I’ve slept through my alarm many times…

…but never have I slept through it to miss a run.

Until Saturday.

I wasn’t even particularly tired on Friday night; I laid down at 11pm to get up at 4am, per usual, to start my long run at 6am, per usual. 5 hours of sleep is plenty for me, and I’d gotten about 7 hours on Thursday night, so if you follow the school of thought that subscribes to “your Saturday run depends on the sleep you got on Thursday, not on Friday”, then I was good to go.

Except. I was sleeping in a room with a really loud fan – I was visiting saint of a boyfriend, so this was not my room – and I put my phone inside my purse without turning the ringer up. I left my purse open, sure that I would still be able to hear the alarm go off at 4.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I woke up and immediately ascertained that it was not dark outside. Whatthefuh, I thought, and then looked at the clock. 7:38. WHATTHEFUH-?! I bolted out of bed, fumbled my glasses onto my face, checked my phone to make sure that I had indeed missed both of my alarms, and stopped- there was a sound outside.

Rain.

I peeked out of the blinds. A virtual monsoon- whatthefuh? I’d had no idea it was supposed to rain, much less torrentially. I dug out my laptop and checked the radar: rain, rain, rain, with no signs of abating. Right – then and there, I made two snap decisions: 1) go to the bathroom immediately 2) long run happens on Sunday now!

[I later realized that I should have seen this coming: last year, the last weekend of August was when Hurricane Irene dropped its rains all over the mid-Atlantic, and I was also then stranded inside on Saturday and forced to run on Sunday. Huh.]

So, having decided on long-run-on-Sunday, I pittered about for a bit and decided to just switch my cross-training and long-run days, which is perfectly allowable under The Plan. I’d hoped for a break in the rain to go for a bike ride, but when it became obvious that that was not going to happen, I hit up saint of a boyfriend to fire up the Wii to do some of the Fit exercises. Great idea, right?

Well… Yes. And no.

I started out with some yoga to warm up, and then did some boxing and stepping and more boxing and hula-hooping ang yoga, and then moved on to the strength exercises because I figured it would be better to get my glute- and hamstring-strengthening exercises in instead of doing them on long-run-weakened legs on Sunday. I worked the ever-loving shit out of those muscles, and felt great, if a little wobbly, by the time I was done with them and had thrown in some skiing and more boxing and yoga. I stretched, showered, and went on with our day as planned.

Saturday night it became apparent to me that I was going to be a bit sore on Sunday. Before I went to sleep, I gave myself a quick massage and set three alarms on my phone to wake myself up at 4am, and put the phone on the hard wooden surface of the nightstand next to me and turned the ringer waaaaaaay up.

4am came, and my phone went off, and I barely heard it. But I heard it, and grogged myself into waking up, and started to get out of bed.

When my feet hit the floor, I had one very acute thought: OW. The entirety of my upper legs- basically, everything from the knee up to and including the butt – was sore. Not just oh-this-is-a-little-bit-of-DOMS sore, but you done gone messed up real, real good sore. Immediately I knew that a) going downstairs was going to suck and b) this was going to be a 14-mile run not without pain. But, what can you do but run through it?

After much silent cursing to myself and even more silent groaning as I eased myself down the stairs, at 6:15am I was out the door and on the pavement. The run itself was absolutely wonderful; I ran part of the marathon course I’ll be doing in November, and it was fantastic – when the leaves change, it will be even more so. The weather was perfect: 68 and overcast, though the 98% humidity I could have maybe done without. I took plenty of water and snacks with me, and hydrated and ate appropriately, and absolutely 100% did not bonk or even come close to anything resembling a wall, which was awesome. I feel dumb using the word ‘nice’ to describe a long run, but that’s exactly what this run was – everything just fell into place and it was such a great thing.

Except.

Dear God the downhills. 🙂 I think this was the first run I’ve ever had where I was wishing desperately for flat or uphill terrain, because the downhills are all on your quads and glutes and hamstrings- and there were, unfortunately for me at the time, plenty of downhill stretches on this run. [When the marathon comes around, I know I will be grateful, but on Sunday I was not so much at all…] It was painful, yes, but certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever been through, though I was laughing most of the way at how pathetic I knew I was going to look later on in the day hobbling around on sore legs. I stretched for about 30 minutes when I was done, but in the back of my mind I knew: this is not going to go away until Tuesday. Enjoy! 

And here it is, Monday afternoon, and I am pretty much laughing with every step I take because I look like a fool. I have a 4-mile run tomorrow morning, and I’m not actually sure that I’ll be un-sore in time for it, so I’m planning a route with as little downhill running as possible- though, the more I walk around, the less it hurts, so who knows how tomorrow will go. Lesson learned: strength exercises THE DAY AFTER the long run, NOT NOT NOT the day before, at least until my muscles acclimate to them a little more!

In other news, there’s an all-women’s 4-miler this Saturday at which I’m volunteering. This is my first time actually volunteering for a race, and I’m manning the water stop at mile 3.1. I might be more excited about this than I ever was to actually run the thing! I can’t wait to soak up the atmosphere of the event from ‘the other side’ – I’ve run this race 4 times, most recently last year, and it’s a pretty cool experience as a runner. I’m secretly (maybe not now that I’ve said it) super-pleased that it’s almost exactly 7.5 miles from my house to the race course, and hey, my long run this week is 15 miles…

I hope I can wake up on time. 😉

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Around Richmond in 80 days

– well, sort of. I mean, I’ll be running around Richmond in 80 days, which is what stands between me and the marathon. It seems like only yesterday that I posted about there being 119 days left… where did the time go?

It’s still a daunting thought, these 26.2 miles of mine in November. I think that’s because I’ve not been entirely happy with my running lately, but in thinking about why I wasn’t happy, I realized a few things:

1) One reason was the bonking on my 12-mile run I spoke of in my last post. Totally preventable, and I have a 14-mile run this weekend wherein bonking will not occur because I know how to make it not happen now.

2) Another reason is the humidity. I still run at 5am when it’s still 98% humidity outside. Granted, this week it’s been a blessed 65 degrees with that, but it’s still really hard to breathe and move even at that temperature with that much moisture in the air. I’ve been really, really slow on my easy runs at 5am, and have not been terribly pleased about that, but I have a suspicion that once I switch schedules next week to doing my easy runs at 10am when the humidity is lower, I will have better results. (can you tell I cannot wait for October mornings?)

I will miss my 5am gym crew, though. There’s a group of middle-aged men who lift with me whom I’ve sort of gotten to know – as much as one can through gym banter – and as odd as this sounds, I’ll miss their weird little routines and gossiping and workout quirks (one guy gets on the stationary bike and breathes so hard I feel like he’s going to hyperventilate until he starts yelling at himself to keep himself going. It used to be distracting, but now it’s just funny. And no, he’s never actually hyperventilated!)

3) Last time I trained for a race, my knees were giving me issues. This time, it’s all tendons and muscles, no joints; angry tendon isn’t being too angry, and seems to be responding well to lots of ice and rest and even some compression. But my HAMSTRINGS, Jesus, you’d think I’d never stretched them a day in my life, which is not true. But, see, this is fixable, because I make the classic mistake of not working out my legs when I lift – my excuse was always “I need core and upper body strength, not work that will make my legs even more sore for running tomorrow”. This is patently not true; strengthening the hammies and the glutes does wonders for preventing injury and helping you run stronger, so really, I should be doing that as I increase my mileage further. It occurred to me only yesterday (HELLO WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF THINKING PEOPLE) that I could easily work in some leg work on the days before my rest days, so starting tomorrow I am going to work in some squats and see where that takes me. I’ll do the same on Sunday when I cross-train, which might look funny when I take a break from fantasy football drafting to pop out  a set or two, but I figure no one will be watching anyway. Right? Right. (Unless I now have a peeping-Tom stalker or something, in which case, God help him. Or her.)

Anyway, all of this was a really roundabout way of saying that I was feeling crappy about my running until something lovely happened this morning. I had a 7-mile pace run, which I was dreading, because a) I hate pace runs because b) they mean running on the treadmill since I am crapola at pacing myself outside because I get distracted by shiny pretty nature or by passing traffic, and c) a 7-mile pace run? Are you kidding? I don’t want to run that fast for that long. Ugh! But, one does not get anywhere in marathon training by slacking off on the program, so on to the treadmill I hopped, compromising with myself: I’ll run the first 1.5 miles at just-below-pace, then 5 miles on pace, then the last 1.5 miles at just-above-pace. Since the treadmill I was on has a time limit of 60 minutes, that meant that I would have to restart it at the 5.5-mile mark, when I was getting ready to bump up to the above-pace running.

About twenty minutes into my run, a woman who I had seen doing situps and/or stretches in another corner of the gym came over to the treadmills and hopped on the one two away from me. She walked for a bit, and started running when I was at thirty minutes. I’m not sure if she was matching my pace or not – nor did I much care, because I’m never racing anyone but myself – but she kept with me for about 35 minutes, when I had to restart my own treadmill and keep going. By the time she stopped, I was at the above-pace part and finding it more difficult to breathe, etc. etc. – I had hit that 4-mile mini-runner’s-high earlier in the run and had been feeling really good, until mile 6 when I started wondering what on earth Hal Higdon was thinking telling me to run 7 of these miles at this pace – and I had also completely sweated through my shirt (ew) and had gone through about 20 paper towels’ worth of sweat and was feeling a little gross and self-conscious about that. She walked some more, and then got my attention: I sort of flicked an ear in her direction, because I was curious as to what on earth she was going to say to me. I was expecting something like you’ve got the TV when I leave, right?  since the last person out is supposed to turn it off.

But no. What she said was this, more or less paraphrased: “I wasn’t even going to get on the treadmill but I saw you running and decided to go. And I said I was going to run as long as you but I can’t go that far- and you were REALLY running for most of that! Thank you for being here to keep me going.” And of course because my brain was running-mush at that point I couldn’t think of anything else but “hey, I have a half-mile left OH thank you! Haha, I have to run in here because I’m doing a pace run blablabla…” and I’m sure I babbled on about something or other while trying to catch my breath but it didn’t occur to me until later that she went out of her way to say something really awesome to me, and I’m not sure I expressed my thanks adequately, because that really did pick me up for the short rest of my run and, really, the rest of this day. So, even though she’ll never read this, thank you, random awesome gym lady, and keep running. I know it’s a cliche, but it gets easier, I promise.

So that was the awesome thing. I kicked that 7-mile-pace-run’s ass, and have once again shown myself that I am capable of doing what I set out to do, and that I need to do better at squishing the whiny part of me that tells me I can’t.

BOOYAH.

In health-stuff news, I had a bunch of blood tests and urine tests done on Monday to try and maybe figure out why I’m so hungry and thirsty and peeing all the time, and everything came back normal, which is good I guess, but I still wonder if there’s anything sinister behind all that. It occurs to me that it could just be the very simple fact that I’m now running nearly 30 miles per week – a number that will only increase – when I topped out at about 20-22 miles per week in the spring and early summer, and that my body just needs more water and more food and to get rid of waste materials more often with an increased intake in both. But I feel like that’s just too easy. 🙂

Speaking of which, sort of, this came across my Twitter feed earlier and I love it, because it’s so me right now: “Sore ankles, blisters on every inch of my feet, creaky knees, insatiable hunger & always tired; marathon training- no regrets” – from the wonderful Alyssa over at njrunnergirl.com. My blisters have blisters, I want to eat everything all the time, parts of me I didn’t even know could be sore are sore, I fall asleep in the shower somethimes, but – BUT – I am loving every second of this ride. Even when the running feels crappy, deep down, I still love it.

Must be nuts. 😀

Stupid things I did last week – and some not-so-stupid things to counter them.

STUPID THING: This is old Olympics news, but I failed to watch the USA-Canada women’s soccer semifinal a week ago. I was… just puttering around after work, and didn’t think to watch it online or anything. I was following along with a friend who was liveblogging it, and that was exciting enough, but when I saw the replay of the winning goal later on, I wished I’d seen more of it.

NOT-SO-STUPID THING: I did watch the gold-medal game of USA-Japan, online, as it happened. I was very nearly late to a rehearsal because of it, but that game was no less nail-biting. I was pleased that my viewing had no cursing effect on our ladies’ play, because I’m still convinced that I’ve made several teams lose just by watching. (I know that’s silly. I don’t care.)

STUPID THING: This was Wednesday of last week: I came home in the early evening and noticed a wasp flitting around my mailbox. I opened said mailbox to get the mail out, and the wasp flitted dangerously close to my hand. Instead of grabbing the mail and walking away quickly, I swiped at the wasp to get it to go away. It didn’t. I turned tail and ran, and it chased me, and stung me. Only once, but as soon as it happened I knew that that was the exact wrong thing to do. I immediately went inside and put ice on it; I’ve since then kept an eye on the mailbox to see if more wasps have been around  it – one has been dancing around the underside, but I’ve left it alone, and as soon as I get a spare evening I’m going to go spray it and see if any wasps remain the next day – but I’ve by and large given the mailbox a wide berth. Our poor mailman; I feel like I need to leave him candy or beer or something. Speaking of beer, I decided right after the wasp sting that the only thing that could make the pain lessen was to go drink beer with some friends. Solid thinking, right?…. read on….

FOLLOW-UP STUPID THING: Wednesday morning I’d already run 6 miles, as per week 5 of my training program. Occasionally I run with the Hash House Harriers in town – a drinking club with a running problem – and Wednesday evening they posted an Olympics-themed run at a pub near my house. I figured I’d hang out with them for a bit since it was my first free Wednesday evening in quite some time – never mind my wake-up time of 2:45am the next day to go running with my old running buddy from the half-marathon, whom I’d run into on Tuesday night and made promise to go run with me on my Tuesday/Thursday short runs from that point forward. I had no idea that the Hashers had recently become much more of a running club than a drinking-and-ambling club, so when we ended up doing a hot, sweaty, under-hydrated 4.5 miles, I was a bit apprehensive. We finished around 9pm, which is already my bedtime, and I was hungry, so I stayed to have dinner and another beer at the starting pub. I got home at 10, in a considerable amount of post-I’ve-just-run-10.5-miles-and-now-have-to-run-another-3-in-7-hours panic, and thought long and hard about calling my running buddy and telling her that our meeting would have to wait until next week (which is now this week by this time). I didn’t, and went to sleep instead after downing a bunch of water. My alarm went off at 2:45 per usual, and I met running buddy at 4:45, and off we went for what was easily the slowest 3 miles I’ve run in a very long time. By the time I got home Thursday night, I was completely exhausted from not only that excessive running but also weight-lifting. I got a good 8 hours of sleep that night, which was totally necessary, and quite blissful.

NOT-SO-STUPID THING: I wore my new shoes on my 3-mile runs last week, and have, I think, broken them in enough to wear them on all of my runs (3, 6 at pace, 3, 9 long) this week and then probably from this point forward going on to the marathon. My old shoes had already been at just about the point of wearing out, but I wore them on my long 12-mile run on Saturday because I thought it would be better to do that than try to take the new shoes out on a long run too soon. My hips have been telling me to switch shoes already, so I hope they’ll be happy with the change and stop giving me twinges already. But, wearing the old shoes on Saturday could have been one thing that contributed to the next stupid thing, which was….

STUPID THING OF EPICNESS: So, yes, Saturday was supposed to be a 12-mile slow run. My roommate, who ran her first marathon last year – the exact same one I’m training for this year – agreed to come with me on this run; she’s faster than I am, which we both knew going in and were okay with, and the main reason we ran this thing together was because it was out of town on country roads near a peach orchard that was serving all-you-can-eat peach pancakes late Saturday morning. My logic was this: wake up early, go out for a 12-miler, refuel with pancakes, and go on with my day. Foolproof, right? Roommate mapped out a 12.5-mile loop that was agreeable to me, and off we went, having zero idea of the topographic layout of our run. (We suspected it would be “rolling hills” because of the location.)

Two things we didn’t count on: GIGANTIC rolling hills and one road being a private road that forced us to double back and add another half-mile or so to our total. So we ran 13.1, which, again, is not a problem per se since I’m comfortable with that distance, but throw in the extra 4.5 miles from Wednesday and that means I’ve now run 29 miles in a week in which I was only supposed to run 24, after a week in which I ran only 21. I don’t think you need to be a genius to know that that is bad. Add to that the facts that a) I didn’t walk before we started running like I always do; I didn’t want to hold roommate back, so I agreed to starting at a slow jog, which b) turned out to be a super-fast first 3 miles because the scenery was gorgeous and so was the weather, and most of it was downhill anyway, and c) when we stopped for water at mile 6, I didn’t drink nearly enough because I was afraid of cramping – take all that, and it’s no wonder that at mile 10, I got this horrid, dreadful feeling from the waist down.

Yup. I hit the wall, big time. My legs felt like they couldn’t go on any more, and my right leg went numb entirely after I ignored the cramping in my right calf. My hips were screaming at me to stop, and my angry tendon was joining in the chorus. At one point my roommate circled back to me – we agreed that it was okay for her to run ahead of me but circle back to make turns with me so we didn’t get lost – and I panted, “is this what it feels like to hit the wall? I want to be shot in the legs right now” – to which she responded, “oh yes, I’ve hit it too”. We still had, unbeknownst to us, three miles to go at that point, but we were out in the middle of the country with no way to get back to her car (and the peach pancakes) except to keep going.

So we did. It was pure and utter hell, but I willed myself to put one foot in front of the other. Mostly it was me thinking to myself, “so what if you hurt? You’ve been through worse. You’ll get through this. Also, PANCAKES.” Over and over and over. When we made our last turn for the last mile, which was mostly uphill with two large inclines, I got mad at the increase in elevation, telling myself I was just going to take this pain out on the pavement. And you know what? Somewhere around mile 12.5, the pain dissipated. My legs started working again. My steps became larger and more purposeful, and by the time I hit the last hill I knew I’d be okay. I came in actually smiling, striding hard and confident, and feeling actually pretty darn good. It was a slow 13.1 – 2:25 – but it felt great by the end. Not gonna lie, those peach pancakes were absolutely fantastic, especially when topped with peach frozen yogurt. YUM.

But, yeah – knowing I can hit the wall and still work through it and come out fine? HUGE. A huge thing to know now, rather than in mile 20 of the actual marathon. I know now what I did to cause it, and I know now how I need to react to get through it, and so much of a marathon is mental that I’m glad I had this experience to remind me of that very fact- when your legs fail you, sometimes all you’ve got left is your brain to get you to the end.

The promise of peach pancakes didn’t hurt, either. 🙂

Let’s see what this week brings, eh? Sigh…

The perfect end to a rough week.

To give you an indication of how this week went, Thursday was the night that I got more hours of sleep than the previous three nights combined. That I got 8 hours of sleep on Thursday should tell you that this was a trying week, indeed.

But – I survived it. Teaching for the summer has finished; I’ve got a couple of weeks off until the next teaching assignment starts – even though classes don’t start for nearly another month, I’m teaching something I’ve never taught before (academic writing, which is in our English department), and as such I’ll be getting a lot of training and mentoring before classes start, which is nice. The play that I’m in will be in final rehearsals this week and next, and then we’re running the weekend of the 16th-19th, and then I truly have a week off before classes begin for the fall.

I thought it would be nice to get out of town, so here I am in D.C. and presently on the tail end of a 9-mile run. It was HOT when I left at 6:30am – 81 degrees with 85% humidity – so it’s no surprise that I for the first time completely soaked through my running clothes to the point of being able to wring them out upon returning. Gross, and I lost 2 lbs in water weight in the process, which I’m presently replenishing (especially since I’ll be drinking copious amounts of beer later on) at a rapid rate. I also reached a runner’s milestone with my first bloody sock, but its source was surprising; I have a blister on my right ring toe that occasionally flares up and hurts, and today it was bugging me by the end of my run. So I was surprised to see that that wasn’t what was bleeding; apparently something had cut into my left middle toe – possibly the nail on my left ring toe, oops; I should trim that 🙂 – and done so to the point of bleeding pretty well everywhere all over those left 3 toes. Eeeew, but I felt – and still feel – absolutely no pain from that. Huh.

Those of you who read this blog regularly and know of my penchant for getting lost in new running cities will be pleased to know that I wrote my route out on my hand in ink. This was a great idea until I started sweating and the words started blurring, and even more a great idea until I ran under some sprinklers behind the Capitol building to refresh myself, but I purposefully structured my run around the perimeter of the National Mall so that I’d always have at least two giant monuments as reference points in case I got turned around. Happily, my smudges were still legible enough, and I returned in good stead without any confusion. Woohoo!

I have to say, no matter how many times I do it, seeing the Capitol backlit by the rising sun never, ever gets old. Dawn in D.C. really is beautiful, even if it’s going to be a hot day; the city just reflects light so well. And once I adjusted to the absurd humidity, it was a good, flat, fun, fast run. I don’t hurt terribly much, if at all, which is good since I suspect there will be a bit of walking later on. Other-running-wise this week, I’ve learned that I can do 6-mile pace runs on 3 hours of sleep and not be too much the worse for the wear in that regard; since I was running on so little sleep in general I’d say this was the hardest week I’ve had so far in my training in terms of the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, but I pushed through and did it, and I’m glad that it’s behind me now. To say that I’ve been looking forward to this weekend would be a minor understatement, in more ways than one.
Okay then! Onward with Gatorade and a shower, and then I will wake my sleeping comrades, get some coffee and brunch, hit the museums, and then go to my second Nationals game (with Strasburg jersey in tow, even though he’s not pitching tonight) and surround myself with beer, fried food, and good company. And lots and lots of sleep tonight. Perfect, indeed.