Testing 1, 2 and 3

Since mid-June, I have had my eye on the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box: the Chicago Marathon.   I’ve run hundreds of miles, added more morning runs to my routine (to get ready for the early rise on Marathon Sunday), stretched out the aches and pains at yoga, and made an effort to eat better and sleep more.  Today, I put all of that training to the test at the Toronto Ten Miler, a race that is part of the Excel Running Series races.

I was a bit apprehensive about running this distance just two weeks before the marathon, but after missing the winter and spring racing seasons and only shorter races (5k and 10K’s) to pick from through the summer, I mentally needed to run a longer race.  The Ten Miler was the obvious choice.  It was close to home, the date worked well in my training plan, and the distance was a better choice so close to the marathon than one of the many half-marathons that were held today.  The solid reputation of the race director, Michael Brennan, also meant that there would be many strong runners on the course, and a bit of competition is always a good thing.

Ten Miler - sunriseDave and I left headed to Cherry Beach in Toronto before sunrise as he had volunteered to help with the race (and was assigned to be the bike escort for the lead runner).  I picked up my bib,  Dave left for his volunteer duties and I enjoyed watching the sun rise over the Leslie Street Spit.   By 7:30, I was on the road to do a slow 4K warm-up for the race.

I was glad that I warmed up as far as I did.  Cherry Beach and The Spit are very scenic, which draws many runners and cyclists to the area, but they are also closed to traffic and that means the roads are beat up; there were lots of pot-holes and cracks.   The mix of shade and the sunrise made for poor lighting and that made me nervous.  By the end of my warm-up, I had added a second goal to my morning: to not fall down.

Ten Miler - finish
Testing the waters in my new Lion’s Valley Athletics singlet and chevron running skirt.

My primary goal today, though, was to put the past 16 weeks of running to the test.  I had on the shoes and skirt that I plan to wear in Chicago to make sure that both were comfortable and my skirt could indeed hold a few gels, my puffer and an ipod shuffle.  I wanted to run slightly faster than my marathon pace but my competitive edge quickly threw that plan out the window.  I ran my first kilometre at 4:42 and, despite common sense to bring it down to a 5:00 kilometre, I held onto it and ran the entire race “comfortably fast.”   I only used one of the two GU’s, at 55 minutes into the race, just as I will at the marathon, and I took in fluids (water and Gatorade) at the same points I am likely to on Marathon Sunday.   The best part of the morning: I didn’t need to poop while running (and I think that is from changing my diet a bit)!

The only problem I had was with my shoes.   With about 5 kilometres left to go, the ball of my left foot started to hurt.  I am fairly certain that this is from landing on some large stones on a few rockier parts of the course and it is something to keep an eye on over the next few days.

As soon as I saw 15K, I changed gears and started to push myself home.  I remember thinking that I should hold my pace but I also knew that I was heading to a finish time around 75 minutes.  Since I was already off-pace from an 80 minute finish anyway, I figured a few seconds faster at that point wouldn’t hurt.  I was really glad that I had picked it up as I heard people cheering in “Judie” who was obviously right behind me; I turned it up another notch and finished ahead of her by 6 seconds, resulting in a second place age group finish.

As I headed back to the car, I realized that pushing harder than I needed to was not the best idea as my legs were starting to tighten.  I did a slow cool-down, Kenyan style, to loosen them up and finished the day with a total of 25 kilometres.

And now I have just two weeks of easy running left.  I have no races, no speed work and no more high mileage.  All I need now is to focus on staying relaxed and healthy.   Let Taper Week 2 begin….

 

 

Just Keep Running

Yesterday, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I was almost at the end of my last week building up to the Chicago Marathon.   Running-wise, I had hoped to make this my highest mileage week but, as a mom and a teacher, this was my busiest week outside of training.  By Wednesday, it was obvious that I had to trust the training that I had done to this point; the goal for the week was just to keep running.

Early morning run
Love the peace that comes from running early in the morning.

Monday was a planned rest day and I spent my after-school time fulfilling mom duties.  On Tuesday, I got two runs in (5K in the morning and 8K at night) as planned, but I coached my first soccer practice on Wednesday night, leaving no time to run.  Despite a busy Thursday, I was able to make it another double day (5K in the morning, 12K at night), followed by an easy 6K on Friday after school.

Friday’s miles were tough.  My legs hurt – right behind the knees, both of them.  Looking back, I think it was from falling asleep late at night on the couch and overstretching the ligaments.  At the time, though, I was certain it was running-related so I did what most runners would do; I panicked.   I couldn’t be injured, not this close to Chicago.

That night, I decided to go to a power yoga class where I could give my legs the stretch that they needed. yoga drop I had been avoiding Friday night classes for weeks as I often end up dehydrated and that effects me the next day on my long run.   But the fear of injury trumped the fear of dehydration.  Fortunately, it did help but not enough.   I went to bed exhausted from the week and frustrated by the pre-marathon aches and pains.  On Saturday morning,  I woke up feeling better but not quite healthy enough to run long.

This weekend, then, I flipped my long run with my recovery distance.  Yesterday, I ran a gentle 15K, using the time to work on my form and stride.  After 30 minutes into my run, my legs were starting to feel more normal and, by the time I got home, they were fine.  I was ready for my long run.

This morning, I headed out the door while the dudes and hubby were sound asleep.  I had 35K in the books and wanted a 20K tempo in the middle.  An hour after heading out, I popped back home to grab some Gatorade before I started; the littlest dude was awake and happily watching television, seemingly oblivious to my presence.  I wondered if his older brother was still going to get up, as promised, and ride with me through the last 10K of my tempo; I was counting on him for fuel.   “He’s reliable,” I reminded myself.  “He’ll find me on course.”

My tempo was on a 5K loop – into the wind for 1K, down a hill and into the wind, uphill, down another less windy hill, and into the wind again until the end of the loop.  I had to run four of them.  The first three were fine;  pacing was exactly where I wanted to be, but I suddenly started to feel nauseous at 17K, probably from the lack of water/fluids; it was obvious that the Littlest Dude was still the only one awake at home.  I pushed through the next kilometre but had to stop at 18K.  I was done.  I decided to cool down and head home, for a total of 33K instead of 35K.  What was interesting is I ended up keeping my pace the same without thinking about it.  Sure enough, by the time I got home, one long tempo and a cool-down later,  the Littlest Dude was still the only one awake!

post long runSo, in my busy week with a birthday, a swimming lesson, soccer coaching (twice),  another soccer game and countless driving commitments from here to there, and work, I ended up with a fairly successful week.   With a bit of creativity and juggling things around, I finished the week with 83K and a tempo that had been a bit of a monkey on my back.  Now I can put my feet up in the air and start to enjoy the taper.

 

 

It Takes a Village To Raise a Marathoner: Part 1

There have been several key players – runners and non-runners – behind me during my training cycle but it has been my family (Dave, The Oldest Dude and The Littlest Dude) who have been behind me every step of the way.  Recently, they have been beside me too.

I didn’t truly recognize the support that the boys were giving me until the past week.  Since it was the last week of summer vacation, or the week before school starts, I had been at school every day to get my classroom ready.  As bad timing had it, my husband decided to go away for a few days to Northern Ontario.  While I admittedly enjoyed being able to hog the bed and sleep diagonally each night, I was a little stressed about having the boys on my own while getting things set up for school.   The combination of busy days, a working teen, a heat alert, an absent husband and the beginning of the last build-up towards the Chicago Marathon were bound to end in disaster.

Each night, I was able to run as planned.   The oldest dude planned for a night at home on Tuesday so that I could get to a workout with my club.  On Wednesday, The Littlest Dude rode his bike with me when I ran.  Thursday was a write-off, but I simply bumped that run to Friday.  I went out on my own early on Saturday morning and ran a disappointing 16K; the heat got to me…again.   That afternoon, with all three boys in the house, it was time for the “talk.”

16 mile fence
What a poser! Taking a break from another hot weather (37C) run.

“Look,” I said, “I have 5 more weeks.  School starts next week.  I’m already tired.  I need help around the house and I need a bit of support with my running.  It’s hot – too hot.  Some days, I need one of you to ride with me.”

They understood and it immediately showed.  The next day, I headed out into the trails for a late afternoon run, with the humidex hovering around 37C.  The oldest dude met me half-way with water and Gatorade, and he managed to take some pictures of me running.

labour day
Two hot runs with a yoga class in the middle.

Yesterday, I had two shorter runs planned with a yoga class in the middle.  When I was about to head out the door for my second run of the day, The Littlest Dude called out, “Wait!  How far are you going?  Can I come with you?”   He strapped on his helmet and stuffed my phone in his pocket.  Half way through, we stopped so he could take pictures; using my phone has become a real treat for him.

It was my husband’s turn to shine today.   I got home from school and discovered that he had done some dusting – the first of the three jobs he has for the week.  After I have been doing all of the cleaning for the past two months, it was a relief to have someone else take over part of it.

From the beginning of my training for Chicago, I knew that the start of the school year while finishing my marathon build-up was going to be a challenge.   Today, I have finished Week 1 of the three most difficult weeks.  Everyone at home is doing what they can to take away some of the day to day tasks and keep me running.  All I need to do it keep chasing my dreams.

 

 

 

 

The Daily Double

One of the joys of marathon training is watching your weekly mileage grow and grow and grow.   There comes a point, though, when my body can only handle so much, when I start to feel aches and pains and worry about the potential for injury.  For me, the magic number is 45 miles per week; as I get closer to and above 50 weekly miles, my body feels like it is starting to break.

A few years ago, my coach and I worked around my aches and pains by adding a few shorter runs to my week when I was in the late stages of the marathon cycle.  This meant that once or twice a week, I would run in the morning for 20 to 30 minutes and, again, for my usual evening run.  This let me add 3 to 6 miles to my weekly total without any extra stress – and it let me get use to the idea of running on tired legs.   That year, I was able to reach 60 miles a week (twice).

double run
My morning started with a run under blue skies. I loved the way the trees seemed to form a bridge over the evening clouds.

 

Last Wednesday was my first double run in my Chicago prep.  In the morning, I ran an easy 5k when the sun was high.   As I started, I was quickly reminded how tired my feet feel when they have less than 12 hours of rest.  This forced me to run at an easier pace and work on my form.  I thought about stretching my stride and how to land.  By the end of the third kilometre, I felt that I had my rhythm back and ended my run feeling much more comfortable than when I left.   In the evening, Monica and I hit the trails for another easy run.  We finished 11K later, leaving me with a daily total of 16K.

This Wednesday, I looked forward to my double run.  After a morning physio appointment, I ran a comfortable 5K and diligently did my calf exercises.   stretchRather than do my heel drops inside on the stairs, this Canadian running mama grabbed one of the boy’s hockey stick for support.  Standing on the curb, I slowly lowered my heels and raised them to stretch out the muscles in my lower legs.  Like last week, I felt great when I finished my morning workout.

double run2
After Run #2, finishing with a humidex in the mid-30’s.

I headed out for my second run in the late afternoon which, due to family commitments, was the only time I was able to run.  I felt fine when I started but when I got to 5K, I was starting to have trouble breathing.  By 6K, every step was effort; soon after,  I realized that I was overheating so I turned towards home.  By 7K, I called it a day.  My breathing was completely off as I was having trouble running for more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time.  Home I walked.

I checked the temperature when I got home and was not surprised to see that the humidex had it at 35C.  Finishing my run when I did was a smart decision, but it angered me that I didn’t hit my mileage goal.   One side of me told me to let it go; the other told me that I had to make it up before the end of the week.

The only thing that I was certain of is my need to drink more water.  Between the hot yoga classes and the runs in humid conditions, I need to make more of an effort to drink more water and make sure that I am replacing electrolytes with Gatorade.

Walking away positively, I was glad that I still managed to run twice in one day, even if my second run didn’t go as planned.  Last year, when training for the Goodlife Marathon, I only had 2 weeks with double runs and I’m already at that point now.  With 7 weeks to go until the Chicago Marathon, I should be able to have a few more weeks to play this “daily double” game.  And if things go well, I might even try it twice in one week.

When Dehydration Sets In

This summer, I have been trying to do my long runs on Fridays.  That lets me get them out of the way before the weekend and I don’t need to make that same time commitment to my training, leaving more time for the family.  Since school has been out, I’ve run 4 of my 7 long runs on Fridays and the other three on the weekends.

Getting yesterday’s 30K done was touch and go.  My oldest son worked late on Thursday night so he didn’t get home and to bed until 2:30.  Like most moms, when my son is out late, I am up late too – especially when I have to get him home.  The Littlest Dude, then, woke me up an hour after I climbed into bed and I ended up tossing and turning until daybreak.    When I should have been up and out for my long run, my pillow spoke to me; there was no way I was going to be able to run 30K on less than 4 hours of sleep.

I regretted listening as soon as I got up.  I was now facing a late afternoon run, which would have been fine as my other Friday runs have been in the late afternoon, but I had really wanted to get it out of the way early.   At 4:00, I finally headed out into the heat of the day.

It wasn’t actually that hot, especially compared to the temperatures we have had the few weeks before.  In fact, with the gentle breeze, I felt quite comfortable.  I stopped at a Rec Centre for water and a bathroom break 9K in, and again at the Soccer Club, another 9K later, for more water.  As usual, I had one GU gel somewhere in between.  I had more water at Coach Kevin’s house, who was going to run the last 8K with me, and I needed a bathroom again.  That should have been my first clue that I was heading towards the danger of dehydration.

It wasn’t even 2 km later when I suddenly started to feel tired.  I attributed it to my earlier pace. “I think I pushed harder than I needed to in the first part of my run.  I’m starting to feel it now.”  Soon after that, I had to stop.  “I’m feeling sick.”  We started to run when the nausea passed, but shortly after, I had to stop again.  The rest of the run was stop-go-stop-go until I felt an ache in my lower back; at that point, I knew I needed to stop and walk the rest of the way.

On the walk home, I tried to figure out why I was running so poorly.  I should have been able to handle the distance.  It was hot, but I had run close to the same distance in hotter and more humid weather.  I kept going back to the same reason: I ran too fast at the beginning.  When I got home, I realized what had actually happened; I had become dangerously dehydrated.

dying
Chilled and cramped after stretching. Dehydration had set in.

As soon as I walked in the door, I headed to a bottle of Gatorade.  Within minutes, I got the chills and shakes and had to put on some layers.  I stretched – especially my lower back – and fell asleep on the floor.   When I woke up an hour later, I drank some water.  Suddenly, I needed the bathroom; I was going to throw up.  After that, I broke out in a vicious sweat.  I crawled into bed, water bottle and Gatorade at my side, and slept for another 40 minutes.

When I got up again, it was dark.  The feelings of nausea had passed and I finally felt strong enough to shower.  Before doing so, I weighed myself and had dropped 4 pounds (and that was after taking in a litre of liquids!).

By the time I felt like eating, it was late evening.  I found leftover roasted potatoes and sausage from the night before – perfect!  One huge plate of spuds was exactly what my body needed!

This morning, I was feeling much better.  My weight is almost back up; I am still rehydrating and eating fruits and protein-rich foods.  The aches and pains are gone.  Today is now a non-planned day off running; tomorrow will be better.

rehydration
All set for a day of rehydration!

So, what went wrong?  1)  Pacing – I did go out too fast.  I ran the first 23k at a 4:45 (km) pace, when I should have been running a 5:00 kilometre.  2) Fluids – Even though I was drinking as much as I normally do, I didn’t get in enough.  It was hotter than I thought and I had no shade.  The faster pace/heat/low fluids was a bad combination.  3) Nutrition – I fuelled the day and night before, thinking I was running in the morning.  This left me feeling full so I probably hadn’t eaten enough through the day to fuel my late afternoon run.

What went right? 1) Even though the last part of my run was stop and go, I ran 30K, plus the 1.5K that I walked home at the end.  Now I can work with that distance, zone in on my pacing for a few weeks and build a little more.  2) Recognizing that I needed to stop.  I don’t want to think where I could be today if I hadn’t.  3) Family support: Once my boys saw the shape I was in when I got home, they are talking about riding with me so that I have liquids and company when I head out on my next long run.  Support vehicles are the best!

Everyone training for a marathon has to have one tough training run, one when they completely fall apart.  Yesterday, I had mine.  Thank goodness it is out of the way!