Counting down the days...

Today is Monday. I am planning to do my last 20 mile training run before the Grand Rapids Marathon on either Thurs. or Fri. (whichever day provides better weather, which is currently looking like Thurs.). Phew. I don't think I have EVER been so ready for taper...not so much physically, but mentally. After the last few weeks I can see why some runners have taken hiatuses from running for a few months. I am definitely burned-out. Lost my mojo...meh. Looking back at my log I think what did me in was the 2nd week of Sept. I logged over 10 hours (55.5 miles) of run time that week. This week will have similar mileage...I just need to get through this one. Then I can enjoy 2 weeks of greatly reduced time on the road. Hopefully this will bring both brain and body back around in time for marathon #3 in less than 3 weeks.

But I am thinking this race may be my last full marathon--even if it plays out wildly better than my first 2 (which would be the case if I didn't start cramping around the midway point). I'm realizing that I'd be much better served putting this sort of mileage into shorter distances. 55 miles is considered by many to be bare minimum miles for the marathon. The sort of mileage that allows one to merely complete the distance...not actually race it. My marathon training has made me relatively strong as a half marathoner...finishing at the front half of my age group without even running at 100% effort. But this training puts me solidly at the back of the marathon pack.

Yesterday I ran 11 miles. I had originally planned to run 13, but I barely slogged my way through the reduced workout. I walked a lot. Body felt heavy and sore and the brain wasn't cooperating, either. Today I am planning to run an easy 4. It's crazy windy, so that's fine. Tomorrow's weather looks like it will be the same, unfortunately. I have a 6 mile race tempo run (with 2 mile easy warm-up) scheduled, but we'll see how that goes. Rain and high winds could make that a little rough.


The Numbers

From yesterday's half-marathon race...courtesy of my Garmin Forerunner 305:

Intervals (GPS Interval)
TypeDistanceTimeTotal TimePaceAvg HRMax HRNotes
Interval1 Mi9:24.59:24.59:25
Interval1 Mi9:36.0419:00.549:37
Interval1 Mi9:2528:25.549:25
Interval1 Mi9:24.7437:50.289:25
Interval1 Mi9:15.1847:05.469:16
Interval1 Mi9:16.7156:22.179:17
Interval1 Mi9:25.311:05:47.489:26
Interval1 Mi9:27.041:15:14.529:28
Interval1 Mi9:31.051:24:45.579:32
Interval1 Mi9:18.231:34:03.809:19
Interval1 Mi9:21.181:43:24.989:22
Interval1 Mi9:11.221:52:36.209:12
Interval1 Mi8:46.422:01:22.628:47
Interval0.09 Mi0:34.42:01:57.026:23

Looks like my Garmin lost signal at least once. In the early miles of the race it would peep mile markers before I hit the official ones on the course, but by the end it was peeping just after I passed mile signs. This isn't too surprising...I had the same thing happen doing the North Country Trail Relay. Garmin units don't do particularly well under dense tree cover...particularly if there are any noticeable hills around. There was a fair amount of both on much of the HM course. It was right around the 5-6 mile point that my Garmin went from alerting me of miles prior to the mile markers to alerting me on or after the miles...and that big drop on the elevation profile would suggest that signal was lost for a little bit there. Forerunners like to cut corners, too.

Man, it sure was nice to have it to help me hit my pace, though. I knew I wanted to run this conservatively, but still PR...and I did. My Forerunner is a great reality check. One of these days I need to actually try it with the heart-rate monitor strap...especially since I have had it for almost 2 years and have never once done so.

Argghhh...'twas 'talk like a pirate' and HM PR day!

As posted yesterday on RunningAHEAD.com...

Oh, yeah...and "will run for beer" day, too. Seriously, is there ANYTHING better than a race that ends at a microbrewery with a massive deck overlooking a little lake and entertainment for the kids while the parents kick-back with a few brews, pizza, and pork BBQ sammiches? Yeah, I didn't think so, either!

Old Boys' Brewhouse Oktoberfest Half-Marathon
The stats:
chip time: 2:01:56 (2:07 PR...previous PR on same course 2 years ago)
14/30 AG (35-39)

Woke this morning around 4...not by choice. My alarm was set for 5, but a certain cat decided to wake me an hour early by "lovingly" sinking a single claw in my neck. After that I kind of dozed until my alarm rang.

Sat around for an hour or so and slowly woke with coffee and a biscuit/egg/bacon/cheese breakfast sandwich. This has essentially been my race breakfast for about the past year.

Drove to Heather73s house and were off (Heather, DH, DS, and I) shortly after 6:30 in her big Honda Pilot, "Ruby." We arrived at the race site by 7:15 where we did our port-a-potty business and then an easy 1 mile warm-up run. We got back in the LONG line for a second trip through the portables (only 5 for probably close to 500 runners and all of the spectators...what?! This was my ONLY criticism of the race organization). After standing for a few minutes in the non-moving line we decided to wander-off and find another place to empty our bladders before race start. Heather ended up behind an open shed door and I ended up behind a dumpster with ALL of the fish refuse from the marina next to the brewpub. Good thing my stomach wasn't queasy. Ew.

We made our way to the start and only stood around for a minute or two before we were off. During this time we somehow managed to bump into John/felter2468. I ran with John for about the first half mile, before I found a break in the crowd and pushed ahead a bit to get some breathing room.

As is often the case, I ran most of the race semi-solo (seriously, do I stink or something?! ). After about the first 4-5 miles I don't recall anyone passing me, though I passed several. Early into the race I decided to run just fast enough to PR. My previous PR was on the same course (well, the same race...some minor course changes have been made to accommodate a field that has nearly tripled in size in 2 years) 2 years ago. I am reasonably certain I had it in me to go sub-2, but I also have a marathon in 4 weeks and 2 20 milers to get under my belt before taper, so I didn't want to gut myself trying. There is always next year and this race will still be there. Next year I can do more appropriate speedwork and taper to guarantee that sub-2, too.

The miles ticked-off comfortably. Today felt quite a bit more comfortable than my previous PR effort. There's definitely something to that "more miles" thing, heh. It wasn't until the last mile-and-a-half when I picked up the pace to finish fast that I felt much discomfort. It was fabulous to pass so many who were really struggling, too--especially the 2 dudes just before the finishing chute.

After finishing I caught my breath and found my DH and DS...and we waited to see Heather finish her FIRST HM (a race that up until a few days ago she didn't want to register for...she felt unprepared and had never run more than 12 miles in a single day--today she ran a total of 14.1!). I knew she could do this...so did everyone else she talked to. She was convinced, but nervous.

Almost exactly 15 minutes later she came around the corner before the finish...looking so strong. Yay, Heather!!!

After she caught her breath we said goodbye to John and his family, dropped-off a few things to Heather's truck, and returned to the brewery for our post-race grub (each runner received 2 tickets for their choice of pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and/or pizza) and BEER! After 2 big glasses of some sort of delicious rye ale we needed our big designated driver (my hubby) to take the wheel to get us back home (good plannin', right?!).

While we were eating Cory/Corland found us...I had been looking for him before and after the race, but never managed to spot him. It was nice to see him again. See you again at GR in a month, Cory! I smell BQ for you!

Shortly after that another RAer found us (RA runners are taking over the racing world, apparently). Nice to meet you, Liz--it was wonderful sitting in the sun and relaxing with you awhile (you still looked completely fresh after that race...how'd you do that?!). Hope you made it back to your side of the state safely. Congrats on a fabulous race and I can't wait to see where your legs will take you in the coming months.

We left the brewery still full of grins and lots of giggles. This remains my favorite race. I could do this every year and still be madly in love with it, I am certain. This year they added a full...and I had given some thought to training for that next year...but I think I will stick with the half. The full is still small and VERY competitive. When we left around the 5 hour mark there appeared to be only one lone guy still finishing (and we drove along the course on our way out...no other runners in sight). I have a feeling at my pace I would be very alone for 4.5+ hours. While I didn't have very many runners at my hip for most of the HM, at least I had people just a short distance ahead and behind me. I had targets. And I had lots of people at the finish cheering. That poor 5 hour runner had almost no one left to urge him across the timing mat (with a strong finish, I might add).

Here's one last parting shot...Next year...sub-2!


Rethinking 26.2

As I sit here 5 weeks out from my 3rd marathon I'm starting to wonder if I am doing my self a disservice by putting so much emphasis on one distance. 2009 will be a 2 marathon year for me. For a while I was thinking I'd shoot for 3 in '10 (Bayshore, OBB Oktoberfest, Vegas)...but the more I think on it, the more I realize that I am sacrificing distances that I like better and am more comfortable at in an attempt to conquer the 26.2 mile beast. Several times in the past year of marathon training I have chosen to not run races that I enjoy, simply because they didn't fit in well with my training schedule, tapers, or recoveries. With shorter distance races this is far less of an issue.

I never dealt with calf cramps in any distance through 25k, but both of my marathons have taken me down not far past the 15 mile mark...leveled to the point that walking was a struggle and running was impossible.

My peak weeks in marathon training at this point are landing in the 55 mile vicinity. To many this is really barebones mileage for such a distance. That kind of mileage for 15k, half-marathon, and 25k would have me much better trained vs. much of the field...and I need every advantage I can get. I'm definitely no speed demon--these 55 mile weeks are taking me over 10 hours of running time.

Shorter race distances = shorter tapers, shorter recoveries, cheaper race fees, and more time/strength to do more races. And after reading the Facebook comments from friends of mine who ran the Hell, MI Dances With Dirt relay yesterday...boy, I would love to devote more time to relays and trail races. The one I did last June with 5 teammates was definitely a highlight of my 3 years of running...perhaps THE highlight. Running in the woods as part of a team has an appeal that road racing solo just doesn't provide.

I'm also becoming more and more interested in getting into cycling. It's a sport that my body (heh, thunder-thighs) is almost certainly better suited for and it's an activity that my husband is passionate about (he has done 5 big 100 mile fundraising destination rides with the JDRF ride team program and many other century rides and rides over 100 miles just for shits 'n giggles) and our son also enjoys. Next Summer Dane will be 9 and is gradually getting to the point where he could ride a junior scale road bike with us (and, given his boundless energy, would almost certainly keep up with mom, if not dad). It would be really nice for the 3 of us to have an outdoor activity that we can share. Solves the issue of one of us always having to be home with him, too...which prevents DH and I from ever working out together.

With a bike I could also pursue some multi-sport races. There is at least one duathlon in my area, which appeals to me....run-bike-run. No swimming, like a tri. I have no interest in getting my hair wet unless it's from rain.

All running, all the time has lost a bit of its luster. Mostly running with some cycling thrown-in strikes me as something I'd enjoy more...variety being the spice of life, and all. Cycling may not benefit my running as much as pure running would, but the variation in workouts appeals to me.

Since I am running a marathon in 5 weeks I have been gradually thinking and rethinking how to carry necessities on race day. For my first 2 marathons I run with an Amphipod bottle belt. This is what I wear in training, too. It carries a 20oz. bottle and I can attach smaller bottles, if needed (which I didn't this Summer, as it was so unseasonably un-warm). It also has a stretchy pocket perfect for my phone, inhaler, "feminine hygiene supplies," and a packet or two of sport beans.

This time around I'd really like to take in the beverages supplied on the course...so I don't NEED the big belt. Plus...when I handed my hubby my empty bottle and swapped it for a full one during the Bayshore Marathon last May...I found that I REALLY noticed the extra weight. I never thought it mattered much and during an long training run it's not noticeable. But in the last 3rd of a race it felt like I swapped my empty bottle for a 10# brick. It also really made it painfully clear just how big an effect my extra 15#s is having on my pace and the effort it takes to move myself along....

I found an Amphipod belt a while back that has clips to hold the race bib (rather than putting holes in my $$ running clothes with safety pins) and has a nice little pouch for essentials, so I am going to give that a try this time around. I have a feeling it will be a bit liberating to race without the bulky bottle. Yet I will still be able to carry an alternative to the icky GU packets, a place to stash my inhaler, and have a few essentials within easy reach.


Ah ah ah ah Stayin' Alive...

...just barely. I am still battling some sinus/respiratory gunk. I finally felt pretty good on Memorial Day after a couple of weeks with a seemingly endless cold that settled in my lungs. Then on tues. my seasonal Fall allergies decided to step-in and make life miserable. I think I narrowly averted a raging sinus infection (props to my neti pot and regular doses of nasal decongestant), but my lungs are still feeling off. Weak, inefficient, and very asthmatic. At least I no long feel like I'm drowning in mucous, so that's the bright side. And I completed my highest mileage week yet--55.5. I had originally hoped to do 58-60, as my peak mileage week before my Oct. marathon (Grand Rapids), but scaled-back a bit due to my crappy respiratory issues.

Today I managed an 11 miler (with some walking to catch my breath...my easiest pace had me struggling to fill my lungs). I had originally planned on 13, but decided in advance to cut it a little short, since I'm only a week out from my goal half-marathon for the year, the Old Boys' Brewhouse Oktoberfest race. Next year the full marathon will be my Fall marathon.

This coming week will be easy, aside from the race. Nothing longer than a 7 miler on Monday. Phew. The period from Saturday through Monday will be pretty tough, though. HM on Sat., 5 mile recovery on Sun., then 20 miler on Mon. That 20 is probably going to be pretty brutal so soon after the race, but I'm starting to get crunched for time if I want to get in 2 20s before marathon day on 10/18. As it is I'm doing a 2.5 week taper, instead of a full 3 weeks.

In non-running news, yesterday I dropped-off my wedding/engagement ring to be re-set. ~5 years ago I lost 45#s (actually, had lost closer to 60, but regained a few and got stuck) and have been wearing a piece of airline tubing as a spacer for all this time (not a great solution, as it adds a lot of bulk to the underside of an already bulky ring...and it's ugly, slides around, pinches my finger, and has left callouses). I have needed to have it resized, but it's not going to be an easy ring to do this with, as you can see from the photo at right. The original design is a bit of a puzzle ring with the wedding band sliding in under and bridged by the engagement band.

After the 2 rings were soldered together I had the 2 extra diamonds added. They had once been earrings that my maternal grandmother had been given by my grandpa. I always wanted them flush-set into the white gold of the engagement band and never understood why the jeweler couldn't do this. I've always found the prong-set diamonds next to the bezel-set main diamond to look awkward and not match. And over the years I have been annoyed by the impossibility of cleaning under and around the diamond. It is fully enclosed in the setting, so only the top surface is open. 14 years of grime have collected under the stone and killed its fire. A 3/4ctw should sparkle a lot...but it hasn't lived up to its potential since shortly after our wedding when the 2 rings were soldered together and the underside became completely enclosed on the bottom with the wedding band.

Over the years I have lusted over more simple settings. I'm no longer fond of the 2-tone gold look, especially since the white gold in my original setting failed to stay white, so the entire setting looked more like a dingy yellow...and I never wear yellow gold, aside from my wedding band. I will also one day inherit my mom's wedding set, which is a brushed white gold.

I fell in love with tension settings, like the one below...until I priced them. Egads--I would likely spend nearly as much for the setting (because tension settings require such a thick band and a LOT of gold...which ain't cheap, nowadays) as my diamond is worth. A non-tension setting is generally about half the price. And it can be resized later, if need be.

Since I like the overall design of the ring at left, but not the tension set price-tag...I looked for alternatives that would give a similar effect, but not be as pricey or limiting as the tension set option.

Bless Google image search. The type of setting that would accomplish that look, but still be a traditionally set ring is referred to as "cathedral setting." I started to look for cathedral settings for princess-cut/rectangular diamonds and found this design, which I expected would still have to be custom made by a jeweler.

But when I walked into the shop and showed the jeweler (who also happens to do custom design work) what I was looking for she had recalled seeing it in one of their settings catalogs. So she was able to order the setting, a bezel mount, and can easily flush-set those two tiny earring diamonds on the sides of the ring...a much more subtle and elegant solution, but still allowing me to wear those family heirlooms always, and without risk of loss. Those little diamonds likely have almost no monetary value, but they are still special to me and not something I ever wanted to wear as stud earrings, due to the risk of loss.

In 2.5-3 weeks I should have my new ring ready to pick-up. In the meantime my left hand feels kind of naked when I leave the house. I rarely wore the ring while at home, since it was so uncomfortable. But I fully expect I will go back to wearing my pretty wedding ring 24/7 once it is the right size. Prior to losing weight I rarely took it off.

On a kind of funny note. About a month ago DH went in and purchased a replacement for his own original wedding band (original was white gold, new ring is a less expensive and beefy tungsten...he's such an enginerd *giggles*). He and I lost weight tandem-style. So his ring became lost...he believes he had it on while shoveling and when he removed his glove it slipped-off. I'm sure that now he will find the original (just this week we found the little Nikon point-n-shoot camera that I recently replaced...it was obvious who used it last by the "self-portraits" of a certain 8 year old boy on the memory card).


What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...

Today I booked my first trip to Sin City! This will be the hubby's second jaunt there. We're geeked. It's funny, though...more than talking about entertainment or gambling (we don't gamble...at all. Might have to try my hand at a slot machine just to say I did, though) we are talking about food. OMG, I can't believe how many places there are to eat. And a $25 all-day pass to the buffet at Excaliber...oh, lordy! We could eat all 3 meals there for one day!

We'll be staying 4 nights at New York, New York over our anniversary in late Dec. Still haven't decided what show we'd like to see, but we do know that we want to take a day trip to Death Valley. I've seen mountains and forests and oceans and the Great Lakes...but I've never seen the desert. All that brown with so few trees and green will be very surreal, I'm sure. Really glad I got my new camera. The big DSLR would be a PITA to travel with, but this baby will be ideal for such a trip.

The one downside of our timing is that it won't be particularly warm in Vegas. Pools will be closed, but at least we can lounge in the hot tub. And it will be nice to see days-on-end of sunshine, especially in December.

I'm debating whether I should bother packing running stuff...it will be perfect outdoor running weather, but I'm not sure how practical an idea it would be to run on the Strip. I could always hit a treadmill at the hotel gym...but I HATE dreadmills. Do I really want to take an hour out of my vacation to get on the hamster wheel of death?!

Tomorrow I had planned to run a 5k race about an hour away, but my lungs are still in really miserable condition ever since I picked-up a virus 10 days or so ago (ahh...the joys of asthma and meds that decrease my immune function--not), so I'm thinking I'd be smarter to save my registration fee and gas and sleep-in. I have a 20 miler the day after, so that's the more important run.

I'm definitely at that point in training when I wish the marathon were closer and that it were time to taper. I was feeling pretty strong before that cold got me, but ever since the running has been a struggle. I still have almost 4 weeks and 3 20 milers to go before taper time. Ugh...I am so tired. I have been in hard training or racing mode pretty much since the middle of January and it's definitely starting to kick my ass.

This has me really considering whether or not I will want to do the half or full in Vegas next Dec. It would be cool to do 3 marathons next year...BUT that means extending this sort of training through nearly a full calendar year. I'm not sure I can tolerate that. I don't know how people do many marathons/year year-round. Perhaps they are android, or something. Right now the half in Vegas sounds good. That would leave me in better shape to party with my running girlfriends, too.


I promise!

I will be so much better about blogging in a week...when my kid starts back to school. The past couple of weeks have been crazy with running, catching a cold, recovering from said cold, DH in VT, DH back from VT, running, school shopping, cramming a few more bits of fun into what's left of Summer break, and just generally procrastinating. I am so tired. I really should be getting 9-10 hours of sleep according to a lot of marathon-related things I'm reading, but I am lucky to get 6-7 quality hours most night. No wonder I am so sleepy and caught that cold bug.