One More Breath. One More Step.

August has been a great month. It started with the Tom Short 5k, which we do every year to honor one of Carl’s childhood friends who was a runner. They hold a 5k each year benefitting the General Dacey Trail in Shelbyville, IL. It’s a challenging, hilly course, and always a good way to spend a Saturday morning. I was happy with my time of 30:40, and my level of fitness at this point. This year, since we are training for NY, we got in a 4 mile run that Sunday, too, around Lake Shelbyville, where I spent many a summer with my friend Joy on her parents’ boat, skiing and swimming and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

At the start line

At the start line


Finishing the Tom Short 5k 8.2.14

Finishing the Tom Short 5k 8.2.14

 

Mid August took me to Cambridge, MA, for a reunion of my Harvard Kennedy School program of 2011. I was there for a week, and not just a little concerned about getting in some decent mileage while there — given that there are people and places there that I’d rather be spending my time with. But it worked out well that the hotel I was in was on the Cambridge Parkway, a 8.7 mile path around the Charles River. And it didn’t hurt that four of my friends who were attending the reunion set out with me the morning of the 16th. I did 10 glorious miles that morning and loved every step. I’d run three miles that Thursday before as well, around Boston Harbor, and I got in another six on Sunday. Here are some shots of my routes around my favorite city.

Left to Right: John Kefalas, Beth McCann, Ciaran Hayes, me, Marilee Nihan

Left to Right: John Kefalas, Beth McCann, Ciaran Hayes, me, Marilee Nihan

20140814_071332 20140816_095201 20140816_095806

During those travels I missed two weeks of my yoga practice, but got back this past week. I also came home to ghastly heat and humidity. We underestimate the power that heat, and especially humidity, have on our bodies. So the 10 mile run on August 23 was not good. I fell apart at about mile 7 and it was all I could do to get to the end. Those kinds of experiences really take their toll on me. They make me doubt my abilities, and question my sanity in terms of training for another marathon. But since then, our runs have been pretty good, considering the weather we’re dealing with. Track work last week was hard, but we managed to get it done.

Yesterday’s 13 miles went OK – have I mentioned it’s really hot here? It wasn’t fast, but it was long, and today’s 5 miler went surprisingly smoothly after that. That’s 33 miles this week and 100+ for the month of August. I feel like I’m really in a running groove right now and I don’t want to mess it up. I take each run as they come. I try to stay present. As in yoga, I try to take one more breath. And in running, one more step. It’s really hard work. But we’re pushing through and trying to enjoy the process. The race is 9 weeks from today.

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5 Weeks In: Progress, and We Are Stronger Than We Think

Time for an update! We began our training for the NYC marathon 5 weeks ago yesterday. Since then I’ve experienced issues with both ankles and my piriformis muscle (right butt muscle) and Carl has experienced a hip problem that sidelined him for a week. All seems to be well now, though, and I feel like we are well into our training and making progress toward our goal of finishing the NYC marathon happy and with energy to spare.

I’ve ran 92.75 miles since I declared we’d begun, topping of this week with a total of 18 miles. I feel good. Tired, but good, and not as tired as I’m going to feel in the very near future. We’ve got one more “easy week” and then we start our speed work and our runs get longer and longer, and our weekly mileage gets higher and higher. I’m ready. I feel strong.

We call this Horse Pose, I think. I don't know the Sanskrit name. I like it because it's more difficult than it looks! Try it!

We call this Horse Pose, I think. I don’t know the Sanskrit name. I like it because it’s more difficult than it looks! Try it!

Yoga is still my strength training, and it is a very hard weekly workout for me. Both yoga and the runs are a combination of physical and mental exercise. It’s hard for me to explain. In yoga, as much physical strength as many of the poses require, there is an element of mental strength necessary to not just get into a pose, but to stay there. We do a lot of “vision questing,” that is, seeing ourselves in the pose, seeing my foot go to where it is supposed to before it does, with strength and grace. That’s not to say I never fall on my face! I do.

The same goes for running. It is as much mental as it is physical. If I let my mind tell me that I can’t, or it’s impossible, then there is no question that it will be. Tell myself I can do it, and I most likely can. See myself at the end, done, finished. It doesn’t mean I don’t bonk, hit the wall, want to quit – particularly in this summer heat and humidity. But if I believe I can hit a pose that seems crazy, or that I can finish a run strong, then I most likely can, and in both cases I’ve just done more than I think I am capable of.

You are I are always stronger than we think we are.

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Off We Go!

Cheers to starting. Can't finish if you don't start!

Cheers to starting. Can’t finish if you don’t start!

Our training was officially to start NEXT Monday. But last weekend, on an 8 mile run, I abruptly decided I was tired of waiting to start, so I declared, simply, that we had. It’s interesting, the shift, that the mind makes when you suddenly declare yourself “in training.” It makes you think differently about the food you eat, the different choices you make. I already feel like I’m on a path to the marathon. It won’t be my first marathon – far from it. New York will be my 5th (following 2 in Illinois, one in Memphis, and one in Kona). But it’s different. It’s freaking NEW YORK!

Saturday’s was a decent run, though I struggle (SO MUCH) in the heat and humidity of the Midwest. It will be the reality for the next few months, as will the schedule of running five days a week – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday was my third day in a row running for the first time in a long time. My body is already wondering just what the hell is going on here! I’m going to try hard to stick to the schedule and to make life as easy on myself as possible, including packing the bags I will need for the week on Sundays.

Vrksasana with reverse Anjali. Give it up. Give it away. Open to Grace. Open heart.

Vrksasana with reverse Anjali. Give it up. Give it away. Open to Grace. Open heart.

There’s no question that yoga is making me stronger, both physically and mentally. It is a challenge every single Tuesday. I’ve been having fun incorporating some poses into the longer runs. Here’s Vrksasana with reverse Anjali. I got pretty far into the back bend, which I assume led to my prompt imbalance, and then fell into a heap on the ground. I think in the future I’ll stay firmly *planted* on the ground, instead of trying these things on top of fences. 🙂

It seems so far away right now – the race start, I mean. So much work has to get done in the meantime. It’s daunting. I can imagine it, but still, it won’t be what I’ve envisioned when it finally happens, as is the case with so much in life I suppose. I hope it’s greater than my mind will allow me to imagine. I can’t wait for the bling and the orange poncho and to see my friends at the finish line. I hope I train well. I hope I stay healthy and keep getting stronger. I hope, on difficult days, I remember that I am always happier when I’ve done the work. I look better and feel better. This is going to be really hard, but I’m ready for the challenge and I welcome your support and encouragement.

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NYC Marathon Training Plan

NYC Marathon 18-Week Training Plan

NYC Marathon 18-Week Training Plan

It took us awhile but we’ve finally settled on this training plan. It’s a modified beginner plan from the Hansons Marathon Method, and uses a combo of speed (yellow), tempo (blue), easy (orange) and long (pink) runs. My X-Train is yoga. Carl’s is weights and strength training at the gym. The longest run in a Hansons marathon training plan is 16 miles – their strategy is based on this. But ours is modified to include two 20-milers toward the end of the training. We’ll feel better having logged those long runs. We’ll work our way up from 12 miles/week to 50 – the most I’ve ever ran in a week – at week 15. I expect to be a little grumpy, and not just a little hungry, by then. 🙂 We officially start July 1.

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Ready For the Hills in Columbia’s GoGirlRun Half Marathon 5.24.14

I’m not sure if driving the course the day before was a good idea or not. What it did was give me a sense of the difficulty of the course the GoGirlRun organizers had set out for us. I’d never done that before, so I assumed doing so would simply make me fret over what I saw, and fret I did. But I ended up sleeping fairly well the night before. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. in my own house, for a half in my own city, is not something I’m used to. It was weird. Also weird was the fact that Carl did not run this race with me. No dudes allowed. In the end, while the hills in the Jay Dix 10k a month before took me totally by surprise, I was ready for the hills in the GoGirlRun half. I crossed the finish line in 2:36, happy to have done my best on that day.

At the Start Line!

At the Start Line!

At the Finish Line!

At the Finish Line!

With My Finisher Bling

With My Finisher Bling

It was actually really cool to do such a long run through Columbia. The first third of the course took us west along the Katy Trail, where we do so many of our runs, so it was familiar to me. Then we ran on the roads for quite awhile, to another part of the trail, over to Stadium Blvd – and the largest, longest of the killer hills – and back to the trail. It was a good course, good race, and I’d run it again. I was so surprised throughout the course as, over and over again, I passed chalked words of encouragement written on the roads by Carl – up until midnight the night before! – and seeing my very special sign made by Bev as I passed their house gave me energy and made me smile.

The BEST Chalk Art Ever :-)

The BEST Chalk Art Ever 🙂

Artwork on the Course - Hey KSM! That's ME! :-)

Artwork on the Course – Hey KSM! That’s ME! 🙂

I cannot imagine that it is June already. In just three short weeks we begin our 18-week training plan for the NYC Marathon in November. I’m ready to start. It’s safe to say that I’m taking it easy this month. Still hitting yoga each week, and still running at least three times per week, but not pushing it too hard. Today is the first Saturday I haven’t ran in I don’t know how many weeks. But it’s raining, and I slept in, and I’m sitting here writing this and drinking my second cup of coffee. It’s making me understand just how much, and how hard, I work to be able to run well and happy. But at the moment, I’m just enjoying my lazy Saturday morning.

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Let It Be, or, No One Told Me There Would Be Hills

As if I wouldn’t know that there would be hills… in a 10k, in Columbia, where there are a LOT of hills. How long have I lived here? Sometimes I am SO unaware. I never really looked at the route and I think that is a good thing, because if I would have anticipated this course I don’t think I would’ve done as well as I did.

I finished the Jay Dix Challenge to Cure 10k in 1:07:25. I’m happy with that because of the hills! My best 10k time is 1:04. That I was only 3 minutes off that on this course is pretty damn fantabulous in my book. Carl did great, coming in at 1:00 on the dot. They changed the age ranges seemingly mid-race, so what we thought was a second place (medal) finish for him turned out to be 4th place. Oh well. Another day. Bev walked the 5k and we all had a grand time post-race with pancakes (I skipped those) and beer (I did not skip the beer).

My time ticket...1:07:25.

My time ticket…1:07:25.

Bev and me, sporting our big shades, after the race.

Bev and me, sporting our big shades, after the race.

Carl, enjoying a post-race beer.

Carl, enjoying a post-race beer.

We often talk about doing your best on that day. I really felt like I did that on Saturday. I started out with the goal of just running the whole route without taking any walk breaks. I think it takes a lot of mental stamina to change plans/goals mid-race, and in my case, after I ran UP HILL the entire first mile. I wanted to lay down in the middle of the road and I’d only run a MILE. Holy crap. I was going to have to make some adjustments. 🙂

So I allowed myself to walk at the top of the hill after the first mile. Then again after some more %$#(*&! hills at the end of mile 2. Then again at mile 4. Then again at mile 6. Somewhere in there I missed a turn and nearly went the wrong way – a first for me and a clear reminder that as a runner I am always responsible for knowing my surroundings and the course. Duh.

So much of running is mental, though I do credit the hill runs we’ve been doing for some time now. I don’t think I would’ve known how to power through if we hadn’t been doing that, hard as it is. Same goes for yoga. I am so much stronger than I think I am. I know this to be true. When you are in the middle of it, though, it is difficult to push through. It is difficult to adjust your plan, make some mid-race, or mid-pose changes. It’s such a blow to the ego. But, honestly, that is the best feeling…when you can allow yourself some grace. I’ve found that when I just relax, and as my grandfather told me again and again, just let it be, I will have a good run. I will find my strength.

My Grandpa Stiff and me. I find myself channeling his calm and strength more often that I can tell you. He was, by far, the coolest, and he had more of an influence on me than he realized. Or maybe he knew. He was the best.

My Grandpa Stiff and me. I find myself channeling his calm and strength more often that I can tell you. He was, by far, the coolest, and he had more of an influence on me than he realized. Or maybe he knew. He was the best.

Next up is the GoGirlRun, here in Columbia, on the 24th. I’m SO not looking at the course! 🙂

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Illinois Marathon/Half Marathon 4.26.14

This race is always well directed, with a great, flat course and awesome community support. The race start is near Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center (formerly Assembly Hall), and ends on the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium in the heart of the University of Illinois – Champaign campus. This was the 6th running of the races (there is a youth run and a 5k the Friday before, and wheelchair, 10k, half, and full races on Saturday).

Carl and me at the start line

Carl and me at the start line

Big smile at the start line - I was excited to run!

Big smile at the start line – I was excited to run!

Race morning I got up at 4:30 a.m. and was ready to go by 6:00. We found our way to the parking area and grabbed a decent spot between the stadium finish line and the bar where we were later meeting up with friends for post-race beers. We were prepared with throw-away clothing to stay warm at the start, but quickly realized they wouldn’t be necessary, as it was already approaching 60 degrees. By the time many of the marathoners were finishing it was in the 70s. It was a scorching (by marathon standards) 78 when Carl crossed the finish line. HOT. Brutally hot. Seventy people were treated for heat-related illnesses and ten were hospitalized.

I ran a very strong 10k, but then could feel myself slowing down, and wanting to walk more. I kept a fairly decent run going until about mile 9, where I felt myself really starting to hit the wall. Heavy legs set in. Then I came across the lovely folks who were handing out little cups of ice cold beer and bacon (I skipped the bacon). I relaxed, walked a bit, and very much enjoyed the beer. Then, after belching up the beer for the next half mile, I managed to rally and even started running a little better. Yay, beer! By mile 11 I knew I could make it and that I could finish strong if I paced myself and stayed relaxed.

Boston caveat: The best sign, IMHO, on the race course said “Wicked hahd. But you got this.” Boston may very well be represented at every race forevermore. And I love that so much.

I finished in 2:33:17. It’s not the time I wanted, but I’m happy with the fact that I finished strong after coming off a broken rib earlier this year. I’ve been working hard to get stronger, and it seems I have more work to do, but I did what I could do yesterday, and I’m happy with that. Carl did the full marathon, finishing in 5:38.

CG finishes strong at the 50 yard line!

CG finishes strong!


Finish line selfie with Rachel. We run for bling!

Finish line selfie with Rachel. We run for bling!

When I crossed the finish line I met up with my friends Rachel, who also did the half, and Craig and Karen, who did the 10k, on the field and sat on the ground for a while to recover enough to climb the stadium steps to where the bag check was. We got our bags, and headed to Houlihan’s for beers and food. After a bit, Rachel and I walked back to the stadium to watch for Carl and cheer him across the finish line. Then it was back to the bar (feeling little pain at that point) for another round with the marathoner.

Craig ran his first 10k, finishing in 1:10! Way to go Craig!

Craig ran his first 10k, finishing in 1:10! Way to go Craig!

All-in-all, a great day for everyone. Next up for me is the GoGirlRun half marathon May 24 in Columbia. Then, it’s all about NYC.

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