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