Sunday, December 2, 2007

Post-Marathon Thoughts

For most newbie runners, finishing a marathon is surreal. Pain and fatigue is overshadowed by a great feeling of accomplishment. The week after my marathon I was floating on air. I had actually traveled 26.2 miles by foot when it was almost impossible to complete 13 miles just a year ago. And what's really amazing is that my legs, feet and, most importantly, my heart did not fail me. My body held up to the task and I was amazed that I didn't fall apart into a gel-filled sack the week after the race.

So I have learned to appreciate what my body can do. The ability to walk, run, breathe, and feel.

This past weekend I ran a marathon relay with 4 other women. The relay was new experience for me since I've always felt I had to run a race on my own. My mental toughness was all I had to get me through to the finish line. But the relay turned out to be a great learning experience. I realized that I don't have to do this alone! I knew there would be someone waiting to hear the pain and torture that I suffered and would be able to relate to every single bit of it. Shin splints, knee pain, rolling hills, passing people on the highway - we've all experienced it.

The other great thing about a relay was a chance to cheer on the marathoners at that relay points. I saw the elite runners zoom by without stopping to drink the water at the water stations (how do they do that???). There were runners of all shapes and sizes, young and old, and they all appeared to be running a 5 min/mi on the course since we were standing still!! The finish line was quite an experience. Some people sprinted to the end, others walked. But to me, I appreciated what all these people had set out to do at 7:30 in the morning. They acheived a goal, overcoming difficulties and are living to talk about it.

So here's to all the people that finished a marathon today. You are my inspiration to keep running.

Friday, October 26, 2007

My NWM Race Report

The day had finally arrived. I ran the Nike Women's Marathon on October 21, 2007. The weather in San Francisco was perfect the day of the race, with clear skies to enjoy views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the coastline. Overall, the race was well organized. The Expotique was small, not much to see other than picking up the race packet and activating the chip. There were plenty of maps to show the starting line corrals and several portable restrooms at the starting line. There was water and gatorade throughout the course, plus some extras like Luna Moons. I loved the Luna Moons and I would recommend trying them.

The half marathon and the full marathon course was the same for the first half of the race. This made the course crowded. Even though I was in the right starting corral for my pace, I had to dodge around a lot of walkers for the first 6 miles. I should have started a little closer to the start line. The steep hills at the start of the race were tough. I had no choice but to walk up the hills since it was fairly crowded and everyone else was walking. But it probably saved my legs from giving out sooner than they actually did.

Once the half marathoners split off down the other course, I felt like I was alone. The desire to go the half marathon route was really strong, but the stubborn side of me said "never give up". The out and back loop from the forest led straight into a ton of spectators, each cheering us on and telling us what a good job we are doing. This made me seriously emotional. I don't know if it was because of the fatigue, but it was very touching to see all the people cheering on the runners. I knew then I wasn't doing this by myself.

Finally, I was headed down the Great Highway to Lake Merced. Mile 18 and 8 more miles to go. I didn't feel too bad, my shoulders ached and I walked at the water station for a quick recovery. I was watching the marathoners on the other side of the highway run to the finish line and I wished it was me running the last 2 miles of the race. As I headed down the hill towards the lake, the outside of my left knee started to burn. I told myself to keep running and it would work itself out. It didn't. Running actually made it worse. I stopped to walk, but I couldn't bend my knee without feeling nauseous. I needed the coach, but no one was around. Where was everyone?? There were no water stations, no red cross stations, and I was barely walking. It took everything I had, mentally and physically, to keep going. A couple of Arizona runners passed me and I envisioned a rope around them pulling me down the course. It helped until I had to walk again. The pain was so severe, I felt like throwing up.

I struggled through this until mile 24 when I was back on the Great Highway with only 2 miles left to run. They were handing out towels and I grabbed one. I was going to run the last mile if it killed me. At mile 25 I started running. Everytime I felt pain, I squeezed the towel with all my strength. Coaches and spectators were all around cheering us on and telling us we were almost done. Yeah? I didn't see the finish line and it made me irritated. I kept going, trying to focus on anything other than the pain in my knee. Then I saw it, the big banner of salvation! I ran to the end with an unknown coach running beside me. I felt a range of emotions. Relief that I finished, disappointment because my time wasn't what I was striving for, excitment because I couldn't believe I did it, and sadness because it was over. The gun time was 5 hours, 15 minutes, my chip time 4 hours 55 minutes.

Post race recovery is going well. I had a massage this week to work out my IT bands. The massage was painful, but I'm getting used feeling pain. The good news is that my knee is not hurting at all now. I am fatigued, a little sore and I caught a cold, but I would not trade the experience for anything in the world. Would I run the Nike Women's Marathon again? Absolutely! I have to beat my time!

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Running Experiment

Time is flying by as we get closer to the Nike Women's Marathon on October 21. My posts to the blog have taken a backseat since we've been increasing our weekly mileage. I never meant for running to take over my life. What I eat, what I wear, what I pack in my gymbag, what my workouts will be for the week. All this planning takes up most of the time outside of my full-time job. That's where the elite runners have the advantage. Personal coaches, unlimited supply to running gear and supplements, and the job of running. Where do I apply??? But just like any other job, the grass is always greener on the other side. I use running to escape the stress and to relax. After running, I have a fresh perspective on problems or I can even solve a couple during a good run. But can you run to escape the job of running? My guess is that there are professional runners who take up computer programming as a hobby. :)

Running gear and supplements. How much money do you have? I've been experimenting with both. My socks were a big deal since I was getting blisters between my toes. A fellow runner with TNT suggested the Injinji toe socks ( I bought a couple of pairs and they are really awesome for the long runs. I still use bandaids on my toes (along with the socks) and I am very excited to be blister-free! Compression shorts: Compression shorts are supposedly a good choice for endurance activities. I thought I'd give it a try if it would help me achieve a good finish time (heh-heh). The shorts I bought were a little too tight around the waist, but overall my lower back and abs were not sore after a 20-mile run. I don't know that it makes a huge difference though. I'll probably stick with the one pair and not buy an entire new running wardrobe consisting of compression shorts. Gels: I've tried a few during my training with TNT. Gu, PowerGel, and Accel Gel. I still like Accel Gel because I'm a sucker for advertisement. ("Improves endurance by xxx%, improves recovery, blah blah blah"). Seriously though, I found a flavor that doesn't make me sick. The placebo effect doesn't hurt either. If I think it's helping, then it is helping....

So now that I've tried and tested all of these products, I should expect to run the marathon like I'm floating on clouds, with lots of energy, and zero pain! I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Survived!!

Yesterday I ran the 30th Annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon in Flagstaff, AZ. According to my GPS, we started at 6900ft, peaked at 7700ft, and returned back to the starting point of 6900ft. Oxygen deprivation was a major concern for me since I had experienced overexertion during a bike ride at Flagstaff a few years earlier. I met up with Amy and Connie both part of the Team In Training group. As we waited for the start, I realized that the racers lining up to start were definitely not amateurs. But I wasn’t there to win, I was there to train and have fun with my first trail race.

The first two miles of the race were definitely the hardest. The terrain wasn’t too bad, but the hills were a killer. I had a 15 min/mile pace going up the first hill. I was sort of running, but I should have saved all the energy it took to bounce up and down in a semi-jog and just walk up the hill. There was no chance in hell the semi-jog was going to take me up the second hill. All the runners basically dropped in to low gear (aka walking) and hiked up the hill. The rest of the course was pretty awesome, we ran through the trees, out to the meadow and back through the trees. I’m disappointed because the flyer said something about a scenic view of the San Francisco Peaks throughout the route. I was concentrating so hard on my foot placement, I forgot to look for the peaks!

The first eight miles were tough on the heart and lungs, but I was managing. Around mile 9, the blisters forming on my toes and on my arches were starting to sting. It felt like I had sandpaper between my toes with every step I took. When I stopped at the water stations, it took a lot of effort just to get started again. But I had to do it, I had to run. I reminded myself where I was, and how fortunate I was to be able to run in the forest without worrying about muggers or bears. In other words, I felt safe. :) Maybe it was a false sense of security, but it gave me enough confidence to enjoy the run.

Two hours and twenty-two minutes later I finished. I walked (more like hobbled) as fast as I could to Wheeler Park so I could take off my shoes and inspect the damage. No bloody socks, imagine that! I would have bet $100 that I had ruptured some blisters with that run. I found maybe one or two tiny blisters, but my feet still felt like they were on fire. This is a little scary because if I start to have this type of pain after the first 8 miles of the full marathon, I would be very disappointed. So I’m on a quest for some good advice to reduce friction and blisters during long distance running. I still have a couple more months of training, so I will be doing some experimentation. Check out the Big Brothers Big Sisters race results and pictures at

I signed up for another half marathon in Nutrioso, AZ on September 15, 2007. This race starts at 7500ft and ends at about 7000ft. The flyer says there is a majestic hill at mile 10. Looks more like a killer hill to me. Wish me luck… :)

A quick update on my fundraising for Team In Training. I am over ¾ of the way to meeting my fundraising goal of $4000, thanks to each and every one of you! I have recommitted to the team and the planning is underway. It is going to be an amazing event with so many people dedicated to the cause. I will be sure to update you on the event and our team totals!

Until next time…

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Longest Run So Far

I am happy to report that training is going well. A couple of weeks ago, our team ran the longest distance so far... 13.5 miles. Yup, a half marathon!! We started out at Freestone park and ended up on Germann road in Chandler. It struck me as such an accomplishment to run to Germann road since I knew how far outside of the "city" this was at one time. I remember when this part of Chandler was full of dairy farms and fields. It was quite a smell! Now the dairy farms have been replaced by overpasses, apartments, and subdivisions. Can you believe Phoenix and surrounding area population grew by over 115,000 residents in one year? Whoa! That is huge!

I signed up for the Big Brothers Big Sisters half marathon in Flagstaff, AZ. Hmmm.. What did I get myself into???? It must have been after a really good run that I decided to do this. I tried running at 7000ft this past weekend, it was NOT easy. After my intense, gut wrenching run in Eagar, I decided to read what the Flagstaff half marathon was all about. "STEEP hill to the observatory where they discovered Pluto". OMG, I am going to die!! The good thing is I'll be able to see San Francisco Peaks at all times while gasping for air!

I decided to do it anyway, what the heck. I'm not looking for a Personal Record, I'm just doing it for the experience. It's too late in my life to try to be the fastest runner in the world. I might as well enjoy the view. :)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Different Point of View

Today was our first all group run at South Mountain Park in Phoenix. There were about 30 or more runners, plus another 10-20 cyclists that were preparing for the Team In Training triathlon. It was a grueling 10-mile run (5 miles out and back) of rolling hills. I keep complaining about the temperature, but it was brutal. On the 5 mile return, it was close to 100F at 7am. I imagined running in San Francisco, looking out at the ocean and feeling a cool breeze.

After the run we had a chance to meet with the other teams, plus the honorary team members for the fall season. I was really grateful to be able to hear each of the honorary team member's story. Before I joined TNT, I ran for myself or for my egocentric need to win. Now I realize I'm doing something much larger outside of my little world.

Imagine having a chronic leg cramp only to find out it is leukemia. Thinking about the fatigue, the pain and all the other side effects related to cancer treatment made me grateful for my health. Oftentimes we take our health and our bodies for granted. I am the first to admit, I push myself too hard without enough recovery. What I've learned throughout this program is to respect what my body can do.

There are millions of people out there who's only wish is to rid their body of disease. For all the rest of us, we have the choice to have a healthy lifestyle.

Until next time... We are getting close to the 16 mile run, I'm so excited!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's Getting HOT

Happy Father's Day!! It's already the third week in June and the big day is coming up fast. Our vacation was canceled, so all the worrying I did about training in my last post was unnecessary. On the bright side, I was able to train with the Arizona Team In Training group this week.

First of all, it is hot in Phoenix! Highs in the triple digits, up to 110F. I met the team for a 4 mile evening run on one of the hottest days of the week. The temperature was 103F when we got started. I kept thinking to myself "This just doesn't seem right". I'm committed though, people with cancer don't give up because it's hot! I did ok at the beginning, but at the end of mile 2, the water I was carrying felt like it was in a pre-boil stage, my left calf muscle was cramping and my stomach was upset. I ate an apple before the run, which is a really bad idea. Scratch off any fruit from the pre-run meal list.

I had a moment of self-doubt that night. What did I get myself into?? I ran four miles, and I felt like I was at my limit. How am I going to run 26.2 miles?? This moment as only temporary. After a good night's rest, I was looking forward to the next evening team run. I am not going to give up, if anything, I will run twice a week in the evening to build up my endurance in the heat. :)

Our long run started at 5am on Saturday, which meant I had to be awake by 3:30am. The weather was very nice, nothing like the sauna I experienced earlier in the week. I had Podrunner in one ear so that I could set a good pace. It worked out really great! By the end of the 7 mile run, I felt like I could've kept going for another four. My confidence is back and I'm excited about my decision.

The only drawback to all the running is the condition of my feet. My big toenail is about to fall off and the bottom of my feet are peeling. Very attractive!! I'm waiting for the day when look down and realize that my feet belong to a cavewoman. I made an amazing discovery to help with my peeling feet though. BODYGLIDE. Best $7 investment I've made so far.

Next week, 10 miles at South Mountain. Rolling hills, it should be interesting...