Saturday, October 22, 2011

6 miles at race pace

Went really well this morning. Negative splits! I think I could have run harder cuz I had some extra energy at the end, but it's still hard for me to gauge that stuff...

Pace 7:49.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Taking action

I took the executive decision to:

  1. Sleep in until 8 today
  2. Move my run to the afternoon
  3. Not go to class tonight (yikes!)

I think I might be getting a little sick—at least that's what everyone keeps telling me. I feel perfectly fine, but I'm always freezing cold.

Anyway, so this was my plan to get better.

I just got back from my 4-mile run. It was really nice. I went out without my iPod for the first time in ages, and I put all my energy into focusing on my running. It wasn't hard at all; actually it was really awesome. There's only a shade of disappointment for me: I was expecting this to give me a really good time... But I only made it in 31 minutes (again). Pretty good for me recently, but still not my best 4-mile time. I wonder if music really does make you run faster?

Looking forward to tomorrow as a rest day. I'm starting to get overwhelmed by school stuff, so I need to get a handle on the number of papers I have coming up in the next couple of weeks. Oh, bother.

Pace: 7:45

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On the Grind

I woke up at 6 today—initially I pushed Snooze but I got my act together after I realized what I'd done. I don't know how I always used to wake up so early...

Anyway, just a four-mile run today. I tried to do it fast, but I guess it wasn't that fast. Anyway, I felt like I was going to puke at the end.

Really enjoying the Newtons, though. So that's a plus.

And here's a little excerpt from this book I'm reading:

Quenton Cassidy knew what the mystic-runners, the joggers, the runner-poets, the Zen runners, and others of their ilk were talking about. But he also knew that their euphoric selves were generally nowhere to be seen on dark, rainy mornings. They primarily wanted to talk it, not do it. Cassidy very early on understood that a true runner ran even when he didn't feel like it, and raced when he was supposed to, without excuses and with nothing held back. He ran to win, would die in the process if necessary, and was unimpressed by those who disavowed such a base motivation. You are not allowed to renounce that which you never possessed, he thought.
That last line is pretty powerful... It reminds me of the art world, how they say you're not "allowed" to draw or paint abstractly unless you've already proven yourself classically. Not sure if I buy it completely, but it is a nice sound byte for the elitists to put people who won't double-think it in their place.

Pace: 7:48

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Marathon Gift

Among other things, the Chicago Marathon last week gave me the most powerful, inspirational image I know. Because I'm generous, I'm going to attempt to give this image to you—if you can use your imagination a bit. It may serve you well.

Picture yourself in downtown Chicago. It's just broken dawn—the field of light that rises before the sun itself is beginning to illuminate the world around you—and you look up at the skyscrapers that surround Grant Park. You're on the street with thousands of other people, each of you not quite sure what is going on. You only have a vague idea of what you're doing, and you have no idea what's about to happen—but you know it's going to involve some extraordinary fun and perhaps some extraordinary pain. There's a 40 percent chance that you're aiming to do something you've never done before—something only one percent of the human population does. It's cool—not cold or warm—the temperature is perfect—but, even so, you might find yourself with chills. You settle, maybe sit down, among thousands of like-minded people in this New Era dawn, and you become convinced that it's the first day of your life—the first day of your existence that you've really lived. And you hear this song (close your eyes):

(Btw, today's run was 11 miles. Pace: 9:05)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Guess That Makes Me a Marathoner

Here's the short version: To say it wasn't an ideal race would be an overstatement. But I loved it. I must have something messed up in my head.

Here's the long version:

I woke up at 5:40 and started getting ready in the dark. I'd set everything out the night before, so it was only a short matter of assembling myself, but I still took it slowly. At some point my mom woke up and she pointed out the stream of runners we could see crossing the bridge on Columbus, heading toward Grant Park. There were so many of them.

I left around 6:20 and stepped onto an elevator full of other runners. "What's going on today?" one of them said.

I walked the mile to the start area without any issue, went to the bathroom and found my start corral. I was going to start with the 4:30 pace group because I wanted to run the first 4 miles at a 10 minute/mile pace, then pick it up to 9 minutes/mile for the next 18, and then do 8-minute miles for the remainder of the race. That would put me finishing under 4 hours, so I figured if I didn't quite stick to my schedule I'd still be okay. I just didn't realize how far off I'd end up being.

The overwhelming advice I got from other marathoners was to start slow—slower than I'd think I ought to—and then pick it up gradually. I was prepared, and I was really excited for the rush of cruising by all the exhausted slowpokes in the final miles. (I turned out to be one of those zombies.)

The first four miles were easy; I hardly noticed them go by, even though I was trotting along at a comfortable 10-minute pace. I sped up a bit as planned, and went the next 10 miles or so without any issue. I hit 10k around the hour mark, and I hit the halfway mark at 2:08. I had plenty of juice left.

But then things started going sour... I noticed threats of cramping in my calf muscles, but those spasms were few and far between, and they weren't severe. But by mile 15, it got really bad. I had to mix in more walking then I wanted to because after a few minutes of running my muscles would seize a bit. I didn't want them to seize completely, so I opted not to test their limits—I'd rather finish a little behind schedule than not finish at all.

I tried to suck it up until at least mile 17 so I could be running, rather than walking, when I saw my mom and Ricky Boy in the crowd. Success. But shortly after that, it got so bad that I couldn't run at all. I tried to run every now and then, but I couldn't make it more than 20 seconds without my legs cramping. And it wasn't just in my calf muscles anymore; my hamstrings, quads and even glutes joined the fun.

This was awful, because I wasn't winded at all—I barely felt tired—but I had to walk because my legs wouldn't cooperate. I knew I had to keep moving (I tried stopping to stretch once, thinking that would help the situation, but it caused me to hobble stiff-leggedly for a few dozen feet before my legs returned to normal. So I decided just to power onward, walking as quickly as I could, trying not to calculate how long it might take me to walk 8+ miles. Sometimes I tried to run without bending my legs... that worked a little but, but even then I got those threats of cramping.

I made it eventually, in 5:03. It was 80-something degrees out—ugh. I guess I was walking pretty fast, then, since I'm sure I didn't run more than half of a mile after the 18-mile mark. I guess I should be more disappointed than I am... But I'm not because I know there are going to be a lot more marathons in my future (I'm already planning to do several around the world over the next few years). It's just a shame that my first one couldn't have been picture-perfect. Oh, speaking of pictures, I did try to run—and even smile—for the photographers, so hopefully there are some nice pictures.

But enough about the logistics: Let's talk about the course. It was incredible. The crowd support was phenomenal... more people were cheering than I ever could have expected. There were a few parts in which the crowd thinned a bit, but nowhere was there nobody. And the crowd was so diverse: Sometimes there were screaming people crammed shoulder to shoulder everywhere I could so—both at my flanks and at overpasses. People held all sorts of signs ("Toenails are overrated," "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon," "I love your stamina! My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx," and "I thought you said 2.62 miles!" are a few I remember) Cars that drove on roads adjacent to the course honked in support. Random people held out bowls of pretzels and fruit for us runners. There was an entire school pep band playing at one point. Somewhere around Mile 20, there were some people with a keg or two handing out free beer. I got a popsicle from a guy in the Mexican neighborhood. There were dancing dragon people in Chinatown. Several churches had their congregations out front cheering and playing upbeat music.

Maybe the best park was the Nike Inspiration Zone, I think around Mile 24. At that point I kept crying (I think?) but it turned out that I was laughing. I think I'm a lunatic. Anyway, that part was awesome; can't really describe it.

When I crossed the finish line, all the pain in my feet and the looming spasms in my legs went away. It was incredible. It was the most amazing feeling of accomplishment I've ever known. I got my weird thermal blanket thing I'm still not sure of the purpose of, my medal, a bag of yummies and a 312. I couldn't drink more than a few sips of the 312—my belly was so full of the Gatorade I kept drowning myself in with the hope that it'd cure my cramping (it didn't). And after a few minutes of walking (it was another mile to the point at which I'd arranged to meet my mom and brother) the pain came back. I saw people laying on the ground and I just wanted to do the same, but I figured I ought to find my family first...

Anyway, I told myself around Mile 20 that I'd never do it again, but I changed my mind by Mile 24. Bring it on.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Track me during the marathon!

Text 31646 to 99731 to track my running during the Chicago Marathon. You'll get a text update when I hit: 10k, half, 30k and finish.

See this page for more information:

You can also track me online (see the link above).


I decided to try to put into words what I've been feeling this week (since watching the Lakefront Marathon this Sunday), so that I can look back at this after the marathon and laugh (hopefully). Because right now I feel... something that I wish we had a word for.

It's the most severe case of excitement and worry that I've ever felt before, all bundled into a sinking feeling in my stomach. When I let myself focus on it, my head spins. I can almost feel whatever stuff makes up my head sinking down my spine and into my stomach.

This happens every time I think about the marathon, and I've been doing a lot of thinking about the marathon—it being only a few days away and everything. Even when I'm going over the logistics of getting to Chicago in my head, my stomach knots up. It is not pleasant.

I was trying to figure out why this is happening to me, and I have a few ideas. Obviously it's because I don't know what's going to happen on Sunday. I'm confident I'll finish the race (though even that isn't ensured), and I suspect I'll do it in a time that is respectable to me, but that is much less ensured than me finishing in the first place. The root of all this unsureness is, I think, that I don't yet consider myself a runner.

I've only been running, in even the most lenient sense of the word, for four years. For the first three of those, I'd never run more than a mile at a time. It was only about one year ago that I tried running 3.1 miles in preparation for my first race. Several months later, I moved up to five miles. And it's only been about three months since I ran anything more than that, and though I've completed my training well and I've proven to my body that I'm capable of covering the distance, it hasn't quite sunk in. I haven't proven to myself over a long period of time that I'm a runner. (I wonder how long that will take.) I need to make myself believe it.

Completing my first marathon may do the trick, but it's an awful game waiting.

I've also been getting caught up in the logistics. Should I bring my iPod? Some people say "no" unqualifiedly, but I've discounted their answers because they're seasoned runners and I am not. Some people say "yes" unqualifiedly, but then there are some parts of the runners' answer that ring true for me. And this conflict, though it may seem minor to an outsider, is kind of tearing me apart. I think I've decided to bring my iPod and use it if I need to, but now I'm questioning that conclusion.

And the weather! My last several long runs have started at 6:15 a.m. in the brisk of setting summer—50 degrees or less and sometimes coolly misty—and the forecast for Sunday in Chicago is upper 50s to 60s. Not a huge issue, compared to what the Midwest is capable of, but it's another thing for me to worry about.

Carbo-loading, that's another thing. Am I doing it right? What if I'm not? My legs have been feeling a little sore—do I need more protein? Am I just nervous? Am I eating too much? Am I taking in more fat or more protein than I think I am? Does it even matter?

Pace. I want so badly to finish in under four hours, but I have no idea if that is reasonable, especially considering I've barely been able to finish half-marathons in two hours. Though my last 8-miler was really fast for me—is that how the marathon is going to go now that I'm all tapered and rested? I've been trying to create a pace schedule for myself, but I really have no idea what I'm doing. I've come up with something that I think seems reasonable, but I have no reason to believe in it.

Then there's the stress of not having raised quite all the money I committed to raising for Rock for Reading.

And the stress of the rest of my life... Schoolwork catching up with me because there aren't enough hours in the day after I get off work and get out of class. My social life that's been little-existent. This book Brenna really wants me to read and she went out and bought it for me with the expectation that I'd finish it before my marathon but I just don't have the time to read it because my schedule affords me about 45 minutes of free time a day and I'd rather eat some food than read a book.

I'm terrified. I'm excited.

Everyone I talk to tries to give me solace, but it hasn't been helping. I think this is because these people are not me. This is my problem, and it happens in everything: I don't take people's word for it—I always have to find out for myself. Therefore I need to find the solace within myself. But it's been troublesome.

I have just written up a fairly exhaustive list of everything that's been keeping me on edge, and I can go through and refute each one individually to myself, but that doesn't help. This tells me that what I'm feeling is not the result of anything rational. And how do you vanquish something that doesn't adhere to any sort of laws? (At least laws I know about.)

In an attempt to restore some order to my life, I'm going to pack for the weekend. Then I'm going to get a head start on next week's schoolwork so that can't stress me out this weekend. Then I'm going to bed. I'm going to wake up at 1:55 a.m. to preorder my iPhone 4S and go back to bed. Then when I wake up it's going to be the big carbo-loading day—the start of my marathon weekend, but the end of my marathon training.

Breathe deeply with me.

Last run before the marathon...

Short two miles at pace this morning. Oh dear, I'm getting nervous again. Yesterday was also two miles, and the day before was three. They hardly seemed worth writing about...

Pace: 8:00

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Last long run...!

Just had my last long run before my marathon. I can't believe it. I'm only going to be running 7 more miles before heading for the starting line. Crazy.

Felicitously, today's run was really great. It was only 40 out, so there was no risk of overheating, and I think this was the biggest reason I was able to run 8.4 miles straight without any walking. It barely even crossed my mind that I ought to take walking breaks. Moreover, I did this at a nice speed, with an 8:36 pace. That's more or less the marathon pace I'm aiming for (but I'll do some walking—at aid stations—during the marathon).

Milwaukee's Lakefront Marathon is tomorrow... I plan on doing some recon near the finish line to see what it feels like. Exciting!

Pace: 8:36