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Posts tagged ‘long run’

A good run


Today I did something that I don’t normally do while out on a run: I ignored the time. My two running buddies and I set out for a 10-mile run with no given pace. In fact, we set out going purposely slow so that we would make it through the 10.

We stopped when we needed to, whether it be for bathroom breaks or Gatorade refills. We were in no rush.

My stomach didn’t hurt. I had no nagging pain. I paced myself. I watched my heart rate.

We finished, 20-minutes faster that our fastest 10-mile time together, but a finish nonetheless. We talked the entire time. And we had fun.

I started thinking that maybe THAT’S what has been missing from my runs lately. The stress and anxiety plaguing my runs has meant that I stopped having fun while I was running. Today I had fun.

Perhaps it was the good company. Or the overcast weather.


A missing sun is a very welcome thing for a runner after multiple weeks of hot days, especially a runner who has been dealing with overheating issues and a wonky stomach.

Today was a good day for a good run.

Taking on 20 in Clarksburg

The 20-mile run is the pinnacle of marathon training. In a training cycle it’s the training run that is often feared. It’s also the one that most would-be marathoners rejoice about when it’s over.

It’s daunting for many reason. For me, it’s been incredibly more daunting for the past couple weeks. I was considering not doing this race. I figured, if anything, I could go out and do my own the same day. I knew the likelihood of me actually doing the run on my own was really low, though.

So I was more than glad when Jennie decided to head up and run with me. Overwhelming glad.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. after having a not-so-great night on Saturday. I just didn’t want to leave the bed. So I laid there until I fell asleep. I put on my running clothes, opting for long capris over my winter running pants, and headed out the door when it was still dark.

By the time I go to Jennie’s house to pick her up, the sun was rising. At that point, my nerves were killing me. I’m trying to stay away from things that trigger my anxiety. I felt okay, though, as we got on the freeway and started our 60-mile drive to Clarksburg.

Clarksburg is a little town right next to the Sacramento River. We run along the river in many areas (including a beautiful levee that I just seemed to fly on) and on country roads that go by vineyards. Needless to say, it’s an amazing run.

Jennie and I got to the southern part of Sacramento around 7:15 a.m. I had a moment when I didn’t know which way to turn…but then saw the signs.

This race was good for more than a couple reasons, but one was the signs leading the way.

Immediately upon exiting Interstate 5, there were signs pointing the way. There was one pointing over the only bridge to access the levee road leading to Clarksburg. From there, a man with a bright-orange flag led us into the Delta High School parking area, in an athletic field.

Jennie hadn’t pre-registered, but we had a good amount of time for me to pick up my race packet and her to do so.

We were greeted with only a small number of people, being that the half marathon started 45 minutes after the 20-mile run.

There was a lot of space, not a ton of people.

I waited in the pre-registration line for about five minutes. That was it. I was handed by bib number and some safety pins and then pointed to the shirt table.

By the time I was finished checking in, Jennie was done with her registration too. We were there early enough that, even though she registered that day, she was able to get one of the event shirts in her size. Kind of a win with smaller races.

We headed back to the car and started getting our supplies ready, including our water bottles.

Then we headed back to the start line area where there was zero wait for the portable toilets.


That’s a runner’s favorite site ever. There were ample enough portable toilets for everyone. The wait, even about 20 minutes later when I decided to go again, was minimal at best.

One of my favorite things to see are portable toilets. I won’t lie. It’s beautiful.

We watched the beginning of the children’s races as we waited for the 8:30 a.m. start time.

And pondered the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing the finish line for likely some time. I estimated it would take me around four hours, maybe a little more, to finish. But I was running naked — it’s been almost a month since I sent my Garmin 405CX to Kansas for servicing. It still hasn’t come back. I figured it would be back for this run.

No go. So I ran without.

I’m starting to think that might have been why I did so well.

Jennie and I started getting prepped for the run as we waited.

Jennie was checking her phone for the last time before she put it away for the run. We were talking, at that point, about moving to a sunny area. It was cold. The temperature was in the 40s it seemed. I’m not really sure what it was exactly, but there was frost every.

Jennie also got a photo of me stretching.

Apparently I’ve lost weight. I’ve also dyed my hair red, in case you can’t tell from previous photos. I haven’t been eating well, but I’ve been running miles upon miles. I also, lately, felt as if I need something new in terms of my hair. I’m not sure how much I like it.

For the first week I had it, the dye seemed to get all over my workout clothes every time I ran.

But I digress.

Soon, it was time to line up at the start.

The gun went off before we knew it and we were off.

The first three miles were tough.

I started wondering how I’d make it through 20. Even though large groups aren’t the biggest trigger of my anxiety, I’m afraid of what could potentially trigger it. Familiarity is huge for me right now. It soothes me.

But Jennie hung with me for the first five miles or so before she had to cut off and go to the bathroom. I kept on. I didn’t see her again until right after mile nine. At that point she was only about 10 minutes before me.

I kept pushing, along the roads (with cars going by in some cases, yikes), and it didn’t seem that long until I hit mile 10.

After that, we hit a levee area as we ventured into mile 11.

That’s when I really hit my stride. I just kept going. I was running like I’d never run before. Why? I don’t know. There were very few people around me. I even past 10 or so people.

Jennie always comments that I tend to get stronger as a runner in the later miles. She was completely right for this race.

I just jetted.

And then I found myself at mile 13, then 14, then 15, then 16 and so on.

I just kept going. I walked through aid stations and drank both water and Gatorade. There were the perfect amount of water stations. The volunteers were amazing. They cheered as we went through and offered words of encouragement.

I walked here and there, but never for longer than a minute.

I had no idea what time I was running. Not at all. As I came up to mile 19 and slight hill, I walked a little before deciding to push it to the end.

When I came around the corner into the finish shoot I noticed the clock still read in the three-hour area.

I finished at 3:59:17. Below the 12-minute mile mark, but just barely. I would have likely done better if I hadn’t had walked so much here and there, but I didn’t want to risk injury with a half marathon next week and a full in three.

Then I waited for Jennie.

She came in looking strong as well, finishing about 20 minutes after me.

Jennie always seems to have a lot better form than me when she runs. She got a little behind in the run, taking care of some personal stuff on the phone, but ended up passing a ton of people to get back into it. Plus, she was so nervous about running 20 miles when her longest run had been a 15-miler with me more than six weeks ago.

But she did great.

And I did great. I felt great too.

After we finished, we were told the race officials had run out of medals. After 20 miles, they’d run out of medals. As bummed as I was, it didn’t matter because I finished in under four hours. (They have promised to send them to us when they make some more, though when I had to find the person to put my name down she asked “do you want a medal?” which I thought was weird. Of course I do. The medals were fairly epic, though, from what I’ve seen.)

We got a hot, free pasta lunch too. We sat down, a little sore in some areas, and enjoyed the spoils after such a long, and successful, run.

As we started to get ready to leave, we noticed something strange.

This portable toilet had tape preventing people from entering. I was looking for a toilet with paper, because the rest didn’t seem to have any, and was wondering why, so we approach.

Turns out if had a bit of a hornet problem.

That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that at a race. Jennie and I had a laugh about it.

The Clarksburg Country Historic 20-mile Run turned out to be an incredible experience. Not only did I feel accomplished after the run, but a day later my legs feel fine. I’m really proud that I got up and out instead of avoiding it altogether like I initially wanted to.

This experience gives me hope for next week’s Big Sur Half Marathon. A lot of hope.

Why was it so good?

It was a small race, with only about 500 people doing the 20-mile run. There were enough portable toilets to accommodate everyone without any problem. The people were friendly and nice. The runners were cordial, for the most part (I could have done without the Obama/Romney debate I heard for more than a mile). Getting there was easy, as was parking.

The shirt is pretty swell too.

For what that’s worth. Plus, the cost of only $45. That’s an incredibly good deal for the amount of supplies along the course, which included bananas and oranges at every aid station, as well as Gatorade and water. It also included the free lunch.

My only qualm would be that there was only one portable toilet at each of the aid stops, which meant lines went deep. That’s one of the reasons Jennie finished so far behind me, as she had to stop and go to the bathroom near mile five.

I felt supported along the entire path, though. And it was a fun day. I definitely recommend this race for anyone training for a marathon, specifically California International Marathon.

A mileage milestone

A couple days ago, I did something today without even realizing it. I hadn’t been counting my miles too much, outside of my mileage per month, so I didn’t know how close I was to surpassing my mileage from 2011.

Then, after my five-mile run this morning, I realized that I had accumulated 934 miles for the year.

In 2011, I ran 930.

Today, with my run I surpassed that with 934.

That means I’m only 76 miles away from 1,000, which was my ultimate goal for 2012. By the end of October, I should be well over that now if my marathon planning stays on track.

I was so excited, I posted it to Twitter, which also feeds to my Facebook account.

What does this mean? It means, despite my thinking otherwise, my training is on track. It means I’m running a lot more, despite not being in as many races. And, most importantly, it means I’m enjoying running enough more now that I want to do it all the time. All good things.

I’m looking forward to my upcoming half marathon this weekend in San Jose, that with a combination of midweek runs should get me to a nice number by the end of October.

A cleaner alternative

About a month ago, I read a review for the Clean Bottle on another runner’s blog. She, too, favors the Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Pocket. But she was pleasantly surprised with how the Clean Bottle worked for her too. An even better bonus is that this bottle is much easier to clean.

A fun fact about running water bottles: No matter how hard I try, my bottles always seem to get some sort of “film” or “fungus” inside. It’s nothing a little scalding hot water and some wash brush action can’t take on, but it’s annoying nonetheless.

So I was tempted to check out the Clean Bottle when I saw that it was getting positive reviews.

I was thrilled when I saw Clean Bottle had a booth at the San Francisco Marathon expo. I was more thrilled with the “buy three, get one free” price. On the table, the representatives had both the regular version and something called “The Runner.”

I picked up four bottles, one of “The Runner” and three regular, for $20. That’s as much as one Amphipod costs, so I figured even if it didn’t work out for outdoor running, I could use them on the treadmill. (I usually take the bands off my Amphipods and use those on the treadmill.)

It basically operates on the same premise as my Amphipod bottle, with a couple notable exceptions.

The first is size. The Clean Bottle carries two more ounces than my Amphipod handheld. That’s not a lot, you could argue, but on a long run over the weekend as it was warming up in the morning, it was enough for me to notice.

The second is that the band that wraps the bottle for the runner to hold is connected to both the bottom and the top. My Amphipod one wraps tightly around the bottom of the bottom, but sometimes comes off during races. That actually happened during the California International Marathon in 2011 and was really annoying.

I took the bottle on it’s maiden run with me during my vacation a couple weeks ago. I was initially nervous about the shape and size. It’s round, whereas the Amphipod is lean and made to fir the curve of your hand.

It fits an iPhone in the clear pocket and also has a place to carry Gu. I run with an iFitness band in order to keep everything I need close at hand, so my phone goes in there. I did, however, put my keys in the carry space. It worked perfectly for me. (I know some people like to run with their phones in sight. I’m not one of them. I’d rather not be targeted for a robbery because someone can clearly see my iPhone. Most the time, I keep my keys hidden too.)

I started running and basically forgot it was a different bottle.

It wasn’t heavy. It wasn’t bothersome.

Even better, the tip on it is more rubbery, so it was easier to grasp with my teeth and open mid run.

And when I got home, it literally too seconds to clean. All I did was unscrew the top and bottom, rinse and then set aside for it to dry. No using paper towels to get out any slim or any other gross stuff.

I’m happy to say I’ve run with this four or five times since then and it’s been just as effective. It works just as well as the Amphipod bottles AND makes cleaning up a breeze. It’s kind of perfect.

My only qualm is that I’d like a model that doesn’t have the pocket for the iPhone. I’d rather just have a little area to keep my keys or a Gu or two. I see this area being especially annoying for people who don’t have iPhones.

I gave my running buddy Jennie a bottle to try as well and she uses it near daily at work now. She, too, loves the simple design and ease of it to disassemble.

Plus, it’s BPA free. A win-win.

I don’t think I’ll run out and buy 10 or so of these. I like that I can use the same strap for all three of my Clean Bottles. I also like than, unlike Amphipod, you can buy extra bottles without buying the pockets. I have bought the bottles only on the Amphipod website, but last I checked they didn’t sale the 20-ounce model like that.

And I’m not ready to replace my Amphipod runners yet either. I still love those for racing. I still will likely use them all the time. But if you know a runner in the market for a new water bottle, I think the Clean Bottle should definitely be on a recommendation list.

Going long at the Brazen Dirty (Half) Dozen

I want to say I didn’t set out to run a marathon during the Brazen Dirty (Half) Dozen six-hour endurance run. But I knew it was a possibility. I knew I could run a marathon in six hours. I had before, even though my last experience in San Diego wasn’t pretty. I also knew I’d never attempted such a distance on trails, which in many cases tend to increase my time thanks to not-so-secure footing and rolling hills.

But I was confident in my ability for this one.

I’ve had some really good runs lately. Those were mostly on flatter ground or on the treadmill, but I felt strong going into the run. My goals were pretty simple. I wanted to attempt eight laps. And I wanted to run the entire time.

I wanted to run the entire time even if it meant slowing down on certain areas and not pushing myself super hard on others. There was one specific hill that I power walked up every time and I was really glad I did by final two passes around.

I’m happy to report that I made both goals basically. I made it eight times around the 3.37-mile course. And I ran 5:52:21. I probably could have made the .7 loop around too once more, but figured I didn’t want to chance it, since they were starting to countdown and I was pretty tired.

My morning started out at 4 a.m. when I woke up to get ready to make the trek to Point Pinole Regional Park. We arrived at about 6:22 a.m.

It was a beautiful, foggy morning.

The bathroom lines were nonexistent. And with two bathroom locations on the course, I didn’t have to worry about ever needing to wait in line. Though two or three bathroom stops during the run added to my time. My brother came too and we tried to get his packet early. No go. They weren’t giving them out for a couple more hours.

Danny went back to the car and fell asleep. Thomas also took a nap. (Important note for later.)

The race got started right on time after some announcements. I should note that there were probably less than 200 people in total racing the six and twelve hour runs. I think there were more for the six than the twelve, definitely.

There’s another photo from the start. We all stared together. By the second loop, we were all pretty spaced out, which was one of the appealing features of this race for me. I wanted to do a race without a lot of pressure. I wanted to be relaxed after the experience in San Diego. This was perfect.

I started out strong. I found my pace pretty quickly and I just kept moving. And moving. And moving.

My splits were all across the board. I ran all over. From 11:22 to just under 16 minutes.

There’s more detail of it here. I don’t think I was inconsistent though. It’s a timed race where individual laps are counted. That includes pit stops, like water bottle refills and stopping to look at results. I also stopped at the aid stations. My average moving time, according to Garmin, was 12:40, which isn’t bad at all, especially since I kept repeating the course. There was a A LOT of course fatigue for me at the end because of that.

My shirt here says “Run Happy.” I kind of feel like that was what I was doing all day.

This was at the top of the last hill on the loop. I ran up it nearly every time. In fact, I was doing pretty good running up nearly every hill. I paced down as I went uphill, with small steps to make it through. I was also incredibly conservative with the downhills, including a fairly steep one on a single track near the point of Point Pinole (also the best view).

I wore my long-sleeve shirt the first three laps. I wanted to take it off sooner, but Thomas was still sleeping. He didn’t show up with a new bottle until I was finishing my fourth lap. And he didn’t bring my back. I was a little upset. It had everything I needed it in, including sunscreen, which would come in handy later.

He kept refilling my bottle, so every two go rounds I would refill it.

Each time we’d pass under the Brazen arch. Later a second arch would go up for the 5K/10K. I ran the 10K last year and thought the endurance runners were crazy. And then I became one.

And there were great, changing signs throughout the course. Fat cells burning? You bet. According to Garmin, I burned 2,855 calories. I did five Gu in Vanilla Bean flavor. I also had Thomas constantly refilling my 20-ounce Amphipod water bottle. I brought my own Gatorade, because I knew it wouldn’t be available on the course.

I wish I would have taken a photo of an aid station, specifically the one at the arch where volunteers had everything from mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to oranges to chocolate candy. The other aid station, at 1.7 miles from the arch, was staffed by Mountain House runners who encouraged me on each go round. I looked forward to getting to that aid station every time.

All the volunteers were so encouraging. Including the “woo” guy taking photos. In the six hours, he showed up three places along the course.

The second time I saw him, I told him I was glad he moved because he was so encouraging.

That’s me saying “hey, you moved!” and telling him I was glad to see him. He then said he’d be moving again and I thanked him for the support. He caught that too.

Notice that these photos are vastly different from the ones I posted for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon a couple weeks back. I wasn’t miserable during this run. I wasn’t in pain. I was having a really good time. I was taking my time. And I was loving every minute of the nearly six hours I was running. It was awesome. It was probably the best run I’ve had in a long time.

And I think it had a little something to do with my shoes.

My shoes that are now covered in dust. Check out my legs post run. I was sunburned during the last marathon, covered in dirt for this one.

And yes, I ended up at the end running a marathon. Slow and steady, finishing, according to my Garmin, with 26.7 miles. I’m still waiting for final results to post on the Brazen site to see what the timing company has recorded.

Another one with my jiggly arms. I’ve slimmed down everywhere on my body except my arms. Swimming was helping that, but I haven’t picked it up again since my swimming school shut down. So my arms just flab around when I run. Gross, I know. Look how slim my legs are though! Silver lining I guess.

It was during the lap that I’m photographed in above that my brother Danny whipped the competition during the noon 5K. I’m not even kidding. He finished fifth overall. He also was first in his age group. I’ve only ever twice finished in the top three in my age group and that was during incredibly small races.

Danny was wicked fast.

So he was waiting at the end with Thomas when I finally came in on my last go round. It took him 23:58 to run one lap. It took me much, much longer, but I was trying to pace myself to get through all six hours. (Not making up excuses at all, I was slow and steady.)

At the end, Danny was presented an awesome medal that the announcer referred to as a “piece of poop.”

Is that not the coolest medal ever for a 5K or 10K? I would have been kind of jealous if I hadn’t also earned a pretty awesome medal that also doubled as a coaster and bottle opener.

It even has backing on it so it won’t scratch the table. That on top of the awesome hoodie I received instead of a shirt and I think this is the best distance run I’ve ran so far. I know I felt great after I finished. And that was really important to me after the disaster in San Diego.

Plus I got to spend the day with my husband (who wasn’t all that great at crewing, so much so he said next time Danny could crew for me and he’d go to the nearby shooting range) and my little brother, who got a second age-group medal that I didn’t take a photo of.

I sent my mom that photo as a “proof of life” for my brother. Danny ran his first half marathon with me in 2011. After we ate and got back to my house, he had an accelerated heart rate. He ended up in the emergency room in the hospital down the street. I felt horrible, so I didn’t ask him to run with me again until Bay to Breakers. I sent her a “proof of life” photo after that too.

You can tell I changed shirts here. I had to. As it became hotter (probably why I slowed a lot near the end), I became more and more sweaty. I smelled so bad after I finished. I immediately took off my tank top and put on another shirt. Yeah, it was that bad.

We hung around a little, mostly so I could regain my bearings. Running for that long kind of wears the legs down. Surprisingly I’m not feeling half bad a day later. As we left, the 12-hour runners were still going strong.

I admire that. I honestly don’t think I could have gone six more hours. My toes were starting to blister (just from repeated pounding), and my right hip was starting to feel a little pain. But I had no IT band issues. My shoes were wide enough to not push my feet into a curve. I was happy the entire way through.

A good day? Yes. A good run? Yes.

It’s funny that taking longer to go a similar distance than I did just over a month ago came make me feel better, but this run wasn’t about the distance as much as it was covering all six hours. It was about finding my stride and sticking to it. It was also about finally meeting a goal I set for myself.

And I did. Success. Finally.

Prepping for a long run

A couple months ago I signed up for a six-hour Brazen endurance run thinking to myself “six hours doesn’t sound so bad.” That was before the horrible marathon in San Diego. That was also before I started hitting my stride a couple weeks ago and ran nearly 40 miles in one week. Some good. Some bad. All running.

Saturday is the day. The six-hour endurance run begins at 7 a.m. My brother will run a 5K at noon as part of it. I’m hoping for over 20 miles. Each pass around is 3.37 miles, which means I need to at least do that six times (for a little over 20 miles). My second goal is to, maybe, go the marathon distance again. I’m not completely sure I’ll get there, but I am going to try.

Today, Matt from the Mountain House Runners was nice enough to pick up my race packet for me. I was super stoked to get it early since we always tend to run late on race day. I’ll say, it’s a pretty sweet deal for the entry fee that I was given an awesome zip up hoodie with this year’s logo and all.

The back has the clock that made up last year’s medal. I ran the 10K last year as part of this event because it was at 11 a.m., which meant I could sleep in and go. So I have one of last year’s 10K medals, but I also saw the endurance medal, which was pretty awesome. That’s not what made me sign up. I haven’t run a Brazen race in awhile. I wanted to do something with them again.

The endurance run seemed like a good idea. (I laugh now.)

The front has the logo that’s on the Brazen website for this specific run. The zip up is high quality too. I think I’ll get a lot of use out of it.

As I gather my race items, though, I’m trying to think about all I need to get me through six hours of running. I know some things for sure.

There will be two aid stations, each stocked with all the conveniences that I’m accustomed to at Brazen races. That means fruit, gummy bears, oranges, water and, likely, a sport drink. I know the stations will be well manned, if only because there will be people out running a 12-hour race too. I also know there are bathrooms along the course. I remember last year there being three, one near the start, one about a mile in and one closer to the end.

So there’s not a lot of questions about that.

But I wonder, too, what I’ll need to make it through.

I’ve started gathering items to pack away for my husband and brother to provide to me while they “crew.”

The first is sunscreen. A second is body lubricant/glide.

I’ll likely need to reapply the sunscreen numerous times. The spray bottles are great because you don’t have to worry about missing certain areas. I can just have someone spray me all over. It will be quick too.

The lube/glide will be for those areas that need reapplying after awhile. This includes my fat little right arm, which always seems to chafe. I don’t need anything for my legs because I’ll be wearing capris. I also have some powdered Glide for in between my toes.

I don’t typically run in a hat, but I figured I’d pack my visor that I picked up at the Big Sur Half Marathon last year so I wouldn’t be too hot. This is also about sun protection. Most of the trail is covered and nice, but we do hit the sun here and there.

I’m also planning on taking a stock pile of my Gu supply.

True story: I usually keep that much Gu in a bag in my closest. I once realized I ran out of Gu the night before a run. That run happened to be the Big Sur Half. It was too late to go buy any new Gu. I had no options. So I ran without. And it was a horrible, horrible run. I was miserable the entire time. And hungry. Finally, at about mile seven, the volunteers were handing out Gu on the course. But they didn’t seem to have any Vanilla Bean, which is kind of my favorite.

So I stock up. All the time.

I know, though, that Gu wouldn’t get me through six hours.

I’m also bringing something more substantial. I’ll pack some natural fruit rolls. Some chocolate covered raisins. And my favorite type of Luna bar.

Love those.

I’m nervous about this run, but excited at the same time. I think it will be a nice, low key way to get in some distance. I also think it will be a fun time.

Six hours seems like a really long time, though.

I hope I can make it.


Time is on my side

I now, thanks to the timing company, have a time for the Sirena 18 run this past weekend.

Officially: 3:32:13

I can’t explain how stoked I am about this. I kept having moments where I felt guilty about not being listed in the results. I would, obviously, be an incredibly bad race bandit.

I feel legitimate now.

Over the past three days, I’ve felt as if every Gatorade I drank was a fraud. Hyperbole? Yes. But I felt incredibly guilty.

I worked a nice, long 12-hour day today, so I’ll be light about this post outside of saying I’m incredibly happy. No longer, as I told my husband, bummed.

The timing company representative asked that I send the D-Tag in. It’s ready to go into the mail tomorrow. I may never get to the bottom of what exactly happened (I don’t expect them to report back to me or anything, there are other events and hundreds, even thousands, of other runners), but I think anything to help out on my part is useful.

I’ll come back with another post later this week on the subject.

Right now I’m finally laying down for the day. I’m hoping to wake up and run five miles tomorrow before work. We’ll see if that happens or if fatigue rears its ugly head again.

A tough training 21: Part II

My alarm clock at the motel hit close to 3 a.m. and i knew it was time to wake up.

I knew if I fell back asleep I’d wake up tired. I knew if I tried to even hit snooze at 3 a.m. I would make it to the bus. So I rolled out of bed and headed to shower. I’m one of those strange runners who actually showers in the morning before my runs. Just a quick one. And I usually don’t do my hair or anything.

I went to the bathroom. I hit the shower. And I got dressed.

I’m going to be real for a minute: I hate not knowing when I can next go to the bathroom. It’s likely a side effect of taking medication for high blood sugar for three years, but I don’t like not knowing where the closest bathroom is. That makes this next part important.

I ALWAYS get really nervous before my runs. To the point that I have to go. ALL THE TIME. And I was worried, severely worried, about the 45-minute bus ride up the coast. I didn’t know what kind of bus I’d be on. I didn’t know if we’d be stopping anywhere (we weren’t). I was extremely worried.

I know this might be TMI, but this is a real issue for runners.

By the time Thomas dropped me off at the Monterey Marriott at about 4:20 a.m., the buses were lined up.

The volunteers were all really, really helpful. The marathoners were still boarding there buses, so we waited until the 21-milers were allowed to load. I headed into the Monterey Marriott and there was a bathroom right in the lobby. (WOOOOOO!)

Then I realized that we’d be boarding the tour buses, which also have bathrooms on board.

I was THRILLED. It’s hard to explain how thrilled I was. My husband swears up and down I have issues with going to the bathroom too much. He’s also become quite accustomed to it. Others don’t understand though.

I briefly chatted with the woman next to me. Really just to ask her if I could turn off the light. And we were off.

Into the night.

It looked all black.

Seriously. Everything.

We drove quietly up Highway 1. I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t. All I could see were taillights of the buses in front of us. I vaguely could make out the waves off the coast. It was eerie.

I read somewhere that the bus ride is disorienting. It is. Very much so. And you think the entire way as you are driving: “I have to run all this to get back to where I started.” It’s kind of daunting.

We made it to the staging area and there weren’t a ton of people there.

And it was still dark.

I opened my bag and pulled out an apple and part of a Luna bar. That was my breakfast. I jumped in a portable toilet right when I got there too. (Never did have to use the one of the bus, which made me really glad.)

And I got some stretching done too.

So I’m actually on a rock. Apparently it was a really popular rock. People kept walking all over me. I wasn’t even in the way.

There were bananas, apples and other fruits. And coffee and water. I don’t drink coffee, but I took down a couple cups of water. I felt a little dehydrated.

As it began to get lighter, a yoga session started. I didn’t partake, instead doing my own stretches. A lot of people did.

At about 6:40 a.m. we were lined up near the bottom of the driveway at Andrew Molera State Park. The road in front of us was 21 miles to Carmel.

The timing mat was actually at the top of the hill. I power walked up it instead of running.

Then things started moving. We took off right at 6:45 a.m.

And just as quickly as I started, I realized this wasn’t going to be easy. I wasn’t doing it for time as much as experience. And it wasn’t an easy path.

All uphill at the beginning, a nice downhill, a huge uphill and rolling hills (and banked streets) the rest of the way. Wow. A nice, easy Sunday run? I think not.

And then there were the headwinds. Yes, headwinds. On Hurricane Point (the tallest peak on the elevation chart) I was battered back and forth across the road. It sucked. My glasses were covered in dew. My long-sleeve shirt was wet at one point. I didn’t even bother taking if off until about three miles before the finish.

I battled. In certain places it looked, in my Garmin data, like I was moving very, very slowly. But I kept going.

Because I was treating it like a training run, I stopped and went to the bathroom whenever I need to. That added more than 10 minutes on to my time.

But it was cold. Damp. Windy. And my head was raging the first eight miles.

Raging. I couldn’t shake the headache.

I just kept moving, hoping it would go away. And it did after about my second Vanilla Bean Gu.

By the way, my savior of the day was the Gu. I wouldn’t have made it without the Gu.

My overall average was 13:14 miles.

The steepest hills were the longest miles. I’m not proud that I took that long. But it happened. I’ll own it.

Thomas was expecting me about the 4:30 time mark.

I came in at 4:42 and he was yelling for me nonetheless. My feet had blisters. My ankles, after running through the banked road in the Carmel Highlands, were now cankles. I’m not even kidding, my ankles were so inflamed I can still not bend them properly.

And my IT band, which seemed to hold out pretty good during the run, started throbbing the moment I stopped. It was kind of like it just knew. It knew I was over. It was pissed. Two days later I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that.

Big Sur isn’t an easy run. And it’s definitely not a true “training run.” But it was beautiful. I didn’t take a lot of photos, obviously, because I was too enraptured in enjoying the beauty in general.

The finish line was crazy busy. I sat down for a good twenty minutes and then realized if I didn’t start walking around, I likely wouldn’t be able to. So I got up and lost Thomas. I realized suddenly that  I had checked a bag with a sweater. I went and grabbed that too. And then Thomas and I decided it was time to leave. I come for the run. I don’t often stay after.

So we started walking off, but not before he shot a last photo of me near the finish.

And I was happy with how it all came together. Sure, I didn’t have the best time. But I got through a very tough training run. I knew that the only way out was through. That’s what I focused on. The good thing about living close to Monterey, only within three hours, is that we hopped back in the car and made our way home after the race.

By 3:30 p.m., I was home on the couch resting my legs with ice.

When it comes down to it, there were likely better ways to get my longest run of the training cycle in. I know that. But I think Big Sur offered a nice challenge. I faced nearly every weather condition on the run and still came out OK. And stronger for it.

Next up? An 18-miler closer to home on May 12. Then Bay to Breakers before the end of this marathon training cycle.

I’m not 100 percent confident in my marathon conditioning so far, but I’m feeling a little more prepared after the Big Sur 21-miler.

Back to (somewhat) normal

I have to admit, after the California International Marathon I wondered if I’d ever have the desire to run again. I spent a lot of time on my couch, in the pool and getting steady on my bicycle.

And I ate. A lot. Lots of Chinese food. Specifically sweet and sour chicken. So good.

Immediately after the marathon, my treadmill decided to fail. I had to wait a week to get it fixed. Then I hopped back on and didn’t want to run.

My first run outside in a nearly two-week period was a four-miler with Thomas following on my bike.

I like to keep my “typical” runs between six and eight miles. My long runs while training for a half marathon are 10. I worked up to the long 20-miler when training for the marathon. My goal, typically, is to run about 25-miles a week. But I struggled through the month of December.

I didn’t want to run. I didn’t make it to 1,000 miles for the entire year. I contemplated why I even bothered booking more races into 2012.

This week I’ve seem to have found my mojo again. So far, 24 miles. I’m planning a trail run tomorrow with Jennie. Even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll probably at least get in six on the treadmill, maybe eight. Either way, I found my stride, in the bigger picture again.

And I’ve developed my training plan for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on June 3. I’ve even factored in some longer races to keep me motivated.

My first official race of the year with be the Brazen Racing Coyote Hills 10K on Jan. 29.

I signed up for the race via snail mail because I had a Brazen credit because of an injury in August where I couldn’t run the company’s Summer Breeze race. So I signed up for this race (and even got a tech shirt upgrade!) for $26. I loved this race last year, despite the fact that it’s the only race so far where I’ve thrown up at the end. Sorry, probably TMI. I ran myself silly with that one. It was a solid race. I had a good time in general.

It was a nice, intimate setting too. So I’m stoked for it.

The rest of my race schedule so far:

Feb. 18: Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Inaugural Half Marathon

March 25: Oakland Half Marathon (This holds a special place in my heart because it was my first. It will be my ninth overall.)

April 29: Big Sur 21-miler (I loved the half so much, I’m trying this one. Plus it’s a great addition for marathon training.)

May 12: Mermaid Series East Bay Sirena 18

June 3: Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon

July 29: San Francisco Marathon First Half Marathon (To complete the Half it All Challenge.)

And then…who knows. Last year I hit an injury in August from upping my mileage too much that basically took me out of racing for August and September. I didn’t race again until my half marathon PR at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon.

I’m glad to be back to a somewhat normal running routine. I’m glad to have some of my race schedule figured out so far. I’m still hoping to knock off some pounds with increased training. And I still want to increase my speed. I have so many goals for 2012.

We’ll see what happens.

Mind over marathon: Part III

I crossed the starting mat about two minutes after the gun went off. I was surprised it went that fast actually. And the flow was good. It wasn’t too fast, because I wasn’t in he front or anywhere near. I was making good time. Or I thought so at the time. It turns out I as going out way too fast.

Mile 1: 10:30 — A gentle downhill, through an intersection. It’s deserted, but nice.

Mile 2:10:36 — The path started going uphill a little, but not bad. Still moving along fine.

Mile 3: 10:30 — The gentle downhills seems OK about right here, but I’m starting to feel the burn in my thighs. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m just starting to warm up.

Mile 4: 10:58

Mile 5: 10:54 — Hitting some small hills here.  I slow to take a Vanilla Bean Gu.

Mile 6: 10:49

Mile 7: 11:50 — Here’s where the nerves start getting me. I can’t tell if it’s because I did the Gu too quickly or because my stomach is still in knots. But I start to slow a little over the next couple miles. I feel fatigue. I realize feeling tired with 19 miles to go is not good.

Mile 8: 11:46 — Trying to pick up the pace a little, still feeling queasy.

Mile 9: 12:19 – An uphill here. We were heading into Fair Oaks at about this time. It was a cute little area that turned into more up and downhills. People kept saying “Don’t worry, it’s all downhill.” No. I knew there was a difference between “downhill” and “net downhill.” California International Marathon was a “net downhill” race.

Mile 10: 11:28 — The quad burning continues. This was about the point I noticed the 4:55 marathon group was passing me. I decided I, perhaps, needed to slow down. Why? I was thinking I’d finish this around 5:30 in time at some point. I knew, only at that point, I’d gone out to past and not consistent enough.

Mile 11: 13:06 — I hit my half marathon wall here. This is usually when I pick it up, but I was feeling a little tired again. I was slowing. I did another Gu, despite the fact that I was feeling queasy after the first one.

Mile 12: 12:07 — Speeding up a little. There were a lot of people cheering me along here. I started to get motivated more.

Mile 13: 12:45

HALF MARATHON: 2:31:53 (This would be my third best half marathon ever if I was running a half marathon.)

Mile 14: 12:58 — At this point I hit my real metaphorical wall. I can’t describe it outside of panic and insecurity. My feet started to hurt. I slowed a little again. But I kept pushing. I was trying to not get below the 13:45 average that would mean I didn’t finish in six hours. I was really worried about that time limit.

Mile 15: 14:23 — It didn’t help that I decided at this point that I needed to go to the bathroom. I only did so because there were six portable toilets lined up and only four people standing in line. In between the water stop and another Gu, the pack of people I was running with passed me.

Mile 16: 11:18 — I had to pick it up again.

Mile 17: 11:40 — Still moving.

Mile 18: 11:53 — My last good mile. I say that will a lot of pride, but there’s a reason why that was the last good mile. My IT band, which had plagued me greatly when I moved from 5Ks to 10Ks. All of the sudden I was feeling it.

Mile 19: 13:09 — I slowed and walked to try to get back the leg a little. I spent the next few miles using that method. Run, walk, run. When I ran, I was averaging 11-12 minute miles.

Mile 20: 12:52 — “The wall” literally. We ran through an area that was marked by a fake wall. I looked happy, but the smile was masking my pain.

Mile 21: 12:54 — I thought of this mile as a plane descending into the destination point. This was the point where we buckle our safety belts and put the tray table  in an upright position. This was also the point my feet started killing me. My IT band wasn’t behaving either.

Mile 22: 13:47 — Run/walk continues.

Mile 23: 13:20 — And more.

Mile 24: 13:07 — This was actually a very frustrating time for me. People were cheering me on from the sidelines. One guy kept yelling “if it was easy, everyone would do it!” I liked that. But it wasn’t enough to pull me out of my funk.

Mile 25: 13:18 — Still moving, but getting more excited. Someone asked me when I knew I’d finish. I didn’t for a long time. When the IT band started throbbing and I knew my feet were blistering, I didn’t think I’d make it. I had four moments where I wanted to stop, cry and call Thomas to come get me. “I don’t need to finish this,” I thought. “I have nothing to prove. I knew, as I started to make my way toward the 26-mile sign, that I’d make it. It took me that long.

Mile 26: 12:46 — And then I really knew. Thomas ran across my path. I felt a huge smile stretching across my face. I had made it.

Mile .2: 3:35 — Here I pushed. I saw the clock reading 5:22:13. I could make it before the clock turned to 5:23, I thought. I picked it up.

Gun time: 5:22:39.

Chip time: 5:20:41

I wish it was like Ironman and someone said “Tara, you ARE a marathoner.” No one did. I was handed my medal and my space blanket, which I really needed at that point if just because I wanted some comfort. I saw Thomas, kissed him and handed him my water bottle (it always gets in my way at the end even though I love it).

Then I teared up a little. I had a moment. I had done it. Less than two years after I set out on my treadmill and started running. I had run a marathon.

I was surprised at how good I felt. My feet hurt, yes. My leg was killing me. And my shins were throbbing. But I felt good.

So good I even opted to get my photo taken at the end. I NEVER do this. I always say “it’s a waste of money.” But I felt compelled to do so. You only run your first marathon once.

I found Thomas and immediately walked over to the merchandise booth and he bought me an awesome shirt that said “26.2 finisher.” I can’t wait to wear it when I run. (I haven’t done any running this week to give my legs a well-deserved rest. I’ve also been eating a ton of food,which I feel bad about, but I also deserve it.)

I didn’t find any of the requisite food that I was told was popular. The food vans were closing down as well. (That was really discouraging, especially when I finished with 40 minutes left for the finish line to be open AND it actually stayed open longer.)

We opted to head to Red Lobster on Howe Avenue after we found the car.

And then we headed home.

I was exhaustion and in pain for about two days. Not a bad pain. A good pain.

And, four days later, I’m still in awe that I did it. I ran a marathon.

Every insecurity that I’ve ever had about my work as a journalist, as an editor, as a instructor and as a person diminished during those 26.2 miles. They say it changes you. I think it makes a person stronger. You have to get mentally past barriers. You have to keep going when you want to quit. And you have to believe you can do it when you’re body is failing under you.

I ran a marathon. And for it, and all those things mentioned before, I’m 100-times better for it then I was the day before.