I kissed a unicorn and I liked it

How to train for a hilly marathon…
1. Run Hills
2. Kiss Unicorns
3. Embrace the suck

With 26 days to go until the Adirondack marathon, i’ve reached my peak mileage and am trying to face the fact that I don’t think i’m going to do well at the race.

Maybe its the weather, maybe its the strength training affecting my runs, maybe its stress, maybe its just a major slump. But even Big Papi had one and came back better than ever, so if it is a slump, I just gotta hang in there and muscle through until it breaks wide open.

Saturday was the first of my two 20-milers. And I spent a couple of days debating which I needed more – hills or an easy route I could build some self confidence on by doing well. I consulted my sole-sister coach. And she reminded me that running is 90% mental and the rest is all in your head… and to do what my instincts told me.

They told me – chase the unicorn.

Buried in the middle of the hilly park that I had to avoid a couple of weeks ago because of a 5k, is a unicorn statue. And I hadn’t visited in a while, so I mapped out an out and back (with a couple of loops in the middle).

My Adirondack simulation route – elevation chart…

Saturday morning was delightfully chilly…so I put on my lucky shorts, my disney marathon tee, my favorite turquoise sparkle visor, packed my buddy pouch full of gels and took off.

I wanted to run easy…to not push and save energy for the later miles. I cruised along enjoying the cool air and crushing the hills. And after a fun short steep one on my first loop of the park discovered this view…

As often as i’ve driven through there, i’ve never noticed. We just see SO much more on foot. And I continued on. And when I hit the ‘zoo’ after a long downhill, I said hi to the goats.

Second loop I found the unicorn. And with a kiss for luck (and a couple selfies) headed down the hill. 
 And down to a lower section i’d never been too. Where I found some crazy wooden flowers (and a nice clean portapotty). Of course, I regretted that detour when I had to go back UP the hill i’d been down. But its all good.

And when my watched beeped mile 10 I decided to stop on the stone wall and relax a minute to have my gel and water before heading out of the park and back along the route. Which was now some long downhill with a few ups. And by mile 13 my calves were mooing. Uh-oh. I stopped to stretch and knew I needed to refill my water because it was getting sunnier and warmer.

Yet, when I stopped at the only store between myself and home to buy water, it kinda didn’t work. It’s a small cafe in a garden center. And there was a group of girls getting fancy coffee drinks and after 5 minutes I gave up and left.

And at mile 14 when I had my next gel I kind of had a meltdown. I was hot, I was thirsty, and had my iPod had wifi service where I was, I might have called for a ride home.

And I had an epiphany…my body was reacting almost exactly like it did when I ran Adirondack in 2015. The hills had my legs like burnt toast and knowing how far I had left my mind started to play tricks on me and the doubt crept in.

So I stopped for a moment. Took a breath and sucked it up. I started walking. And made a deal with myself – 1/4 mile run, 1/4 mile walk, repeat. And sure, each mile got a little slower but I was still moving.

At mile 18 I was home and ran in to get some water before finishing the last 2 miles. I was hot and nauseous and SO dehydrated. But I was not giving up. I dry heaved a bit and the hubs said to me “well, if you’re going to throw up, maybe you shouldn’t go back out. Then again, if you throw up outside, its all just nature” hahahaha thanks babe!

I went out. With the plan to just walk the two miles. Also knowing, no way was I just walking. So I threw in some short run sections, just because. And…I finished all 20. The overall pace was slower than i’d hoped. But, I survived. I managed my mind and my legs and I never truly gave up.

And what have I learned from all this? That my next 20 miler i need to:
– Wear compression sleeves or socks
– Plan better water stops
– Run more hills
– Let it go 

The Adirondack marathon will never be a PR course for me. I think I will always struggle. Its the nature of the route. And while sure, i’d like to think i’ve gotten wiser and stronger as a runner and that I should be able to run it better than in 2015, I also have run enough to know that you can’t predict what will happen in a race.

So, I need to view this less as a race and more as a 26.2 mile adventure. A loop around the lake with something shiny at the end. And I love shiny things. 😁

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Muscle Up Buttercup

I knew before I even left the house, that this run was extremely likely to go downhill. And not in the “whee, this is a fun hill to cruise down” kind of way. 

I mean like spectacularly awful crash and burn. 

Yet, with only 6 weeks until the Adirondack Marathon, it had to happen. 

The schedule called for 18 miles. And I planned out a route that had some really good training hills and a loop through a local park with a menagerie of animals (not quite a zoo) we’ve always called Goat World. 

Nothing. And I meant NOTHING went according to plan. Lol

It was 70 and 95% humidity when I headed out. By mile 2.5 I was already starting to drink my water. I had my buddy h2o, which only holds 10 ounces.  But that’s okay, because I knew there were a couple fountains along the route where I could refill. Or so I thought.  

At mile 6, I noticed a whole bunch of orange cones and one of these signs…

Hmmm this could be a problem. I’m fairly sure that race starts at Goat World. I may need to change my route. 

Of course, since I’ve taken to carrying my iPod instead of phone, I had to wait a 1/2 mile until I got to a wi-fi hotspot to confirm. And sure enough…I was on the course. A 1/2 hour before it started. 

I was also out of water by now. And the first  water fountain I knew of? Was turned off. Damn. 

Enticed by the idea of going by and seeing all the 5k runners, trying to figure out where I could get / buy water, and knowing that if I turned around where I was thinking to, I could end up SO in the way of the race, I headed towards Goat World. 

And…like a gift from the running gods, encountered a water stop. Those awesome race volunteers took pity on me and left me fill my water bottle, and wished me luck. 

A 1/4 mile later, I encountered the most aggressive dog I’ve ever met on a run. A large German shepherd, barking like he wanted to eat me and coming across the street at me. So, I stopped. And faced him. And he backed down and went home. I said out loud to him “what the hell was that?” And continued on and up. 

I was in the hilly section now, and the sun was shining. And I was starting to get nauseous. I had to stop for a minute to calm myself down. And then headed past where the runners were gathering for the race. 

Man I love being surrounded by runners. The energy is just contagious. I smiled at a few, wished a couple luck, and then encountered the mother of all downhills. 

The kind of downhill that makes you seriously question if you can make it down without falling headfirst. But, this was important for Adirondack. Because I know there’s a couple of those in the first half of the race. 

I reached the bottom at mile 10. Stood in the shade to open a gel, and seriously questioned myself.  I kinda wanted to call for a ride home. I was trying to figure out if I could call it at 12 and save the 18 for next weekend. 

I was miserable. Really miserable. But I was not going down without a fight. Time to muscle up, buttercup.  Because we don’t train just to make the race easier. We also train to learn how to embrace the suck. 

I did, however, decide that this was now going to be for time versus distance. And that I could likely pull off 16 miles in the time 18 should have taken. 3 hours. 

I stopped to buy a bottle of water. Where I of course forgot to stop my watch. This led to a horribly skewed time for that mile, so I don’t really know what my average was. Lol but that’s okay. It was slow. 

Because again, I was starting to feel ill. And stopping constantly to drink water. And I was SO gritty that it hurt to wipe my face and neck. 

And then I got my second gift from the running gods at mile 11. Sprinklers!! A low long line of sprinklers. And I probably stood there for 3 full minutes with a smile on my face. 

Slightly rejuvenated I continued on, and opted to run/walk the rest. Hopefully more running than walking, but I didn’t even care. 

I stopped for a second if I needed to. I walked when I had to. And I just kept moving. 

And found this cool fungus!

And at mile 14, when I finally found a recycling bin to toss the empty water bottle I’d been carrying for a mile (cuz I just can’t litter), I noticed the address I was standing at. 

Same as the area code for the Adirondack marathon. #runningsigns 

And I thought back to 2015, the last time I ran Adirondack. And I remembered how hard those last few miles were. And that I never gave up.  

So I continued on. Suffering but moving. Hoping that by powering through now, it will teach me to better handle it if it happens again next month.  

By mile 15.6 I was making deals with myself. I was near my house and walking/sprinting the tiniest intervals.  Unbeknownst to me, the hubs had seen me, and told me later he’s never seen me look like i was fighting so hard for every step.  I usually look like I’m having fun. Lol

But I finished. And saw him out in the yard with Gus. I waved, and slowly hobbled up. 

How’s it going babe, he asked. Not good, I replied. Then I laughed. Because 16 miles had never hurt that bad. And it suddenly became hilarious. 

I grabbed the lightpost next to me, hugged it for dear life, and then handed him my iPod. I needed a picture. One where I can look back and remember that even when it’s bad, it’s all good. 

When bad runs go good

Sunday had the makings of a spectacular disaster.

I was tired, I was cranky, I did NOT want to go run. My left knee hurt, my left calf hurt, my right foot had both heel and toe issues and I was just not feeling the run-love.

I sat on the couch all “I don’t want to run. But its Sunday, I have to run. But I REALLY don’t want to. But i’ll regret it if I don’t. GO RUN.”

Instead I took the Gus out, and then changed my outfit because you know, stalling… and finally headed out.

I almost didn’t take my Garmin. I didn’t want to know how slow and hideous my pace was gonna be. But I couldn’t remember exactly how far my loop was, and I needed 12 miles, so instead I promised myself if the pace was truly embarrassing that i’d just delete it.

Sure, I have a half-marathon in two weeks and so I should have been trying for a decent run. But it was warm and slimy-humid and with the list of grievances listed above, I knew I had to just let it go and run easy.

Well, not EASY, but slow. Because nothing was going to be easy.

And as I chugged along I tried to change my brain. I stopped to photograph a random stuffed animal.

And I stopped at a waterfall for a minute. And I kept an eye out for critters and commiserated with some other runners about how hideously humid it was.

It was around mile 8 that things started to turn and my pace got better. I want to blame Sasquatch. (This must be freaky at night!)

But really, it was the ‘incredibly fit couple’ i’d seen a minute before. There they were, dressed in black and muscles, strapping their child into a stroller. They gave a very cheerful hello as I went by. And then, I could hear them behind me. And I was all “Yeah, no. I am NOT getting passed by a stroller on a Sunday run.” LOL

So I surged a bit and it felt good. And I shimmied up the giant hill at mile 9. And I kept going.

At mile 11 I had reached my house and debated going in for water and then doing 2 more miles, or just toughing it out for 1. And was afraid if I went inside i’d stay there. So 12 it was going to be.

And as I headed up my loop and saw the row of sprinklers on, I did a happy dance of joy. With my arms raised and a smile on my face I went straight through. And got soaked. Yay!!

And it made me happy enough that I speed up, and had my fastest mile of the day. A 9:00. I ended a hair under 10/mi overall, so I decided it was save-worthy.

Because it truly wasn’t that slow – it just felt it after how great i’ve been running lately. I have to remember that its summer, and that it means i’m going to get a smidge slower.

Which is okay, because a 2:00 Disney POT and a 2:03 Disney POT will put me in the same corral. So I don’t really need to kill myself on course in Bristol in oh, less than two weeks, if I don’t want to. We’ll wait and see what the weather brings.

For now, i’ll just trudge along and hope for sprinklers!

PS. How awesome is my new shirt? I just can’t resist anything hummingbird.

Happy Marathoniversary

Yep, this weekend marked 5 years since my first marathon.  April 16, 2012.

And considering how that one went – Boston, 88 degrees, and beastly – I could have have given them up entirely.  Instead, stubborn warrior girl that I am, I wanted a rematch. With both the marathon and that course.   Boston ended up my 1st, 3rd and 5th.

Number 12 is approaching… in 3 1/2 weeks.   And they still haven’t gotten any easier.  But i’ve gotten better at training and embracing the suck.  🙂

So Sunday, in honor of Boston the following day, as part of training for the Maine Coast Marathon and as a celebration of my marathoniversay – I had a 20-miler planned for Sunday.

And…much like that day in Boston, the weather has drastically different ideas.

I headed out the door fairly early, but it was already 60 degrees.  By mile 9 it was sunny mid-60’s and climbing and I desperately needed water, a lighter shirt and my hair up. So, route altered and home for a ‘water stop / wardrobe change’.

By mile 10 the bargains started…  make it to ten and walk 1/4 mile.  And I did a couple of ‘mile repeats’ with a 1/4 mile walk break.  And desperately looked for shade. At the half-mile marker (2:20) I realized that 20 miles was so not going to happen.  And myself I would keep moving until I hit 3 1/2 hours (the time 20 usually takes me) and I would run at least a few steps of every mile.  (which got progressively harder).

I know I sound like a wimp…but after a cold winter and usually running in 40-50 degrees, high 70’s – 80’s was way more than my body was ready for.   I was dehydrated and overheated and had no interest in collapsing on the side of the road. And it did hit me that OMG, I had this same problem 5 years ago today.

At mile 14, about a mile from my house and more cold water I kind of worried I wasn’t going to make it without water. But no problem – I had my ‘water fund’ in my pocket and a golf course up ahead.

Because golf courses have vending machines right?  Wrong.  Not this one.  Of course, its easter and hot sweaty red-faced me walked into a clubhouse full of people in nice dresses and an easter bunny looking for a drink.   No sign of machines, so I wander into the pro shop where I was informed they don’t sell drinks (maybe I could try the grille room).

And it hit me… I was having a “pretty woman” moment.  Disheveled looking street person wandering into a nice place trying to buy something and not getting help “I have money and no one will help me!”

I did at least find a ladies room with paper towels and cold water from the sink and made do.  Runners are resourceful.    And a mile later at home I chugged water, and endurolytes and ice (one cube in the sports bra, one tucked in the back of my sparkle visor) and filled my running buddy h20 and headed out for the death march of the final two miles.

My friends think i’m a happy runner.  And I totally am. But I have never been so miserable on a run as I was at mile 17.5 walking ever slower up the street, practically crying, and muttering “I want to stop.  I am miserable.  I do not want to move another step.” followed by “Suck it up buttercup.  We don’t quit when it hurts.  We quit when we’re done”  And there has never been a sweeter sound than the beep of my garmin at mile 18.  (which was still .1 from my front door. ugh.  lol)

I was a hot mess.  Quite literally.  And I am sending a request to the weather gods to PLEASE not let Maine Coast be this hot!

But at least on the course there will be water stops, and I won’t be something the nice townsfolk will share stories about for days

Omg…did you see that girl? Was she crazy?

No…she’s just a runner.

 

Sushi vs the Long Run

I blame the salmon. Or maybe it was the wasabi. But whatever it was, it did not agree with my decision to run after lunch. 

But I had decided that there was no way I was doing a third treadmill long run in a row. My brain might finally explode. 

And Saturday afternoon was going to be the nice point of the weekend.  

And I totally didn’t think anything would be wrong with going out for sushi with the hubs for lunch. Rice is usually a runners best friend.  And soy sauce is practically an electrolyte. 😉

But…there was a lot of “I don’t usually” involved. Like…I don’t usually run in the afternoon. I don’t usually run on Saturdays. I don’t usually run long the day after leg day. And I don’t usually run after sushi. Okay, I have never run after sushi. 😂

It wasn’t immediately after. I gave it an hour. Then laced up, grabbed my favorite accessories – buddy pouch & sparkle visor – and headed out for a goal of 12-14 miles. 

And about a half mile in…the sushi roared to life.  (Totally pictured Godzilla rising over the Tokyo skyline) It was…not pleased. 

But eh. I’m an ultra runner. I’m used to keeping moving when things hurt. It’s just not usually my stomach.  

But I said to myself, what if this happens at Maine Coast. What if you have a lobster roll the night before and at mile 8 it claws back?

If we have to train for any possible snafu, then maybe this is a good thing. (Yeah sure…lol)

So I kept moving. And hoped it would go away. But spent the next several miles alternating between hoping I would throw up and not wanting to be “the runner who hurled in front of somebody’s house” 

I tried to focus on how nice it was out and just breathing in the fresh air. Staying slow and steady and reminding myself “You’re not on the treadmill for the first time in 10 days. Yay!”

And, I called the run at 13.1. I just didn’t have 14 in me. But that’s okay.  Because I wasn’t even sure I could do that. 😀
I was, however, extremely pleased to see that my run was both faster than I thought and quite consistent. 

In fact the only reason the last mile was a smidge slower was because of an ice patch I couldn’t avoid and had to walk over. Not bad…

So I’m really hoping that next weekend, when I’m not involved in a battle of “woman vs food” that the run gets even better. Especially if I get to run outside again. 

March has been kinda bipolar. So there are no guarantees. Except that I will definitely not be having sushi before I run. 😁