Week Three: Chicago Marathon Training

Training for a marathon in the middle of packing up for a cross-country move is only crazy if you’re not ready for it. I spent this week doing a lot of condensing: five boxes of pre-digital camera photos now fit on a 1TB external hard drive and four boxes of old high school, college, and racing T-shirts now fit into one. I also bought a ukulele, fed stingrays and parakeets at the zoo, and downloaded a new weather-running app. With everything I did this week, I am getting excited and anxious to move back to DC. I’m feeling ready to go, ready to start this new chapter.

My new ukulele
My new ukulele

Monday: Cross-training with yoga. After waking up at 4:30AM to take my brother to the airport, I came back in the craziness of moving mode with a To-Do list a mile long. Among the things I needed to do and figuring how I would be moving everything, I decided that it was time to face the inevitable fact that I might never learn to play guitar. Back in 2012, I traded in my high school flute and my sister’s clarinet for a beautiful mahogany Fender electric acoustic guitar. It was a gorgeous instrument and, even though I had literally no clue how to play it, I loved it. But learning how to play it was not as lovable. I could only play it for about 10 minutes at a time because it hurts terribly to press the strings down and I have no calluses on my fingers yet. Even though I bought a book and looked into lessons, I wanted to get past this one hurdle so I could make use of an instructor’s time and my money, but I just couldn’t do it. Seriously, it killed my fingers. So, I decided to try a similar route: the ukulele. There is something kind of appealing about learning to play the uke. It’s a happy instrument, the strings aren’t as hard on your fingers as guitar strings, and I figured that if I could pick that up, perhaps a future in guitar would work out. Throughout the day, my new rosewood uke felt like some sort of house guest that you don’t know how to entertain. I kept it standing up in its case and it kept beckoning me to play it, but it had already gone out of tune since I was at the music store and I didn’t have a tuner. Later that evening, I had a 5-miler planned, but being in the middle of moving arrangements, but decided that I really needed a yoga class because my legs felt incredibly tight from the past week of running and no deep-stretching. When I walked into yoga class, there were some serious looking storm clouds to the north of town. By the time I was out of class, the clouds had burst and there was lightning. Ten minutes later, downpour. So, I took an unplanned rest day. I hate doing that. But I also don’t want to run in rain or lightning. Later on, I went outside and saw the MOST BEAUTIFUL rainbow and sunset I’d seen that summer. Storm clouds are pretty, but I think it’s about time I had a good rainbow in my life.

july2 002Tuesday: 7 hilly miles at an average 10:16 pace. Splits at 20:45, 10:11, 10:25, 10:17, 9:54, 10:21, and 9:56. I am in full-on picture-scanning mode. What does that mean? It means I am scanning in all the pictures I took before there were digital cameras into my computer so I don’t have to haul around five shoeboxes of photos every time I move. Plus, I am assigning the important duty of Family Archivist to myself, so I also have a box of old family pictures to scan in, too. My goal is to have everything into my computer and on my hard drive by the end of this week. I was up until almost 1AM last night because I’ve just been scanning and scanning and scanning. Sigh. I know this will be something I will be grateful I took the time to do, but right now, it’s making me cross-eyed, dizzy, and tunnel-visioned. It’s hard to tear myself away from the computer long enough to do anything else, including running, but I have to remind myself that I am in training as well as in transition, and that despite everything I have going on, I still am committed to this marathon. After spending hours scanning in photos and taking breaks only to pack up my closet, coordinate selling my dresser to a college student in need, and taking an Arlington apartment tour via Face Time with my friend Kristine, I suited up for a 5…no 7…no, 5…maybe 7…mile run. Okay, sometimes I don’t actually decide how far I’m going to run until I’m actually out there running. Sometimes I decide how far I’m going to go depending on how I feel that day. I didn’t get out there until almost 8PM. I really think evening running gets an unfair rap. I know it’s glorious to watch the sun coming up, but there’s something soothing about watching the sun sink and the sky grow dark and fireflies lighting up and the temps are dropping slowly but the pavement is still hot from the day. It’s actually pretty intoxicating to witness, and the sunset was a clear, unfettered blood orange circle that turned the sky pink and orange and purple as it sank. No clouds, just a big round in the sky that got lower and lower. This song came on in my last mile, and at that point, it was like a lullaby. I could feel myself relax and my running followed my heart’s lead. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXyiZata3ro I ended the run feeling like I could have kept running, like I was flying. There was joy in my legs as I ran. I was getting tired, but I was happy. For the first time in awhile, I ran with peace. Kind of wish all runs could be that zen and blissful. Wednesday: Rest. The thing about moving is that every day is pretty much the same–packing, packing, packing– but it’s also very different. I woke up without my dresser this morning and the curtains off my bedroom window (and when I say curtains, I mean a couple of towels nailed to the wall that helped keep out the polar vortex from this winter– don’t judge, curtains are expensive). All of this is fine, of course, but it still ignites a weird sense of panic in me that this move is going to be FAST. Right now, I have 19 days before I have to leave my apartment and there’s still a lot to do to make sure I get out on time. Scanning photos is taking up most of my free time. My closet is all packed up, save for about six feet of empty hangers and some clothes that I’ll be wearing a LOT over the next 3 weeks. I’m not packing up the rest of my living room yet because my mom is coming to spend a couple of days with me before I leave, and I don’t want her to sit around in an uncomfortable, empty apartment. Hopefully it won’t take long to pack up my DVD collection, books, and knick knacks. I give it a day to pack everything up. Some old family favorites that I just uploaded:

Thursday: 4 miles at an average 10:20 pace. Splits at 10:44, 10:36, 9:54, and 10:04.  Today, I was planning to spend a day away from scanning photos to cross off an Omaha Bucket List item: spend a day at the Omaha Henry Doorley Zoo. I seriously love Omaha’s zoo. It makes me so happy to be there– I love animals so, so much. Today was my third time going to the zoo this summer. My mom, sister, and I got to the zoo around 11:30, starting first with the aquarium then going for a ride on the Skyfari, which is this sky-lift style ride that carries you over giraffes, cheetahs, a koi pond, and rhinos as well as a main thoroughfare at the zoo. After the Skyfari, we had Omaha Steakburgers for lunch at the Rainforest Cafe whose main dining room opens up to the monkey trees at the jungle next door. After lunch, we decided it was time to feed the stingrays at the newly-opened Stingray Beach.

The Stingray Beach is a massive cement pool with over a dozen stingrays that swim around aimlessly, and you can stick your hand in the pool and pet the stingrays as they swim by. For someone who is as obsessed with the ocean and sea life as me, I could spend all day at the Stingray Beach. Today, we got there just in time for the stingray’s 1:30 feeding, so I bought three cups of severed fish heads (seriously) for our group. To feed a stingray, you take a severed fish head in between your pointer and middle fingers and set your palm flat in the water and the stingrays are supposed to float over your hand and nibble up the fish head from your fingers. My mom went first, which was surprising because she isn’t that adventurous, and when a stingray took her fish, she immediately shrieked and yanked her hand out of the water, squealing and laughing uncontrollably, saying that she could feel the stingray nibbling against her fingers. I was spooked, but we had $3 worth of fish heads left and the stingrays had weirdly become a little more aggressive because they sensed it was time for lunch so they kept slapping the sides of the pool and splashing the people around the edges. So, I took a fish head in my fingers and set my hand in the water with so much trepidation, I had to ask my mom to hold my other hand. Almost immediately, a solitary stingray saw the food and floated over the top of my hand to grab it. I could definitely feel it nibbling and it tickled in a freakish, “Is this thing going to eat my hand off??” way. Feeding stingrays is so much fun, but I think I can put my lingering childhood dreams about being a marine biologist to bed now. Following the stingray beach, we went to a massive bird cage where they let parakeets (budgies) fly around, and you can buy a stick of bird seed to feed them. By that point, it was mid-afternoon and we were almost late for an IMAX movie. Everyone in my group fell asleep at some point in the movie, myself included, and it was this drowsiness that I couldn’t quite recover from for the rest of the day. On my drive back down to Lincoln, I stopped at Taco Bell for a couple of soft tacos and an iced tea– a decision I was afraid would backfire on me during my run but I was just so darn hungry). The food perked me up a little because I knew I had to run when I got back, but my feet were killing me and my legs were sore from not having done yoga or foam-rolling for a couple of days. I decided to run the 4-miler I had scheduled for later that weekend instead of the fast 5 I had to run. My first mile was rather sluggish, having taken a hilly graveled trail and my second mile was a slow ascension up the hill that doesn’t crest for nearly 0.7 miles. The third mile was a righteous downhill and my pace dipped into the lower 8’s. I could feel the drowsiness take me over, but I pressed on into my fourth mile that took me up and over a couple of hills. I was relieved when the run was done. I know from past experience at the 2013 Goofy Challenge and the 2013 Run for the Ranch Marathon that sometimes a little exhaustion can be a good thing, but walking for 5 hours and then running for 4 miles meant I had a long day on my feet and legs. But all in all, Thursday was a happy and perfect day. Friday: 5 miles at an average 10:01 pace. Splits at 10:23, 9:59, 9:54, 10:12, and 9:38. I’m not sure where I heard about this, but the Weather Channel has developed a running app for runners called The Outsider, so I decided to download it. For someone like me, who doesn’t have a usual set time of day to go running, this is a perfect tool to help me plan. When you first log in, you enter your age, gender, height, and weight as well as your body type: ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph (without the pictures that basically show what each of those….THINGS….are, I’d have been lost, so now I’m trying to decide if it was vanity or truth that led me to select “ectomorph”). Once you enter your information, including location, the app gives you a snapshot of the current weather outside including temp, humidity, wind speed, air quality, and chance of precipitation and uses that information to come up with a RWI, or “Running Weather Index.” Currently, with temps at 78 degrees, a 30% chance of rain, 14 mph winds, 68% humidity, and good air quality at 2.5 parts per million, the RWI for Lincoln, Nebraska is a 5 on a scale of 1 being not a good time to run and 10 being an awesome time to run. The app lets you schedule your runs, too, based on a good time in terms of weather. Tonight, for example, I can see that the RWI for an 8PM 5-mile run is a 3 based on 92 degree temps, 48% humidity, and 10% chance of rain. If I wanted to schedule that run (to be fair, the entire day’s RWI ranges between 4 and 2 all day), the app would access my calendar and schedule the run. Pretty cool, right? This might actually take the place of my Weather Channel app and will be WONDERFUL for the winter. Throughout the day, I saddled myself down with a new task of cutting out the designs from all my college and sorority T-shirts to send to my aunt to make into a double-sided T-shirt quilt. It seems like an odd chore to do in the middle of packing, but all the T-shirts I had from high school, college, and racing took up FOUR bankers boxes. Once I cut them down, the designs only took up about half a box. You do the math. Stepping out for a run, later that RWI-of-2 evening, the heat and humidity had dropped somewhat, but that wasn’t what was on my mind. My legs felt shredded and shattered, like someone had whacked them with a bat a couple of days earlier. I decided that a slow, conservatively-paced run was going to be my strategy for getting through the next 5 miles. Much to my surprise, however, I finished my first mile at a 10:23 pace. Mile two, I started up a long, ascending hill and met a 10:15 split at the top of that hill. I decided, instead of holding back, to just go for it and see what kind of a second mile I could run. I ended up finishing the second mile with a 9:59 split. In the middle of my third mile, I realized that I was running with a joy in my heart that I had somehow managed to sustain over a three weeks of training. I wasn’t questioning it– I was trying to find out what was so different about my attitude now about running than in the past. Previously, a 9:59 split would have killed my spirits, discouraged me, and made me run faster only to tire out shortly thereafter and ultimately feel like I wanted to give up. But here I was– excited for it and attacking the third mile to finish with an even faster split at 9:54, and I was actually proud of myself. Perhaps I was finally in a place where I could accept where I was in my running presently, not focusing so much on my goals at Chicago except to have a fun race, one that I could be proud to finish and an experience I could look back on with joy instead of cursing my performance if I didn’t meet my time or pace goals and forgetting that the race itself was immensely fun and a blessing to have the privilege to run. In my fourth mile, I had had to stop– the heat and fast running gave me a horrible side stitch and I was about to ascend a steep hill again. I finished my fourth mile at a 10:12 pace but recovered quickly to finish my fifth and final mile at a 9:38 pace and a 6:46 quarter-mile sprint. The supermoon was out as I walked the mile and a half back to my apartment, legs feeling shredded as heck, but finally feeling content with a run I viewed as an accomplishment at an average 10:00 pace and not a defeat. Perspective…. Saturday: Today, I met success in accomplishing one of my biggest goals in my scanning adventure: finish scanning in all the old family photos. I wanted to get that done first because obviously, I can’t take those with me to DC. On my guess, I think I scanned in somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 pictures. That’s a lot for the pre-digital days. But it’s important to me to have them all because, even though I’ve had a wonderful life, I feel like there are two distinct chapters in my childhood: the days before my parents divorced (1982-1990) and everything after that. There’s life with my mom and dad together and then there is life with my mom and stepdad where I see my dad and stepmom on occasion. There’s a sense of normalcy in Chapter One and, in Chapter Two, it’s all some sort of weird adaptation to what feels like someone else’s story. I often wonder what life would be like now if my parents had stayed together and, while the obvious blessings of having three new sisters and a new brother comes to mind first, I sometimes wish Chapter One went on until I left home for college, simply because divorce sucks. Or perhaps I just wish I could remember more about Chapter One and not being able to remember it well enough is leaving me without closure. Whatever it is, Chapter One is not a blank slate that no one talks about unless my siblings and I ask: it’s there; it’s with me now. Later on that day, as I sat scanning in my own personal photos, a feeling of nausea came over me. Do you remember when you were young and, when you woke up feeling sick on a school day morning, your mom would ask you if you believed you were sick enough not to go to school and you hesitated saying no because really you just wanted her to make the decision for you, and while you were enticed by the opportunity to stay home and take a day off with a minor bug, you felt guilty because maybe it was all just in your head and you really could make it through the day but then again you weren’t sure? Yeah. That’s how I felt trying to decide if I could run or not. I felt queasy and weak all day and thought perhaps I could get in my planned 6-miler that evening, but when my usual evening run time came around, I rationalized that I should take it easy and recover because I couldn’t miss my long run in the morning. I did manage to walk a mile to the mailbox, but even that made me nauseous. Back at home, I was so close to the end of my photo-scanning project (categorized as “olds” for old family photos and “partials” for the partial photos I had chopped up to fit in my scrapbooks). I just wanted it done. I had been scanning photos for nearly 12 hours, having scanned in nearly 1,000 photos that day alone. All I wanted was to meet my goal to finish scanning my “olds” and “partials” by end of this week. But as I was nearing the end of my pile, the clock ticked away and finally I was done….but it was 1AM. Even for a night owl like myself, that was late. And I knew I had to wake up early to run Sunday morning….

Sunday: 4.6 miles at an average 10:51 pace. 1.75 treadmill miles at an average 10:45 pace. I woke up in bed hot and sweating Sunday morning from the sun beating through my window and immediately, I knew I was screwed. I had slept through the “sweet spot” time that I needed to wake up to get my 12 long miles in– which I reasoned in my head to be 6AM-7AM. It was 8:30AM and I had gotten 7.5 hours of sleep, but for a day that was expected to be as busy and as hot as today, I needed to wake up that early to get my long run done. And I had missed it. “Maybe it won’t be that bad,” I rationalized as I threw on my running clothes, but I had that gut feeling that I can’t shake when I know a run is going to be a bad one. I was originally supposed to run my 12 miles with my twin sister Lauriel in Omaha, but I cancelled because I just wanted to be in my own home in case I got sick again. I usually check social media as I am waking up and I checked my feed and saw that Lauriel had tweeted about having a miserable run and feeling defeated about ever qualifying for Boston again (she qualified twice but didn’t get into the 2014 race but wants it more than anything). Instantly, that feeling of dread came over me. Lauriel was the one who got me inspired to run marathons in the first place. Once I saw that she did it, the whole twin competitive thing kicked in and I said to myself, “If she can do it, so can I.” And Lauriel is much more gifted with running than I am, but seeing her accomplishments gives me hope that I can be great at running, too. So, seeing her tweet about having a bad 12-miler that I was supposed to run with her instantly dimmed my hopes. Plus, I was still feeling sick. But I knew I had to get my 12 miles in. Long runs are crucial in marathon training. To help ease my trepidation and keep my spirits high, I decided to drive out to a municipal recreation area in Lincoln called Holmes Lake. It’s pretty much Lincoln, Nebraska’s Central Park except that you can kayak, canoe, fish, and camp out there and it’s in the middle of a busy city center. I had run out there once before and knew that I wanted to run there again before I left Lincoln, so I thought today was a perfect day. I stopped for coffee along the way, but when I got to the lake, I felt completely nauseous all over again. I decided, “Nope, I can’t do this,” and almost went back home until I saw an outhouse where I could get sick. I emerged feeling better and decided that it was time to get this over with. The first 2 miles were actually not that bad. My first split was 10:17 and my second split was 10:11. The miles went by fast and I thought, “Okay, maybe I really can do this.” Mile three, however, things took a turn for the worst. In the 20-ish minutes I had already been out running, the sun was 20 minutes higher in the sky and I could feel it beating down on me hardcore. There would be no shady areas to run for at least another mile and I had a couple of hills to scale. I stopped for a break, but recovery didn’t come. I finished the hot, baking, gravely mile with an 11:38 split. Partway through my 4th mile, I knew that there was no way I could run 8 more miles. All I could think about was the heat and the sun baring down on me and, instead of thinking to myself, “It’s hot. Get over it already!” all I could think was, “Oh my gosh, it’s too hot, I should have woken up earlier, what was I thinking going to bed that late, I’m going to get sick again, I can’t breathe, I literally can’t cool off, I’m going to run out of fluids.” It’s true what they say: the body really does go where the mind takes it. Even with the frequent breaks I took under precious shade, I couldn’t get my mind right. I think I also didn’t WANT to get my mind right. I wanted to run 12 miles but I wanted 12 easy miles. I stayed up super late last night when I knew I shouldn’t have and I missed waking up when it was cool enough to have a pleasant long run. I couldn’t run in the evening so I was pushed out of my comfort zone of running at night into running when I absolutely had to, and I hated every second of it. I decided to go back to my gym to finish up the last 7.4 miles on the treadmill, but I was feeling weak and nauseous again (okay, maybe that part isn’t my fault but it’s frustrating when you can’t overcome something microscopic). So, I think I ran somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.35 miles today, which still isn’t awful. Any run is better than no run. I guess. The thing here is…. I know I am moving. I know I have A LOT GOING ON and that it all has to happen in the next two weeks. I know that, if I still want to do well in this marathon— and I really really do— I have to tell myself the same thing I tried to tell myself about the heat or waking up early: “Get over it.” I have to pack up my entire apartment in two weeks….get over it. I have to find a place out in DC in two weeks….get over it. I have to spend as much time with my family as I can before I go….get over it already and run anyways. When I get to DC, I will have a job that I need to jump into right away and I don’t know what that is going to be like. Even after everything happens with my move, life is always going to present a challenge that has the potential to thwart training. Get over it already, and plan for those interruptions. Make your life part of your training plan. So, I didn’t get my 12 miles today and I’m still feeling sick and now I feel guilty sick and worried sick that I won’t meet my goal in Chicago. It’s the price to pay. Next week is going to be PSYCHO. I will have pretty much no other choice but to wake up early to run so I can spend my days packing and being with my family. I know these things are going to happen, so it’s time for me to get over it already and make my life part of my Chicago Marathon training plan. Boy, no one ever tells you that running is actually the easiest part of being a marathoner….

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