Monday, April 27, 2009

Poster Child for Self-Confidence

Needless to say, my focus this week is laser-beamed on Sunday's marathon. When I feel tired, I lay down. I quaff electrolyte-laden drinks before I get thirsty, and eat carbs for breakie, lunch, and dinner. I've put a moratorium on carrying the twins around. I'm skipping book group in favor of lounging. Yes, I'm treating my body right. But my main emphasis this week is my mind. I'm intent on getting it as honed and fit as my body is.

As my coach, Lynn Jennings, emailed me yesterday: "Drill into your brain the truth and reality of all that work you have done. You are ready to go and your mantra is 'I've done the work and when I stand on the starting line, I'm ready to demonstrate it!'

Remember: you have to believe it fully and unreservedly. No doubts."

But finessing the brain isn't as straight-forward as honing the body. There are no mile-repeats or tempo runs for the mind. Instead, I'm going back over my training calendar to remind myself of all the hard work I have done the last three months--and how I met or exceeded the goals LJ set for me. I'm also going to re-read my blog posts since February 1.

And I'm going to spend a good bit of time meditating on the poster Phoebe and I made (photo, above). Let the record show: I'm not a scrapbooker or a memento-gal, but the idea for the "word-wall" came to me in a flash of inspiration so I acted upon the idea. I cut out phrases from magazines, mostly Runner's World, and then Phoebe and I glued them onto the posterboard. If I can be a braggart mom for a sec: I especially love the creativity art-centric, new-reader Phoebe brought to it, doing things like placing "Faster" under "Get Faster." (We laughed together every time she'd point out a clever word-cluster, with her saying, "Get it, Mom? Get it?") After she and I were done, I went back and glued on an illustration of a small brown bird (to the left of "Test Yourself") as an homage to Phoebe, which is also a type of small, brown songbird.

Slowly--but surely--I'm getting poised to demonstrate what I'm capable of on May 3.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who I Am Running For

The finish of the 2009 Boston Marathon was an amazing thing to watch. Well, at least that’s what all my running buddies tell me. You see, I missed the second half of the elite race because I was driving carpool. Sigh. But even with only reading the results—and later watching YouTube clips---my heart went out to Kara Goucher all day on Monday. Such guts, grit, and talent. Not to mention her adorable smile.

The already oft-quoted line in her post-race interview that resonated with me was her saying she wanted to win, “for everyone that supported me and for my coach, my husband, my family, and for Nike…I just wanted to be the one that won for everybody.”

It got me thinking about all the people I’m running my marathon for a week from Sunday. For Lynn Jennings, my savvy, ever-attentive, caring coach; for Phoebe, my 7-year-old daughter who will be on the sidelines cheering for me; for my mom, a loving Catholic who is already praying for me and my marathon aspirations; for a certain editor, who promises me a plum feature assignment if I break 4 hours; for my massage therapist, who is giving me a huge discount on a day-after massage if I meet my time-goal; for you blog-readers who have followed my journey with such an outpouring of encouragement; and countless others.

But mulling over Kara’s words, I realized the person I am really running this marathon for is me. So that I can prove to myself I’m as fit as my times at the track tell me I am—and that I have the inner fortitude to call forth the resources when the going gets tough. To shift into a higher gear when my brain is telling me to just cruise.

I want to win for me.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Go, Kara, Go!!

Just wanted to give a shout-out of encouragement to all Boston Marathoners, from Kara on back. I had the pleasure of being in sunny, lovely Boston for the past three days, and I even got to run the last 6.2 miles of the course, including Heartbreak Hill. (I found it more like a long incline than a true hill, but my legs were fresh. No telling what my opinion would be facing it after 20 miles...) Even though I lived in Boston for four years in mid-1990s and watched the race every year, it seemed more exciting this time, maybe because I was a marathon-virgin back then.

Good luck to all, and take a look at this write-up of Kara's pre-race interview. The line that made my eyes a bit watery was this one, "I'm ready to run the race of my life." I intend to tell myself that on May 3 down in Eugene.

Go, Kara! Go, Boston Marathoners!


photo above is one I took of Kara Goucher poster in Niketown window on Boston's Newbury Street.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pace Groups: Pros and Cons?

Lynn and I are debating whether or not I should run with a pace group or not at Eugene. I hear good things about the pace-group leaders at that marathon, but we're still wondering if it's the smart move to go with one or not.

Our main sticking point: On my long runs and tempo runs, I've consistently found that it takes me a while to get warmed up. Early on, I have to really fight to drop down to tempo pace, but after my muscles get lubed, I'm good to go.

Our plan, hashed out over my training run on the course of the Eugene Marathon two weeks ago, was that I start out slower than marathon pace but build up to it by about mile 3. If I ran with a pace group, however, we don't think I'd have that option.

One running buddy told me she thinks adrenaline will carry me through the first few miles, but I'm concerned about going out too fast. As LJ said to me on the Eugene run, "I want to see you going sub-MP at miles 17 and 18, not miles 2 and 3."

So, dear running-readers, I'm looking for insight about experiences you've had with marathon pace groups. I'd love to hear from you--thanks!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

And So Begins the Taper

Saturday’s 18-mile run went okay. It wasn’t great, and it wasn’t horrible. The plan was for me to warm up for 3 miles en route to Lynn’s house, then start running marathon pace for the rest of the run, including the 14 miles after meeting up with LJ. (Her house is 4 miles from mine.) Once again, we had deemed marathon pace (MP) at 8:45-minute miles or better.

I idiotically forgot to press “start” on my Garmin when LJ and I started running together, so I missed out on calculating the first 3.5 or so miles of the run. But I’d glanced at the pace numerous times and we were at least 15 seconds under MP for that first bit. But it became increasingly hard to keep my pace at 8:45 or faster. About 4.5 miles into our run together, I told LJ, “The intent is there, but the speed isn’t.” It is hard to describe how I felt: The week before, in Eugene, my quads had felt heavy and dense, but not this weekend. I felt like I lacked a spark, or 5th gear.

At this point, if I’d been by myself, I probably would have spiraled into self-doubt, anxiety, and disappointment. But LJ’s response to my comment put my head in exactly the right place. She calmly said it was natural to feel a bit sluggish, reminding me of all the hard work I’d been doing lately. All the miles, and all the track work. It made perfect sense, and I was diverted from the pity-party I’d been heading toward.

Instead, LJ just ran about a step ahead of me for much of the rest of our run. We were still running together, but I felt a slight “tug” to keep up with her. I kept my foot on my own accelerator as best I could, nudging our pace back to 8:45. Conversation didn’t flow as freely as it has on all our other runs—at one point I blurted out, “You need to tell me a story,” and LJ complied.

All conversation ceased for the final two miles, with me sputtering out rudimentary directions like, “right at light” or “go straight.” With about 1.5 miles left to go, LJ asked me (the Garmin-wearing pace-keeper) how fast we were going. I said 8:59. She said, “let’s try to get it to 8:40 for rest of the way.” It was the challenge I needed. It took me about 100 yards, but then we were safely under 8:40…and dropping the rest of the way home. Two long blocks from my house we were sub-8:00, and for final 150 yards we were about about 7:20 pace. Taking into account our un-Garmined miles at the start of MP, we averaged right around 8:45.

After we stopped and I regained my breath, Lynn said, “That proves it—time to start your taper.”


Friday, April 10, 2009

Final Long Run

My last long run for Eugene Marathon is tomorrow—woo-hoo!! I can’t believe the day has come. Sometimes it seems I’ve been training for this race for a long time, but mostly it feels like I just started. My coach, Lynn, and I often joke how fast time flies, with the punchline being that we’ll be collecting Social Security by Friday. (Trust me: It cracks us up during our recovery laps around the track!)

Up until yesterday, LJ was having me run 18 miles tomorrow, then 20 miles the following weekend. Given how fantastic the rest of her coaching has been, I wasn’t going to question LJ on her decision to have me run so far just two weeks before the marathon. But then some concerns started poking my brain, partly from email exchanges with my good friend Ellison, who is also running Eugene. She and another marathon-veteran friend, Monica, are following Pete Pfitzinger’s training plan, as they always do. On their schedule, they run 22 this weekend, then drop back to 16 miles and 12 miles the next two weekends, respectively.

For days I tried mustering the gumption to ask LJ about her rationale for an additional long run. Finally I crafted an email in my head and sat down at my computer to write it to LJ. But before I could click, “compose,” an email from her popped up. Here’s an edited excerpt:

“I am sitting here doing some reading about tapering for a marathon and perusing the calendar for our next three weeks. We are running the 18 on Saturday with 15 embedded race pace miles. I’m thinking about long runs after this and wondering your thoughts on long run ideas for next Sunday, the 19th. Whatever we do that day, it is exactly two weeks until race day.

“I have all sorts of good creative ideas during taper but am curious what you think you would like for that last Sunday long/long’ish run?”

My God, the woman is not only a three-time Olympian, but also a mind reader!!

I immediately called her to laugh and discuss. Now our new joke is that she must have implanted a chip in my brain!


Monday, April 6, 2009

Dress Rehearsal for Eugene Marathon

When my coach, Olympian Lynn Jennings, and I first went over her marathon training plan for me, she told me: “Long runs are a dress rehearsal for success at the marathon.”

Well, we had a major dress rehearsal on Saturday, and it left me slightly worried. Lynn and I roadtripped down to Eugene, Oregon, where my marathon is on May 3. The plan was to run the first 22 miles of the race to make sure there were no hidden surprises. We were especially curious to see the “hill” at mile 5. Almost everyone I know who has run the Eugene Marathon calls it the “hill,” complete with quotation marks, because it’s not really all that serious of an incline. The rise just stands out in comparison to the rest of the pancake-flat course.

We had schemed about the trip all week, down to gaining access to a friend’s in-law’s house so I could do my obligatory ice-bath soak before our two-hour drive to Portland. The one missing piece of the puzzle the precise, turn-for-turn marathon route. LJ had downloaded the course map off the race website, but it didn’t list every street name and the scale of the map was miniscule. We were left guessing details for the first part of our run. We thought we were on the right track, but around mile 3 we hit the first of three fairly significant hills. No quotation marks—these were actual huffing-and-puffing climbs.

Finally, a little over four miles into our run, we realized we were off course. We hooked back up with the course about six miles into our run, just past mile 7 of the marathon. We lamented we had missed a big part of what we’d come down to see—the infamous “hill”—but knew we couldn’t loop back to run it given where we’d parked LJ’s truck. We continued on the course, by this time having sped up to marathon pace—8:45 or faster.

We had about 9 miles under our shoes when we looped past the starting area, famed Hayward Field, where LJ had locked her bike. She hopped on her bike and continued cycling alongside of me for the rest of the run. I ran 13 miles at marathon pace, averaging 8:37. Yes, it’s a pace that would secure me in the sub-4-hour zone, which is my overarching goal. Yet it didn’t feel as easy and as natural as the last few embedded marathon pace pieces I’ve done. Like last Sunday, I did 10 miles at 8:32 pace in an 18-mile run, and I felt like a million bucks when I got home.

But I have been trying to assuage my concern by reminding myself that I racked up 71.5 miles (!!) last week, far more than I’ve ever run in seven days. And a lot of those were hard miles, like last Tuesday’s track workout. Also, as Lynn pointed out, it can be tough to run through an unfamiliar place. (We were fishing our way around a lot because of the imprecise map, plus it was only my second time to Eugene.)

Maybe, when I face facts, the reason the 22.2-mile run felt challenging is because it is. It’s tough running a long distance. Come race day, I’m just going to have to trust in my training—our dress rehearsals--and in myself.


Photo above is of LJ (right) and me post-run.