Monday, September 27, 2010

18 miles

Number of marathons: 2 going on 3

Number of 18-mile runs: 2, including the one I did yesterday.

Long story short, I didn't know crap about marathon training for my first marathon. I thought it was enough that I was working doubles at Olive Garden, racing around like a headless chicken trying to keep up with never-ending soup, salad and breadsticks. My longest run pre-marathon was 14 miles, about 3 weeks out. I finished the race in 3:59:59. I was actually doing pretty well up until mile 20, when everything completely fell apart, and my limbs about fell off. My body was rejecting all attempts to refuel or rehydrate with gut-wrenching cramps. My hips felt like they had become bolted in place and would no long swing. I got out lucky with my barely-sub-4.

The second marathon went better. I had successfully completed an 18-mile run, but bonked on the 20, only doing about 16. I did track workouts every week and hill repeats every other. I cross-trained to keep my IT bands in check. I went to yoga and spin every week, biked to work, and got a few deep-tissue massages. The result was a much better marathon, my only complaint being that I, once again, was experiencing major tummy issues. Gu's still hit my stomach lining like a bag of nails so I had to wog (walk/jog) a few miles until everything sorted itself out. I crossed the line in 3:39:00.

For marathon #3, I feel like I'm somewhere between the 1st and the 2nd when it comes to preparation. I'm doing the miles, but without a gym membership my only cross-training is yoga in the living room and serving. I did speed work for the first few weeks of a running regimen until I started working again and my only option to run was with the jogging stroller most days of the week. Yet somehow, I feel stronger than ever.

Maybe it was labor, or marching up and down hills every day, several times a day with a 25-lb baby on my back and a 60-lb dog leashed to each arm, or simply the fact that after a long day or a hard run I can't just collapse because I still have a child (and husband) to tend too, but somehow, I am stronger, and maybe faster, than before.

I ran 18 in 2:34 - about 13 on a treadmill during monsoon-like conditions, and the other 5 outside during a break in the deluge (once the Falcons/Saints game got to half-time, that is). I felt good. Like crazy good. When I got outside I was practically laughing out loud to myself that it was insane how good I felt, and that surely something was wrong with me. I only listened to my ipod (a bit of a crutch for longer runs) for the last 2 miles and finished fast.

I've heard from a lot of moms that they feel like they are better runners post-baby(ies) than before. I wonder what, exactly, causes this change. Is it because we're forced into a new roll in addition to all the others we play? Is it because our days off are still days on? Is it because labor and delivery elevates us to a whole new level of endurance and pain tolerance?

Who knows? All I do know, is that I'm doing 20 next week, and I am not going to bonk.

Friday, September 24, 2010

More conversations with myself.

Thank goodness for blogs, because if I was trying to keep any kind of record of my life in an actual diary (you know, the kind with paper, and binding?) it'd probably have an inch of dust on it.

Life's been interesting. Some ups and downs as of late, mostly my own, and mostly in my own head. I've been unimaginably frustrated with life in south-metro Atlanta (which is not Atlanta at all) and my husband bringing home stress from work hasn't helped. I'm still struggling with some homesickness, and sticking to any kind of training schedule has only been semi-successful at best.

I've been methodically checking off my long runs, at least. I'm due to run 18 Sunday. I have 36 days until the marathon. I ran a respectable 5K earlier this evening (not a PR, at 23:00, but not bad after running a couple miles beforehand and it being 87 degrees out). Like a trusted old friend, Running is there for me to interact with or just hang out quietly in the same room. Sometimes there's lots to share; those are the days I bust out 8 miles in an hour then go on to work a Saturday night shift at the restaurant. Sometimes, we only flirt with the idea of getting together; the Sundays when I'm just too beat from working doubles to even consider running double-digits, and I slog through 6 miserable miles instead.

I just hate when life takes away from my running. During my pathetic 6-miler (this was last Sunday, when I was first supposed to run 18, which I postponed for this weekend) I even considered NOT doing the marathon. The whirlwind of self-doubt started to build around me until my head was a cloud thick with despondence and insecurity. What business do I have trying to attempt a marathon. What does it even mean to me, anyway? What's the point?? The tears started to rise up from somewhere deep within me and nearly choked me out, making me stop in my tracks.

Stop. I said. This is ridiculous. You're talking about one - ONE - scratched run. One tired day. What the hell would you do with yourself if you didn't run? Could you really drive up there and not run the marathon? Retard.

And with that, I was back on track.

Life's still stressful, and so is running, sometimes. But more often than not, it's still been my reprieve. With highs barely cresting 80 in the near future (!!!!!!!!) the hope of effortless runs - easy runs that are actually easy, hard runs that don't render me useless for the rest of the day - fills me with a new sense of possibility.

Also, my husband just got a job. In Atlanta. The Real Atlanta. Where there are Cuban restaurants, independent businesses, sidewalks, parks, and the Beltline.

More happiness and optimism to come, I promise.