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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Hello August…

The worst part of fall marathon training is that most of it occurs in the summer.

I don’t like the heat. I mean, you probably wouldn’t know because i’ve been doing my share of mid-day runs along the river…outside…in the heat and sun. But it usually involves stopping at ALL the water fountains during the second half.

And sure, I did do three races in July…but none of them were quite as good as earlier in the year when the weather cooler.

My poor garmin is getting dusty because I refuse to have digital proof of how awful my paces have been. I mean i’ve actually been eying this training shirt. LOL

But i’m 54 days out from the Adirondack Marathon, which means its time to really get serious. To decide if I have a PR goal, or merely a course-PR goal.

You see, that sucker is HILLY.

And while the first half is crazier hills than the second, the last time I ran this my goal was to beast the hills. And I did, and then the wheels came off by mile 17 and the ‘rolling hills’ in the later miles felt harder than the spikes.

So I plan to spend August ramping up both the strength training (adding a 3rd day a week), the hill training (wherever I can) and, as usual, distance (August’s schedule includes a 16, an 18 and a 20 miler). Dusting off the garmin so I actually know how fast (slow?) I’m going. And hoping that August is mild (yeah, I know….likely not happening).

I’m also going to up my hydration game (my running buddy h2o is about to get in some more miles) and maybe go back on the music (my single-ear sports bud isn’t getting its exercise either). Might be a good month to run to Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffet. oooh – virgin pina coladas in the h20 pouch? LOL

So, if you need me this month…i’ll be out running hills, feeling tropical and thinking fall.