Friday, June 10, 2011

Pre-race recap and some lingering thoughts on energy gels

It's almost a week till race day and I'm just about totally prepared for this marathon thing. I'm so nervous at this point that I just want it to be over with. All my plans are in line. All that needs to be done is to do it. 

I've been cutting back on my training for the last couple of weeks. My runs have gone back down to between 3-4 miles each and my long runs no longer seem long. Well, last Sunday's 15 miles turned into 13, then turned into 9+ 2miles of walking because my hip flexors decided to start making themselves painfully noticed. I had worked ALL of Saturday. Starting at 5am with a 4 mile bike ride in to work to stand behind a desk for 8.5 hours Saturday was a non-stop run in itself. It was busy so I didn't get to sit down for a moment. After that, I rode my bike another 13 miles to get to my other job at a swanky private golf club where I do everything from serve tables to carry them and their chairs to set-up and tear down wedding decorations. We were there until 1:30 am. I had to work there on Sunday afternoon too, so I got a ride home and planned on running there (13 miles) in order to fit in my long run for the week. Due to the overexertion on Saturday, my body shut down 2 miles shy of my goal and would run no further. This just gave me a good indication that taking off work for the 2 days proir to my marathon is a good idea. 

I stopped at the local bike shop the other day and parused their selection of energy gels to bring along with me on race day. There are so many to choose from! I picked up quite a few I think I might like just to try and a couple that I know work well for me. I'm a big fan of the cliff bloks and shots because they are mostly organic and contain no high fructose corn sweetener. I noticed a lot of these contained caffeine. I'm thinking, 'hey, caffeine gives you energy, what a great idea!'  Then I started thinking about what caffeine actually does to me; it may not be that great of an idea after all. I don't know about you, but after coffee I tend to need the bathroom. I wouldn't see that being too comfortable on rade day. I've had that feeling on runs before and I don't like it. I was wondering if this is what the problem is for people that regularly complain about digestion issues on race day. Caffeine can also inhibit the absorbtion of carbohydrates into your system and contribute to dehyhdration.

I'd like to know hear some other thoughts on this. Do you use gels on your long runs? Do you go for the ones with caffeine or opt for the more natural gels without caffeine?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

May rains, muscle strains, and overloaded brains

That pretty much sums up my entire last month in one sentence or less. I wish I could say that the reason I've neglected my blog for the last few weeks was due to my travels to distant exotic locales, mingling with indigenous peoples who have never heard of the internet, and doing things far more life enriching than writing endearing notes to cyber peeps. Nope. I'm not that cool.

Finals took a lot out of me this semester. With two jobs, marathon training and nine credits I had my work cut out for me. During the weeks leading up to finals, blogging just didn't fit into my schedule.

To the left is just one of the many disorganized piles of books/notes that haunted me. By the end of it I didn't want to touch a computer or textbook for a while. The three week break between spring and summer classes couldn't have come sooner. So, what did I do for my break?

I did what any responsible college student would do.

I slept for five days straight.

Just kidding.

After finals were over I tried to incorporate more extracurricular activities. Reading... FOR FUN. Spending time outdoors...

That was an adventure. April showers bring May... SNOW?!?!!
OK, It wasn't really snow, but it was close enough. It was cold and rainy. And one fine day brought some kind of sleet-like precipitation that looked more like unflavored dippin' dots.
(I used to think that stuff was so cool)

Looks pretty neat, but it's no weather to run in. I'm clumsy enough as it is without attempting to run with tiny slippery ice pellets under my feet. Nothankyou.
Good thing my school gym is still open through the interim.

This is the view of lake Mendota, beginning of my run. 
Sunset over the lake on my way home. Three miles to go!

This spring transition has not been the smoothest, but it hasn't been all bad. The first weekend in May was beautiful here in Madison. Just in time for my 16 mile run. I felt so good that day, I ran 16.88 miles.

It felt pretty good.  I brought my hydration belt and my Clif Shot Bloks.
They come highly recommended by my mom, a seasoned running veteran who is also running Grandma's Marathon this year.

The first 10-12 miles felt great. I started getting tired, but the worst part was over and I had this beautiful sunset to keep me company on the way home...

I was pretty tired after this run, but really proud of myself because it was the furthest I'd ever run before. I took some advice and tried the ice-bath thing at the end of this run. I'm not sure if I used enough ice. Or maybe I didn't stretch enough. Either way, I woke up the next morning with... (GASP)


 I tried everything they say you're supposed to do for this kind of thing.


But nothing seemed to be working.
A few days week and a few skipped runs later, I went to the doctor.
He told me that I had been over-training and hitting the hills way too hard. I had an achilles tendon overuse injury. The muscles holding my ankles together were severely strained. Good news was I didn't break anything, then came the bad news: I had to quit running for another week. At least until the swelling subsides. Then he told me that when I finally came back to running I couldn't take on too many miles. This really worried me because I had an 18 and a 20 mile run to do and everything I've ever read about marathon training says that the long runs are crucial to preparing yourself for race day, mentally and physically.

Well, I did what the doctor told me. I din't run for two weeks! I really felt like a major slacker. It's amazing the kind of addictive power running has. I didn't know how much I loved it until I had to stop. I was given the OK to ride my bike though. I ride everywhere normally, so that was a relief. I don't have a car and I'd rather not take the bus as long as I have two relatively un-crippled legs to pedal around with.

I asked my mom, almost crying (when I say almost, I really mean actually) if I would have to give up on this whole marathon dream of mine. She told me that was nonsense (thanks mom!), and I would be just fine as long as I got to do at least one of my long runs before the marathon.
Guess what I did this weekend?

I ran 20.49 miles on my long run on Sunday!!!

My boyfriend's family has a cottage overlooking the bay in Door county and this is where we spent most of the holiday weekend. I totally forgot to bring a camera; I wish I would have taken some pictures.
I got up at 5 am and left the cottage by 6:00. Strapped on my fuel belt with two little bottles of water, set my playlist and hit the road. I struggled quite a bit during the last five miles, but the first 14 and the last .4 miles were pretty darn exhilarating. I ran from Dyckesville to Green Bay, along the lakeshore. The views were awesome and despite the thunderstorms that were on the forcast, the weather was amazing. warm and partly sunny the whole way. I cheered myself on loudly as I passed mile 17. Mile 18 prompted another exaggerated raising of the arms in triumph as did mile 19. My muscled screamed and threatened to quit on me but I kept going, determined to show this run who's boss. I ended up finishing my run in a little under four hours.
Yaaayy me!!!

Two unexpected things happened because of this run. I learned a valuable lesson regarding super-long runs. Don't forget to bring body-glide to prevent... Dun, dun, dunn...

Chafing! (not cool)

Also, weird and kind of funny thing happened...
I had an unexplained soreness in my right shoulder later on that day and on into the next one. I realized that it was the very same arm that had my iPhone strapped to it for 20 miles! I guess carrying a few extra ounces really does take it's toll after 4 hours. I may have to rethink my music situation come race day.
Maybe I'll switch arms every hour or so?
I don't know. I'll think of something.

My ankles swelled up again the next day, but this time I knew how to handle it. I rested, turned down two extra shifts offered me by both my jobs, took an ice bath, some ibuprofen and the swelling was mostly gone by this morning. I ran a 2 mile recovery run before biking to work this afternoon and felt great.

Tomorrow I'm going to try 5 miles and see how that feels. I can't wait.

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