Running

I feel like we’ve talked the marathon training and actual race to death, but it didn’t seem right not to wrap things up with a “life after the marathon” post.

As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of post-race soreness. While I was able to walk down stairs (mostly) normally about five days after the race, I gave myself a full week off of any exercise.

When I took my first run the day after we got back, things were a little ugly. My pace was more than a full minute slower than normal, and my legs felt like they were full of lead. I had initially planned on running five or six miles, but I only managed to eke out a little under four.

I read somewhere that post-marathon, you should give yourself some time off and then do your taper weeks in reverse. So really, I could just say I was following directions.

But honestly, my legs just weren’t working quite like they used to.

Since then, I’ve run about four more times. The third run was the first one where I felt pretty much back to normal, but I still haven’t gone more than eight miles.

One really good thing about the training schedule is that I’m already on a pattern of working out five or more times a week, so waking up early for classes or runs isn’t nearly as hard as it used to be.

And, you know. Swimsuit season, or whatever. (Though for me, it looks more like wedding season than anything else…I have six this year.)

Speaking of classes, I’m going to have to add a lot more barre or pilates into the mix — my flexibility is shot from training. It’s mostly my own fault; I didn’t stretch after runs nearly as much as I should have. But it is also injury-related, as I developed a fun case of sciatica in the second half of training. Hopefully a few recovery-based classes will help stretch that out.

The one injury that seems to be improving (mostly) is my plantar fasciitis (these names, amiright?). The heel pain is still there in the morning, especially after a run, but not nearly as crippling as it was a year ago.

The only other thing I’ve had to contend with is the tapering of the hungers. I’m used to eating more food, more often. And because I’m no longer burning 1,800+ calories every weekend, that’s not really a sustainable system.

Fortunately, my sweet tooth has calmed down since I stopped training. Now that it’s spring, I’m swapping out more of the carbs I had to eat before with fruits and vegetables. Basically anything I can eat a lot of without eating thousands of calories.

In general, I feel better post-marathon than I thought I would. It’s nice having more free time an feeling less tethered to the training schedule — I can actually try other workouts now!

Speaking of which, I owe you a gym review, so stay tuned.

Other marathon runners: Do my complaints sound familiar? Or have I branched off into my own realm of broken-down-ness?

A big part of my brain is still having trouble processing that the marathon is over. Heck, most of my brain still can’t quite wrap my mind around what my body did.

Before I get into what went down, if have to preface the story with one thing: I’m not totally thrilled with my results. (Downer of a preface, huh?) Let’s Tarantino that statement and get into what happened.

I promise there will be a post all about Paris this week, but for now all you need to know is that my luggage didn’t arrive until day four of our trip.

Admittedly, this upset me more than it should have. Fortunately, I had packed almost all of my running things in my carry-on, but I was missing my snacks and a few other details. Thanks to Diana, I was able to start the race with everything I truly needed, but I still felt a little off.

The morning of the race was gorgeous. Before noon, it was sunny and 65 degrees, which was lovely but also not conditions I was used to running in after our horrendous winter. What I’m saying is, I sweat a lot more than normal. And, for whatever reason, the marathon only had water stations every five miles or so, and I felt more dehydrated than I usually do.

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Also, without getting too gross, I started having a few stomach issues around mile eight. That’s when things fell apart for me a little. I had to walk a few times, and it wasn’t until a Powerade station around the midpoint of the race that I stopped feeling quite so depleted.

And the port-o-potties on the race? The people who used then before me were animals. I have never seen such revolting toilets in my life. (Okay, sorry, that’s gross.)(POOP EVERYWHERE. HUMAN FECES.)

Anyway.

My mile 16, things started to hurt. I was so frustrated because my two 20-mile runs had gone so well, and now I was facing the reality of plodding along for another ten miles in serious discomfort. But really, there was nothing else to do but plod along.

So I kept at it.

To their credit, the people who came out to watch were very kind. They would chant out your name (it was on my bib) and encourage you to keep going. So that helped.

In the end, my time was about four and a half hours, a half hour longer than what I was (quietly) hoping for.

There has never been a girl more happy to be sitting down.

There has never been a girl more happy to be sitting down.

Part of me wants to try again this fall on another course, just because I know I could do better. Part of me never, ever wants to do that again.

One thing I don’t think enough people emphasize when we talk about running marathons: It hurts. By mile 22, I swear I thought my feet were going to crack in half. At mile 24, if there had been a way for me to cheat to just make it end, I honestly can’t say I wouldn’t have done it. When I finally crossed the finish line, I burst into tears and couldn’t get it together for about 10 minutes. (The poor women handing out the t-shirts looked deeply concerned.) My legs (and back and obliques) burned for the rest of the night, and I couldn’t walk down stairs normally for about five days.

So the experience was less fun than I think I was expecting. But who knows — the human body can’t remember pain, so maybe I’ll feel up to it in another few months. (Maybe.)

After everything, I’m trying not to beat myself up about not having the best run ever. At the end of the day, I still ran a marathon, something I’m not sure I totally believed I could do until the second half of my training. The actual race, as well as the entire training process, has made me realize that my body is capable of so much more than I usually give it credit for. Another thing people don’t emphasize enough when we talk about running marathons? It’s a huge confidence boost.

Thanks so much to everyone who cheered me along during this whole process, especially my lovely running partner and darling husband who were there to (literally) support me at the end. I love you all.

Di and me

Di and me

Now that my marathon training is basically over (have I mentioned how much I love taper weeks?), I wanted to do a round-up of things I’ve learned so far in case any of my readers are considering a marathon of their own. Obviously, this is all said without ever having actually run a marathon (yet), but here are a few tidbits I garnered from my training process.

1. Tell everyone you are training for a marathon — or else you will probably quit.
Sure, you put down something north of $100 for this race, but that will start to feel negligible about a month and a half in. (Plus, if you’re smart, you paid for the cancelation insurance in case of injury.) The only thing that is going to keep you running past the halfway training point is pride and the fear of telling everyone you announced your training to that you are wimping out. So tell everyone. Tell your friends. Tell your coworkers. Tell your hair stylist. Tell the guy at the shoe store. You get the idea.

2. You should probably invest in a fanny pack.
Go ahead, laugh. Get it all out. Then get over it. Because unless you are planning to pack all your snacks, cell phone, headphones, etc. in your pockets, you’ll need something to hold it all. I got through most of my training sans le pac de derrière (as I imagine the French would say it), but long runs required a pouch for gummies and metro cards and and cash and things.

I refuse to ever wear a water belt, though.

3. You will be tired. All the time.
No, really. See also: hungry.

4. Your husband/boyfriend/friends will become running widows. Or whatever the running equivalent of a football/hockey widow is.
Training takes time, yo. Time that you normally would have spent grabbing dinner, drinks, and generally having a life. And unless your friends are also training, odds are they can’t just join you for a quick 12-miler after work one night. So let them know that training is going to take priority for a while. (That is, unless they are willing to swap your usual happy hours for a cross training class.)

5. You probably won’t lose weight.
Unless you are starting out with a significant amount of weight to lose, don’t bank on training lowering the number on the scale that much. Yes, you’ll be burning more calories, but you’ll also need to eat more to keep up your strength (plus, see the aforementioned “hungry all the time”). Odds are, if you’re training for a marathon, you’ve been a runner for a while and are probably pretty close to your “happy weight,” and your body is going to hold on to extra calories to support these 1,700 calorie-burning runs you’ll do from time to time. Plus, you know, muscle weighs more than fat blah blah blah, and you’ll probably see higher fluctuations from water weight.

Don’t feel too bad, though — my weight stayed exactly the same, but I definitely got more toned and my clothes fit differently. You’re going to get stronger, dude.

6. You can actually gain weight whilst training.
It seems like a sick joke when you’re working out 5-6 days a week, but it’s true. The hungers are fierce, and it’s easy to tell yourself that you deserve an extra slice of cake when you’re training. But gaining weight can affect your pace, so keep in mind that the better in shape you are, the fewer calories each run will actually burn. You should be eating more carbs while you train, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more food. The best advice I heard while training was to replace things with carbs. So instead of adding a side of pasta to your usual lunch, replace your salad and chicken with quinoa and chicken. You’ll get the calories and carbs you need without overdoing anything. (Obviously take all my diet advice with a grain of salt…everyone is different, and a doctor or nutritionist can give you much better advice for your body and health. I’m just some chick who runs a lot.)

7. You will not be able to sit cross-legged anymore.
This was a weird one. I’m the type of person that is really bad at just sitting normally; I’m usually pretzel-twisted up in the corner of the couch or something. But about midway through training, I realized that if I sat in any way that wasn’t with both feet flat on the ground with my butt in a chair, my muscles would basically fuse in that position when I tried to stand up. It was weird. And annoying. And painful.

I still can barely believe the race is only a week-and-a-half away. Any last-minute advice from marathon veterans out there?

My blog has been SO boring lately. I promise there are a lot of things in the works, but trust me when I tell you that I am protecting you from an unnecessary amount of thoughts on running. It’s all I think about, but I know it’s not that interesting to most of you.

Here’s a brief recap for those of you who do care.

The second 20 was a bit harder than the first. I think , in general, my legs (and especially my ankles) are just more tired and sore than they were two weeks ago. I also ran this 20 slightly faster. We’re talking about the difference of seconds per mile, but I think it affected things. I ran the first six miles way too quickly, and I could definitely feel it in the second half of the run. (I was excited because I started the run feeling really good, which doesn’t always happen.)

Save it for race day, Justine.

Other than that, not much else changed. I recently purchased what will be my race day shoes, so I’ve been breaking those in. I also tried a new type of running fuel, these gummies called Sharkies. I liked them a lot, both for flavor and the little boost they have me, so hopefully I can find more to bring to Paris.

Eating while running is really the weirdest thing. I always want to explain to people that I’m running 20 miles; I’m not just incapable of going on a jog without snacks.

I still haven’t tried any of the goos or gels. Even thinking about that texture tickles my gag reflex, and the gummies have been working just fine for me.

Speaking of eating (and when am I not), I’ve also narrowed down the best pre-race meal for me: oatmeal with blueberries, agave, and chopped nuts with a coffee with soy milk and a glass of half G2/half water.

Not all mixed together…the oatmeal, the coffee, and the Gatorade/water mix.

So I’m thinking Gatorade is another thing I might have to smuggle in…I recall Joey and I having difficulty finding it when we had food poisoning on our honeymoon.

As for my post-race meal…um, how about everything?

Only two weeks until the race! Any last-minutes advice from runner friends?

(I promise the next post will have nothing to do with running.)

It would be unreasonable to expect that every run would go swimmingly, right?

Enter the bad run: Your legs feel like lead, your stomach bothers you, you can’t focus (or rather, unfocus and get into that weird, mindless running headspace), and the miles seem to molasses-crawl past.

It’s not the same thing as hitting “the wall” because, in this case, the wall smacks you in the face the moment you step outside.

I’m sure I had bad runs when I was a casual runner. I remember how sometimes four miles just flew by, and other times I was killing myself to eke out two. But when you’re staring down an 8-, 12-, or 16-mile jaunt, a bad run just stings a little bit harder.

Saturday’s “12-miles” was a bad run.

From the moment I woke up, I just wasn’t feeling it. Determined to shake it off (and with, you know, this little thing called the actual marathon winking at me from three weeks away), I laced up my new sneakers and donned my fleece.

Because, oh yeah, it’s still freezing. This weekend’s run was a delightful mix of just barely uncomfortably warm (when the wind was at my back) and face-numbingly freezing (when I was running into the wind).

So, you know, generally awful.

I tried all my usual running tricks, including reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to run. Including trying to remember when I couldn’t run because I was injured, and how jealous I was whenever someone sprinted past me on the sidewalk. Nothing worked.

In the end, I ran about eight miles. And felt like a total loser.

I’m trying to shake it off, though. I do think I could have forced myself to finish those last four miles. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hate running. If I had made myself pound the pavement a little while longer, I think I would have ended the run hating it and dreading my next run.

And considering I have another 20-miler next weekend, that’s not a place I want to go to mentally.

So I cheated one of my runs. I don’t actually think this will hurt me significantly. This time next week, I’ll hopefully be back to my confident I’m-running-a-marathon-and-you-can’t-stop-me self.

Any other runners have experience with bad runs? How do you shake it off (in case I wake up on April 6th with a bad case of dead legs)?

I have a confession: I have been dreading my first 20-mile run from the moment the idea of doing a full marathon popped into my head.

I solved this problem in my typical fashion of, well, ignoring it until the actual day arrived.

I mean, I was prepared. I had my snacks (I’ve been chewing on gummy candies…I need to get something that is actually made for runners), I was well hydrated (I’ve learned that the only thing that keeps me from drying out is to drink at least half a bottle of Gatorade G2 cut with equal parts water an hour before I run), and I had my course mapped out (starting at the bottom of Manhattan, then running 11 miles up the West Side Highway and then 9 miles back down). I was wearing one of my favorite running outfits. I had my music. I was ready.

But as I hopped off the subway in the financial district, I was utterly terrified.

It sounds silly, but the long runs, especially those that are a distance I have never run before, give me an extreme amount of anxiety. Anything could happen. I could get injured or feel horribly sick miles from home.

Okay, those are really the only bad things that could happen. BUT STILL.

In the end, though, I knew I had to just do it. I’ve found it helps if I don’t think of it as running 20 miles, but rather that I am going to run for three hours. I hate wasting time in general, and I tend to stress out when I feel like something is taking up too much time. If I just remind myself that I have cut these three hours out of my life just for running, though, my stress level calms and everything feels more manageable.

So I just started running.

I kept my pace slow-ish, running the first half at about an 8:30 mile pace. I also made myself stop at almost every bathroom for a quick drink of water, rather than waiting until I felt thirsty as I had done in the past. I deliberately planned to be at my least favorite part of the course (everything north of 90th street because there’s no where to stop for water or bathroom breaks) midway through the run — I knew if anything was going to go wrong for me, it would be in the last third of the run, so I wanted to be closer to civilization.

Around mile 11, I started to feel tired. But I told myself that I had run so much farther than that multiple times, so I wasn’t allowed to be tired yet. (I actually said this to myself in my head.)

Around mile 16, I was definitely tired (my pace was a solid 9:13), but felt pretty good otherwise. I started to let myself believe that this run was actually going to go well. When I hit 18 and felt infinitely better than I had during my 18-mile run, I was elated. A bad run can really mess with your head (“Am I just incapable of running this far? Has this whole thing been a horrible mistake?”), but a good run is equally as vindicating.

At mile 19, I let myself pick up the pace mostly because I just wanted it all to be over.

When I finally hit 20 and got to stop running, it was like a gift.

The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.

The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.

I finished in just under three hours, which makes me feel pretty good about my race-day pace. It also helped that Saturday was the first spring-like day we’ve had in NYC in about four months — hopefully the weather will be similar in Paris once April 6th rolls around.

All in all, I’m just so relieved it went well. It’s so easy for me to start doubting this whole endeavor (and I do pretty regularly), but a smooth, non-painful run is tremendously encouraging.

You guys. I really think I’m going to run a marathon now.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend too!