Monday, 30 September 2013

Asheville Citzen-Times Marathon---'twas the night before the race

Last Friday the 27th seen me leaving Columbia shaking in my boots (just as I had been for the days beforehand). I took that day off work to head to Asheville and good thing I did.  The level of organization and packing it took to make sure I had everything I needed, including the toaster, had my nerves frayed. In fact I think at one point I may have just sat down and let my best friend take the lead on the packing. 
After several stops, including walking the dog and returning due library books, we were off! It took us 2 1/2 hours to get to Asheville, in my newly repaired car. Our destination was a Best Western on the East of Asheville. I was a bit worried when we pulled up...the hotel didn't look the nicest from the outside but I was pleasantly surprised. The room was clean and had a fridge, tv, internet, microwave and best of all the dog only cost an extra $10 a night unlike the $100+ per stay other hotels wanted. A lot more comfortable than the usual camping expeditions we go on!!

After unpacking and making it feel a bit more like home I headed off to the race expo. Easy to get to with lots of public parking nearby. I picked up my bib, t-shirt and an extra 'bib' for the back of my shirt to let my pacing group know I was with them. I was simultaneously happy and disappointed with the t-shirt. Happy cause it was a technical T, which doesn't seem to be the norm in the US, unlike Ireland. Sad because it was a mustard yellow. I hate yellow clothes (with yellow as the main block color), I know I'm shallow!  The half marathon T was a nice teal color....better in my book any day. But I shall wear it with pride anyhow!!!

The expo itself seemed to have the usual race stuff (as well as some cool speakers), a good mix for a smallish race, but not feeling too flush with cash I decided my money was better spent on essentials like food!

At this stage of the week I would have been happy if I'd never seen another carb heavy, starchy food in my life, but I soldiered on and got some French Toast for lunch No.2 (1 was an early one at Subway). Feeling full it was back to the hotel for a nap. I didn't feel at all guilty knowing I'd get very little sleep that night. Dinner consisted of a kids portion of spaghetti with a plain tomato based sauce..nothing risky there.

Everything laid out ready for the next day, I think I fell asleep at the late hour of 9:30pm. I passed out. I don't know if was being so nervous all day but I slept great, walking up 5 minutes before the alarm went off at 3:30am. Why so early, you ask. The race started at 6am and I had to be there an hour beforehand. I also needed to eat etc before that. The tried and tested burger bun, PB and jelly combo was washed down with a little coffee. It seemed to take ages to get ready but we made it out the door, my two best supporters braving the ungodly hour with me. 
The kid in me kind of loved the fact that the first hour of the marathon would be run in the dark...I got to wear glow stick type bracelets for the first time in my life.

The race was supremely well organized so I had a printed list of road closures (and their times) as well as a printed map of parking garages, offering $5 all day parking for the event. We went to the first one we came across and easily got a space, from there it was only a 2 min walk to the start/finish line. 
Lots of sleepy runners and supporters were hanging around. Knowing my stomach as I do I was trying to visit the port-a-johns as often as possible and ended up feeling silly lining up for a single one when there were 30 or so the other side of the starting corals, oops. 
I ran around the parking lot they were in to warm up. I bent down to do something, stretch or pet the puppy (I can't remember), and I felt something 'shift' in my right knee. A knee that had been a troublemaker with ITBS for 8+ months, but hadn't troubled me in the last 11+ weeks of my training.
Trying to ignore it I went into my starting corral (H). I looked ahead and in the next corral I seen a pacer with a 5 hour marker on her sign. That can't be right, is exactly what I thought, I changed my expected finish time to 4 hours 30. Even if I wasn't in time to change it to that, I should have been with that pacer group in my original time slot 4:45-5 hours. So somehow, either through my own fault/someone else's I was now 3 corrals behind my pace group. 
For the next 20 minutes I sounded crazy as I alternated between ranting about the screw up and my now persistently aching knee. I knew I was freaking myself out, so with some deep breathing and encouraging words from my best friend I let it all go and tried to soak up the atmosphere and excitement from everyone around me.

More about the actual race soon...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Last training run

I was very tempted to skip my 2 mile run last night (it was raining). However, I went out and did it anyhow as a nice little end to my marathon training.
I started off and it was drizzling and by the end it felt like someone was standing above me pouring out buckets of water. It felt very much like running at home, in Ireland, cold and wet, maybe some Irish luck will see me through the race!

I ran close enough to race pace (only a tiny bit faster) with my roommate...who is doing very well beginning her own running journey. It felt good...I'm ready. I have a ton of anxious energy and I just wanna get started now!!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Stress I do not need!

After all of my obsessive preparation for my race on Saturday (more on that here), I went out to my car yesterday evening only to have it not start.
I'm super annoyed. Its done this once before and replacing the battery did the trick but now I'm starting to think its something more. 

Worst part is that its stuck in a busy multi-story garage, so towing it would be a total, b***h! I have a mobile mechanic coming to look at it today so I'm hoping that he can at least get it started to get it out of there and to a garage stat.

But I'm trying not to stress too much, worst case scenario, I spend money I don't have to hire a car to get to Asheville for the weekend!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Ahhhh and carb loading

The ahhh is the sheer panic and excitement, swirling around and around in my head. Just got that email to help runners prepare for Saturday and my stomach might have flipped.
Speaking of my stomach.....
I lost just over 1lbs at weight watchers last week, despite eating everything in sight. I put this down to the fact that I only ate when I genuinely felt hungry, so I needed the food. I wasn't aiming to lose anything, in fact it kinda worries me how many calories my body can gobble up, how will it be when I'm back to a semi couch potato status. I wonder if I would have lost more weight throughout training if I'd ate more. I don't think I was under eating, but last week makes me wonder! 

No worries on that front this week carb loading ahoy. Lots of white rice, bagels and pasta. I'm not sure whether to aim for more food, that's mostly carbs, or to just increase the percentage of carbs in my diet. I think I'll aim to eat a bit more but not stuff myself like a pig, I don't want to arrive at the race start bloated and feeling gross. I'm also planning to minimize my dairy intake for 48 hours before the race to hopefully prevent any of the stomach problems I've had from time to time.

The only thing I'm worried about now is my start corral. Last week I moved myself up to a 4:30 finishing time so I could run with my pacing group. Originally I think I had said I'd finish closer to 5 hours, which would have simply been an excuse for me to walk when I get tired. Now I'm just hoping I did it before they printed the bibs/finalized the corrals. Not too much I can do about it now!

In order to prepare I've also been foam rolling and stretching (including yoga class on Sunday). I'm still getting a few aches and I almost wish I'd booked a last massage this week (instead of 2 weeks ago) but I don't want to risk upsetting anything.

My obsessive preparation has involved getting the car serviced (for the 2.5 hour drive there) and getting my puppy a new leash (to replace his grubby old one). Every aspect of this is going ahead with best foot, wheel and paw forward!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Is this taper madness?

1 week to D-Day. This time next week I'll (finger crossed) be finished my first marathon. I'm starting to feel extremely nervous.
 All sorts of problems pop into my head. Not just about running. I'm feeling a lot of work stress this week, something I haven't felt in a long while, all of which has resulted in very bad sleep with weird weird dreams! Including one were I'm an hour away from the marathon start line, when I realize I'm also an hour late for the race!
On the running front it's been lovely having shorter runs. They feel refreshing rather than draining. My legs feel great on these, it's been hard to hold back on the pace. Most have been faster than race pace, ekk. But my race pace is a full minute slower than what I consider comfortable now #playingitsafe
No major aches...a few small ones that I haven't felt in months but I'm told this is my body recovering and healing...perfectly normal. 
My last weekend run is today, I'm hoping the 8 miles will help settle my nerves. Then it's cross training tomorrow. I finish off with 4 miles Tuesday, 2 Wednesday and that's it til the race on Saturday. Weight watchers tomorrow and then I'll slowly ramp up my carb intake. 

Cross your fingers, pray for me, or  whatever but I'll need all the help I can get!!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Taper smapaper!

Week 1 of tapering on my marathon program. My miles peaked last week at 40. This week I've just polished off 29 miles. That's a big drop but it doesn't feel like it. Maybe I've got another bug or maybe last week is catching up on me!

My long run today was 12 miles (as compared to 20 last week) taking just under 2 hours. I did it early and enjoyed beautiful sunny skies, lower temperatures and a breeze, aka perfect running weather. As per tapering advise I read somewhere(?) I avoided any major hills on my long run and ran along the river.
The run went well. Usual nutrition with no major problems. Even better, no snakes today!

Mucho tired now much more so than last week. It's game day here in Columbia (USC Gamecocks versus Vanderbilt). With a house near the stadium and lots of tailgating going on in the neighborhood I don't think a nap is on the cards.

One bonus tho is the yummy food I get to have on long run days.... Lunch was a fresh baguette, Brie and cranberry preserve with some tea and almonds, D-E-LIOUS. Not the healthiest but I eat pretty good 80% of the time. Next week the food might have to be reined back in a little as I'm only due to run 22 miles total.
Speaking of food, I'm currently on week 4 of Weight Watchers maintenance and doing good. After week 6 if I'm within 2lbs of goal, I get to go and weigh in, etc for free. Inconveniently the 6th week falls on marathon weekend. I'm not weighing in early...hello carb loading. Maybe I'll weigh in late or skip a week. But it would be cool, lifetime membership and a marathon in one weekend, how life has changed in the last few years.

I haven't experienced taper madness, I don't have time :) Maybe next week, I'm prepared to fill my normal running hours with some inspirational running books.

I am getting excited for the race tho. I've started print out all the needed info, my gear is picked out and I've booked a day off work (expo is on Friday, race Saturday). I've seen chatter on Facebook that some Columbia runners are pacers for the race so maybe I'll finally get some info or a foot in the door with some running clubs here. Best of all two of my work buddies and their other halves are taking the time and money (means a lot for students) to come up to Asheville for the weekend to cheer me on. If I see everyone and my puppy at the finish I might just cry! 

Next week: Tuesday 4 miles, Wednesday 6 miles, Thursday 4 miles , Saturday 8 miles and finally Sunday cross train.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Peak Training Week-Overcoming Boredom

This week has been the peak of my training in terms of mileage and the length of my long run today. Most of my runs went well this week. I've been getting a bit bored on my runs....even a 5 mile run seems long, not physically but mentally.
I was dreading my 20 mile long run all week long because of this, but I had to suck it up and do it. I ate some white bread and jam (jelly) about 2 hours before I ran.

 On the run I tried a few things to mix it up mentally.

1) I turned off the same old music I've been listening to for weeks and put an audiobook on my ipod. Maybe not the best if you are wanting to run fast but this was a long slow run. *For the marathon I'm going to buy a load of new music*

2) I ran through parts of the city I've never been to or ran through.

I started a bit later than I wanted to (8 versus 7am) as my nervousness had me running to the bathroom a few times. I only have to think long run now and I'm off! In good news this meant that my stomach was good throughout the that looks good for the marathon.
Running around different areas and being caught up in looking around meant that 10 miles went by very quickly. I was running on quiet roads without sidewalks, normally in a race I'd run in the middle of the road but I had to stick to the side this time (gotta hate that traffic). By the time I was done the first 10 miles my left ankle was pretty tender from running on a sideways slope. However, where I was running was super pretty (around a lake) and shaded so that made up for some aches.

At this point I have to admit I took a 5-10 minute break. I ran into Whole foods to use their bathrooms and fill up my now empty water bottles, but they were cleaning the ladies. This being my only bathroom option for around 5 miles I just went with it. I got a bottle of water and a bonk bar (? hilarious name) and ate outside..a quick pee later and I was off again.

I headed to the other side of the city (towards home) on one of the bigger main roads, still on new roads. Unfortunately, not shaded or as pretty as earlier but  with less chance of getting lost. For the most part the sidewalks were still slanted especially as I crossed driveways, every single one hurt. As I got back to my regular haunts closer to home the sidewalks levelled off and my ankle felt more normal. I tried to pick up the pace here as I'd ran most of the run a bit slower than I would normally.

As boring as endurance running can be sometimes I think my body quite enjoys it because I felt better and more hyped up as the run went on. By the last 2 miles I was fist pumping (well mini ones) to the music I put on after my audiobook finished. Maybe a bit of runners high?

20.1 miles in 3 hours 25.
On a side note I've signed up with a pacing group for the race. A 4 hour 30 group, a bit slower than I'd like but perhaps realistic considering I don't know how the first half of the course will be and i know there are hills on the second half. Besides its my first marathon, I wanna enjoy it. More room for a PR later :)

I took some chances with food today...a new bar mid-run (crazy), I wanted something to chew that wasn't Sports Beans (I'm getting a bit sick of them) and I get hungry after a couple of hours. Also as my bottles emptied around 3 miles from home, some kind of mania hit me and I bought some orange juice and drank a ton of it. It seems my stomach will put up with a lot when I'm running. Its what I eat before that seems to be my issue! I'll eventually figure it out.
I'm relieved to have made it this far in my training! I've had 2/3 bad weeks where looking back I've had viruses or some other bug but I've had no ongoing injuries and I'm not too tired (if I head to bed earlier than normal). Now I have two weeks of tapering to look forward to before the big day!

Some Pictures from this week:

Can anyone say nosey neighbor?

Lots of hills this week!

First drive in movie

Took me a second to figure this one out!

Locked and loaded

More art pieces

Monday, 2 September 2013

Vegetarian backlash

I've been noticing a very interesting phenomenon in the last few months. A LOT of people are hating on vegetarians.

It really annoys me. A lot of it coming from former veggies annoys me even more. Vegetarianism isn't a fad diet to me. I don't eat meat, not because I think meat is unhealthy (in moderation), for me it's a ethical choice....not one I try to force on other people. 
Suddenly people, that were vegetarians, are practically stuffing whole animals down their throats and are seemly super proud of it. I read one blog and the writer went from a raw vegan diet to eating tons of meat and putting butter in coffee to get extra fat in her diet. Is it just me or does that seem crazy? Chose an in between maybe!

 But for all that is good, back up your arguments with fact and science. Most of this obsession with diets seems to be tied up in weight loss. It's possible to be, really unhealthy with a vegetarian diet (believe me I know) or balance it really well and be healthy and lose weight. The same is true of any diet choice and in my mind a calorie deficit is why you lose weight wether its about cutting calories, fat, carbs or whatever. 
If you don't want to be vegetarian fine but don't knock it, say its unhealthy or no good for athletes unless you have some good science behind you and don't try to push the latest diet, the latest guru has invented to make money from, on me! If you are so proud of your diet great. Just leave me alone!