Twenty Miles is Far!

Four weeks ago, our 15 mile training run was the most difficult one I’d had so far.  The 17.5 mile run two weeks later was much easier.  Last week, my short solo Thursday run was also one of the worst I have had.  What these two bad runs had in common was the timing of my cycle.  I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate further on that.

So coming into my 20 mile training run I was a bit worried that it would be another difficult one. I decided to take control of the things that I could control like hydration, sleep and nutrition.  For a couple of days before the run I did my best to be well hydrated, eat well, take my vitamins and get plenty of sleep.  I also bought a new water belt that could hold four bottles instead of just two, along with more noms and other supplies.

For my breakfast before the run I had two eggs, a large banana and a bunch of peanut butter (smeared on the banana).  For during the run, I mixed the Stinger Honey Gels (I use the gold) into two of my water bottles, and filled the other two with plain water.  For my noms I brought along a pack of assorted Sport Beans and two packs of the Stinger Chews (one Lime-Ade and one Fruit Smoothie).  I started sucking on a jelly bean a bit earlier in the run than I usually do (only about 30 to 40 minutes in) and I had a jelly bean or chew in my mouth most all of the time from then on.  I don’t chew them, just to be clear, so they take a while to dissolve.  I alternated between the plain water and the water with the gel mixed in, and finished the first of the honey-waters around half way.

I also used my foam roller on my right IT Band (the one that gets tight) once or twice per day for several days leading up to my run.  Most of the time I also rolled my left IT Band at least once on those days, even though it doesn’t feel tight.

Now, I have no way of knowing if this strategy was what made the difference, but I do know that I had a much, much better run than I did the previous Thursday, or 4 weeks before when we did our 15 miles. Around mile 14 or 15 I could start to tell that certain muscles were getting tired and my feet were certainly feeling the pounding they were taking, but I didn’t feel bad and I didn’t feel like I was struggling. Around mile 17 I started to really pay attention to how much distance was left, but I still didn’t feel bad.  I did get a bit of a mental boost after 17.5 miles, knowing that every step after that was farther than I’d gone before.

Our route was a bit unusual in that it was sort of a 10 mile out and back followed by another, different 10 mile out and back.  That might sound sort of boring to a lot of people, but I don’t mind that sort of thing at all.  And honestly, it was really cool to pass the other pace groups once on each leg of the run.  We cheered each other on, exchanged high-fives and I think generally improved each other’s experience. We were also cheered on at several points by one of our class leaders, who met us repeatedly along the route, and by runners from the traditional running class as well as a number of random strangers we ran past. I have to tell you, if you see a group of runners out on a training run, give them a cheer. It honestly feels great and they’ll really appreciate it.

Finally, I also tried something new after my run. Jeff Galloway and a number of others strongly recommend a cold bath (just tap cold is supposed to be fine) after a long run. I don’t have a bathtub so I hadn’t tried this before but some very kind friends of mine allowed me to use their tub after this run, and boy was that a good idea. The cold bath itself was not the most comfortable experience I’ve ever had. My feet, in particular, had a hard time with the cold water. But today, I’m so much less sore and stiff than I have been on previous long runs that I’m sure a cold bath will become part of my post-long-run ritual as often as I can manage. One thing I will say is that I think it might be easier to sit in the bath and run the water in, as I did, than to climb into a cold bath, particularly for the feet. Less shocking, that way.

So mentally speaking, 20 miles is the penultimate milestone for me.  23 miles (our next long run) doesn’t have the same mental impact so it’s our final long run of 26 miles that is the next significant training run in my mind.  That run is scheduled for June 10th and I will run around the block to get my extra .2 miles in if we finish short of the full 26.2.  Following that 26 mile training run, we have three consecutive recovery run Sundays, and finally the Marathon itself on July 8th in just 68 days.

I feel much more secure now in my ability to run this marathon. 26.2 miles isn’t much more than 20 and I’ve already run that far!

Shoes and Safety

Monday was a big day for me.  I bought a new set of running shoes that I’m very excited about, along with some toe socks to try and an extra pair of the good socks that I know I like.  I also attended a Runner’s Personal Safety and Self Defense class.  It was presented by Run Wild Missoula and The Runner’s Edge, which also happens to be where I bought my new gear.

The class included some information from local police officers as well as some safety equipment sold by the Runner’s Edge.  My big takeaways from the class were: pepper spray, elbows, practice/preparation/planning, visibility, trusting your gut and be careful with headphones.

Pepper Spray:  The Runner’s Edge sells the Jogger Fogger, which is what I will be getting. The advantage of the Jogger Fogger is that it doesn’t require such accurate aim.  It sprays a mist or fog that will be a bit less powerful, but more likely to actually get into the eyes and mucous membranes of your target. The thing to remember to be careful of is not to be downwind if possible, and to consider holding your breath either way. But you’ll have adrenaline on your side, which will help a bit. One thing the officers emphasized that I thought was interesting was, DO NOT warn your attacker. If you’re in a situation where you feel threatened enough to use the pepper spray, just spray it and get the hell out of there. Warning your attacker will give them (if they’re human) time to cover their eyes or turn away so that your spray has less of an impact. They also suggested cutting the safety tab ahead of time. They seemed less concerned with accidental sprays than I would have expected.

Elbows: If you’re attacked by someone bigger and stronger than yourself, or even if that person just has the element of surprise your elbows are a good weapon to use. Punching them may well break your hand, but your elbows are a bit stronger.  You can go for their face or neck if possible, but other soft spots are good too. Even just using your water bottle to hit them in the face with or spraying your water at them is better than nothing and could give you the second you need to kick them in the old peas and carrots so you can get away.  But a lot of us aren’t experts at any kind of self defense technique. That’s where preparation, practice and planning come in.

Preparation, Practice and Planning: Being prepared doesn’t just mean having the right shoes or knowing whether or not you’ll be out long enough to need water. You should also make sure that someone knows where you’ve gone and when you should be back. That way, if you’re not back on time, they know where to start looking. If you’ve never taken a self defense class, consider watching some self defense vids on youtube and practicing a bit so that your body will know what to do in a scary situation. Plan your route and know your surroundings. If you get into trouble, knowing which way to go to get to the nearest open business or the friendly neighbors’ house may make a big difference.

Visibility: I’m lucky to live in a pretty safe community. There haven’t been many attacks on joggers over the years, but of course even the few we’ve had are too many. Visibility is helpful because anyone who is planning to attack a jogger is a little less likely to go after the person who is drawing a lot of attention, but also it keeps you safer from vehicles. Wearing lights when it’s dark out and bright clothes are great ways to stay visible to traffic and to other pedestrians.  There are so many options when it comes to visibility gear, too. Here’s just one set of good ideas.

Trust your gut: If you’re out on a run and somebody approaches you and makes you uncomfortable, trust your gut.  Cross the street if you need to. Draw attention to yourself by yelling, singing or using a whistle. Do whatever it takes, even if you look like a nutjob. If they’re not a bad person and you’ve just hurt their feelings, that’s sad but they will live. On the other hand, if they are a bad person you’ve just made it less likely that they will bother you because you’ve just drawn attention to yourself from all the other people in the vicinity. Also, walk and run confidently with your head up.  Know who is around. Look them in the eye.  Don’t stare at your feet like I do, when I walk.

Headphones are a problem. Many of us love to run with music, but you need to be able to hear what’s around you. Cars and people make noise and you need to be able to hear them coming. There are headphones out there that are designed to allow external sound in, including a very fancy and expensive brand called earHero. Their earHerosport model is out of my price range, but they look really fantastic.  One of the officers who spoke to us today has a pair and they’re tiny little things that don’t plug your ear and block the external sound. There are other options as well, but I haven’t explored them yet.

On Tuesday I ran in my new shoes, and so far I love them.  They’re light and comfortable. Sadly, I don’t think the toe socks fit me properly.  They work great on my toes, but they’re too loose and slippy under the ball of my feet.  On Thursday I will run in the same shoes, but with socks I am more familiar with, just to make sure it’s a sock issue. And I’ll run in my Asics for our 20 miler on Sunday. I’m not taking any chances, there!

The marathon is in 73 days and I just keep getting more excited!

Pockets and Lessons

One of the things that drives me nuts about ladies running gear is the frequency with which there are no secure pockets in them. It makes me cranky. I realize that fashion, and yes, even running fashion, is designed to make us as nice to look at as possible and pockets – if they are used – ruin the line of our figure. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m not out there running 4 miles or 17.5 miles so that I can look nice while I’m running! I want pockets. I want a place to put my cell phone, my keys, maybe even an ID and some cash or my debit card. I prefer that these be secure pockets that my belongings will not bounce out of as I run. These are not tall orders, and I shouldn’t have to wear my water belt on a short run, just to have a place to stash things.

As it happens, my newish running shorts (the black version of these) have two sets of pockets. The outer pockets are not what I would consider secure. I keep my lip balm in there but that’s about it.  The inner pockets are in the back, to the right and left of my spine, and are much more secure.  That’s where I stashed my phone and cash today. And that, was how I learned a lesson today. It was one of those lessons that you realize you should have thought of before, but didn’t. As it turns out, secure pocket or no, those inner pockets aren’t the best place for cash. When you have to hand over sweaty bills to the lady at the coffee shop after your run, you feel kind bad about that. Or at least I did.

I mentioned in my last post that our next long run is 20 miles.  As it turns out, we only have three more long runs before the marathon.  I can’t quite wrap my head around that fact.  On 4/29 we have 20 miles.  Then the following two Sundays are both 5 mile recovery runs, with a Magic Mile on 5/13.  Then our next long run is 23 miles on 5/20, followed by two 6 mile runs, including another Magic Mile.  Our last long run is a full 26 (and if I have to run around the block to get in my extra .2 I’m doing it) on June 21st.  We follow that with a 3 mile recovery run, two six milers and then it’s time for the Marathon on July 8th (76 days from now).  And I am very dedicated about running my short (3 – 4 miles) Tuesday/Thursday runs each week as well.

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be looking forward to running (run/walking) 20 miles, I would have considered calling the nice men in the white coats to determine whether you might be a danger to yourself or others.  It really is amazing how much my outlook has changed since I started this class.  And in all honesty, a lot of that has to do with discovering the Galloway run/walk/run method.  I honestly don’t think I would be doing this today if I had tried to just run.  I don’t think I would have enjoyed a couch to 5K program or anything like that.  Whether I’m running at a 30 second walk/ 45 second run split, or 30s/30s or even the 60s/60s back when I first started, the run walk splits really make all the difference to me.  They enable me to go much further than I could otherwise, and to feel great about it.

Also, since my little sprint last week that seemed to stretch out my IT Band, it hasn’t bothered me a bit. I could feel it after the run but that was it.  I haven’t felt it since, except when using my foam roller, which already is starting to hurt a lot less each time.

My plans for the coming week might include buying some new gear. Possibly shoes and some of the socks with toes in them, as I have a bit of a toe overlap issue on my right foot.  I also plan to attend a  runners self defense class that Run Wild Missoula is putting on.  It depresses me that such a class is needed, but it truly is.  I’d also like to get a new pic taken for my header image.  And yard work.  ‘Tis the season for yard work, and one of the advantages of the Galloway method of training is that many folks find it easier to be active after a long run.  Which is not to say that traditional runners can’t do stuff after a long run, but I know I couldn’t if I were doing traditional running.  At least not at this stage.

I’m also really excited to learn that some of my classmates are reading my blog!  That tickles me to no end.  And if any of y’all ever have anything to add about a run, or are having different experiences, please comment and let me know.  And if you have a blog, I’d love to have the link!  See you Sunday!

Sexy Seventeen (and a half)

Every run is different. Today’s run was 17.5 miles. It was raining nearly the whole time, but it was still a gorgeous run. The first half of our run took us through a local park and wooded area and it was so green and beautiful. It was also really nice to get off of the pavement for a while.

After about 4 miles in, I started to feel my right IT Band.  It didn’t hurt, but I could feel it. This concerned me, because it was so early on in our run.   Around mile 6, a few of us made a stop at a convenient restroom, unsure of where the next one would be. After we “sprinted” to catch up to our pace group, my IT Band felt fine. That little sprint seemed to work it right out and I didn’t feel it again during my run. I can feel it a bit now, but not much.

They say “the wall” pushes out a little farther with each long run, and it’s true.  The 17.5 miler today was easier for me than the 15 miler two weeks ago.

In addition to the slow buildup of miles, some other things that may have made a difference: Today, I made an effort to take in more calories during my run using a combination of a honey gel mixed into one of my water bottles and gummies. Also, I think my new breakfast is working out really well for me. My pre-run breakfast lately has been two eggs and a peanut butter sandwich on homemade socca bread. Socca is a flatbread made from garbanzo bean flower. The recipe I adapted is here. The important things are the warm water, and letting the batter rest in a tightly covered container for 30 minutes.  You can leave out the rosemary and onion, add different flavors and even make it sweet if you want.

In two weeks, we’ll be running our 20 miler.  26.2 is only a tiny bit farther than that.  I’m almost there an I’m feeling great.  I’m really excited about running the marathon in 83 days!

And She Just Keeps Getting Faster

A few nights ago I had a dream about running today’s Magic Mile.  I don’t recall most of it, but I do know that I was irritated with someone in my dream who was trying to encourage me to try to run my mile in under 9 minutes.  I told that person, “There’s no way I can break nine minutes, so just shut up about it.”

I really didn’t expect to have a very good Magic Mile today.  Due to various factors, I didn’t sleep all that well last night.  Also, during the first part of my mile, I had to stop and pickup my shirt that had fallen off (it was my over-shirt that had been tied around my waist, so that’s not as interesting as it sounds).  As I reached the half mile marker on my run this morning, I checked my timer and it was already over 5 minutes, so I felt sure I was going to run my mile between the 10:03 pace of my first mile and the 9:28 pace of my second MM.

As I took my final walk break, I glanced at my timer again and was so surprised by what I saw, that I don’t actually remember what it said, but it was no where near what I expected.  At that point, I took off.  I got a bit of a mental boost from seeing that I was faster than anticipated, and as I crossed the finish line and stopped my timer, I was absolutely astonished to see that I’d come in at 8:55.  I asked another runner to verify that I was actually reading my timer correctly.  I honestly did not expect that kind of time improvement again.

We have two more Magic Miles scheduled, and the directions at the Galloway site suggest taking your 4 most recent MM’s, throwing out the worst and averaging the other 3.  So it’s still too soon to make Galloway’s most accurate prediction for my marathon time and pace.  This MM alone puts me on pace for a 5 hour and 3 minute marathon, which I feel great about.  If I could break 5 hours, that would be pretty darned exciting for me.

After my run today, I joined many other runners from my class and the “traditional” class in the meeting space The Runner’s Edge lets us use.  There were snacks and holiday gift bags with gels & fizzes in them.  I also took the time to use the foam roller on my  IT Band and have decided that I will be buying my own foam roller asap.  It hurt like the dickens, but it relaxed my IT Band right up.

The marathon is 90 days away now.  Our next long run is 17.5 miles, a week from today.  I’m already looking forward to it.  It may kick my butt like the 15 miler did, but I’m okay with that.  Every time we add miles, we push our “wall” out that much farther.  For now, I’m happy with pushing it out to 26.2 in time for the marathon.


Not Gonna Lie, 15 Miles Kicked My Butt

As you may have guessed today’s training run was a 15 mile run.  The first 10 miles felt great.  Miles 11 and 12 were good but I started to feel a bit slow, and the last two or three were tough.  I was very glad to be with my running class, as I’m once again not sure I could have convinced myself to finish that run on my own, but of course I’m glad that I did.

Partly due to a poor night’s sleep I dropped back to the 15 minute pace group for this run, and I am also glad that I did that.  We were a little bit fast, overall, so really it worked out so that I was at a good training pace according to Galloway’s recommendations.

Right now I can feel that I’ll be a bit sore tomorrow and my right IT band is a bit tight.  I’ll work on rolling that out as best I can today, and I’ll try not to sit down for too long at a stretch to help keep things from stiffening up too much.

But what I know for sure, right this minute, is that I can do a half marathon and then some. That’s a good feeling. And there is plenty of time between now and the Marathon in July to build up to the full 26.2 miles.  97 days, to be exact.

Next week is a 4 mile run with a Magic Mile, and then the following week is our 17.5 mile run.  Two weeks later, we’ll run our 20 mile run, and then our schedule changes a bit so that there are two short (5 and 6 mile) runs before the 23 miler.  We will be running a full 26 miles prior to the marathon, as well.

At this point, I anticipate that after a post-marathon recovery period where I run short distances for a few weeks, I will likely continue to run long runs pretty frequently, and endeavor to stay in shape for a new goal race next year.  It may seem a bit insane, but I think I’m setting my sights on the 2013 Pengelly Double Dip.  It’s a shorter race than the marathon, but quite challenging in its own way, and I could still do the 2013 marathon afterward.

Even though today’s run kicked my butt, I still learned that I can run(/walk/run) 15 miles.  And the way I see it, if I can do 15 miles, 17.5 & 20 won’t be that much harder, and if I can do 20 miles, then 23 & 26.2 won’t be much harder than that.  The Galloway training method of adding miles on slowly, in small chunks, really works well for me and lots of other people as well.