Sunday, May 6, 2012

Part 4: The Finish!

We almost made it!  Continuing from Part 3: Champaign.

Incredibly, Amazing, Awesome High Point: Rounding the corner into the Stadium and busting into a full on sprint to cross the finish line.

Very High Point: Beating my 5 hour goal by 7 minutes.  Finish time: 4 hours 53 minutes.  Phillip's time: 4 hours 33 minutes.

We did it.  We're Marathoners.

Final Stats:
Farthest distance run: 26.2 miles

Total miles since August:  673.2

Total injuries acquired: 4

Part 3: Champaign

After making the split from the half-marathons, the full marathon runners made their way to Champaign.  Continuing on from Part 2: Urbana

 High Point:  Running next to a 65 year old man and knowing that if he can do it, I can do it.

Low Point:  Getting passed by said 65 year old man.

Mile 13: Passed by 65 year old man
 Low Point:  Hit Mile 16 and started to feel the pain.  Slowed down my already slow pace.

Mile 16: Starting to hurt and slow down
High Point: Hitting Mile 17, realizing I only had 9 miles to go, and reminding myself I just ran 9 miles the week before.

Mile 17: Only 9 miles to go
High Point: Getting to the intersection at Crescent and Sangamon at Mile 18, knowing that the next time I'm at that intersection I'll almost be done.

Mile 18:  Getting closer
Low Point: Getting passed by the 4:45 pace group.

Mile 20: Passed by the 4:45 pace group
High Point: Running close enough to the crowd that people called me by name as they cheered me on.

Mile 20.5: Getting cheered on
Low Point: Reaching Mile 22 and thinking I only had 3 miles left when I really had 4.

Mile 22: Thinking there was only 3 miles left.
High Point: "1408, you go girl!"

Mile 22.5: "You go girl!"
High Point: Made it back to Crescent and Sangamon.

Mile 22.75: Made it back
Low Point: Really starting to struggle.  Feeling the "Wall" hit me.

High Point: Not letting the "Wall" get the better of me and persevering through.

Mile 24.5:  The "Wall" hits
High Point: Reaching Mile 25, knowing there was only one mile left, and picking up my pace.
Mile 25: 1 mile left
High Point:  Seeing Memorial Stadium and knowing the end is near.

Low Point:  College students grilling out on the corner of the park in front of the Stadium.  Not cool.

High Point:  Turning the corner onto the street leading into the Stadium and seeing Joshua, Sara, PJ, and Jess.

Mile 26: Almost There

Part 4: The finish!

Part 2: Urbana

We left off on our adventures on Thursday and Friday here.

Saturday morning came before we knew it.  

 Here are the highs and lows of our first marathon experience!

High point: Not waking up in the middle of the night because of the storm.

Low point: Waking up at 5 a.m.

Low point: Realizing it was still raining, and having to face the fact that we might have to run our first marathon in the rain.

High point: Eating breakfast with Lisa as we tried to mentally prepare for the what lied ahead.

Low point:  Getting into our car at 6 a.m. to make the drive up to Champaign and see that it was still raining.

High point: The rain stopped about halfway up the road!

Low point: Despite leaving an hour before the race, and what should have only taken us about 30-35 minutes, ended up taking 50 minutes from the time we got in our car and the time we finally parked, giving us only 10 minutes before the race started.

High point: Realizing that it could have taken even longer, but we took the back way in and were able to find a parking spot relatively quickly.

Low point: Realizing I left my phone and camera in the car after we ran up to the start line.

High Point: Wishing Lisa luck on her first half-marathon as we parted ways.

6:50 a.m.: Parting ways with Lisa

Low point: Long bathroom lines before the race.

High point: Two nice ladies let us jump ahead of them because they saw that we were running the marathon and they knew we needed the extra time.

Low point:  The race gong started just as we finished our business.

High point: Realizing that only Corral A made it through the start, and our Corral E was still waiting to move forward, giving us plenty of time to get in line.

High point:  Deciding that getting to the race with no time to spare worked out well because we didn't spend too much time psyching ourselves out about the fact we were about to run a marathon.

High point:  Noting that it also didn't feel like we were about to run a marathon, and that it just felt like we were about to run another long Saturday morning run, like we've been doing for months.

High point:  Crossing the start at 7:13 a.m.

High point:  Being cheered on by the crowds to pump us up.

High point:  Running with Phillip the first two miles.

Low point:  The moment we parted ways and realizing the rest of the time I was on my own.

Mile 3: Parting ways with Phillip
 High Point:  Counting down my miles with each mile marker.  "Only 20 miles to go..."

High Point:  All the creative posters that the crowd had: "Official IL Marathon shortcut maps, $1. Get your best time ever!", "You've been running longer than Kim Kardashian's marriage", "Chuck Norris counted to infinity -- twice. But Chuck Norris never ran a marathon".

High point:  The run through Meadowbrook Sculpture Park.  Ah, the memories.  Lava anyone?

Miles 8 & 9: Meadowbrook Park
High Point:  Making it to the half and full split and seeing hundreds of people turn left to finish their half, knowing I was bad ass because I was turning right to finish the second leg of my race.

High Point:  Seeing Mom, Paul, and kiddos standing on the corner at the split.  I was so excited I ran up to them and gave them all a high-five.

Low Point:  Turning right at the split and seeing about 10 people on my road and getting a little lonely.

Mile 11: The Split

Continued in Part 3: Champaign.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Part 1: Final Preparations

Thursday came before we knew it.

We were on the road by 4:40 that afternoon.  So were half a million other people.  After an hour of taking back roads to avoid sitting on 75, we finally made it to Marietta.  A trip that should have only been 30 minutes.

Once we finally got on the road and past all the Atlanta traffic, our trip was fairly uneventful.  We pulled into my mom's driveway at 2 a.m. Central time, meaning 3 a.m. our time.  Half an hour later we finally made it to bed.

The next morning we were back out the door and on the road up to Champaign.

We met up with Martha to pick up our numbers from the Activities and Recreation Center on the U of I campus.

Since my cousin Lisa wouldn't make it in time to pick up her own number, we were able to pick up hers with ours.  Poor Lisa freaked out when we told her that signing up for a pace team would put her out $50.  Haha, just kidding of course.

After we parted ways with Martha, Phillip and I made a quick stop on Green Street to pick up a new Illinois hat for Phillip.

Then we embarked on another road trip as we drove the course that we were going to be running the next morning.

We parked the car near Mile 25 and ran the last mile up to Memorial Stadium so we could get a quick warm-up run in and get a feel for what the last mile would be like.

I wish I had my camera with me on the run so I could take a picture of the finish line before the stadium was full of people.  It had this amazing feeling knowing that the next time I saw it would be one of the most incredible moments of my life.  At least I got a quick shot of the outside of the stadium as we drove by.

We partook in the traditional pasta dinner that night after Lisa and her family made their way to town for the race.

Recovery shakes were prepared and ready for the next day.

Oh Ultragen, where have you been the last 4 months?

Last minute gear checks were completed.

We were in bed by 10 p.m.  The late night drive had taken it's toll, and we were out.

Stay tuned for Part 2. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are you ready?

So many people have asked if I'm ready for this Saturday. 

Physically, I'm about as ready as I can be.  Mentally, I'm ready to finally do this.  It's been a long time coming since we first signed up in August.  This marathon has hung over our heads for months.

Yes, I'm ready for this Saturday.

Since we're leaving right after work tomorrow for the drive up to Illinois, tonight is packing night, making sure all the odds and ends are in place so we can leave straight-away tomorrow.

Marathon Weekend Packing To-Do
1.  Make a trip to Dick's Sporting Goods and stock up on energy gels.  Best to get them here in Georgia where there isn't a major race in town that could create a potential gel-shortage. 

 2.  Make granola bars.  Inspired by the recipe found at (never home)maker, these are one of the most delicious, nutritious, and filling things I've ever made, and will be perfect for road trip and marathon day snacks. 

3.  Gather our running gear.  This includes our hats, belts, water bottles, arm bands, and headphones.

4.  Figure out what to wear.  Are we going for comfort or style?  

5.  Gather all the food that we're going to take with us.  Since this trip will be 10+ hours, it's good to bring food with us to minimize as many stops as possible.  I've also decided to bring the same bread, peanut butter, and milk that I typically eat before my runs to keep my diet as consistent as possible.  Saturday is not the time to make changes in my diet that I can easily avoid.

6.  Find reading material and other things to keep us occupied during the car ride.  Poor Phillip has to study on Sunday's ride home for a test that he has on Monday.  Yuck. 

7.  Tidy up the house, just so I don't have to come home to a messy one. 

8.  Charge the camera battery. If only I had known it was dead yesterday, there could've been pictures on here today.  But I digress.  

9.  Prep the things that can't be packed tonight so they're ready to go tomorrow.

10.  Make sure the cats have enough food and water.  It won't do to come home to dead kitties.

11.  Get a good night's sleep.  I'll only regret it tomorrow night if I don't get enough sleep tonight.  Oh, who am I kidding.  I'll fall asleep before we hit Nashville like I always do.  There's no stopping it...

I can't believe that we're driving up tomorrow already.  This week has flown by. 

On Friday we have to pick up our race numbers and other goodies from Health and Fitness Expo at the University of Illinois.  I just found out that we can search for our numbers before we get there!  Awesome.  For those of you who are running the race too, go here to find your number.  

Also for you race runners, in case you haven't read it yet, here's the race guide with all the useful information for the next few days.  Good stuff to know.

The next time I write will be after this Saturday.  Marathon Day.  The day I see if I have what it takes to run 26.2 miles.

I'm ready.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's almost here.

This is it!

At this time on Thursday, Phillip and I will be on the road on a very important road trip up to Illinois. 

At this time on Friday, Phillip and I, along with my dear cousin and good friend who are also running their big race, will have stuffed our faces with lots of pasta and be making an attempt to go to bed early to get as much sleep as we can.

At this time on Saturday, Phillip and I will more than likely be drinking a beer, stuffing our faces, or both, after having successfully run 26.2 miles.

At this time on Sunday, Phillip and I will driving back home to Georgia, exhausted yet incredibly proud of our new accomplishment.

It's hard to believe that we're less than a week away at this point.

I haven't written as much as I thought I would on this journey.  It ended up that I wrote more about my positive experiences and lessons learned, because I know there have been some people who read this that I think benefits, motivates, or at least relates to what I've been going through.

There haven't been many negative experiences written on here, and I guess that's because whenever I had a bad run I wanted to forget it as quickly as possible.

But believe me, there have been many bad runs.

Like in August when I tried running in 95 degree weather without any water.

And back in January when I was just getting back into running after a two month break and had such a hard time getting back into the routine and finding the motivation.  

Or the time I tried to run 14 miles and could only get in 10 before my knee cramped out on me and I could barely walk, let alone finish the last 4 miles.

Even the time I fell into a manhole.  Oh wait, I did write about that.  Haha.

So now let's talk about the last few weeks.

I cranked out 21 miles at the end of March.  My idea was to get in as many long runs up to and past 20 miles as possible.  My thought was to learn what "The Wall" was and how to get passed it.  Well, I learned what the Wall is, and have an idea how to get passed it, but I never did get any more 20+ miles in.

See, I quit paying attention to my training schedule.  I didn't think it was progressing fast enough in terms of distance per week, and so I took it into my own hands.  Probably not the best idea, but it's what I did.  So my 21 mile run was a week earlier than the training schedule.  My goal was then to run 23 miles the following week before I started to taper.

What seemed like a good idea at the time failed miserably.

I tried, I really did.  But all I could get out of me was 13 miles.  Still good, but no where near what I planned.  Despite this, I didn't allow myself to get too worked up over not finishing the 23 miles, because I felt that quality was better than quantity.  I had just run 21 miles the week before, so I knew it'd be ok to take it easy this week.  I was disappointed, but I had to listen to my body.

The following week was supposed to be a 13 mile run.  I thought I would do 16.  I started off great.  Felt really good.  But around mile 6, I started to get tired going up a really small hill.  I was desperate for water, even though I had Gatorade to drink.  I took a break and walked.  Eventually I found a water fountain and filled my water bottle.  I tried running again, but continued a walk/run pattern for the next 4 miles.  4 miles!  No good.  Finally after I hit around 10 miles (I don't even know, I was so frustrated), I gave up, turned off my stopwatch, and walked the rest of the way home. I walked so slow that it took me over an hour to get home.  I desperately wanted to call Phillip to come get me, but I thought he was out on his own run, only to find out later that he didn't go at all.  As soon as I got home I laid down and promptly fell right to sleep. I refused to find out how far I actually made it for days, and I cleared my stopwatch before getting a good look at my time.  It was that bad of a run.

At this point, I couldn't fathom how I'd be ready for this marathon in two weeks.  If I can barely run 10 miles, how in the world would I be ready for 26?

This isn't good.

I started to freak out.  My body was done.

Two weeks in a row and I couldn't finish what I started out for.

I decided that it's possible my body is rejecting these runs because of the 21 miles I had just cranked out.  Perhaps it took a lot more out of me than I realized.  I tell myself this, not knowing if there is any validity to it, but it makes me feel a little better.

A week away from race day, the training schedule said to run 8 miles.  My goal on Saturday was 10, but I compromised and ran 9.  And surprisingly enough, I felt great.  I kept a good pace and could have kept going, but decided it was more important to be kind to my body a week out.

Perhaps the reason why I had such a hard time really was that I needed a few weeks to recover from that long of a distance.

Maybe it was to teach myself not to give up.  Even if I had to quit early the day of the run, I was right back at it a week later.

Determination to overcome any mental walls in addition to the physical ones has been an incredibly hard yet very satisfying lesson to learn. 

Remind me this when I hit mile 20 this Saturday.

Only five more days. 

Good news!  I finally have a camera again, and will get to post pictures in the upcoming posts!  Yay for visually stimulating reads!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The 20 Mile Wall

Today marked my first ever 21 mile run.  Can you believe that?

It was hard.

Really hard.

And that "Wall" most people get at mile 20?  It's very real.

A few weeks ago I started to wonder about this so-called Wall.  The wall where your body runs out of glycogen, and you have zero energy to keep going.  Glycogen?  It's your energy storage.  That's why you are supposed to eat a lot of carbohydrates the day before and morning of the long run or race, so you can store all that energy and have fuel for the next day.

You load up on your carbohydrates, but your body only keeps about 2000-2500 calories worth of glycogen.  Essentially 2000 calories only gets you as far as about 20 miles.  Once you use them up, you hit the Wall, and you start experiencing fatigue and the desire to cry.  Or maybe that was just me who wanted to cry.  Then your body wants to use your fat reserves, which apparently is really hard, and you struggle through the last few miles.


OK, so if you experience the wall around mile 20, why would training programs peak at 20 miles before they taper down?  Why wouldn't you train to break through the wall, instead of stopping right when it's supposed to happen?  Is it so newbies don't wig out and quit?

Call me naive, but I think that's just dumb.

I want to know what it feels like, and learn how to fight through it.

The last few weeks I've been slowly adding more miles to my long runs until I worked my way up to today, where I attempted and ran 21 miles.  My thought was to not only get to 20 miles, but to surpass it.  I'm going to have to do it in a month, so I should learn how to do it now.

The first 18 miles went well.

After running for about 3.5 hours, about the most I've run up to now, my legs started aching.  I hadn't stopped to walk at all until this point, other than stopping at stop lights or taking a gel break, so I took a few minutes to walk and loosen my legs.

By mile 18, I was starting to get tired.  I walked a little more.  By mile 19, I was starving.  I brought dried cranberries along with me and scarfed them down as I took a little more time to walk out some achy legs.  I read somewhere that dried fruit is good to bring along on long runs as an energy source.  They did help curb my hunger a bit. 

Miles 20 and 21 were hard.  Running was getting real hard to keep up, and I gave in to walking.  But I wouldn't allow myself to walk the last two miles.  I picked a point ahead of me and made myself run to it.

I had to keep up with the walk/run pattern the rest of the way home.  I kept picking something ahead of me to run to before I'd let myself walk again.  Some goals would be farther ahead than others, depending on how much pain my legs were in at the time.

These weekly runs just keep getting harder and harder, and this week was the hardest yet.

It's good, because it's exactly what I'll experience on race day.  I know what it feels like, and although I only ran 21 miles instead of 26, I can prepare a little better for it.

Next week I planned to run 23 miles, getting one more long run in that surpassed the 20 mile mark, but after doing a little more reading today, I might scrap that idea so I can start tapering my miles and letting my body fully recover so I'm nice and rested come April 28.  Apparently it takes your body about 3-4 weeks to recover and reap the benefits of a long 20ish mile run.  Interesting.

I guess these people who write the training programs really know what they're talking about.  I should dig mine out again and see what they're telling me to do the last few weeks.

Sorry for the lack of pictures this week.  My camera is still out of commission.  You know, from the day I fell into a manhole.  Ha.

March stats
Total miles run in March:  113.5
Farthest distance in March:  21.23
Total miles since August:  590.53
Total calories burned since August: 57,194

Saturday, March 24, 2012

One Year Ago

Today was the 2012 Atlanta Women's 5k

A year ago today, I ran that race.

I signed up because Phillip and I made a New Years Resolution to run the Peachtree Road Race in July, but I wasn't sure if I could run 3 miles, let alone 6.

I needed something to motivate me to start running, and there's no better motivator than one that you're financially obligated to.

After 6 weeks of training, I ran that race. I realized that I can, in fact, run 3 miles.  It was hard work, but I could do it.

Ok.  But now can I run 6?

Registration for the Peachtree opened in March and we found it was lottery based.  We, along with two of our friends, signed up as The Bowlinski Runners, not knowing if we would get to run it or not.

Our team got picked, and after a few months of training, we showed up with the other 59,996 people to run the 10k down Peachtree Street.

We ran that race, and realized that we can also run 6 miles.

After a month of rest, and a year and a half since it was first brought up, we asked each other, "Do you want to run a marathon?"

Now, here we are, a month away from a race I never thought I'd be able to run.

A year ago today, I was just happy to run 3 miles.

Today, I ran 19.

One month from now, I'm going to run 26.2.

One month from now, Phillip and I will be marathoners.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The change of seasons is upon us

I love spring.

I really love it.

Spring doesn't always love me, but I will always love it.

When the first signs start to appear, I get so excited that winter is almost done.  My feelings towards winter are about the exact opposite of my love for spring.  But I digress...

My runs lately have been much more appealing because of all the blooms I keep finding. 

Today was just absolutely gorgeous.  I turned off the heater, opened all the windows, and put on my shorts.

I was so excited about everything, that today I brought along my camera for the ride run. 

Quite literally.

I love living in Georgia.  It's such a nice change from the barren flat lands known as central Illinois.  Here we have trees and elevation changes.  In Illinois, you can see for miles and miles because the land is so flat.  You can see for miles and miles here, too, but only if you're on top of a hill.

The hills and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love that there are hills all around us, but I really hate running on them.  Hills are not my friend.  We've slowly learned to tolerate each other, but it's taken a long time. 

Hills like this are not uncommon. 

I've just learned to limit my time on them.

I've also learned how to create routes that end up on the trail.

I can get a break from the hills and enjoy all the beautiful trees.

I've made friends with the neighborhood pup.

Is it really considered friends if she barks at me while I run by?

I finish my run and take a moment to get a great shot of dogwood blooms in the sun.

But wait, there's more!

I'm so busy walking and taking this picture that I don't notice the manhole that was inconveniently left open in the ground.

Notice the word "LOCK"?  It was definitely not locked.  Notice my leg?  There are definitely scratches on it.

Why, you ask?

Because while I was taking the beautiful shot of the tree blooms, my leg went straight down into the manhole. 

And down I went with it!

My camera broke, my water bottle flung out of my hand, and I had to drag my legs out of the hole.

Luckily (or maybe unluckily?) no one was around to see me.  It took a few minutes for me to comprehend what just happened as I sat there in shock.

So what did I do?  I remembered I had a camera on Phillip's old phone that I use as a stopwatch, and I took a picture of the scene.  A bit blurry, but I was shaking a bit.

I managed to pick myself up along with all my flung belongings, and start walking - up the hill I may add - back home.

I call Phillip.  "You know how I tend to hurt myself when I go running?"

Enter Injury #5. 

WARNING:  I'm a bloody mess.

Not only was my right shin cut and bleeding pretty good, it swelled up at least an inch off my bone.  And notice that the inside of my left knee is all scratched up.

Scratches starting from the outside of my upper left thigh to across and down the inside of my left knee.  It's all swollen just above where you can't see in the picture.

I'm going to have a massive bruise.

And finally, just a scratch (hah!) on my elbow.  I discovered that it's really difficult taking a picture of your elbow with a phone.

All I could do was laugh. 

I mean, really. 

I've hurt myself pretty good on these runs before, but this sure tops them all. 

But seriously, please let this be the worse thing I do to myself. 

2 months to go!

The countdown has begun.

Yesterday was February 29 (Happy Leap Year!), giving us exactly two months until the big day.

Two months?  Holy cow.  Where has the time gone?

Since starting this whole marathon journey back in August last year, I've learned so much.  There have been ups and downs for Phillip and I both, but we're learning how to overcome them and keep going.

Here's what I've got so far:

1.  You can't let 'bad' runs bring you down.  Any run is a good run, because it means you got out there and did it.

2.  Keep a training schedule.  Mark off each day with what you did, even if you took a rest day instead of the planned run.

3.  Figure out your own running schedule.  When I was trying to get back into my running routine back in January, I followed it religiously, but soon I started to feel like I was getting burnt out from running all the time again.

After the suggestion from a good friend, I scaled back on my quantity of runs.  After some trial and error, I realized that when I run every other day, my quality of runs greatly improved.  The best part - I'm much more excited to go on runs than I was before.  Now my training schedule is used more as a guide than a strict regiment.

4.  Participate in other physical activities.  On days that aren't rest or run days, try to find other physical activities that you enjoy.  Since I've scaled back on the number of days I run now, I've gotten back into yoga, Pilates, bike rides, soccer, hikes on trails, and soon I'll be joining a softball team.  You've got to keep variety in your life so you don't get into a rut.  

Fun photo from my hike at Kennesaw Mountain back in January:

Buckhead's skyline is on the left with Atlanta's skyline on the right.  Right in the middle is where we lived our first year here together in Georgia. 

 5Don't let a little rain keep you from sticking to your schedule.  It's really not that bad. 

But by all means, don't go out if it's storming with thunder and lightning.  Be safe.

6.  Listen to your body.  You'll be more likely to keep up with your runs if your body is comfortable while doing it.

If you feel tense, try to release it and relax.  If you feel tired, slow down to a jog or walk.  If you feel pain, figure out the intensity of the pain.  If it's just tight muscles, then stretch.  If it's more serious, take a couple days and rest.  Be kind to your body, and it will be kind to you.

7.  Breathe.  Deep breath in, deep breath out.  The whole time.  It really helps.

8.  Pay attention to your running form.  ChiRunning really helped me overcome my knee problem.  I've written about it here and here.  I sometimes catch myself slipping back into old habits, but the most important thing I really try to pay attention to is a) kicking back my heels, b) to breath, and c) to lean forward. 

9.  Get a running partner.  Having someone to run with helps make the time go faster, and it's way more entertaining than the music you've listened to over and over.

10.  Enjoy your surroundings!  Find a place you love running in and soak in the beauty.  Sometimes I take my camera with me on my runs just to take pictures of fun things that I see.  Today was one of those days.  You can read about it here!

As yesterday was the last day of February:
Total miles run in February:  90.6 (!!!!)
Farthest distance in February:  12.31 miles (farthest distance for me ever!)
Total miles since August:  477
Total calories burned since August: 45,384