It’s Getting Real. I love/hate you long run

I have been looking at the mileage numbers on Hal Higdon’s marathon training plan for years, just to see what it takes to prepare for a marathon. Six weeks ago, I printed the Novice 2 program for eighteen weeks of training. I printed the Intermediate program as well, but quickly decided that four days of running (Novice 2), one day of “Yoga for Runners,” and seven days of lying on my floor to stretch and roll around on my massage ball was a solid formula for me. In a normal world this would add up as two “rest days,” but that is not really the case for me. Last week on my “rest day,” I didn’t count but probably went up and down several hundred steps in about 5 different subway stations and walked at least a few miles in between. My legs were burning on those last steps as I returned home that evening, I officially call that cross training.

As a side note, I’m sitting on my couch right now with earplugs in because my neighbor has decided to chop enough wood for a new home right outside my window. Yes, I would like to be writing on my desk, but that is closer to the noise source. Gimme a 3, gimme a 1, and another 1, what does it spell? It spells shut up ***hole, I’m trying to write! By the way, this is the third day of chopping for over 8 hours. Please sweet baby jesus, do something mean to my neighbor. Is that bad? I swear to God, three silver heart shaped balloons just flew by my window, I think that’s a sign that baby jesus agrees with me, awesome. And another ironic side note, I’m waiting to get a call from my landlord regarding how much our rent is about to go up. Other tenants have mentioned $200-$400 price hikes, at least it’s quiet?

My husband is always asking me what I’m running from (he thinks he is very funny). This week I’m running away from the noise of living in NYC and a possibly monumental rent hike! Back to the mileage…I want to emphasize the fact that I have seen these numbers on the page for years and since printing them and actually starting the training, I’ve looked at the schedule several times a week. Somehow the reality of the numbers didn’t really seep in until last week when my long run was 12 miles. I ran the Covered Bridges Half Marathon on June 1st, so I know that I can actually run 13 miles, but marathon training became very real for me when I realized I will be running at least a half marathon almost every weekend for the next three months! Somehow I conveniently ignored that reality until I was staring at double digits face to face for the next million early weekend mornings!

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each line is a mile, they’re adding up…

Two days ago my long run was 9 miles. The two weeks before were 11 and 12 miles which remain intimidating. When I was doing the half marathon training, 9 miles seemed like a monumental feat. Since I have put so many miles between that run in May and now, I’m amazed that 9 miles this time felt approachable. I could have never guessed that running 9 miles would be no big deal. Perspective is an interesting thing. In my case, a 7-9 mile run is now replacing a 5 mile in ease. This is a good thing since my midweek run just went up to 7 miles. It was on 6 mile for three mid-weeks runs, but I kept seeing or thinking 5 miles for 2 out of 3 of those weeks, how convenient.

Weekends are dedicated to my long runs as I presume is the case for many runners that are training. I definitely see my fair share of people looping Brooklyn’s Prospect Park armed with water bottles attached to their body in various ways. I tend to fear the long runs as I am getting ready in the morning or sometimes it starts to build the night before. My alarm goes off and I’m gulping down a banana and drinking water before I brush my teeth, sometimes half asleep in bed. Usually my back hurts a little, which in my fear-ish sleepy pre-run state, translates to the inevitability that I’m going to have a major back problem again if I go run. Another clear sign that I should not do the run and change it to a different day is my stomach is sometimes a little off. I don’t want to paint the picture that I am scared of my shadow and paralyzed in fear, it’s more about trying to remain injury free through this process and NEVER having a debilitating back problem again. I’ve learned a lot online and in books about training, but ultimately I have to make all the calls with my non-expert experience, on whether to run or not to run through various aches, pains, cramps, thirst, heat, and other variables. I’ve been ultraconservative in thought before heading out, knowing I can always abort the run, but at least starting it. Inevitably once I get going, those fears begin to sweat themselves out by mile 3 and my back is fine and my stomach has settled. Before I know it I’ve reached mile 7 which is where I start feeling a little drugged, in a good way. I don’t know if this is runners high or some state in between being alive and passing out, but it is a surreal and happy place. It is a nice reward after eating properly the day before, being diligent with my water intake, getting all my gear ready, and waking up a lot earlier than I would like to beat the summer heat.

This Saturday I will tackle the 14 mile long run. This will be the longest I have ever run at one time in my entire life. That is why this blog is so long, it’s the theme of the week. During and after my 12 miles a few weeks ago, I could feel my hamstrings getting sore for the last few miles in ways that I have never felt before. After a few days the soreness went away and I could actually feel these muscles getting stronger. Physically, I’m more capable than ever for the 14 miler. Mentally, I’m hoping that recognizing that I have pre-long run jitters does not mean I can’t do it and I will injure myself forever. It is more about a sometimes protective and sometimes fearful voice inside me that dissolves early on in the mileage. Suck it voice, talk to me when there is a real problem! Emotionally, I’m pretty happy. I’m running long runs and training for the marathon. Not any marathon, but the NYC TCS marathon. I think that makes me a goddess of power and strength. Spiritually, so far the Gods are with me. By the way, the noise has stopped! Thank you baby jesus!

Marathonya: The Back Story

 

I should run the marathon. It has been so long since I first had that thought that I can’t even really remember where it came from or when. I think the idea emerged from a combination of watching the marathon from the sidelines in Brooklyn, being a very casual runner myself, and listening to my friend Kate talk about training. My first races ever were all about getting in the NYC marathon.  I did all the NYRR races in 2010 for guaranteed entry. Two weeks after I completed the last race, which gave me my guaranteed entry, I injured my back and I did not run again until I ran for one minute on March, 20 2013. This one minute was after years of no running and painful walking (especially subway stairs) and several doctors/specialists telling me to never jog again, not to mention thousands of dollars spent on treatments. Did I mention I make about $1000 a year? Yup, I’m a musician in NYC. OK, I make a few thousand, but spending lots of money on an injury was not easy. It put me into debt, for years. I just paid that debt off about 3 months ago, whoot! The point is, it has not been an easy “jog,” in the park for me and I don’t know if I will make it through the rigorous training that I’m in the fifth week of right now. The one minute run in March 2013 was like dipping my toe in the water to check the temperature. It felt good enough to jump in, so one minute turned into one mile fairly quickly. I might add, the years of very minimal exercise were horrible. Horrible! I love the feeling of accomplishment after a run, the sweat that makes me feel like I am taking care of myself and staying healthy. I love how runs can squeeze the stress out of my thoughts and make me feel fresh and positive. It’s a healthy balance to all the drinking I do, a past time that every person that lives in NYC will eventually pick up (I’m convinced) as I did not drink at all when I moved here eleven years ago. I have to get to sleep some how!

I took it slowly while building up my mileage and ran my first race in years on June 30, 2013.  I was surprised I was running at all after being told by five different specialists that I should not. It was a long test run at 5 miles, but I had my reason. After I had built up my training to 3 miles I logged onto NYRR website, another first in many years. I secretly counted the shortest races and saw there were definitely still 9 races (+1 volunteer job) I could join by the end of the year to get the guaranteed entry to the marathon. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would make it through one race and, of course, the first race had to be a 5 miler. I was sooo worried that I would reinjure myself and not even running was worth that. I can’t really emphasize how miserable it is to not be mobile and in constant pain, especially in NYC! Or how great it felt to be getting back into it, mostly pain free!

Well, I made it through the first race and continued to knock off the races for marathon  entry, even through the very hot summer. I got one lucky break when it was extremely hot for one of the July races and NYRR posted they would give you credit even if you did not run, yes! I hate running in the heat. I completed my volunteer job at the marathon expo and had two races to go on back to back weekends in November for my guarantee and then 8 days before my second to last race I fell for the first time ever running. I skinned my hands and knees, particularly my right knee on which I have a scar now to show for it. I walked/limped about a mile home because I stupidly did not have my phone or money with me (that was the last time I ever make that mistake). After my husband bandaged me up, all I could think about was if I did some kind of serious damage that would stop me from my last two races. I did not run up until race day and let the sores heal as much as possible. I was worried that morning in Central park, but completed it with just a bit of soreness in the knee that took more of the fall. One more week and one more race to go! On November 24, 2013 I made it through the arctic wind blasts of that bitter cold morning to the finish line.

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Walking, to one minute of jogging, to a mile, and then the miles of racing. When I did the first minute of running, I had no idea that the rest of the year would include all the races and guaranteed entry to the NYC marathon. To my delight, Marathonya 2014 was on…