Saturday, February 26, 2011

Knock Knock Jokes and Marathon Pictures

This week, we've been hearing our son tell his first "knock knock" jokes with the insane repetition that only a four year old can appreciate.  I've heard this one literally dozens of times:

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Orange who?
"Orange" you glad I didn't say banana?

Haha!  You know you think it's funny too!  Seriously, I love it when my children enter a new stage and I get to relive that phase of my life all over again.  I remembered the joke above from when I was a child.  I saved alot of my old toys, too, and I love watching them play with those.

This week I surprised myself with 6-mile runs on Monday, Friday, and Saturday and a near 9-mile run on Wednesday.  I definitely wasn't fully recovered and felt a little sore and tight during the runs.  The craziest thing was how I felt later on in the days, though.  Really sleepy and totally lethargic.  Rick says I need a steak!  Maybe it is low iron or just fatigue.

I received several congratulations from my fellow running friends following my PR marathon last weekend.  I really was touched when David Riddle made this comment on facebook:

Great job on your marathon. I have the greatest respect for anyone who is willing to push themselves to absolute exhaustion in a race. Reading about your finish was incredible. It's also impressive that you're putting in the training to shave minutes off your marathon time with the full-time commitments of family. Well done.

He is a very talented ultramarathoner who set a course record on a 50K the same day as my race.  It's interesting to note that other runners appreciated my "dramatic" finish, but most of my non-runner friends gave me one of those "you really must be crazy" looks after being told the story. 

Below are the pictures from Brightroom Event Photography from the Myrtle Beach Marathon.  It was fun reliving the experience through seeing these pictures!

My next event should be the UAH 10K on Sunday, March 6 at 2 p.m.  Hope to see some of you there too!
The marathon start



Monday, February 21, 2011

Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon 2011


We had a pretty uneventful trip over to Myrtle Beach and broke the trip into two days of driving.  We left on Thursday, February 17th around 2 p.m., stopping first to pick up my mother who was coming along to watch the children for us.  We arrived at our hotel around 8 p.m. after making a picnic dinner stop at a cute park near Augusta, GA with a great playground for the children.  Saturday was a busy day with a near four-hour drive, a stop at Ed Venture Children's Museum in Columbia, South Carolina, a visit to the Expo to get our race numbers, a quick check-in at the hotel, a pasta dinner with our friends Teddy and Angie, and a little swimming in the hotel pool.  We loved the Expo since it was a good size and was well organized.  I liked the free beer!  Saturday night's sleep was pretty bad for all of us adults due to some pretty uncomfortable beds!  We woke up at 4:08 a.m. our time (they are an hour ahead).
Race Morning    

We arrived at the start line at about 5:45 a.m.  The race had a 6:30 a.m. start.  We hit the line of port-a-potties first thing, and then Rick went to check our bags while I made a second trip.  The full and half started at the same time (nearly 7,000 runners total), but I had no trouble getting into my pace area in plenty of time.  I couldn't find Rick, but that was okay.  He had planned to start around a 3:40 pace, and I wanted to start at a 3:30 pace.  The race started with a cannon going off (!), and we began.  It was dark still with a pretty nearly-full moon, and the weather was perfect.  I guess it was near 50.  I was in shorts and a singlet and felt great.  I thought back to last year, when the race was cancelled due to a freak snowstorm.  Wow, what a difference!

The First Half
I covered the first mile in 7:29 and felt very good.  I could feel the adrenaline.  I kept thinking, "I guess I won't be starting off smart after all," because I did not want to slow down at all.  In fact, I felt like I was holding back.  I wasn't breathing hard or in any kind of pain.  I was passing people and enjoying the pace alot.  I saw a girl wearing hair scrunchies on her wrist that she had used to attach two plastic straws to her arm (I guess for sipping water at the aid stations?).  That seemed odd to me and sticks out as something I thought about for awhile.  The first few miles went back pretty fast and stayed at an under 7:30 pace.  The sun was rising, and we started on the stretch along the ocean.  The course is known to be flat and fast. 

Around mile 10, I thought of how nice it was to have not encountered a hill of any kind yet.  I occupied myself by looking at the hotel signs and the many spectators, some of which were on their hotel balconies cheering for us.  I saw a pug that looked just like our dog, Monte.  The running still seemed pretty easy at mile 13, and I made the half in 1:36:29.  The woman there cheered for me by name since my chip displayed my name as I passed over the sensor.  I figured there would not be a negative spilt for me today since that seemed like a very good half.  I doubled it in my head and knew I was on track for a 3:13 or so.  At this point, I thought I had a possibility of setting a new PR, something I have not done in any distance in about 7 years.  That was thrilling, but it was way too early to get excited yet.

The Second Half 
I had eaten a Cliffbar before the race started, and at mile 12, I had taken some Sportsbeans.  I took a mandarin orange Gu at mile 16.  My pace for that mile was a 7:26.  I thought I'd hate that Gu flavor, but it was actually okay.  I used this part of my race to start thinking about my old PR race.  I was so glad that I'd looked it up because the splits were very fresh in my mind.  I had alot of sub 8's in that race.  Since I'd done all sub 7:30s so far today, I thought I could slow down to 8:30's for the whole second half and still come in with my Marshall Marathon time (8:00 average pace).  But I thought I would try to get the sub 3:20, breaking my old PR.  I thought today was the day to do it.  I just hadn't known beforehand!  I was so tired from Mountain Mist and didn't feel like I'd done enough speedwork to maintain the needed pace.  The miles were proving to me that I could do it though.  I thought about the "A-B-C" goals and about how helpful it was to me to actually think about that beforehand.  It really gives me something tangible to reach for.  I thought about Jane's quote from Jason about just taking each mile one at at time and making your watch say what you wanted it to each mile.  And I tried to distract myself from feeling the fatigue that was settling in.  The best "mantra" that I was able to use was "disassociate yourself."  I kept telling myself that my body wasn't really here at all, but rather it was on the beach laying out.  That helped alot and made me push through some of the tougher miles. 

I held the sub 7:30 pace until mile 20, and then I fell to 7:45 for mile 20 and 8:00 for mile 21.  I took my 1/2 packet of Cliffblocks at mile 20, hoping to hold off the inevitable slowing down.  I also broke the race up into two-mile segments at this point, so I went from 16 to 18 ("the wall"), and then 18 to 20, and then I said, "It's just an ordinary 6 miler, like I do with my friends all the time."  It really helped to break it up and not think about the whole distance left.  Mile 22 was back to 7:53, and I took the last Gu offered on the course, though I fumbled clumsily for it and almost ran into a volunteer handing out orange slices.  We entered a little paved running trail around this point.  I remember seeing a policeman pointing for me to get over to the right but thinking he was pointing to a car behind me.  I was pretty out of it.  I really wanted to stop and walk or to slow down.  Miles 23-26 were 8:22, 8:22, 8:03, and 8:13 respectively.  So I did slow, but not as dramatically as in the Marshall Marathon. 

As I started recognizing the finish line, I began to get excited.  The whole last mile, I was telling myself, "You're almost there!" and using my time on my watch to gauge how much time was left.  At one point, I knew I only had to keep it up for another 10 minutes.  The crowd was so awesome and was yelling things like, "You go, girl!" and "Girl Power!" and "You're one of the top women!" and "You're top 10!"  I was so encouraged by that and humbled that they would take the time to encourage me so specifically.  When I saw the Mile 26 mile marker, I was turning the last corner.  The finish line finally came into view.  I could stop pretty soon!

The Finish
I was checking out the finish line as I approached, and I saw two black strips on the ground.  I wanted to know which one was the finish line one so I could stop there.  Then, I looked over at the computer screen and saw my name and time come out at the top.  I assumed I was done and finally hit "stop" on my watch and tried to stop running.  I had gotten a 3:18:05.  I had beaten my old PR by nearly 4 minutes and had beaten my most recent racing marathon by about 11 minutes.  I was happy but oh so tired.  My legs just gave out on me, first my left leg and then my right.  I saw a volunteer asking me if I was all right, and I remember saying something like, "No, I think I'm gonna pass out."  I fell down on the pavement, hitting my right knee on the asphalt, just as that volunteer and another one grabbed my elbows and held me so I wouldn't fall completely over.  My head was cloudy and I was seeing black, but I never lost consciousness.  Someone with a wheelchair emerged, and they hoisted me into it.  We stopped to get my medal from a volunteer (I loved the flip-flops on it!), and then they wheeled me out of the finishers' area and into a locker room that was being used as the medical tent.  I remember feeling so glad that I wasn't running anymore.  Sitting in the chair felt so good. 

Inside, they laid me down on a cot and took my pulse, temperature, and blood pressure.  My BP was fine, but my temperature was a little warm (99.4) and my pulse was around 90 (a little high).  They gave me ice water to drink and asked me all sorts of things, like was this my first marathon ("No, it's my 21st"), had I drunk water on the course, had this ever happened before, etc.  I remember looking around and seeing a guy next to me puking and a girl coming in who was crying since she had dropped out.  Thoughts of my St. Louis experience came pouring back.  And here I was again.  The doctor there was very nice and sat chatting with me for awhile.  He'd been a volunteer for all of the 13 years the race had been held.   He let me borrow his phone to call Rick and even went out to find out if he'd finished and to look for him (they weren't able to find him though).  I tried sitting up, and a little while later, I tried to stand up.  I felt weak and almost like I was going to faint, and I got short of breath.  They took my BP and pulse, and my BP was fine again but my pulse was up from 90 to 130 and racing.  They asked me to sit down and stay awhile longer.  I thought about Rick and how he'd be looking for me and about how I'd missed his finish. 

Finally, I stood up and was able to leave (with an escort back to the finish line and an admonition not to faint in the parking lot!).  I got in line for my finisher's photo (couldn't pass that up!) and spotted Rick right after I had it taken.  I told him quickly all about my little adventure, but he'd already been to the race time kiosk so he knew my time.  I was very impressed that he got a 3:41, especially given that he'd been injured the last two months.  I had seen him once along the course when we looped back, so I knew he was looking strong and would finish.  We met up with Teddy and Angie.  I had also seen Teddy on the course (he was in front of me), but we got their times and stories.  Angie had broken 2 hours in the half and was very happy with her time, and Teddy got a 3:12, just short of his goal. 

Rick and I grabbed some food for the road.  I ate an orange slice and drank a beer (couldn't pass that up though I was warned at the medical tent not to drink any alcohol that day!).  We met my mom and the children back at the hotel, where my mom snapped a quick picture of us before we got ready for a long, fun day in Myrtle Beach.

I later learned that I was indeed the 10th overall female and second in my age group.  I was confused because this race provided a little printout with your chip time after the race, and mine said "Division Place 56."  So I didn't think I'd won anything and left without checking on the awards.  I still plan to see if I can get it mailed to me somehow.  We walked all over Broadway at the Beach, a really neat boardwalk-type shopping center with all kinds of shops and restaurants.  I was a little woozy and gladly stopped for an ice cream.  Sitting felt great.  Rick got a Quizno's sandwich later on, and I bet it hit the spot.  Hunger, when it returns after running a marathon, is nothing to mess around with! 

We took our children to the beach since they were begging to go.  The 60-something degree weather felt perfect.  They played for a couple of hours, and I walked up and down for about 50 minutes, taking my mom for part of the walk and Rick for the other.  It felt good to work out some of the soreness that was creeping in.  The water was freezing cold, but the children ran up and down the beach in the little tide pools, jumping and splashing each other.  It was just wonderful watching them enjoying the day and running for the fun of it. 

We ended the day with Mellow Mushroom's mega-veggie pizza (no peppers, no olives, no onions, and add pepperonis!) and another dip in the pool.  On Sunday, picked up the local newspaper from the hotel and read the results.  A woman was the first place overall finisher!  We left at 7 a.m. our time and drove until 6 p.m. with a couple of stops for food and gas.  We ended up letting the children run around Little River Canyon.  The stiffness had really set in for me by this point, and I hobbled stiffly down the hill to see the waterfall there.  Today is Monday, and I managed a 6 mile run with the girls this morning without too much stiffness or pain.

Here are my official time and some photos:

102 1271 KATIE MAEHLMANN half time 1:36:29 gun time 3:18:33 chip time 3:18:05 pace 07:35
Don't we look so peaceful and happy here?  I could've stayed at that beach for days.
The children got their running done along the beach after our race.
Post-race ice cream tradition.  Yum!
Myrtle Beach
The medal
When we came back from the marathon, the children had necklaces on too!  I thought that would make a great picture.  This is the only race picture I have for now since we did not take the camera to the start line.
My watch said 3:18:10 but the chip time was 3:18:05
10th OAF, 2nd in my age group

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Final Look at Splits From the Past

I ran my PR of 3:21:54 in the Suzuki Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on June 1, 2003.  Wow, that was a long time ago!  But with all of this talk about running smart and negative splits and starting too fast, I thought I'd go back to see what my splits were like way before I started caring about such things.  I was actually really surprised to find my splits jotted on the back of my race number from that fateful day.  I never analyzed times back then or recorded my training runs.  I ran because it felt good and I liked to do it.  I had tons of free time.  Rick and I love to reminisce about how we could have written a guide about "what not to do the day before a marathon" at this race.  We walked all over the San Diego Zoo the day before, and we ate a huge Mexican lunch.  Tired and stuffed, I would imagine we slept well and then used all of that youthful energy we had back then to run our PRs the next day.

Here were my splits:
1-2 16:25 (I guess slow from the number of people.  I never saw the mile marker.)
3 7:29
4 7:10
5 7:19
6 7:38
7 7:49
8 7:25
9 7:53
10 7:19
11 7:40
12 7:23
13 7:33
14 7:27
15 7:37
16 7:42
 17 7:37
18 8:05
19 7:41
20 8:05
21 7:44
22 7:50
23 7:56
24 7:57
25 8:04
26 8:04
.2 1:36

As soon as I saw the 7:10 at mile 4, I realized that I always have gotten carried away in the excitement of the race early on.  But I managed to hold the pace very well and only slowed to 8:04's for the last 2 miles.  I also see the advantage of having a Garmin versus just a watch.  My splits were a little all over the place, and I bet I could've kept them more even with a Garmin's help.  This looking back and analyzing stuff is getting addictive, but these suitcases are not going to pack themselves!  Enough walking down memory lane tonight!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inspiration and Myrtle Beach Marathon Goals

I am running the Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon this Saturday (take a look at the pretty beach scene on the home page of that site!).  The Monday before a marathon weekend, I begin focusing my mind on the race.  The training has already been done, but the mental aspect is the last crucial remaining piece of the puzzle.  I begin thinking about the race and picturing myself out there running in less than a week.  I start imagining a strong finish.  And I recall previous races where I was able to let my mind pleasantly distance me from the physical discomforts.  I've done this before, and I can do it again!

I don't always reach a point in the marathon where my mind has taken over my thoughts; sometimes the discomfort that I feel is much more central to my thoughts than anything else.  I think about my splits and how I'll get done faster if I keep running fast.  I try to mentally figure out what my time will be if I continue at the pace I'm going.  I think about every little ache I feel.  But then, there are those other times.  I clearly remember the point in several marathons where I've gotten absolutely lost in my thoughts, to the point that I don't feel the discomfort anymore.  I've gotten covered in goosebumps and feel what I imagine is what others call the "runner's high."

I can't predict what will help me reach the point of distractedness where I actually feel a runner's high.  Sometimes it's when I think about motivating song lyrics, like Destiny's Child "I'm a Survivor" (the lines "I'm not goin' give up, I'm not goin' stop, I'm goin' work harder.") or Pink's "Just Like a Pill" (the lines "Run, Just as fast as I can, To the middle of nowhere, To the middle of my frustrated fears.").  I sometimes think about the line in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein where he says, "Did you not call this a glorious expedition? And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror; because at every new incident your fortitude was to be called forth and your courage exhibited; because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave and overcome. For this was it a glorious, for this was it an honourable undertaking."  There is something in those lines that make me feel the importance of sticking it out when the going's getting pretty tough in the marathon.  I guess I see the marathon as something to defeat, and I think that I'd better keep fighting it.

I draw inspiration from reality shows too.  I love the personal trainers' tough attitudes in NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and MTV's "I Used to be Fat".  I recently heard a trainer on "I Used to be Fat" shout to his trainee that she had to "make the body follow."  Her plight was trying to run a 10-minute mile, and mine's trying to run 26.2 at an 8-minute mile pace.  But we both have to make our bodies do it.  It's not easy for either of us.  The question I have to ask myself is, "How bad do I want this?"  I look at each marathon as a chance to perform to the best of my ability.  I don't want to waste that opportunity!  Rick likes to say it like this: "Empty the tank."  Lay it all out there, and leave nothing left.  And when the going gets tough, he says, "Suck it up."  I can look around me at the later miles of the marathon and think, "Do you think you're the only one in pain?  Do you think you're the only one who is uncomfortable right now?"  Of course, everyone is feeling some level of discomfort and pain.  You have to really dig deep at the end, and I think having my mind ready for that helps me.  I've done this sort of mental rehearsal all week long.

Each marathon presents its own challenges for me.  Sometimes I've just raced another long event, sometimes I've just had a baby (or two), or sometimes I'm recovering from an injury.  My challenge for this marathon is having done Mountain Mist a month ago with little speedwork since then.  My legs are tired.  I have tried two sub 8-minute mile runs, one being 10 miles and one being 12 miles.  In both, it was a struggle to stay under the 8:00.  In trying to figure out what I might be capable of doing, I pulled up my splits from the Marshall Marathon, my last marathon not counting when I paced Rocket City.  These splits are pretty telling and gave me some food for thought.  


The first 17 miles were between 7:20 and 7:50.  Then I slowed dramatically.  There were 6 miles of 8 something miles (one was actually 9:01 but close to 8!) and then 3 9-minute miles.  You can tell that I was fighting the 9 minute miles in mile 23, where I got an 8:54 after the 9:01 previous mile.  I remember having some foot problems in that race, and I don't remember feeling very good at distracting myself from them in this race.  They may have played a factor in the slowing down at the end.  The pace in this race ended up being an 8 minute mile pace.  These splits show that I started too fast (the last 9 miles were much slower than first 17).  There's the temptation to start smarter in this race, though my method of starting too fast is the one I prefer (I know, call me crazy!).  For now, my plan is to try to do 8:00 minute miles and maybe be a tad more consistent throughout.  I think the 7:30 miles were a bad idea, and I should stick closer to 8:00 at the beginning if I want to run smarter. 

So here are my goals based on all of that.  My A goal is to go sub 3:30 (or essentially to beat my Marshall Marathon time of 3:29:57).  My B goal is a 3:40 (Boston Qualify).  My C goal is sub 4 hours.  Of course, I will be happy just to finish, especially if I feel really tired as I get in the later miles (I do feel sort of silly even admitting that I still feel tired from MM; I know plenty of other runners who have raced since that run and who did really well in their races.  But I have felt very tired since then, so I have no choice but to admit that it could slow me down).  I'm ready to give it a try!

UPDATED 2-16-11: I looked over my splits from the New Orleans Marathon February 28, 2010.  They were much more consistent.  Overall time was 3:35:57, and the average was 8:14.  The slowest was 8:42 (mile 26), and the fastest was 7:59.  Miles 12-17 were amazingly consistent: 12 8:02, 13 8:04, 14 8:02, 15 8:03, 16 8:03, and 17 8:04.  These six miles were within all within 2 seconds of each other.  Talk about some even splits!  At least there is proof that I can run a marathon with even splits!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter Winds

Today the Winter Winds 2-Mile, 4-Mile, and Kids' Fun Run events were held at 2 p.m. at Grissom High School.  I normally like to do both the 2 and 4 mile runs since they are Grand Prix events. To try something different, I thought about seeing if my son could run the 2-mile with me since he's never tried to run that far before.  We discussed all of the different options (there are alot with these races!).  I did a pretty hard 12-miler yesterday (7:44 pace) and we have the marathon next Saturday, so Rick decided that he would volunteer instead of either of us running.  I came along with the children to cheer on the other runners and to catch up with some running friends that I haven't seen in awhile.  Several of my friends were running, and it was great to be able to focus on them without competing myself.  It turned out to be great seeing one of my friends PR and another run her first 4-mile race ever! 

We arrived at 12:30 a.m., and Rick went off to help set up while I sat in the car with the children so my daughter could finish her nap.  I roused her 35 minutes later.  The sun must've felt so good on her skin as she napped.  The high was in the low 60's today!  I had planned to have them run the free 1/2 mile kids' fun run at 2:35.  While we waited, we watched the start and finish of the 2-mile event.  My children were running all over and playing, but they stopped to cheer on the runners as they finished.  We were cheering and clapping like crazy to give those runners that extra push at the end.  I love how my son asked me during a lull about halfway through the race if that was all of the "winners."  I told him that there were lots of other winners for us to cheer for and motioned to some coming around the bend.  I love that he thought of all of them that way! 

When it was time for their event, we all walked to the track and the children took off for a 2-lap "race."  I had to quickly change into my shorts (I had worn jeans since I wasn't planning to run), so I missed the start but spotted Rick trying to run with both of our children.  I took over as my daughter's partner and ran with her until she finished.  She was having the greatest time and was so excited when someone in the crowd called her "Pinkie" since she was in all pink.  They were given Fleet Feet tattoos and candy when they finished.  I had to crack up when my son was going on and on about how fast he ran.  We told him not to brag and to try to congratulate others instead.  A minute later he said, "I beated a little girl!"  After stifling a little laugh, I reminded him again not to boast.  I guess that lesson takes some work!

Pictures courtesy of James Hurley

At the start
 Adults never smile like this at the start of the race!
I am watching her the whole time

And she is taking in all of her "fans!"

Daddy and our son

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fleet Feet Racing Team Application

February 26th is the deadline to complete your applications for the Fleet Feet Racing Team (see here for our Racing Team website).  The application process requires you to go back and review your past year of running and officially state your new goals for this year.  Most interesting to me was the section that asked for number of races completed in 2009 and 2010.  In 2009, I only competed in 6 races, but in 2010 I had raced 16 times!  Knowing that I am wearing the Fleet Feet uniform helps keep me accountable for my running.  The team is made up of so many wonderful athletes, and it is such an honor to be associated with them.  I encourage anyone who is interested to check out the above link or to let me know if you have any questions about the team.  Here is a segment from my application:

Brief Biography

I love pushing myself to the limit and gravitated to running during high school since it allowed me to do that. I have been seriously training and running over the last 11 years, taking a partial break from 2006-2007 to have two children. I worked up to the marathon distance and have now run 28 marathons and ultras, while also racing in almost every distance leading up to the marathon as well. I have completed marathons in 15 states in my 50 state goal, have run 6 Mountain Mists in my 10 Mountain Mists goal, and have qualified several times to run the Boston marathon (an earlier goal of mine). In 2004, I won the HTC Gran Prix Female award, was one of two women to achieve the first local "Grand Slam" award, and set several of my PR's. My husband and fellow runner, Rick, and I have two children, a son who is four and a daughter who is three. My children are my focus and my greatest life accomplishment. I have steadily been whittling away my times in every distance over the past 3 years. I started the year off on a good note in Mountain Mist 2011, where I ran a 5:37:57 and had my course PR.

Short Term Goals

attack the Go! St. Louis marathon in April for revenge for my 2010 experience, complete states 16 and 17 (and maybe more), get faster times in 2011 in every distance than my 2010 times (specifically aiming for a sub-20 minute 5 km)

Long Term Goals

run a marathon in all 50 states, complete 10 Mountain Mists, use running as a means to stay healthy and fit and to set a good example to my children

Also, today Rick and I signed up for the Chicago Marathon, which, according to its website, is only 241 days away!  This will be the largest marathon we've ever run.  I love to plan and look forward to these races so far in advance.  I just hope we will both be able to run it--at an entry fee of $145 each---ouch!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rain and Snow Saturday 10-Miler

So far, this new year has just been terrible weather-wise for running. First, we had that week of snow January 10-14 (in which I did absolutely no running at all even though I was still training for Mountain Mist which was on January 22). Since then, we've had a few days here and there of "freezing rain" or "icy" conditions (so our group doesn't plan to meet), and then it turns out to just be a light drizzle. This is seriously frustrating! To top it all off (for me), Rick was on travel January 25-28, so without childcare, I stayed inside instead of running all but one day. I don't tally my monthly mileage, but I can imagine that January's would have been pretty low. I did manage the 31 miles of Mountain Mist and then an 18-miler on January 29th, but many of the other days were zero miles! I can handle the cold, but not the rain or heavy snow!

So today our group had decided on a 10-miler at 5:15 a.m. We had met earlier this week for a run in the 20 degree (windchill) temperatures and faced a brutal wind that day. We can handle the cold, at least the cold in Alabama! I was pumped to be able to run, and the weather only called for a 10% chance of precipitation. We always check it on the hourly forecast just to make sure, because who wants to wake up early for nothing? So I woke up, got ready, and got in the car in the garage. As soon as I start pulling out of the garage, I see these little misting raindrops all over my windshield. At that point, I thought about pulling right back into the garage and going back to bed. I'd gotten that far so I decided to at least drive to our meeting spot. The rain continued (but it was so light!) as I made my way to the parking lot of the nearby school. No sooner had I parked when I saw Jennifer's car pulling in next to mine. She immediately rolled down her window and said, "I'm still not sure!" and I quickly agreed as the rain pelted my face from my rolled-down window. But then, another car appeared, this time my friend, Angie. Shortly after that, here comes Kristen. So the four of us are sitting in our cars trying to decide what to do when I see Angie putting her hat on and getting out.

"Are you really running in this?" Jennifer and I asked incredulously (Kristen may have been too, but I could not see her very well from where I was). She said yes. I didn't want her out there alone, so I started thinking that I might try it too. The thought of being miserably cold and wet was so unappealing to me! The wind really picked up then. The rain starting whipping through my car even though the window was only open a little more than a crack. I think that was when Angie decided that it was not letting up at all and changed her mind about running. She quickly sought shelter in her dry car! We all sadly agreed that it was a no-go and headed for our homes. My friends probably think that was the end of the story, but I have a confession! As soon as I made it home, the rain really did let up. I sat watching my windshield in my driveway, and, noticing no rain, turned the car around and headed back to the parking lot. I was hoping some of my friends would do the same. No such luck! So back home I went for the second time, and still no running.

I laid back in the bed, running clothes and all, and waited for the rain to pass. When I woke back up, it was time for a solo run. I decided to make the best of it. I hadn't done any speedwork in awhile. I'd been focusing more on endurance for the Rocket City Marathon and Mountain Mist. So I decided to try our original plan of the 10-mile run but to try it at a 7:30-8:00 minute pace. That is roughly what I'd like to do in the Myrtle Beach Marathon in a couple of weeks. I have a really hard time motivating myself to do speedwork or marathon-pace workouts. Today I also felt a little tired, I guess still from Mountain Mist (a rough "formula" is one day of recovery for each mile raced, and I am only two weeks post-race so that could easily be a factor). But I put in my music and set off, with Rick's borrowed Garmin, of course! I took a couple of miles to warm up and then fell into a 7:45ish mile pace for the next few miles. I didn't feel like straying too far (and ending up with anything over 10 miles) so I repeated the greenway a few times during the run and added the neighborhood from this day. Believe it or not, along with seeing a bunch of puddles everywhere, about halfway through my run I started seeing snowflakes! They fell very lightly and didn't accumulate, but they still made for a nice "apology" from Mother Nature for her earlier plan-cancelling rain. Near mile 8, I already started running out of gas and slipped to an 8:10 pace. The next two were back to sub-8, though it was a struggle. The overall pace turned out to be 7:57. I had paced myself so I was right in front of my house at mile 10. As soon as the Garmin beeped the mile, I stopped, relieved. Ohhhhhh, that is a little frustrating to me, to feel so tired after 10 miles and to have to run 16 more than that in the marathon in two weeks. There was no way I could have kept up that pace for 16 more miles. Based on today, I am planning on 8:00 minute miles for the race, but I may have to aim for 8:30 instead. I just hope to be able to recover more before then. Judging from the recent winter weather we've been having, I'll be given lots of days to do just that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Little Run That Wasn't So Little

All ready to ride (on another trip)
The thing that I like best about having children is that everything is an adventure. And when a good day happens, you just feel like shouting from the rooftops. Here's my story of today's run. Don't expect to be thrilled at the mileage or the time. This run was far more special. Besides, all really good runs aren't about those things anyway.
My usual routine for Tuesdays is to do the elliptical machine in our bonus room for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Today I wasn't motivated at all as I trudged up the stairs around 9 a.m. to begin my workout. The children, my four and a half year old son and three and a half year old daughter, were awake and had just eaten breakfast. I must've been feeling ambitious because I decided to try out a run with the double BOB stroller. A little over three years ago, Rick and I had wisely invested in this stroller. We became a family of "two under two" and knew that we had to find a way to run together and to allow me to run alone during the week. We searched Craigslist and happened to find one less than half price right down the street! This stroller provided me so much freedom in those early days, back when they were so little. Fast forward to today. My son is forty pounds, and my daughter is thirty pounds. The stroller itself is another thirty pounds. One hundred pounds of children and stroller equals some major hardship for this wimpy-armed momma. Oh well, I would see what I could do.
I loaded up the stroller with the children and their drinks and snacks, put my earphones in, and started my watch. The weather was a pleasant forty-nine degrees for me, but they each had a blanket tucked snuggly around their legs. I headed for the greenway, a short run from our house. The greenway follows Mill Creek for about a half of a mile. Andrew Peterson's Counting Stars and Behold the Lamb kept me company as I plodded along behind the monstrosity of a stroller. We heard the creek's water as it churned along next to us. I approached the end of the greenway and headed for the sidewalk on Balch Road. I followed it for aways before crossing the street to enter a hilly nearby neighborhood.
The snacks were running out, and the conversations between my two began. Probably two years ago, my son and daughter had their first conversation together while in the jogging stroller (a simple one about what color my daughter's blanket was). I remember rushing inside to write it down before I forgot it. Today I saw the plastic bag caught on the top tree limb before my daughter noticed it. The bag danced in the wind as it tried to escape the limb's grasp. It was pointed out to my son with much excitement by my daughter. They both sat watching it for awhile. I hit a hill and literally leaned forward with arms outstretched and my hands gripping the stroller and pushed with all my might. Though my legs were moving, it wasn't much of a run. We made slow progress up that hill.
As I continued gathering bits and pieces of their conversations, I felt so happy to be able to be in those moments. My son saw the neighborhood's clubhouse and pointed it out to my daughter (I was impressed that he could recognize it as a clubhouse and not just another house). He loves to be the wise older brother. He continued to teach her about other things he saw along the way, like the reflectors on the mailboxes. They both speculated about whether it would start raining harder as we felt the first drops splash onto us (I was lucky that it did not.). My daughter started squeaking like a little mouse and told my son stories about a monster (I only heard bits and pieces of that one but I'm sure it involved a lot of her big imagination!). We passed a playground and my son reasoned to my daughter that we weren't stopping to play since it was probably muddy on the equipment. As I approached the last leg of my four mile journey, I found myself taking one earphone out, and then the other, just so I could hear their conversations better. We saw a huge gathering of birds in the bare February trees, and we saw horses in "dress up clothes" (red and green!).
Heading for home, I turned the corner and ran alongside our neighborhood elementary school. I was close enough to see the receptionist inside and the snowflake decorations dotting the windows. I thought about how my children would be spending years of their little childhoods behind those walls-- years of moments where they would not be with me, where I would not be privy to their every conversation. Thankfulness for today overwhelmed me.
I finished the run in a pathetic forty-one minutes (which included the stop to tuck their blankets back down over their legs). The stroller's weight caused my arms to feel so weary that I am still shaking a little as I type this hours later. Aside from a few smiles and nods in my direction, there was little notice paid to the runner behind this stroller today. There was no PR, no finisher's medal, no age group award. But today I prefer this little run and those not-so-little seventy pounds of children. Today it's those other things that seem so very little.