Experience Is The Best Teacher – Running My First Half-Marathon

I ran my very first half-marathon on February 5, 2012 in the Tallahassee Half-Marathon!!! It was amazing. If you had told me ten years ago that I would actually have a great time running 13.1 miles I would have laughed in your face. But I really had a good time. And I learned a few things that no amount of training would have prepared me for…

Like first of all, people really do run for fun! There were tons and tons of groups of people running together, laughing, joking, playing music, and generally having a good time. You could tell everyone was nervous but it was an excited, hyped kind of nervous. One of the seasoned runners even told me that nerves before a run were good, it meant you would run well.

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Second of all, when others say don’t do anything new on race day, that means don’t do ANYTHING new on race day…! Wear your favorite running shoes, put on the same socks you’ve been training in, don’t even wear the sponsored t-shirt you’ll get. No, wear the same ragedy t-shirt you’ve been running in for the last six months. And whatever you do, do not eat anything new on race day. I made the mistake of eating some “Gu” a couple of times throughout the race…not a good idea.

Gu is basically a high carb, concentrated pack of “gooey” food that you suck out of a small bag. It helps boost your carb level and therefore gives you energy. I’ve never had any but I’ve heard of it. So when I was offered some at the mile 6 water station, I ate it. And then again at mile 9. Needless to say, it upset my stomach…badly. My body went into release mode around mile 11 trying to get rid of it. (And not out the front door, out the back…Not through the attic, through the basement…Not up, up and away but down, down Charlie Brown…LOL). Running 2 more miles while holding “that” in was a bit of a challenge to say the least but I managed it. Believe me when I tell you I’ll never forget that experience! And I learned a very important lesson on my first race…Don’t do ANYTHING new on race day! πŸ™‚

Overall it was a great race and I’m so glad I got my first one out of the way. I bet many things seem scary and intimidating the first time you do them. Like giving birth for the first time. Or going to the first day of classes in college. (Or guys, how many of you will always remember the first time you made a girl mad and sheΒ  kicked you in your “misters?” I bet whatever you did, you learned never to do that again or at the very least,Β  you backed up the next time you did it…! LOL) So whatever you’re dreading doing for the very first time, go for it. It won’t be as bad as you’ve built it up in your head to be and that experience will probably teach you a few invaluable lessons.

So the training continues…I can’t stop until I run a full marathon. I will either have to find one with no time limits or get my marathon pace down so that I can finish one in less then 6 hours. Either way, stay tuned…the journey continues!

(I think I actually would have preferred an “attic” exit attempt…)
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My First Half Marathon

I am running my first half marathon tomorrow. You may be wondering why not the full marathon. I’m a little irritated myself but I will do my best to stay calm while I explain…

Apparently, the Tallahassee Marathon has a time limit. 6 hours. That may sound like a lot of time but 26.2 miles is a long way. I only run about 4 mph when I run distances like that which means I won’t be done in 6 hours. More like 6 1/2. And guess what happens if you’re caught on the track after 6 hours? You’re picked up and driven to the finish line! Talk about embarrassing. I refuse to be the last broke-down runner out there who couldn’t manage to drag her tired butt across the finish line within 6 hours.

And since all marathons don’t have these time constraints, I’ve decided to just run the half and look for a marathon coming up that allows runners of all speeds to finish. Some marathons, like the one I was going to do last August, even have walking divisions. I guess they figured “Hey, take all the time you need…your slowness isn’t bothering us.” πŸ™‚

Anyway, per marathon traditions, I just had a huge bowl of pasta, drank lots of water today, and I’m heading off to bed around 9pm to get a good nights rest. The race starts at 730am.

So hopefully you’ll cheer me on and stay tuned…this is sure to be quite an event!

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The Truth About Marathon Training – Part 2

I am beat. I ran 15 miles today and I’m exhausted. I have a ways to go before I’m ready for this marathon. (Oh yeah, I’m running the Tallahasse Marathon on Feb. 5. Very excited but scared to death).

While I was stretching for the run today, a family was nearby and started asking me questions about my gear. I was putting on a fuel belt and the little boy was like, “Look mom, she has a water necklace!” A fuel belt is basically a belt you wear with little water bottles on it, usually 2 or 4, as well as a pouch for fuel packs, little packs of food full of carbs to give you energy on distance runs.

But while I was answering there questions (and listening to the little boy explain how easy it was to run 26 miles) I realized a lot of the questions they were asking I was asking a year ago. But I had no one to ask, I kind of learned as I trained. I remember how stupid I felt not knowing what stuff was. For example, it took me forever to learn what your “pb” is. (Personal Best) That sounds obvious now but I really didn’t know then. I thought it was some type of sandwich. πŸ™‚

And then something else occurred to me. The more I ran, the more I saw others do things that the books and running experts tell you not to do. You see It may feel like everyone knows what they are doing but the truth is that everyone does not know what they are doing (…wait, that double negative sounds weird :-)) Basically, many people out there running are just as clueless as I am. I’m not the only one who does not know how to run downhill or how much water to drink or how to tie my shoes so the strings don’t rub against my ankles while I’m running and get on my nerves.

If you are training for your first marathon the truth is there are tons of new runners out there who have no idea what they are doing either. (More or less…there are those who seem to do everything perfect straight out the gate. Man those people are irritating! :-)) So never let not knowing prevent you from doing something. Its in the doing that we really learn the most. So you wanna run a marathon? You have to train to run. And you have to learn to train. But you also have to train to learn.

So get going! There’s a whole boat load of stuff out there for you to learn how to do so get started on the “doing.” You can’t learn it all by reading and researching all day. (Although you should read this blog…ALOT.)

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The Truth About Marathon Training – Part 1

I’m back and in full effect. It has been a long hard road back to blogging but I am renewed and completely determined to continue detailing this journey, hopefully for someone’s benefit but if not at least for my own.

You see the reality is that no amount of research, reading blogs, or hearing others’ testimonials truly prepared me to train to run a marathon. No matter how much I thought I knew, the biggest lessons IΒ  learned about training came from training.

To say it has been difficult would be a gross understatement. It has been so difficult that I really believed I couldn’t do it, I seriously contemplated giving up on the whole idea. Distractions and frustrations came in like a flood and I almost accepted that I just couldn’t do it. (You know how the clunker you used to drive back in the day would sometimes stall out and in your attempts to get it to start you would actually flood the engine and now the good-for-nothing hunk of metal refuses to start completely and you’re left stranded in an empty mall parking lot looking like boo-boo-the-fool?? Yeah, I felt like that…)

Besides, If I had thought about this running thing more thoroughly, I probably would have come to the conclusion that running was not an ideal match for me. Out of shape, weak knees, and a permanently torn tendon in my right foot does not sound like I should be running marathons, does it?? I should have been like a professional Scrabble player or something. Anything that required no lower body strength.Β  (Although my Scrabble skills are sorely lacking as well. But I’m still totally addicted to Scrabble for Android) πŸ™‚

But the first thing I truly learned from this process was not about running at all; it was about myself. I learned that even though a big part of me wanted to give up, a very small but much more determined part of me really wanted to run a marathon. The big part had tons of excuses but the small part didn’t care. It wanted to run a marathon.

You see doubt and fear and frustration will be loud, very loud, and will feel huge, larger than life. But the truth will be that small quietness inside that just refuses to go away. And it won’t overpower the distractions and frustrations, it will simply wait for you to pay attention to it, no matter how long it takes. For me truth was not only that I can do this, I can train and run 26.2 miles. It was also that I really really wanted to. I want to conquer the marathon and me, myself, and I will not be cool until I do.

So stay tuned, I’m going to tell you THE TRUTH about marathon training. Its gonna blow your mind! (Or at least blow your eyebrows up a couple centimeters.)

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Finish What You Start

So apparently there is some debate in the marathon world about whether it’s okay to walk at any point during a marathon. A few of the running “elite” argue that if you look at its history, the entire point of a marathon is to have the physical endurance to run 26.2 miles. They say anyone can “walk” that distance, the test is in being able to run it.

You gotta be kidding me. (Said with the utmost respect. :-)) A couple of years ago I couldn’t have walked 26.2 miles of you paid me. You could have put me on one of those moving sidewalks like they have in the airport and I still would have fallen out long before finishing. You could have given me a Segway to ride for the first half and I still would have fallen out before finishing the second half. Shoot, you could have parachuted me in at mile 25 and I still would have fallen out before crossing the finish line.

There was a story in the news a few months ago about how this guy who weighed like 400 pounds completed a marathon. And he beat his own personal best time. He ran the first 8 or 9 miles and then walked the rest. A 400 pound man ran 8 miles and then walked another 18.2 miles!! What??!! The winner probably weighed 125 pounds and ran it in like 2 hours but this was the story that got headlines.

Marathons are definitely a test of strength and endurance. But it’s not a race against others. My opponent is myself. Kinda like life. Can I do my absolute best? Can I keep going no matter what? Can I move forward, putting one foot in front of the other until I cross the finish line? That’s the true test. The strength and stamina needed to complete a marathon, whether it be running or walking, is a supremely worthwhile accomplishment. Marathons are not always meant to be run but they are always meant to be finished.

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Before And After

I ran 18 miles today… very excited!Β  But I spent the entire week increasingly nervous about my ability to get through that many miles. I didn’t want to say I’m running 18 miles and then fail miserably. Embarrassment is big deal among my people. We hate not being able to do something we think we’re supposed to be able to do. In fact, I have witnessed some of us actually lie and say, “No, I cannot help you with your homework, go ask your father,” just in case that third grade math turns out to be trigonometry or some such nonsense. Oh, who are my people, you ask? Why Super-Moms of course!
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But as I was getting ready this week and even this morning, I noticed that my marathon training life has become a series of befores and afters (what I do before a run and after a run) :Β  Carbs before, protein after. Heat before, ice after. Warm up before, cool down after. Rest before, fall out after.

It’s no surprise then that training has become somewhat a routine… and everyone knows that routines can get boring. So I try to mix it up. My first goal within my marathon training is to listen to every song on my iPod while I’m running. It’s a 16gb nano and holds literally thousands of songs, most of which I haven’t listened to in years. It’s a good goal because it gives me something to focus on other than just my speed or mileage.

Boredom can kill any goal. People will say if you’re bored it means you’re boring. While I usually agree with that – I know some extremely boring people. I mean you would rather watch your nails grow then hang out with them – sometimes what you’re doing is just un-exciting. Or you do it so often the habit of doing it is about to drive you insane. So I say again, mix it up. If you’re bored washing the dishes make it fun again. The next time you’re doing the dishes, break your favorite dish. Break it good, in like a million “favorite dish” pieces. Then throw a tantrum like you’re in your terrible two’s again. Talk about excitement! When your family comes running to see what happened, burst into tears and then run to your room and slam the door.

Two things will happen: 1. Your heart will be pumping adreneline through you a mile a minute. You’ll feel like you just ran a marathon, it’ll be great. And 2. Your family will feel bad that you broke your favorite dish and someone will finish the rest of the dishes for you. No boring dishes for you to do now… problem solved!Β  πŸ™‚

When I think about it, I guess it makes sense to have a before and after for whatever you do. You should know what you need to do before and what you need to do after. Even if it’s simply preparing before and recaping after, the activity will go more smoothly and it’ll help you gage how you’re doing. I was glad I had weeks upon weeks of training before I ran 18 today because at the very least I felt comfortable that I knew what to do to prepare to run that far. For instance, I knew not to do any strength training this week. With that many miles, I didn’t want to run the risk of sore legs. (And I knew to make sure every song on my running playlist was an absolute jammer!! 18 miles for an amateur runner is a long time running!)

So follow some type of before and after plan. Who knows, with a little preparation before and then a quick recap after, if your favorite dish excitement goes well, you might be able to step it up. Next time you’re vacuuming, suck up your favorite shirt. Then, throw a temper tantrum like you’re in your terrible two’s again. Then... well, you know the rest!

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The Marathon is Coming, The Marathon is Coming!

I have officially picked the marathon I’m going to run. It’s called Running For The Bay, in beautiful Apalachicola Bay, Florida. I’m so excited! (And I just can’t hide it. I’m about to lose control and I think I like it! …Sorry, had a corny Pointer Sisters moment.)

It’s 4 months away which is really good for me. I’ve had to slow down my marathon training a bit. I’m still running 4 days a week but just not as many miles as I’m supposed to be running on my “long run” days. According to my schedule I should probably be running 20 miles already. But as I was doing more research on marathon training I discovered something quite interesting. (Not interesting like when I discovered that the main character in Black Swan was actually turning into a swan… Can you say creepiest movie ever?!? No, it was more “ah-ha” interesting.)

What I found out was that my knees and other muscles were going to be more prone to injury if they were not strong enough to support the heavy mileage I was running. That’s why it seemed like I couldn’t recover fully from my injuries…my legs, my core, my buttocks were all really weak. (My daughter says my butt talks…Β Β  πŸ™‚ ) So that meant I had to introduce strength and resistance training into my program.

So now I run for 4 days, cross-train for 1 day, strength train for 1 day, and 1 day of rest. That sounds like a lot and if I wasn’t doing it I might be tempted to yell, “WOMAN ARE YOU NUTS?! YOU CAN’T DO ALL THAT!” But the truth is anything you want to do well requires a ton of effort and serious commitment. I mean you gotta be committed like a dog with a bone. (Or like my oldest daughter with a bone. When she was 2 I had to let her go to sleep with a chicken bone in her hand because after she finished the chicken she would not let go of the bone. True story.)Β  πŸ™‚

We are so easily affected by what others do. And I say that in a good way. If you’re kind, your kindness is noticed. If you’re mean, you better believe that’s noticed as well. If you succeed at something cool, others will use it as inspiration. Think about Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. My personal weight loss inspirations are the contestants of The Biggest Loser. Every time I watch that show I put down the cheesecake and pick up a rice cake. Well, not really, but it does remind me that I’m on a journey to lose weight.

On the flip side of that, if you start something and give up, others will be affected as well. Not only do we live vicariously through others so that when they win it brightens our day, when they lose heart and throw in the towel we lose a little heart too. And it works no matter what, just depends on the focus. If someone is selfish and they see someone get what they want by being selfish, it will drive them to be more selfish. However, if they see someone who was selfish turn over a new leaf and do something self-less and still get what they want, it just may make them question their own selfish ways. In that one simple way, we are all our brother’s keeper.

So whether it be school, your marriage, a sport, or finishing that entire cheesecake by yourself, if it’s what you’re meant to do, do not give up. Ever. Eh…Ver… Stick to it for you and stick to it for the people who need your example. You could be an inspiration to someone! However, if you start turning into a football or a cheesecake quit and seek professional help immediately.

(Seriously, Black Swan gave me the heebee geebees for days…)

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