small graces found in marathon week

My runs this week have been short. I’ve had extra rest days. So I’m sitting here with legs that are getting antsy to run – seems like a good time to pause and be thankful for things that have shown me grace:

  • A husband who didn’t think I was crazy for trying the marathon again. (Or at least didn’t let on that he thought I was nuts. Heck, he even went out of his way to buy me smoothies.)
  • Yoga – one of the few things that is making my tight calves and not-quite-right back feel better this week.
  • Notes of encouragement from friends
  • An excuse to meal plan around carbs
  • A cool, sunny race day forecast
  • Creative pumpkin picking & carving from my kids

Today I’m heading to Indy to pick up my packet. The kids are on Fall Break so we’re going to wander the Indy Zoo for the afternoon before heading to my brother’s for trick or treating with my young nieces & nephew. Tomorrow I’ll take a deep breath. Say some prayers. Run a lot of miles.

I’m going to win the marathon

Yep, that’s right! I am totally going to win the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon this weekend. Oh sure, they’ll be giving someone else the first place prize money. The awards ceremony will actually take place while I’m still out on the course. And approx. 3,000 other runners will have a better finishing time than me.

But I’m going to win the marathon.

Because I’m dedicated enough to put myself through five months of training and workouts and stretching and watching what I eat and how much I sleep – all geared towards this one race.

Because I’m brave enough to stand at the start line.

Because I’m going to run the race with just as much determination as the elites.

Because I’m going to cross the finish line and smile.

A few weeks ago I read an article by running coach Jenny Hadfield. This quote is sticking with me:

“Winning is about running your strongest performance on the given day and then celebrating afterward.”

Saturday I’m going to throw the best I have at whatever the race throws at me. And afterwards I’m going to celebrate. Because I’m going to win this marathon.

It’s marathon week

I’m a person of action – a doer by nature. I’m impatient. I don’t do well waiting. Once I make a decision I want to act on it. So the week before the marathon is especially challenging. I want to get it over with before something else starts hurting. I want to start running before the voices in my head get any louder. (You know those voices that insist my weekly mileage wasn’t high enough… that things are hurting now because my body isn’t made to run this far… ) I want to throw this monkey off my back and have a marathon of which I’m proud.

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With the exception of my calf injury, my body has behaved remarkably well this training cycle. My hips have rarely been an issue. My back has held strong. My feet have kept the aches to a minimum. I went into this training hoping to not beat myself up too badly and I think I’ve managed to come out the other side with that goal accomplished.

Of course, as I type this I’m dealing with back pain (it’s been bad for a week now) and both of my calves are ridiculously tight. I’m hoping it’s just my body grouchily adjusting to the taper. I saw the chiro/sports doc on Friday and am feeling noticeably better today. I’m going to see him again on Wednesday and then I’m on my own.

I know that I could not run another step between now and Saturday and I’d be just fine. My body knows what is coming. It’s my head that needs to get it together and relax. I’m not nearly the basket case that I was three years ago when I did my first marathon. I’m just ready to stop thinking about it and start doing it.

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Grace in small things

I’m a week away from marathon weekend – an event that has consumed a lot of my plans and thoughts every day for months. If I’m being honest, it’s an event that has consumed my thoughts for a year because this time last year I had my goal race in mind and now I’m making it reality. (And since I’m being honest I should also admit that it’s something that has weighed heavily on my mind since my first marathon in 2011. Think there’s some emotion invested in this race??) This post is a good opportunity to shake off some marathon jitters and focus my energy on something else – even if it is for just a few moments.

This week I found grace in…

  • 20 strong miles beneath brightening blue skies, past blazing fall colors, beside my favorite Lake.
  • Fall colors (yes, again) because they seem particularly bright & beautiful this year.
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  • Shirts with thumbholes
  • Honest conversations
  • A night in the city with my favorite person by my side
  • Go, Dog, Go

I just looked at my blog history to link that last point to its story and it appears to not be posted. It must have happened before I started this blog because it’s a really good story that came up in conversation this week: The spring after we moved here I took my children to a Chicago Children’s Theater production of the Dr. Seuss story Go, Dog, Go. (Technically that book is authored by PD Eastman but it’s in the Dr. Seuss collection.) I don’t think it was the first show for the girls but it was for little J who was only two years old. I was afraid he might get antsy and not pay attention but the show was being held in a large circus tent in Grant Park so I figured it was as good a first show as any.

Here we are at the park before the show! (kids ages 9, 7 & 2)
Here we are at the park before the show! (kids ages 8, 6 & 2)

Turns out, J loved the show most of all. We were seated on bleachers around the tent and he stood next to me on the seat to see better. He was as quiet and still as I’d ever seen him. And then he started laughing – those people dressed as colorful dogs just struck him as hilarious. My oldest remembers this clearly as well, J laughed and laughed and laughed – those ridiculously contagious toddler giggles. He laughed so hard his legs grew weak and he could barely stand. He laughed so hard that people all around were craning their necks trying to find the source of such great merriment. Oh… it will always be one of my most favorite memories.

Race report: Hero Half Marathon

I haven’t run a half marathon in almost a year. I decided this year to focus on one big race and while I’ve hit (and passed) the 13.1 mile distance a handful of times in training, I haven’t toed the start line. Then I won an entry to a local half marathon (thanks The Style Files!) that was the same weekend as my last long run of marathon training. And thus, Sunday morning I found myself standing at the edge of Lake Michigan with approx 400 other runners ready to take off for a race.

190 of those runners were doing the half marathon distance, the rest were doing a 10K. I always think that’s a nice race combo. The 10K runners stayed in the Dunes State Park for their run. The rest of us immediately headed out to US 12 which winds its way through trees that are blazing with color this time of year. It was a small enough race that after the first mile everyone settled into their pace and there was no more passing. (I’m sure there was plenty of passing for the front of the pack but those of us towards the back were happy to run our race.) Around mile 4 we ducked onto the Calumet Trail – hard packed dirt with crushed stone. I’ve run this before – in fact the next 5 miles are miles I’ve run before. I was very familiar with the entire course which made this race feel like home to me.

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After about a mile on the trail we hit a street and made a turn straight for the beach – my family’s favorite beach in fact. :) I love this little beachside neighborhood and, while I wasn’t dragging prior to it, I definitely perked up at this point in the race. Soon we came to Lake Front Drive and ran a peaceful mile or so with the waves of Lake Michigan crashing on the right and beautiful homes on the left. A few homeowners were out cheering us on. This was the only “crowd” support of this race. But I wasn’t there for crowds – I was there for the scenery and distractions to help my 20 mile run feel less intimidating.

We had to turn away from the beach and around mile 9 were back on the Calumet Trail. The race director warned us that miles 9-11 were wet. She was being optimistic. Miles 9-11 were 75% flooded. No way to walk around the puddles – it was muddy, slippery & wet. Within half a mile my feet were soaked and mud was squishing out at every step. I caught up to a group of runners here as we were all walking and trying to pick the driest paths. We agreed that we felt like we picked up an extra 5 pounds of mud to carry the rest of the race. It wasn’t fun. At some point I just gave up and ran unless it was too slippery.

My muddy shoes post-race. I really hope I can get them cleaned up for marathon day.
My muddy shoes post-race. I really hope I can get them cleaned up for marathon day.

Just over mile 11 we turned back into the State Park (and pavement). I had mud splattered up my back but enough energy to ask the people manning the water stop where the “dry sock & shoe” station could be found. We all laughed and then I got back on track. The last two miles wind through the Indiana Dunes State Park and it felt like I was running through a gorgeous tunnel of fall leaves for most of it. Loved it.

I ran 6 miles at home early in the morning (just me, the moon & my flashlight). Got to the State Park as the sun was rising, picked up my bib and ran another mile or so to warm up before the race. So when we turned into the park I was at mile 18. Aside from some pain from my calf injury (I don’t think the slick trail with all its starting & stopping helped that), I was feeling great. Plenty of energy and ready to hit the finish. I got back on track with my run/walk intervals and tackled the last two miles. I felt good enough that I skipped the last walk interval because I knew I was only .5 from the finish. I actually had enough energy that I picked it up a bit to push hard and I crossed the finish line strong and with a smile on my face.

The last time I trained for a marathon, the 20 mile run almost killed me. I walked & limped the final two miles that day. This day I pushed harder. I’m shocked at how much stronger I’m feeling with the distance runs. I was actually on track to have the half marathon finish around my average for that race distance (until I hit the muddy miles and slowed down). If I were racing, I would have just crashed through that flooded section. All I could think about was how angry I’d be if I slipped and hurt something and then couldn’t race the marathon in two weeks. The Hero Half wasn’t my goal race and I was pretty determined to keep that in perspective.

I left the State Park yesterday knowing two things:

  1. I am feeling great moving into my marathon taper. Even with those weeks I had to take off of training because of my injury, I feel more prepared than I did for my first marathon. Yesterday’s run was a little slower than the pace I envisioned pre-injury but it was right on target for where I expect to be in two weeks. I didn’t watch my pace for one second yesterday and I don’t expect to on race day either. I’m going to run by feel, soak in the miles and hopefully have lots to smile about at the end. That’s how I ran my 20 and I’m still smiling about it.
  2. I would love to run the Hero Half again. The course is beautiful with its fall colors & Lake views. I like the feel of a small race. And it was the perfect way to make my 20 something special.
Half marathon #9 in the books!
Half marathon #9 in the books!