Monday, September 29, 2008

Marathon aftermath

I still can't believe I did it. My hubby asked me today, "Has it sunk in yet?" I don't think so. I keep looking at the pics and my medal in awe.

Not surprisingly, I'm walking a little funny today. Okay, a lot funny. I took Friday off work and had to go in today - why oh why didn't I take today off?! I was hobbling around the office all day, but enjoyed showing off my medal. I'm lucky to work in an environment where I'm treated like family and everyone has been so supportive of the entire journey. It reminds me of when I got married three years ago (my bosses actually attended); my co-workers were happy to hear all about it, but perhaps somewhat relieved that maybe I would stop talking about it. (Little do they know...)

Other than that, I have only minor woes:

-A blister the size of Manhattan on one toe, which has been popped and somehow refilled itself multiple times
-Three deformed toenails
-Chafing where the sun don't shine (sorry for the TMI, but nothing is sacred when it comes to The Chafe...apparently no amount of Body Glide is enough)
-A sunburnt face and a lovely tanline from the shades

Overall, I can't complain too much.

Road Warrior asked me to share all the juicy (greasy) details of my victory feast, but disappointingly (and surprisingly!) I had no appetite all day. The plan was wine, pizza and chocolate cake, but I just wasn't in the mood. I forced myself to get down a few protein shakes, but mostly I just laid on the couch sipping water. But don't fret, we have a reservation at The Mandarin in half an hour. My appetite is back in full force and I'm ready to recuperate some of the 6000+ calories burned yesterday.

That's all for now. Race report and tons more pics coming soon. Promise! Thank you so much for all the congrats!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I am...

a marathoner.

Big thank you to everyone who waited (seemingly forever!) for me at the finish line; you made it all worthwhile. And thank you to all of you for all of your kind words and support.

Congratulations to my fellow runners. Everyone should be so proud. It's an honour to run among you.

I'll be back ASAP with alllll the details and more pics, but for now I leave you with this.

These were taken in the finishing chute. At least I'm smiling. :)

4:44:40 (4:42:04)

Huge thank you to Mel for these amazing pics, and for being there!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Signing off

This is it...the next time you hear from me, I will be a marathoner.

I'm on a roller coaster of emotions, but I'm ready for this.

If anyone wants to watch for me tomorrow, check out bib # 650, Marlene Sykes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Feeling special

The Race Director left a comment on my last post! How cool is that? Thank you Alan!

I have so many people to thank, so many people who have been a part of this journey whether they know it or not. Those who inspire me to run and those who inspire me in every day life - I wouldn't be doing any of this without them (you).

Blyfinn gave me a great idea with his post Take It And Run.

Pick twenty people that are important in your life and run a mile for each them. The last 6.2 are for yourself preparing for your victory.

I'll be keeping at least twenty people in my thoughts on Sunday and I know they'll get me through the miles. I'll be counting on this to get me through the first 20 and after that, it's all me. For those last 10K, I just hope I have the strength (and sanity) to appreciate how far I've come and to fully understand what it means to me to approach the (and soon cross) the finish line of My First Marathon.

I've received a tremendous amount of support from fellow bloggers in the last few weeks, more than I ever expected, and I am so grateful to you. Reading your comments and your own blogs has given me so much guidance and strength. I'm thankful for the advice, suggestions, confidence and sometimes just a giggle to take my mind off the nerves.

And of course, all of my family and friends in real life who have held my hand every step of the way. I will be running on my own (among 14000 others...) on Sunday, but I could never have some so far alone.

Anyway, enough mush! (for now)

We had a quiet day today and just finished watching Run Fatboy Run. It was a great movie and just what I needed. If that dude can do it, surely I can!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And the panic sets in

First of all, thank you so much for all of your kind comments on yesterday's post. You have no idea how much your support means to me.

This morning I got to work and completed my usual morning routine - good morning to the boss, turned on the computer, nuked my oatmeal, sat at my desk, opened my email... and there it was: one final email from the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Your Name: Marlene -----
Your Event: Marathon
Your Race Number: 650

From that point on, I spent most of the day shaking and nauseous with nerves. Nerves quickly turned into stress which then turned into MOODY. I had a terrible day at work and didn't start to unwind until I got home.

I'm feeling better now...more excited and less nervous. (It helps that the Grey's Anatomy premiere is coming on soon and that I don't have to work tomorrow.) It's going to be good. When I start feeling overwhelmed, I just visualize the finish line and all of my friends and family who will be there rooting for me. It will all be worth it.

3 more sleeps...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How it all started.

I have a little story to share, which will allow some of you to get to know me better, and allow myself to reflect on how far I've come. Bear with me...

In November 2006 I weighed almost 200 lbs. I was exercising at the gym regularly and slowly starting to lose some of my post-wedding weight gain. My husband had started taken up a running regimen the year before, just after we were married in September 2005. I always thought he was crazy...

Fast forward a couple months. Near the end of '06 I was getting bored at the gym, results were slowing and I wanted to try something new. Maybe I'll try this running thing.

It all started with a 10-minute (painful, breathless) jog on the treadmill around Christmas of 2006. I kinda liked it.

Without following any kind of program, I was able to run for 30 minutes at a time within a month or so, and started to think maybe I could be a runner.

It was in March '07 that my hubby took me on my first outdoor run, and 5K nearly killed me! Those little hills in our neighbourhood seemed like mountains...but I quickly became addicted to running outdoors.

It was on March 27, 2007 that I decided to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront 1/2 Marathon, which was six months away on September 30th. Hubby was on board and we began training together. At this time, my distance was only up to about 7.5K, so I had a long way to go.

In the coming months we loosely followed a training schedule, but mostly ran whatever we felt like. Believe it or not, the greatest distance we ever ran before the HM was only about 13K. Not the smartest idea...

Somehow, we finished the race (holding hands) last September with a time of 2:12:46. That picture you see in the banner above is us as we approached the finish line - kudos to my sister for the awesome shot!

Going into the race, I was planning to take a LONG hiatus afterwards. But lo and behold, that very evening, I was already thinking about which race to run next.

I trained with the local Running Room through a miserable winter and often questioned my sanity, but stuck with it. My next event was the Burlington Chilly Half in March 2008, where I finished in 2:01:00 and developed a bad case of ITBS.

Lots of physio and a few weeks off, I was on the road again before long. Phew! It was during this time that I realized just how important running had become in my life. This is also the time that I decided on the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront for my first marathon. I was excited at the prospect because this had been my first race the year before, and truly is an amazing event.

And so the training ensued! Throughout the spring and summer I followed a program that my hubby created from various sources and ran solo for the most part, with a few races thrown into the mix (see sidebar).

It's been a long summer of looooong runs and it all comes down to this Sunday. Never in a million years would I have expected or even hoped to find myself where I am now. It's been almost two years since I thought I might try running and I find myself 40 lbs lighter, healthier than I've ever been in my life, grateful beyond words for all the love and support from my friends and family along the way and ready to become a marathoner two weeks before my 26th Birthday.

Thanks for being a part of my journey.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm ready for my reward

Excerpt from today's STWM Newsletter.

In the old days, races were like final exams. You prepared during the training season and then let it all hang out on race day. Those days are gone forever. These days the races are the celebration of what you've achieved.

You'll stand at the starting line with 10,000 of your closest friends and run and walk through a great city, along a beautiful waterfront, and return to a heroes' welcome. The final step across the finish line makes it all worthwhile.

4 days and 15 hours to go...

Monday, September 22, 2008

This time next week...

...I will be a marathoner.

(Thanks Marci for the comment.)

I'm holding that thought with me as I make my way through these hours and days. Sometimes it seems like it will never be Sunday and other times, time seems to be pass too quickly for my liking!

I'm starting to feel more ready. I have done the training and I WILL run the distance. I keep reminding myself that it doesn't matter how fast; this is my first marathon and I want to enjoy the experience. Yes, I want to feel like I gave it my all and I realize that those last 10K are going to be very difficult, but I don't want to be struggling through the entire second half.

My legs are restless this morning and I keep catching myself jiggling them under my desk. I'm nervous, excited and raring to go!

I have lots to look forward to this week, i.e. lots to keep my mind distracted and to keep myself from going insane. Dinner with my best friend tomorrow, lunch with a marathoner-friend on Thursday, Friday off work to chill out with hubby, carbo-loading dinner with friends Friday, meeting some fellow bloggers at the Expo on Saturday and one final carbo-load dinner with friends on Saturday. Funny how most of the plans revolve around food. ;)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Last Sunday Run

Well, we're one week away and today was my very last Sunday run before the big one. This morning we drove over to Fairy Lake where I ran the usual loop (just over 10K), which I ran over and over (and over!) again for many of my long runs this summer. I had a great run and finished 10.5K at a 5:25/KM pace. I only hope I feel so good next Sunday. I polished off a bottle of wine last night, so maybe that's the secret?

I've had a quiet weekend with lots of rest and relaxation - it was just what I needed to unwind a little and collect my thoughts. I'm trying really hard not to be nervous, reminding myself how hard I've worked for this and convincing myself it is all going to be worth it.

The plan for this week is simple: lots of rest, little running, and my favourite part: carbo loading!

This is really happening! I'm excited... I think!?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wardrobe malfunction

I thought I had finally found THE outfit...but quickly learned why it's a good idea to do a test-run.

I picked up a black and teal Running Room skort and black MPG tank...unfortunately, the little shorts under the skirt are too tight and too short (next size up is too big). They were digging in and riding up by the end of a 5K run - not something I want to deal with for 4+ hours!

(Don't mind the crappy self-portrait-mirror shot.)

Too bad, 'cause I thought it was pretty cute.

I toyed with the idea of wearing my usual black tight shorts UNDER the skort, but I'm thinking that will just be way too much material for comfort. And in the unfortunate event that I have to pee, I don't want to have an extra layer of sticky fabric to contend with.

Looks like I'll be sticking to my tried, tested and true Running Room shorts. Problem is, I really like the black top...but I don't want to be all in black! What's a girl to do?

Since I've decided not to wear my fuel belt (the thing drives me MAD!), I came up with a contraption for carrying gels, tissue, tylenol and whatever else I think I may need. I picked up a bib number belt and a pouch to attach on the back.

I decided to take this for a test drive as well and stuffed the pouch with 4 gels to simulate what it will actually feel like. Well, I think my lower back is bruised from the thing banging up and down through the entire run. I'm going to try attaching a second pouch to divide the weight and hopefully that'll do the trick.

Not much to report in running news. Went for a nice 4.22K (yes, I chose to stop precisely at that distance on purpose) at 5:35 pace yesterday evening and a 5K with the hubby this morning at 5:39 pace. Legs are feeling good and enjoying the taper.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

10 days and the madness begins

I have checklists and schedules running through my brain at warp speed; this must be a sign that it's almost time! We have a quiet weekend ahead (finally!) so I'm planning to fine-tune the details and hopefully unwind a little.

Physically, I'm as prepared as I'm going to be. Mentally, I could be a little more prepared.

Any advice as to how one stops the voices from screaming "YOU CAN'T DO THIS! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

For shits & giggles

excitement gained from an often simple action or occurence; often used to explain reason in response to a stupid question.

Urban Dictionary

I wanted to have a little fun with an otherwise uneventful Tuesday evening 5K, and mapped out a route in an effort to make some kind of pattern.

I think it kind of looks like a hand without the thumb.

My husband was amused by my overstated enthusiasm about this feat, but suggested that next time I spell out his name. Hmmmm....

Also, I decided to take a "short cut" through the construction site back to our house, which turned out to be more of a mud pit... so much for new shoes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reflecting on the past, present, future...

I've been reading over some old posts from this time last year when I ran my first half marathon (and first ever race) at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I'm not sure if I'm looking for motivation or just a distraction, but it's somehow comforting to read about my nervous anticipation in the days leading up to the race, and eventually a successful race report. It's hard to say if I was more nervous then or now, because I'm quite sure the 21.1K distance was equally daunting at that time as the 42.2 is now.

I'm excited that my first marathon will take place at the same event as my first race, exactly one year later. Looking back, I don't mind at all that it didn't quite work out to run the Mississauga Marathon in May as planned. There's something about Scotia that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy....or is that just nerves?! Almost all of my friends are going to be there, most of whom running either the full or half, and it's just going to be a fan-freaking-tastic day.

But back to the old posts: I came across this one entitled "Now what?" written just days after the race, in which I had planned out my 2008 race year. My how things change!

According to that post, the plan was:

May: Mississauga Half Marathon, Persechini 10K (local)
August: Midsummer Night's Run 15K or 30K
September: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon
October: Oasis Zoo Run 10K

If you take at the sidebar on the right, you'll see how the year has actually panned out so far.

My wheels have been turning like crazy with plans for 2009, no matter how hard I try not to think about it until after the race. One thing I know for certain, it's going to be a busy year. Off the top of my head, there are at least 9 "musts" and that only takes me through September. I'll let you in on the plan in about two weeks. :)


P.S. 12 days!

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's time to chill

Less than two weeks til take-off.

I was searching Runner's World for a good article about tapering and found this.

The primary aim of the taper should be to minimize accumulated fatigue, rather than to attain additional physiological adaptations or fitness gains. In other words, it's time to chill.

Reasons to taper:

-replenish glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants and hormones
-repair muscle damage
-improve immune function and muscle strength

Basically, tapering allows the body to undo all the damage caused by high mileage.

Goals for this week:

-run 5 times, 32-33K total (I remember when that was a tough week; now it's a tough RUN!)
-stick to a nutritious diet
-fine tune race-eve and race-day logistics
-stay calm (ha!)
-be excited

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend Recap

After getting reassurance from my PT that nothing is wrong and reading the article about "taper tantrums", I have focused on NOT obsessing over every little twinge and trying not to worry that I am, in fact, falling to pieces two weeks before the marathon.

I seem to have been successful because I was able to run Friday evening (5K) and yesterday morning (8K) without any pain...well, except for the AGONY caused by my brand new pair of shoes. They're identical to the pair I've been wearing for the last seven months and yet the suckers nearly killed me Friday evening. My arches were abslutely aching with pain and I had to keep stopping to give my feet a rest.

Reluctantly, I laced them up again yesterday morning and was pleased to discover that the discomfort had almost completely dimished. Phew!

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of meeting Mel from 2nd Chances (and her very-much-non-runner boyfriend) at a BBQ that a mutual friend organized. We had some good running and non-running related conversation, lots of laughs and a lovely time. Great to meet you, Mel!

Naturally, we called it a night early knowing that we would be up with the sun for a long run. The taper distance was supposed to be an "easy" 25K, but Mother Nature had other plans. When the alarm went off at 6:30, it was pouring rain. In hindsight, I should have just gotten up and done the run, but instead I went back to sleep until it stopped, which was around 8:00AM. I was out the door at about 8:30 and knew I was in trouble as soon as I set foot outside.

At this time it was only 23C, but felt like 31 with 83% relative humidity. The sweat would not evaporate off my skin and no matter how much I drank, I could not cool down. My pace was slow, I stopped a lot and all-in-all, it was a crappy run. I was dragging my feet and gasping for air by 10K and desperately wanted to throw in the towel. Somehow, I trudged through another 6K or so, the last 3 of which were all uphill towards home. U-G-L-Y.

So my last "long" run before the big one certainly didn't go as planned or hoped, but what can ya do? At this point, I know I just have to trust my training. It would have been nice to bang out another 20+ this week, but killing myself for another 8 or 9 kilometres would have done nothing for me. At least nothing positive!

I'm really hoping it cools off in the next couple days so I can get in a few decent runs this week.

14 days to go!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Phantom pains?

Thanks for all the crossed fingers yesterday!

I saw my PT last night and she checked me over only to reveal that everything seems fine. As it turns out, my IT band is not tight, my quads are not tight, nor are any of the usual suspects. She gave me a thorough massage and some active release therapy, recommended some stretches and told me not to worry. Easier said than done!

My hubby forwarded this article on Runner's World and it has me thinking that maybe I'm just having a taper tantrum.

There is something about those last couple of weeks before the marathon, when you are cutting back your mileage, getting more rest, and preparing for the big race, when everything, and I do mean everything, seems to bother you more.

Call them taper tantrums--the phantom pains, panic attacks, and much more--that plague most marathoners during the three-week period of decreased training just before the race. "Runners develop not only a physical but also a psychological dependency on running," says Troy Smurawa, M.D., a 2:46 marathoner and physician at Akron Children's Hospital Sports Medicine Center. "So when runners take time off, they go through withdrawal." Hence, the weird constellation of mental and physical symptoms that crop up during the taper.

Note page 3 of the article: Phantom Pains

Cause: Twinges and passing aches are all part of the body's rejuvenation process. "During a taper, tissue repair on the microscopic level causes muscle twitches and sometimes muscle cramps as the body adapts," says Dr. Smurawa. Also, when we run less, and worry more about our marathon, everyday aches and pains-which would normally be ignored--get exaggerated to the point of lunacy.

Sounds about right.

So after 4 days off I'm feeling sluggish and my mind is running away with me. I'm determined to put a stop to the madness and get out for a decent run today, and that's that!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please not now

I am having familiar twinges on the outside of my left knee, and the sensation is frighteningly similar to what I recall from the ITBS issues I had in March.

It doesn't hurt, but it's definitely there. I'm stretching and rolling as often as possible (something I should have been doing regularly - doh!) and have not run since Sunday. Conveniently, I had pre-booked a PT appointment for this evening so at least I can get it checked out right away.

Please keep your fingers crossed that we can nip this in the bud!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday catch-all

1. My legs, hips, butt and even back were extremely sore yesterday, but feel much better today. Thank you epsom salts! I'm probably taking a second day off to recover completely, especially after how I felt on Sunday.

2. Reid @ Life Strides successfully accomplished his sub-5:00 minute mile. WAY TO GO REID! Unfortunately no one-miler report from me (sorry!), but I was rooting for you!! Congrats!

3. The marathon is in 19 days!!!

4. I need a (run) schedule for the next 19 days.

5. I still need to find something to wear - checking out the Vaughan Running Room tonight. After that, it's Running Free or Lululemon.

6. Last night I started planning my 2009 races...I wanted to wait until after the marathon, but I found out about this and got carried away from there. I'll post my '09 plan after the race.

7. The marathon is in 19 days!!!

8. I'm so excited to finally meet Mel this Saturday at Patricia's!

9. Tomorrow is my 3-year wedding anniversary. We're going to dinner at Cachet, which hubby and I run past all the time. It'll be nice to see it from the inside, but gotta squeeze in a run first!

10. The marathon is in 19 days!!!

Monday, September 08, 2008

I wonder if that's what it feels like to hit the wall?

It was a typical Saturday evening before an early rise for Long-Run-Sunday. Hubby and I had a scrumptious pasta dinner and a quiet evening watching a movie, and I was in bed my 9PM. I rarely have a problem falling asleep. No matter when or where I go to bed, I'm usually out cold within 5 minutes of hitting the pillow. I don't know what came over me, but I could not sleep. I tossed and turned, went back and forth from the bed to the couch, and basically laid wide awake for hours. Of course I was compulsively checking the clock, counting down in my head how much sleep I was losing since I knew the alarm would be going off at 5AM, which only made matters worse. I started getting frustrated and stressed out, my legs were restless. I don't know when I eventually fell asleep, but the last time I saw the clock it was after 1:00.

I was not in good shape when the alarm went off, but dragged myself out of bed and had a tea (which I typically wouldn't before a run) and hoped the caffeine would help. I was sure that getting out of bed would be the hardest part of this day. I would soon find out that I was very wrong.

I met the group at our local Running Room and we set off at 6:00. The route would take us along country roads from Newmarket all the way to the instructor's house in Tottenham. The first 20K were okay, but I was already questioning whether or not I'd be able to make the distance. When we reached our "water wagon" around 21K for re-fuelling, I had a very hard time not calling it quits and getting into the car. I hoped the cold water and fresh orange wedges would help keep me going and reluctantly started running again with the group after a brief break.

As we reached 22, 23, 24 kilometres, I could feel myself fading with every step and had a more and more difficult time starting up again after our every-15-minute walks. It was around 26K that I finally crashed and burned. I was running with three other ladies at this point (thank goodness I wasn't alone) and they noticed that I was falling behind, stumbling a little and that I was pale as a ghost. I felt dizzy and light-headed and had goosebumps all over. We started walking and I tried to regain my composure. Two of the girls ran ahead to find the support vehicle who we expected to find a couple kilometres ahead, while one stayed behind with me.

After walking a bit and taking a short rest in the car, I felt like I could continue. Our "chauffeur" dropped us off about 6K out from the finish and I was able to complete the run with one walk break. It certainly helped that the majority of the last few kilometres was downhill!

In the end, I ran just over 33K.

Part One
Part Two

We received the royal treatment once we arrived at the instructor's house. He had gone to the trouble of collecting a change of clothes from each of us beforehand so we would be comfortable (more likely so we wouldn't leave sweat trails all over his house), had a large room set up with towels and music for stretching and even a chiropractor who gave us all a light massage. And the feast! We had an incredible brunch of ham, eggs, bagels, waffles, fruit and pastries. By the time my hubby came to pick me up at noon, I was finally feeling like myself again, although I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed. And that's just what I did! I had a blissful 3-hour nap, and woke up just in time to get ready for softball.

Looking back, I'm pretty sure it was a combination of dehydration and pure exhaustion. It's been a challenging few weeks, I was sick most of this past week and the lack of sleep certainly didn't help.

At this point, I'm as trained as I am going to be. I've completed three 30K+ runs (30, 35 and now 33) in the past month and what my body needs now is to recover. My plan for the next few weeks is plenty of rest and mental preparation for the big day. Welcome to Taper Time!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

New kicks

I suddenly decided yesterday, 23 days before the race, that I needed new shoes before the race. My current Brooks Ariels have about 775KM and 7 months on them. This, of course, gave me zero time to spare since I would need a couple weeks to break them in. For that reason, I decided it would not be a good idea to try something new (which was my original plan for my next shoes), so I was on a mission to find a pair of Ariels in my size. This is not an easy task, because I'm a 10.5. Yeah, I have big ol' feet for a girl.

Thankfully I was able to locate a pair at one of the stores downtown and picked them up today, just in time to use a 20%-off Vector coupon which expires tomorrow.

Nothing like leaving it to the last minute, eh?

I'm thinking it wouldn't be the best idea to wear them on tomorrow's long run, so I'll introduce them to my feet next week.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday rambling

TGIF! What is it about short weeks that makes them seem so long?

The week has been pretty uneventful in the running department.

Monday/Tuesday: recovery
Wednesday: slowish 8K @ 5:53
Thursday: quickish 3.5K @ 5:18
Friday: slowish 4.5K @ 5:50

I've been fighting a nasty cold all week and am finally feeling better, but still hacking up a lung. I feel like a smoker. Ew!

Wednesday I scoped out clothing at the Aurora Running Room, trying to find an appropriate race top. No such luck. I'm afraid I've left it too long and there are not a lot of options left in sleeveless. I hate sleeves, even little ones. I have a couple more stores to scope out before I have to whine and cry and stomp my feet and eventually suck it up and settle an old stinky one.

Yesterday's run was piddly because I had exactly 45 minutes to change, run, shower, change again, eat and leave for a softball game. Turns out it was our last game of the season for my Thursday league, which is bitter-sweet. It's nice that one of my evenings will be freed up, but I had a lot of fun on the team this year. At least we have the banquet to look forward to in October, and I still play on Sundays for now.

Today I headed out in the muggy, sticky, humid air for a run at lunch. Planned for 8, decided on 6 once I got out there, and only completed 4.5. I had previously decided to go easy on myself this week with the 37K on Sunday, so I'm okay with the piddly 16K I've logged so far. Technically, I could and should be tapering already, so it's all good.

Tomorrow I'll squeeze in Reid's Virtual One-Miler in support of his mission to a 5-minute-mile, and that is about it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Non-Plan

This is my last official week of training before taper. << Insert minor panic attack followed by deep cleansing breaths here. >> The funny thing is, I haven't actually been following the program. You know the one my husband pain-stakingly created and revised a bazillion times in all its intricacy? (See: The Plan: Mission to a Marathon, circa May 13/08)

I had grand hopes and aspirations of following the program down to every last detail for 19 weeks and eventually starting the race confident that I could achieve my (insanely aggressive) goal of 3:50:00.

There are a few reasons things didn't go according to plan.

1. It has been a busy summer. I knew it would be, but it's amazing how hard it is to get into any kind of routine with parties most weekends, a few trips out of town and a handful of races thrown into the mix. Just to keep things interesting, I also played on two softball teams this year, which meant two or more games almost every week. And of course, trying to find some "down time" in the midst of all of this. Needless to say, I couldn't stick to the plan most weeks and often improvised to accommodate everything else.

2. I've never actually done speed work and decided early on that training for my first marathon and incorporating my first taste of speed work might not be the smartest idea.

3. I really wanted to enjoy the overall training experience. Sure, there will be many marathons in my future, but only one first marathon. Many of my "real" and "virtual" friends gave me this advice, and I'm glad I took it. It has been a very positive experience. I've been able to enjoy most of my runs and celebrate each new accomplishment and milestone without feeling like I'm killing myself.

So, with all of that said, I have not trained for any goal time for this, My First Marathon. Once piece of advice I have heard over and over again is to Respect the Distance, and I have done so. I've used the program as a guide for my long run distance and overall mileage each week, and have rarely strayed. I know I can complete this race.

I hope to enjoy even the most difficult of those 42.2 kilometres and I want to cross that finish line smiling whether it's in 4 hours or 6. And I know I will because I'm going to have the best support group of friends and family waiting for me on the other side and you, my bloggie buddies, rooting for me from wherever you are. What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Aftermath...and an extra recovery day

Yesterday I omitted the nitty-gritty of Post-35K, so here it is, including the reasons I'm taking another recovery day today.

After some stretching and chatter in the parking lot, I headed home (with an extra water and cookie in hand!) around 10:15. Hubby was kind enough to draw a cold bath for me on my way home, so I hopped straight in to soothe my aching legs and feet. You should have seen me hobbling up those stairs - oh my!

Outta the bath, bundled up in towels and I collapsed on the bed for a brief rest. I couldn't close my eyes because I knew I would fall asleep and I had 20+ guests coming over for a BBQ in just a few hours. (Not great planning on my part...)

Once I'd found the energy to get back up, I headed to the kitchen to my protein shake with recovery formula, ate the only think I could stomach (a banana and leftover KD) and did some light stretching.

Then it was time for last-minute BBQ preparations. I don't think I sat down for any extended period of time until 11pm when all of our guests had left, but I did have a fun afternoon with good food and drinks and excellent company. It was the perfect way to bid farewell to another summer.

But needless to say, I paid for it the following day. We were up early to clean up the house/yard and then off The Ex with my Mom. The cold had (not surprisingly) progressed and I pretty much felt like crap, not to mention my tired and aching body that had not yet been able to recover. Walking amongst the crowds in extreme heat all day was likely not the wisest decision, but we had a nice day nonetheless and realized that summer really is over as the CNE would be packing it up for another year.

We headed home around 3 and I remained on the couch where hubby brought me tissues, Tylenol, soup and OJ until 9:00 when it was time to hit the sack. I didn't stir until the alarm went off at 6:30, although apparently I was moaning in my sleep. :( The good news is, my legs are finally feeling better this morning - no aches and only a little tightness. Unfortunately the rest of me feels like crap. Looks like another evening with my feet up and the only thing running will be my nose.

Hopefully things will be looking up tomorrow, but for now I'm happy to enjoy another recovery day and get well. Better now than three weeks from now, right?

Monday, September 01, 2008

And the verdict is:

I am standing on my own two feet, even after 3:41:15 and 35.31K on the road yesterday. I can't believe I did it!

I arose at the ungodly hour of 5:00AM (this is one thing I will not miss!) and was pleased to discover that I was feeling quite a bit better than Saturday. As usual, I choked down a protein shake and as much oatmeal as I could stomach and set out to meet the marathon group at 6.

There was quite a crowd in the dark parking lot, most huddled in small clusters keeping one another warm (it was a cool 11C when we started). I found the one person I knew and was introduced to a few others who I would be going to battle with over the next several hours. It was a great bunch of people with a wide variety of age groups, experience levels and goals. It's amazing how quickly you can get to know a person when you're pounding the pavement for 3+ hours.

We set out in two pace groups of about 20 people each. I was in the "slow" group (target pace 6:15) and the fast group started 15 minutes later but would over-take us around the half-way point. We took to the dark and quiet country roads, warming up quickly and grateful for the comfortable temperature compared to last weekend's 6AM humidity.

The first 10K went by quickly and smoothly. There was good conversation and plenty of distraction (including being chased by 2 dobermans). We took one-minute walk breaks approximately every 15 minutes, which I adjusted to almost immediately, and maintained a pace around 6:20. Our group gradually split in two and sometime after 10K I inadvertently found myself smack dab in the middle of the two groups and running solo, which is nothing unfamiliar but a little lonely without music. I knew we would be stopping for water around 22K so I continued on my merry way and decided I'd re-join the group for the home stretch. My pace was closer to 6:00 from 10-22K.

The rest stop was a god-send and gave me a chance to empty my bladder, refill my bottles, fill up on oranges and recompose myself for the remaining 13K, which would undoubtedly be harder than the first 22. After a brief break, I headed out for the home stretch with 6 others who would keep me sane for the next (almost) hour and a half.

The first 30K were relatively comfortable and seemed almost too easy. I realized that I had achieved two new milestones: topping 30K and breaking the 3-hour barrier. I celebrated briefly, but the diatance soon started to take its toll. The last few kilometres were extraordinarily difficult. Toward the end I could hardly feel my legs and had to will myself to take each step. Approaching 10:00, the sun was now high in the sky and although it only reached 20C, it felt a lot hotter as we ran along the black asphalt. It was on the final stretch that we encountered the first signs of traffic, which was an abrupt change from the peaceful scenery we enjoyed throughout most of the run.

I had run out of water and took two short walk breaks in the last 2KM. We were no longer talking at this point, but silently encouraging one another to just keep moving. Before long, we could see the instructor parked at an intersection and realized we had done it. He encouraged us to walk the kilometre back to the parking lot where we would be rewarded with ice cold water and cookies, and plenty of high fives and pats on the back.

The final numbers:

Avg. pace 6:15/KM (right on target!)
Calories: 3868
Garmin data

Overall, it was a great run. I don't know that I could have completed this run on my own and I'm truly grateful for the handful of people who kept me going when the going got tough.

I still can't believe I ran that far, but it gives me a lot of confidence that I can run 42.2. 27 days to go.