Twenty Mile Monday

Twenty miles in the rain = not so much fun

Twenty Mile Monday could have easily been titled, Brutal With A Captial “B.” It was that hard.

I knew I was up against a big one when the skies opened as I waited to leave. The fact that my Garmin was dead was another good indication. In the end, I chalked up the difficult nature of the run to not only those unfortunates, but I’m pretty sure my premonitions, made in a post two days ago, jinxed me as well.

Superstitions are not a new thing for athletes. We’ve all heard of baseball players who wear the same socks for entire seasons or who chew on a certain type of gum during every game. I have learned that it is a very bad idea for me to write any sort of expectations about an upcoming run. It’s happened more than a few times now and I think I get it.

With the marathon nineteen days away, the only talk will be about the fact that it lingers and any actual running that is happening after the fact. Better safe than sorry.

For the first two hours of yesterday’s run I listened to my book. Since I don’t want to spoil anything for folks who haven’t yet read Chasing Fire, I will just say that the only smile that crossed my face (during my long four hours and fifteen minutes on the puddled roads) was when Girl on Fire put on her wedding dress and spun. I had visions of feathers and fire and pearls, which was a lovely prelude to my minds swirling images of Oscar actresses twirling in their own gowns. The description of Katniss took my breath away, much as it did when I got the first glimpse of Gwyneth in her cape and Claire at the after party.

When I realized I wasn’t paying attention to the story any longer I switched to music. But an hour of Ellie and Britney and Beyonce couldn’t block out the harsh reality that I was soaked to the bone. The Kleenex in my pockets were solid bricks of wet paper and I resorted to nose blowing on the arms of my shirt. My hands were bright red, almost purple from the cold. I tried to cover them with the long ends of my race shirt, but would let go when I noticed that the tight gripping caused new pain.

Pain in the hands could be managed by releasing the grip and opening and closing my fingers to get some blood moving. This then helped eased the tension in my shoulders. The pain in my legs was the worst and I knew it wouldn’t be remedied until I was done.

By seventeen miles I wanted to throw the white flag. I no longer cared about my time, my only objective became to finish. I tucked the ear phones into my pocket and tried to concentrate on what was happening in my body. My calves were bad. There was new pain at the inner corner of my knees. The place where my foot met my leg, not the ankle exactly, but around to the front, was sore and tight like a pulled rubber band. I knew that at this point I had no choice but to walk and take inventory of the issues so as not to injure myself further. As much as I wanted to be inside my house, warm in my tub, legs propped up on my bed, I continued the walk run until mile nineteen.

When I saw that I was almost there I didn’t stop running, even though my run was closer to a walk, a depressing fourteen minute mile slow. I hit the stop button on the Garmin at twenty and grunted like a woman in labor for the next fifteen minutes. It took time to strip off my clothes, because my hands were such a mess. I was grateful that no one was home because they surely would have been horrified. I knew I had a list of things to attend to so that I’d be able to put it all behind me. I had to keep moving.

I managed to get all the layers off save my undergarments and base top. I opened a chocolate milk and guzzled some down. In between grunts I managed to mix up a greek yogurt with honey and add some Go Lean and strawberries. Then I located the roller.

I got down on the floor after a bite  and a swig and began by rolling out my left IT band. The pain was not bad, so I moved around to my left quad. Next were the right hip, IT, and quad which were better than usual. The major pain was in the calves and I yelped at the point where the roller crossed them, up and down and back again.

The one part of my body that didn’t hurt, in fact it looked radiant, was my face. Four hours of running in the elements does wonderful things for the skin. I looked rosy and clear, pretty on the outside; a complete opposite from what was happening on the inside.

I should probably label today Taper Tuesday, since it is the official beginning of the final three weeks. Instead, I’m christening it Take Care of Mommy Tuesday.

I told Sophie and she suggested that maybe I could use a wheel chair. I agreed what a great idea, but she reminded me I’d have no one to push it, since Dad will be at work and I’m too big for her to wheel around.

Who am I kidding?

A mother’s work is never done even if she did just run in the depths of hell the very day before.

The cape that made me gasp! This is beyond divine!
Claire Danes in Valentino. I love this dress and don't think she's ever looked prettier.

Waiting to Run

It’s raining. No, it’s pouring.

The sun is hiding making it feel colder than it is.

The Garmin is out of juice and while I wait, I type.

I’ve already changed from crops and a light windbreaker to the outfit worn when it’s really bad out there. My only pair of long tights, now a little too big from months of running, but warm and necessary. They are Lucy, navy blue with zippers at the back hem. They don’t match anything I own and I don’t much care. I’ve layered a Swiftly with a race shirt and a rain repellant vest over top. The iPhone is in a ziplock. The Fuel Belt is loaded and the extra water bottle is ready to be stashed near the bushes near Windjammer Road. My toque, only pulled out for the very worst in weather is pulled down tightly and I’m taking the Zeal’s which have always been good to me in the rain.

I am going to do this twenty miles. It will happen. The waiting is making my heart beat fast in my chest.

At what point will the Garmin be ready? The little battery is inching it’s way up with no sign of stopping. Do I take it now and hope it lasts for the next four hours? Shall I wait another fifteen minutes to be sure it’s got a better chance?

One thing is for certain, and that thing will power me through. When this run is complete it will be another reminder that nothing can keep a tough girl down.

Not this rain nor the very darkest of days.

Running Noses, Running Pants

Yesterday was gorgeous and sunny and Peach offered to take the girls even though she was feeling rough. I took her up on her offer and am glad I did, because today is cold and rainy and it’s my turn to feel rough. All my recent tiredness was indeed the pre-cursor to a brand new cold virus. I should have known.

Thankfully, I can report that I have no fever or closed up throat, and had I not run yesterday I would have missed week fourteen’s long run and been unable to review the CW-X Pro pant that came in the mail last week.

Everyone knows how I love my Lululemon. It’s not just that there is thought behind the design; the stuff performs. But still, I’ve had trouble with my hips and couldn’t resist the urge to try out a pair of compression pants to (hopefully) reduce the pain.  I will certainly continue to run long distances once the marathon is over, since I am hooked, so I was hoping I could add them to my arsenal of gear goodies.

After a visit to Raleigh Running Outfitters a few weeks ago, where I invested in a pretty pink and painful foam roller, one of the running geniuses (sincerely) confirmed what I had learned through my research regarding compression gear; they are helpful to some and could aid in quicker recovery. CW-X seemed to be the ones to try and the Pro is made to help stabilize the hips and flexors.

I wore them yesterday and had high hopes. I wanted to love them, but I’m on the fence.

The good news is that the do what they are meant to do; they compress!

From the waist through the legs and to the calves they are tight with very little stretch. It took a while to wiggle myself in and get the placement just right to avoid any chaffing. The bands that act like Kinesio tape, used by sports doctors and trainers to help stabilize and protect the muscles, are made from a material that I could only compare to the sails on boats; rough and hard.

I did notice less pain in my hips while on the road, which was my main goal. My legs didn’t feel lighter or springier, but the compression made for less bouncing, which is always a good thing.

There were things I didn’t love, though.

For starters, the compression around my waist was sort of painful. I bought a medium, since my height and weight fell in the section of the size medium graph, but the tightness left a red mark on my skin long after the pants came off. I usually like a higher waisted running pant (it helps me stay focused on form) but the elastic on these dug into me so much that and I had to gradually move them down as the miles continued on. It took about forty five minutes to feel comfortable enough to quit fussing with them and I was seriously debating a pit stop at home to switch them out for my Dash tights. I missed the stretch and snap of my Lululemon’s, the softness of their luxtreme, but like I said, no hip pain was my motivator so in that sense, job well done.

When I got back to pick up the girls, I hung out on Peachie’s porch and watched the crazies running and falling the tall grass, creating huge stains on their knees. I also watched the salt evaporate through my new pants.

I have never noticed any of my running pants do this before and I had no idea I had such sweaty knees. I suppose this could be viewed as a positive, the wicking properties were working, but who wants to walk around with their pants covered in chalky whiteness, remnants of their workout? I don’t know why, but this grossed me out worse than that stripe of wetness that the lower back and rear end gets from a good sweaty workout.

It was time to go.  I collected the kids’ stuff, buckled them in the car and drove home for tubbies all around.

I didn’t have time for a good epsom soak, so I worried that there would be pain today, but I’m happy to say that I’m feeling fine in the lower extremities. Maybe the pants worked after all?

I’ll try them next Saturday as I set out for the tip top of the marathon training mountain; the final twenty miler. I still have hope that they’ll be useful, so I’ll give them another go.

For now and the next day or two, the only running that’s happening is occurring in my sinus cavities.

If only they made compression pants for my nose.

CW-X Pro 3/4 Pant
Weird Salty Knees. They got a little baggy too (and shifted), maybe from the lack of stretch?
The knees of one of my rough and tumble girls.

Down to Days

The past few weeks of running, including my nineteen miler, were done without audio books. I finished the last chapter of Dead Until Dark a few weeks back, while sitting in my car at Whole Foods, eating kale salad before going to pick up the kids. I knew how it was going to end, since I’d watched it play out on t.v., but even so I was sad to say, “Goodbye,” to the book version of Sookie.

Yesterday I downloaded the second book in the Hunger Games series; Catching Fire. It started little ahead of where the last book finished, but I was pulled right back in and excited to see where we would go. I feel a sort of kinship with Katniss, Girl on Fire. It isn’t logical, but she did get me through some of my very first long runs, while at the same time running for her own life in the games. As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be channeling her with flaming fingernails on March 18th, so it was appropriate that she would be my choice for heroine du jour during these final weeks of training.

Those few weeks without stories made me realize that I’ve got to have one (or two) going at all times. I had checked out When Margaret was Young, by my favorite author Jane Hamilton, but could never figure out how to get it to import to my phone. In a way I was glad, though, because what if I didn’t like it? Could Jane Hamilton be my favorite author anymore if I couldn’t connect with her book? I returned it without listening, but will try to go back to it later, when I have less on my plate. I would hate to be disappointed by my book of choice at this juncture.

After my lunch date with Sookie, which turned out to be a surprisingly calm and enjoyable addition to my schedule, I decided that I needed a car read. While at the library, waiting for the girls to fill their “library purses,” I hunted down the audio book for Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.

I’ve often wondered what it was about that book that kept me so entranced as a young girl in the sixth grade, reading it for the very first time. I figured that it would be good research as I ponder the kind of books I myself want to write, and at the same time, be my companion as I eat my lunch. It probably sounds like a pretty nerdy and isolationist thing to do, but it is very hard to get quiet these days, and it’s less sad than eating alone absolute silence.

As a side note, I have returned to the land of exhaustion. After writing about Sweet Sleep, where I felt recovered from the overwhelming tiredness that had been plaguing me, it took one night of a past eight p.m. bedtime to fall back into the realm of six p.m. crashing and burning.

I wonder if it’s this point of marathon training and part of recovery? Maybe I’m coming down with something?

With only twenty-nine days until the race, my most important goal is to stay healthy. Peach called me yesterday with another cold and cough, my girls have been blowing their own little noses, and I watched a coughing boy at pre-school wipe his hand down the entire banister as he descended the stairs, surely on his way to the doctor. Germs are everywhere!

It is my biggest fear that I’ll get sick within days of the race and be unable to compete. That scenario has occurred two other times in my racing history. There’s nothing worse than being ill with a deep lung cough and cold at the same time that hundreds of people are running your race.

Fear aside, books in place, continued rest, one more big run, and quiet car lunches are on the menu until tapering begins.

Tapering. The final stage of this journey. I can barely believe it’s almost here.

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. By Judy Blume.
Library Purses from Port Canvas in Maine. Notice the quality reading in Sophie's bag! She couldn't resist SpongeBob LovePants. Can you blame her?

The Truth About G.I. Jane

I debated long and hard before I hit the publish button after completing yesterday’s post. In the end I decided that what I wrote was the truth and if a certain someone was angry with me, well then, tough cookies!

The reality is that it turned out to be a good thing. Not only did I get amazingly positive and supportive emails (and comments) from my bloggy friends and family alike, the hubby was awfully nice for the rest of the day. He actually took Sophie to the grocery store on a Sunday (this never happens) and worked hard in the kitchen making the most beautiful sushi for our dinner.

Even though the truth hurts sometimes,  it’s always better to speak it than hide behind the fear.  Plus, if we shared our common experiences more, wouldn’t we feel a lot less the less alone in the world?

I think so.

An unfortunate truth about running long distances is the effect that the duration of exercise can have on the gastrointestinal tract.

It’s common knowledge among long distance runners that the depletion of glycogen stores in the muscles (that happens about every forty-five minutes to an hour into exercise) must be replenished to boost energy and aid in recovery. It’s also widely understood that any experimentation with how to manage carbohydrate and glucose replenishment should be practiced during training, never during a race, to ensure no unfortunate G.I. Issues (before, during, or after).

At the of start of my adventure in longer distanced running I played with different flavors of Gu (a sticky gel like substance). It has a funny texture, which is why a lot of people don’t like it, but one of my marathoning heroines (the amazing M.M.) turned me onto the Vanilla Bean flavor, which I love. Once a Gu is taken, it is important to drink a good amount of water to get it into the system. Soon after sucking it down I can feel the legs pick up steam, and the caffeine (in it) perks me up like a good shot of coffee would.

It was working fine, but I was curious about the Cliff Shot Bloks, which are like big square gummies with carbs and electrolytes, and so recently began rotating them in; Gu and then Bloks at about every five miles. I started to miss the caffeine, though, so I moved back to my Gu with a few Bloks thrown in when needed. I also filled two of my four Fuel Belt bottles with watered down Gatorade, a tip I received from the nice guy at the running store.

The strategy had thus far been successful, but in an effort to promote even better and faster recovery (or push my luck as I have been known to do), I decided to experiment even further.

I’d read that Gatorade (as fluid/electrolyte replacement) was better than drinking plain water after a long run, so soon after I got home on Saturday I started to guzzle the stuff.

This is when (I am convinced) the experiment went awry.

By awry, I mean that my G.I. tract revolted.

By revolted, I mean, it was revolting!

I tried to think of a good title for a post about an unhappy gastrointestinal tract; G.I. Jane, or G.I Martha, or Don’t Drink The Hatorade?

Whatever the title, my more important goal was to share this little piece of information with the hope that another runner might know and benefit from my disastrous test.

It’s always better to know than to wonder.

Ain’t that the truth.

S.E.X. and Math

I had a feeling that week eleven’s long run would be more successful than ten’s, if only because I could manage it mathematically in my head. Six plus six plus six equaled the eighteen I would attempt; easily broken into thirds and much more manageable than seventeen.

Seventeen is more than an actual odd number. It’s odd because of its placement amongst the other numbers on the line, yes, by it’s also odd because it’s so difficult to divide; at least when traveling approximately 12.5 miles per hour (for almost four) on working and weary legs.

Almost forgetting that my last audiobook had ended, I needed to come up with a new selection for today. I settled upon the first in the True Blood series by Charlaine Harris. Since I am already a huge fan of the show, I figured it would be fun to see how the book compared, and I was more than pleasantly surprised by the words I heard through my ear buds.

That Sookie Stackhouse is even better as a written character study; deftly described, true and honest, young and real.

But it was the descriptions with her Bill that determined a new audible element quite helpful for long distance running.

Listen to a book with S.E.X.

In our house, we spell it so that it doesn’t become a conversation starter during share time at pre-school.

Who knew it could make a girl run faster, for longer, long after her legs were ready to retire?


A little Vampire Bill (and Jason Stackhouse and Sam Merlotte) helped me zone out enough to forget that my right rear glut was flaming for almost 10 miles. Was it cheating since I had actual images of them (Ryan Kwanten, et al.) to compare to the pictures that were painted in the story; Bill’s dark eyes and smoldering voice, Jason’s bod and easy conquests, Sam’s eagerness for Sookie to know how he felt about her?

No, I decided, just another motivator like Gu and skinnier legs.

Easy math, a flaming right glut, combined with the deliciousness of Vampire Bill and the boys of Bon Temps!

I almost forgot this was my longest run yet.


Despite yesterday’s difficult seventeen, I did what I was supposed to once I returned home.

The advice I’d been given was this; eat a good source of protein and carbs as soon as you get back, eat about every hour the rest of the day, drink lots of water, take some Advil and an epsom bath, and then elevate the legs for about an hour.

Surprisingly, it worked. I feel so much better today than I did last week when the fifteen mile run was exhilarating, but my negligence to follow recovery protocol left me in a lot of pain. Pain for days.

My biggest pain today was in the form of two four-year olds who decided it would be funny to put their cheese and crackers on the floor and then stomp them while wearing clogs. As they ran away from me (laughing), crumbs flew everywhere and the cheese was streaked and smooshed across the kitchen tile.

My heart rate monitor would have registered 220 (if I’d had it on) as I dragged little girls to their room. When it became clear that it was still two against one, I separated them into different rooms, which confirmed they were in big trouble!  Up and down stairs went I making them stay where I’d put them. The trauma of being sent to your room; tear streaked faces peeking out of the doors making sure I was still near, slamming doors shut when they realized I was.

When it was over and all was calm, they were hungry and wanted lunch. I needed a nap.

At bed time, after another post dinner melt down/time out, Grace sighed, “I had a bad day.”

“Yes you did, Sweetie, but tomorrow we’ll try again.”






It Wasn’t Pretty

I did what I set out to do, but it wasn’t pretty. It was brutal and cold and if you could have  seen my face at the end you’d have had no doubt that I speak the truth.

Next week’s eighteen has to be better. Maybe the sun will shine instead of hiding behind the clouds, which produced a mist that never let up.

Despite my plan to avoid the hills, when running seventeen miles around Raleigh they are unavoidable. I even walked up a few, much to my dismay. I know it’s alright to walk once in a while, but I hate it. It always feels like defeat.

At mile fifteen I asked myself what I was thinking. I’m not lithe like a runner. I am round and slow and felt overwhelming tiredness and pain. My head was in the run more than the rest of me, today. The pain was mental, which is worse than sore feet or aching hips.

My time was what I expected; moving for three hours and fifty minutes. I would have taken a picture of the Garmin, but by the time I was finished I didn’t care about documenting it. My only thought was (in this order) food and water, bath and bed.

So here I am, feet elevated and tucked under a pile of blankets, laptop in the place for which is was named, sweatshirt zipped up to my nose.

Some days you just have to let it go. It’s done and it is what it was. I did what I set out to do, but it wasn’t pretty. Not even close.



Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Tomorrow I will run seventeen miles.

What’s crazier than actually running seventeen miles, is that I’m not all that worried about it. I know that I’ll be able to do it and I have a plan.

My goal for tomorrow is to run slowly and easily for the first ten miles. Instead of focusing on the time below the beveled face of the Garmin, I’m going to watch my blinking heart rate, so that I can accurately monitor my exertion.

This has been a plan a few times before, but as endorphins begin to fool me into believing I am stronger and faster than I am, I speed up too early making my remaining miles feel endless.

No, I am sticking to the plan. Ten easy miles.

At ten point one I will Gu, and then speed up a bit.

I’ve been pretty consistent when it comes to hitting hills, but tomorrow I’m gifting myself with a flatter course; throwing myself a little bone.

Around North Raleigh I will go, literally, since the hills are in the center. I will probably finish my audiobook, so the last miles will be motivated by music and the long hot epsom salt bath I will soak my aching bones in soon after I return.

I must be certain to eat properly first, before schlepping my legs up the stairs to get clean.

Last week’s fifteen made me so endorphin high (happy and eager to share) that I immediately sat down to write. I was coated in sweat, as if I’d been dipped in the Red Sea, and completely dry by the time I was finished. I neglected to feed my body, instead choosing to feed my mind, and believe that I suffered from the choice later when recovery had begun. My legs felt detached from my torso, like I was hauling around a pair of tree trunks out of proportion with the rest of me. The exhaustion of the task was incomparable to any tired feeling I’ve known before.

Speaking of fuel, I’m going to make an extra effort to eat mindfully today. I have enough kale and beets left for an afternoon juicing. Last night’s spaghetti and sauce (cooked with carrots and shallots, celery and garlic) will be a great choice for tonight’s dinner. At the grocery store this afternoon, I will steer clear of the cookie bin, but buy more garlic and apples and ginger. I need to use more ginger.

Stay tuned. Send good vibes. Pray for an easy time and pleasant weather. I’ll be surely thinking of you all, whose precious time spent reading this is so appreciated and who have added a priceless aspect to my motivation and training.