Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Inferiority Complex

Don't worry, soon I'll be back on a training plan and will be able to actually post about the things I really like to talk about. Well, at least the things I think I'm good at talking about.

Training and racing is what makes me human. It's the one thing I feel that I have total control of (even though occasional injuries like to make me think otherwise) and it's my happy place. My pain cave is dark but there's great music in there.


Anyway, the point of today's blog is to talk about how to handle that pesky inferiority complex. I don't know if any of you are like me but I have a hard time recognizing my own accomplishments. I had this discussion with Miss Jessica the other day:

Me:  She makes me sad that she's so hard on herself
Jess:  I'm pretty sure you're that hard on yourself in some ways, so there's something to think about
Me:  I'm not THAT hard on myself
Jess:  Maybe not hard, but I feel like you get disappointed a lot when you should be very proud!

Our conversation continued on about trail running and avocados and other bloggers, you know, the usual. But I couldn't shake what she had said. The person in question who was the original too hard on herself woman is one of our favorite bloggers who is absolutely amazing and reminds me everyday how lazy I am since I don't have kids and don't have to sleep for only 2 hours a night. Somehow I still feel like I'm tired and stressed and overworked. Since I couldn't shake it and she's basically my life coach, I reignited the discussion:

Me: Do you really think I'm that hard on myself?
Jess:  I don't know if it is so much hard on yourself directly, but it's like whatever you can do must not be hard or that big of a deal. If you can do it, it's totally achievable and you aren't that proud of, "Yeah, I did a marathon. But it wasn't that fast and I didn't do 114 miles of other stuff first." where with anyone else, after taking several years off of running and then doing a marathon, you'd [be] like like, AWESOME! Great work!

Hmm...valid point. I went on for a little while in an attempt to explain myself but I still haven't quite been able to put my finger on what it is. This morning I likened it to an inferiority complex. I think we all have this when it comes to a certain someone or something. For some reason we start the comparison game and whatever it is we're doing isn't as good as someone else.

As an endurance athlete (one day I won't be uncomfortable calling myself that) that kind of thinking can get you into a lot of trouble. Comparisons can lead you to racing someone else's race or running someone else's pace which more often than not leads to injuries or crapping out way too soon because you weren't "racing within yourself." This frame of mind needs to carryover into everyday life but for some reason it's much more difficult. I am generally pretty good at not comparing myself to others when it comes to running. I know there are faster and longer runners but I know that I can cover some ground as well and occasionally at a pretty good clip. You see, I get running. It makes sense to me. I can rationalize it. But life in general? No way. Any activity other than running? Just as confused.

I considered quitting this blog over the past week because I wasn't a "good enough" blogger. I considered quitting on Raleigh before I even started because I wasn't "fast enough". I considered quitting even discussing exercise and fitness in general because I wasn't "fit enough". I have always been an exceedingly jealous person, peeking through the fence as that impressively green grass while standing in my own Hank Hill perfect lawn. I don't have that beautiful foresight in my own life to see things coming together the way I can see it during a race or in anyone else's life. If you're reading this, there's a part of me that is jealous of you. I may have never even met you but my evil little Blerch is feeding me reasons why I'm inferior to your (hair, athleticism, poise, smell, weight, fingernails etc.).

I don't have a solution to the problem and I'm sure it's frustrating to hear my complaints but the point is to let you know that I am working on it. I want to apply marathon brain to every area of my life...except for the things that are only appropriate during a long race.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Marathon Hangover

Well it was only a matter of time before the post-marathon blues set in. Earlier this week I was too exhausted to recognize what was happening but this morning I figured it out (with some much needed help from Jess) that it is the Marathon Hangover! The hangover is closely related to the Marathon Monster but it's much sadder. It's essentially the death of the Monster who is so desperately trying to hang on and beg for higher mileage to sustain its life. Alas, the Monster eventually loses, the mileage dwindles and you're left feeling sad, fat and bored.


Or maybe that's just me.

Am I the only one who needs a goal to stay motivated? I don't exercise for the sake of exercise and being healthy although I'd really like that to be the case. Honestly, I run for the races. I train to accomplish something. Without a race I literally just go through the motions. I can ride my bike but I'm not going to push up hills or anything. I'll lift weights but not to have sculpted arms, just because I know I'm supposed to. Now if a race is coming I'll totally justify pilates (which I hate, please teach me to love it) because it'll strengthen my core for swimming/biking/running. I hate going through the motions.

I really love the "Practice like you perform" motto and scream it at my speech team kids repeatedly just like my marching band instructor used to scream it at us. What's the point of practicing without a performance?

My way of thinking lands me here after every big race. Contemplating a move to New Mexico or Oregon, bored hungry, and threatening to quit my job to start my own business. None of these things are reasonable but when I inevitably and constantly ask myself "What's Next?" I got nothing. But I do know it has to be HUGE!

I say all of that to say I'm still nowhere in my what to do next question. I have got to improve on the bike but don't really know where to start. I need to do some serious trail running so I'm read for a trail half marathon...someday. And I need to suck it up and finally see someone about my 2 month old quad injury before it starts interfering with Raleigh preparations. Speaking of Raleigh, who wants to hear about my coach?!

That will have to wait. I've got to look at more gifs and get back to you later.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Louisville Dream Factory Marathon Race Recap

Welcome friends to the blog of a two-time marathoner! SPOILER ALERT! I finished the Louisville Dream Factory Marathon with second in my (super tiny) age group!

I've said this about a billion times already to people not on the internet that it was truly the race you dream of! Leading up to race day the weather was sketchy at best and the day before was a miserable cold, drizzly day so I had my fingers crossed for Sunday. Luckily it was dry and calm when I woke up though very cold. I think it was in the low 40s so I was glad to have a throwaway shirt to wear for the first few miles. Otherwise it was sunny and pretty, a perfect day for marathoning!

I'd forgotten how different waking up before a marathon is than any other race. I put my timing chip in my shoe and planned to attach it in the morning since I always wake up super early for race days and I did but I didn't take into account how long it would actually take to put it on. It was one of the old school chips with the twist ties that affix to your shoelaces. Talk about tedious! I also had to remember to fill my bottles for my fuel belt, put in my applesauce (aka fuel) and sneak some pepto in there "just in case". For a normal race I feel like it's just get up and go but when it comes to carrying fuel it took me a little extra time to make sure I got it right. Finally I was ready and headed out the door with The Colonel who was going to drop me off and come back down to the finish 5-ish hours later. No use for him to stand in the cold on a spectator un-friendly (13 miles out and 13 miles back) course. We had just gotten on the highway when the uh oh lightbulb went on and I screamed "Oh my gosh!" The Colonel who was quite possibly more nervous about the race than me (I kept saying he was really nervous for his marathon...) almost wrecked the car. "I forgot to eat my breakfast!" What a rookie mistake, and one that I've never made before. I told him to keep driving and we'd stop at a gas station for...something. There was a gas station less than a mile from the start so we stopped there and I managed to find the snack bar with the least offensive list of ingredients and we were on our way. So much for nothing new on race day! Did I mention I was also wearing new pants?

Eventually we made it with plenty of time to spare and I met up with Autumn to walk to the start. The Colonel was pretty bummed he didn't get any start line pictures but I told him starting a race this long was nothing for me and that I needed him at the end so he finally agreed. We walked over to the start and met up with our speedy friend Ruth and saw our dailymile friend Melissa for the first time in real life!

Me, Melissa, Speedy Ruth and Autumn (I swear we're not actually this bulky! It's the layers!)

I should note that Speedy Ruth did a "fun" olympic tri that our local tri club put on in September and won. Like, finished first OVERALL. I'm pretty sure she was the 2nd or 3rd woman in the Dream Factory Half on Sunday too. We passed her at one point and she had her game face on. It was a great runner growl. Melissa is less speedy but that's no surprise considering she's an 100 mile races and such. What?! Why am I even allowed around these people?

Anyway, it was still cold at the start and we were all just trying to kill time. It was a really small race and it started literally with a kid saying "Ready, set, go..." But anyway, we were off. All 4 of us started near each other but Ruth quickly took off and Melissa pulled away within the first mile. Autumn and I were determined to keep it slow and steady especially until the half turnaround at mile 6-ish to feel things out. It used to take me maybe 5 minutes or a mile to determine how I'd feel during a run. Now it takes like...5-10 miles. I know, who am I? We both said Mile 10 would tell us how we were feeling and we'd check in with our pace at that  point. We were planning to hold 12-12:30 min/miles but kept 12 and under for a really long time. There are a couple of crucial points in a marathon, at least for me. Mile 10 is when the warm up ends, Mile 13.1 is important just because it's your halfway point, Mile 16 is the proverbial "wall" so it's important to check in with yourself at that point to see if you're still on your feet and how you need to handle the last 10 miles and then the Mile 23-ish point when you're 5k away and probably want to die (but not really because that would be a waste of 23 miles).

Shortly after the half turnaround we came up on an older group and I jokingly said "Were you guys too stupid to turn around back there too?" to which the man in the "Marathon Maniacs" shirt responded "THERE WAS A TURNAROUND???!" I love runners with a sense of humor. We hit Mile 10 still feeling amazing! Not long after mile 10 we started to see the leaders come back through and they were looking tough but almost all of them managed a "Good job" or "Doing Great" which I always find to be a nice gesture. At our turnaround point Autumn and I realized we actually weren't DFL which was a nice surprise. We had a great half split at 2:35 (or 2:33 according to my Garmin) and were still feeling surprisingly fresh. The course was relatively flat and the perfect weather made it a smooth ride. We hit mile 16 and I told Autumn I was starting to hurt a little bit but could definitely make 10 more. She said she was surprised I was only hurting a little. Haha, pain is relative right?

Around mile 18 or 19 we finally split up which is part of our pact. We always start races together and if we can run together the whole time, cool but if not (like someone is hurting or just not having a great day) we split and race our own race. She stayed about a half mile ahead of me for the next 5k or so and I did some heavy fueling. I wasn't feeling bad but I wasn't feeling good and was down to only water in my belt which worried me a little bit. I grabbed some sport beans (another race day first) and ate a few with some water and took a few sips of Heed (and yet another first) which I did NOT like the taste of and walked a little bit more than I planned to. I knew I still had some ground to cover and was willing to take a time hit if it meant I'd finish strong. By mile 20 I was feeling alright again and picked up the pace. I just wanted to stay under 15 minute miles at that point so broke into a slow trot. At 21.5 I caught Autumn again and she said if she could call someone to pick her up she would. I told her that would be a waste of 21.5 miles. We did a do-si-do for another mile or two and I pulled away right around the 5k mark. At that point they opened the roads since it had been just over 5 hours and moved us to the sidewalk. I wasn't loving that since the race was marketed as a "no time limit" course but what can you do. 3 of the people we were ahead of at the halfway point passed us back and were about a quarter mile ahead of me through the last few miles. I couldn't have caught them if I tried so I just continued my slow trot. I was feeling a lot of pain and it actually hurt more to stop and walk so I ran most of the last 8k. I knew I wouldn't hit my goal of 5:30 and I knew that would worry my mom and The Colonel but I calculated that if I continued my pace I wouldn't be too much off of it and they'd be ok. I stuck with under 15 minute miles and wanted a sub 45 last 5k. Those were long, lonely miles aside from the traffic but I knew I was on my way to 26.2 x2 and I was excited! Like any good race there is a turn you make for the final .1 or whatever to go straight into the finish and I was glad to finally turn that corner. I wasn't glad that the road was full of gravel and potholes but what can you do? I kicked in whatever was left (um...nothing) and finished strong and on my own feet and without tears.

The Colonel wasn't expecting me so soon (soon???!) and missed the photo op. I don't care nearly as much as he does but he took some good ones afterwards. Speedy Ruth stuck around to see us finish and our friend Jennifer showed up for the fun too. Our tri club's social was held at the finish line so it was nice to see a lot of those guys around. Autumn only finished about 3 minutes behind me so I didn't feel guilty for forging ahead (although our mom hates our pact). We headed straight for the Sprite. There's something about racing and soft drinks that feel like some deliciously sinful endeavor. It's the only time I even consider drinking carbonation but man, I love that sugar after 5 and a half hours!

Me, Autumn and Jennifer
Getting my timing chip taken off
26.2 times 2 No Meat Athlete!
All in all, this was a great run. I had way more highs than lows and my pain cave wasn't too terribly deep. Sunday night wasn't too pretty since I was sore and couldn't get comfortable no matter how I sat but I was a good little runner and moved around a lot so I could stay loose. Monday at work was torture and all I wanted was a nap! The soreness is pretty much gone today and I'm already chomping the bit to run again...but after another nap ;)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Marathon Style

I'm not a huge TBTer but in honor of a little race I have coming up I thought I'd take you back to where the journey to M2 (Marathon #2) started.

Let's bring it back to April where I watched Shalane Flanagan among others throw down on the Boston Marathon course.

I was participating in my usual "watch live feed online coverage of a major race while attempting to do something more important" ritual and got hooked in. Out of nowhere my brain said to me "Do another marathon." And my body said "Ok." And that was that. No profound realizations just simply, "I'm going to do another marathon." This was before any tragedy struck. This was early on when the Rita Jeptoos were finishing. The tragedy did nothing to sway my opinion, if anything it just strengthened my resolve.

Fast forward to June and marathon training had commenced. My most memorable run in the past 16 weeks was the very first long run on the calendar. It was about 380 degrees outside and at the time I was working a 6am-2pm shift in food services at a long-term care facility. It was a pretty physical job with a strict uniform (down to the very uncomfortable shoes) and even stricter time clock policy. No way I would be running at 4am to get finished and to work on time so I decided to go right after I got off. I changed in the locker room at work, walked through the halls with a big gym bag and running gear on, got a lot of crazy looks and headed out into the Louisville summer afternoon heat and humidity to run 5 miles, my long run. I made it the 200 feet to my car and was begging for anything to help me cool down. It wasn't quite Badwater hot but I'm pretty sure it was close. I met up with Autumn who was already cursing me before she got out of the car and we trudged up the steps to the Crescent Hill Reservoir to run around a body of water we'd rather be floating in. It was terrible. The heat hurt. My legs hurt. Everything was bad and right then and there I decided to quit training for a stupid marathon. 5 miles later the endorphins were keeping me sane but the euphoria from watching the magical finishes in Boston was long gone. I decided to go back to the drawing board.

Obviously I didn't quit. But that first long run made me question pretty much everything I'd ever known about myself in an hour or less. I was starting to get a little worried about what 5+ hours in my head would do for me. As the runs got longer so did my patience and aside from a few meltdowns - which are to be expected - long runs became the highlight of my weekends. Even in the rain, the heat and/or the humidity I was cruising along according to plan.

Of course then stupid me had to go and get injured. We all know how that's been playing out but before long I was able to run again, albeit not like I wanted to be.

Apparently Autumn was giving the camera the finger...

Over the past 16 weeks (or 4 months if you'd like to make it sound as long as it's felt) a lot has gone down and been learned. Traveling the road to the marathon hasn't been easy by any means but it's been mostly fun. Along the way I managed to get engaged, leave the country, switch jobs, move into a new house, injure myself, heal myself, injure something else, sign up for a 70.3, meet with a triathlon coach, pick up a second job, decide on a potential career path, get married and lose about 15 pounds from learning to eat more actual food. It's been awesome. 

It's weird to think that it'll all be over by Sunday afternoon (God willing). Autumn asked me during our last 8 mile "long" run what I was going to do on Monday and I had no answer. I have a cycling program I plan to do during the winter to get some chops up in that department and in January I'll start hard on Raleigh. There are some races I'm at least considering but nothing I'm willing to pay for just yet. In some ways I'm so glad to not have the "You Must Run!" command hanging over my head every week but it's become such a routine and lifestyle that it's also hard to say goodbye to. I imagine this is how I'll feel after an Ironman...times 1000. In the meantime, I read that I'm allowed to eat tons of carbs between now and Sunday so I've basically got an alarm set to eat potatoes and pizza every half hour. 

Happy Thursday Friends!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Marathon Monday

Well my friends, we are now officially under 1 week until marathon day and I have a lot going through my head but am surprisingly less panicked than I was expecting to be. I'm still panicked.

Trust the training.

I'm panicked that my mysterious leg injury will flare up and cripple me. I'm panicked that I didn't get that 20 miler in because of said leg injury. I'm panicked that something will happen this week to throw everything off. Was I right to swim and bike in place of running when my leg was really acting up or should I have run through it? Or should I have seen a doctor and now my leg is too weak to carry me through?

Endurance events are hard. I don't think I'm shocking anyone with that groundbreaking sentence but there's so much more that adds to the difficulties than just the sheer distance. The great Kara Goucher once talked about how amazed she is by marathon runners who aren't professionals because not only do we have to balance training with another job but we're also out there a whole lot longer. 26.2 miles in 3 hours is a lot different than 26.2 in 5 or 6 hours and I unfortunately fall into the latter. My splits and pace and overall time won't be anything to write home about but the fact that I can grind it out for 5+ hours is worth mentioning. At least to me. It's also hard to do this stuff because despite seeing 45,000 people toe the line in Chicago yesterday, there's still a relatively small amount of people you encounter during your day to day life who will "get it" and it's hard for me not to be a little disappointed by that. Maybe it's because I've done a marathon before. Or maybe it's because I make so much more of a fuss over triathlons and Raleigh than this race but it's been a bit of a bummer how few people have actually even mentioned my race to me. I have the lifers of course who whether or not they get it have been there through every up and down of training and understand that it's a big deal to me but then there are those you expect to at least say something and nope. Nada. It's weird. It's still 6 days away and when it's not your life it's hard to stay amped over something that's still decently far away so I'll let it slide. But if I get back to my phone Sunday afternoon and don't have the obligatory "Good Luck" notes I'm coming after all of you!

Just kidding :)

This wasn't meant to be a downer post. There are some people I'm definitely disappointed in but for the most part I've done a great job of surrounding myself with really special and supportive people. I should really do a post about each of them one of these days although I'm not sure if they'd be comfortable with the resulting fame.

So what about you? Do you have something big and scary coming up or that you're ready to tackle? It doesn't have to be exercise related. In my mind a career change or physical move from one place to another are way scarier than any race I plan to tackle. Let's hear it!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Inspiring Inspirational Inspiration

That pretty much sums up my weekend.

I'm a big fan of being inspired. I love watching documentaries and becoming obsessed with the subjects and their relentless pursuit of whatever random feat despite their randomly difficult circumstances. There's nothing like watching someone overcome something. Anything. I would watch a documentary of an aspiring hand model getting rid of a hangnail in order to compete in the World Amateur Hand Modeling Championships and start googling nail technician programs so that I could someday be equipped with the necessary tools to aid other aspiring hand models in the future. Not only am I easily inspired, but I also like to be involved.

The problem with my obsession with inspiration is that it always leaves me wanting more. It makes me want to go harder, faster, longer! *insert our collective immature giggles here* As I sit here fresh from watching 10 hours of coverage of the Ironman World Championships on Saturday and 2 hours of the Chicago Marathon this morning it leaves me having a hard time getting excited over my own impending accomplishments. I'm now less than one full week away from the marathon I've been obsessing over for months and in exactly one week from this moment I'll hopefully be doing exactly this. Laying on my couch with my dog and The Colonel, watching television and possibly blogging. The only difference is that instead of sitting here inspired and looking for more, I'll have been the one completing the inspiring feat and hopefully I'll be at rest. Not like dead laid to rest but I won't be searching, for at least one day. Maybe two. I'm not chomping the bit to jump into my next set of training but I am excited to increase some swimming and biking and add in all those fun things I got too busy for like yoga and pilates (ughhhhhhh).

Basically, although I'm super excited to race, I'm also excited to put the marathon to bed and see what's next. I know I have Raleigh looming in the distance but I'm ready to get into a new routine that isn't 4 days of hard, ass kicking, quad numbing, hamstring tightening running. I'm ready to smell like chlorine and wear curly hair, have a sore butt and rediscover my abdominal muscles. I'm ready to take some pressure off my hip and talk about something other than the monster.

As I said on Facebook this evening:
One week from now I'll be happily relaxing and entering recovery mode after a great race at the Louisville's Dream Factory Marathon and Half. It's incredible to think that after 3 years (more than 2 of which saying "I'll never do that again") I find myself one week away from a second 26.2 mile race. I may be 20 pounds heavier than the first time but I'm quite literally in the best shape of my life this time around and more appreciative than ever about what the time away from and the time spent marathon training has taught me about myself. My time won't be anything to brag about but finishing this time will feel better than I can even imagine right now. This is also a reminder to start designing your "Go Rennay!" signs now.

Monday, October 7, 2013

KT Tape to the Rescue!

How was your weekend?

It was a wet one here. Very, very wet. So wet in fact that we made The Weather Channel's Facebook page!

Yes, I liked The Weather Channel on Facebook.

Anyway, due to the weather both group workouts planned with a few of the lovely ladies from my tri club fell through so aside from a quick and hilly (oxymoron?) 3 miler early Saturday morning I didn't do much to get moving over the weekend.

Since I'm in a full taper now for the marathon (did someone say 2 weeks from yesterday?) in addition to wrapping myself in bubble wrap and preventative ace bandages I've also been trying out KT Tape to see if it could do some work on my mysterious leg injury and nagging hip ailment. I think the only reason anyone knows what KT tape is is because of the lovely Kerri Walsh, I mean, she's even on the box!

Anything I can do to A: replicate Kerri Walsh and B: cure myself before getting to the start I'm willing to do so I headed out to Fleet Feet and picked up a can of 20 strips to give them a whirl. I have no idea how they work. My mom's physical therapist has put them on her shoulder before and she told me they worked although she also didn't know how. I've gotten to an "It can't hurt" mentality so I was willing to try them out. I read the directions and promptly ignored them. WARNING: Do NOT ignore the directions. I bought them thinking I could just slap them on and go for a run. This is false. I tried it anyway and they came off pretty much immediately and didn't help my leg AT ALL. I vowed to follow the directions next time.

You're supposed to wear them for at least an hour before exercise and they are to be put on clean skin with no lotions or oils. As an extra precaution I also shaved my legs. Yeah, I don't always do this quite so regularly. Sue me. I watched the video again to make sure I was putting them on right and then gave it a try with some help from The Colonel. WARNING: Watch the videos or you'll have no clue what you're doing. I popped them on and then went to work and planned to run in the evening.

Peeking out from the bottom of my skirt at work

 Ready for action

Since I followed the rules they managed to stay on all day and actually did help my leg in some magical way. The test would be the run but the fact that it was helping in my day to day was a big plus! Autumn and I went for a little test run after work and I was really surprised by how much better I felt! Still not 100% but I'd say maybe 70% which is amazing! Afterwards I looked up how long I could wear the tape because it was feeling good and I really didn't want to have to buy a hoarder's stock of it (although I'm still willing to do so) and was glad to see it can be worn for up to 5 days at a time. I wore my first (well technically second) pieces for 2 days then took them off for a day. My leg felt better overall but I could feel the difference between wearing and not wearing them. They've been working so well I decided to give it a whirl on my hip. I can't pinpoint the pain in my hip and they have 2 applications. One for hip flexor and one for IT band. So I tried both and now know it's the IT band. No surprise there since my IT band towards my knee practically crippled me 4 years ago after my first half marathon. But I'm stunned by how well the tape is working. I've had the hip pain for a long time and even though it gets better at times it's always rough to go from sitting to standing. I put the tape on last night during Homeland (By the way, you NEED to be watching Homeland) and when I got up this morning it was feeling pretty good and just keeps getting better through the day! Still hurts if I really push on it but the movement part is going well and that's all I need for right now. Since I now have insurance (this is not an invitation to talk politics or healthcare. I just married the right person.) I'll likely hit up those fancy sports medicine docs (who will judge me for swearing by acupuncture) after the marathon to see what's going on. If it's a big deal I need to get things working right sooner rather than later so I can be in shape for Raleigh.

Speaking of Raleigh, I've decided to pick up a coach for this race so that I'm feeling confident and training to do the best that I can do. I have a lead on one that I'm super duper excited about but no spoilers ;) I'm planning to talk to him this week and hopefully I'll have something to announce soon! 

More importantly, on Saturday I went to visit my new legal in-laws and we went to a pumpkin patch. Oh how I love fall. The Colonel and I picked out our pumpkins and pumpkins for the kiddos. It was fun handing them out with we got home!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Just Click It!

This just happened! For three days I've been going to the Ironman 70.3 Raleigh website, clicking the "Click Here to Register" button and staring at the screen. After a few hours of leaving the tab open I close it and go about my business. Not today! Today I did it, pulled the trigger and clicked submit and now I'm doing my first Half Ironman!

Look out Raleigh!