20 mile attempt and taper

I haven’t been consistent with writing about this training session because training has been erratic. Last year, I’d followed the plan exactly for 16 weeks. This year, I started training 20 weeks ahead of the race so I could ease back into long distance running. I hadn’t eased back into short distances. I have experienced more drawbacks and delays than I’d anticipated. I was so sure that I’d only miss 10-15% of my training. There have been physical problems, family issues requiring my attention, and I’ve felt discouraged on more than one occasion. I want to do it, but what if I can’t do it?

September 17th was supposed to be my 20 mile run. I’d done 16 miles the weekend before with no physical pain. My mind had turned on me, but my body was fine. I ran a race on the 16th and it didn’t really go well. My legs were tight the entire time and I had a slight pain in my right foot that I couldn’t pin point. I would describe it as just an “ow” sensation when I tried to pick up speed. I didn’t think much of it and I prepared for my 20 mile run the next day. I woke earlier than I do on weekdays, got my bathroom rituals done and had my water and a Stinger waffle (gluten free salted caramel is my flavor of choice) like I’ve had for every long run since some time last year.  I set out to meet up with a group to run with all of my race day items on – except anything related to chilly weather because it was hot and humid already.

We had three new runners with our usual group of three and the six of us started together. As it got hotter, I started to hang back and chat with someone who was also in the back of the group. Then, my foot pain started. I felt like something stabbed into the inside of my ankle and the posterior shin. It throbbed and stung as I moved. At 11.8 miles, I stopped my run. I couldn’t go without worrying that I’d have an injury on race day. I started messaging runner friends to reinforce what I already knew. I needed to stop the run. My friend Liz was the one to tell me to go home, get ice, and rest it. I went to my car, sat down and almost cried while I left my group to finish the other 8 miles that were left in the planned run for the day. It took me a long time to actually start the car and leave the parking lot. I took some time to stretch, got back in, and drove to the big name coffee shop drive thru because I didn’t want to see anyone I knew inside. I went home and iced my foot and took some ibuprofen. Then, I hashed out my running plan with a friend who has been helping me train after the injury I had halfway through this training.

No more running two days in a row until after race day. I would need to do workouts that combine running with other exercises to keep my body in motion for long periods of time without taxing my feet or legs through impact. One day, I did the elliptical for 30 minutes, ran outside for 3 miles, and got on the elliptical for another 30 minutes. That run in the middle was difficult enough that I stopped often to stretch my calves. My legs would not loosen up and refused to allow me to do much more than trot along at a 14-15 minute pace. I waited until Friday to run again and set out for 3-5 miles. I did 3 very slow, difficult, and painful miles. It wasn’t any of my previous injuries that came back. My legs felt like the calves would literally snap if I fully pointed or flexed either foot. I couldn’t move any faster, so I had to walk a lot and stay in forward motion. My miles were lurking dangerously close to 15 minutes. The pace is not a big deal unless I’m training for a race that has a time limit that happens to be an average of 15 minute miles. I obsessed over 15 minute miles. I want to finish my marathon the 2nd time I’ve trained for my first. I want to finish and get a medal, too.

I signed up for a “brick” workout [bike + run] for Sunday. The local Fleet Feet was having a Brick and Brunch event in cooperation with a bike shop, Bloomington Cycle and Fitness. My running buddies said we had 12 miles to run that day and they’d participate in the event as well. We ran 9 miles ahead of the event, got out our bikes and set out. I was the slowest person out there on the bike. I was just barely ahead of the person who was there to look out for the group from the back, or the sweeper. The two women I rode with in the back of the pack were really nice about my snail pace and had tips to offer and ways to help make my riding more comfortable. When finished, my running partners were waiting and we set out for a ridiculously hot and humid 3 mile run.

I have never wanted to quit a run in recent history more than this one and I would have if I wasn’t with Denise and Dianna. I was a hot mess. My legs felt like someone tied weights to them. Somehow I was actually running faster than I felt like I was (pace wise). The sun was in the position to beat down from above and the trail was not offering sufficient shade for cooling. We were all miserable. I kept stopping to walk and urging them to continue on and I’d just have to catch up with them later. They were also miserable and we probably evened out the walk breaks inside of the last mile. Except the last 1/4 mile where we ran simply to get back and have something cool to drink.

Oddly enough, I had a blast Sunday. Even that last little run. I was so happy that I ran without my legs protesting the entire time that I just kept saying how thankful I was for one good run. I totally am thankful. I got to hang out and kind of soak in the reasons I enjoy running.

I made myself some really cool sleeves for the marathon using transfer paper, my home printer, and an iron. It was a little challenging and I bought cheap sleeves just in case I messed up or melted the material. I’m used to my other ones with thumb holes, but I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy these for race day. I do see they’re imperfect and I’m aware that they’re both for the same arm, but I’ll still be able to read them and know what they say. I am excited about the marathon. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish. I’m thankful for the memorable training sessions and the time I get to spend focusing on little more than my cadence, breathing, and what’s immediately ahead.

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Unsettling, but normal

I have started freaking out about 26.2 miles more regularly than before. Today, walking to the bus stop, I was thinking about what the chances were I’d fall in leaves again close to race day. I mean, fall is coming, you guys! The leaves are going to FALL! Yeah, so its like that.

This Sunday, I ran 16 miles. My training plan has kind of gone sideways since I had some inflammation issues right in the middle of training for this marathon. My friends that I would normally run with were only slated for 14 miles, but I’m having to ramp up a little quicker because they’ve already done 18 (last week) and I have catching up without injury to do.

It was a solid run. We chatted away the miles and I found it to be mostly fun. Then, my brain short circuited. We were almost to the starting point at 14 miles, where they’d leave me to finish my last 2 miles alone. For no particular reason, my scumbag brain started in on me about how bad everything hurt after only 14 miles and how there was no way I could stand the pain of 26.2 miles. I stopped in my tracks. My friends Denise and Dianna ran on ahead and I walked slowly trying to clear my head and think about anything that wasn’t running. I saw a group walking together and I made myself pick up to a run, turn to them and say “Hello,” with the best smile I could muster. The little girls and their adult walking companion smiled back. I decided to be strong and at least get back to my friends.  They came back to me and I told them I was just too far inside of my own head and needed a minute.

We got back to where we’d all parked and I tossed a shirt into the car, grabbed some sports drink from the cooler in my trunk, climbed into the driver’s seat, turned the car on, and then turned it back off and got out. I took off on my run to my friends yelling “Go, Jenn!” They were going into the local co-op grocery probably to get smoothies.

I ran south on the trail waving to every single person that went past me. Most passersby were on bikes. In my head, I joked that I should ask them to circle around and make sure I’m still alive in like  15 minutes. I tried to recall song lyrics. I looked at discarded things along the trail and the road and made up stories about why they had to be littered there. I have a pretty amusing imagination. I saw a sign that said “student mail,” and none of the universities in town were near my location, so I bet that sign had a really interesting story that probably involved vandalism and alcohol. Oh, there were beer bottle caps lined up in a perfect little row with most of them donning golden foil with some peeled away, but of the same type.

I turned around before I hit 15 because I didn’t feel like exploring the places beyond the trail like I often do. When I got back to my car, I paused and took a drink of water. I looked down and I saw a rock there. One of those kindness project rocks that people paint and hide and post to Facebook. I picked it up and examined it. There was a book painted on it. I started to move away and there sat another one. I couldn’t wait to show my kids those rocks and go somewhere to hide them. I stuffed them into the pack that held my gels earlier in the run and I took off to finish my run. I looked at my watch every few seconds hoping that I was finished and I could just walk back the car. I no longer felt completely exhausted, though. I had energy to move myself forward.

When I got back to my car after 16 miles and a little cool down walk, I actually spent a little extra time stretching at my car. I felt like people may have been looking at me, but it didn’t matter. I ran 16 miles. It was ugly and it was not the good kind of memorable. I started picking on myself and cutting myself down while I was still running. Even though I’d already crossed the halfway point for a marathon distance, I was tearing myself down. I stopped, I hit reset, and I moved on. They’re right about motivation. It doesn’t last and that’s why you have to keep finding things that spark that light inside.

I truly enjoy running and even though not every run is enjoyable, I’m doing something I take pride in. I’m cool with the people that think it’s crazy or pointless.

I got this on a postcard in the mail and it is going be one of my sparks for this weekend’s 20 mile run:

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What keeps you going? Do you have any mantras that get you through the tough spots? I like “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Good luck on your training goals! Maybe you could do a race for charity sometime, too?

My fundraising site is here: Click these words

Where have you been?

Where have I been? On the crazy train, guys. Google assistant says I spent 48 hours in a car in August. It’s probably  more than that, which is simply disturbing. More than 2 days driving and I don’t think I left Illinois. I also didn’t go on any road trips that were for pleasure.

That doesn’t answer the question of where I was. I started physical therapy. I didn’t finish it, but my foot feels great. No pain when I run. The extra time I took from running was due to my oldest child, the one with Crohn’s, being in the hospital for 15 days. We went from a local hospital that was only 10 minutes away to her being transferred to one 45 minutes away to be closer to her specialist and in a Children’s Hospital. Originally, she was just a little dehydrated. Then, her liver enzymes were up. Before we knew it, she was jaundice. Her liver was not doing well and she had viral hepatitis. All of these things started from one nasty virus that doesn’t even make some people sick when they get it. Epstein-Barr virus, also known as ‘mono’ by the masses, landed my daughter in the hospital for over 2 weeks with a couple of those days in the Intensive Care Unit. Her IBD medications took down her immune system so so her intestines weren’t being attacked by the immune system. Her immune system had a harder fight than it was able to handle. She landed in a hospital bed miserable and missed her first 2 weeks of school including the first day.

I tried to work out as much as I could. I had nervous energy I needed to expend. I did treadmill work at the gym one day until the hospital called. I planned to run one day on the way home from the hospital when my husband had taken my place watching her. Sleep won that day. I needed sleep more than I needed a run. When she finally was released, I went for a run to unwind.  I turned an 8 mile run into a 13 mile run and my friend who was (and is still) helping me get to the marathon distance was not surprised I had run extra. She told me to go for more this week. So, with exactly a month left to to until my first marathon, I have run 13 miles at the most. This weekend, I’ll be going for 16 miles. I’ve actually done 4 and 6 mile runs week outside without pain to my foot or ankle. I’m excited to get the long run out of the way.

I always talk up my running family and how runners are such awesome people. I never imagined how they’d all be there for me when I really needed them. There was so much encouragement and support when I was injured and even more when my daughter was in the hospital. It was amazing.

This week, I finally hit the fundraising minimum for Team Challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis. That put me 3/4 of the way to my goal and I was so excited to see that number and finally being so close.

I had a while when I was really down and out and so pessimistic about pretty much everything. Now, I feel like I have peeked around all of those excuses and ‘what ifs’ and I can see success somewhere in the distance.  I even think I can finish a 26.2 mile race despite a few snags in my training plan.

There’s no magic formula. There’s no words I needed to hear to push away the doubt. I decided that if there are people who can go through these things and come out fine, I can endure a marathon using up 1/4 of my day.  I want to do it now more than ever before. So, I hope you cheer me on in Chicago. I hope you give to my fundraiser. I hope you find the ‘why not’ when you think of reaching a goal you have wanted for awhile.

Fundraising link: MomJennGoal26.2

Here’s a picture of me after my 10k run yesterday. I have my “Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do.” bracelet on. I am one tough broad, guys….

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