Sometimes it’s the Little Things

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’m setting a weekly mileage goal for myself of 20 or more miles per week. I’m planning for my longest run each week to be on Saturday. In that vein, yesterday I went to the Saturday Morning Breakfast Run thinking that I’d run 5 miles, which I had incorrectly assumed was the longest of the pre-planned routes. In order to get my miles in for the day I opted to run from home, to the Runner’s Edge and back again afterward.

Upon arriving, I found that one friend was planning to run the longest of the routes, which was in fact 8 miles, while the rest of my former class-mates seemed to be opting for a short 3 mile run which was too short for me. So off I went with my friend on the 8 mile route. The friend in question is faster than I am, so I had to speed up and he had to slow down a bit so we could stay together. Given that I’m not really sore today, I don’t think I went beyond my capabilities, so I’m sure it was actually good for me.  And I did opt to run home afterward, even though I’d gone on a longer run than originally planned. My total mileage for the day was 12.7 and I’m very happy with that.

I think that this will be my new Saturday routine, now. My house is about 2.5 miles from the meeting place (depending on which route I take), so I can easily combine the three legs of my journey into 12 to 13 miles of run/walking, even if I walk around downtown before I run home, as I did yesterday. Running to and from the group run seems like an easy way to tack on some extra mileage. Combine that with my plan of a 3 mile and a 5 mile commute run during the week and hitting my 20 mile goal will be easy! And I’ll stay in shape for any upcoming half marathons I decide to do.

I find that running in a group for my longer runs is really helpful. I think I’m mentally able to run considerably farther when I’m with other people. Hopefully I’ll continue to find people to run the 8 mile route with. It’s not the easiest route in the world. It has a pretty significant hill in the first half, which makes it even better from a fitness standpoint, but a little harder to talk myself into doing solo.

I plan to keep on blogging as well. I’ll keep you up to date on my goals and my running as well as anything new I learn.  I’m also putting together a post about things I wish I’d known from the beginning. Everyone will have different experiences, but perhaps some of what I’ve learned can help someone else have a slightly easier time.

I’ve got 47 days until the Sweathouse Half Marathon and I’m looking forward to it!


So You Ran a Marathon. Now What?

In the book Galloway Training Programs, Jeff Galloway recommends that we “Select another ‘mission’ before the big day.” In light of this, I decided some time ago that my 2013 goal race would be the Pengelly Double Dip. I think I may have made a bit of a mistake in picking a goal race so far in the future, so now I’m trying to focus on something not quite so far off. I believe that the Sweathouse Half Marathon might be just the goal I need. It is far enough in the future for me to relax and enjoy my summer a bit, but still give me motivation to stay in distance running shape.

Another thing that Jeff mentions, right on the same page of the book is the Post-Race Letdown. And yet, somehow I still wasn’t prepared for it. Last Tuesday it hit me hard. I had a very emotional day, and not in the good way. That afternoon Pam, our wonderful class leader, mentioned the letdown in an email to us. It’s always amazing to me how much of a difference it can make just to know you’re feeling emotional for a reason. That email helped me feel a lot better about feeling the letdown and helped me begin the process of refocusing on new goals and renewing my commitment to my original goals of weight-loss and improved health. I also plan to get back into the habit of doing some cross training. I was doing really well there for a while.

Right now though, the biggest struggle I’m having is figuring out when to get my runs in during the hot part of the summer. I don’t deal well with heat so mornings are best, but I work at 8am and don’t own a car so I haven’t quite figured out what my plan is going to be. Perhaps a “commute run” is in my future. However I manage to work it out, I want to keep my mileage up. I’m setting a target goal of 20+ miles per week for the time being.

In any event, I plan to keep run/walk/running and keep blogging. Going out with the Back of the Pack group that night in November is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And while I may feel at loose ends just now, I really do plan to keep right on running before I walk.

Best Marathon I’ve Ever Run, Part Two!

Continued from my previous post, Best Marathon I’ve Ever Run, Part One!

As the marathon course wound towards Big Flat Road, the scenery became more and more beautiful. The only other time I’d run that portion of the course was our miserably cold, wet training run, during which I’d had much more pressing concerns than the scenery.

By the time we turned onto Kona Ranch Road we were being passed by runners at very regular intervals. I found it increasingly enjoyable to cheer them on as they passed. A few ran on without seeming to hear us. Some folks are very focused that way. But most of them returned the cheers and encouragement. My pace group buddies and I found ourselves noticing their shoes, their form and sometimes their awesome outfits. We also noticed a few people who didn’t seem to be dressed for the weather, wearing long running tights or track pants. Hopefully they were fast enough to get through ahead of the heat.

As we started up the marathon’s one significant hill, we were mentally ready to tackle it. We knew that it was a deceptive hill that starts gently, goes up and flattens out for a while, and then provides a much steeper, but fairly short climb to the actual crest, before coming back down. I can’t speak for my pace group buddies, but the honest truth is, I was having so much fun chatting and cheering that I hardly noticed the hill.

Prior to the race I had compared my projected race time to that of a friend from the traditional running class and anticipated that he would pass me somewhere on the downward slope of the mountain. However, it turns out that he was going a bit faster than usual and passed me not long after we started up the hill. It was great to see him and chat for a second before watching him charge on up and out of sight.

As we moved along up the hill we saw quite a few spectators, including a gentleman on a horse dressed in full cowboy gear, and a wonderful woman playing her drum for us. This was also the time when we began to experience the heat, finally. Something happened that I hadn’t known to expect, though. All along the course, people put out their sprinklers for us. Some folks even stood along the course, holding their spray nozzles out, offering to wet us down as we passed.

After we came down the hill and joined up with the half marathon course, more and more spectators came out to cheer us on and more sprinklers appeared in our path. Some folks even set out coolers full of ice! How amazing is that?  I had no idea that people along the course were so interested and kind. One lovely gentleman even sat playing a grand piano for us as we ran past!

Slowly we wound our way along the course and into town, running through sprinklers, cheering on runners and playing a kind of leapfrog with other run/walkers. When it comes right down to it, I probably could have picked up the pace and run a touch faster, but I was having a great time and feeling good at the pace I was going, so I’m actually glad I didn’t push it. By the time I was over the hill I’d finished two of my honey waters, so I made myself a fourth at a convenient aid station, topped off my plain water, and forged on.

Going through the tunnel under Reserve St, right around mile 20, was a mentally significant milestone to me. At that point I felt that I was “in town” and the end was near. The course through town winds quite a bit, but there were plenty of sprinklers and more than a few spectators to cheer us on. We plugged on, cheering on the other runners & run/walkers and enjoying every sprinkler we ran through.

Around mile 23, the crowd really started to thicken. This is also where the Cafe Dolce aid station is. In addition to water and sports drink, there were orange slices and gummy bears! Honestly, little things like this make me love this town.

After Cafe Dolce we started towards Bonner Park and the spot I call the Loop of Sadness. My sense of humor is such that making silly, dramatic names for things actually helps me stay positive about them, just to be clear. As we approached Bonner Park we passed another set of drummers, more sprinklers and even more people standing with their spray hoses out, happily spraying down anyone who wanted it. Bonner Park itself had quite a positive, party atmosphere, which almost made up for having to turn south, away from the finish line, to South Avenue, before finally turning onto the “home stretch” for the last (roughly) 3 miles.

I started to get really excited at this point, but I kept my pace slow and easy. I didn’t want to push myself too hard and putter out this close to the finish! I also wanted to stay with my pace group buddies. We’d come this far together after all.

I think I kept my composure pretty well, but my mind was racing on ahead, visualizing all the turns we had left and thinking about the bridge and the finish line. I am so glad we chose to run the full course on our 26 mile training run. Thanks to that run, I didn’t have any moments of disappointment that came from thinking I was closer to the finish than I actually was.

On we went, winding through those last few miles, through a part of town that is very familiar to me. The final aid station was on Gerald St. at Hellgate High School, which I graduated from 20 years ago. As we passed, I had a momentary connection with memories of my younger self. That girl never would have imagined running a marathon. It never would have occurred to her that it was something within her ability to do. I’m thrilled to have proven her wrong.

As we crossed 5th street we decided to take an extended walk break and prepare for our run across the bridge. I think a lot of run/walkers felt strongly about making sure they would run across that bridge and across the finish line. We turned off our timers and rounded the corner onto Fourth St. at a comfortable walking pace.

As we came to our final turn onto the bridge the volunteer stationed there informed us that we had 2 or 3 minutes to make it in under the 6 (he said 5, but was assuming we started at 6am) hour mark. That was all I needed to hear. I came around that corner and took off. I have no idea how many of the cheers of, “Yeah! Way to finish strong!” were meant for me, but I felt strong and happy and excited as I ran across that bridge and toward the big, blue arch at the finish. I did hear one friend call out my name, and hopefully I managed to acknowledge her adequately, but to be honest I was focused on that blue arch.

I ran across that pad as fast as my little legs were willing to carry me at that point, and slowed to a stop in front of a happy volunteer who put a medal around my neck. The next person I saw was none other than our super hero of a pace group leader, Kevin! He gave me a big hug and congratulations and took my timing chip off my shoe.

After that I wandered, in a bit of a daze until I found my pace group buddies and some other classmates and class leaders. Then I heard my name again, and my friend who had cheered me on earlier called me over to the fence for hugs, congratulations and chocolate milk! Best. Chocolate milk. EVAR.

There are more details and stories in my head that I’d like to share with you, but I think they’ll keep for now. My chip time was 5 hours, 58 minutes and 9 seconds. That’s a pretty darned slow time, but considering that it was not just my first marathon but my very first race, I’m perfectly happy with it. Besides, what I wanted more than anything was to have fun and finish healthy and strong, and I succeeded at that! I achieved my goal and I’m more than a little proud of myself.

Here I am, about to cross the finish line. I really was that excited.


I have no intention of stopping at this point, either. I’m going to keep running half marathons and marathons, though I’m likely to stick to the ones close to home for now. Maybe I’ll get faster. Maybe I won’t. As long as I keep having fun, I’m going to keep right on running before I walk.

Best Marathon I’ve Ever Run, Part One!

It was my first marathon, so that title might only be funny to me. But it was actually a great experience. Saturday night I went to bed as early as I could make myself. I set two alarms for 3:00am and read for a bit in an attempt to calm my mind and fell asleep around 9:30pm. I did not sleep soundly, though. My mind was too active. I was nervous and excited and a bit concerned about the heat. At about 2:30am I gave up trying to sleep and got up. I fussed around for a while, ate my breakfast of two eggs and a banana with peanut butter on it and headed out the door a few minutes later than I meant to.

I arrived at the shuttle buses right on time, thankfully, and hopped right on the lead bus in the line for the full marathon and off we went. I wasn’t with anyone I knew so I listened to the commentary around me. It was really nice to hear the people from out of town express their appreciation for Missoula and for the marathon organizers. Many of them were experiencing our area for the first time so I heard a lot of comments about how gorgeous it is here. I was really excited for them to get out on the course and see how gorgeous most of it is.

We arrived at the starting area and a volunteer hopped onto our bus to give us a rundown of helpful information. Once we all piled off the bus we were greeted by more volunteers, music and an announcer giving us more instruction. The atmosphere was very festive. Having never run a race before, I was mentally prepared for some confusion but honestly, things were so well laid out and organized that I had no trouble at all.

While wandering around the starting area, I came across one of the ladies from my Galloway class pace group. While we were chatting and asking each other if we’d seen any other classmates, an older gentleman (in his 60s maybe?) gave us quite a chuckle when he began to sing along with the song playing over the PA while he rushed frantically about. The song was “Call me Maybe.” After I put my gear bag away, got myself situated and used one of the many porta-potties, we got into the chute together with another lady from our pace group (yay!) and waited for the race to begin.

I was a little bit shocked when the fireworks started to go off, as we charged over the mat and out of the chute. Nobody had told me about that. But it was really cool and it was the first of many things that day that made me feel a little bit emotional.

The group starting at 5:00am was technically the walkers group, with a 6:00am start for runners. But as we started on our journey it was very clear that many of the people in our group were run/walkers (not necessarily Galloway style) and shufflers.

The night before the marathon, our class had been invited to a special pep-talk with Jeff Galloway. In addition to encouraging us and building us up, he cautioned us about the heat. Particularly, he advised us not to push harder in the beginning, even though it might seem like the thing to do, to get out in front of the heat. He strongly recommended starting out at a slow, easy pace and conserving our resources for the latter portion of the marathon when we would need them most. Given this advice, the three of us decided to use our training interval of 30 seconds running and 45 seconds walking.

Along the way we got to watch the sun rise over the mountains in the east and it was gorgeous. Before long, we started to pass a few folks out to cheer on their family members as well as the rest of us. In particular I was struck by a mom and her toddler son, waiting for someone special to run by. The little boy was adorable and had a little cowbell that he clearly loved ringing. I’m also fairly sure that the person they were cheering on was behind us or not very far in front of us for the first 2/3 of the race, as we saw them again a few times along the course.

We heard the fireworks go off again when we were a couple of miles down the road and checked our watches in confusion. It was only 5:30. I wasn’t sure how long it would take the runners to start overtaking us after their 6:00am start, but I was actually pretty excited about it.

Along the way, we chatted with the walkers and run/walkers that we passed or were passed by. That is, until Negative Ned (not his real name) came along. At our pep-talk the night before, Jeff had mentioned that some people approach marathons with a positive attitude and other folks are negative and whine. I’m not sure he had anybody like Negative Ned in mind, but it felt a bit like a prophecy coming true. See, Negative Ned is a run/walker as well and has been for quite some time. But he disagrees very strongly with Mr. Galloway’s approach and was happy to tell us all about how wrong Mr. Galloway is and why.

Now, I believe I have a healthy amount of skepticism and I don’t take every word Jeff Galloway says as gospel or anything like that. But here we are, three ladies who are really only able to participate in this marathon because of the Galloway method and Ned wants to tell us all about how it’s wrong? It was quite negative and unwelcome, but we were polite and nice and tried to chat with him in spite of our frustrations. But he just kept right on explaining and it didn’t seem like he would be open to changing the subject any time soon. So when Ned stopped off to make a pit stop at an aid station, we sped up in the hopes of gaining enough distance that he wouldn’t find us in the crowd, and began to joke and laugh and regain our positive attitudes.

It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me to learn that I drastically over-prepared for my nutritional needs during the marathon. My belt holds 4 water bottles. I filled one bottle with plain water and into the other three I mixed two gels each. I also packed 5 extra gels and 5 packs of gummies, in addition to my sunscreen, phone, blister tape and leatherman micra. This is especially hilarious considering that there were aid stations with water and sports drink about every two miles along the course. I’m just one of those people who would much rather have a bunch of things I don’t need than to be missing one thing I do need. But in my defense, I was concerned with the heat and how I was going to deal with it.

I began taking in nutrition early in the race, switching between gummies and honey-waters, with some plain water thrown in for good measure. At each of the many aid stations we came to, we were offered sports drink and plain water by a host of helpful, happy volunteers. After a while, I began taking the water, even if I didn’t strictly need it, out of a desire to keep from disappointing too many volunteers.

Somewhere between 6 and 8 miles into the race, the lead runner overtook us. Keep in mind that he also started an hour later. As he passed, we cheered him on. He went on to win the marathon with a time of 2:32:39. That just blows me away. Not too long after him, the ladies leader passed us as well. She went on to set a ladies course record of 2:57:44. Compared to my 5:58:09, that is smoking fast! And it seems funny, in a way, but it was exciting to be passed by the lead runners. I think starting at 5:00am was a great choice. I got to see both of the lead runners as well as lots of other runners, including friends. Granted, they were passing me, but that’s okay. I wasn’t in the race to achieve any sort of competitive time. I was in it to have fun doing something that most people never do, and I did.

I have much more to say about my fantastic marathon experience, but this blog post is getting quite long and it’s late. Come back soon for the rest of the Tale of the Nerd Girl Who Ran the Marathon!


The Big Post IS Coming

I’m sorry that I haven’t had time to post my big post-marathon round up. There’s just so much in my head that I want to say. Yesterday I was just too darned tired. This evening I went out with my pace group for a meal and really enjoyed it. Tomorrow I’ve got more plans, so I’m thinking Wednesday I will have time to sit down and write a good long post.

I can tell you that I had a great race. I got to run with two ladies from my pace group, which was wonderful. I ran a conservative, slow pace because of the heat. I finished in 5:58:09, which is slow, but it doesn’t matter. I finished happy and I was able to pour on the speed and really run over the bridge at the end, with a smile on my face. That’s what I wanted more than any time goal.

So check back soon for a big post and hopefully a picture or two if I can find any of me.

The nerd girl ran the marathon! How awesome is that? And it’s only 369 days until the next Missoula Marathon! I may just run that one, too.

One More Day, a Heat Related Update

The race is tomorrow and I’m pretty nervous, but that is to be expected. Thanks to the Galloway training class I took through Run Wild Missoula, I know for a fact that I can go the distance because I already have. It’s just the heat that worries me.

Due to a rise in temperatures, any loose time goal I may have had is going right out the window. My only goal now is to finish healthy and happy. I’m really glad I signed up for the 5am start!  Our forecast is calling for an overnight low tonight of 57 F (13.88 C) and a high of 97 F (36 C) tomorrow. For some folks those aren’t terribly intense temperatures, but this has been a cool, wet spring & early summer for us, so I am not acclimated.

In a message we received from Jeff Galloway yesterday, he recommends reducing pace by 30 seconds per mile for every 5 degree increase above 60F. Based on my observations over the last few days, I rather expect that the temp will hit 65 around 8:00am, so I should have about 3 hours before I have to slow down.

I am also adjusting my nutrition plan based on the heat. I’ll be taking in more of my honey gels (in water, as always), plenty of gummies and I’ll be bringing some other electrolyte sources along with me in case I feel like I need them. I’ve been hydrating all week, eating pretty well over all, and also eating bananas and drinking coconut water, so I think I’m in good shape.

In a couple of hours I’ll be heading out to the Expo to pick up my race packet and join in the fun. I plan to be in bed around 8:00pm tonight so that I can get some sleep before getting up early enough to leave the house before 4:00am. Since this is my first marathon and my first race, I want to catch the first bus to the start in the morning, to give myself plenty of time to get things figured out without any undue stress.

I’m still planning to tweet some locations to my jinmontana account to help friends keep track of my progress. I don’t have twitter sending anything back to my phone, though, so I won’t see any replies until later. It is likely that I will tweet specifically about the “loop of sadness” at Bonner Park. If you look at the map you’ll see it start at 23.9 miles and end at 24.8.  I call it the “loop of sadness” because when we approach the aid station at 23.9 miles, we can see the 24.8 mile aid station JUST A BLOCK AWAY, right across the park. Some folks, upon realizing that they have to turn away and go south before coming back around to that second aid station, get very sad. I think I’m mentally prepared to make jokes about it rather than be sad.

I’ll talk more about this after the marathon, but in a lot of ways this race is the culmination of 13 months of working to improve my fitness so that I can feel better and live a longer, healthier life. It’s also a huge symbol for me, of how far I’ve come from the bad place I was in this time last year, and just how much better and happier my life is now.

I’ve used the magic of my spreadsheet to adjust my location chart for the heat.  Below you’ll see a 13 minute mile pace version and a 14 minute mile pace version. I’m hoping that the 13 minute mile version is closer to how my race turns out, but as I said above, my goal is to finish healthy and happy and I’m not going to worry about my time during the race.

I have just under 18 hours until the 5:00am start of my first official marathon. I do not plan for it to be my last.

M/pace  13 min          14 min
1      5:00-5:26      5:00-5:28
2      5:26              5:28
3      5:39              5:42
4      5:52              5:56
5      6:05              6:10
6      6:18              6:24
7      6:31              6:38
8      6:44              6:52
9      6:57              7:06
10    7:10              7:20
11    7:23              7:34
12    7:36              7:48
13    7:49              8:02
14    8:02              8:16
15    8:15              8:30
16    8:28              8:44
17    8:41              8:58
18    8:54              9:12
19    9:07              9:26
20    9:20              9:40
21    9:33              9:54
22    9:46              10:08
23    9:59              10:22
24    10:12            10:36
25    10:25            10:50
26    10:38             11:04

See you at the finish line!

One Week to Go

Today was our final class run. A short six miles with the gang. There was a lot of chatter about race week strategy, eating well, getting hydrated and getting plenty of rest. Many runners are experiencing different aches and pains, so there was also a lot of discussion of how to manage or mitigate them.  I’m thrilled to have made it this far with only a minor IT Band issue that is easily managed through the use of my foam roller. I will probably spend the week being extremely careful so as not to get hurt crossing the street or on the stairs at work or anything. I don’t want anything to get in my way now!

The big race is Sunday. I know that I can do it, since I’ve already run that far. I imagine it will be warmer, so that will be a bit of a challenge, but since I’m starting at 5:00am, it won’t be that bad. The main difference for me is that I won’t be running with my buddies. I’m starting at 5, along with a few other people from my class, but most of the Rogue Pace Group will be starting at 6:00am. And frankly, even if we were starting at the same time it is a race, so ultimately, we’re all on our own.

I’m planning to bring along roughly the same nutrition that I brought for the 26 mile training run, perhaps with just a bit extra to be safe. I’ll also be bringing sunscreen and water. There are 19 aid stations in 26 miles.  Each aid station will have water and an electrolyte drink and three stations will have gels. However, I haven’t tried the specific gels or drink that the aid stations will have, and my guts get very sensitive on long runs, so I’m going to keep using what my guts are used to.

For those of my friends who are in town and might want to cheer me on once they’re up and about, I’ve done the math using my Magic Mile prediction to see roughly where I’ll be on the course at any time. I honestly feel that I will probably run more slowly, but so many people swear by the Magic Mile that I admit that I may be wrong. And in addition to my Magic Mile based prediction, I have decided to tweet from a few locations, later in the race, which should help my friends adjust their plans accordingly. The course map for the marathon shows where the aid stations are and shows the distances that they’re at. On the right hand side, the aid stations are all listed. I will be saving draft tweets in advance, with some of the aid stations and tweeting them to my jinmontana account. At the bottom of this post is a chart estimating my time for each of the 26 miles.  These are estimates and are intended as a first guess for when my friends should be at whatever spots on the course they’d like to be at. I couldn’t quite manage the tenths of seconds in my spreadsheet calculations, so my final time is 3 minutes short of my actual race prediction time, which also doesn’t account for heat or bathroom stops. Using this information as a starting point and my tweets to refine it, should make it easy to find me, if anybody wishes to.

If I run the pace that I tend to run when I’m by myself, add 2 minutes for each mile prior to the mile you’re interested, for a rough estimate. But we won’t really know that until we compare the times of my tweets to the predicted times, which is the whole reason I’ll be tweeting, really. It might seem silly, but I think it will be fun.

I’m as ready as I can possibly be at this point. This Wednesday is a national holiday (Independence Day) and I’ve got the day off, so I’ve opted to take Thursday and Friday off as well. I’ll be getting as much sleep as I can and really controlling my nutrition as best I can, so I can be at my best for race day.

Chances are, I’ll be too tired to post much beyond “I did it” after the race, so look for the review of my race experience on July 9th or 10th. I’ve got 6 days and 17 hours to go and I’m getting really excited, and a bit nervous.

See you at the finish line!

Mile 1 — 5:00 to 5:11 am
Mile 2 — 5:23 am
Mile 3 — 5:35 am
Mile 4 — 5:47 am
Mile 5 — 5:58 am
Mile 6 — 6:10 am
Mile 7 — 6:22 am
Mile 8 — 6:34 am
Mile 9 — 6:45 am
Mile 10 — 6:57 am
Mile 11 — 7:09 am
Mile 12 — 7:21 am
Mile 13 — 7:32 am
Mile 14 — 7:44 am
Mile 15 — 7:56 am
Mile 16 — 8:08 am
Mile 17 — 8:20 am
Mile 18 — 8:31 am
Mile 19 — 8:43 am
Mile 20 — 8:55 am
Mile 21 — 9:07 am
Mile 22 — 9:18 am
Mile 23 — 9:30 am
Mile 24 — 9:42 am
Mile 25 — 9:54 am
Mile 26 — 10:05 am