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