Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Mario

Mario always looks like a Muppet to me when he lies with his legs sticking out in this fashion.

Just in the last two days, I consider Mario to be 100%.  He has finally eaten all his pellets on his own (I did back off the Critical Care a bit as an experiment) and if you could only see his primo, planetary poop-pile from the last 24 hours (I discussed briefly with Mario sharing a photo of it for "Monday Mario," but after all of the embarrassing Bunny Burrito photos, I reneged).  He's getting into mischief during his play time at night.  And he is just generally himself again in little ways I hadn't realized I'd missed until things were back to normal. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Mario

Someone please get in contact with my attorney.
Nothing much new on the Mario front.  I have been diligent with his Critical Care feedings and he is still on his meds.  His eating/poop production is still slightly below normal.  But honestly, if the vet hadn't said anything I wouldn't be too concerned about it at this point so it is not far from normal.  He is eating all of his veggies and seemingly normal amounts of hay.  He leaves about a third of his pellets every day, though.  Call me crazy, but if I'm pumping him full of Critical Care twice a day it sort of makes sense to me that he wouldn't be eating all his pellets.  And yet I am not supposed to stop feeding him the Critical Care until he eats all his food as normal.  Something seems sort of off there.  The one nice thing about the bunny burrito is having total access to kiss those little cheeks.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two Cities Wrap-up

Believe it or not, my 2011 marathon season is officially over.  I managed to bookend 2011 with PR's in the first race of the year and the last race of the year.  Had some nasty little injuries in the middle, but overall it turned out pretty great.

So now I am reflecting on what my new PR means to me.  During the race, there were a few moments when I seriously started rethinking this whole, "Let's try to PR the marathon" deal.  I've gotten finishing marathons down pretty well and it can even be tons of fun.  But this racing a marathon?  You're spending a lot of time in an uncomfortable zone.  And even though a minute buffer is big, it is at the same time not a lot of time, either. I could work so hard for hours and lose it all to one or two bad miles.  It started seeming sort of ridiculous to be doing this.  I thought to myself a couple of times,  "If I go sub-4, I think I may stop trying to race marathons."

Do you know what was one of the first things out of my mouth when I saw Boyfriend after the race? I said, "I've got a faster one in me."  Blargh!

In a way I sort of dreaded going sub-4 because I feel like there is no other big goal out there for me.  Sub-4 was this shining beacon to work towards and I feel every other goal is sort of arbitrary.  There is of course the super shiny BQ! but my BQ time is still far from realistic for me.  But then I look back and realize that going sub-4:30 was once a stretch goal for me, too.  Remember when I wrote this?  Look how far I have come.

I still remember what the coach at Marathon Camp told me.  And I still do believe that I owe it to myself to see how fast I can get while my body will still let me do that.  I'm going to keep at it and tackle the next realistic goal and see where it takes me.  I've hit my "I'll die a happy runner goal," so everything after this is major icing on the cake.  I am adrift without a hard end-point goal, but I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, right?

Regarding Two Cities itself, it was a great race!  Very well organized and I loved how they separated the half and full races.  It would be nice if they had a BYOB (bring your own bottle) mentality where people were ready to help you fill-up with a pitcher, but that is my only big suggestion for them.  Kristin did an awesome write-up about the race that highlights some of the major points (the number of bathrooms was amazing!  I didn't wait at all just 15 minutes before the race start).  And a special shout-out to her for helping get my race packet.  Not having to pick it up race morning was a huge load off my mind.

The swag was plentiful but just meh, in my opinion.  Yay, for women cut shirts, but it is still too big.  The sweatshirt is unisex so useless in public for me.  I'd rather have one really nice souvenir than multiple useless ones.

Audrey ran the New York City Marathon the same day I ran Two Cities.  In fact, with the later NYC start we were actually running at the same time, too.  We were orange Balega sock twins on Sunday.  And we both ran marathons ending in X:57.  Coincidence?  I think not :)

I tweeted her this photo in the morning while I was getting ready.

And she sent this one back to me.

Many thanks to everyone for all the congratulations!!  When I first started running marathons I never, ever thought I would ever run a 3:XX marathon.  Being a runner is an amazing journey.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Two Cities Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #30:
PR! Sub-4! Negative split!

Sunday night, I was about to give Mario his meds/Critical Care and yes, still had my medal on.  Photo-op! 

The Full Recap, Marathon #30:
My goal for the race was to keep my average pace right around a 9:05 minute mile.  A 9:09 pace is a sub-4 hour marathon, but since I run based off my Garmin I knew that with the "extra" distance you cover the pace my Garmin showed would end up being slower than my official pace.  I figured out that a 9:05 was the buffer I needed to be safe.

From layering in marathon-pace miles in long runs, I knew that I had a tendency to sometimes slip into the high-8:00's.  I made 8:55 my fastest tolerable pace for the beginning of the race. I was afraid anything faster than that was going out too strong and I would end up suffering for it later on.  There were a few times in the first half of the race I found myself running in the 8:40's or 8:30's and I forced myself to slow a bit to conserve.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a race.  They had forecast a 50% chance of rain, low of 41, high of 58.  I figured the entire race would be overcast if not drizzly.  I'd take it!  The rain ended up burning off before the race but the temps were awesome.  There was a slight breeze in some locations which was just under my threshold where I would have called it a significant head wind.

The race had an ultra marathon, marathon, half marathon, and two person relay.  The marathon and ultra marathon started half an hour ahead of the half marathon.  I loved this.  I have a huge pet peeve running with people doing shorter distances than me (apologies to those ultra marathon people who had to run with me).  The longer distances also went out in a totally opposite direction than the half so you would never see a single person doing a shorter distance faster than you were going.  The course was a two out-and-back type configuration with a couple little loops and tails here and there.  Nothing special, but I wasn't out there to see the scenery.

Mile 1:   9:00
Mile 2:   8:56

I didn't realize until the night before, but this race had tunnels.  Three of them you run through six times. I blame the 16 tunnel passages of Texas for throwing my Garmin off and was counting on accurate Garmin data this race.  Luckily I had also thrown on a 4:00 pace band.  The race didn't have clocks on the course, but they had volunteers at every mile marker calling out the time.  Early on I passed by a mile marker and figured out I was a little more than 10 seconds behind the gun time.  I had my reference point for my pace band for the rest of the race.

Mile 3:    9:04
Mile 4:   8:52

I'm not going to lie, around mile 4 I started thinking that this whole idea was slightly ludicrous.  The pace didn't feel hard, but it wasn't easy peasy, either.  I was talking to Naomi about my race strategy a couple of weeks ago. I told her that if someone told me to go out and run 6 miles at a 9:00 pace, it wasn't something I could just easily pull off.  I'd have to psych myself up for it a little bit.  And here I was attempting to run 26.2 miles at that pace.  What was I thinking?!  I then reminded myself that there is a point in a run where things start to suck a little, but then they tend to not suck any more for the majority of the rest of the run. Perhaps I had just hit that point already.  It had come a bit early, but I could and would work with it.  Fight for it!

Mile 5:  9:01 (gel)
Mile 6:   9:02

Boyfriend made his first spectator appearance around mile 6.  It was a big pick-me up which is reflected in my pace the next few miles.  Looking at the photos he took, I am smiling and waving at him (which never happened again in subsequent photo encounters).  I thought briefly after mile 6 that I had just set a 10K PR in a marathon (I fully admit that all of my PR's under the marathon distance are a bit outdated at this point).

Mile 7:   8:53
Mile 8:   8:59

Boyfriend popped up again around here.  Oh, wait, I flashed him a smile at mile 8.5, too :)  I think Boyfriend yelled, "You're right on pace!" at me, and I recall thinking that I still had a long way to go.

Mile 9:   8:57
Mile 10:  8:59
Mile 11:  9:17 (filled water bottle, gel)

I stopped to fill my water bottle during mile 11 which really irritated me. I generally race with my 20 oz handheld and will refill it once or twice during a race.  I sometimes grab a cup to supplement here and there but generally ignore and keep running through all the water stops.  I don't plan for any walk breaks (even through aid stations) when I race and it was murder for me to lose even 15 seconds filling up my bottle.  To make matters sadder, this race did not have someone manning a pitcher who I could go to in order to fill my bottle quickly.  I had to go to the table and literally empty cup after cup into my 20 oz.  One thing that makes sense but really irked me was that they only filled the cup up about an inch on the bottom so I had to go through tons of them. I felt like a bit of an ass emptying cup after cup and throwing the empty cups around.  Sorry, volunteers.

Mile 12:   9:08
Mile 13:   8:57

Boyfriend popped up again around the half mark.  I was so annoyed at the thought of stopping again to fill my bottle that I yelled at him, "Bring my bottle to mile 21!"  I had pre-filled a smaller 12 oz handheld in the hopes that towards the end of the race I could switch out to a smaller bottle thus lightening my load and saving me a water bottle refill.

I set a half marathon PR during this race, too.  Blows my mind.  I thought about how I felt when I ran my 1:59:11 a couple of years ago.  It was hard and I was spent at the end.  I thought about how I had to go twice as far today, but also marveled that I wasn't at death's door like I was during that half, either.

Mile 14:   8:53
Mile 15:   8:55
Mile 16:   8:59

During miles 14-16 I thought about how I had never run this far, this fast in my whole entire life.  I was hitting unexplored territory.  Pre-race I decided I had a very realistic shot of holding this pace to mile 16.  I figured I knew I had a half marathon in me at that pace, and even if things got really tough I could probably gut it out another 3 miles.  I found myself at mile 16 still chugging away and told myself that from this point on I'd be proud of however many miles I could keep it up.

Remember those dark miles I was psyching myself up for?  They always come during race effort races and I didn't know when that would be during this marathon.  Well, it happened around mile 17.5.  My Garmin gives me splits every half a mile which I averaged out for most of the miles on this report.  But I left the mile 17 splits as two half miles because you can tell where I started to slow a bit.

Mile 17: 8:59, 9:12 (gel)
Mile 18:  9:18  (filled water bottle -- The second out and back road seemed pretty isolated, and Boyfriend had even remarked the night before he wasn't sure he could access it to see me out there.  I knew if it was possible he would be out there with my bottle, but I was running low on water and couldn't take the chance.  So I stopped and refilled again.  Was really annoyed at this stop because I even took the cap off the bottle and pointed to it as I ran up, but the volunteers just stood there handing out their cups and I had to go and do my 10 cup refill again)

I was getting really down miles 17.5-20.5. Here is the official elevation chart:

In my memory I had told myself that 16-21 were slightly downhill, and 21-24 were slightly uphill.  Now was the time I was supposed to be clicking away easy to perhaps bank a few seconds to be able to slow on the uphill portion.  But here I was slowing down.  I'd look down at my Garmin and my current pace was 9:20something, 9:15something.  I remembered how I was going to be proud for getting this far.  My overall pace was still right on target and I knew I could keep up this slower pace for a few miles more and still technically be on track. If I could get to mile 20 today on pace, I could definitely one day, get to 26.2.  But then I thought about how hard I had worked to get this far.  To do this again another day I'd have to re-run all these miles.  Hell no, was I about to let this go.  Fight for it!

I willed myself to pick up the pace a bit and I slowly started passing people.  I was going to lose this race if I let myself slow on the "easier" part of the out and back.  I told myself this pace was hard, but I wasn't at the point that it was impossible.  And I wasn't going to slow down unless it became impossible.  I wasn't going to be upset if the sub-4 didn't pan out, but I was never ever going to use that reasoning as an excuse to not give it my all this day.

Mile 19:   9:09

The whole race whenever I passed a mile marker I'd look down at my pace band to make sure I was doing okay.  Towards the middle of the race I was already almost 0.2 miles ahead of the mile markers which worried me about my official vs. Garmin pace.  By the latter part of the race I knew I had over a minute buffer.  God bless the volunteers who were calling out the times. I've worn pace bands before but never actually looked at them.  So I always felt calling times at mile markers was sort of a useless, thankless job especially in this Garmin Age.  I've run plenty of races with time-callers who must pick up on this fact and will call out times for a while and then stop for a while, and then start for a while, and so forth.  But every single mile marker I passed with a person present saw me coming and called the time for me.  It was such a nice security blanket to know where I stood.  I didn't have much energy to thank everyone, but I made sure to thank every volunteer who called a time for me.  I even spent oxygen adding a "so much" to the end of my "thank you's."

Mile 20: 9:17, 8:40

I heard Boyfriend from far, far away before I ever saw him.  He had made it to give me my bottle.  We were right before the turnaround, and I told him I'd grab the bottle from him when I came around the other side. I started drinking lots of water out of my bottle since I had already sacrificed some time to refill it.  Plus I wasn't sure if my little 12 oz would be enough to get me to the finish.

Coming around the turnaround nursing my bottle before swapping it out.

I made it around the turnaround and started the trip home.  I told myself that coming up were the hardest miles of this marathon.  We were late in the race, the sun was out, and I had a few uphill miles to get through.  Hard but not impossible.

Mile 21:  8:55
Mile 22: 8:58, 9:24 (I'm assuming this second split was the hill, gel)

I saw "The Hill" and it looked pretty intimidating as you came up to it.  But actually running it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  My pace did fall a bit and my breathing got harder, but I never felt the need to stop.  Golden Gate Park with your never-ending rollers, I heart you.

My Garmin's elevation data which I think more accurately describes the course than the official map.  One big down and one big up and not as much gradual as I had expected and dreaded.

Okay, that hill was behind me, I just had to get to mile 24 and it was downhill to flat to the finish.  Around this time I started passing hoards of half marathon walkers.  The race does an awesome job of always keeping the half marathoners and the full marathoners separated on the road for the full distance the two races overlap (even at the turnaround!). I never had to sidestep anyone.  Great job, Two Cities!

Mile 23:   9:08

I was expecting to be really suffering and really having to dig deep to my mantras (I alternated between "Fight for it!" and "Hard but not impossible" -- having thought of this second one while out on the course earlier).  And while I kept repeating the mantras to myself, I wasn't in a deep despair like I had been around mile 18.  The cloud cover came back.  I felt stronger the last few miles than the latter teen miles.  My pace was really good and I kept slowly ratcheting up the pace the last few miles; Playing the gambling game wanting to finish as fast as I could without combusting before the finish.

Mile 24:   8:50
Holy snickers,
Mile 25:   8:42
I'm really
Mile 26:  8:30
doing this.

Like a beacon calling in the distance.
I dug deep and pushed really hard the last almost half a mile to the finish.  I told myself just a few more minutes and I'd be a sub-4 hour marathoner.  A man running close to me had a friend who was running him in. His friend kept yelling, "You're almost there!  Come on!  Push it!  Keep up with me!" and I took it as a personal challenge to go with them.  His friend was running slightly ahead of us to motivate the guy to go with him.  They were faster than me and I couldn't exactly keep up, but it kept me kicking to the finish.

Mile 26.46 (Garmin distance) 7:41

I crossed and looked at my Garmin.  The time started with a "3."  I turned around and looked at the official clock.  Still a "3" there, too.  I felt a little wobbly for a few steps but overall didn't feel so bad.  I collected my medal and sweatshirt and headed out to meet Boyfriend.  The race offers a hot breakfast and ice cream sundaes in the finish area, but I don't really have an appetite for any of that immediately after a race.  I grabbed half a banana to force myself to eat.

It took a few minutes to find Boyfriend because he had missed me finishing.  He ran into a traffic snafu coming back from mile 21 and missed me by 2 minutes.  He felt really bad, but I remember thinking while I was out running that the road out there was so isolated it was a possibility he wouldn't make it back.  And at the time having that bottle hand off was more important to me.

A special shout-out to Boyfriend who has always been amazingly supportive of me and my running.  He puts up with my pre-race moodiness and craziness.  He cooks me awesome pre-race pasta.  He humors me when I ask him in total seriousness if I should wear the white hat or white with pink accents hat to a race.  He is my chauffeur to races.  He gets up early with me and hauls butt around towns to see me for fleeting, often thankless seconds. *blows a kiss*  My pace picked up every time I saw him and I don't think that is a coincidence.

This is pretty long so I'll get a post-race wrap-up together and posted in the next couple of days.

Catch-phrase on the back of the Oiselle shirt I wore after the race.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Mario

Mario had his follow-up with the vet on Friday.  His eating and pooping is still not 100% and that worried her a little.  She thought his stomach still didn't feel normal so we redid the x-rays.  She said his stomach is about 50% the size it was when he went in acutely the first time, but she still thinks there is a mass or something in there that hasn't pushed through yet.  She's a little puzzled as to what it is as she says it doesn't look like a typical hairball and I can't recollect him chewing up something he shouldn't have lately.

So we restarted him on his anti-gas and anti-gas producing bacteria antibiotic (he had just stopped his course of treatment on those the day before his follow-up).  She also started him up on a med that will cause his digestive tract to move a little more (we were unable to do this one the first time because she wasn't convinced there wasn't a blockage somewhere). Also, I had stopped with the Critical Care syringe feeding because his interest in food was high and Mario is just not cooperative with the syringe feeding.  But I've been scolded gently and told I am to continue with the Critical Care until everything is 100% normal.  I am a little dubious he'll ever eat his normal volume of food when I'm stuffing him with Critical Care, but the vet seems convinced it will happen.

So that is where we are now.  Still not out of the woods :(  The good news is that his personality is pretty normal so that keeps me from worrying about him all hours of the day vs. a couple here and there.

I'm getting better at the bunny-burrito to feed Mario and figured out if I hold him up like a baby the stuff goes down a little easier.  He's a smart little rabbit, though, and if he can do it, will tuck his nose into the burrito to try to hide.

Mario wishes he were a turtle.

I won't steal Mario's Monday thunder with any race stuff today. Tune back in tomorrow for that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Game Time!(?)

With all of the Mario trauma/drama I wasn't able to get a running update posted. And now here we are, 24 hours away from the next marathon.

Two Cities was originally going to be my A-race of the year.  Early in the summer my paces were getting a little faster and I felt that with another four months to train and build off that level, I'd be in a pretty good place to try to PR at Two Cities.  If you've been following along for a bit, my PR is 4:01:02.  I'm in that sticky spot where just a PR would be disappointing.  I need to go sub-4 to have any satisfaction.  Because let's face it, a 4:00:30 would just sting more than bombing and coming in at a 4:15.

My hip derailed my plan to have months to build up my pace and confidence.  I stopped doing any speed work through August and September.  I am so grateful my chiropractor kept encouraging me to keep up the running as I didn't lose my endurance base.  The first week of October I was able to get back into real training and I've been surprised at how quickly my paces started dropping again.

I feel I am currently in slightly better shape than I was at the end of July when I had to give up speed work.  I am not, however, quite where I wanted to be going into Two Cities.  I have four weeks of solid running, but that isn't the same as having a full 12 of them.

I took a step back and decided I had some options for this race.  First, I could set an aggressive yet conservative goal that would build my confidence; Perhaps a 4:08.  Something I know I could pull off and then use that confidence to build up for my next A-race attempt.  But then I took two steps back and realized something huge.  I may not be in as great shape as I wanted to be for a sub-4 attempt, but I am in far better shape than I was when I ran my 4:01 at Texas.

For example:

I pulled up some workouts from Texas and Fresno training to compare my paces.  My 7 mile tempo pace  is 9 seconds per mile faster now.  My mile pace is 25 seconds faster.  My easy pace is almost 30 seconds a mile faster.  My long run pace is 46 seconds per mile faster.

Do you know what the difference between a 4:01:02 and a 3:59:59 marathon is?  3 seconds a mile.  Three seconds a mile.

My second option is clearly to try to go for the sub-4.  My confidence doesn't think I can do it, but my body seems to be telling me I have a realistic shot at this.  What is the worse thing that can happen if I go out at a 9:09 pace and can't hold it?  I slow down.

I've run enough of these at varying effort levels to be devoid of ego regarding my finishing time.  If I set out to run a sub-4 and come in at 4:40, so what?  I don't think that would crush me.  I haven't invested a year's worth of training into this one race.  In fact, I've only managed to pull together a month of solid training.  Not a huge investment, so not a huge loss.  Another nice thing about doing lots of marathons is that there is always another race around the corner to try again.

I think something that far too many runners lose sight of is that a marathon, even a race-effort marathon, is not the end-game of our running.  Too many people go out and run races they feel don't live up to their expectations and they take a look at what they did and are upset or disappointed.  If I go out and run 16 miles at a 9:09 pace and it all falls apart, do you know what I'm going to think?  I'm going to think, "Hell yeah!  I ran 16 freakin' miles at MP!"  I've never done that in training before.  And I'll use that as a stepping stone to my next race.  Because even when marathons don't go the way you wanted them to, chances are if it had been a training run, you went out and kicked some major assphalt.

So that is my attitude going into Two Cities.  I'm going to give it my best shot, and I'm going to be proud of however many miles I can hold it.  It's been a long time since I raced a marathon and I'm nervous as heck.  I'm trying to think about what I'm going to tell myself during the dark miles when it feels impossible.  This may be my 30th marathon, but I've only ever toed a starting line of a marathon with the full intent to try to PR at a hard effort three, maybe four times previously.  I'm still learning how to get my race-face on.