Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Body Does What? Also: Porta-Potties

4 days til the marathon and my fears are actually starting to lift away.

I keep replaying Chadd telling me "it's just running.  It's not like this isn't something you don't know how to do, just go run."

It's also made so much better by the fact that my two very dear friends, Maureen and FJ, have volunteered to run a couple miles with me.  Technically, it's not allowed, but no one is ever stopped from running for a couple miles.  Maureen and I have a history of running together--accidentally or on purpose.  She and I usually wind up beating our PRs with each other because we think we're keeping the other back...that's how I crushed the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler at an 8:09 pace.

FJ is my iron man.  He ran Ragnar with me and literally had that name on the back of his shirt: "Iron Man."  FJ recently qualified for Boston and is a total inspiration to me--he's volunteered to run as many miles with me as I want.  And since he did his qualifying marathon two weeks ago, I'm not too concerned about his ability to do as many miles as I need.  I've asked him to be there for miles 16-20ish.

I've decided to run without my ipod for the majority of the race.  That truly was one of the best things about the marathon the first time--was the sound of runners.  It's a symphony of foot steps, breathing, whispers of encouragement, occasionally laughter, the crowd cheering, marching bands playing...and it feels at times like you are simply carried along by the runners around you.

Yes, there are moments when your body is in excruciating pain...probably best summarized by this WaPo article

I love especially the bit about the brain:

"The brain does not want the body to run into harm, so it will reduce its electrical impulses to the muscles--in other words, it will stop telling them to move.

Ready?...Or Not: The untrained brain has little or no experience with an effort of this magnitude.  If the body pushes too hard, the brain receives a cacophony of threatening signals--Temperature is rising! Fuel is disappearing! My engines can't take much more of this, Captain!"

That author is CLEARLY a runner.

Then you read articles like this:

And you think to yourself: I am not lucky to run, I am blessed to run.  I was passed in the Army 10 miler by a double amputee doing the race on two prosthetics.  I felt like a huge jerk because I was just mentally complaining about how much it hurt and how much I didn't want to do's the little reminders that keep your mind and body putting one foot in front of the other and to smile while doing it.

In the humor section...runners around the world are giving a big thumbs up to the Marine Corps Marathon race director who very clearly told Comedy Central to shove it when they asked if they could use the porta potties for the Steward/Colbert rallies the day before.

I love comedy, I love Stewart and Colbert, and I wish I could go to the rallies (I'm probably skipping in favor of the race expo and staying off my feet as much as possible since my angry heel is still, well, angry) but guys....the race has been planned for months and while I'm sure it will come through, your permit hasn't even been approved yet...and we've had ours for months.  And let me tell you, I don't believe you for one second that Comedy Central would be able to get them cleaned out and restocked in time for our race.  Don't throw a fit and tell us we're being unfair.  I paid good money for those porta potties to be there and clean, well-stocked, and useable for me when I'm running.  So unless some of the money that Comedy Central was offering to the MCM was going to go to crediting my race fee or to the Injured Marines fund, you can find your own potties.

A big heart felt thank you to the race director.  Thanks for standing up for us.  I'll think of you during all of my bathroom stops before/during/after the race.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Marathoning

Marathon count down: 5 days

I've been going over my training again and again in my head--the only run I didn't get in was my last 8 miles because of the conference last week.  I may try to get in something small tomorrow night just to stay loose and reassure myself.

I keep thinking about the pain of the last marathon.  I'm reminded of women talking about childbirth--that you must lose your mind or your memory if you think of doing it a second/third/fourth/etc. time.  Marathoning is like that.  The first time, you have no idea what you're in for.  Sure, training you threw up in a trashcan in the middle of campus, lost some toenails, and were sore more often than not....but you know, how bad could it be?  I was definitely nervous, but not like I am now.

Now, I remember how painful it was.  I have this searing memory of somewhere around mile 22-23 thinking my legs would never move forward again.  It was like running through concrete.  And finishing?  There was this momentary relief, then this irrational fear: what if my support crew can't find me? Why isn't there a place for me to sit down?  Can't someone see I just finished a marathon?  Why are they asking me to keep moving forward?  Please, someone, help me.

What I should be focusing on is this: the first hill was like cake, running through Georgetown was easy, I felt great when I saw Chadd and my mom at mile 11.  Running around the mall? Awesome.  And sprinting up the final hill to the finish line?  I did it.  I should remember the relief sinking in, how I cried when I got my official time and how freaking happy I was.  I was in so much pain, but it felt really good, I was so proud of myself.

See, running a marathon is really truly all in your head.

The final piece of the puzzle is this: it's nearly impossible to control all aspects of a marathon.  I've trained well, I've cross trained, I'm in the middle of hydrating, I will be well rested...but there are still strong possibilities that I could have a bad running day...I could crap my pants at mile 20 (seriously, these things happen), I could hit the wall...but:

I'm spending the rest of the week not talking about how nervous I am and instead focusing on the fact that I do love running, that regardless of the outcome.  Regardless of how I do this Sunday, I did myself proud during training and since I am almost positive I'll finish, I'm telling myself that despite my time, finishing a marathon twice is enough.  I can truly call myself a marathoner (K said that once I run 2, I can say marathoner).

If you'd like a good laugh...or perhaps reason to never run one:

I think they're hilarious, but then again, that might be runner humor.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Salad Life

The good news!  I had my stress echocardiogram last Thursday after a very crazy week at a client's major conference.

The stress test was annoying at it's worst--I got there, lay down, had my uncomfortable echocardiogram (you guys, let's be a bit more gentle on the left side of one's chest.  There are ribs under that skin and fat....)

Then I jumped on the treadmill, and walked up a very steep incline (hi, my hill training is lacking, clearly) until my heart rate got to a certain percentage (I believe 85%), then you jump off the treadmill, lie down as quickly as possible and do another cold gel filled echocardiogram!

From what I gather, everything is fine--she said I could do the marathon, but she had to run because she was leaving the country to see her 88 year old mother and she wanted to schedule a follow-up to discuss.  I'll assume all things are fine.

In less awesome news, I do still have to have my hernia surgery (womp womp) on Nov. 18th.  I have no idea what to expect, other than that I asked them to put all the way under to do it.

What I do expect, however, is to be basically immobile for a couple weeks (immobile means I cannot run).  I was told that I could start "walking on a treadmill" two weeks after surgery.  Sigh.

This also means that I need to very quickly ditch my marathon training eating habits (which I won't even go into right now)

I've been analyzing my diet and once again, fresh food has fallen off the menu.  It seems to be inversely proportionate to the amount of time I have.

In spectacular news, Chadd was offered a new job last week that will put us on the same schedule.  If you've ever lived with someone on the opposite schedule as you (especially someone you love), you know how tough that gets.  While everyone else goes on dates during the week, shares chores, gets up and spends the morning getting ready/getting in each others' ways, etc., you're own your own.  It's been very difficult and very draining at times.

We celebrate this weekend with a bunch of fun stuff we've had on our lists to do--Luray Caverns, massages, dinner out, beignet breakfast, etc.

In short: my life is going to get a lot easier not having to worry about the car, now that I won't be tempted to stay up til midnight to talk with him while he's at work via video chat...I will actually have time to do normal people things like make dinner, fresh lunch, and eat breakfast.  Chadd's a lot better about keeping a schedule than I am.

Bottom line: I'm going to do an experiment to try and encourage veggies into my diet.  I'm going to do a salad for one meal every day.  These salads don't have to be run of the mill--I'm dreaming up one right now with a soy sauce reduction with seared ahi tuna, a bed of edamame, water chestnuts, baby corn, and a crap load of dark lettuce.  See where I'm going with this?

I need your favorite dressings, salad combos, etc.  I'll post my salad every day and a picture.

The experiment will probably start Nov. 8 (I want to have 2 weeks to get used to the low cal life style again).

Salad favorites...and go!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

At the Heart of the Matter

Friends and family, please get your heart checked.

After I finished Ragnar, I heard the sad story that one of the runners on another team passed away during the race.  I'm not sure what caused it--but it's probably what kills almost every runner in a race: massive heart attack from an unknown congenital heart defect.

I went to my doctor even though I don't have family history for heart disease or defects and got an EKG.

That EKG showed signs of a very small issue, something I can't pronounce or remember, that basically means that the right side of my heart is a bit weaker than the left.  At least, that's what I think it means.

My Dr. said she had no problem letting me run and that most people have some sort of something with their bodies--this one was very very common, in no way an issue, but because I specifically asked, she was going to send me to a cardiologist.

My cardiologist is a nut ball in a great way--she's a middle european (not sure which small czech like country she's from) and full of energy.  When she directed me to walk over to my GP across the hall to get my blood work, the receptionist was like "oh, you must be seeing Dr. Hausner...hang on." and went to get my files.

I loved her immediately.  She did an echocardiogram and another EKG, all the while telling me about why I should drink Kefir and how good it would be for my bones (my calcium in my bloodwork is in the acceptable range, God knows what set her off)

After the tests, we got the same results and just to cross off all possibilities, I'm doing a full stress test next week.


As much of a hassle as it is, it's a great fear of mine to drop dead in the middle of a race.  It's just as much of an irrational fear as my fear of being that person in the first 5 minutes of law and order who discovers the body...but it happens to a small percentage of the population, and I want to make damn sure I'm not in those numbers.

If anyone in your family has a heart issue, no matter how small, please go and get an EKG.  They take no time whatsoever, and they may save your life.

When I told my boss that I had to work from home today because of when and where my cardiologist appointment was, his ears perked up, then when I told him why I was going, he said that a friend of his was a Marine, did races, etc...and dropped dead of a massive heart attack while doing a 5k.

None of what I'm saying is meant to scare you, it's just meant to tell you that even healthy people have heart attacks--because they don't know if they have any issues that aren't disease or life style related!  Ask for an EKG at your GP's.  It seriously takes 30 seconds and it's worth it if it saves your life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Mental Game

The marathon is in 18 days.

If you've given up on my blog and started reading my tweets and facebook status updates (what are you doing here?) then you know that my Ragnar Team recently completed the Ragnar Cumberland to DC 201.5 race.  All I can tell you until I have time to put my thoughts into words was that it was awesome and I encourage anyone who enjoys running even a little bit to do it at least once.

One of the girls on my team has decided to form a new team for the Ragnar Keys (Miami to Key West), so I'll be heading down to Florida in early January for that epic awesomeness again...and if you're interested, I might have one invitation for you, pending someone else deciding whether or not to lose their mind.

This weekend, I somehow talked Chadd into doing the Warrior Dash 5k up on Pennsylvania where I finished with a respectable time of 30:28.  A 5k with mud pits, a flame leap, cargo net climbs, climbing over tankers, sloshing through a pond with logs, a mud hill climb...we had a blast (see below)

As far as training goes, I've been pretty good about getting my running in, though lately I've been letting the short runs slide (not good), though my cross training is pretty high.

When I did my 18 (coming down from 20), I was holding between an 8:10 and an 8:20--consider that in training I take a 1 minute walk break every 10 minutes, bringing my average mile pace up to about an 8:40.

This is enough to make it under 4 hours...provided I don't cramp up, my knee that got a bit swollen after running down a mountain for my first leg in Ragnar doesn't give up (like it did at the end of 15), etc. etc. etc.

I told myself after I did the last one, two things:
1) I would never do another marathon
2) I would only do another marathon if I didn't put a time limit on myself.

I mean, I know I can do it.  That part isn't the scary part.  It's the doing it in less than 4 hours.  Because then I'll feel like I need to do another one to prove...prove what?

Welcome to my train of thought for the past month.

I feel like I spend hours chewing on this thought of: this is my last marathon (thank God), but it's my last chance to do it under 4 hours....and what if I don't do it in under four hours?  What then?  I don't want to train up again for another marathon.  I'm fine with half marathons, 10 milers, Ragnars, etc...I don't even WANT Boston.  I've been that runner who never had a Boston dream and I still don't, but I still go "well, what if I qualified?" (that would be a 3:40 time I'd have to get at the Marine Corps)  Of course I'd run Boston and I'd run Boston without a time goal.

But the bigger "what if" in my mind is "what if I don't do it in four?"  It's a hard feeling to describe.  No one is pressuring me to do it in less than four.  No one is pressuring me to give up marathons (aside from my own body that is oh so tired of long training sessions).  Everyone I know will be proud of me for doing the marathon, much less doing it under 4...

On a similar train, Chadd and I were having dinner post Warrior Dash and I was telling him how I wanted to do the Tough Mudder--it's essentially the Warrior Dash on steroids.  It's between 7 and 12 miles of running and very difficult obstacles.  It was designed with the help of the British Special Forces and encourages "Just finishing" because you cannot win without teamwork from the other mudders in the race.

It looks hard.  I would have to hire my personal trainer for specific training workouts.  I tried to explain that I kept looking for something that would say "this is it, this is as hard as your body can do, and we can't go any further."  One one side of the coin, it sounds like a glorious chase for bigger and better, but for me, it feels like a hunger that cannot be fulfilled--a longing of sorts--and not in a good way.

Perhaps I phrased it incorrectly to Chadd over dinner, but what came out was:
"I feel like I'm constantly running away from who I was in high school, and I am afraid that no matter what races I do, no matter how fast I do them, I will always be the unathletic sweater vest wearing debate nerd that I was.  I don't want people to think about me and see who I was."

Granted, I doubt anyone that I don't already talk to even thinks about me much less cares or judges who I am now or who I was then.  It's an insane thought that sits in my head and pokes at me when I'm not expecting it...

Is there anything wrong with being a sweater vest wearing debate nerd?  Hell no, I loved myself and I believe 100% that debate was brilliant for where I am today.  I would change nothing aside from my physical fitness.  That's all I'd change.  It's just how I see myself.

Sweet, wonderful Chadd says this:
"You know, who you were in high school wasn't a bad person..."

Maybe it wasn't the words he said so much as it was the way he looked at me.  Keep in mind, we met, started dating, and fell in love while we were in high school.

Maybe it's not about high school.  Maybe it's not about anyone else, maybe it's about that dreaded self image and fat days and bloated days and all of that.

Where do I get my trophy that says "I've conquered myself.  I can achieve no higher!"

I'm betting that a lot of this is also weighing on my mind because I have to have minor surgery (yaay hernia repair!) that will take me out of action for 6 weeks.  I can "go for long walks" after 2 weeks.  GREAT!

Prepare to see some posting about salad eating...

anyway.  I'm burnt out on thoughts.  does anyone get how I feel?  Or am I just getting the effects of marathon training again?