdom I remembered that the past few years of the race Disney allowed runners to ride the roller coaster Expedition Everest mid-race. I've always skipped it, but I had a feeling it was going to be a long day and I decided to take the opportunity and have a little fun before the really tough miles. It was right at the half way point and I was 3 hours into the race and fully expecting a 6 hour marathon so, why not? IT WAS AWESOME!!! Totally worth it. I will do it again next year and every year I run Disney as long as my legs will let me.

I had such a boost of adrenaline and energy after that, the next few miles flew by. It wasn't until I got to the ESPN Wide World of Sports around mile 17 that I started feeling not quite right. I actually swayed and stumbled a bit and almost went down. I took a quick status check and realized I was crusty and covered in salt, I couldn't remember when I took my gels and how many I had left, I couldn't do simple math to figure out from one walk break to the next what time my watch should read, I was starting to get nauseous, and despite the relatively low temps I felt like my head was on fire.

I had to stop for bandaids on my toes twice in the next 3-4 miles and also covered myself in biofreeze to attempt to stay cool and pain free. I did my best to stick to the run 6 minutes - walk 1 minute alarms I set on my watch, but found myself walking a little more and running a little less. Each time I started running I felt like I was going really fast and pushing really hard, but my Garmin told a different story and my body just wouldn't allow me to do what my brain wanted to do - RUN. I started heaving somewhere in the last 10K. Couldn't drink anything even though I knew my body was completely depleted. I ran out of Gels and didn't have any salt tablets.

I was texting mile updates with friends to let them know I was still moving forward and to have something to mentally focus on. One foot in front of the other, one mile at a time. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, only 2 more miles, I can do it. 25.....last mile, come on body just keep moving. Back spasms and stomach cramps. Dizziness. Nausea. This is not fun. Then I rounded the last corner past the big golf ball of Epcot, with the gospel chorus singing and dancing and cheering me on, I pushed through the pain and crossed the finish line. STILL STANDING! Not fast, but I finished. Then I sat down and was handed a puke bag by a very nice medical volunteer. I had to sit for about 15 minutes before I felt like I could move and even then I did not feel well, but I didn't want to go to the medical tent so I got up and got my medals and found my friends.
On the way to the car we found a wheel chair, so naturally I took a little ride. Back at the hotel, it took me a few hours to be able to get any fluids or food down. But I managed to shower and eat a slice of toast and force down some Gatorade and slowly came back to life.

It's a strange sensation to finish another marathon and another Dopey Challenge. During the race it's a struggle and an intense physical effort, but not long after it seems like a dream (or nightmare) that didn't really happen. My body still has faint memories, aches and pains, and fatigue but my brain has already blocked it out or forgotten that just a few days ago I traveled 48.6 miles on my own two feet four days in a row. I have to remind myself I DID IT because it is too easy for me to focus on the perceived failure. It didn't go as expected and I was slower than I wanted to be and I felt awful at the end, but I DID IT!

Already thinking about fall marathons and which one might be fun to run....stay tuned.