#thestruggleisreal

Saturday was a scheduled long run. 6 miles, which is a length that is just too much for me on a treadmill. The plan is to get up at sunrise and knock it out. I got knocked out instead. It has been quite a while since I ran outside and it felt nearly impossible. Every step was a huge effort. The humidity was high and my legs were getting heavier with each laboring step. I called it quits early. 2.5 sad little miles. I decided, as I did the walk of shame back home, that I need to be getting my miles outside. There really is a difference in training, harder and uneven terrain and of course much hotter. So this afternoon I set out for 3 miles no matter how long it took me and how sweaty I got. Got it done! My pace was a minute slower than I have been running inside but this is not amount time at this stage, I need to get my mileage up. So today was a success. Tonight is stretching and rolling and tomorrow is cross training. Gotta keep the legs fresh but it’s easier said than run.

Back in the saddle

Well it’s August already. Smack dab in the middle of the sweltering heat of another Florida summer. And smack dab in the midst of another training season! It took me up until now to get my mojo back after the marathon. I took a break (and got married :D) I really had a hard time getting my head back in the game though. I call it PTSD and I don’t want to misuse that considering all the serious issues some face coming back from much worse than a silly race. But I guess when you do something as huge as your first marathon, and a major one like NYC everything else seemed not worth it.

….until now! What better way to get out of your funk you ask? Meet the Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon and 5K “Aunt Catfish Challenge!” Oh sweet sweet swag I love you. Why do we run for shiny things?? I should also mention that yours truly designed the medal and challenge prize this year….YAY! This is exactly what I needed to get back in the game. How could I not run this? I get to see hundreds of fellow athletes wearing my artwork. Be still my heart!

So get ready for some updates. Just not today…it’s a rest day! Tomorrow I am scheduled for 6 miles. Fingers crossed I still have it in me. As I’ve said, it’s easier said than run.

(Sneak peek of the bling!)

The Big Show (The Finish Line)

Finally here is the end of the “road.” Last we spoke I was taking my first break on the Queensboro Bridge. 1.5 mile incline that felt like an eternity uphill. I decided here to stop and catch my breath. With 8 miles to go I didn’t want to burn out now. Once at the top I started running again. Reaching the bottom the roar of the crowd picked up again….welcome to Manhattan! The next four miles are small yet rolling hills that are so incredibly deceiving. I spent countless days/nights in the city, since when was it so hilly?? As I trek on my quads are getting tight, my steps are getting heavy and the weather is turning an almost bitter cold. The energy of the crowd is now fueling me more than any sports gels and waters I could consume. The signs, yelling, cheering kept one foot in front of the other.

Around mile 19 I started feeling my toes in my left foot rubbing against my shoe. I’ll just ignore it, I got this. All the training I’ve done I’ve never had this problem before. This is fine….yeah right. Crossing into the Bronx I am wondering if my pinky toe is even attached to my foot anymore. Is my shoe filling up with blood? Am I leaving red footprints behind as I trudge along. I’m starting to wonder if I should stop at a First Aid tent. But what would they really do for me? Isn’t that for people who are really suffering? Suck it up girl! I keep moving.

Mile 20 and there are my family and friends! I stop briefly to say hi and switch out my water bottle for some tasty and much needed BCAA’s. After one sip I am super charged! I didn’t realize just how depleted I was. A few hugs and I am off on my second wind to the finish line. Five more miles…that’s it!

Up and over the Madison Ave Bridge and here it is…Man-freaken-hattan! This is it, the home stretch. Unfortunately I have hit the dreaded “wall” and I am beyond beat up. I decided to switch to intervals running about half a mile and walking about a quarter. Miles 21-22 are in Harlem, the most boisterous, energetic, loud and borderline obnoxious section which was a sight for sore eyes and mostly legs. The Harlemians as I refer to them, were the most inviting crowd. They welcomed me every step of the way. With probably the saddest smile on my face I keep moving as I try to absorb their energy and keep moving. The sun is starting to go down, tall buildings are creating wind tunnels that just cut right through you.

Mile 22-23 is Fifth Ave. This is where the elites kick it in, last straight stretch of road before turning into Central Park and the finish line. 5k left, no big deal right? I enter the park and am almost transported to a different world. It’s quieter, greener and of course up hill-er. In an attempt to keep strong I raise the volume on my iPod and push on. I was surprised with the smaller than expected crowds on the sidelines. Hoping to see my family I keep an eye out as I trudge along. I’m cold, I’m hungry for solid food and I am convinced that my toe is the size of a hot dog.

Mile 25 I am at a 13/13.5ish pace and I will done…soon! Two more right turns. Running out of the park and back in I am reflecting on the last 20 something miles. This was an actual adventure. All the training, miles upon miles logged in, countless GU’s begrudgingly digested, weights, carb/protein and not that much alcohol all comes down to this. Wishing that the excitement of the finish line would speed up my pace I move along thinking about it all. I can’t believe it’s almost over!

Mile 26…800 meters to go…what??? I hear yells of “keep going,” “almost there,” and “you got this.” Thank you New York. I seriously couldn’t have run a marathon without you and your big stage. It really is the People’s Race as the founder Fred Lebowitz had intended. The ground has lines to follow as they bring you home. I follow ahead and see photographers, volunteers, just about everyone waving me in. There it is…the monstrous blue finish line. I am sprinting (though I doubt it was faster than an 11 min/mi). I did it. I expected to be more emotional but a sense of calm and accomplishment just spread throughout me. Turning off my iPod and my Garmin I start walking ahead. It’s surreal. A few hundred more feet and a young girl puts a medal around my next and congratulates me. Thank you medal girl, I think I love you.

Medal around my neck, salt crusted from head to toe I am being shuffled through the longest march of my life. I was handed a bag of snacks which oddly enough I wanted none of. My stomach is catching up to me and it hates the idea of food. Next was a poncho that I gladly wrapped myself in. Did I mention how cold it was. Ahead of my was 57th Street. I step foot and it’s officially over. I find my family and head home. I can barely sit on the subway, train and car. My legs are going through rigamortis…is that possible? Back at my parents house I relive the entire race with my family and pizza, after inspecting my pinky toe that has the biggest blister I’ve ever seen, it might be a medical phenomenon.

I didn’t sleep much that night. Maybe it was adrenaline, maybe it was excitement or maybe it was that I couldn’t move my legs more than two inches without feeling excruciating pain. But I did it. I ran not just a marathon but the Big Apple, The Big Show, the New York City Marathon. And it was worth every minute of it. I earned this medal. I earned this pain and I love it.

The Big Show (Part Two…Finally)

Must have been a real big snack huh? Of course I have an excuse for being absent this entire time but I will get to that and the end. (It is marathon related!)

I left off in the midst of a steamy Brooklyn stretch. How did it get so hot all of a sudden? It’s November for crying out loud! Coming up on mile 8 and my family and some friends from the run club should be on the sidelines somewhere. If I haven’t mentioned they have planned to stalk me all throughout the route. Just up ahead of me is where the two lanes of runners merge into the largest group of sweat and stink I’ve ever seen. Thankfully it’s wasn’t as overcrowded as I would have thought. There is a lot of weaving in and out but it’s not terrible. As we all come together I see my family on the right most side as I run by all the way on the left. Too difficult to get over I get their attention with some quick and frantic flailing and keep on.

I am still running around 10:45/11 min miles and I can’t slow down. By mile 10 we reach Williamsburg and the atmosphere changes a bit and gets calmer, quieter. The dense Orthodox Jewish influence is everywhere yet the spectators have thinned out dramatically. Not believing in the excess of extreme behavior, they typically do not participate in any way to the marathon, though occasionally I got a glimpse of a curious child peeking out to see what thousands of crazy people were doing in their streets.

By this time the weather is starting to change again. It’s not as hot as it was, making running a little easier as I continue on my way through the course. Did I mention the live music?? There are bands scattered throughout the route playing mini pop up concerts as we run by. It was nice to see all the support in so many ways. And let’s not forget all the NYPD and NYFD lined up everywhere to make sure we were all safe as we trekked the 26.2 miles.

As the miles passed by the crowd is getting denser and much louder. We are headed into Queens next. With that stereotypical NY accent they welcome me to their borough as if they have been waiting for me personally. Well hello Queens…“how you doin’?”  I’m about three Gu’s in, gatorade, plenty of water and I’m still at about an 11:15 min/mile pace. Wonder if I can keep this up? Well mile 15 we are headed up the Queensboro Bridge. Longest bridge of my life! It’s here where it all rushed in and hit me just how tired I already was. And cold. It’s stinking cold now. I hit mile 16, still running up the bridge I decide I need a break. I move over to start walking a bit and catch my breath. View not so nice but still pretty cool. On the otherside is First Ave and our first stretch of Manhattan.

Speaking of stretch, I will end this one right here. I promise the ending will be posted soon. Maybe even some current stuff too? Whoa!

The Big Show (Part One)

(Sorry for the lateness of this post. I had technical difficulties. Damn you technology!) This is going to be a long one so now is the time to go get a drink or take a bathroom break. There is no intermission.

It’s been a little over two weeks since the main event! The 40th TCS NYC Marathon was Sunday, November 6th and all I can say to explain it is wow. I’ve never seen anything like it. Everything I’ve read and heard about is nothing compared to what it actually is. So here is my experience in a not so brief nutshell….

Alarm went off at 4am so I had enough time to pack a few last minute things and head down to the Meadowlands to catch the shuttle bus to Staten Island. It was pretty cold and windy but I knew it would warm up by the time my wave started (which was at 11:00am.) My race nerves started a couple days before hand so they were in full force now! By the time I got to the Meadowlands my internal organs reminded me how nervous I was and luckily there were porta potties everywhere. (Nothing like being the first one to use it…it’s like a gift from the running heavens) I boarded the bus and off me and about 60 others were to Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. The bus was quiet; I wonder if anyone else was nervous. I got off the bus and went to the Runners’ Village which had vendors, samples of energy bars and gels and coffee….genius! Got me a cup o’ joe and headed for the hospitality tent to shelter from the cold, dark, cold darkness. I stayed huddled in a ball for the next three hours. I may have fallen asleep, I might have gotten stepped on and I definitely tripped a few people. The sun was finally coming up so I made my way out to a warm spot and start eating…damn straight it was Snickers!

Fast forward a couple hours and it’s almost start time. There are people everywhere. Just when you thought the crowd was thinning out another wave of people came through. Talk about your quality people watching. I got rid of my sweatpants (little did I know this was going to be a mistake) and get lined up in the corral to walk over to the base of the Verrazano Bridge. The sun is out in full force, time to ditch the sweatshirt. 11:00 hits and we are lead over to the start. It is GO TIME! After a great rendition of our National Anthem by a girl actually running the marathon the cannons go off and so are we. OMG! I thought I would be emotional but I think I was just excited. Who gets excited to run 26 miles? I was on the upper level of the bridge and the view was amazing. Because of the crowd it was difficult to start off at a decent speed so I think my first mile was around 12 minutes but it was worth it. There were runners stopping all over for the infamous selfie and the crowd shots coming up the bridge. Dodging people and abandoned clothing for the first two miles, I get over the bridge and into Brooklyn. I am finally getting into a groove though I’m running a little faster than I had planned and I can’t seem to slow my pace. It’s hard with all the energy. It’s electric. The sun is really starting to beat down and I am getting warm. I wasn’t expecting to be this hot in NYC. Getting nervous about the temperature I try to slow down but that lasted for about half a mile. Here I decide that if I feel this good now run a great first half of the race and not worry about the second, I will muscle through. Engage cruise control.

The spectators were awesome! You really felt like they were all out there for you. Live music at almost every corner there is so much to look at and listen to. Every mile had their own personality. You really get an in depth perspective of the different cultures in New York.

I am going to stop right here and keep you hanging for a bit while I write up the rest. There is so much to describe and you look like you need a break. Besides I need a snack.

 

Third Time’s a Charm

After a tough couple of weeks and attempts at running 20 miles, I finally broke the barrier. What a relief! Mentally and physically I think I can now conquer NYC. I still want to get one more 20+ run in but knowing that 20 miles is behind me is giving me the confidence I need to getter dun’ (that’s what we say in Florida).

Saturday morning was finally a bit cooler than it has been so I was able to “sleep in.” My alarm went off at 4:00am and I started my prerun ritual of getting dressed, taping up my feet, picking out gels that won’t make me gag all while eating a Snickers. I was out of the door by 5 starting my first loop of three. Because of the cooler temperature I was able to keep a steady 11:15 min/mi pace without struggling, which was nice for a change. The first 8 miles went by fairly quickly. After a quick water stop I went out for the second loop. This was supposed to be another 8 miles but my insides decided otherwise. The amount of caffeine I have ingested decided it was time for an unscheduled pit stop. So the second loop was cut short. After that last break it was time to finish up the last 8 miles. By this time the sun was starting to come up and heat up the world like it always does. Conveniently my watch was dying as well. I knew this last leg was going to be tough mentally. To break up the monotony the last loop was around the neighborhood and down the road to another that I rarely go into. A bit hilly it provided a good challenge for my tired legs. I cranked up my music (which you really shouldn’t do!) and finished up around the lake with my watch dying before the last mile was done. At least I knew how far I needed to go to get to 20.

20 miles done in….wait for it….3:50! Under 4 hours. I am still in disbelief. Amazing was a little bit of rest and a dip in the temperature can make.

It’s Monday now and I’m still sore and the bottoms of my feet are on fire but I feel good! This week will be just maintaining and eating well. I can now say the NYC Marathon is next month. Am I ready? Maybe. Am I excited? Heck yeah! We are almost at the finish line, but it is easier said than run.

Dread the Tread

These past two weeks have been super busy however training has not gone off course…well too much. It’s still brutally hot and humid in the center of Florida though it feels nothing short of one of the circles of hell. So to compensate I have been doing quite a bit on running on the treadmill. That awful machine in the gym usually facing a window or tv because they are the most painfully mundane miles ever inventing in the history of running miles. But it’s the only way I’ve been able to stay on track and not lose some focus. I have only been doing short runs at the gym though, long runs will always be on the streets. Last Saturday was supposed to be 20. I was actually looking forward to it, breaking the big 2-0. Sadly only 16 miles were completed. I started too late and by 7:30am the blazing sun was stealing even ounce of energy. One thing I have learned during these longer distances is to know when to quit and sacrifice a goal for a more quality run. Feeling good at the end is a huge part of this. Saturday was a pretty strong 12 miles and I have very happy with that. So I will continue to forge on thanking myself that I started this training with enough time to try 20 again. Tomorrow will be an “easy” 5 then hills on Thursday. Fingers crossed that it won’t be hotter than the sun in the morning then again it is easier said than run.

K.O.

I know I am being dramatic but Saturday I felt like I got knocked out. A combination 3:00am alarm, humid weather and just all around exhaustion took me out. I’m tired, cranky, sweaty, hungry and frustrated all at the same time. So Saturday after 2 miles, 2 measly little miles I threw in the towel for the day. If I’m not running 18 why go further and exhaust myself only to continue a downward spiral? Sometimes you have to sacrifice a fight to win the war, or something like that.

But as defeated as I feel, I purposely set up this training with enough time for setbacks like this. I blew off some steam this weekend and am looking forward to getting back on track. I am planning out my meals carefully and to give myself a break from heat and early morning exhaustion I am running in the gym all week. As much as I dread the tread[mill] I think mentally it will help in the long run, no pun intended….maybe.

 

Summertime Blues

I had good intentions to blog almost everyday but once again life gets in the way. It’s been a pretty uneventful week actually. Last week I dialed it down quite a bit to give my body a rest. My runs during the week weren’t more than 3 miles, including hill repeats. It’s been so incredibly hot and humid lately that it’s nearly impossible to get what you set out to do accomplished. It’s a bit demoralizing, but alas I truck on.

This past Saturday was the “Howl at the Moon” 10 miler in Clermont. It is a loop of rolling hills on the clay roads surrounding a blueberry farm. Am I painting a beautiful picture in your mind? Well take that picture, set it in the pitch dark and crank up the temperature 20 more degrees and humidity to 135%. Man was I miserable. I set out on an 11:30 pace, I really didn’t care about time, I wanted it just to be a training run. It didn’t take long, however for the heat to take a toll on me. By the first water stop (they were set up every two miles) I was drenched in sweat. I trudged along but unfortunately I couldn’t keep a steady pace. My allergies were flaring up so bad that my throat closed part way and I couldn’t get enough air to run. That sounds a lot serious than it actually was but it’s the best way I can explain it. I was in no medical danger but I was not able to race properly. So I resorted to intervals and finished 2:06.

So far this week there was an easy 3 mile run on the treadmill Monday along with weights. This morning was another dreadfully humid 4 mile run. That wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped. I am praying this heat will break soon. It’s becoming a struggle to keep focused. It wears you down, first physically then mentally. For me running is so much more a mental feat than the actual running part and I am starting to suffer.

Tomorrow is hill repeats and then 18 miles Saturday morning. I’m going to stay hydrated all week in preparation and pray to the weather Gods that maybe they might grace me with a little break in these torturous summer conditions. Anyone know a rain dance?

Planters Peanutitis

Oh glorious hump day. The middle of the week and yet many more miles to run. This morning was 3 miles around the neighborhood with the run group. Following the outer streets then coming in the middle around the lake once is exactly 3 miles from start to finish. It normally is an easy run but it was so incredibly humid (it’s 5am mind you) that is was almost impossible to breathe. I ended up walking half of it but I am in a “rest” week and not totally concerned about running the entire route. This Saturday I signed up for the ‘Howl at the Moon’ 10 miler, a spooky nighttime race on the clay roads in Clermont. Super hilly but it will be a nice change of pace from the constant increase in miles.

Side note, I saw a podiatrist yesterday about the burning on the bottoms of my feet. You know…planters peanuts, those tissues that go from your toes all the way to your heels. Yeah I didn’t know either until they starting talking to me in painful burst of weird heat. It has been bothering me for a couple of months though I have been able to keep it at bay with some serious massaging and compression socks. I was pretty nervous he was going to tell me I couldn’t run for a while but after a few squeezes of some muscles and tendons, I do in fact I have a mild case of planters fasciitis but will just require some better insoles, stretching and a generous helping of biofreeze. Done and done Doc! With a clean bill of health I am going into the next segment of training with some positive vibes. The clock is ticking as November is sneaking up on me. At least I have a routine set…maybe….sort of….in the meantime, tomorrow we hill!