One Month to Go!

The marathon is in a month.

The marathon is in a month!

I think I’m ready.

I ran my 27 miler on June 2nd and it was actually a really fantastic run. As soon as I got out onto the street that morning on my way to class, I knew it was going to be a great day. It was overcast and cool, but not cold. My preparation had paid off and I was feeling rested and energetic.

I opted to run with my pace group leader from last year using a 20s/40s split. We both had good reason to run a slow, conservative training run, so pairing up worked out really well for us. It was fantastic to get to run with him, since I haven’t had the chance much this year. We had a great time talking and laughing and catching up.

In some respects, though, the best moment of the run for me was when we got back to the Runner’s Edge. I had run 25 miles and had two more to go for my goal. I stopped and visited for a few minutes with the lovely people who had finished their runs or were waiting for others to finish. I grabbed an orange slice and a delicious chocolate coconut square and realized that I absolutely had 2 more miles worth of energy left in me. That was a really glorious realization to have. I felt strong, energetic and happy, so I filled up my water bottle and bid my friends farewell.

I took off towards home feeling pretty pleased with myself. After about 1/4 of a mile I even decided to switch my timer back to 30s/30s. My last two miles was more quiet and contemplative, but still fantastic.

When I got home I started into “recovery mode” right away. I scarfed down a chocolate yogurt and put my legs up the wall. Once my legs felt ready to go, I made myself a big bowl of gluten free pasta and enjoyed some well deserved (I thought) butt-time in front of the television.

The following day I was mildly stiff but not bad at all, and by Tuesday I was pretty much back to normal.

This week we’re still in recovery mode. Our class has a 6 mile run scheduled for Sunday, so I may go as far as 10. Then I start gearing up for my 30 miler, which will be on June 23rd and is our last long run before the marathon. I’m going to prep for it exactly the same way as I prepped for the 27, which I describe here except for one thing I left out. I read in Runner’s World a while back about the anti-inflammation properties of blueberries, so I’ve been trying to incorporate blueberries into at least one meal every day before a long run. I can’t be certain, but I really do think I’m feeling a benefit from it in terms of less soreness and quicker recovery.

And for the record, I am still loving my new shoes.

I’ve got more to blog about in the hopefully near future, so check back.

In the mean time, keep running happy!

Tips for New Runners – IT Band and Feet

This post is a part of my series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.

I am very fortunate that in the short time I’ve been a runner I have yet to experience a serious injury. I firmly believe that following the Galloway method was largely responsible for that, but my own caution and attitude certainly helped. The two problems I have had were some minor foot pain and a minor to moderate issue with my right IT Band. Both were fairly easy to manage.

My feet, but especially my right foot, tend to stiffen up and become painful. They’ve always been this way and I’ve found that wearing good shoes with lots of arch support makes a big difference. When I started running, however, it became a little more pressing of an issue until a friend of mine recommended that I get a Foot Rubz ball. It’s a very firm little ball with nubbins protruding from it that you put it on the floor & roll back and forth under your foot. If you haven’t used it, or if you’ve tried a squishier version, you’d be surprised at just how effective it is. I usually wait a while after my long runs for the swelling in my feet to go down, and then I set it down and use it to work the stiffness out of my feet. My right foot usually pops several times, accompanied by a sensation of extreme relief. I keep my Foot Rubz ball in my purse or bag and use it any time my feet start to stiffen up, usually 5 out of every 7 days. My local running store sells these delightful little items for about $7 and it was worth every penny and then some.

IT Band Issues are no fun. Many, many runners have IT band problems at some point during their training and some get so bad that they have to take a break from training for a while. Not everyone seems to experience IT Band pain in exactly the same way, so if you’re having knee or leg pain and aren’t sure what it is, see your doctor or PT as soon as you can. In my case it was pretty obvious to me, from the way my knee felt like it was being pulled upward, that my IT Band was the trouble.

I did some reading and experimenting, and tried out the foam roller at our running store and bought one lickety-split. From that point forward I rolled my IT Band pretty frequently. At first it hurt like the dickens, but the more I rolled it, the less it hurt. I started to roll knots out of the fronts of my thighs as well, and that also seemed to help quite a bit. One day, I had the weirdest experience. As I lay on my foam roller, the knot just above my knee began to loosen as normal and then just suddenly melted completely. It felt SO weird! Afterward, my leg felt looser and better than it had in ages. I’m really, really glad I started using my foam roller when I did. I am not sure I would have finished my marathon training without it.

After buying my foam roller, I found Youtube to be a great resource for figuring out how to use it. Search for whichever type of rolling or stretching you’re looking for and check out multiple videos on that technique. Not all of the videos for rolling the IT band mention that once you find a knot you should stop rolling and sit on that knot for a while (recommendations vary from 10 to 60 seconds). It can be pretty painful to do that, but that pain is a sign that you really need to release that knot.

The night before the marathon I learned about a possible contributor to my IT Band problems. That night, Jeff Galloway, who was in town to run the Missoula Marathon, held a special motivational talk just for those of us who had taken the Galloway class. A number of runners mentioned IT Band issues and it was actually his wife who spoke up to ask us if we always ran on the same side of the road, which we all agreed was pretty accurate. It turns out that the camber of the road can contribute to IT Band problems and that one solution is to stop always running on the same side of the road. Oddly enough, the next day as I ran the marathon itself, I realized that the course kept us mostly on the side of the road I generally didn’t run on. Afterwards, my IT Band was not nearly as tight as it was after most of my training runs. Now I try to switch sides and vary the surfaces I run on and I haven’t been having much trouble at all.

If you’re having any sort of recurring pain that doesn’t go away, do some research and consider visiting your doctor. While it’s very true that new runners will have little aches and pains as their muscles grow and become stronger, other times the pain indicates a more serious issue. Don’t take too long ignoring it or trying to figure it out on your own before you see a doctor or PT. As I mentioned before, including information about those little pains in your blog posts or journal entries can help you to keep better track of them so that when you do go see the doctor or PT, you can give them the best information about what’s going on, as well as being helpful to yourself and other new runners.

Take good care of yourself and run happy!

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!

Rouge Leader Standing By

I ran(/walked/ran) 23 miles yesterday!  Holy buckets that was far!

The day started out comfortably cool and overcast and the first half of our run took us up to a gorgeous wooded area that I particularly like running through. The sun came out later and the second half of our run was on pavement and through areas with little shade. I was quite warm.

My biggest issue on yesterday’s run was my feet.  They swelled a bit, though not enough to make my shoes tight, and the bottoms became tender.  The switch from walking to running became a bit more difficult than usual, even by the 15 mile mark, but I toughed it out. It was one of those days when I was really glad to be running with a group. Had I been on my own, I don’t know that I could have completed all 23 miles, but my running buddies kept me entertained and distracted and I was able to keep on going.

I brought a lot of nutrition with me on this run. Having felt like I was running out on the 20 mile run, I may have over-prepared for 23. I filled two water bottles with straight water and mixed Honey Stinger Gels into the water in the other two bottles. I also brought along two extra gels to mix into those water bottles when I refilled them at the aid stations,  three bags of the Stinger Energy Chews and one bag of Jelly Belly Sport beans.  Rather than running out, I only ate 1.5 bags of the chews and no beans. But I did use all 4 gels (mixed in water) and I also drank quite a bit of straight water. I really like the gels. If you try them when you’re not exerting yourself, they may well be overpoweringly sweet. During exertion, they taste much better. By putting them into my water I can take in small amounts at a time, which seems to be the thing to do.

After my run my feet and legs were sore but I wasn’t as tired or mentally fogged up as I had been after the 20 mile run. It’s fascinating to me, as a new runner, how different each run can be. Some days a short run can be harder than a long one a few days later. Sometimes I’ll have weird pains that reoccur over a period of a few days or a week and then disappear. My only continuing issue is my IT band, which behaves very nicely as long as I use my foam roller every few days. Right now it is tight, but not at all sore.

I was able to take a cool bath again after my run, which helped immensely. I strongly recommend the cold bath method to anyone who is running or biking long distances. I did take some ibuprofen as well, which I generally try not to do unless I’m too sore to sleep. I am concerned about masking pain that might alert me to an injury I need to be aware of, so it seems best not to use painkillers much.  But between the swelling in my feet and the sunburn I managed to get, I decided that a little ibuprofen was appropriate this time. And I really didn’t feel like I had any serious pain to worry about, either. My legs were inflamed and felt very tired and somewhat tender, but not injured at all.

Today my feet feel fine and I’m a bit stiff, especially in the hips, but not particularly sore. And I definitely don’t feel injured. My sunburn is probably the most annoying post-run issue I have, and it’s not even that bad. Next time, I’ll apply/re-apply sunblock once or twice when we stop at aid stations.

The title of today’s post comes from the fact that my pace group might be breaking away from the class for our 26 mile training run. Many of us want to run the actual Marathon course, but logistically it is difficult for our class coordinators to manage shuttling everyone out to where the course starts and get people back after our run to retrieve cars. I don’t blame them a bit. But several of us feel very strongly that it will be psychologically beneficial on race day, to have run the course already. So we’re going rogue. We’ll have to get friends and family to do our aid stations for us, but I think we can manage. (As we were discussing our plan to go rogue, I was called Rogue Leader after mentioning that I chosen to return to our pace group after being re-assigned to a faster one. Being a nerd, I was amused.)

The Missoula Marathon is in 47 days and we only have one long training run left to go. That boggles my mind a bit, but I’ll be ready.

Recovery Runs are Nice

Today’s run was a nice 5 mile recovery run and it felt good.  The half marathon trainers had a 4 mile recovery run scheduled, but we were short on pace group leaders today so I think some of them opted to go out with full-marathon training groups that matched their paces. The reason we were short on pace group leaders and had fewer people in class today than usual is that a lot of folks went over to run Bloomsday in Spokane. It sounds like a fun run and it fits well with our training schedule. Next week is another 5 mile recovery run, with the possibility of a Magic Mile (we’ll still be short pace group leaders, so it’s up to us to decide). This might seem strange, but the Galloway training method is all about injury prevention, and when we get up to the high miles, we space our long runs out a bit farther.

A lot of the talk before and during our run this week was about our 20 mile run last week and our recovery experiences. It really surprises me to know that I seem to be having a much easier time with recovery than some of my classmates, even though many of them are more consistently active than I am. I suppose age could be a factor, but at 38 I’m not exactly a spring chicken myself. Many of my classmates were too sore to run on Tuesday, even those who took cold baths after our run. I was slow and my legs were tired, but I wasn’t too sore. If I’m doing something especially right, I don’t know what it is. I wish I did.

My new shoes are beginning to feel broken in. I don’t know that I’m ready to trust them on a long run, but I did the math last night, and I think that if I run all my short runs in the new shoes, my Asics should make it through the remaining long runs and the marathon. The Asics currently have 239 miles on them which means that after our 23 and 26 mile runs, they’ll be at 288. So I think that they’re in good enough shape. I will also have put about 84 miles on the Mizunos by then, at which point they may become my primary shoe for a while.

One thing I’ve learned about my own running needs is that I get overly thirsty and cranky if I don’t have water on any run over 3 to 3.5 miles. Some folks don’t bring water on our shorter runs, like today’s 5 miler. I really dislike feeling thirsty generally, and especially while running. I don’t seem to have to stop at the restrooms any more often than my classmates do, so I don’t think it’s really a problem.

Lastly, I cannot say enough good things about my foam roller.  I’ve been using it every few days, and always on Saturday evenings and my right IT Band feels fine. Every time I use it, it hurts less than before and I’m really to the point now where I only have one bad spot, which isn’t even all that bad.

Only 62 days left before the Missoula Marathon and I’m feeling pretty confident and very lucky. For those of you who are in Missoula, I sure hope you’ll consider coming out to cheer us on, especially later in the race after the fast people have gone by.  Us slow kids need love too.

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!