Two Lives, One Lifestyle


Zen Running at 21 Miles by Katie
May 18, 2010, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Katie, Marathon, Run

This post is all text and all about running.   As someone who is running a marathon soon, I’ve been greedily reading every sentence of every long run and race recap I can, but if you aren’t into running or racing, this could get boring.  Or maybe it could inspire you! Feel free to skip it or read along with my play-by-play!

Preparing for 21 Miles

Training has made me hyper aware of how a few nights of not enough sleep or too much indulging really impact the body.   Since my last long run was a bust, I really wanted to be better prepared for my longest long run.  All week, I kept my stress levels in check and made sure I got enough sleep not just the night before, but all week.  I had a glass of wine on Tuesday and Wednesday, but then avoided drinking any alcohol after that.  I avoided dairy all week because it just doesn’t digest very fast for me.  It doesn’t give me too much of a stomach ache but it does cause some issues with “regularity” and gaseousness (haha sorry, trying to be honest!).   Normally it’s not enough of a problem to make me stop eating cheese and yogurt and ice cream (!!) but running seems to exacerbate everything.  That’s just me though.

For food, I kept in mind what the coaches have said: increasing carb proportions rather than just taking in more calories in the form of carbs.    Certainly carbs are important for endurance athletes but carb loading is becoming more of discarded myth since your body doesn’t store more glycogen just because you eat more.   Once your glycogen stores are full from a normal sized meal, the rest of the carbs/sugars are just converted to fat.

The night before, Team in Training Denver members got together and had dinner.  The coaches went over some 6 pages of pointers with us.  Here are some points that really hit home for me:

  • Whatever you have been using- clothes, energy sources, drink, iPod, etc., use for the 21 miler, and for the marathon. Anything “new” will cause that much more stress and those last few tough miles you will be wondering “maybe if I wore the other socks my feet wouldn’t hurt.” 
  • Bring ALL the necessary gear with you on the plane (good point)
  • Get a good nights sleep for a few days before the marathon because there is a good chance you will only get a few hours the night before
  • If possible, work at home if anyone is sick in your office. Avoid sick people in general, 2 weeks out since it takes that long for sickness to show up.  Wash your hands a lot, stay warm if it’s cooler outside, vitamins, and other prevention, etc.
  • Don’t lean forward to stretch right after running for so long.  The blood rushing to your head can make you pass out.  Apparently the coaches have seen this numerous times.
  • Hold on to hand rails going down stairs. All the people that have run marathons before said the day after they have seen lots of people fall down stairs from muscles buckling or giving out! Yikes.  My knee actually gave out a few times Saturday evening, not bad enough to fall down but I definitely looked like a fool.
  • The 21 miler shouldn’t be run at race pace since our muscles aren’t rested and repaired enough
  • Don’t overdo it in taper! Apparently we will be antsy to run more than the schedule says but it’s important to stick to the plan and let our legs rest.

After sleeping surprisingly well, I woke up early for my usual toast with PB and J breakfast, plus ample time to “digest” and wake up.   I broke the “don’t change anything” rule and tried Gu during the run (I only had two Stinger gels and the dinner had ended too late to buy more) and what do you know? It was okay.  I don’t know the reason but my stomach handled the Gu better than in the past.  I did stop to walk about 20 seconds at one point because my stomach was churning but it went away fast once I slowed down.  I had my first gel after an hour, then again each 40-45 minutes.  I might go every 30 minutes in the race but they hurt my stomach for like 15 minutes after each gel so I don’t like eating them so often.  Fueling is by far my least favorite part.  I’m more nervous about my stomach holding up than my legs, how ridiculous!

The Run!

Immediately before the run, we had “Mission Day” which involved all the Rocky Mountain runners coming together.  We stood in a big circle and went around each saying who we were running for.  Um, everyone was crying. The 10th person was a mom and her daughter, who just lost their other daughter/sister this past winter to leukemia.  After that, no one could keep it together. Then at least 2 other people said that the person they had set out to run “in honor of,” they now had to run “in memory of.”  I realized awhile ago there was a huge proportion of nurses involved and I wasn’t sure why but it became really obvious as they all said they had seen too many patients die from cancer.  I also found out my coach Andy, who I’ve come to know pretty well, is a survivor as well! He’s been cancer free for 2 years.

So after I’m thoroughly teared up and realizing how unimportant it is if I run this run in 5 hours or 3 hours, it’s just about the reason I’m doing it.  What a great way to start!  Then the whole group ran the first mile together in silence:  7:30 AM, 60+ people, all silent and running along with tears in our eyes.  We had to be a sight to see.  Oh I should mention here that I forgot my iPod.  Also, despite there being 60 people, apparently I run at the same pace as no one.  In some ways, I think the silence actually made the run better though.

I was really reflective and let my thoughts wander, my pace wasn’t going all over the place with music tempo, and I thought a LOT about all the people supporting me and all the people I know that have had cancer.  While dirty rap music or techno music full of college memories have made running bearable before, this was a good change after our meaningful start. I thought a lot about my mom’s friend Dianna, who has MS, and how proud she is that I am running this.  It made me appreciate the  sheer fact I was running, that I have the choice to run for 4 hours.  You never know, someday I might not be able to walk.  I thought about her a lot, it was just what was on my mind that day.

I can’t even explain how fast the run went by. Well, fast is maybe the wrong word but it didn’t feel like I really ran for 3 hours, 24 minutes.  I was off in another world!   One of the coaches mentioned focusing on the here-and-now rather than thinking about what you are going to do after the run, all the things you have to do for work or your spouse or moving; it doesn’t let you escape on the run.  She said this a few weeks ago and it has really helped me.  I used to think “one more mile and I can go do x y z” but I’ve tried to switch my mentality.  Thinking about the nice shower, nap, meal, or glass of wine later just make me dread the rest of the run.  I focused on staying in the moment and thinking about my surroundings and body, rather than making mental to-do lists.  Another thing was that I went out not expecting it to just be another run.  It wasn’t like okay, just have to get through these couple of hours.  Since you don’t just “get through” hours of running.  It’ still shocking me though just how the run just happened, my body could handle it, it was tiring but I wasn’t in pain or exhausted.  How did I get to this point?!

Mile 1-4 my pace jumped around a lot as I found my natural rhythm.  At 7, I was in awe that I was 1/3 through my run.  Miles 5-12 really flew by as they usually do (well usually it’s 5-9 but it was extra long on this run, thank goodness). Miles 13 and 14 were when my stomach was having issues so I slowed down, and around mile 15 I realized “only 6 more!” I thought about my normal 6 mile loop and reminded myself that it wasn’t quick by any means, but I know exactly what it feels like.  15-17 went by pretty easily, and I tried not to look at my watch.  There was a light breeze through these miles and since it was unusually humid that day, the breeze was wonderous.  I was in a goofy, weird mood and would stick my arms straight out (partly to cool off my armpits because I was chaffing, partly because it felt nice, and partly because I think I was going a little insane) and close my eyes just taking in my surroundings.  Time was going soooo slow for 18 to 20 because I knew how close to the end I was but I still had  20 minutes of running!  Around like 20, they had signs on the trail that said things like “Hi I’m Mason and I’m 9 years old! 2 weeks ago I finished my chemo treatments and I can’t wait to finally play soccer this summer with my friends!”  Um, you bet I cried.  After 3.5 hours of running and deep thinking, I was a basket of emotions.  Laughing and crying. I hit 21 miles and it was weird because I didn’t want to stop.  My quads and butt were feeling it but I knew how much more tight and sore everything would get once I stopped!!  At 21.2, I slowed down and walked for another 0.5 miles to cool down.  Many survivor kids were at the “finish line” and placed a “medal” (really a bagel on a string, much more delicious!) around my neck.  It was too cute and knowing that they were survivors, I was all emotional again though I just smiled and cheered with them because they were so happy!

And the end.

After tons and tons of stretching, I took an ice bath as soon as possible and then took some strong ibuprofen ;)!  I took a short nap (I really hate how I feel taking a long nap after running, all swollen and stiff) and just kept standing up all day to stretch and move, I was really nervous about getting tight.  For once, I was super hungry right away. Usually, it takes a day or two for my appetite to really come back.  Overall though I felt no worse- actually, better- than after 18 or even 15.  My muscles just felt like they had nothing in them.  They weren’t sore but they were definitely exhausted.   I had one margarita at dinner and almost fell down after just from the weakness in my legs. I looked like such a drunk! I wanted to tell everyone I had run 21 miles that AM to explain!

I know people go out and do these long runs or races with a lot less preparation. It is not always possible to get the sleep you need or carefully plan food intake.   A lot of people aren’t as sensitive to food and sleep maybe, or they are just used to training.  Being new to this endurance running, I tried to do everything I could to make it go well. I’m sure I could have gotten through the run on less sleep and less planning but I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it the way I did.  Do you put much thought and planning into training or just wing it?

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