Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Humbled...Double Race Report: Part 2

They say you should take at least 1-3 weeks to recover from a marathon. Most doctors recommend no running for at least that long. I needed to be back at it 19 hours later, so I relied on every recovery method I had ever tried.

An ice bath, compression socks, blister pads and stretching routines were the tip of the iceberg. There was also a healthy dose of Aleve, a massage roller and two Chipotle burritos. I'm not sure where the magic was, but I woke up Sunday morning at 4:45 with energy. I stood up to legs that were sore, but not stiff. I stretched and experienced very little pain.

"Today may be a good day" I thought as I hurried to get ready. For everything that was wrong with the Palos Verdes Marathon the day before, Pasadena got right. Ample parking and porta-potties, a solid finish area and an organized start helped calm my nerves on race day number two.

I ran into Ron (my Maniac friend who helped me finish Carlsbad and gave me valuable tips on running a double) who did what all Maniacs do, pump me up. Bby the time the race started, he had me feeling confident in my tired legs.

The race started and our shuffle turned into a small stride. A comfortable rain was coming down, distracting me from my stiff legs. I yawned as I forced one leg in front of the other. Running wasn't as effortless as I was used to. Normally on long runs I am able to turn of my mind and go into 'autopilot' as my brain told my legs what to do and I stood by as a third party.

Not today.

I had to constantly remind myself to keep moving forward, forcing myself not to walk until my scheduled breaks. Today would be just as tough a mental test as it was physical.

Miles 8-12 brought me tons of encouragement. Fellow Maniacs gave high-fives and fellow runners shared a few laughs as we ran the "lonely miles" together. I passed one guy who was dribbling two basketballs throughout the entire race. I thanked the soldiers running with the American flag. I smiled at the elderly Asian woman shuffling through the full marathon.

When your energy is depleted and you have nowhere to go but towards the finish line, you look for any type of encouragement you can find. Thankfully, there was plenty of it out on this course. Maybe it was the cool weather, but everyone was social and everyone in a good mood.

As the miles ticked off I noticed I was keeping with my target pace, ahead of day one even. I didn't expect it to last, so I pushed myself in the middle miles. To my surprise, I reached mile 20 and was maintaining my pace. The mental effort was still exhausting, but my legs had turned into some kind of senseless machine, turning over as fast as my mind could tell it too.

Mile 22 came and a steep incline thankfully coincided with a scheduled walk-break. I looked down and noticed a spot of blood on my shirt. Uh-oh.

This being my 13th marathon, I had seen my fair share of nipple chafing, some producing some gnarly blood stains, but thankfully never had the pleasure of experiencing it for myself. Until now. Rather than risk any further damage, I took of my shirt and ran most of the rest of the way while I worked on my tan.

Four miles from comleting my toughest challenge yet, I wasn't about to let that slow me down. I pulled negative splits over the final four miles and threw my 'Marathon Maniacs' singlet on to run the last quarter mile.

I passed my parents and sprinted through the finish at 4:11, six minutes faster than day one. Three days later I still don't know how I ran faster on day two.

Humbled...Double Race Report: Part 1

"Double marathon weekend" started off with an unofficial marathon, six hours of LA traffic to pick up two race bibs. It was a test of patience that would come in handy over the next 48 hours as I attempted my first "double", two marathons in two days.

Marathon number one took place Saturday in Palos Verdes. A beautiful and wealthy beach town featuring lots of rolling hills. The morning got off to a hurried start when the shuttle bus arrived two minutes before the start time. I crossed the start line minutes after the gun and was in the very back of the pack of half and full marathoners.

With another marathon on Sunday, I took the advice of some Maniac friends and used a run/walk plan to finish this race. I felt like a commuter in traffic, speeding up only to slow down and watch the other cars pass you. I knew I was faster than them, but I had to pace myself. The inner struggle was incredibly difficult early on as I fought the urge to pass.

The energy around me in the first half of the race was relatively strong. With plenty of half marathoners around, the pace was quick and the energy high. The second half of the race was like running through a ghost town. I didn't have to worry about being passed anymore because I felt like the only one on the course.

After keeping my pace and maintaining my scheduled walk-breaks for the first 19 miles, my body started to fight back. This was not unfamiliar territory, but I had trained so well and didn't expect my body to fight against me until day two. My energy was low, my legs just moments away from cramping and my confidence draining.

As he always does, God answered the prayer I prayed earlier that morning. My prayer before every race, as a matter of fact, is that God would be present during my run and that I would recognize Him. Sometimes it has been through a spectator, other times through music and even once through a little old lady running the race with me, but he has always showed up for me. Shocking, I know.

At mile 23 I spotted my girlfriend and my mom jumping up and down once they spotted my yellow shirt. The smiles and cheers were all I needed to help me through the last 5k, but God did me one iPod was set to "shuffle" and my favorite worship song came on as I walked away from my girlfriend.

The rest of the race wasn't easy and I took a few more walk-breaks than scheduled, but I finished in 4:17, under my 4:20 mark I was shooting for. While it was over 30 minutes longer than my PR, I knew I needed to leave some gas in the tank for Sunday. I didn't know what to expect in the hours between the races, but I was pleasantly surprised...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Preparing for 52.4

A little banged up and in need of some R&R, i've finally come to race week. Or perhaps I should call it races week. This Saturday and Sunday I will attempt my first "double", running a full marathon on each day for a total of 52.4 miles in about 28 hours time.

The training for this hasn't been too grueling. Sure the back-to-back long runs have been a little tough and learning to run on very tired legs hasn't been a walk in the park, but all in all it wasn't horrible.

My legs are a little banged up...a sore right ankle, a tight left calf muscle and a left heel that barks on my long runs. These are pretty typical for any runner, though, and I don't anticipate them playing a role in my weekend. I pray they won't play a role in my weekend. Somebody please knock on wood for me.

Though my mileage is down to almost nothing, this week has proven to be the toughest training week yet. My physical training is over, but now the mental training kicks into gear. Preparing to run 52.4 is proving to be more daunting than it was when I signed up for the races. The extra steps I need to take to ensure my body survives the runs and the state of mind I have to will myself to have proven to be incredibly challenging.

I'm not looking for a pat on the back for this, trust me. There's plenty of other things I could do to earn a couple of those. I am doing this for me. Period. I am testing my limits to see what my body and my spirit can take. There are plenty others who have done far crazier, longer and bigger things in their running careers, and those are the people that truly deserve a pat on the back.

I am anxious, excited and cautiously optimistic for this weekend. Here's hoping I stay on my feet :)

When life takes over

Sometimes you make plans and life happens. It's a simple truth, but one worth stating. No, nothing dramatic happened to me so please don't worry/get excited.

I was just thinking this morning on my run about some new years resolutions I made and which ones I have kept so far. Before I let myself feel like a failure for the ones that have long since passed, I realized that most were out of my control. Life simply took over.

Take this blog for instance...after months of regular entries, i've been dormant in my most crucial training period to date. I've had many realizations on the road and have plenty of stories to share with you all, but life happened.

It's like they say, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans".