Away I go!

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I should be on the way to the airport now to fly the 1000 miles south to Seattle. My flight is delayed 2 hours. Hopefully I’ll still make it to Seattle tonight and in time to get some rest before the pre-race activities tomorrow. Option B is to fly north 1000 miles to Anchorage then red-eye 2000 miles south east to Seattle arriving in time for an early breakfast.

I decided to run this race minutes after finishing my first marathon; the one thing that I didn’t have on that race, that I knew could make a huge difference is people. I want to run with a lot of other runners (there were 10 marathoners in August) and I want to run with some serious crowd support. I am hoping for both of those by heading south.

On the Seattle Marathon web page there is much chatter in the reviews about the hills. I will say this, if you want to run hills, you should come to Southeast Alaska. We run up some shit. Regularly. My 20 mile runs had 1,145 and 1,623 feet of elevation gain on them. I’m hoping this is to my advantage on the 400′ elevation gain in Seattle. My disadvantage will be pavement–the furtherst I have ever run on pavement is 16 miles, and that was on the Klondike Highway in the YKT. We have a definite lack of paved road that goes very far in any one direction on our island. My second 20 mile run had about 12 miles of pavement and the rest dirt road and trail. My first 20 miles had less than that and was run mostly on trail. I wonder now how much the increased pavement running had contributed to my TFL flare up. When I got off the pavement it started getting better; however I also changed shoes, dropped mileage and sought various manipulative therapy. I don’t know why it is getting better, but it is and I now just hope I can get 26.2 more miles out of it before I do what I should have done about 500 miles ago (more strength training to get a stronger butt).

This will be my first race with: an expo, chip timing, spectators along the route, and is in a different state. I have raced frequently in the past few years, but except for one (which was north of here) they’ve been in Sitka and pretty small affairs. Also, my average running pace gets me very nearly at the end of the pack of extremely strong local runners. I’m really looking forward to running in the middle. This is my first desination race and my first big deal race. My family from the Seattle area is coming and I saw a picture of them making signs for me!

I hopefully will get to Seattle tonight and tomorrow will see the route. I signed up for the bus tour–since 22 miles of it are in parts of the city that I’m not totally familiar with.

I have spent this week pretty freaked out about what to wear. This time of year is a total crap shoot. For a while it looked like it would be pretty warm (for me) in Seattle at 55 degrees, which would be perfect (shorts and t-shirt weather). Now it looks like it will be at least 10-20 degrees below that, but not raining and much less humid than Sitka. The good thing about obsessing about clothes and gear is that I haven’t had time to worry about other stuff…like running.

Another thing I’m worried about is having to pee…a lot. Frankly, we don’t have to worry about that much, we run in the woods. Even when I follow all the pre race suggestions to address this, I still end up having to go a few times on long runs. I am worried about having enough socially acceptable options for this without having to stop and wait in line.
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There is a 4:40 pace group for this race. That’s my goal. Do I run with the group? I plan to start conservatively and make up time in the middle and at the end. I have no idea how a pace group runs. At least I’ll try to keep them in sight! I’ve never run with pace groups. I’m new at marathons, I don’t have a bunch of runs at this distance. My focus will not to be to go out too fast–especially on the flat in the middle.

4:40 is 13 minutes faster than my first marathon. Totally possible. I think. I hope. Fingers crossed

Earlier this week I felt like I was getting sick (of course), as I am now used to and come to expect this, I didn’t freak out about it. I knew I was fighting a virus when all my weak areas flared up and I had (ankle, knee, hip) pain for no aparent reason. I was glad to get it over with early in the week. I have gotten lots of sleep the past few weeks. I’ve been keeping to my training program. Now I wait and see if it has done what it’s supposed to (increase my stamina to better carry me through the distance).

week 10: 24.1 miles, spin, barre, long run 12.2 (which sucked)

week 11: 18 miles spin, barre, long run 6.5 (which was better)

week 12: 8.6 miles, spin, no barre, hard 3.5 (Thanksgiving) Turkey Trot, really great, easy 2 miles
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Total to date in this training program 344.1 miles. Total since 4/6/15 805.3 miles. 4 pairs of running shoes plus gortex shoes (that I don’t wear often). 235 days of training. Ready to take a break, work on healing, strengthening and deciding what’s next! Thanks for being on this journey with me.

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Bring on the taper

I’m just going to put this here and leave it: I swapped out a pair of running shoes with close to 400 miles on them for a new pair and the next day the hip pain I have been dealing with started getting better.

It started getting better while I was running. It kept getting better over the 40+ miles I ran last week, up until the 20 miles. At which point I was pretty much fried; mentally and physically, so I don’t think it mattered what shoes I was wearing.

At this point I feel like if I didn’t stop training soon I would being doing some damage to my body–like this is the most I can ask of it at this level of fitness. If I want more, I’m going to have to do more things differently, probably (likely)(definitely) before I run this kind of mileage again with this many straight days of training. I need to be stronger.

I just hope my hip keeps getting better and doesn’t blow up during the race.

I need to rest. Rest is what is in the schedule. It’s funny, though, that I’m so excited about decreasing mileage and taking it easy and I have 30 miles in my schedule this week. I am going to cut that down by one 4 mile run to rest my hip an extra day before running again. I am getting smarter, since I not only know that the rest will pay off more than the run in the short and long run, but that I’m actually following through with it. I’m okay with it (really) (almost).

Still taking a spin class that is amazingly hard work and barre class that makes my legs shake, and I’ve had to modify some of the moves to not irritate my hip.

This week there is a post from my online coach saying there is nothing you can do within the final 3 weeks until the marathon that will have an impact on performance–you can’t get stronger or faster. You can only rest, recover, stay warm and loose and in the rhythm of running and let you body do what it’s been trained to do in 21 days. I love having that permission to slow down and the validation to do so. And slightly freaked out that I can’t do ‘more’.

My 20 miles this week was possibly the hardest run I’ve done. I was feeling tired and my legs were/are tired. Which is the point, I get that. That knowledge made it possible to continue. If I can run 20 miles on totally spent legs…I can run 26 on fresh legs with added adrenaline. I pictured the Seattle marathon course in my head as I counted the miles; at this point there is my first hill (oh look an actual hill). The next 13 miles are flat flat flat (oh look another actual hill, just imagine it being flat). I ran alone for the first long run in a while. 2 weeks ago my run was a rotating group of friends who ran different distances with me, but I was only alone for 2 miles at the start and 3 miles between partners. Being alone this week was mentally tough. Combined with the physical toughness of it, it was almost enough to make me give up. I bargained with myself the last 6 miles pretty much non-stop. My watch with pedometer had me about 1.5-2 miles ahead of my gps (I guess my stride was that much shorter), which actually worked in my favor, believing I was at mile 18.5, even though I knew I wasn’t.

I found out later, that a small group of running partners drove by me a few times to check on me. Even after the fact I found it comforting and touching.

The weather has been pretty wet and cold here, not at all inspiring. On average in October we get 35″ of rain, and it’s usually 40-50*. It seemed like a dry October and we had some amazing sunny, cool days (and a few good rain/wind storms). November so far has come in like a winter train–hail, rain, temps between 38-45, and it’s dark from 3:30pm until 7:30 am. I went on a 4:30pm run in the pitch black and was nearly blinded every time I breathed out and my headlamp illuminated my breath.

I would have said that my runs in this schedule are faster than the runs this time last schedule…but I checked, and they’re really not. I remember feeling like I was putting a lot of effort in to the runs in the weeks leading up to taper in August, and not moving that fast. I feel like I’m not putting much effort into these runs and moving about the same (but felt like I was faster). I hope that doesn’t lead to a race with the same time. (Now I’m totally regretting not pushing some of the runs last week–oh, wait, I was in pain…)*

So, I am ready to back off on the mileage. My legs are TIRED, they feel heavy. My hip doesn’t feel great.  I have skipped two short runs and (both after my 20 milers, partly due to pushing them from Saturday to Sunday and not running Monday, and partly ‘cuz I’ve just felt whupped) haven’t run my faster pace miles during my mid length runs in 3 weeks. I have a strong feeling that I am benefiting from extra rest now and not pushing it too much. I may be walking that fine line between fatigue and over training.

I have another theory about my hip pain (this week I’ve researched TFL, hip bursitis, runner’s hip pain…) it occurred to me that the furthest I’ve run on pavement is 16 miles (and that was somewhere else). We have about 12 miles of pavement from one end of the road to the other in Sitka, the end I run on turns to dirt for another 6 miles. We have lots of glorious trials. When I started training for Seattle I made a concerted effort to run more on the roads and less in the woods (that and there are bears in the woods in the fall and the rivers are full of stinky dead fish). My 20 miles this week was about half on pavement. I had to add a loop through the park (on trail) in the beginning just to be able to get 10 miles from town. We’ll see if it’s possible for me to pull off that many miles of road (and that determines all my future marathons, I guess).

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20 miles in Sitka, Alaska: drive out the road past town. Run back to town, loop around Totem Park (both ways), run to the end of the road (where the big bend to the north is), run along the dirt road for 3 miles to the end, .1 past the gate on Green Lake Road. Turn around and run back). I could have run from the other end of the road, but it’s a terrible road to run on.

Last night I came home, took a 1 hour nap then slept 10 hours. Hope I caught up on that sleep debt.

Week 8 31.1 miles (this is when my hip got really sore), one spin/core class, one ballet barre class, skipped one 4-5 mile run. No pace runs.

Week 9 43.4 miles (high mileage record), replaced shoes, one hike, one spin/core class, one ballet barre class. No pace runs…at least I’m getting my strength and cross training in!

*I was so disheartened to figure out that my average pace was about the same that I did more comparing–before my marathon in August my weekly mileage was in the 20-30 mile range. This time it’s been in the 30-40 mile range. Also, in August due to the Alpine Adventure run I did my 20 mile run 4 weeks before the marathon. This time I had two 20 mile runs with 5 & 3 weeks until the marathon (no wonder I’m tired). My goal this time was endurance to be able to keep my pace through the whole race…I think that’s possible. Fingers crossed (they don’t hurt and aren’t too tired).

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206 days later…

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Corrie met me at mile 2 of 20 and ran 4 miles through the woods on a miracle of an October day in Sitka–a friend told me “running with a partner is good–running with a group is better” before I started training in the spring, he was right.

I feel like I’ve been marathon training forever–turns out it’s been 206 days, just over 6 month…so, kinda forever. Don’t get me wrong, I feel great. My runs are better than they have ever been, I’m stronger and faster than I have been in a long long time. Generally there is less internal negotiation to just get my shoes on. Running and training feel like who I am now, it just happens. However, I am very aware that I have 30 days left of this schedule and then I am off the treadmill for a while, as they say. I am ready to be done training. Last week when I started in the dark to run 10 mile in essentially what was a monsoon, I realized that this is the difference between ‘running’ and ‘training for a marathon’. There is no way I would have gone out in that weather to run for fun–but there I was, not even having an especially bad time. Just aware that there was a reason for my madness. One of my running partners didn’t run over the bridge we have here that day because she was worried she’d get blown off!

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Charmaine met me at mile 9 to run 11 miles with me. She’s traveling to Seattle and running the half while I run the full marathon. She’s one of my amazing training partners.

I use a running app that tells me I have run 737 miles since March 1st, plus the 70 miles I ran before I started training last winter (Jan-Feb) so about 800 miles this year to date. Which also tells me it getting close to time to retire the 2 pairs of running shoes I alternate my runs in. Since 3/1 I have logged 63,314 feet of elevation gain–the equivalent of up Denali (previously Mt McKinley, still the highest peak in Alaska) over 3 times. I have spent 157 hours running. Just running, not cross training or in class. Last week I spent 8 hours running. That is a whole day! I feel validated (and somewhat relieved that I have tangible evidence) that I feel like I don’t have a life outside my job, family and running anymore. How the heck would I fit that in??? Luckily I have an extremely supportive family. I also have understanding friends and have a running group that lets me combine maintaining human contact and running. As good as I feel now, and as much as I am looking forward to the Seattle Marathon, I feel like I can see the light at the end of the training tunnel. I am looking forward to some down time…I hope that light isn’t a train (another race!) headed right at me.

My daily life has been reduced to: running; fitness class; work; with minimal personal time to clean, read (not even running magazines), socialize, pay bills, watch movies; (note lack of blogging time) and sleep. As I’ve mentioned before, skimping on sleep becomes a non-negotiable. It’s 8 hours or fall flat on your face later that day, literally. I have a stack of newspapers I haven’t read (haven’t been current since May), half a dozen running magazines that just keep coming!

Although it’s been harder to feel entirely motivated to run in the morning as is my practice, since it’s dark until 7:30am (when I usually get home from my run) and is raining a lot–and windy. Luckily it hasn’t been too cold, yet. I have the gear–I have no excuses. The dialogue I have with myself isn’t as hotly contested. It’s more of a resigned half hearted conversation that goes: “am I going?” “shouldn’t I just stay in bed? I can run later in the day! That won’t happen.” “ugh” “yes, I’m going”.  Since I’m self employed I only get paid it I create billable hours. I can calculate the cost of being away from my office to go running if I skip my pre-dawn outing. It’s become very motivating to put a dollar figure on how much that extra time out will cost.

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At the end of my 20 miles we were all pretty stoked

I am noticing an increase in stamina and energy since the training before my marathon in August. I have less fatigue. My first 20 miler of this schedule was Saturday (see photos) and I was noticeably more energetic at the end and all the way through. I don’t know how much is psychological since I’ve run the distance before (once in training and once during the marathon), and how much is just the higher level of fitness and increased endurance (hey, the training program is working!). I read an article today in the WSJ about how running multiple marathons a year decreases your time (in subsequent races)    and increases your fitness–whereas before running more than one long race a year was thought to do more harm than good. The best way to train for a marathon? Run a marathon! Hey…that sounds familiar. My races are 16 weeks apart which is probably on the far side to gain benefit for the second from running the first, but the conditioning for the first was definitely a huge leg up for the second.

I have more confidence in my ability to run the race and think my goals are possible. All that being said…I totally skipped my run today. I had a 4-5 mile easy run (between yesterday’s 6-7 miles and tomorrow’s 9-10 miles), and I just decided it would be okay not to do it. It was more important to rest, go home, relax with my family…and write about running. My hip has been feeling sore, it’s not my hip flexor, or my IT band. It my be the top of my quad connector is inflamed from overuse (adding spin? increasing mileage?) or worn out shoes. I think I might benefit more from resting today than running. The difference between this summer and now is that I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t feel compelled to try and make it up somewhere. Yes, it’s because it’s a shorter run, I might not be so caviler about skipping a long run. I’m more confident, I’m not completely crazed.

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#runsitka my running group that met me for the last 6 miles of my 20 miler

Week 5 mileage 32.6 miles, tennis, spin, ballet barre & dance class

Week 6 mileage 35.2 miles, spin, barre, dance class

Week 7 mileage 40.4 miles (PR for weekly distance)(AND my best 20 miles ever), spin & barre class

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Weeks 1-3 The Good, The Bad and The Road Rash

Welcome to Marathon Training #2! (at least this time I know what I’m getting into!) If you’re just joining us I ran my first marathon on 8/8/15 and am now training for #2 11/29/15.

I spent the first week after my first marathon resting. I waited a whole week before running 3 miles. The week after that I went for another (more serious) 3 miler that saved my life (starting to feel very restless and slightly anxious). I kept adding a run or two a week, nothing more than 7 miles for the 3 weeks after the marathon. I felt great and couldn’t wait to start training again.

I got a coach! He’s an online coach, but my coach none the less. When I registered for the Seattle Marathon there was a super good deal on a personalized training program. I have used Hal Hingdon’s methods (usually slightly modified to fit my schedule) for all my races to date. I figured since I want different results it’s time to try something different. I paid the fee and got a  personalized program. It was designed around my schedule (busy) and what he thinks was my main issue running the Sitka marathon (endurance). He took into account my age, running experience, injury history and goals for Seattle. It’s supposed to be a 12 week program, but with lack of email and my travel schedule at the end of August, it ended up being an 11 week program (but he sent me bonus material to make up for the missing week)–plus I was running by then anyway. I increased my weekly mileage to 17.5 miles in 3 runs 12 weeks prior to Seattle (not too far off what he would have had me running).

week 1–The biggest change to my training is that I know I have to have a class to get me strength and cross training. I am really bad at motivating myself to do it (can’t I just go for another [faster, longer, harder] run??). I signed up for a Ballet Barre class twice a week (think squats with weights, sometimes on your toes–a LOT of them). I am ‘auditing’ my son’s Celtic Dance class once a week (ala River Dance)–really good balance and cross training. The program has one run per week is a short one with a few miles at a specific pace; 5-6 miles with 2 miles at a 10k pace with 1:00 rest between. A short, easy run (3-4 miles), a mid length run (9-10 miles) and a long run. 4 runs per week, 2 strength classes and once dance class. So far so good!

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5 minutes post injury–immediate swelling and some nice road rash

week 2– had to do some schedule adjusting (see photos below), but got all the runs and all the miles. Until the last run of the week–4.5 miles into a 7 mile run on a beautiful fall day (very rare in Sitka) with a friend, I stepped off the edge of the trail; twisting my ankle and rolling on the round scraping my leg and hands.

Ugh, I’ve been here before. The first thing I said to my husband after he came to get me was; this isn’t as bad as the last sprain, is it? It’s not is it? (It wasn’t. 18 months ago I sprained my other ankle and it took me out for weeks, writhing in pain, bruised from my knee to my foot, loss of stability…it was terrible and took about a year to be free of all signs of the injury). This was a classic type I sprain (minor): swelling and tenderness, but no instability and no pain. I iced that day, and kept it elevated.

I went to Barre class the day after the sprain without much difficulty or discomfort. The first 24 hours saw me at the chiropractor and the acupuncturist. I was very motivated to mitigate the injury as much as I could and do whatever I could to stimulate (rapid) healing. The next day it was puffy and tender but still no instability or soreness. Saturday night I went to a first anniversary party for my running group. Drank beer, ate pizza, felt supported and a little sorry for myself, but generally optimistic.

That day there was a facebook post from Seattle Marathon reminding us we were 10 weeks (!) from race day and where were we in our training? I responded that I was on week 2 of the Ryan Hill Program, dreading/bracing for  training in the shortening wet days in Alaska. They said they “thought Seattle runners were hardcore, but I was awesome!” This was a much needed and appreciated boost. (I didn’t mention the injury; it’s temporary. My main concern is 35″ of rain in October and losing 30 minutes of daylight per week)

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Of course my new marathon shoes arrived in the mail the same day I sprained my ankle

Week 3– ouch. Skipped long run. Was advised to do something else for the same amount of time I’d be running. Not gonna lie: Used Sunday’s long run time to 1. Sleep 2. eat 3. get caught up on paperwork at home.

Day 1:injury rest. Chiropractor, KT tape                     2: barre class, swollen. Acupuncture
3: rest (no long run)
4: rest. Chiropractor
5: spin. Cold laser
6: barre class. Acupuncture
7: run! went out to run 3 miles…ended up running 8.25 with no pain! (I love being the person that can not run for 5 days and bang out a reasonable 8.25 miles–yay me)  Then I went to dance class!     8: rest                                                                               Day 9: ran 13.5 miles!

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Very nice bruising–and yes, my calves are that big (from running up all those big hills, my dear)

And we’re back!

The biggest thing from this was that I took my first spin class (looking for something aerobic, but non-impact) and it kicked my butt! So, obviously I decided I needed to do more of that– I redid my schedule with input/guidance from my coach to add the spin class. I figured if it was so challenging, I should probably keep doing it and it will help my endurance in Seattle. Not much makes me sore anymore, but two days later I could still feel the spin class effects in my quads–which is also good, since I tend to run from my hamstrings, and need to move more effort into the front of my legs. We agreed that my new schedule is barely sustainable, but it’s only for 2 months and I (he made me) promise that if I start to get worn down I’ll let something go. The best part of the change is that I doubled up a class with a run on 2 days so I get 2 whole days OFF (at least I think that’s the best part).

New schedule is: Monday-5-7 miles with 2 miles at a specific pace (10K- half marathon), Tuesday–butt kicking spin/core class, Wednesday- Ballet Barre class & short, easy run 3-5 miles, Thursday- 7-10 mile easy run & Celtic Dance class, Friday–REST, Saturday- Long run 13-20 miles (2x 20 milers this time), Sunday- REST! Note the lack of unscheduled, vague, amorphous “cross training” or “strength” days…it’s all scheduled an planned for me. Sweet!

Reality check: ran 13.5 miles for my long slow run last weekend and did it in the same time as I ran my first half marathon. It included a long uphill run and I remembered when I couldn’t run all the way up it. Progress is being made!

Week 1 mileage: 25.1 miles, 2 Barre and 1 dance class

Week 2 mileage: 23.65 miles, 2 Barre & 1 dance class (and one sprained ankle)

Week 3 mileage: (didn’t run for 5 days) 21.75 miles, 1 spin, 1 barre & 1 dance class

(I am proud of myself for finding a way to not skip cross training, core and strength training, hoping that will pay off in this marathon effort–like by shaving off +/-15 minutes)

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Nothing to do with running, except flying in a (very) small plane from Juneau to Sitka wrecked havoc with my schedule and I had to practice to ‘letting it (running schedule) go’ and do what I could instead of what I planned–at least it was a beautiful flight

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And this is the reason I didn’t make it home on this flight, or ultimately on this plane; Sitka is on the other side of that low, black cloud. Instead of a 12 mile run in the morning with a group, I went for a 3.25 mile in the evening by myself.

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26.2

Cross Trail Classic Marathon 8/8/15 (3rd Annual)

(the blog you’ve all been waiting for. Spoiler alert: I did finish and I didn’t die)

I finally got to bed and got 4.5 hours of sleep–I was shocked how much I found to do before turning in for the night. I mean, how long does it take the get shorts and gels out?? Especially after (see last post) I had gotten out my clothes out a week ago.

As a pre-race warm up, we walked a bit more than a mile from the car to the start. On the way we chatted with a guy that wanted a sub 5 hour finish; he had run the San Francisco marathon earlier in the summer and was stymied by the lines at the port-a-potties along the way–that cost him valuable minutes. Apparently many minutes. He was the one who told me there were 10 marathoners in the Cross Trail Classic. I was a little disappointed to find out there was such a small turn out for the full, but it was more than last year, so that’s something (it’s still a very new race).

From the start I concentrated on not going out too fast–running comfortably and finding my pace. Knowing that of the 65 runners starting, only 10 of us were running the full marathon made it easier to let people go out ahead of me. I did find my pace and actually found that I was neither running at the end of the half marathon pack or the end of the marathon pack.

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Cross trail course map and description Available at http://www.sitkamarathon.com

Everything I read about your first marathon said you shouldn’t have a time goal, just a goal to finish. I knew what I wanted to run it in, had no idea if it was possible, but also didn’t want to slack off…but also had no idea if it was possible (did I mention that?!). In the end I compromised by having a pace bracelet for a 4:45 finish, but kept it in my pocket and didn’t look at it much. I was pretty much right on target for the first 14 miles. Then it got real.

Everyone runs together for the first 10 miles of the course, then there is an out and back portion along a dirt road that the half marathoners go .5 miles and the full marathoners go to the end and turn around after a mile. It is on this section that you can see who (how many) runners are in the 2 miles ahead of you. The first loop my running partner, Crystal, was about a mile ahead of me as were about 5 of the other marathoners. Up until this point I was very close to my pace to finish around 4:45. The course comes out of the woods, down a glorious hill (I love running downhill!) and onto the main road for 3 miles along the water for a flat homestretch in town. Nearing the half marathon finish the volunteers cheering noted that I was ‘almost done’, and ‘nearly there’, etc etc blah blah. They didn’t notice that the green bib meant I wasn’t almost done. The white bib wearers were almost done. I was not. I had anticipated that crossing the finish line and continuing running would be the hardest part–something disheartening about running past the celebration…

I also had thought that the live timing clock on the finish line would be my half way mark, but figured out somewhere around mile 9 or 10 that at the half marathon finish line I would be at 14.1 miles. My time there was 2:33 with my usual extremely consistent splits. After that point I was really alone on the course. The volunteers who had been there the first time directing us on the trails through the park and stopping traffic had been replaced by signs. I had heard the first year they ran this race (2013) that the volunteers working the aid stations had been confused about the two loops and had gone home after the half marathon runners passed. My friend that ran it said there was no water on the course the second time around.

I have run this course countless times. The race itself is in it’s third year, I have run the half marathon the first two years. We joke that racing in Sitka is just paying money to run on the same routes with the same people, but getting a cool shirt and maybe a medal. I anticipated the hardest part mentally would be finishing the first loop of the double loop course and continuing on. I figured coming up to the balloon arch with the live clock with all the volunteers, spectators and runners would feel like a really good place to stop and it would be hard to run through. It was better than I expected, my friends and running club members were there (having finished their halves) cheering me on and it was exciting to run through and gave me an energetic boost. Immediately after that though,  I was essentially by myself. I ran through the park and saw no one. I ran by the river and saw no one. My family met me on a road section between two trails and resupplied me with gel, nuum, more cow bell and good spirits.

(A note about my family: I have two sons, 8 & 13 and a husband none of whom are runners, but are very supportive of my running and my biggest fans at races. I could not train or race like this without them. Today their mission was to drive to the places that the road came close to the trail, gather supplies and run out to meet me. My oldest son ran back to meet me to find out what I needed, then sprinted to my other son and husband and gathered it together. He would run with me while I drank, offering encouragement, “you got this, mom! You’ve worked so hard and you’re doing great!” then take my water bottle back to the family and off they’d go to the next access point on the trail.) It was really nice not to have to carry gels for the whole race and not to have to carry the extra water bottles with sport drink. There was plenty of water offered on the course both times around–even if some of the tables were just covered with cups and not manned with volunteers. Around mile 15 I started to feel really alone. I was running in the woods–alone. I thought of taking selfies at each mile marker, just to prove I was there…but I was worried if I stopped running at that point, I might not start again.

The biggest hills (and there are a number of big hills) are at miles 8, 9 and 19 & 20. We had discussed strategy on these hills during many of our runs up them over the summer. We debated the advantages of running up them both times and potentially using up any reserve energy and really dragging on the last few miles. We talked about running up them the first time around and walking up them the second time…in the end I ran up them the first time (surprisingly well) and only stopped to walk up the last of half of the biggest hill the second time. I have realized that while you may not run up hills much faster than you can walk up them and it uses more energy, the psychological boost you get from having running legs hit the top of a hill and take off like a wound up toy car is invaluable (I bargained with myself all the way up all the hills, both times).

About mile 22 was where it got hard. My legs felt really heavy and tired. On the final out and back portion I didn’t see anyone else for a long time, it wasn’t until almost the end that I saw 4 other runners who had reached the turn around and were headed back toward me. One of them was the guy with the  sub 5 hour goal–I high fived him and let him know he was there for sure (ironically, since 7 of the marathoners were women he earned the 3rd place male finish!) It was about here that the only runner who was behind me passed me. Now I knew I was last. I kept telling myself that I would run to that tree, or bend, or house, or whatever and then I would walk, but I never did. I kept running…I actually figured out at what mile I could stop running and walk the rest of the way and still make it before the cut off. Coming down the last hill to the main road my legs really weren’t into this anymore. Even running down hill took effort and wasn’t much fun. I knew I was behind on my goal time, and vacillated between not wanting to know by how much, and having to know. If I was too far behind I was worried I just give up. Around mile 23 I checked it and found I wasn’t so far off my pace that it was disheartening. Shit. Now I had to keep running, no excuse to stop.

Right before I got to the bottom of the hill and was about to turn the corner I saw one of my sons sitting beside the road. As soon as he saw me he popped up and ran down the hill. When I rounded the corner I saw my family had been joined by another family and there were 15 people who love me cheering me on, they were blowing horns and throwing confetti. Well, I thought, can’t stop now…there are people watching! So I pushed on. I was just over 3 miles from the finish line and it is pretty flat to the end. It’s my least favorite part of the course since it’s along the road, but today it was great to have people honking and waving and yelling out their windows at me. I kept myself going by knowing that my family was going to pass me in our car at any minute and I had better be running when the saw me. They leap frogged me and in another mile and half there they all were again; horns, cheering, confetti. Otherwise, at this point it was just like any other day for me, running alone through Sitka. I started to worry that everyone would have gone home by the time I finished. I knew I was going to be last, didn’t know by how much, maybe everyone would have packed up by then. I convinced myself it would be just my family, a few members of my running club and maybe one or two others. I had this thought pretty firmly in mind when I got to the last corner at mile 26. I was pretty sure I would finish my first marathon alone. Just me, the timer and my family. Sigh.

Then I saw the race director (who is now my personal hero). She was holding  a megaphone. The first year I ran the half marathon when you turned this corner we stayed in the road and a kid ran ahead of us calling our number to the timers, it was pretty fun. The next year the finish line had moved off the road and onto the newly finished seawalk which was really nice. This year we were on the seawalk again. So, here I come, pretty hang dog–thinking I’m going to finish my first marathon to a weak and humble end. I’m focused on Julie (the race director) who tells me as I approach her that she’s going to run in front of me to clear the crowd and I’m supposed to follow her and we’ll just do the best we can. What the?? Then I turn to look toward the finshish line and see the parade. The parade! I had forgotten about the parade! The Sitka Cross Trail Classic 1/2 & full marathon take place as an event during the Sitka Seafood Festival. The race starts early to be done by the time the parade starts (originally I think they thought the runners would finish the race and then hang around and be in the parade-ha!). So I follow Julie through the gathering crowds, “Runner coming through” she’s yelling. “This woman just ran 26 miles!”, that gets people’s attention and they’re standing by the seawalk applauding. For me! “Susea Albee is just about to finish her first marathon!”–so now everyone who knows me that is ready to watch the parade turns around and comes to the seawalk to cheer me on. At this point I start to cry. It was indescribably amazing. Sometimes living in a small town where everyone knows your name (okay pop. 8500 and not everyone) has huge benefits. There was a cruise ship in town that day and tourists were cheering for me too! I had a parade, my own private announcer and crowds of people–it was not a bad thing.

I have sprinted at the end of every race I have ever run. At about mile 25 I had reasoned that I could finish the marathon, I could run the whole way, but I could not sprint at the end. Then Julie looks at the clock and turns around to me and says, ‘if you run hard from here you can finish in under 4:53″. So I said, get out of the way, I’m sprinting!

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Running down the seawalk to the finish (way behind me in the while shirt is Julie, the race director). They kid with the frisbee is my oldest son and biggest supporter

I decided right then that I was going to run another marathon. I wanted to do it soon. I wanted to run with a LOT of runners and have spectators the whole way and finish right in the middle of the pack. My marathon time was one minute faster than the average for women my age. In Sitka that puts me absolutely last. And I don’t care (but it would be nice to be in the middle for once).

I am registered for the Amica Seattle Marathon on 11/29. I have started training and I will have a time goal this time (4:40 which I read is close to the average for woman marathon times), it’s ambitious, but I think possible, especially under different conditions from Sitka (running alone on hilly trails).

Fueling notes: I did a Honey Stinger gel (either plain or ginseng) every 6 miles, and tried a Stinger chew every mile after 4 miles. I drank water at every station (every few miles) and sipped nuum every few miles. When I did my 20 mile training run I got very hungry at about mile 18. For the marathon I had a packet of almond butter with honey at about 18 miles to prevent that.  Overall the fueling was great–I never hit the wall, and I didn’t have upset stomach.

I ran 493.2 miles in this training schedule leading up to this marathon (why did I skip that 7 mile run?!) and not enough cross or weight training (I know).

2015 Cross Trail bling

Afterwards I had a toe that was sore at the base of the nail, but had nail polish on. I thought I might loose my first toenail (there was a sign on the race course that read ‘toenails are for sissies’), but even a few weeks later it hadn’t come off and wasn’t as sore. It wasn’t until 3 weeks later when getting a pedicure that I realized I was going to lose that nail. I was kind of proud of the fact I hadn’t ever lost one before, and now I am kind of proud that I have. I ran so far that parts of my body actually came off!

I will be training and blogging about training for marathon #2–stay tuned!

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Am I ready?

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Single track along the river in Totem Park, one of my favorite parts of the trail

7 August 2015 (the night before my first marathon)

Am I ready? I don’t know…I feel ambiguous; could be ready, did the work, completed the plan. Should be possible. Also feeling like I-just-don’t-know. 26.2 miles is a long way and the furthest I have gone is 20. One thing though, I’m not worried.

About the worry, or lack thereof. I have a theory. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Especially after the lack of nerves before the Alpine Run. I suspect running so much exorcises (ha!) some of the profound subconscious stress I carry. Lately I have a general lack of worry and anxiety, which is very unusual for me. Am I in a good place? Or just too tired to care? Is this what even keel feels like? Maybe that explains my lack of jitters before the last race? Have I actually run out all my angst? The other manifestation of a calm center is that I have stopped picking at my fingernails and cuticles. My nails are long and healthy looking for the first time since…ever. The calm before the storm? The calm after the storm? Don’t know. It will be interesting to see if this calm feeling lasts after the mileage drops.

I got my running clothes out 6 days before the race. One less thing to think about. 3 outfits depending on the conditions of the day. Done. One less thing to worry about (or not).

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Part of the Cross Trail Classic Marathon course–path through muskeg

Early in the week I was fretting a little about food and sleep for this week and then realized I have 3-4 days left before the night before the night before the race. It’s like the night before the race jitters have spread themselves out for 6 days. Kept reminding myself that I was ready for this, the preparation wasn’t much different than before a half. Time to let it go. I started eating with race intention 20 hours before the marathon following a plan I have used for all my halves. This one has a few more calories, more protein and more carbs. Sticking to food I know and have eaten before long runs recently.

I have mentioned before that I always spend the week before the race feeling like I’m coming down with something. The first time that didn’t happen was last month before the Alpine Run. Now I’m coughing–starting to freak out about that. Hoping it’s gone by Friday. Generally I follow the neck down rule; if the illness is above your shoulders it’s okay to run. If it goes toward your chest, it’s time to stop. This cough feels like it’s above my chest. Hope it stops there.

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Devil’s Club berries in the sun–a sign of August in Alaska

I am having some regrets: Starting to regret not cross training more, not strength training more, not foam rolling more. There, I said it. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Too late now!

I did start out  the schedule with good habits; cross training, weight training, intervals… then the running just got overwhelming. I was running so much I just didn’t see fitting anything else in. If I wasn’t running, I was tired. Too tired to think about working out. Also, I lost my two training partners that kept me accountable for weight training and intervals. Cest la vie, apparently not motivated enough on my own.
Here’s what I did right early on: intervals, hills (lots and lots of hills), planks and I had a good running schedule that I stuck with (for the most part). I did a 30 day challenge that improved my form and cadence.  . Ate right, got enough sleep. Set a half marathon pr, ran a new race (Alpine Adventure Run), ran with group, sought support when I needed it from friends, fellow runners, family and professional coaches and trainers (not necessarily in that order).
Here’s what I did wrong: not enough cross train, gave up intervals and weights too soon.

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Am pretty sure I didn’t run this

Total mileage in my 18 week training schedule 493.2 miles  (argh! why did I skip that 7 mile run months ago???) including 32 miles of power hiking up and down Gavan Hill weekly.

Week 18 4 miles (in 2 runs) woop woop! A bunch of rest days and a massage, accupuncture and chiropractic adjustments. 26.2 tomorrow (hopefully)

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Taper Weeks (are the worst)

The first week was the most difficult. It started the day after the Alpine run. I saw someone two days later on my way out for a run. “How far today?” they asked. “Only 4 miles today, I’m on the decline now and the runs are shorter. I’m happy!” If I had only know how dark the week would get as the lack of mileage sunk in I might not have been so chipper. If I had known I would not have been so cavalier about the taper crazies (it’s a real thing, you can look it up).

received_10203868758154027It may have started the week before, I skipped an 8 mile mid week run that I just never had time for, and felt like I couldn’t push it back to the next day since I wanted to keep my legs pretty fresh for the Alpine Run. That action dropped my mileage from 35 to 28 total miles. But 7.5 of them were, you know, a race up a mountain, so I figured I was about even.

My week included: Mood swings. Crying. Feeling crushed by…everything. I was overwhelmed. It. Was. Horrible. (for everyone) I felt over the top maxed out. You’ll wonder this, so I’ll just tell you, it was like PMS–except 10 times worse.

It didn’t help AT ALL that it was Little League All Star week. My 13 year old son made the all star team and had been practicing nearly 2x a day for 3 weeks. Luckily the tournament for his age group was here in town–the rest of the leagues had to travel to other communities in southeast Alaska. After what happened with the coaching (best not to get me started) and the (lack of) team spirit became almost too much to bear; I had to sit on my hands and bite my tongue to not be ‘that baseball mom’–I wanted to run it out so badly I was literally twitching. (a side note: Sitka did really well and came in second to the team that ultimately won the state championship and is on the way to California) While all of this is another story altogether, I found that my ability to deal with the stress of it while not running my usual mileage, actually about half of what I had been running, was completely lacking. That’s an understatement.

FB_IMG_1437843863969The long run I had been looking forward to all week, my last double digit run before the marathon, the run that was going to save my life and possibly the life of others–it was a slog. 12 miles felt far and didn’t do enough to rid me of the angst. It did take the edge off, and that’s something. I felt like a good long run would turn the taper around for me. When it didn’t, I felt let down.

Week 2: Schedule had 4-3-4 weekly runs, 8 mile long run. Ran 4-4 then got sick. Went directly to bed, did not pass go, was terrified it would turn into something that would prevent me from running the marathon now 10 days away. Took a day and half off. Saturday I went out to run my last long run before the race, 8 miles. Ran one loop of the race course which includes hills. I was not feeling 100%, but I ran up all those suckers. I gave myself permission to run it as slowly as I needed to in order to finish it. It was still a LSR after all, no need to push anything.  Almost done with the loop I checked my gps and had gone 9.3 miles (oops!), ready to stop, but feeling good I pushed on to 10 and ended up being on pace for a long run with no mp. I was encourages that if I can run 10 miles starting out feeling lousy, I can probably run a marathon and run the last 10 even if I start feeling crappy. Optimism!

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Lovely day for a run through the muskeg

Week 3–short runs (really short:2-3 milers) that made me feel like I’m not prepared for a marathon. How can I run 26.2 if I’m only running 2 miles?? And, why do these runs take effort? They’re so short! What is happening? I feel like since I’m resting and I’m not running far, my legs should feel great, like brand new springs, but they don’t and that worries me (to the extent that I’m worried about anything lately). They don’t feel tired or fatigued as they did a few weeks ago. Just not as peppy as I anticipated essentially not running much. Good news is the worst of the taper crazies seems to be past.

Taper week 1. Week 16: 26 miles, really good pace run (10:18 average 9:18-10:46), 12.1 long run that was hard and stupid and did not relieve my taper madness as I had hoped and I was still in a bad mood afterward. Runs are now 5-4-5 instead of 5-8-5.

Taper week 2. Week 17: 18.2 miles (!), back to the short runs 4-3-4 and a long run of 8. Ran 4-4-10.

Taper week 3 (with a marathon at the end, thankfully) Week 18: a whopping 7 miles so far in 3 runs!! Now I just wait for the 26.2 to get my mileage up to 33.2 for the week.

We’re getting close!

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