26.2

The Marathon. It represents so much more than 26.2 miles. It’s epic battle for freedom from oppression and slavery. The overthrowing of a delusional ego manic set on world domination. It’s the strength of mind over body.  It’s an illustration of the endurance and strength found within the human spirit. It’s the compassion of the human heart. It’s the will to live life rather than watch it pass you by.

The name Marathon as most of us knows came from Greece and the city Marathon and the great runner Pheidippides. He ran 155 miles, not just 26.2. There is a race that commemorates his actual run, the Spartathon, which goes from Athens to Sparta is approximately 153 miles. Runners have thirty-six hours to finish. The Finish is at the statue of Leonidas. Not many runners make it to the end. In fact, more than fifty percent don’t finish the race.  However, that never stops the race from filling up every year. Why? Because of what the Marathon represents.

The Spartathon may be way out of most runner’s league, but running a marathon is an achievable goal for any healthy adult, who has the desire to complete the distance. Some 36,000 runners will be toeing the starting line on Monday for the Boston Marathon. Many more will be standing tall at the start of their local marathon this Saturday. The ING New York Marathon is the largest, hosting 47,000 runners. In 2012, 471,595 people ran a marathon in the United States alone. There are 850 marathons throughout the US, which you can choose from. The average finish time for females is 4 hours and 42 minutes. For males, it is 4 hours and 17 minutes.

It is a sixteen-week commitment to train for a marathon, even if you have never run before. Checkout my training programs by clicking on that page at the top of my blog. Even people who are not in the greatest condition can start training and finish the race. Most training programs are going to include one day of speed work, one day for a long run, and a few easy runs. Your longest run is 20 miles, unless you are using the Hansen method then it is 16 miles.

If none of your friends or family will buck up and run with you, join one of the many charity groups who run marathons. Team in Training does an excellent job assisting first time marathon runners in getting ready for their race. They choose incredible destination races, help you raise the money for your donation and most of your costs for the race. MarathonRookie has a whole list of charity organizations http://www.marathonrookie.com/marathon-for-charity.html

The marathon is a wonderful distance. It is far enough to be a challenge, but short enough to be within the reach of anyone who wants to try. The last 10k is where the real work begins in a marathon. Your body is exhausted and wants to quit. Your shoulders begin to hunch and your feet just skim the ground. It’s at that point that you have to draw upon your true strength and forge ahead.

I ran Salt Lake City Marathon as my first marathon in 2009. I finished the race in just under four hours, which was my goal. It was on a beautiful April morning. I rode the train to the starting line of the Salt Lake City Marathon. The train was full of contemplative bouncing runners packed shoulder to shoulder. I listened to everyone talking about other marathons they had done. I counted my GU for the fifth or sixth time. I wiped my sweaty hands on my shorts. I took some deep breaths. Not finishing never occurred to me, I knew I could do this.

I didn’t have any problems during my twenty-mile run. Sure, I was sore the next day, and I expected to be sore after the marathon, but as far as I could tell, it was a successful training season. We all piled out of the train and lined up at the port-a-potty.

The gun went off, and so did I, as if I was running a 10k. I had never been a part of a race with so many participants. It didn’t matter where we came from or who we were in the real world, only the next 26.2 miles mattered, and we were going to get there together. The course starts in Research Park by the University of Utah and winds its way down to Sugarhouse Park by mile five. The marathon and half-marathon runners split at that point and didn’t join back up until about 21 miles into the marathon.

At mile twenty, I hit the infamous wall. I slowed, and my form was falling to pieces. I continued to shuffle along the route. I kept moving forward.  The last couple of miles were a hill. Nothing serious, but after 24 miles, any hill is serious. I struggled across the finish line. A volunteer hung a metal around my neck, commemorating my achievement, and I collapsed into a chair. I sat there for a few minutes and then a few more minutes.

I’ve run many other marathons (I run them for training runs now!), but Salt Lake City will have a special place in my memories, always.

Fostering Strength

One of the things I love about running is being alone in my head. But, as much as I love that aspect of running, I have a group that I run with on Wednesdays. I had never even considered running with a group because I enjoy running alone so much. It took a very special group for me to join the ranks of runners who have a running club or group.

Running groups are an excellent way to stay motivated and committed to running. When you have to be accountable to others for showing up to run it is a little harder to say, “I’ll do it later” They can help you keep pace whether you’re doing an easy run or speed training. They can provide reassurance when you’re having a bad run because everyone has an off day.

I have one of the most inspirational running groups I can imagine. I run with teens who are placed in a foster home (taken out of their parent’s custody and care and placed with strangers) because their parents have made harmful decisions. These teens are an amazing group of kids. Trying to determine who you are, who you want to be, and finding your place in the world is hard. It is a challenge to any emotionally driven teen to then lose the support, identity, and structure of home, no matter how dysfunctional home was, can be an unsurmountable blow.

But these kids stand tall and strong letting the world know they have not been defeated. They won’t be held back by the poor decisions of others. They fight to the front of the line and many, more fortunate kids, are left in their dust. Not only in races, but in education and community involvement.

There is a certain point in nearly every race, particularly in the marathon and longer distances, where your body says NO MORE! This is known as the wall. When you hit the wall, you have to dig deep inside of yourself and find a reason to keep pushing. Each one of these kids is a reason for me to push on and finish strong. Because, that’s exactly what they do every day, when they get up in the morning to face the world and to face their own demons. Even though the odds are stacked against them, they push on.

I hope your running group inspires you as much as mine does me and if not, find some foster teens to run with. Their courage and strength are contagious.

So I’ve heard that stretching doesn’t do much…

“Wow, that can’t be good,” I said to my son as we finished the ab workout he designed.

“What’s not good?” he asked.

“My quads are really tight. I can feel them strain against my knees sitting just here.”  I was sitting back on my ankles. My legs folded underneath me, knees on the floor.

Tight muscles are not a runner’s friend. Sure, sometimes they loosen up as your body gets warm during that first mile or so, but you risk tearing them if they don’t get warm enough. Tight muscles also cause problems up and down the kinetic chain because they restrict the mobility of all muscles and tendons connected with them. It also requires opposing muscles to work harder.

Stretching or not stretching is not the issue here. The question is when to stretch. Many research studies show that stretching can reduce your chances of injury. It also assists in maintaining a good stride. That said never ever stretch cold muscles. You will tear them. If you need to stretch before you run, do a 10-15 minute warm-up on a bike or jump roping or something that does not require big movements.

 Using a foam roller or The Stick, in my opinion, is the best way to warm up before a run. You can get them at most running stores, and I’m sure Amazon has them. You use it by placing it on the floor, lying on the tight muscle on top of the roller, and rolling it down the length of the muscle. Try to put as much of your body weight on the roller as you can tolerate. If there are knots in the muscle, it will be painful, and it can leave small bruises if you are aggressive with it. I stop and rest on the knot for 30 seconds or until I feel it release. The Stick is another massage tool (and it’s more portable than a foam roller). It is approximately two feet long, and one inch in diameter. It has beads along its center with handles on both ends. You can also find these at running stores. Many chiropractors use them.

  I roll my quads, hamstrings, illiotibial band and calves twenty five times each with the Stick before my runs. By doing this, they are warm and knots are worked out of them. Blood is flowing nicely to them, so they have plenty of oxygen, and they are ready to go.

 I have worked through ITB syndrome, ankle sprains, shin splints, and trigger point issues in my calves with the foam roller and stick. I love them, and they go to all my races.

 

Stretch after you run. I also use a foam roller after my run and again before bed, if I notice any knots or tight spots in any muscles. I recommend using a static stretch (no bouncing) on your groin, quads, calves, and hamstrings. Hold each stretch for 25-30 seconds. Holding it longer does not help. Rotate through each stretch two or three times.  Do not stretch to the point of pain only until you can feel the tightness in the area.

 

Hopefully, I can get my quads to loosen up before the marathon on Saturday (Salt Lake City Marathon) and surely before Salt Flats 100 six days later. I will be rolling around on my foam roller each night and stretching at my desk and between court hearings until go time.

 

I’m too Hot! I’m too Cold! I’m just right.

I’m a list writer. So, as I’m preparing for the Salt Flats 100, I have written lists for everything. My friends and family believe I over think things, and that I’m pretty much crazy, but it helps me prepare and maintain my sanity as race day gets closer. I draw the line at making lists of my lists. At that point, I will have myself committed to the State Hospital.

 Salt Flats is in the middle of nowhere, as are many 100-mile races, it’s not as if you can just run to the store and pick up a forgotten item. I have a list of what goes in each drop bag. I have a list of what I need to give to my crew. I have a list of things my crew needs to address at each aid station. I have a shopping list. I have a list of clothing to pack.

Springtime weather in Utah can be unpredictable. It can go from 75 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny to 30 degrees Fahrenheit and hailing in a matter of minutes. Knowing this, my list of clothing has nearly every piece of running attire I own on it. To complicate matters, I place the same items in multiple drop bags such as long sleeve shirts and pants. But you have a crew, why doesn’t your crew just carry it all? Because any number of things could go wrong with my crew, and I need to know my gear is where I need it to be even if my crew isn’t. My crew will come into an aid station and pick up my drop bag, so it is ready for me. If they are not there, for whatever reason, I know my stuff is there waiting for me.

Knowing what to wear at various temperatures comes with experience. Everyone’s heat and cold tolerance is different. It’s all about layers (Like an onion? Yes, like an onion).   Continue reading

Building and Rest Go Hand in Hand

I’m going stir crazy as I taper for Salt Flats 100. All my extra energy, which usually gets spent during my runs is building. My miles will continue to come down until I’m taking three full days off of running before my race. My strength training will stop ten days before the race because it takes about ten days to see benefits from any strength training. Taking time to rest is just as important as building your miles. Without the rest, building strength does not happen. As we push our bodies to go farther and father distances building up to that goal race, our muscles, ligaments, and tendons get micro tears in them. These tears are not necessarily a bad thing, because as they heal we become stronger. But, we have to let them heal.

There are some basic golden rules about building miles, which all runners should know and look for when they are deciding on a training program. The first is never build more than 10% a week. So for example if you’re running three five mile runs a week, you can safely add 1.5 miles the next week. The second golden rule is to reduce your miles by 20-25% every fourth week. If you’re a more injury prone runner, you can change that down week to an elliptical week or a pool-running week.

Pool running is great for maintaining your fitness when you are injured and for letting your body really rest from the impact of running. Pool running is as difficult as you want make it. You get into the deep end of the pool with a floatation belt (you can do it without one, but it is much harder). Most pools have floatation belts you can borrow. Once you’re in the water, you want to maintain an upright position as you move your arms and legs as you would if you were running out on the road. Even when you are running hard in the pool, you should not be moving forward much. If you are, you are leaning too far forward. On a rest week, you just want to take things kinda easy and run for the time it would take you to run your reduced mileage for the day.

Overtraining is an issue many runners struggle with. How do you know if you are overtraining? You feel sluggish, your legs feel like lead even after an easy run, you heart rate is elevated when you are at rest, and your friends and family tell you that you’re being grumpy all the time. Overtraining means you are not respecting your body’s limits, you’re not listening to your body, and you are dancing with the injury demon, who is waiting for the most inconvenient time to strike. If you find yourself in this situation, take two to three days off totally and then see how you feel. If you are okay, start with a reduced week back to running and then make sure you are following all the rules.

Your taper is an extended rest period before a race. It needs to be long enough to allow your body to fully recover, but short enough that you will not lose any aerobic fitness. For a marathon, your taper is generally two weeks long. You can use the same type of taper for a 50k. For a 50 or 100 mile race, your taper is three weeks. Many runners get antsy with the extra energy, but it is important kill the urge to go out and run or do some other physically taxing activity. The idea is for you to be at 100% on race day, so nothing will stand in the way of that metal being hung around your neck or the belt buckle being placed in your hand as you scorch across the finish line.

Enjoy a new book, lay in the hammock for a little longer, take the bubble bath you haven’t had time for, or go to the movie and eat a whole tub of popcorn!

When I think of the word team, I think family.

“I love this game,” my sixteen year old exclaims as he comes off the Ultimate Frisbee field. As his mom, I know that not only does he love the game, but his team. Even during a moment of despair or an “epic failure” they call out to each other, “You can cry about it or you can Dance about it,” as they all break into their personal signature dance moves.

 I think I get as much out of watching him interact with his team as he does being a part of it. Maybe that is because I know what it means to be member of a team.

I’m the captain of my relay team. We run both “normal” 12 person relays and ultra-relays with a six-person team.  Of course, I have people who migrate on and off my team, but there are a core of six who always “Nut Up.”  I would do anything they asked that is within my ability to do. Continue reading

Never Retreat, Never Surrender!

213About four weeks ago, banshee dog (AKA Annabelle) jumped down off the seat of the couch and landed weird. She turned and looked at me when she landed, I asked if she was all right, and she wandered off to get a drink. The next day she started having seizures. She’s actually been stable on phenobarbital for her seizures for over a year, so I thought maybe her medication just needed adjusting. Later that night, she lost the use of her hind legs. I took her to the vet the next morning and found out that she had slipped a disk in her back when she jumped from the couch. She has been on medication to reduce the inflammation since then. I wasn’t able to afford the $5,000 for the surgery.

Banshee dog is half Chihuahua and half Dachshund and weighs 6 pounds. Her legs are approximately three inches long. Annabelle’s nickname is banshee dog because she screams like a banshee when she does not get what she wants. She is a spoiled rotten little dog by my own doing. I take full responsibility for her behaviors. I have totally coddled her, so that she would not cry and wake up my boys. Anyway, banshee dog gets up 5-6 times a night to go to the bathroom because of the medication she is on (Okay and she was getting up 2-3 times a night before that). I, of course, have to get up put shoes on and a jacket to take her outside. I walk around my yard, bent over, carrying my miniature dog’s little butt around until she finds a suitable spot to do her business.

I took her to the vet again today. Dr. Ubrick said that it will be months before Annabelle will be able to walk. We (by this I actually mean just me) will need to do physical therapy with her, but she will never regain total mobility with her hind legs. She may need a wheel chair or braces for her legs, which will likely cost $100-250.

Some people have suggested putting her down. But I won’t give up on her. Just like, I won’t give up on any other endeavors I take on. I’ve struggled through injuries and had to do physical therapy too. I’ve even had to drop out of races due to injuries. Because of this, I’ve implemented many different preventative strategies such as adding strength training, stretching, running in the pool on a regular basis, reducing my miles every four weeks, and cross training. What I’ve learned from this is forgiveness, acceptance, and determination.

I have to forgive myself for not being able to do what I set out to do at that time. This is the most difficult part for me. I have high expectations of myself, failure and quitting are not options. So, how do I forgive? I accept that my body is not perfect and sometimes it gets hurt when I ask it to go farther and do more than it is ready to accomplish. This takes time because my first response is anger and frustration. Once I have accepted that I my body is not a machine, I make a plan (determination) of how I am going to come back even stronger and conquer what I set out to do in the first place.

In running, DNF is generally interpreted as “did not finish,” but I think of it as “did nothing fatal,” “lived to fight another day,” or “lost the battle, but not the war.”

We all have bad days; sometimes they stretch into bad weeks. Runners get injured, it’s part of the sport. What’s not a part of getting stronger, better, and faster is quitting. No one skates through life without some form of bruises and scars, both physical and mental. Challenges build character. When we are pushed to the limit of what we believe we can do, a transformation happens, and we come back stronger and more beautiful than ever before.