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Archive for September, 2013

Marathon Training Week #16 – Easing into the taper

Marathon Training Week #16

Marathon Training Week #16

Taper Madness.

It’s very real.  And I am trying very, very, very hard not to let it affect me.  In fact, Runner’s World couldn’t have been more timely when they published an article on Taper Madness and how to go into the taper and feel good as you go through it.  Some runners, honestly, look forward to the taper.  I am not one of those runners.  Cutting back on mileage is not easy for me.  I love my long distance runs.  I do them with people and I do them alone.  Either way, I enjoy them.  But cutting down has proven to be a bit of a challenge for me.

Thankfully, there wasn’t too much of a difference in this first week of the taper.  It was sort of like going into a cut-back week during normal training.  Maybe these marathon training planners do know what they are doing.  I promise…I am respecting my taper.  I swore I would and I intend to do so.

So, as my miles get shorter…let’s take a look at how I’m dealing this week.

Sunday was a busy day for me.  I was having my birthday get-together with some peeps.  Many of my friends made it out.  A couple ended up not being able to make it.  My roomie and I had our friend Greg in town…so…that being said…I knew I needed to get up and moving that morning if I was going to get my long run in.  Having run 24 miles the day before I had no plans for speed.  In fact, I wore my heavier shoes to keep my pace slow and steady.  I was aiming for 10 miles that morning, and I managed an easy (although at times it felt hard) 10 miles before heading back to the apartment and getting showered and making some gluten-free madeleines for breakfast.  The rest of the day we were out and about before my favorite local food truck, Sweet ‘N’ Savory catered my birthday party at The Beer Store in Louisville, Kentucky.  My roomie got me a gluten-free beer to try…blech…still not into beer.  Just not my thing.  I stuck mostly to the water and was served up one of the most amazing three course meals of my life.  FROM A FOOD TRUCK!!  Richard and Ashley do fantastic work, but they really did some amazing things.  I was the only gluten-free person at the get-together, but everyone enjoyed the appetizer gluten-free savory crepes, the gluten-free ravioli for the entree, and the gluten-free crepe suzette with their homemade gelato for dessert.  We were all very full at the end but everyone enjoyed the food.  I think it was one of my favorite get-togethers yet.  So many different personalities and people and yet…we all came together for good food and a good time.  It was a good Sunday.

And Monday definitely came around way too soon.  My training plan called for 6 easy miles, so I was up and at it early.  The darkness no longer slows me down…but what does slow me down is super tight hamstrings.  The morning air felt great, but my legs weren’t wanting to move as they normally would.  I foam rolled after I hit my mileage, slower than normal, but I was okay with that.  I was going the distance, not going for speed and I do not push when something is twinging.  After work and a quick dinner, I was back out for my Monday Daily Double…with my running group.  That night we were going to go a different route because a tree had gone down somewhere up the way and they were sculpting it into…something.  Laura had heard about it and was going to lead us that way.  She said that she was going to block me from running out ahead because I was in taper mode.  It actually worked and I loved her for this!  I have good friends in the running community.  As it turns out, they had finished the sculpture and the tree now was a castle with a dragon wrapped around it.  It was AWESOME.  We completed the run after stopping to marvel at the tree art.  Ellen and I stuck together, talked while we ran.  She said I pushed her at the end, and we finished up a full 3 miles together.  She said my easy pace was pushing it for her, but it felt great.  And we hit wicked negative splits.  Despite my tight hamstrings…we had a great run.  After a shower, foam rolling commenced once more.

Tuesday was my cross-training day.  So, no running.  These no running days are the most difficult part of training.  I just want to hop out of bed and put in some miles.  But…I behaved.  I hit up the gym and hopped on the Arc Trainer for 45 minutes, using Program 1 – Level 5 and managing 2.79 miles.  Not bad.  I love and hate that machine.  But it’s great for cross training.  After that, it was the rowing machine for 10 minutes.  The rowing machine is tedious…and boring.  But…it works so much of your body.  I always feel it after the workout.  After that, I went downstairs for some strength training before heading into the office.  But my day didn’t stop there.  After work, it was right into my circuit training.  This new routine kicks my butt every time.  Seriously.  But that’s good.  Honestly.

Wednesday morning I woke to the task of hitting 7 miles with Negative Splits in my marathon training.  Pacing and speed work days are my least favorite of the week.  But, they are necessary.  So, I started off slow and steady and picked it up with each mile.  I didn’t feel like I was actually doing the whole negative split thing, but when I hit 7 miles, I surprised myself.  I actually had managed those negative splits.  It felt good out there that morning.  I didn’t push too hard, because my legs were still feeling my runs from earlier in the week, but the hamstrings were feeling loose again and much better.  So, I kept it challenging…just didn’t push my luck.  Quite happy with it.

Thursday morning was another 7 mile run…this time at an easy pace.  I decided that I would take my Newtons out for a spin.  It would be the longest distance that I had run in them since I purchased them, usually keeping them on for my fun run Mondays or some light jogging on Friday.  But, I’m doing this whole shoe rotation thing and I figured…why not?  I love these shoes.  You either love or hate these shoes, but I love them.  My 7 easy miles were done, once again, with negative splits and I shaved a full minute off my time from the day before.  If I had gotten these shoes sooner, I would probably wear them in my marathon…but…that might have to wait for another time.

Friday is the dreaded day of rest…that I respect and keep holy.  Kind of.  I went out for a walk, because if I don’t, I sit at my desk all day on Friday working my ass off in front of the computer.  So, this was necessary.  I had on my walking shoes, so I kept a great pace, and did some light jogging on the straightaways.  I ended up doing this walk/jog thing for 4 miles that morning, which didn’t take me too long.  Still had plenty of time to make some coffee and get some breakfast ready before resting my legs for the remainder of the day.  I had a lot going on at the office, but at the back of my mind I kept thinking about my long run…

Saturday…the long run day.  Not as long a run for me this week.  Like I said…tapering.  BLECH.  Anyway, my training plan called for a paced…yes…a paced 12 mile long run.  What does this mean?  As laid out by the plan, I was to run certain miles at certain paces.  I wasn’t feeling too confident about it.  And…I was going this one alone.  Lots of things were now going on during the day Saturday, so meeting up with my peeps wasn’t going to happen.  BUMMER.  I was lacking motivation this morning.  I hit the snooze button on my alarm, goofed around online, but finally decided the miles and paces weren’t going to run themselves.  I made myself a deal…focus on the distance…I knew I could run the paces…so if I didn’t hit it…whatever.  The distance is what matters.  The training plan called for Miles 1-2 to be done at my Long Slow Distance pace; Miles 3-11 at Marathon Pace; Mile 12 at Long Slow Distance Pace.  I nailed it.  In fact, I once again ran most of the miles faster than necessary.  I am working on that because I don’t want to be burned out when I am in my marathon.  I want to feel strong and good at the end.  Anyway…I was pleased with the way this run turned out.  It wasn’t easy…but I pushed through and showed that I didn’t have to doubt myself.  I am quite capable of these paced long runs.  I just never feel like I’m strong enough or good enough.  And that’s something i need to get over.

Next week the taper gets very real.  I keep eying the training schedule and shaking my head.  It will be so hard to work around the cutback on the miles, but I will do it…and I will continue to respect the lower mileage because I know what it is doing is getting my body ready for the big day.  My muscles are healing, getting stronger, and getting prepared.  And because of that…I will work through the miles as laid out by my plan.  It’s not easy…but I’ll manage.

Taper Madness…I can get through this, right?


Marathon Training Week #15 – Climbing one last mountain before the taper

Marathon Training Week #15

Marathon Training Week #15

Oy!  What a week this has been.  I’ve certainly been keeping myself busy, not just with a new position at work (and getting settled into that…which hasn’t been too difficult, but I had to move my desk and get comfortable in a new area with different people around and new stresses), turning 33, and maintaining my training schedule through a very tiring, very trying week.

When I say tiring…I do mean that I am physically tired.  Perhaps it is a good thing that after my run on Saturday morning the official taper begins.  I said perhaps…because while a lot of runners I know love and truly enjoy their tapers…I get taper madness.  I do not taper well.  At all.  Cutting back on mileage will be a relief to some, but I love being out on those roads.  I know that the taper is an important step to arriving to my race recharged and ready…so I will abide by it.  But I might not be the most pleasant person to be around.

Fair warning.

That being said…with the taper on the horizon this week ushered in my last 20 mile run in my program (which I technically did last week…but I have a pace one in my schedule that I didn’t abide by…meaning I ran the mileage but not at the paces suggested…) so I figured I would at least attempt it.  I might fail.  I might fail hard.  But I’m going to at least make the effort.  If I fail, I dust myself off and try again another time.  Pacing is not my strong point.  I tend to run hard most of the time and have to remind myself to take an easier effort.  This is why running with groups is good for me.  But with the pace requirements on Saturday…I chose to go solo.

But…before I get into that…let’s take a look at this past week’s training…

Sunday morning meant another very early morning for me.  I was meeting with the running group my friend Kelsie runs with on weekends for their long run.  They were doing 18 today.  And after doing 20 on Saturday, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up.  I also had gotten to bed a lot later than planned because I was watching Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was important, you see.  So, the original plan had been to watch the movie and get to bed on time…but…yeah…not so much.  I got up at 3:30 a.m. to lather on the sunscreen (for another dark run!) and eat before hopping in my car and meeting up with the Indiana contingent of the running group at the designated meeting spot.  We all car pooled over to the Kroger near Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville where we met up with the rest of the group.  One runner was only doing half the mileage, so we started out in Iroquois Park.  We ran from the Kroger through the darkness, giving fair warning to the other runners in the group when poles in the running/bike lane cropped up.  No need to have someone collide with that.  YIKES!  We entered the park and started on our way.  Let me tell you…Iroquois Park isn’t really in the best part of Louisville…and it is really creepy in the darkness.  We heard strange noises in the woods, which urged quite a few of us to pick up our pace in the end.  Not being able to see the looming hills of Iroquois, for me, definitely made navigating them easier.  I ran for most of these 18 miles with Lori, who is really great and pushing the pace in the difficult parts.  We left the park and the hills behind and went on to the flatter roads of the city.  Here, we simply ran 4.5 miles straight down a road, then turned around and headed back.  The problem was, we had to change up the route due to one of the roads being one way, so when we got back to Kroger, we still had just under a mile to go.  So, Lori and I decided we would run up the street until we hit 17.5 and then turn around and run back, and when we hit 18…we’d cool down with a walk back to the cars in the parking lot at Kroger.  Alicia, one of the other ladies in the group, is nursing a foot injury of some sort.  She was not looking good at the end of the race, but it seems like taking time off to heal isn’t part of her plan.  YIKES!  I hope she can at least let it heal up so that it won’t be as painful or that she puts herself out of commission.  We runners do some really stupid and silly things in the name of our training…but with me being so close to my race…I err on the side of caution.  Anyway…it was a cool and crisp morning that led into a really great run.  I had a great time.

Monday…always comes too soon.  Another later than usual bed time for me.  This time because I was watching Dr. Who (the Ninth Doctor…in case you were wondering) when my phone rang.  It was my mom…and sometimes we just get to talking and talking and talking…and before I knew it, an entire hour had passed.  And it was beyond my bed time.  SO…my roomie and I shut off the television and I went and crashed out.  Because Monday morning had a 6 mile easy run on the schedule.  I woke up feeling less than refreshed.  On top of that…the 70° weather in the morning returned.  I really had to push myself on this run.  Not only was I tired…but my legs were tired too.  Somehow…and I still don’t know how…I managed some negative splits.  Not bad for running through exhaustion.  And…as we all know by now…Monday is also my Daily Double.  My fun run group meets on Monday…so after having a really easy dinner of grilled cheese…I was out the door and heading to Louisville.  My roomie was driving, thank goodness, because I was falling asleep on the way over.  This is so out of character for me, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.  We got to the running store and my friend, Natalie, was talking about how tired she was too.  I told her we could run easy and be the tail end of the group today…which sounded like a plan.  But then, as we ran into Cherokee Park, our Ironman, Patrick, called out…”Hey…let’s do hill repeats!”  Mind you, I have been pushing for hill repeat sessions with the fun run group for awhile and kept getting vetoed.  He said we’d run each hill three times…which meant the hill going up to Hogan’s Fountain and Dog Hill were going to be our hill repeaters.  At first I thought he was kidding, but he said we should do it.  So…about 6 of us started off doing it…while the rest of the group ran on to just do the Scenic Loop.  These are not easy hills to run, and I was wearing my Newtons, wanting to break them in on an easy run.  HA!  Well, no time like the present.  The six of us regrouped at the top, just past Hogan’s Fountain when our first three hill repeats were done.  From there, we took an easy pace through the park on the Scenic Loop, making jokes about running every incline, even the small ones, three times.  We didn’t…but I imagine that would make one really amusing YouTube video.  We grabbed some water at the water fountain and we were already 3 miles in.  I’d be finishing up if I was just doing the loop, but I was only halfway there.  And Dog Hill was, literally, right around the corner.  There were times I felt like bailing, but I never quit on a challenge.  So three times up and down Dog Hill…and I was suddenly feeling very bad ass.  Honestly, these were hard…but I pushed myself through them.  With tired legs and a tired body…I gave it all I had and in the end…I felt like I conquered the world.  It was a light run back to the store, except we only needed .25 more of a mile to hit 6 miles, and I like round numbers.  So…the four of us that remained (the other two bailed on Dog Hill) rounded the corner and ran down an alley until we could turn around and head back to the store.  Another 6 miles on Monday for me.  12 in one day.  Whew.

Tuesday is the Cross Training Day.  And with my marathon coming up, I have been taking it a little easier on the machines.  After all, I refuse to do something stupid that will cost me valuable training time or knock me out of commission for my race.  It is not happening.  So, my early morning at the gym meant that I hit up the Arc Trainer.  Because it’s Arc Trainer Tuesday.  For me, anyway.  This time I set it for Program 8, which is the Cardio program, and kept it at Level 5, which gave me a bunch of different inclines and resistances to work with.  I ended up managing 2.18 miles with the various hills and resistances in 45 minutes.  Not bad.  From there…my least favorite machine…the stationary bike…was next.  I don’t know what it is about the stationary bike, but I hate it.  It bores me.  I think it’s that I’m putting in so much effort and not actually getting anywhere.  The same reason I hate the treadmill (dreadmill).  But I powered through 10 minutes on that bike, which is really all I could stand to be honest, and got in 3.84 miles.  Not bad considering how dead-to-the-world my legs felt.  Went downstairs to do some strength training and then went into work.

Wednesday is my pacing/speed work day.  This one called for an 8 mile tempo run.  I am awful at pacing.  And doing it in the dark when I really can’t make sure I am on pace makes it even more difficult.  I had this inner voice in my head for much of the way telling me that I can’t do it.  I can’t maintain the pace I was holding.  But…I shut them up and pushed through those doubts and proved that I could.  In fact, I ended up doing more negative splits than tempo pace.  Whoops.  But that last mile…I pushed out a sub-7 minute mile and that felt amazing.  It was something I really needed.  So, pacing needs some work…but damn…that felt good.  Later that night, after work, I started a new circuit training routine.  Holy crap…this one had me sweating from the start.  Not easy.  Nice to change it up, but damn.  I knew I’d be feeling that one in the morning.

Thursday was more than just my second easy run of the week.  September 19 also marked my birthday.  This year…I was turning 33.  Ironically, my training plan had a second cross training day in…which I would be doing.  No run was actually scheduled, probably in preparation for the upcoming long run (20 miler) on Saturday.  But…I had to run on my birthday.  Ever since I started running, I’ve run on my birthday.  Since I turned 33, and there was no way I would be running 33 miles and running 33 kilometers would be 20 miles…I didn’t have time for that either.  So…I figured another 6 miles would be perfect…since 3+3=6.  It seemed perfect.  It was 70° that morning, but I didn’t let that get to me.  I refused.  I pushed through and turned out the most beautiful and perfect negative splits.  A great birthday gift to myself, for sure.  After that, I headed to the gym for the cross training.  I ended up on the broken elliptical that day…which doesn’t configure the stride right.  So, while I was probably using more effort trying to match my normal mileage, it wasn’t happening.  In 49 minutes, I managed 8.57 miles.  Ugh.  After that, I moved on to 10 minutes on the Cardio Wave machine…and rocked out 4.14 miles.  I alternated between two of the higher levels.  Then it was downstairs to hit the weights for a bit of strength training before heading to the office for a long day at work.  Trust me though…my Wonder Woman cake that my local allergen-free bakery made for me was consumed greedily that evening after a dinner of gluten-free and vegan grilled cheese (stuffed with kale and tomato, YUM!).

Friday is the rest day.  Ah…the rest day.  The rest day that I said I would respect and keep holy.  I normally go for a walk…but I have these great Newtons I’m working on breaking in and getting used to how they feel…I decided I would, for the second week in a row, take them out for an easy jog.  Nothing hard.  No pushing.  Easy does it.  Just as what happened last year when I wore the Newtons…I actually turned out fantastic mileage.  In fact, I ran a rather quick 2 miles in them, without feeling like I was running.  I decided to cool down then with really easy running…and that actually turned out a faster 2 miles (total of 4 that morning), and it felt like a walk in the park.  In fact, my last mile was, for the second time this week…a sub-7.  I was shocked.  It just didn’t even feel like I was working hard.  But…I ended that session there, despite feeling like I could go on.  I’m easing into the mileage in these because it is working my legs differently and my muscles feel it.  Besides…my last (and third) 20 mile run of my training program.

Me after my epic 24 mile long run!

Me after my epic 24 mile long run!

Saturday morning.  This was it.  The last 20 mile run of my training plan.  After this…the taper would start.  I had skipped the 20 mile intervals in my previous 20 mile run, opting instead to run it with people.  But I know how important pacing and intervals are and I really, really didn’t want to ignore that run.  So…as I was going on my own for my run today…I figured this last 20 miler would be the perfect opportunity to work through it.  I also decided that I needed to simulate race day as much as possible…and that meant running a relatively flat course.  Chicago, after all, is flat.  As much as I didn’t want to do it…I chose to do my run in the flattest area I could think of in Louisville.  Seneca Park.  I also knew that this was going to test me mentally as well as physically.  Why?  First of all, the morning greeted me with rain.  I figured what better way to wrap up my last long run than in the rain.  This meant that I wore my old, heavy, to-big-for-me shoes instead of the ones I am wearing for the marathon.  That sucked…but I figured I wouldn’t let it get me down.  I’d attempt to do the training intervals, but the important thing, mainly, was to get the mileage done.  But…there was more.  You see, the “track” at Seneca Park is basically a 1.2 mile loop.  Yes…I looped the park until I hit my mileage.  My intervals as laid out by my training plan was specific.  I was to run miles 1-8 at my long slow distance pace.  So, I got to the park, walked a little while my Garmin found its satellites, and then was high-fived by Cathy and wished luck.  My long slow distance pace when I am on my own is much quicker than my long slow distance pace when I run with a group.  It’s faster.  And I kept needing to remind myself to ease up and slow down.  The most challenging part was to come.  Before I hit mile 3, Cathy was off to run some errands and head home to get the house prepped for our friend Greg, who was visiting this weekend.  I was on my own in the light rain, in the still-dark morning.  There were large puddles that would cross the track, so I’d have to duck off the pavement and into the muddy grass.  But, hey…I needed to do this.  For the sake of my training.  At mile 8, I turned around and ran the other way on the track.  Miles 9-17 were to be run at marathon pace.  So I picked up my pace for these 9 miles, pushing it more and keeping it as steady as I dared.  My legs were tired from the first 8 miles, which should have been done slower than I ran them.  But I pressed on, and I pushed.  The rain stopped, but I now had some wind to deal with.  And at some points it was me running right into it.  I did my best not to let it phase me, but I was so happy when mile 17 hit.  I once again turned around to run the other way, now in a mind to start the cool down.  Miles 18-20 were to be done again at my long slow distance pace.  What I ended up running was miles 8-24 at my long slow distance pace.  I got so much encouragement from the runners at the park.  They kept saying I was strong.  That I looked good.  I love the running community around here.  You might not even know someone, but you still just give them a thumbs up, a smile, a compliment.  It’s awesome.  I polished up my run, having completed a full 24 miles.  And my time…was fantastic.  I couldn’t believe it when I paused my Garmin at the end of the run.  And I still felt great.  Which was good, because Greg was on his way.  I went home to shower after grabbing some coffee and a snack (I was run-gry) and prepare for his arrival.  And then…after he arrived, we were off for a day in Louisville, starting with gluten-free vegan pizza at Annie May’s Sweet Café, and then shopping.  I ended up buying some DVDs at Half Price Books, but passed on the dress I was going to purchase for my birthday get-together tomorrow.  Priorities…right?  Right.  Anyway…it was a good day.  Here I am over 12 hours later…no ice bath necessary…still feeling amazing.  And badass.

So…there it is.  Now…three weeks until my first marathon…the taper begins.  And I do intend to abide closely to my schedule for the taper because I want my legs to feel strong and rested when I get to Chicago.  I don’t want any doubts in my head on marathon morning. I want all my hard work and effort to pay off in the end, which is why, while I’m sure I will become a raving maniac due to the cut-back on the mileage, I will follow my program as it is laid out.  Because…I feel ready for this.  I am ready for this.  I can’t believe I am saying that.

So…here’s to not giving in too much to taper madness.  This is recovery time.  And I can’t wait to see what I can do in three weeks.  Until then…hang with me…because I’m sure I’ll have some fun taper stories.

Three weeks.


Marathon Training Week #14 – Breathing easy again and finally cooling down!

Marathon Training Week #14

Marathon Training Week #14

I admit it.  I struggled last week with running.  Not so much with the race at Disney…but all the running at altitude really sapped my energy level.  In fact, I ended up with a mild case of altitude sickness due to jumping into 12.5 miles in Boulder the day after I arrived.  Not the smartest thing I ever did, and unfortunately, the runs I did after that one all sucked…mightily.  It was a struggle to push through them.  I found myself stopping often, downing water, continuing, and stopping again…to catch my breath…to just rest…my body was not enjoying a moment of any of those runs.

And it really messed with my head.

But…I continued on my training plan and rounded out another week, only to have to start this one still at altitude.  And, I think I did okay with it…but it was still a struggle to get through the miles before getting on a plane and heading home.  The difference I felt though…made me confident once again that I hadn’t lost anything while in Colorado, save for lung capacity or something.

Let’s take a look at how this week unfolded!

Sunday was the day I was going to be leaving Colorado and heading back to Louisville.  However, I wasn’t due back until very late due to the flight schedule.  So, I got up early (I never sleep in…ever!) and went to do one final run in Denver, Colorado.  I kept an easy, slow, steady pace, but continued to struggle.  My energy level just never got back to normal after that run in Boulder on Thursday morning, so the proceeding runs all just felt…awful.  This one was a little better, but I was still fighting for air, for strength, for anything to validate that I could still, indeed, run.  I ended up managing 11 very tough miles, earning one last merit badge in the trials of running at altitude.  I was proud of myself for that and headed back up to the hotel room to shower, change, devour a good breakfast, and then get ready to fly back to Louisville, Kentucky in a couple of hours.  The important thing was…I got all my necessary runs in…even if they were slow, and hard, and made me feel like a failure when it came to running.

Monday…was…in a word…interesting.  No…seriously.  Here’s why.  The flight in from Atlanta ended up arriving later in Louisville due to waiting on a couple of passengers whose flight was running late.  So, our ride picked us up later than anticipated and we got home later than planned.  I still needed to get a few necessary items for lunch and snacks at the office from the grocery store.  My roomie went to bed and I went shopping.  By the time I got home, it was after midnight.  And all the travel on Sunday and the long run in Denver hadn’t worn me out enough because I was wide awake.  Being that it was now officially Monday, I slipped into my shorts, a tank top, and laced up my shoes.  With all my reflective gear on, this weary traveler went out and did her 6 easy miles for marathon training.  Instead of waking up at 4 a.m. to do so, I just got it done a little past midnight.  What a difference the (albeit humid) river valley made.  I felt like a rockstar out there running.  My breathing was easy.  My strength felt like it was there.  And I churned out a great run in the end.  I headed back upstairs and took a shower.  This put me climbing into bed around 2 a.m.  I got up to get ready for work around 4 a.m. to bake cookies for my first friend I made in the running community as he was moving to Dayton, Ohio for a girl…and a new job.  I also had to get breakfast ready and finish putting together lunch and snack items.  So, running on fumes all day, I, naturally, have to do my Daily Double as is tradition on Monday nights.  My fun run group was meeting and it was Keith’s last night.  And I made amazing gluten-free chocolate chip cookies in his honor.  I also chose this run to be my first time running in my new Newton’s I bought while in Boulder, Colorado.  I LOVE THESE SHOES!  They do take some getting used to and my calf muscles were feeling them for the next few days.  Apparently, I shouldn’t be rocking out 3 miles yet in these shoes.  Instructions I later read in the box said to start with a mile until they feel comfortable and then gradually add on.  Whoops.  Needless to say, I felt, for the first time in a long time, that I rocked the fun run.  And I was taking it easy due to fatigue and everything.  But another 3.3 miles felt amazing that day.  After enjoying a cookie and wishing Keith well with his future endeavors…I went home to shower (again) and get some rest.

Tuesday morning didn’t mean sleeping in.  Nope.  It was cross-training day.  And I hit up the gym as always…except as I am now a month away from my marathon, I ease up on the cross-training intensity because I don’t want to get injured pushing it at the gym.  How embarrassing.  So, while I finally took my first day off from running in a week, I wasn’t taking a day off yet.  Since it was Tuesday, this meant it was the day of the Arc Trainer.  I love this machine and hate it at the same time.  For some reason, the gym was stupid hot that day, so Cathy turned on the fan behind the machines and it was a great boost with some cool air.  I did 2.3 miles on the Arc Trainer on Program 7 – Strength – at Level 5 in 45 minutes.  Not bad considering how difficult the resistance gets at that level setting.  Yikes.  Then, it was over to the rowing machine for 10 minutes.  I managed 1.17 miles rowing, which isn’t bad given how tired I was.  Then it was downstairs for some strength training before heading into the office for work.  After work I would normally do my circuit training, but my body was telling me that wouldn’t be a good idea.  And I listened and gave this exhausted body a break that night.  Actually, I made a deal that I would not circuit train at all this week and get back to it this coming week.  So, game on.  The plan was to go to bed early…but that didn’t happen.

Wednesday morning, as always, brings about the speed work/pacing portion of my weekly training schedule.  This week I was to do a 5 mile tempo run.  Doesn’t seem too bad, right?  Nope.  Except with how humid and hot it was in the morning, my legs felt like they had no energy at all.  I knew by body was tired, my legs were really pushing it, and while I ran faster than I thought, I didn’t quite nail that tempo pace.  I wasn’t all over the place, but I wouldn’t call the paces for each mile close enough in speed to be at tempo pace.  Ah well…you win some, you lose some.  Given the circumstances, I was happy with what I managed.  I, once again, intended to go to bed early…and once again…that didn’t happen.  Hey!  The Master Chef finale was on and I wasn’t going to miss that!!  Priorities.  Anything with Gordon Ramsay is a priority!

Thursday morning came with another early rising.  I had another 6 easy miles to put in and I got up and out the door in good time.  Once again I was greeted with stifling heat and humidity.  It was just nasty out there.  My legs, once again, felt heavy and just completely wiped of any energy.  I started off slow and just tried to maintain that, fueling (because I really needed it) halfway through.  I hydrated every mile, alternating water and my electrolyte drink.  When all was said and done and I pushed through to my full six miles, I discovered I actually ran it faster than I did on Monday.  And I hit negative splits.  Sometimes the body just surprises you.  I felt on top of the world after that run.  After that…it was the second day of gym time.  Thursdays always means the ellpitical, so I set it for Level 7 as always and just did my best to get through the 49 minutes (I do a 4 minute cool down) I do every week on that machine.  I managed 9.06 miles on Level 7 this week…which isn’t my best by any means, but I’m taking it easier and keeping things at a decent intensity to stay healthy and on my feet.  After that, it was over to the Cardio Wave machine, where I did an impressive 4.04 miles in 10 minutes.  I guess my legs liked the change of movement, not going forward and back for once.  After that…downstairs for strength and then into work.  Once more, I intended to get to bed early…but, of course, it didn’t happen.

Friday is the rest day that I am to keep holy.  And…I did.  Sorta.  Kinda.  Not really.  I KNOW!!  BAD!!  BAD ME!!  Normally I take a walk in the morning, just to take the edge off of not being able to run.  But this morning, I wanted to break in my Newton’s a little more.  So, I justified that by taking an easy jog in them.  I did 2 miles at a comfortable pace, then slowed it down for one more mile.  It felt good and I wanted to be out there longer.  Maybe it was the gorgeous 66° weather that morning.  Maybe it was the way I was easily finding my stride.  Either way…it was the perfect morning, but I stayed to the 3 miles I intended and then went upstairs to get ready for a busy day at the office.  I knew I was getting up early for my long run on Sunday, so I thought to go to bed early…but I got wrapped up in watching Dr. Who…and once again, that didn’t happen.

Saturday is the morning of my long run.  This week, it was supposed to be 13 miles.  But…no one in my running group was really doing that mileage.  But, there was a group doing 20 miles…so I joined three fabulous ladies at North End Café on Frankfort Avenue at 6 a.m. to rock out my second 20 miler.  It was 51° this morning and I was loving the brisk, cool air.  It just made the run feel so much easier.  I kept it slower than I normally would, which is what I should be doing on these long runs anyway.  And I had some great conversations and enjoyed getting to know Nikki, Lindsay, and Abbey in the process.  We ran a route I had never done before, starting and ending in the same place and having one of the most incredible 20 mile runs.  We ran the last 4 miles of it with better speed, getting faster with each one.  None of us felt like we were about to die at any point during this run.  It was fantastic.  I enjoyed the company, the distance, and the way I felt while running and after running.  It was just the 20 miler I needed.  After walking it off a little afterwards, I headed out to grab some breakfast at Annie May’s Sweet Café, order my birthday cake, get groceries for the week, and treat myself to some ice cream before heading home and collapsing for a little bit.  It’s been a busy week…but my adventure continues tomorrow with another early start.

No rest for the trainee…

Maybe a nap tomorrow.  But…unlikely.  I am not good at napping.

Anyway…my return to the Ohio River Valley made me feel confident again in my fitness level, my running, and all the miles I’ve been logging for training.  This coming week I have some challenging runs ahead of me, but I’m feeling good about what I’m doing and accomplishing.  Some days are easier than others, and not having adequate rest this past week has definitely drained me in some ways.  But I feel so good after coming back to this area.  I just got a boost from getting out of the high altitude.  So…it all just seems to be falling back into place.

And that’s good.  Because after next week…I start to taper.  And that might not be pretty…

Disneyland Half Marathon – Anaheim, CA (September 1, 2013)

Me leaving the start of the Disneyland Half Marathon - Anaheim, California

Me leaving the start of the Disneyland Half Marathon – Anaheim, California

Race: Disneyland Half Marathon

Place: Disneyland, Anaheim, California

Date: September 1, 2013

Time: 1:42:39

If you recall…back in February, I participated in the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which is held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  That being said, I also know that Disney does this fantastic thing where if you run a half marathon at one of their parks and then, within the same calendar year, run another half marathon in the other park, you get a reward for going “Coast To Coast.”  In this case…an additional piece of bling.

A dear friend of mine who also ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon was running the Disneyland Half Marathon as well.  In fact…we both signed up within minutes of each other.  And the planning stages were on for a reunion.  But this time…with all four of “THE GIRLS!”  It was going to be a trip to remember.  Aside from being the first visit to Disneyland for Cathy and I, it would mark the first time the four of us had gotten together since…2011.  Needless to say…I was nervous…and excited all at once.

Here’s the deal though…I’m in full-fledged marathon training mode currently.  And with that being said, it meant that I had to mess around with the training schedule a little bit to fit into the travel plans.  For one thing…rest days were moved…and, keeping in mind where I was going after the California portion of the trip was over (Cathy and I went to Colorado for the last part of the trip), I also wanted a more convenient spot than a city to do my long run.  So…the schedule was shifted around a bit and made to fit.  It wasn’t perfect…but it was doable.

On Friday, August 30, I was up at 3 a.m. to get in a 7 mile training run, which normally I would have done on…say…Sunday or something.  Friday is a usual rest day, but the rest day was coming on Saturday instead.  I guess.  Because I knew that there would be lots of sightseeing at Disneyland…so a lot of walking…not so much resting.  But…at least no running.  So, up super early, out the door getting work done.  I showered…finished packing (and took a risk by packing my running shoes in my luggage instead of taking them carry-on like I did for Florida…I kept my running outfit in my carry-on, but the shoes went into the suitcase because I figured I could replace the shoes at the expo…but not my costume)…ate breakfast…and headed into work a little early to get that kind of work done.  Haha!  A co-worker drove us to the airport and dropped us off, negating the need to park our car in the extended stay lot and pay an ungodly amount of money for the pleasure.  We arranged with a different co-worker to pick us up late Sunday night when our flight came in.  We had it handled.  That being said, we checked our bags (LOVE flying Southwest) and headed to our gate.  We actually had some time before our plane was due to depart, so we settled in to read…snack on some dark chocolate covered acai berries…and wait.

Before we knew it, the plane was boarding.  I was at the tail-end of the A group so when I got on the plane, I found the closest two seats with a window to the front of the plane that I could find.  We were making a hop over to Chicago, but not getting off the plane.  When the passengers disembarking in Chicago moved off the plane though, Cathy and I moved forward.  Then…the never-ending 4 hour flight into Sacramento happened.  It was such a long time to be sitting…and my body was not happy with it.  I did a lot of reading (at the time, polishing off Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich) and a lot of whining about being uncomfortable.  So landing in Sacramento was a relief.  I could move and I could find something to eat.  Which…for me ended up being this little salad of spinach, tomato, and feta cheese.  It was…eh…as it came from one of those stands inside the shops and not a restaurant.  It was something though, and that’s what mattered.  I made a comment about what was for dessert but I think Cathy thought I was kidding and just laughed it off.  Hmm…you’d think she’d know better.  Anyway, we were soon on our last flight from Sacramento into Burbank and soon we were meeting up with Jenn (also known as Indy) at the airport, piling luggage into the car, and heading to her house to drop it off.  Once that happened, we were back in the car heading out to the train station to pick up Tanya (also known as Tawn), who was coming in from Fresno for the weekend.  SO thrilled.  The four of us were back together again.

And, despite having been awake at this point for over 24 hours, I didn’t feel the least bit tired.  We gathered at Indy’s house, watched The Mighty Boosh, ate a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie (Evan and Indy went out to Whole Foods for gluten-free snacks…because they are that awesome!), and eventually decided that we’d have to be up by 5:30 a.m. in order for all of us to cycle through the shower before heading to Disneyland.  And Disneyland was important.  So we said goodnight and all went to sleep.

Pirate Mickey Ears on...LET'S DO THIS!

Pirate Mickey Ears on…LET’S DO THIS!

My alarm went off super-early the next morning and I staggered off the air mattress and into the kitchen.  Tawn was going to hit up the shower first…and Indy was up and asked if I wanted coffee.  OF COURSE!!  She made some of the best coffee ever, for the record.  I caffeinated myself while Tawn showered…and eventually Cathy staggered out and headed right for the fridge for a Diet Mt. Dew.  That’s her caffeine of choice.  Soon, I was showering, and we were figuring out breakfast afterwards.  We finally just had bananas, I think.  It worked.  It was something in the stomach to start.  And then…we were “Tetris-ing the shit out of the trunk” trying to fit all our luggage in for the journey and two night stay (hey, in our defense, Cathy and I had to pack for 9 days, plus one fancy dinner!).  Indy is a rockstar and managed to make it work.  And then…the drive to Disneyland!

My first Disneyland experience started in…the parking structure.  But soon we were taking the escalator down to the shuttle that would take us to the park entrance.  We were starting with California Adventure.  Indy and Cathy went to go stand in line for Fast Passes for the Radiator Springs Racers (which I’m glad they did…because they ran out quickly) while Tawn and I went to go start off the Disneyland trip right with some Tower of Terror fun.  We met up after that…went and did Soarin’ Over California…walked around Radiator Springs…rode Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree…and then hit up Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.  We paused at this point to eat lunch…where we all sort of did our own thing.  I was pretty much limited to a salad with a gluten-free roll.  But this salad was the size of Godzilla.  Seriously.  I ate what I could and called it quits.  From there…Radiator Springs Racers…then Tawn and I went on California Screamin’…and then we took in a water show that was conducted by Goofy.  At that point…we decided it was time to hit up the Fitness Expo.  After all, I had a packet to pick up.  We wound our way through the resort, heading down to the packet pick-up area, where I headed to the first booth, as my bib number was for Corral A.  Lead corral once again!  I flashed my ID and turned in my waiver and I was handed my bib and tagged with my Coast To Coast bracelet.  Sweet.  Then…over to the expo where I would get my swag bag and t-shirt.  I really wish I had held up my t-shirt before leaving because this thing is a small…but it is a TENT!!  Holy crap!  Oh well.  It still works and I will still wear it (sometimes…as it is orange and that’s not one of my best colors).  Then…shopping!!  I ended up buying two additional bottles to hook onto my fuel belt (per my sports nutritionist) for extra hydration and then I bought the Castle To Castle t-shirt from one of the vendors.  There was so much more I wanted…but I was just starting vacation and didn’t want to spend all my money in one place.  The ONE item that I wanted most though was the official Disneyland Half Marathon pin (I collect pins), but they were sold out and you can’t order them online.  I was seriously bummed out and sad for the rest of the day.  After listening to Sean Astin talk and finishing up some more shopping, we all departed the expo to head back to the hotel to unwind a bit before dinner.  We crashed…munching on some gluten-free crackers with hummus and just…laying about.  We all were wiped.  A lot of it being from how hot it was outside…and little sleep.  For me…VERY little sleep.

After some downtime, we were back at it, heading out to Disneyland.  Indy had to head back to the expo to meet up with an old friend of hers, leaving us with Tawn as our guide.  We hit some highlights, like the room where Walt Disney stayed when he was in the park…the statue of Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse…Sleeping Beauty’s Castle…and finally the carousel, where Indy found us and was able to join us for the ride.  I was having the time of my life.  We had been discussing an early return to the hotel so we could get some rest before the race on Sunday morning…but Indy saw the Fast Passes for World of Color and we (meaning she and I) decided we had to do that.  And that started at 9 p.m.  So, the original plans were scrapped and we were locked in with fast passes for the show.  We hit up Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (I sucked!) before heading over to Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port for dinner.  Why there?  Gluten-free pizza of course.  It is my night-before-the-race required meal.  It had to happen.  Cathy got a slice of regular pizza and some breadsticks.  Tawn and Indy each got pasta and split some breadsticks.  I waited for about 10 minutes to place my order with the chef…then had to wait another 10 minutes for it to be made.  And it took an additional 5 minutes to actually get it.  So, by the time I joined my friends at the table, only Tawn was still eating.  The other two had finished.  The pizza was very much like the one I got on the fly at Disney World…so…not horrible…not fantastic.  Just…gluten-free pizza.  And that was enough.  We then booked it over to World of Color and watched the colorful water show before calling it a night.  That took a little while too because I was trying to lay out everything I would need in the morning…costume…hair accessories…shoes…race bib…fuel belt…fuel…etc.  Finally climbed into bed to snag a few restless hours of sleep.

The alarm sounded loud and clear way, way, way too early.  It was 3 a.m. and I was now getting on my outfit to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  Why Belle?  Because my niece, Kaytlynn, loves Belle.  She is her favorite Disney princess…and I promised her I would run as her.  I am an auntie of my word.  So into the gold sports bra and sparkle skirt I got…did my hair up with little red rose accessories and red hair extensions.  Slipped into my black compression sleeves and got my fuel belt loaded with Sports Beans, GU, and one bottle of water and one of NUUN (for electrolytes).  Indy was in the process of getting dolled up as Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and we both opted to step outside to see what the weather was like.  The first words out of my mouth where, “It’s gross out here! UGH!”  It was gross out there.  High humidity and temperatures already in the 70s.  BLECH!  Cathy quickly made up some signs as Tawn got dressed up as a makeshift Snow White.  And…we of course had breakfast.  I had brought some of my gluten-free cereal with me from Louisville…so I ate that while I got ready, snagging a banana for 30 minutes before the race.  When we were fed, dressed, and prepped…we headed out the door of the hotel for the long trek to the staging area for the race.  We wandered through the empty park, making our way to where we needed to be.  We even passed the finish line.  The race jitters were starting to hit.

Me as Belle and Indy as Lilo at the staging area before the Disneyland Half Marathon

Me as Belle and Indy as Lilo at the staging area before the Disneyland Half Marathon

We took some pictures at the staging area…then were bombarded by MarathonPhoto people wanting our pictures.  I swear we were asked at least 20 times for pictures.  And not just of Indy and I…but also of Cathy and Tawn.  How epic!!  Now they are part of the race memories.  But, really, Indy and I were trying to shake off fatigue, stretch, and mentally prepare for the race.  I did some walking lunges, some butt kickers and a lot of active stretching to get the muscles loose while I could.  I ducked over to the port-o-potties to use the bathroom one more time.  Washed my hands.  Ate my banana…and had to go get into my corral.  I was in Corral A…Indy was in Corral F.  So we told each other to have a good race and went our separate ways.

Not as much was happening at the start line as there was at the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  The Disneyland Half Marathon, however, is not focused mostly on women, so the corral definitely had more testosterone in it this time.  Cathy came over to tell me that she and Tawn found a great spot about 20 feet from the start on the left side, so I moved to the left so they could see me when I left the gate.  A marriage proposal happened on stage at one point.  They brought up some guests to the stage including The Biggest Loser’s Allison Sweeney (LOVE HER!), Sean Astin, and NSYNC’s Joey Fatone.  Now, Tawn had been dying to meet Joey so when he was on stage, I was totally thinking about her.  Then the small amount of downtime occured and this is where I found myself literally dozing.  I was falling asleep on my feet.  I think, combined, I might have gotten 5 hours of sleep in 2 nights.  Fatigue had moved to complete exhaustion.  Not good when the race hasn’t even started yet.  I tried to shake it off…but just couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open.  The National Anthem played…and then they sent off the wheelchair racers.  My corral was next…so we all moved up.  And when the horn sounded, I started my Garmin as I crossed the start line, saw Cathy and Tawn, giving each of them a wave, and hit the roads of Anaheim.

For the first mile I was with a guy dressed up as Woody from Toy Story.  He was even carrying a Woody doll with him.  People kept saying, “Hey!  It’s Buzz!”  And he would, in a perfect Tom Hanks voice, reply, “I’m not Buzz!  I’m Woody!”  It was awesome.  But he soon dropped behind and I was now entering California Adventure.  It is still dark at this point, and as we run by the Paradise Bay, where World of Color was done, the lights and fountains are on, greeting runners as they go by.  The music was even playing.  It was very uplifting, actually.  Just what I needed.  From there, it was out of California Adventure and into Disneyland.  Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was lit up and the runners made their way up the street and through the castle.  This all happened within the first three and a half miles…so, after that, it was back out onto the roads for the rest of the journey for the most part.  It was “blink and you miss it” through the parks, really.  But I always get such a rush when I run through the castles at Disney.  I was starting to wake up now.

Miles 4-8 were all done on the road.  So, not much to look at…until you hit Mile 7.  Here you get treated to the most amazing car show.  People brought out all their beautiful vintage cars and are displaying them for the runners, taking away the monotony that the highway roads would normally offer.  Some honked their horns, all of them were cheering and clapping.  I loved that part of the race.  If I wasn’t already feeling uplifted, that helped.

Mile 8 led me past The Honda Center, which is where the Anaheim Ducks play hockey.  Very cool little stretch of the run there.  This lead into the unpaved mile of the run, along the Santa Ana River Trail.  Loose gravel.  Wasn’t expecting that in Anaheim.  But, there it was.  In fact, one of the wheelchair racers was struggling with her racing chair in the grooves of the gravel.  She managed to regain momentum afterwards though, because she passed quite a few of us up on our way to Angel’s Stadium.

Yep…Angel’s Stadium.  Home to the Los Angeles Angels baseball team.  I was looking forward to this part of the run.  I am not much into sports, but I grew up on baseball.  I played softball.  I went to baseball games.  I love the sport.  So, the opportunity to run through the stadium…across home plate even…was thrilling.  And the stands were packed with people…and the roar of the cheers was incredible.  They even had an announcer there listing off names as you passed over the sensor.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  This was epic!  Just ahead of me, I noticed the wheelchair racer had taken a tumble out of her chair on the corner leading out of the park.  She had some volunteers helping her out.  She was a little scraped up…but seemed fine and eager to get back into her chair and on the move.  Trust me…it didn’t slow her down any.

Three more miles to go after I left the stadium.  I kept telling myself…just a 5K left.  I knew I wasn’t going to PR…and I hadn’t set out to do that on this race.  I made a promise to my sports nutritionist to treat this as a training run, and that was how I ran it.  It was horribly humid and hot out…but I was still having a great time.  I still felt good.  I felt as though I could run more…which is always a good sign.  So, I ticked off Mile 11, giggling at the sign that said “$175 for a half marathon…Smile only $37.40 to go!”  So clever.  So awesome.  At around Mile 12, I got passed by a guy running and juggling.  RUNNING AND JUGGLING!!  AND PASSING PEOPLE!  He had to be super human or something.  Geeze.  I knew I was getting close though.  I didn’t once glance at my watch…I just ran…and as the finish line came into view, I couldn’t keep from smiling.  My name was called as I slapped hands with Mickey Mouse and crossed over the finish line.  Yes…I had to high-five Mickey. I had to!!  I was all smiles.  And I saw Tawn and Cathy flagging me from the crowd.  And the smile got even bigger.

They were going to meet me in the staging area, so I made my way over to receive my Finisher’s medal…then some water…and then to get my Coast To Coast medal as well.  From there, I made my way over to where they were handing out goody boxes full of mostly gluten-free options.  And soon, I was heading out of the recovery area.  And there they were…right at the gate…Tawn and Cathy.  Both gave me hugs, not minding that I was slick with sweat.  My official time beeped over my phone and Cathy told me.  We high fived and I went to get a bag of ice and settle in to eat my banana.  Hydrating and keeping to the shade, we decided that we had some time before Indy came in, so we made our way back to the hotel, where I showered, changed, and got ready to head back out to the park to cheer for Indy as she crossed.

It was hot…especially with the sun up now…but we were eagerly anticipating her arrival at the finish line.  I had a vague notion of when she would be in thanks to the live updates I was receiving to my cell phone.  Two minutes after the last update said she’d make it to the finish…there she was.  Apparently she was a mess at the finish line…crying…hurting…and just happy to have it done.  Poor thing.  We went to go meet her at the designated area (Lilo 14), but I decided to go to the gate she’d have to come out of while Tawn and Cathy waited where we arranged before the start of the race.  She finally made it out.  I got a sweaty hug.  She looked completely out of it.  I got to meet her dad.  We got the other girls over to where she was and we moved toward a shady spot where she could sit down.  She needed to rest.

She slipped into her Disneyland Half Marathon shirt, rearranged her medals, and just let everything roll off.  She looked completely spent.  Her dad asked if she was ready to do it again and she shook her head and said “NO.”  Yeah…I think this one wiped her.  But she bounces.  She does.

We started back to the hotel, but she said we should just go and enjoy the park.  She needed to rest.  So, we walked as far as we could with her, and she left to go recover, sleep, and do what she needed to do.  The three of us hit up the parks hard…up until we needed to head back to shower and get ready for the most amazing dining experience ever.  Seriously.

Anyway, Disney…as always…put on a spectacular race.  My official results are that I ran the course in 1:42:39, making this my second fastest half marathon to date.  WOOT!  I was 288/15,868 finishers overall.  I was the 59/10,017 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 9/1923 in my division.  You cannot believe how thrilled I am with these results.  The best part was…I wasn’t even trying.  I was just running.  And, after hitting that finish line…I still felt good.  I still felt like I could keep moving.  That’s a good sign that my training and my fueling efforts have been paying off.  Disney magic was back again on this one.

It’s hard not to find your happy pace and place at the Disney runs.  They are super expensive when you factor in the cost of the race itself, travel, lodging, food, souvenirs, passes for the park, etc…but I keep wanting to go back.  And it keeps drawing me back for more.  I need to come back to Disneyland again…and soon.  Because I already miss it.

Celebrating a strong finish, another half marathon under my (fuel) belt, and going Coast To Coast!

Celebrating a strong finish, another half marathon under my (fuel) belt, and going Coast To Coast!

Marathon Training Week #13 – From the Valleys to the Mountains

Marathon Training Week #13

Marathon Training Week #13

This week has brought about a lot of excitement, very little rest, some really great times, and then…a mild, mild case of elevation sickness.  But, I guess that’s what happens when you travel from a river valley to one of the Happiest Places on Earth (Disneyland), to the gorgeous mountains of Colorado.  Yes…this week has definitely served me up a wave of emotions and feelings.  But…every single moment has been worth it.  The challenges that have come with each different experience has only served to show how strong I truly am…or how much I really need to focus on certain things that might affect my training.

In the end, what came out of it all was an amazing and very tiring week of emotional highs and lows.  But I feel that it was just what I needed to show me what needs to really be worked on and what I’m doing right.  Knowing this with a month to go before my marathon gives me much a much better perspective and enough time to make any changes that will be necessary in the end.

So…let’s take a look at this insanely trying and exciting week…

Sunday was an emotional high!  I mean, I was running in the Disneyland Half Marathon!  How could I not be a happy girl while running in one of the Happiest Places on Earth.  It’s Disneyland!  And by completing the Disneyland Half Marathon, not only was I walking away with a finisher’s medal for the half marathon itself, but because I also ran Disney World in February (Disney Princess Half Marathon), I would also be receiving a medal for the Coast to Coast Challenge.  Amazing.  My friend Jenn (Indy) was also running for the same thing.  And yes…we were both dressing up.  I promised my niece, Kaytlynn, that I would run as Belle…so I managed to pull that together with a gold Sparkle Skirt, a gold sports bra, and rose pony tail holders.  Indy dressed up as Lilo from Lilo & Stitch, complete with grass skirt and a stuffed Stitched on her back.  She was very adorable.  As with all Disney races, this one also came with an extremely early wake-up call.  Like…3:00 a.m.  I set my alarm and tumbled into bed late.  Why late?  Because Indy, myself, Cathy, and our good friend Tawn all went to watch the World of Color water show Saturday night.  Keep in mind, on Friday, I was up at 3 a.m. to get in my training run before work and my airplane trip to Los Angeles.  Then, with all the excitement of all four of us girls being together again, I was up beyond 24 hours that day…finally settling in on an air mattress for a couple of hours.  That morning was a 5 a.m. alarm to work through showers and get ready to head to Disneyland for a fun-filled and very active day.  This involved not only rides and a ton of walking around, but also the race expo.  I figured at that point…why  not stay for World of Color.  We were catching gluten-free pizza at Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port…or…I was.  Cathy went for a slice of regular pizza and the other two girls got pasta.  So…the late return to the hotel (which was a walk)…then getting everything laid out for the race meant that early morning alarm felt like it came way too soon.  And I was restless anyway.  What this lead to, however, was me falling asleep on my feet in the start corral.  No joke.  There I am in Corral A…the lead corral…and I’m dozing off.  But, as soon as that starting gun went off…and I was leaving the start gate, I perked up.  It was a hot and humid race…which you can read more about in my race report, but I pushed through without pushing too hard.  I was not to PR…so I stuck to my guns and didn’t.  I finished up my second fastest half marathon to date, which I’m proud of given the hot and humid circumstances.  Jenn was not as happy at the finish line when she came in, but she survived and while Tawn, Cathy and I hit the park that afternoon, she went back to the hotel and rested up.  Disneyland Half Marathon…complete success in 1:42:39.  I’ll take that.

Monday morning I knew would be an interesting run.  For one thing, I was still at the hotel in Disneyland, and unlike the resort I stayed at in Disney World, there were no running trails and there wasn’t even a fitness center.  So, I got up again at 5:00 a.m. to get dressed and ready to do an easy training run.  My plan called for 7 miles easy and I definitely took it easy.  For one thing, it was still dark outside.  I was in an unfamiliar city.  And I wanted to make sure I was hyper aware of my surroundings.  The hotel was near a bus stop, and there was someone sleeping on the bench.  Some of the parking lots had people walking through them, sometimes almost lurking…so I was taking it slow and easy and not straying too far from the hotel.  What this meant was a lot of running to the end of the sidewalk, slowing, turning, and running back.  I would loop the parking lot at the hotel as well.  So, this was a very, very deliberate training run.  I didn’t care.  I finished it up with enough time for me to shower and get packed up and help load the car up before heading back into Disneyland for gluten-free Mickey waffles for breakfast.  The rest of the morning and afternoon was spent wandering around Disneyland and making the most of our time…save for the hour we had to take to drop off Tawn at the train station and say goodbye as she headed back to Fresno.  Sadness.  But…we took in Fantasmic that night and enjoyed a carby-good pasta dinner before we headed back to Indy’s house.

I changed up my training schedule at this point, using Tuesday as my rest day.  This meant the rest of my running would be done in Colorado.  With this being our final full day in California…and also Indy’s birthday, we were going to take in a few adventures of Indy’s choice.  And what this involved was some great car rides out to Vasquez Rocks, where we climbed on the same rocks used in Star Trek episodes.  Geek out!!  We’re such nerds!  From there, we headed to the beach, stopping at a roadside stand for a watermelon and some fresh strawberries.  We hit up Will Rogers State Beach, which is where they filmed Baywatch, believe it or not.  That afternoon was spent lounging on the beach, playing in the surf, and eating some delicious, ripe fruit.  I did a small amount of running on the beach…just to say I did it.  But as the sun was starting to go down, we packed up our stuff and headed back towards her house.  We changed and went out for her birthday dinner, where I enjoyed a fantastic Edamame Salad that had fresh vegetables and avocado, fulfilling my requirement to eat something in California with avocado on/in it.  I went out of my training plan for the special occasion and enjoyed a gluten-free beer.  And…to make the LA experience complete…celebrity sighting at the table next to ours…Micky Dolenz of The Monkees.  Amazing!  It was a perfect California day.

Wednesday morning came too soon and Cathy and I packed up our suitcases, ate some melon and strawberries, then Indy took us the Burbank airport.  We checked our bags, got through security, and spent over an hour just walking back and forth.  We wanted to keep busy at the airport because we’d be sitting on the plane for over 2 hours.  We did eventually board our plane and make the 2 hour flight to Denver, Colorado.  We landed, grabbed some Caribou Coffee, then headed out to claim our luggage.  Then…get our rental car.  We ended up getting a Prius, which is AWESOME.  We hit the road up to Boulder, Colorado for the first night.  We were staying at the Twin Lakes Inn, which has housed elite runners that come into the area.  Shalane Flanagan has stayed there.  SO cool.  We settled in, went to a local pizza place for gluten-free pizza, and then got a few items from the grocery store for the next morning.  When we got back in, I changed into workout clothes and we headed out to the local fitness club that allowed guests from the Twin Lakes Inn to use their facility for free.  I chose to just use Wednesday as my cross training day, so I rocked out 3.25 miles on the elliptical, using the aerobic setting which had me working my arms more in some sections, just my legs, and reversing directions in the midst of the strides.  I did that for 45 minutes.  Then managed 3.6 miles in 10 minutes on the stationary bike.  And to polish off the cross-training for the night, I did 5 minutes, or about 0.45 miles on the stair climber.  It was a successful workout, I felt, for being so physically exhausted from travel and from lack of sleep since leaving Indiana on Friday.

Thursday I swapped out an easy run in order to do my long run.  What better way to introduce myself to Colorado than with my 12 mile run?  And I was away from the city, so it meant I had beautiful scenery and a gorgeous morning to do that with.  I figured that I would enjoy 12 miles outside of Boulder, Colorado than through Denver.  It took me longer than it normally would, but running in higher elevation is difficult.  For real.  The air is thin…and it made running feel 10 times as difficult as it normally would have been.  And this was also a hilly course I was running.  I was determined to do it though.  Call me stubborn.  Maybe I just wanted the bragging rights…but I did 12.5 miles in the same amount of time I have done a half marathon…but I expected this to be a difficult run.  I just wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would feel.  I fueled and hydrated throughout the entire thing.  I was proud of myself for getting the long run done under those circumstances and Cathy and I hit up our favorite breakfast spot in Boulder that morning…The Buff…where I got an omelet as big as my head, some carby-good breakfast potatoes, and gluten-free toast.  Yes…I ate the entire thing.  But it was the big and main meal of the day.  After that, it was shopping in Boulder, then a drive down to Denver, Colorado.  Got checked into the hotel and enjoyed a light gluten-free dinner at a dedicated gluten-free deli.  Food choices haven’t been the best on this trip, but I feel I have at least been feeding my body and giving it the fuel it needs.  I did feel very tired and sluggish the rest of the day though.

I woke up just after 5 a.m. on Friday morning to do some more easy running.  I still felt a little off and rather tired…but I had a run to do before getting into the Prius and heading to Colorado Springs for the morning.  There were gluten-free crepes waiting for me.  This was one of the most difficult and hardest 7 miles I have run yet.  It took much longer than I would have liked, but I had to stop every half mile to catch my breath and drink some water.  I just didn’t feel right.  I eventually just started pushing until I was stopping every mile to hydrate and catch my breath, but it was just zapping my energy and I felt like my endurance was just completely gone.  I finished up the run, went back to the room and ate an orange and showered.  The entire time I was in Colorado springs, I felt sluggish and tired.  After a bit of research and lots of water drinking, I think I might have a mild case of altitude sickness brought on by the 12.5 mile run in Boulder.  Ugh.  After enjoying a great morning in Colorado Springs, Cathy and I returned to the hotel where we took time to drink more water and just relax.  Just what I needed.  I immediately started to feel better.  I have a salad lined up for dinner and then some delicious fro yo for dessert before relaxing for the night at the hotel.  Hoping I can get through my required 7.5 miles of speed work before heading up into the mountains on Saturday.

Saturday, due to the whole mix-up-the-training-schedule scheme to fit everything in on vacation meant…speed work.  SPEED. WORK.  Speed work at elevation sucks just about as much as I figured it would.  I once again got up early…around 5:30 a.m. knowing that I had 7.5 miles to work in before hitting the road to meet up with Sharon and head up to the top of the world.  My training plan called for 1.5 mile warm-up, followed by 6 x 800 meters with 5 x 400 meter recovery, then a 1.5 mile cool down.  I also knew that these would not be as fast as most speed work I do would be because I was still feeling the effects of my slight elevation sickness.  I managed to get through it in under an hour though, so I was proud of that.  A few hotel employees did compliment me on my running and a random woman said that I was up early to work out and when I said I was in training she said, “For a marathon?”  I told her that I was…in fact…Chicago.  She wished me good luck and it made me feel really, really good.  Which is what I needed after this very trying and very difficult week of training at high altitude.  Kudos to the athletes who train like this on purpose.

Tomorrow is the final day of my vacation and much of it will be spent in airports as I make my way back to Louisville from the beautiful state of Colorado.  I have to say, training at altitude can be very disheartening.  I have felt like I lost a lot of endurance each time I have run in Colorado.  Maybe I have.  I’ve been attempting, for the most part, to keep up with my clean eating and my restriction on alcohol.  I made exceptions for the special celebratory dinner at Disneyland after the half marathon and at the pub for Indy’s birthday…but those were special occasions and worth the straying from my plan.  But it’s back on track this coming week.  Some of me dreads the training runs upon returning to Louisville…but it’s mostly because I feel like I’m off…that I’ve lost some fitness, despite not really straying from the schedule.  The runs in Boulder and Denver have just messed with my thinking and I just need to remember that running at altitude is way different than running in the Ohio River Valley.  So, I will focus on breaking in my brand new Newton’s I bought in Boulder from the main factory store and seeing what they do for my running form.  That is my mission this week.  That…and returning to my long runs on Saturday with my group.  I have missed them.

So…here is to returning to real life…as much as I would much rather stay on vacation forever.  Hell, I’d stay in Colorado if I could.  Maybe one day.  Maybe…