14 Hot & Hard Miles

Boy the heat sure does make a difference. Today started out warm and just got warmer and that heat made it a bit harder for me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’m so glad I had such a great group of people to run with today, because they kept me going and kept my spirits up. If I had tried to run alone today, I think I would have had a miserable time.

The good news is, my feet didn’t swell during the run and haven’t swollen much yet either.  I wore my calf-compression sleeves and put them back on after a quick shower, in the hopes that they’ll help keep my feet from puffing up like they did after the 26 miler.

This is only the second double digit run that we’ve had in heat. Our 23 miler started cool, but got pretty warm by the end. I have to say, I really love people who leave their sprinklers out to water their lawns on days like this. In the past, I was always a bit irritated to see the waste of water that comes with watering on hot days, but I’ve officially changed my stance on that. Now, I get as excited as a giddy 5 year old when I see a sprinkler that I can run through. So thank you to all those folks who leave their sprinklers out on our running routes. You’re the best!

The other change I made today was to go straight to a local coffee & tea shop and get myself a chocolate creamsicle milkshake after our run. Many people swear by chocolate milk and/or chocolate milkshakes, and I’ve seen some suggestions lately that it’s best to get that first dose of protein and carbs in within 10 minutes of finishing your run. It’s supposed to promote muscle refueling, and since the Marathon is in 13 days and 15 hours, I thought now might be a good time to give it a try.

Finally, for a while now I’ve been meaning to link to a blog being written by one of my pace group members. Little Sister Sole at SisterSoleBlog is a really great person to run with and I always enjoy reading her blog. She’s very upbeat and very encouraging and I missed her on today’s run, since she is out of town. Please check out her blog.

No more long or medium runs before the big one. I’m as ready as I can be now!

Crazy Train

Last week we ran 26.2 miles. This week we ran 3.5 miles. It might seem weird, but it’s all part of recovering and being ready for the big race on July 8th. We were actually scheduled to run only 3 miles, but the extra half came in when we had to detour around a train that was rather strangely parked at an intersection. We ran a few blocks down and did the loop through the park backwards. Fortunately, the train was gone by the time we came to that intersection again.

Class was sparsely attended this morning, unsurprisingly. It’s Father’s Day and I think folks may have squeezed in their 3 mile yesterday or at some convenient time today on their own. We did have a new runner in our class today, though. A local newscaster came to run with us and will apparently be doing a story on the Galloway Training Method. She’ll be running the half marathon as well, so I assume she’s been training on her own or with her friends. Thankfully it was too early to bring a camera person along, so she’ll be getting film at a later time and I won’t be in it!

My recovery is going well. My legs are loosening up and feeling good. I mowed a very thick, overgrown lawn last night so I’m feeling that a bit, but I don’t think it’s going to cause me much trouble.

Our class leaders have decided to offer us a 14 mile run next Sunday. They thought having such a long break between our last long run and the marathon might be mentally difficult, without a mid-length run in between. Our long run should ideally have been today, but having the 26 miler scheduled for Father’s Day presented its own problems. I think this is a reasonable compromise and I’m looking forward to the 14 next week.

We also learned today that our wonderful pace group leader will be volunteering at the finish line. As much as I wish he was running with us, I am still thrilled to know that he’ll be there to see us finish. Throughout our class he really made a point to educate us and share as much of his experience and information as he could. On our long runs he would always keep tabs on us and make sure we were feeling alright. And of course, his super-awesome mobile aid station was an absolute life saver on our long run last week. I feel so lucky to have been in his pace group and I’m really glad I decided to stay, even after my magic mile time improved enough for me to move up a group.

I still feel confident about running the marathon in 20 days and 18 hours. I believe I mentioned that I’ve signed up for the 5:00am start time, with the walkers. Since we haven’t had much of a chance to acclimate to running in heat yet, I really think that was the best choice for me. I will miss my pace group buddies who are starting at 6:00am, but races are different than training classes anyway. We’re all on our own in the race, really. Starting with the walkers should help me keep my pace slower, too, rather than starting off too fast and using up too much energy too early on.

26.2 or The Flat is a Lie

A quick recap for those just joining us: Our pace group decided to go rogue and run the full marathon course rather than the out & back that the main body of the class had scheduled yesterday. Because of this, we had to arrange for our own support for the first half, which turned out remarkably well.

It wouldn’t be 100% accurate to say that yesterday’s run was the best ever, even though looking back that’s how I feel about it. We arrived at our starting point a little after 8:00 am and started our journey in very chilly, wet weather. Most of us were at least slightly underdressed and some of us were pretty seriously underdressed for the conditions. Before long, the steady rain had us drenched through. For the first several miles it seemed it was a bit of a struggle to keep our spirits up, even for those who are usually the most cheerful and optimistic. But we kept talking and joking and laughing, even though it was a stretch, and forged on ahead.

Since we were out on our own, without the support of the main body of the class, I was feeling a bit paranoid about water and nutrition so I packed quite a lot with me. It turns out that I didn’t have to worry after all. I think it was around 4 miles in that we first came across our pace group leader who is unfortunately injured, but is still going way above and beyond in supporting us. He brought his RV out so that we could have a bathroom break since there wouldn’t be a public restroom on the course for quite a ways. He also brought water, gels and ibuprofen. Since we were the last group to start the regular marathon course, after we left his awesome, mobile aid station he drove on down a few more miles and met us again. In all I think he provided us with 3 stops, though it may have been 4. My memory is fuzzy. Another aid station on the first half of our journey was provided by another injured pace group member. I think it says a lot about these folks that they’re still supporting us, even though they’re injured and won’t be running the race.  They’re quality people!

If I recall correctly, the rain started to abate sometime around when we started up the hill on Big Flat Road. Don’t let the name fool you. The road is neither big, nor flat. It’s narrow, winding and and provides the Marathon’s only significant hill, about halfway through the full course. It’s also one of the reasons we chose to run the full course, so we would have a better idea of what to expect on race day. I can’t speak for anyone else in the class, but I got a boost out of conquering that hill. Additionally, part way up that hill is where our pace group leader kindly provided a dry shirt for our most drenched and cold runner.

After we got down the other side of the hill we joined up with the half marathon course and the aid stations provided by Run Wild MIssoula for our class. I was especially excited to get “into town” and run through more familiar areas. Also, sometime on our way down the hill, a former member of our class who opted to join the traditional running class after trying the Galloway method, came to cheer us on and surprised us by meeting us quite a few times during the rest of our run to cheer us on and take pictures. It’s honestly amazing how much that can lift a person’s spirits on a long run.

As we went along we remarked on the milestones we usually remark on, such as passing the 10 mile mark (double digits!), the halfway point, the 20 mile mark and then the 23 mile mark, which was our previous longest run distance. Early on, our group spread out quite a bit, though we never really lost sight of the leaders, but about 20 or 22 miles in we grouped back up and stuck together for the rest. And around 10 miles I opted to do a little “sprint”  when I saw our mobile aid station ahead, because it’s been so effective in stretching out my IT Band in the past. It worked like a charm.

After the rain stopped and we began to warm up, our spirits also lifted, so the last half of our run was much more pleasant than the first half. As we approached the finish I got more and more excited about the fact that I was actually doing it. I was actually completing a marathon distance run, albeit slowly. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that I’m doing this, since I was never a runner before that night in November when I discovered how much I liked the Galloway run/walk/run method.

As we turned onto Higgins Avenue, we were on a walk break. My timer went off just as I started up the bridge and it was at that point that I let the excitement and adrenaline takeover and decided not to take any of the rest of my walk breaks. As it turns out, I don’t know exactly where the finish line of the race is, so I just kept on going until I got to Front Street, where I waited for the rest of my pace group and exchanged many high-fives, fist-bumps and words of congratulations. We even started back along the bridge after a pace-group member who had dropped behind, but then we discovered she wasn’t very far behind at all, just on the other side of the street.

Looking back at my first marathon distance run, I feel really positive about it. I finished strong and happy, which is what I set out to do. Our time was 6 hours and 18 minutes. With the amount of stopping and waiting we did at the aid stations, I feel pretty good about that. My predicted time, according to Galloway’s Magic Mile based recommendations, was 6 hours, so I think the prediction was probably pretty darned accurate.

Me, after running my first marathon length training run. I’m so happy!

After the run I went to hang out with my dear friends who made me delicious homemade mac and cheese and let me take a cold bath in their tub. They also took this picture of me when they picked me up.

Interestingly, my feet didn’t swell much during the run. Whether that was due to my compression sleeves or the cold weather, I do not know. But when I got into the cold bath around 7:30pm they were HUGE. I will say that delaying the cold bath does not seem to have decreased its effectiveness, either. I’m a bit stiff today, but not unreasonably so, and I’m really not very sore at all. 

I’d also like to say that the Feetures Elite socks that a friend recommended to me were really fantastic. Even with soaking wet feet the only blisters I got were one in a spot where I had put blister tape not quite far enough around my toe, so it came loose and rubbed, and one where the back of my shoe pressed the seam of my compression sleeve against my leg. I strongly recommend these socks and will be buying myself a few more pair. Of all the socks I’ve tried so far, these are by far my favorite.

The marathon is approaching fast! Just 26 days and 10 hours according to the countdown clock. But now I know that the nerd girl CAN run the marathon, and that’s a pretty cool feeling.

The Countdown is On

The Missoula Marathon is Sunday, July 8th. That’s one month from today, or 29 days and some hours according to the countdown clock on the Missoula Marathon page. This Sunday is our last big training run and those of us training for the full are doing the full 26 miles, and more in some cases. Chances are good that I won’t be blogging on Sunday due to being really wiped out. Look for a blog post Monday night, reporting on how the run went.

I’ve spent a good portion of this week feeling a bit nervous about our upcoming training run. I clearly have a mental “thing” about the full 26 miles, even though it’s only 3 miles farther than my last longest run. But that is exactly why we’re running the full 26, so that this doesn’t happen before the race itself. After Sunday I will know for certain that I can run(walk/run) the full 26, so on race day I can concentrate on other things.

Since our pace group is going rogue for the first half of our final training run, I’ve felt the need to be a little bit more prepared, mainly by purchasing a second pouch for my water belt. The Amphipod Ballistic Endurance Pouch is big enough to hold a 3oz bottle of sunscreen, a package of the Stinger Energy Chews and a package of the Jelly Belly Sport Beans, both with the air let out. It also has 4 loops on the front that can hold gels, though I’m not sure if I trust them for my precious Stinger Honey Gels or not. Regardless, it will allow me to bring along sunscreen and possibly some more substantial food of some sort, since we’ll be out for 6.5 to 7 hours if my calculations are correct. Tomorrow I will fuss around with the arrangement of the items on my belt to find the most comfortable configuration for my 4 water bottles and extra pouch. And just like the 23 mile training run, I’ll be filling two water bottles with gels mixed in with water and bringing extra gels along.

I’m also planning a little differently for after the run. I’m still going to go to my friends’ house for a meal and to use their tub, but I may wait a bit longer to take my cold bath than I have in the past, to see if it makes a difference. A friend posted this article from Runner’s World that suggests the cold/ice bath may inhibit muscle refueling, along with some interesting information about nutrition. I don’t think I want to skip the cold bath entirely, though. My own experience is that it helps with swelling and soreness quite a bit, and I don’t really plan to do anything more strenuous the next day beyond climbing the stairs in my office building, so muscle refueling may not be that big of an issue for me.

Beyond that, I’m not changing anything. I’m going to go to bed early tonight and tomorrow night. I’m going to eat the things I know work best for me tomorrow and for breakfast on Sunday. I’m going to stretch gently and use my foam roller tomorrow and not do anything strenuous. I’ll be ready for 26 miles on Sunday, followed by our taper. I’ll still be running my short, roughly 3 mile runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but our Sunday runs leading up to the marathon will shorten dramatically to 3 miles, 6 miles and 6 miles respectively.

Only 29 days and a few hours left before the marathon. I’m still planning to start at 5am so that I don’t feel so much pressure too hurry up. My first marathon is about finishing, and about running happy, like Shannon just did in Buffalo. See you there!

Gearing Up

Next Sunday is the big training run. Those of us who decided to run the actual marathon course, rather than the 13.1 out & back that the class has scheduled are currently working on coordinating rides and water stations. I heard a story today about an experienced local runner who got a PR on a completely unfamiliar course, but he’s a very experienced runner. I can see how an unfamiliar course might be exciting and exhilarating for an experienced runner. For new runners, though, I really think it’s probably a good idea to run the course once before the big one. Mentally, I feel like I need to know what I’m getting into.

Today’s run was a short & sweet 6 miler, with a Magic Mile. Some of the class decided to run the Missoula Mile race today, but I opted to stick to my “no races before the big one” plan. My MM time today was exactly the same as my last one, 9:07. That makes the average of my 3 best & most recent MM times 9:03, which puts me on track for a 5:08 Marathon. I’m not going to make a big fuss about trying to get a sub 5 hour marathon, which is tempting, being so close. But ultimately, my focus really is finishing and feeling good. Maybe I’ll have some other thoughts on that after our long run next Sunday, which will take us about 6 hours and 45 minutes at our training pace.

After today’s run, I met up with friends and classmates who had opted to run the Missoula Mile race while the festivities were still going on. We were able to watch the kids race, which was adorable, and the First Responders race. A collection of local police, fire & even smokejumper personnel ran their own race. Many of them opted to dress in their full gear. The crowd favorite, however, not only dressed in his complete firefighting gear, but ran with his 3 kids. And when I say ran with, I mean he carried them. The oldest was in a pack on his back, dressed in a Spiderman costume, which was awesome. He carried the two smaller kids. He was a bit on the slower side, laden down as he was, but that was a pretty bad-ass run, if you ask me.

This week, I’ll be focusing on getting plenty of sleep, eating well and taking good care of myself leading up to the long run on Sunday. After Sunday we’ll have our pre-race taper. The first Sunday run after the 26 miler is only 3 miles. That will seem really weird at this point, I think. The next two are both 6 milers and then it’s the Missoula Marathon, in just 34 days. I’m feeling good and feeling strong. I’m really looking forward to the race.