Feeling 22, Ready for 26.2

DSC_0005Yesterday as I was sifting through one of my notebooks during an office meeting, I found a list of my goals for 2014. Crafted at the start of the new year, I made a list of things I wanted to achieve and get in a habit of doing. In the midst of trying to cook three times a week (fail), read two books a month (some months were a fail), and heading to California (I made it kind of close), I wrote “Fall Marathon.”

And here I am, four days out from checking off that item.

At 22, I’m going to run a marathon. Continue reading

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18351.

In the classic novel Les Miserables, Jean Valjean, the story’s protagonist, is also known as 24601. His identification during internment, the number is a reminder throughout the novel of the pain and suffering the character experienced as punishment for his crime of stealing a loaf of bread.

I now also have my own self-identifying number, albeit one with a more positive association: 18351. It doesn’t have the same roll off the tongue sound that makes it perfect for a few musical notes, but it is the number that sums up everything I have been working towards for the past four months.

In less than two weeks, I will wear a bib reading 18351 and join nearly 30,000 others as we weave our way through Virginia and D.C. for 26.2 miles. As the day gets closer and closer, the anticipation is titanic.

Fellow runners in my training group ran the Chicago Marathon yesterday and while I could not have felt more inspired by all their posts and results, I also felt slightly jealous that I still have to wait until it’s my turn.

I just want it to be here already! Continue reading

Two. Zero.

I did it.

I crossed the threshold.

For the first time ever, I saw a two in the tens digit of my miles on my GPS watch. And it felt amazing.

There was plenty of anxiety building up to this run. While I had managed my 18-miler after a week in Vegas and no running, the looming 20 felt different: it signaled a point in my training that said if you can do 20, then you can run a marathon.

I have heard that 18 miles is when marathon runners start to hit the wall; mile 20 is when the wall begins to tumble down. At that point, only 6 miles remain before completion of a full marathon. Only 6 miles. If you can run 20, then those last remaining miles (apparently) are nothing.

So Saturday became the ultimate test: how would my legs handle three hours of nonstop running? The answer, amazingly well!

As I ran with two other women in my training group, we kept talking about how we had ten miles to go, and then only ten miles back. Only, only, only. We paced the first ten miles on the Capital Crescent Trail slightly above a 9 min/mile pace, then on the ten back, we revved up the pace and managed to average miles under nine minutes. Even with the infamous Calvert Hill to tackle in the final mile, we never slowed down. We kept moving and powered upwards, taking only a beat to stop at the peak before a green light signaled us to keep running across the street.

Everything was in our favor on Saturday. The sun, not yet up when we began the trek, opened itself through the clouds and shimmered through the trees of the trail we paced along. A rain shower from the evening prior left fallen leaves wet and scattered along the path. Though they didn’t crunch under our sneakers, their presence signified fall‘s official status. There was sweat, of course, but the cool air and the autumn breeze made it a picture perfect (cliche) day, made even better by what was achieved all before 1030 AM.
 In less than three hours we had completed 20 miles. The accomplishment another example of how you can surprise yourself with your strength and power. Here I am, a woman with a running career (if you can even call it that) less than two years old, and I have four half marathons and a 20-mile PDR under my belt, and in less than three weeks I will be running the streets, hills and sights of D.C. and Virginia en route to finish my first marathon.

On Saturday, I completed 20 miles; the next time I see a number that high on my watch will be October 26. I can barely contain the excitement.

A Relentless Pursuit

IMG_1799.JPGFall is here, and my running body knows it.

The sun is not rising until nearly 7 AM, and it is setting nearly 12 hours later; daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter. Now the mornings call for sweaters and scarfs, and hot coffee (or pumpkin spice latte) is the obvious choice for the morning’s pick me up.

As my body adapts to the weather by swapping out shorts for pants and light blouses for blazers, so too is my body adapting to the cooler temperatures through my running.

Waking up this past week since the fall equinox, my alarm has coincided with pitch black darkness. Sunrise remains at least twenty minutes away when I begin my morning runs, which means running through streets still lit by the street lights and birds still not alert enough to realize that morning is upon them.

Yet even as I run down shaded roadways, I’m reminded why this time of year is the perfect time to be a runner. My skin feels a slight tingle when I walk out the door and realize that the humidity has finally left the city and been replaced by a refreshing chill. As my feet hit the pavement, the hard crunch of leaves breaks up the silence on my path.

My pace picks up, too, No longer pushing myself through swampy feel-like temperatures or sunshine burning down on my bare shoulders, my body settles into a comfortable pace that is remarkably speedy, yet comfortable; it’s not as challenging as it felt previously to run sub eight, even sub 7:45, min/miles. It seems I have hit my groove.

IMG_1801.PNGMaybe that groove can be attributed to the last three months of effort. Leading up to October, I have spent the majority of my marathon training running in temperatures over 80 degrees and relentless humidity, with the awkward tan lines to prove it. Now with fall’s arrival and the big race less than a month away, my optimism is beaming.

As I hope to stay strong and healthy, October will be a month of self-care and dedication. I have worked so hard up to this point. The hardest thing between now and race won’t be my 20-miler on Saturday, but rather ensuring that nothing gets in the way of me crossing the finish line on October 26. I can’t control the weather that day, but I can control how my body performs.

Sure, something could go wrong, but I can’t let myself focus on those “ifs.” Earlier this year a situation had me spending too much time doubting myself and whether I should have taken certain actions to avoid what led to an unfortunate result. But rather than letting myself do that through this process, I am staying optimistic; I know I have worked hard and when it comes time for race day, I don’t want to have any doubts about whether I am ready. Because I will be.

 

 

One. Month.

IMG_1778.JPG30 days until the 2014 running of the Marine Corps Marathon.

26.2 miles on the course through D.C. and Virginia.

20-miler scheduled for next’s week Saturday long run.

13-mile run to transition into taper mode.

11 gatorade bottles taking up space in my fridge.

(sub) 7 minute mile, my fastest pace on the track this season.

6 pairs of running socks to choose from for each run.

4 longs run left to go.

3 more evenings at the track.

1 month to conquer.

Bring. It. On.

The Day I Beat Mother Nature

IMG_1681.JPGLast week I was in major fight with Mother Nature.

Monday signaled the beginning of September, the unofficial start of fall. Time for sweaters, pumpkin lattes and apple cider doughnuts. Yet Mother Nature did not get the memo. Or she was ignoring it.

Monday of last week was Labor Day. With the day off, I figured I could wake up alarm-free and set out for my training’s scheduled seven miles. That didn’t happen; I blame the weather. By the time I woke up by 8:00 AM, it was already over 75 degrees outside. Add in the humidity, and it made it easy for me to decide to stay in bed.

Unfortunately, by skipping Monday that meant I had to make up for it the other days of the week. Tuesday had the group scheduled to run hills, but as I stepped outside to catch the bus, the wind picked up and all I could think of was Winnie Pooh saying, “Tut-tut, it looks like rain.” Sure enough, a half hour after I turned around to go home it poured. Decision justified.

But while I managed to avoid the rain, I couldn’t avoid a run that kept me from looking like I ran my miles in the shower. This week’s humidity was unbearable, even at the early hours of the morning when I needed to run before work. When it’s still dark outside and the humidity has the feel-like temps hovering near 80 degrees, the miles feel endless. This was especially the case on Saturday.

Saturday had 16 miles on the schedule, and I will admit that I had plenty of anxiety going into the run. The finish of the 16-mile SLR would mean achieving a new PDR, but it was not without its challenges. When my alarm went off in the morning, already the temperature hovered at 75 degrees, and the sun had not even risen yet. Fortunately, our route along Beach Drive in D.C. and Maryland provided plenty of shade cover. However, that didn’t keep the sweat from dripping.

IMG_1688.PNGSaturday’s run was by far the most physically and mentally challenging run I have ever done. While refilling our water bottles a shortly after our 10-mile mark, my running mates and I noticed that our clothes were literally soaked to our skin. Drenched, and we still had six miles to go. Our bodies’ way of keeping us cool, the sweat would have felt like it was weighing us down, but it was actually what allowed us to keep going. As the salt escaped through our pores, staying hydrated and focused became the run’s mission. It was grueling and just as mentally fatiguing as it was physical.

Nevertheless, we made it back, just shy of two and half hours after we started. The 16 miles were the farthest I ever ran straight, a new personal distance record; adding on my warmup, and I finished Saturday with 17.52 miles under my belt. All I wanted afterwards was a huge bagel slathered in cream cheese. And a nap.

While I hunger pangs existed, thirst dominated. Throughout the day, my body kept reminding me how drained it had gotten from the morning and how it needed hydration, and lots of it.

Despite Mother Nature’s extension of summer for a little longer, I didn’t allow it to let it interfere with my training. In the end, it’s these types of runs that make you stronger, and all the more ready for that all important race in just seven weeks. My countdown has started.

Up, Down, Repeat

On Tuesday I was told to stop smiling. So naturally I couldn’t help but grin bigger.

I was running up and down hills and yet there was a smile on my face. As someone often told to do opposite, to look happy and just smile (something no one should ever tell a woman), that I was being told, albeit jokingly, to stop looking like I was enjoying one of my toughest workouts summarizes how much I do love running.

After leaving work Tuesday afternoon, I jetted off to Georgetown to teach an hour-long spin class at the university’s gym. As the warm-up to the evening’s hill workout, I jumped, climbed and peddled through the class with an enthusiastic bunch, including one woman who called me a “4′ 11″ Mighty Mouse”  that has been attending my classes to be whipped into shape for her beach wedding next month. Post-class, I was off again, this time to Fleet Feet for an hour literally spent running up and down one of the city’s most infamous hills: Calvert. Continue reading