16 December 2012

Weeks 12, 13, and 14!

Howdy! I'm still alive, and still training. I've gotten lazy about blogging, but the running is going well. And I don't know if it's the end of daylight savings time, or the fact that I'm in the peak weeks of this marathon training plan, but I've started going to bed at 6:30 p.m.

Marathon training for me is almost all mental. Workouts (especially tempo workouts) are hard, but most of the time they are within my grasp physically. Still, sometimes I lack the mental fortitude to stay on pace for miles on end. So in Week 13, I started doing my tempo/marathon pace runs on the treadmill. This way, I don't have to think about pace - I just have to keep up with the belt. It's probably a lazy way to do things, but it's helping my confidence. I *can* do these workouts, but sometimes I want to be a big baby.

Week 12 was hard. I was tired most of the week and felt like I was off of my game in training. One morning I didn't want to run and burst into tears. I knew it was just a low energy moment, but it was annoying anyway. In retrospect, I think I was still recovering from my half marathon. Because I didn't give myself much recovery time after that race in Week 9, I think I prolonged the recovery period. Does that make sense? Whatever. I was tired. And I'm a big baby. And I've got this half-broken brain that worries me sometimes.

Week 13 was better, but I was completely freaked out about my Thursday tempo run. The past two tempo runs hadn't gone well and I knew I needed to do better if I was going to get anywhere near 4:00 or 4:10 in the marathon. Despite my massive procrastination and nearly crippling fear, I managed to do the 9-mile run at a 9:13 pace, which is a few seconds shy of my target pace, but it's the closest I can get to 4:00 (9:09/mile) marathon pace on the treadmill. That felt great. At the end of the week I had my second 16-miler. As usual, I struggled more mentally than physically, and I was pretty far off pace for most of the run, but I picked it up in the last five miles and ended up close to my goal pace of 9:53.

Over these two weeks, I started having more consistent aches in the usual places in my right leg: IT band and posterior tib tendon. I've mentioned before that my right leg is all whacked. It's a miracle I'm running 50-mile weeks right now. If you saw me run, you'd be amazed too. Anyway, I wondered if my aches were related to my shoes getting old. I was alternating between two pair of the same shoes (Asics GT-2170), each with just 200 miles on them, but I run with the stride of a 250-pound gorilla, thanks to an MS relapse years ago that took some of my motor control from my right side. Or maybe I was always an ape, I don't know. Regardless, I got a new pair of the same shoes and started using them in Week 14. All the aches vanished, which is such a relief and makes me so happy. Of course I can find a downside to this: running shoes, when attached to my feet, have a 200-mile limit! This makes running a little less thrifty of a hobby than I thought.

Week 14 was great. I felt good and my tempo run felt better than ever. I ratcheted up the treadmill a little more than last week, so my average pace was 9:05. For 9 miles! Pretty impressive for this ape-like lady. Anyway I think I pulled something in my quad during that run, so Friday's easy run was not really that easy. And then... wait for it... I took Saturday off! An unscheduled day off! I spent most of the day considering (that's a nice way to put it) whether I should run or not, so I can't say it was totally relaxing, but it was probably good for me. Today's 10 mile long run was awesome. My legs are feeling great (new shoes!) and my pace was zippy. I was impressed with how good I felt after just one day of rest. I'm feeling pretty confident about Disney.

Here are the deets:
125 easy9 (4x1.5@9:00)off11 (9@9:31)5 easy8 easy10 long48
137 easy9 (3x2mi@9:00)off11 (9@9:13)6 Easy6 easy16 long55
144.5 easy9 (2x3mi@9:00)off11 (9@9:05)5.5 Easyoff10 long40

Week 15 will be my last high-mileage week, with a 16-miler at the end. After that, it's the "taper". The Hanson's plan doesn't have a typical taper, but the long runs get shorter and, well, the last week is pretty easy. Tuesday and Thursday workouts continue in Week 16 and 17, but it should feel better without the longer runs.

25 November 2012

Weeks 10 and 11

In Week 10, I officially ran over 40 miles. In Week 11, I ran over 50 miles! The Hanson’s Plan is very strict about long runs being less than 30% of weekly mileage, but they seem less concerned about the 10% rule (don't increase mileage more than 10% per week). My legs feels trashed, but I don't think I'm injured. Sometimes it's hard to tell because my ankle tendons hurt on more and more of my runs, but after a good night’s sleep, they are more or less okay. My IT band is also pretty tight, but it doesn't actually hurt.

My half marathon (two weeks ago) helped me realize I have to downsize my A-goal for Disney. I no longer think a sub-4 marathon is possible, even on a flat course, so I'm currently aiming for 4:10 or 4:15, which is what the MacMillan Calculator says I can do. This means my training paces are a little slower now, which is good because an 8-miler at 9:09 pace (my tempo run) wasn't working out too well for me, and it goes up to 9 miles this week. In Weeks 10 and 11, I averaged 9:22 for the tempo run. More realistic.

On Thanksgiving, Sean, Maple and I ran a turkey trot. Maple wasn't thrilled after the first mile, but she ran about 3 minutes faster than her last 5k, finishing in under 37 minutes. She is running the Mickey Mile in January when we go to Disney, and she says she's more excited for shorter races.

Today was my first 16-miler, and it worked me. I didn't expect to feel so crappy afterward because I did longer runs last time I trained for a marathon, but the Hansons plan aims to tire you out during the week so that the long runs simulate the last 16 miles of the marathon rather than the first. You don't get a day off before a long run, nor after. I’m running a 5-miler tomorrow.

Next week my long run is just 10 miles, and then it goes back up to 16. There are a total of three 16-milers in the plan. Hopefully the next one will be easier than today's!

In general, marathon training is going better this time around. My legs are holding up, and I feel less worried about the impacts of MS. I haven't been dizzy or disoriented since Week 1. Sometimes I still freak out though. I was really nervous this morning about my long run (even though it wasn’t that long), and when I was done, I felt so out of sorts that I got a little panicky. Ever since my last big MS relapse in 2006, I get scared when I feel “weird”. That “weird” feeling landed me in the hospital, where I watched the room spin for a week and never stopped throwing up. But it's been over 6 years, I should get over it already! Some people have real problems! I keep reminding myself that my neurologists say exercise doesn't bring on relapses and I can do whatever I want, including run marathons.

Here are the details for Weeks 10 and 11:

103 easyoff7 easy 10 (8@9:22)5 easy8 easy10 long43
115 easy9 (6x1mi@9:00)off5k + 2.5 easy9.7 (8@9:22)8 easy16 long52

Time to get some rest before the alarm goes off at 5:30 for my next run.

13 November 2012

Week 9: Halfway There

First of all, big congrats to Andi, who ran her first marathon last (last) weekend! It is so satisfying to follow along with a friend's training from start to finish, and to watch her achieve her goal. I'm excited to see what she does next!

So what's up with my training? Since I had a half marathon on Sunday of Week 9, I decided to sorta kinda taper this week. My training plan didn't incorporate a half marathon, so I had to wing it. Tapering is a complete mystery. I did my speedwork as usual, but skipped my tempo run, then took an extra day off and reduced my mileage in the days before the race.

95 easy6 (speed - 5x1000)off4 easyoff3 easy13.1 (race)31

My goal for the race was to run under 2:00, and I think I might have done that on a flatter course. The Chilly Half Marathon had almost 800' of elevation gain, and I missed my goal by 1:15. My time was still a PR (by over 5 minutes!) so I'm happy. The hills were mainly in the second half of the race, and I ran about a two minute positive split. Had I run even splits, I would have cracked 2:00. I can't wait for next time!

This week, I'm trying to get back on schedule as soon as possible. I ran yesterday (the day after the half), but my ankle tendons were cranky, so I took today off. I'm planning to run 7 tomorrow, and then resume with my tempo run on Thursday. My long run this weekend is only 10 miles! This low mileage plan is starting to sound really nutty to me, but I like the fact that I'm not injured, so I'm going to stick with it.

05 November 2012

Disney Training: Week 8

Week 8 of training went very well, just like Week 7:

86 easy5.8 (speed - 6x800)off7 (5@MP)5 easy5.7 easy10 long39.5

On Saturday, Maple wanted to come on my run with me. I told her I had to do 6 miles, so she could run the first half with me and I'd run the second half by myself. But she insisted she wanted to do the whole run, and Sean reminded me that I hadn't thought she could do our 4-miler a few weekends ago (which was no problem for her). So I took her with me and she did great! Afterwards she said she never wanted to run again, but she changed her mind the next day.

Today I'm going to ramble on about some things I'm doing differently in this, my second marathon training cycle.

I hurt my IT band before my first marathon, and I started going to PT right afterward. I learned a number of hip strengthening exercises which have helped me immeasurably. Even after my IT band calmed down, I kept up with the exercises (or at least most of them). A couple of months ago, I tried cutting back because all those exercises were making me crazy, but I started to get aches and pains again. I pared it down to just five leg exercises and went back to doing them more often. I'm also doing some core and arm strength exercises which were recommended in Advanced Marathoning.

At the same time I started PT, I also started seeing a chiropractor for ART. ART is awesome and has helped me so much with my IT band, as well as some little niggles I've had in the past few months. Even though I'm not dealing with an injury right now, I still see Dr. V once a month to get ART on anything that's bothering me.

My shoe troubles have been an ongoing source of annoyance, pain, and boring blog posts. I've finally found the right shoe/insole combination (Asics GT-2170 and Sole DK insoles) and my feet/legs aren't bothering me at all. I have two pairs of the shoes that I switch between on alternate days. Sometimes I'm tempted to try new shoes but then I hear a loud buzz and I drop my coffee and forget what I was thinking about.

I'm also using a different training plan this time, and I'm running SIX TIMES A WEEK. And nothing hurts. Isn't that weird? It's fucking amazing actually. Three of my weekly runs are super easy, like 11:00 pace easy, and I think it's really good for all my tendons and ligaments to do lots of slow and steady miles. That's what the Hansons say anyway. And have you heard the rule that your long run shouldn't be more than 25% of your weekly mileage? Last time I trained for a marathon, my long runs were typically 45-70% of my weekly mileage! That's crazy, and it's not a shock that I got injured. This time around, I'm doing shorter long runs, which are in line with the 25% thing. This week I ran about 40 miles and my long run was 10. I'll run up to 16 miles for my longest runs, but at that point I'll be running 55-60 miles a week.

Almost done.

I'm also eating more and thinking about my diet less. I gained five pounds and I feel better. I'm still vegetarian, but I'm not avoiding anything except meat, which I don't like anyway.

Finally, I'm religious about stretching and rolling. I hardly ever stretched last time, and I didn't know how to foam roll. I spent way too many nights lying in bed with aching muscles. That was dumb. Life is better now. I stretch after every run, and Sean and I roll every day. There's lots of moaning and grunting. It's hot.

I'm almost halfway done with this training cycle and I feel great. Let's hope it stays that way!

In Week 9, I'll be doing basically the same runs, except I'll swap my Thursday tempo run for some easy miles; a kind of pseudo taper for my (very hilly) half marathon on Sunday. I'm hoping for a PR, but I might be coming down with a cold, so we'll see what happens. My "A" goal is to run under 2 hours, which means running at my marathon goal pace of 9:09. If I hope to run 26.2 at that pace, I have to be able to run 13.1 at that pace as well, so this will be a test to see how realistic my goal is. 

28 October 2012

Disney Week 7: Perfection

Wowzers. I just finished my highest mileage training week ever; almost 38 miles. I'm celebrating this moment. I usually don't celebrate much. Instead I fixate on the next tough week or wotkout, worrying about my ability or the impact my chronic disease is having on me. But I'm trying to change my ways and celebrate some things:
  1. I ran my first "long" run of this training cycle today, and exceeded my goal pace. Long runs are supposed to be a bit faster than easy runs in the Hansons plan (10:15-11:00 for "easy", 9:53 for "long").
  2. I did today's run after volunteering at a local trail race, which required hiking a couple of miles, managing Maple, and screaming for 2 hours. (This kind of thing usually requires a day of rest to recover from, so the fact that I ran 10 miles afterward is quite an achievement for me.)
  3. I ran almost 38 miles this week, my highest mileage week ever. 
  4. This week's training went perfectly.
  5. I'm not injured! Nothing hurts!
  6. This week I hit 1000 running miles for 2012.
  7. I've finally landed on the Asics GT2170 as the right shoe for me, and my feet and legs are finally happy. (It took me a while to learn that this minimalist trend doesn't work for me and my corkscrew legs.) 
In other news... I got to run with my girls on Tuesday at the track, which was excellent, even though Ruth tried to kill me with a nutty sprint finish on the last interval. Maple did a track workout on Tuesday and then she joined dailymile and is now tracking her runs. And someone flipped a switch somewhere and now I am SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME.

Here's my training for the week:

74 easy6.4 (speed - 8x600)off7 (5@MP)4 easy6.5 easy10 long37.9

Next week will be very similar to this week, with some additional miles on Monday and Friday. Bring it!

21 October 2012

Week 6 of Disney Marathon Training

Before my boring training report, here's something exciting. Sean ran a 50 mile ultramarathon! Maple and I worked at the finish line while he was running, and we were there to see him when he finished, 12 cold and rainy hours later. When a run seems long to me, I think of the 1000 training miles he put in, and the 50 miles he ran in one day. Amazing. Here's Maple handing him his medal. He's planning to run a 100-miler in the spring.

I ran my first (since college) double yesterday, and I felt amazing afterwards! In the morning, Maple and I did a 5k race with two of my friends from work. It was gratifying running with friends and practicing encouragement for newer runners. Maple rocked it, her first ever 5k; she finished in about 39 minutes. She ran farther than 5k though, because she kept running ahead of us for about 200 yards and then running back, over and over again. Here's Team Pinkettes after the race (I had already taken my pink headgear off):

Then in the evening I ran 5 miles easy, to make my 8 mile total (per my training plan) for the day. It was warm and beautiful out. I love the way everything smells in the fall, and the way the yellow and orange trees look in the fading sun.

The new training plan is going well. I've had some aches and pains as I ramped up the mileage between weeks 5 and 6. The Hansons plan seems to break the rules by going from 24 to 39 miles in one week, but they also prescribe lots of very slow miles, which I think is why it might work. (As you can see below, I didn't quite make the 39 miles in Week 6, opting instead for a more modest 33 miles.)

On Tuesday I did a track workout in my favorite track shoes, Brooks PureCadence. Unfortunately my posterior tib tendonitis (PTT) flared up, probably because the workout was 6 miles total, and I usually do about 4. So no more PureCadence for me on the track. I didn't notice the PTT during the track workout, but two days later I had a painful tempo run. On Friday I cut my easy 4-miler short, and by Saturday the pain was absent, but it flared back up a bit on Sunday. Ice, ice, ice. My feet seem pretty happy right now with my Asics 2170s, so I'm going to stick with them.

Here's what I ran for the past two weeks. (You can see all the gory details on my dailymile site.) I started the Hansons program during Week 5.

5off4 (speed - 3x1600)off4 easy5 easy4 easy7 easy24
64 easy6 (speed - ladder)off7 (5@MP)2 easy3 + 5 easy6 easy33

In the Hansons plan, you run 6 days a week (after Week 5). Easy runs are done very very slowly, between 10:30 and 11:00 pace. This sounds slow for me, but the overall mileage is higher than I was doing before, so it doesn't end up feeling that slow because I'm more tired than before. Speed workouts are three miles total, but with rest intervals and warmup/cooldown, you end up running 5-7, and you do them at 5k pace, which for me is around 8:00. Long runs aren't too long so far, but the idea is you go into them tired because you ran all week. Starting in Week 7, you run the long runs a bit faster than "easy" pace; for me it says 9:53. So far this is working out well, and I'm really enjoying all the S L O W easy miles.

Right now I'm targeting a 4-hour marathon, which means 9:09 pace. This is going to be my A goal. As my training progresses, I can reevaluate, but this is what I'm aiming for.

My MS has been pretty quiet lately. I had some minor dizzies during Week 5, but I got some extra sleep and recovered. Running more miles now actually feels great. I'm trying to stay on top of my strength work, doing arms, legs, and core twice a week, and hip exercises 3-4 times a week. The hip stuff is definitely helping my hip pain that I had a few weeks ago. They are sore from doing the strength work, but they don't actually hurt anymore.

Next week will be much like this week, with the exception of the bad footwear choice. My long run stretches to 10 miles, and I'm really excited to see how that feels.

09 October 2012

Disney Week 5: Change of Plan

I've just started Week 5 of training for Disney, and I'm really excited. Look what I found on my pillow when I got home from work:

Sean knew that I was jonesing for this book and he surprised me with it today. Isn't that awesome? My enthusiasm for the marathon had been wavering, what with all the painful running. But a new marathon book puts me right back in the game.

I'm doing well energy-wise (wahoo!) after that lame Week 1. Weeks 2-4 were pretty solid, but I did skip some runs (and cut others short) because of yet another flirtation with injury. What kind of marathon runner is chronically injured while running 22 miles a week? Yikes. My hips have been sore and twingy, but I think (I HOPE) I'm on the mend now. It was either the Hokas or the reduction in hip-strengthening exercise frequency; mistakes I have since corrected.

I tend to be compulsive about things, so skipping and shortening runs is not something I generally feel good about. But since I've run a marathon before, I'm not too worried. I'm confident that if I can get to the start line uninjured and not exhausted, I'll be able to finish the marathon. Maybe I'll even run fast! A girl can dream. So the focus this time around is staying healthy rather than completing the training perfectly. It sounds like most marathoners have to adjust their training for various reasons, even the really fast freaks of nature. 

Back to the book. Last week, while waiting to get ART on my butt, I grabbed a free Competitor magazine in my chiropractor's office. (The butt ART was somewhat embarrassing but amazingly effective by the way.) The mag had an excerpt from the new Hansons Marathon Method book, and I was intrigued. I really admire Desi, and the whole Hansons vibe seems really cool. The article talked about the 20-mile long run being an arbitrary distance, a magic number that doesn't have much basis in science. They suggested that 16 miles was probably the very longest that mortals should ever run in preparation for a marathon, and I was like, "Oh yeah. I'm in." I found one of their training plans online and started in on it immediately, but I had a lot of questions, which is why I wanted the book. And then my amazing husband dropped it in my lap.

Today I did my first workout from the new plan: 3x1600 repeats with 400 jog between. Have I mentioned how much I love the track? I feel SO amazing after a track workout. I wish I could do speed every day. The rest of this week is scary though. I have tomorrow off, then I have SIX RUNS before my next day off. I usually only run five times a week, so I'm not sure what will happen, but I'll pay attention to my body and rest when my hip tells me to. The best thing is that my "long run" this weekend is 8 miles. Oh wait, I have two of those. Back to back. Hmm, maybe this plan is going to be kind of tough after all.

At least the crank fest is over. I stopped the gluten-free diet because let's face it, no matter how good it is for me, I eventually get tired and cranky and hungry to the point of ridiculousness. I'm back to eating my 90% vegan "normal" diet and I feel much better. Also my family has begun sleeping at home again. My footwear of choice right now is the Asics 2170 (and the Brooks PureCadence for the track). 

I'd love to say more about the hopelessly exciting details of my training, or my PT exercises or my diet, but Project Runway is on and I'm missing it. 

Here's my recap of the past three weeks...

Week 2: 26 miles, 5 runs (9-miler and hill repeats)
Week 3: 20 miles, 5 runs (5@9:05, 5x800@7:30)
Week 4: 23 miles, 4 runs (5@9:07, 9-miler, hill repeats)

My MP runs are getting slower, but that's because I'm being responsible! I even started wearing a Garmin - my new Forerunner 10. It's pink! I like it. GPS still sort of annoys me because the pace jumps all over the place, but I WILL LEARN TO LOVE IT. I swear. I'm determined not to go too fast on my easy runs, because I want to live through the next 14 weeks. 

16 September 2012

Disney Week 1: Whiny

This week was my first official week of training for Disney, and it was a bit of a shit show. I felt fatigued and borderline dizzy, and my eyes refused to work together like they're supposed to. It's frustrating because I am never sure if these are just random MS symptoms, or if it's related to something I've done (like run too fast). I keep careful track of my running on dailymile, so I can track aches and pains and footwear issues, but I still feel lost when it comes to figuring out how MS affects my running.

I actually started my marathon training 3 weeks ago. To get extra prepared, I decided to run the first three weeks of the training program before I officially started training (18 weeks before the race). Those three weeks went really well. I hit (well, exceeded) my marathon-pace runs and had no trouble with the 8- and 9-mile long runs. I did some hill repeats and some 800s on the track. Everything was perfect. But maybe it was a little too perfect. I wonder now if running too fast on some of my runs brought on the latest round of fatigue. I wonder if I'm especially susceptible to overtraining because I have MS. I'm sure it sounds ridiculous to consider that I'm overtraining on 25 miles a week, but sometimes I think that's how MS affects me.

In case you haven't already written me off as a complete whack job, as of today I've been off gluten and dairy (and meat and eggs) for four weeks. At first I thought I felt better, but now I'm not so sure. I crave bread and pizza and "easy" food like YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE, and instead of making me feel "cleaner", I just feel hungry all the time. Even when I get enough calories, I still feel starved because I can't eat things that make me feel full (like bread, bread, and bread). I promised myself I would do the no dairy / gluten thing for 6 months, to see if it would improve my MS. In general I don't have a lot of MS symptoms, but I've had more fatigue over the past couple of years, so I thought improving my diet would help. People say it can take 6 months or more to see a difference. Because I'm vegetarian, I haven't given up legumes, which all the paleo-MS people say are also bad. So maybe I'm not doing enough. Or maybe I'm doing too much and I should just eat what I want? After all, I wasn't doing too badly before. I ran a marathon! Why must I have such complex food issues?

I'm still having a tough time with shoes, so look for more whiny shoe chronicles ahead! I think both pairs of Ravennas are shot, and I'm not going to buy more because they only last about 200 miles before I start getting aches and pains. My old Brooks Trance shoes seem to be working for me at the moment. I love my PureCadence for the track, but they seem to aggravate my posterior tib (PT) tendon when I wear them on the road. And I recently bought a pair of Hoka Stinsons, which seemed really promising at first, but now I think they're munging up my hip so I'm taking them back. Footwear suggestions welcome!

Here's a summary of my training so for for Disney:

Week -2: 25 miles, 5 runs (including 5@8:35 and 8LSD)
Week -1: 27 miles, 5 runs  (9 LSD)
Week 0: 24 miles, 5 runs (cutback week, including 5@8:44)
Week 1: 17 miles, 4 runs (skipped hill repeats and bagged long run, ran 5@8:39)

Last time I started training for a marathon, I never would have tolerated such crap in Week 1. I would have killed myself to get the training absolutely perfect. But this time I am a little more relaxed about it all. Plus, I just finished three weeks of great training. I hope next week will be better, and I'm not going to let this crappy week knock me off course. 

01 September 2012

The Summer and Week -1

Summer is almost over, and it's been good. Real good.

We've just eaten a great meal; eggplant & potato curry with bok choy, and peach cobbler for dessert. Maple has crashed next to me in bed, and we're watching Melancholia on Netflix. It's been a great day, a great week, and a great couple of months.

So what have I been up to?

Last I wrote, I ran the mile race in Cambridge, and beat my goal time by one second. Yes! After that, I went back to running around 20 miles a week and not worrying too much about anything. I knew that I'd need to start training for Disney in September, but I didn't have anything to train for during August. I had fun experimenting with shoes again (and suffering various aches and pains as a result) and celebrating Maple's birthday. I did a little bit of track work, some longish runs, and mostly just ran easy miles about 4 times a week.

Maple went to stay with her grandparents for a week, and Sean and I hiked through some of the most humid, hot weather the northeast has to offer. I'm still piecing together the Appalachian Trail, which I hiked 1400 miles of in 2001. We completed Vermont and hiked around 20 miles into New Hampshire. Aside from the humidity, there were lots of meadows, woods, wildflowers, farms, roads, and plastic tubing strung between trees, seemingly deep in the woods. (I guess the maple syrup producers are getting smarter, or lazier.) We spontaneously stayed in a fancy hotel in Hanover, which is one of the few towns that the Trail goes directly through. Sean got some crazy blisters. I got some crazy bug bites that are still swollen and angry red almost a month later. We met some nice hikers and we almost got struck by lightening. Hiking was great aerobic cross training, but it wasn't too kind to our joints and IT bands. But it was worth it to get about 65 more miles of Trail done and dusted. Only 425 more to go.

Right before we left, we found out we had to go to New Jersey for a funeral after the hike. During my aborted thru-hike attempt in 2001, I was pretty good about hiking past every single white blaze from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Bear Mountain in New York, but I did skip one 17.3-mile portion of the trail in New Jersey. Sean has been hearing about that 17.3 miles for the past 10 years, so when he found out we were headed for Jersey, he floated a plan that would let me hike the missed section on the way. It was a packed day; we got up at 4, drove to north Jersey, I headed south on the trail and he drove to the southern point of the section and started running north. It was a gorgeous day. That section has rocks where the dirt should be, so I have no idea how Sean ran it. I torqued my ankles in hiking boots, and I was walking. We met about halfway and hiked to the car together, then drove to a hotel, ate Thai food, and slept.

But this isn't a hiking blog, jeez.

I worked out that 18 weeks from the Disney marathon puts me at September 10th to start training, but I actually started three weeks before that. I'm going to repeat the first three weeks of the plan twice, so I'm finishing up what I'm calling Week -1 now. Next week is Week 0. Last week was Week -2. You get the idea. I'm doing around 25 miles a week right now, and fortunately my IT band and PT tendon seem good. I feel ready for this next cycle of training. My easy runs are faster than they used to be, and for this I credit all the speedwork I did for the mile race. I'm trying to do my "long" runs (only 8-9 miles at this point) faster than I did last time, and I'm pushing the pace during the last few miles. Last weekend I did a 5-miler at 8:35 pace, which is quick for me. (It was supposed to be a marathon-pace run but since I don't have a Garmin, I go by feel, which is not always right on.)

I spent some time researching training plans during August. I considered hiring a coach, but decided I needed to get through one marathon without injury before I get that serious. I read Pete Pfitzinger's book, and although I liked his plans, I knew I didn't have the base built up to follow them yet. I've been struggling to stay injury-free at 20-something miles a week, so starting out at 35 is unrealistic. I like speedwork too much to do the same plan I did before (Higdon's Novice 2 plan), so I decided to do Higdon's Intermediate 1 plan but swap in the speedwork/hill/tempo Thursday workouts from his Advanced 1 plan. I don't know if it will be too ambitious, but I'm going to give it a shot. The mileage isn't too high, there is more intensity than last time, and although I'm injury-prone, I am more experienced at detecting injury and dealing with it than I was before. Plus I have a great PT and chiropractor who can help me through anything, and I will catch it early this time. If it happens at all.

Maple started school this week and she seems very happy with it. Sean is starting his taper for the Vermont 50 after running a successful 25-miler last weekend. My stress level is lower than it has been for years since he is taking care of everything at home. We don't have to send Maple to after-school programs anymore because he is home, which means she is happier and less stressed. We call him the "ground support" guy. It's working out really well.

And. I am doing the gluten-free thing again. Last time I tried it, I had a really hard time, but it was at the peak of my marathon training and I was exhausted from training and watching Maple while Sean worked all the time. This time around it's going much better. Sean is taking great care of me. I have enough calories every day and we're honing in on getting the right proportions of everything. The reason I'm trying again is that there is so much talk out there about gluten and dairy being awful for autoimmune diseases and especially MS. There's a big movement towards paleo for folks with MS, but I'm obviously not going to do that since I'm vegetarian. Paleo doesn't "allow" legumes or grains, which are an important part of my diet, so I've decided to just avoid the big two (gluten and dairy) and see how that goes. I like that eliminating diary makes me de facto vegan again. (I hate eggs anyway.) I've been at it for two weeks and I'm already seeing a change in my energy levels. I hardly have to think about my energy anymore. I used to have to plan some rest into my days and know that I wouldn't be able to do much if I ran hard or long, but now I seem to be able to do whatever I want. Today I woke up at 6:30, ran 5 miles at 9:17 pace, then came home and rushed out with Maple to a running club meeting. Afterwards we ran/walked a few miles in a superheated meadow and then went grocery shopping. Six months ago I'd only have been able to rest after running at that pace. And maybe grocery shop later in the day.

I'm really hopeful about the Disney marathon. I don't have a time goal yet, but I dream of running sub-4 as the famous calculator says I can do. But that probably isn't realistic, given that I haven't made it through marathon uninjured! 4:15 sounds plausible, but I'll have to see how I feel after I get about halfway through my training. I registered for a local half marathon in early November, which should give me a good idea of where I'm at.

Time to rest my eyes for some hours and let my body get ready to run 9-10 miles in the morning. It's wonderful to be healthy.

22 July 2012

I ran a mile!

Running a mile isn't normally something I get excited about, but today I ran a mile race! It was really really REALLY really fun. My goal was to run it in 7:00, and I ran 6:59! How's that for pacing. 

The inaugural Mass Ave Mile went from Porter Square in Cambridge to Harvard Square. They had us line up about 10 minutes before the start, and I appreciated their informal line-up procedure, "If you're going to run 5:20 or less, toe the line; otherwise line up behind the line." I got behind the line. The course was slightly downhill, and it was a small field; only 339 runners. There was no pistol at the start, just a guy yelling "GO!" through a megaphone. 

I quickly caught up with a fellow running club member and ran with him for about a half mile. At that point I was all, "I can go faster than him, he's 68!" I pulled slowly away from him and tried to focus on my cadence and form, while trying not to step in any potholes. Despite all my recent efforts to improve my form, I still felt like an out-of-control gorilla. 

There were clocks at every 1/4 mile, and I was slightly ahead of schedule at the 1/4 and right on at the 1/2 and the 3/4. I had planned to start kicking at the 3/4 but I felt a little sluggish so I thought I'd wait a few seconds. I saw Tom burning by me on the outside and I was all "Jesus Lord he's 68!" I think I got distracted when he cruised by, and once I realized I should start the kick, I could see the finish line and then it was over. 

I kept saying all week that I can do anything for 7 minutes, and it turned out to be true. I can't wait to run this race again next year. Predictably, I'm now second-guessing my goal. Should I have aimed higher? I might have been able to go a little faster, right? 

After every race, I put my time into the awesome McMillan Pace Calculator, which tells you what times you should be able to run at different distances, assuming the same effort as your recent race. Today's race was the fastest I've run according to the calculator, which is awesome and uplifting and immeasurably satisfying. And sort of awful. Awesome because it says I can run a marathon in 3:57 (and a 100-miler in 22:50!), and awful because it also said I should do tempo runs at 8:05 pace and a long run every week in the 9-10:00 range. But if this is what I need to do to get faster, I will do it. 

I'm proud of this race because it proved to me that I can get faster. I may have no natural talent for running at all, but I am not completely broken. I did 8 speed workouts over the past month, and even with the week off (from speedwork) after my spontaneous half marathon, I still went faster than the 7:15 that the calculator predicted based on my June 5k race. A whole 4% faster! I believe I can improve my mile time with more speedwork, which I am going to do every week for the rest of my life. 

Now I'm entering no man's land; where it's too early to start training for my next marathon so I have nothing to live for. I obviously need to sign up for another race. I'm thinking of doing a half marathon in October, and I've narrowed it down to the Cape Cod Half Marathon or the Baystate Half Marathon. I have to get out a calendar and see what makes more sense. 

But for now I'm going to do what I do best after a race: lay in bed and sigh.

14 July 2012

Life of low mileage

I swear I'm cursed to live a life of low mileage. I'm chronically injured! Last fall, while training for my first half (which I couldn't run), I got tendonitis in my ankle. During marathon training this year, IT band syndrome. And about 10 days ago I pulled my quad, which didn't seem like a big deal at the time but I ended up taking 2 days off this week to let it rest. So that's the bad news.

The good news is that I did take 2 days off this week and I ran today and felt good! My IT band and quad were both pretty quiet. I didn't quite hit my paces during all four 600m repeats, but I hit two of them, and I've had a rough week so I guess I am not surprised.

So remember last weekend when I was all excited to force myself to spectate that marathon? Yeah. I didn't. Sean encouraged me to run the half, and they just happened to have numbers left when we went to pick up Sean's number. So I ran my second half marathon. It was massively hilly and I didn't really try to race it. Mostly I wanted to see if my IT band would hold up, and it did. It was slower than my PR by about 12 minutes, but I had a lot of fun. I even got to run with Sean for about 5 miles. Forever memories there. And here is a picture in which I look like I'm Sean's special needs sister:

Sean ran his marathon in 4:31, which was faster than he thought. I was so proud! He was plagued by some IT band and/or knee issues, but I think he did really well in his first ever marathon. (He ran an ultra last year but had never done a marathon.) How cute is he? I think the fact that he ran a marathon in Ray Bans is the coolest thing ever. 

Maybe it had something to do with the spontaneous half marathon, but I was really dragging this week. I went to the neurologist on Tuesday and he told me that my brain (in the MRI pictures) looks exactly like it did last year and he doesn't recommend medication. Wow. That was a surprise. I thought for sure things had declined, since I've been feeling more tired than in previous years. He said the combination of running marathons and just having MS is probably fatiguing me a bit, but that I'm doing very well. 

I was so excited about the brain news that I didn't think I'd ever feel bad again, but the next day I tanked. I just didn't have any energy, and things stayed that way for a few days. I left work a little early for those days and didn't do much at home. This coincided with the quad thing, so I just rested everything. Then this morning I went to the track and did speed work! I think I'm on the mend.

I ran in my PureCadence shoes today and I love them so much. If I didn't look at my feet, I'd swear I was running in big puffy bunny slippers. So cozy. I'm going to try running in them more because the Ravennas are hurting my super long second toe.

I'll leave you with this picture - it's my new favorite picture of me because I think I look like a "real" runner (whatever that means):

How's your summer running going?

04 July 2012


I've been taking a break. I worked hard during marathon training, and then maybe harder to overcome my IT band issues, and now I'm a little burned out. I'm still training for the Mass Ave Mile in a few weeks, but my weekly mileage barely climbed into the 20s a couple of weeks ago, and then dropped back to 15+ last week. I guess this is sort of in my plan; I'm doing two speed workouts a week, so I'm not pushing the mileage so that I don't injure my old lady self.

This weekend we're traveling to Vermont for Sean's first marathon! I'm very excited for him. He's worked so hard this year, doing massive cross training before his actual running training started, to shore up his old man joints, and now he's running 40-50 mile weeks. I was initially going to run the half when he runs the marathon, but my PT convinced me not to do it unless I could take it really casually and use it as a training run. I don't think I can line up for a race and take it easy, so I'm feeling really good about just being a spectator. 

Okay, that's not exactly true - I feel like a total slacker piece of shit, but I am glad that I'm forcing myself to be a spectator anyway. It'll build character.

Yesterday's speed workout was 10x100m around 5:25 pace. That was huge for me. I've always thought of myself as slow, and running at a 5-something pace, even for 100m, feels like lightening. I ran most of the intervals barefoot on the football field. Righteous! If you don't usually run barefoot, I highly recommend it. Running barefoot encourages me to pay attention to my form, and it forces me not to heel strike. The best part is that it feels great. Being connected to the ground is much better than wearing shoes, and I hate putting my shoes on for my cool down. They feel like giant foot casts. I don't think I'm going to become a real barefoot runner, but I really enjoy doing it on grass. Wait that sounds wrong.

I found some hilarious pictures of myself from the last 5k that I did. I have this uncanny ability to look like I'm dying (in the face) while hardly picking my feet up off the ground such that it appears I'm actually walking. I also run like I'm on a runway (work it girl!) and it's really obvious that my knees weren't put on right. If there is a God, he was passed out drunk when he made me. Check it out.

Death Mask:
Ghost Stride:
Dip the hip!
Knee goes in:

So I might have the worst running form ever, but who cares. I'm still running. Right now, in fact.

17 June 2012

Me as a Miler

Today I ran 8.5 miles! A few months ago it wouldn't have been a big deal, but that was before my IT band starting melting down. Now it seems like I'm getting back to normal, and to celebrate, I registered for the Disney Marathon in January.

I decided to run Disney a few weeks ago but couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger. Then Sean started getting on my case about it. I told him I was worried that my MS was getting worse and maybe I couldn't run another marathon. He put it like this: whether or not my MS gets worse, if I act like I'm going to run Disney, the months leading up to it will be better than if I act like I'm getting sicker and don't push myself to do anything. It's hard to argue with that.

Yesterday Maple and I ran a 1.8-mile fun run. It was a blast and it finished on the high school track, just like Western States.

This week I'm going to start doing speed workouts with my running club to get ready for the Mass Ave Mile race at the end of July. And I'm kinda sorta thinking about running a half marathon in a few weeks when Sean runs the Mad Marathon in Vermont. It's an extremely hilly race and I am not really in great shape to run a half, but I might run it anyway as a training run. Don't tell my PT.

12 June 2012

5k PR

About a year ago, I ran the Sharon Timlin 5k. I was inspired to register for it on a trip to visit my aunt Midge. Her husband, my Uncle Dennis, died of ALS in the fall of 2010, and when I visited Midge last April, I decided to run the Sharon Timlin race because it was a fundraiser for ALS. I ran 25:57. It was my first race since college. Sean was my pacer. I've never heard of a pacer for a 5k, but there you go. I'm lucky.

On Sunday, I ran the Sharon Timlin 5k again. When I toed the line this morning, I thought about the start of this race last year. I was so emotional that day; partly because of Dennis, and partly because I really wanted to run a marathon but didn't know if I ever would. I used to cry about that a lot.

I didn't cry Sunday morning, but I did run a 20-second PR. And my IT band didn't hurt! All the PT, foam rolling, strength exercises, rest / low mileage, and ART I've been doing must be working. And maybe Dennis was watching out for me.

After the 5k, for the first time in months, I wasn't registered for any races. That didn't really feel right, so I registered for the Mass Ave Mile yesterday. I'd love to run a mile in under 7 minutes. I am dying to get faster. I haven't done any speedwork since last year, but I've put in a ton of miles. Although I'm happy I ran a PR, I want to do better.

At last year's Sharon Timlin race, Maple ran a 200m track race. This year they didn't have races for the little kids, but they did have a mile race for kids 7 and up. Maple doesn't turn 7 until August, so I didn't register her for the race. But when we got to the race, she started running laps around the track, just for fun. I asked her if she'd want to run the mile, if I could get her registered. To my surprise, she said yes.

I hope I'm not being one of those blind parents who push their kids to do tons of crap and then act shocked when anyone suggests that the kid is just doing it to keep the parents happy. But whatever. She was amazing, and finished the mile in 9:19 (this was her first chip-timed race).Usually when we run around the block, she wants to stop four times to walk, so I was shocked to see her coming up to the finish in nine minutes! We were so proud, and so was she.

Later on Sunday, we went to REI and she climbed to the top of the climbing wall (for the first time). It was another surprising moment. She had to work through fear and exhaustion to get to the top, but she did it. I should never underestimate her. She can do so much more than I think she can.

And I should think the same way about me! I want to break 24 minutes for a 5k this year. Maybe that's impossible, but I used to think running a marathon was a stretch. Someday I want to run sub-22 for the 5k. That's probably insane - I have absolutely no raw talent for running and I don't think I have any fast-twitch muscles at all - but I think I'll have fun trying.

Sean is running a lot lately as well. He's training for the Vermont 50 this fall, and he's also doing the Mad Marathon in Vermont as a training run. We might do the Disney Marathon together in January, but we haven't committed yet.

This week is about increasing mileage for me. I'll start speed and hill work next week. I'm going to try to get faster this summer, and then whip myself back into marathon shape for either a fall marathon or Disney. Maybe both.

28 May 2012


This past week I've been focusing on healing and having fun with my family. I'm not doing much running yet, but I had my longest run since the marathon (4 miles) today and it went really well. The ITB seems to be settling down.

I am faithfully doing PT exercises every day, foam rolling twice a day, pushups three times a week. I'm doing lots of cross training: hiking, elliptical, and I added spinning this week. I was nervous about spin class because they keep the lights really low and I tend to get a bit disoriented in the dark (thanks to an MS relapse years ago), but the class went well and I'm looking forward to doing it again. I need to incorporate more core work back into my routine, and I'm going to add a day of yoga starting this week. I am allowed to run every other day, up to 4 miles, and I'll slowly increase the mileage. I know I've lost some fitness since the marathon (only three weeks ago!) but I'm working on it. The run today was a huge confidence booster. If things keep improving, maybe I'll be able to run a half in the fall.

Since the marathon, I've been feeling better and better. For the first week or so, I had pretty bad anxiety. I think the reduction in cardio made me a little nuts (running is my therapy). But after I got used to the new (lazy) normal, I started feeling good. My explanation is that I was constantly tired while training, especially near the end of the cycle, and I tend to have more MS symptoms when I'm tired. I was regularly a little dizzy and just didn't quite feel right. I think that as I build up more aerobic fitness, that will get better, but whenever I'm pushing myself to a new level, I'm going to feel a little bit awful. Maybe lots of people do, MS or not.

This weekend has been so wonderful. In fact, every weekend since the marathon has been wonderful because Sean quit his retail job that had him working most nights and weekends, which meant Maple and I never saw him. Now, he stays home and takes care of us, and it's awesome. He packs our lunches, makes our dinners, and takes care of a million other things. He makes us happy and he seems a lot happier himself. For the past few months, training for a marathon while having MS and basically being a single parent was hard, and having him home is like the world's best vacation (for me). We got rid of one of our cars and simplified our lives in general. We have a tighter budget now, but it's worth it. We have our sanity, and we have each other. I didn't realize how much I missed him.

On Saturday, Sean ran his 18-miler (he's training for a 50-mile race in September) and Maple and I went to the farmer's market. I really love our little town and the fact that we can walk to everything. We bought cold brewed coffee, coffee beans, bagels (wheat weekends!) and pasta. We took Maple out to ride her bike (which she just started doing by herself last week). We went out for pizza and came home and watched tv.

On Sunday we hiked Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. I was impressed that so many people were out there (easily 100+ on top of the mountain when we summited around 11:30). What a scene! The weather was perfect, and it was a serious little hike too. Maple was amazing, scrambling up the rocks with Sean as her coach. I wasn't so cute but I hauled my ass up there anyway. I always wear a skirt when I hike (easier to pee) and with people lined up behind each other (or beneath, in most cases) all the way to the top of the mountain, I gave more than one (maybe more than 100) people a panty shot. Oh well, I'll never see them again. Hopefully.

Now go and watch Erin's amazing running form. I can't believe she just started running like three years ago.

19 May 2012

Two Weeks Later

It's been two weeks since my first marathon. I've been doing a lot of thinking about running, but I haven't been doing much running. On my second run after the marathon, I had an angry IT band and foot pain after about 2 miles, so I decided to take a whole week off and cross train.

Yesterday I finally saw a PT and a new chiropractor who does ART. The PT confirmed what I've long suspected, I have a crazy right leg. The knee points in, the foot points out, the whole leg is bowed. She also found that my legs are slightly different lengths and my right leg is significantly weaker than my left. She sent me home with a bunch of the dreaded exercises, which I am to perform on one side only, in order to get my right leg as strong as my left. Clams with a resistance band, one-legged calf raises and mini squats and deadlifts, hip flexor stretches, etc.

I dislike PT exercises immensely, but I dislike not running more.

Then I saw Dr. V, the highly recommended chiropractor who specializes in ART and treating runners. She took x-rays, she hurt me, she was funny and she was great. I'm going back twice next week. Despite her offhand comments about my right leg, ("Whoa, that is weird!") I'm much more hopeful about getting back to running. She said my longest run in the next couple of weeks won't exceed 4 miles, and that's fine with me. She even said I could run this weekend as long as I kept it under 2.5 miles. Yes!

I'm so happy to be on the road to recovery. Soon I'll be back on the road. Wow, I'm all about these silly platitudes today.

So what has life been like after my first marathon? It's been good. Mostly I've enjoyed the rest and the school's-out vibe of not being "in training" anymore. The first week after the marathon, I didn't run or exercise at all for three days, as Hal suggests. On Thursday I did two easy miles and barely felt my IT band towards the end. I cross trained on Friday (bike) and tried running 4 easy miles on Sunday. That run did not go well at all, which is when I decided to take a week off.

This past week, I cross trained. I did interval training on the bike, I did the elliptical while watching Unbreakable (the most inspiring running movie ever), which kind of felt like running with all the runner POV shots. I kept up with my 100 Pushups workout, although it's getting really tough (and I'm only in week 2).

Okay I was supposed to talk about "life" and I just talked about running. Interesting. Let's try again.

Because I knew I was injured before I even ran the marathon, I wasn't too depressed about having to cut back. I know I'm losing some fitness, and I don't like that at all, but it's worth it to get back to running pain-free.


Recently, I thought back to running cross country in college. I walked on the team in my final year of eligibility, and I was the slowest girl on the "A" team, which meant running doubles. I'm not sure whether I wasn't fueling properly or whether doubles were just too much for me, but I got more and more tired as the season wore on. I got slower. And it reminds me of training for the marathon. For the first half of training, I was getting faster and I had tons of energy. And in the second half, I got tired (and sick) and injured. Did I do too much? Should I have taken more rest days? Should I not have upped my mileage at all in the first half of the training? Probably.

So will there be another marathon? I sure hope so. I definitely want to. I have to get my leg and foot healed, and I want to focus on some shorter races for a while to have some variety (and not burn out). But I absolutely want to run another marathon. For my first marathon, I just wanted to cross the finish line. Next time, I can't wait to cross the finish line in a time that I feel great about.

The marathon has changed me. I feel more confident and satisfied with myself. I am so proud. I learned so much about myself, both mentally and physically. And that, my friends, is worth everything.

Okay that's some life shit right there.

Here's what I have to say to myself before the Next Big Thing:
When you're training for a marathon, it's a long haul, and if you feel great at the beginning of the training cycle, that's great! Don't push it and try to do more because you feel great. You have a tendency to become "overtrained" without the normal symptoms of overtrainedness. You get tired and maybe, with or without MS, you have to work up to things a little more slowly than other people. So what? That's who you are. Know yourself. Be proud. Work with it. Go out and do something else reckless and hard and amazing.

07 May 2012

Marathon Recap, Part 2

Since I really didn't write anything about the actual running of the marathon in my last post, I decided to write about it now, before I forget.

I got to the starting line at about 7:15 and quickly turned on my Garmin. That stupid watch sometimes takes ten minutes to get a signal, so I wanted to make sure it was going to get one before the start. Of course in this instance it found a signal immediately so I had to keep telling it not to go to sleep! I ran about a quarter mile around the block and then returned to the 10:00 pace sign, where I saw Amy C and her husband. We chatted for a few minutes and the chute started filling up. Then my running partner Kat showed up and gave me a pace band, which I thought might be ridiculously ambitious but I put it on anyway. And with that, we were off.

The first few miles were surreal. We held to a little over 10:00 pace and chatted as we ran through the streets of Providence. Those miles were so much fun, so free of pain and so full of conviviality. The race wasn't super crowded, but there were enough people to make it feel like An Event. I stopped to loosen my shoe around the 1-mile mark, since the top of my right foot was already getting achy. As we neared the first water stop, I grabbed a cup and kept moving. Before the race started, I had considered walking through the water stops, but it seemed weird to walk before the 2-mile mark, and we ran on.

We went up some hills and down some hills, and we ran about 9:55 pace. At mile 7, Kat asked me to hold her water bottle while she did something with her phone. I was amazed when she took the bottle back and said "First live tweet from the course!" I can't imagine typing on my iPhone while I was running. That woman is seriously talented. Oh, and she has a broken finger.

Around mile 8, my knee started to twinge. I alternated between running on my midfoot/forefoot and running in my normal style (mild heel strike), and that seemed to help. An older guy named Sean asked if he could run with us for a while, and he asked lots of questions and was really chatty, which helped the time go by. I was worried about my knee, but I felt good about my chances. Around mile 10, my knee gave out a couple of times. I didn't fall or anything, but I definitely felt the twinge and had to catch myself. It hurt to bend my leg, so I altered my stride to push off more from my left toe and landed with an almost straight leg on the bad side. I kept that stride up for the rest of the race. It wasn't pretty but it worked.

Around mile 11 or so, I started walking through the water stations. We were on the bike path at that point, and it was really quiet and nice. Sometime after that, I told Kat to go on. She and Sean had waited for me once before, and I didn't want to be That Girl. The crowds had thinned out, and for a lot of the time it was just me. I kept up with my gels (about every 30-40 minutes) and I alternated between water and gatorade at each stop. Just after mile 14 I stopped to stretch, but that made my knee hurt a lot more so I decided not to stretch again. At mile 15 I decided to walk for 30 seconds at each mile marker as well as the water stations. Normally I hate the idea of walking on a run, but I didn't care. I was going to finish and I was going to conserve enough energy to get there.

I realized my time goals were completely unobtainable, and I shifted to just enjoying the journey. I saw geese and people taking pictures of birds in trees. I high-fived kids. I thanked the few people who were out cheering. I danced past a house where they were blaring the theme from Rocky. I was pretty surprised by how easy it was to let go of the "race" and just enjoy the experience. Usually I'm such a control freak and I'm obsessed with my pace (such as it is), but the experience of the marathon was so much, it busted right through that crap. I knew I could run another one later, without being injured, and try to run faster. But this one, the first one, was special.

At about mile 18 I started cramping up. The worst cramps were in my hips and glutes, but they weren't terrible. As usual, my anxiety over the possibility that they might get worse was itself worse than the cramps. I took more gels and drank more Gatorade. Many of the water tables had run out of cups and were offering big water jugs to people, but I avoided that (could I ever be that thirsty?) and ran on to the next water stops where luckily, they still had cups. I felt a little sad when I realized I was so far back that they'd run out of cups. So far back that people were cheering "You can finish!" I thought, "Of course I can finish. Do I look like I can't finish? I'm fine. You didn't even start! Don't tell me I can finish!"

I kept the cramps at bay with more fuel. I remember at mile 17 I thought "Only 3 more 3-milers to go, and I'm going to do the first one first and think about the others when I'm done." That seemed manageable. As the miles ticked off, I counted down my 3-milers. With 5 miles to go, I thought about my favorite 5-mile route around my house and marked the remaining miles by thinking about landmarks on that course. Now I'm across from the high school track. Now I'm running down the hill by the bus stop. Now I'm turning onto Farview.

At mile 21 I took a gel with caffeine and the little bit of nausea I had went away. I felt pretty strong. I walked up and down the hills and jogged the flats. I smiled at everyone. I was running a marathon.

I had planned to run (i.e., no walking) from mile 24, but my legs felt really sad so I walked a bit at 24 and 25. At about 25.5 I saw my family. Fortunately I saw them from a few hundred meters back so I could have a little cry before I got to them. When I passed them, I grabbed Maple and she ran with me to the finish. Before the race, I didn't think I'd want to run with her, but it turned out perfectly. I felt like I was running so fast at that point, that there was no way she could keep up. But I think I was a little bit confused about my pace, because Maple seemed like she could have gone a lot faster. A bunch of photographers kneeled down in the street in front of us to take our picture as we ran towards the finish. I asked her if she was ever going to run a marathon, and she said yes. And then it was over.

I'm really proud of myself. I'm proud of finishing the marathon. I'm proud of training for it. I'm proud of not giving up even though my body wasn't thrilled and my knee is still killing me. And I'm really excited to do it again.

Marathon Recap

I ran the Providence Marathon yesterday. It was an amazing journey; every mile taught me something new about myself. The outcome was different than I planned, but it doesn't matter. I ran a marathon. And I want to do it again.

What I did right

Picking the race

Back in December when I was picking which marathon would be my first, I really wanted to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. I loved that it was in my hometown, and an 18-week training cycle for the May 6th race would start on January 1. But I also really wanted Sean to be there, and he couldn't take time off work to go to Pittsburgh. So I looked for a race on the same day but closer to home, and I found the Providence Marathon. It was a great choice. I loved the course - quite a few miles on a bike path, not too many hills (but enough to keep it interesting), and plenty of relaxing miles in a quiet neighborhood. I loved that I could recover in my own bed (traveling 10 hours by car for my first marathon would have sucked). And I got to know some great local runners because of the Cox Rhode Scholars (blogging) program, including Kat, who started the race with me, and Amy C who ran the half. And this wasn't under my control, but the weather yesterday was completely perfect: high 50s and partly cloudy. It doesn't get better than that.

Picking a training plan

Being a reader of Erin's blog, I knew I wanted to use one of Hal Higdon's training plans. At first I wanted to do the Intermediate 1 plan, but then I thought about how a) I was in my mid-30s and hadn't been running continuously since I was younger, b) I have multiple sclerosis, and c) I had just recovered from an ankle injury. So I decided to be cautious and do the Novice 2 plan, and I'm really glad I did. The training seemed pretty easy for the first 10 weeks or so, but in Week 14 I started having problems with my knee. If I'd pushed it harder sooner, who knows what would have happened.

Listening to my body (sometimes)

In the last four weeks, I started having problems with my knee, so I did more cross training and less running. I didn't run at all in Week 18, which is probably why I was able to limp/jog 16 miles to the finish.

What I did wrong

Bad, bad taper

Right before the taper, I got sick with some evil New England virus. My doctor wasn't sure if it was a touch of pneumonia or bronchitis. It rocked me. I tried to continue training at a reduced capacity, but I only did 8 miles that week, which was supposed to be my peek weak of the cycle. I should have rested instead of pushing it. And the next week was supposed to be the start of the taper, but I was so insane about doing the 20 mile run that I did it that week instead. Sean told me not to do it but I didn't listen, and that's usually a mistake. Because of the rearranging, my taper was more like two weeks. At the time I had no idea that the little twinge I'd had in my knee at the end of the previous week's 12-miler was going to be such an issue, but I had a really hard time with it on the 20-miler.

I also think I reduced my mileage a bit too much in the last two weeks. I passed the moment of feeling energized and rested about 4 days before the marathon, and I started feeling sluggish and atrophied.

Major diet change

About 3 weeks before the marathon, I learned from a blood test that I am sensitive to wheat, yeast, gluten, soy, and dairy. Since food sensitivities affect your immune response, I wanted to change my diet to (hopefully) keep my MS in check. But it was hard to figure out what to eat, and for a couple of weeks I wasn't eating enough to maintain my weight. I lost about five pounds, which I didn't need or want to lose, and I was always hungry and tired. Not really the right thing for the taper. Fortunately in the last week before the marathon, I concentrated on carbo loading and I think I got enough calories, or almost enough. But it wasn't too smart to switch things up in the 11th hour.

What I learned

I learned so much, and I know I'll be processing all this for a long time. I remember when I had Maple at home, without drugs, I was amazed at what my body could do. In a way it wasn't amazing at all, because having babies is something women are born to do. Training for and running a marathon has me amazed all over again at what my body can do. Having MS, I've learned to trust my body only as far as I can throw it. But now I know I can throw it at least 26.2 miles.

I learned that hard work pays off. I worked hard almost every day and ran 450 miles to prepare for the marathon. I put the time in, I put the effort in, and I finished the marathon. Bam.

The most important thing I learned about myself during this journey of training for and running my first marathon is that it's okay to hope. Even with an incurable degenerative brain disease, it's okay to hope. It's good to hope! I've wanted to run a marathon for years, but I never got the courage to start the journey because that required hope. When you have MS you learn not to count on anything because shit changes all the time. But giving into that is no way to live. Now that I've experienced the power of hope, I can't wait to go out and hope some more.

03 May 2012


The marathon is in three days.

I am resting, foam rolling, stretching. I got bodywork on Tuesday and went to the chiropractor on Wednesday. I bought compression tights to (hopefully) support my IT band. I bought a new tank with a zillion pockets and I sorta kinda broke in some new shoes. I have all my gels for the race. I know which socks I'm going to wear.

Kat and I have been talking pacing. Sean has been making super healthy food and carbo loading me. I haven't been running, but I've done some stationary biking and some elliptical workouts. I'm taking Ibuprofin three times a day. I'm visualizing feeling good at every mile marker.

I'm consumed with thinking about the marathon.  It's like postpartum brain fog. Yesterday at work I said something really stupid in an important meeting because I couldn't figure out the meaning of the phrase "within and between." It was too much for a mind addled with pacing and taping and did-I-run-enough-in-my-new-shoes.

Sometimes I think I'll have no problems finishing this race because I've wanted this for so long, I've worked so hard, and of course I'm not going to quit in the middle even if my knee is screaming at me. And then that stupid old voice says, "But you quit everything." And then I tell that voice to fuck off. I'm not that person anymore.

I think about what mile I'll be in when my IT band starts talking to me, and then I imagine a race completely free of pain. It's wonderful.

My body feels great and I have two more taper days to go. I did almost all 18 weeks of training (except for that one stupid sick week). I am almost ready.

I'm going to run a marathon!

30 April 2012

Week 17: 16 miles

I was really tired this week. My vision was a little off. I kept wishing I felt better a week before the marathon. But on Saturday night, my energy picked up and I started to feel good. Sunday was great. I hope I can stop worrying about that now. Phew!

After my IT band was such a problem last week, I didn't think I'd be able to run much this week, but after two days off and cross training on Monday, I ran 4 miles without incident on Tuesday. I could hardly walk last Saturday, so that's great progress! I read that weak glutes are often the cause of IT band problems, so I started going nuts doing butt exercises. Then I realized my quads were getting destroyed, so I slowed down on that. On Wednesday I saw the chiropractor and he Grastoned the heck out of it, giving me a giant bruise where my thigh used to be.

Then I ran my long run this week, with Kat. It's great running with her; our paces are sort of close and we have a good time chatting or not chatting. We decided to start the marathon together and see what happens. I think she's faster, but we have equal uncertainty about how our bodies will hold up. Towards the end of our long run, my IT band started acting up. Afterwards I did lots of ice and foam rolling and worrying and combing the internet for things like "help IT band before race." I didn't like what I saw very much. I think I am in for a world of hurt, but I'm not going to let it stop me.

Everyone seems to have their race day outfits picked out, but I really wasn't sure what to wear. So Sunday I bought a new outfit: crops and a tank. Those crops have crazy pockets to hold all my gels. Instead of my typical pink, I'm going to be in all black. Fitting, since I may have to attend my own funeral after.

I realized on Saturday that I didn't really have a nutrition strategy. During training runs I've underfueled because my stomach hates to deal with food while I'm running. So I bought a load of gels and styngers, and I'll attempt to take something every 5 miles or so, and something caffeinated at around mile 22. I usually only drink green tea, so the caffeine works like gangbusters. I don't like to carry fluids, so I'll just use the water stops.

It's too early to say for sure, but will I run any more marathons? I think I probably will. Everyone says your second training cycle is easier than your first, and I want to see if that's true. I want the chance to run a marathon with more confidence. I want to race instead of just run. I've felt for a year or so (since I started running again) that I need more time than most people to increase my mileage, so I think my next marathon will be easier on my body.

When I started training for this thing, I wondered/doubted if I'd get through the training. I did! I'm so proud of that. Maybe it'd be smarter to sit out the actual race (as I sit here with ice on my knee), but I'm not that smart. You never know what life is going to throw at you, and I've learned to be really aware of that uncertainty since I live with MS. I've got to run this race now.

Pace range for this week: 9:12 to 9:56
Temperature range: 40 - 50 degrees

Details for Week 17 (Apr 23 - Apr 29):
Monday: 30 mins elliptical
Tuesday: 4 miles
Wednesday: 30 mins elliptical
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: off
Saturday: off
Sunday: 8 miles

27 April 2012

Week 16: 31 miles

This update is a little late huh? Week 16 was solid. I was tired a lot of the time; it takes me a while to get over being sick. Maybe because I have MS, sometimes it takes weeks to get back to normal after being sick.

I was puzzled about how to rearrange my training because this was supposed to be the first week of my taper. But since I hadn't done my 20-miler, I wanted to get that in too. Looking back on it, maybe it would have been better to just skip the 20 and start the taper, but instead I reduced the mileage a bit during the week and got the 20 in on Friday. That long run was a shit show and my IT band really didn't cooperate, but I'm not going to dwell on it too much. Call it thinking positive, call it denial, but I am going to run this marathon no matter what my IT band has to say about it. I have spent almost a week freaking out that this will keep me from running the marathon, and that attitude is not doing anything for me.

With my MS, denial has served me pretty well. I mostly try not to think about having MS. I probably would never have considered running a marathon without a little bit of denial. It's not a perfect approach, because when I do experience MS symptoms, it's difficult to accept that I have the stupid disease all over again. And truthfully, while training for this marathon, I haven't been able to pretend like I don't have MS as much as I'd like. MS has always been there, just a few steps behind me. But I'm going to win this one.

During Week 16, our family volunteered at the Boston Marathon.


We were stationed at the 20k mark, and our job was to watch a big digital clock to make sure that no one messed with it. The job was pretty easy and we got to cheer for lots of runners.

After the race ended, Maple and I hopped in the car and drove 8 hours to my parents' house. It took me a day to recover from the drive (I'm such an old lady), but it was really nice to be there and to relax. I got to run in their beautiful rural neighborhood and my dad cooked most of my food. I felt like I was detoxing for most of the week because of my new diet (more about that later), but it was so great to be able to do it there instead of at work.

Pace range for this week: 8:46 to 11:22
Temperature range: 56 - 72 degrees

Details for Week 16 (Apr 16 - Apr 22):
Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles @ MP
Thursday: off
Friday: 20 miles (4 miles limping!)
Saturday: off
Sunday: off

19 April 2012

Week 15: 8 miles

This was supposed to be the peak week of my training cycle for this marathon, but I got sick. I thought I had skated through winter without having a really horrendous winter cold/flu/whatever, but it hit me on Monday of this week. I knew it was not going to be an ideal week, but I had no idea how not-ideal it would be. I tried to start running on Wednesday but I felt terrible after my 5-miler on Friday and might have set myself back by trying to get out there too soon. I rested for the remainder of the week, preferring to save my strength for volunteering at the Boston Marathon on Monday of Week 16.

I had the usual panic and anxiety about being sick (I'm always concerned it will bring on MS stuff) but nothing big happened. I'm a bit more tired than I think is normal after being sick, but all my critical systems are still working. Week 16 is already going very well and I'm back on schedule - more on that in a few days.

Pace range for this week: to 9:54 to 10:41
Temperature range: 35 - 43 degrees

Details for Week 15 (Apr 9 - Apr 15):
Monday: sick
Tuesday: sick
Wednesday: 1 mile
Thursday: 2 miles
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: sick
Sunday: sick

14 April 2012

Full of Grace

Today, I am too tired to chew. I'm supposed to be out running 20 miles right now, and instead I'm in bed. For the past few days, I've been dealing with my illness (and the stress of getting sick during the peak weak of marathon training) in some really grown up ways...

I ran one mile on Wednesday, two miles on Thursday, and yesterday I ran five miles, which might have been a tad ambitious. I'm scared that I'll lose too much fitness if I give in to being sick (as if I have a choice) and I'm also scared of having an MS relapse if I take too many days off. Yes, I realize how stupid that sounds, but the last time I took time off for an injury, I had a relapse. This obviously implies causation and therefore if I take more than two days off in a row, I will die.

Aside from torturing myself, I've been torturing my family too. Sean says I am wearing my "sad tiara", which is his funny way of calling me out for being a drama queen. It's not enough that I feel like crap, I need to project my awful to everyone around me. I'm a walking bad vibe with a megaphone. I'm like a skunk, spraying the air with my "life sucks" perfume. You get the idea.

I don't have too many twitter followers, but I didn't want them to miss out, so I spent a significant amount of energy yesterday doing passive-aggressive angry birthday tweets. Sure, I tried to be upbeat (no one likes downer tweets), but really I just wanted everyone to know how shitty I felt and have a great big birthday pity party for me. Surprisingly, this did not make me feel better.

On top of being sick and tired, I've just been told that a) my thyroid is not working as well as it should, and b) I'm allergic to all the foods I love: wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, sesame. I'm also slightly allergic to all nuts and some beans. How am I supposed to be a pseudo-vegan with those limitations? Well, princess, you do everything you did before, but you eat different food.

Yesterday, my mom texted me "Sunday's child is full of grace." I was born on a Sunday so this was a cute birthday-related message. Unfortunately my mother is misinformed (or else she was just trying to be uplifting). It's Tuesday's child who is full of grace. Sunday's child is supposedly "bonny and blithe and good and gay." That's not accurate either. I'm more like Thursday's child, who has far to go. 26.2 miles, to be exact. Ba dum bum.

What have I learned this week? I need to accept life's little slings and arrows with grace, not with angry tweets. Although I'm missing my 20-miler today, I can do it later this week. I can still run the marathon. So I have to change my diet; I've done that before. I'm getting over being sick and I'll have energy again soon. The worst thing I've experienced in the past week is my own bad attitude. But I am going to try to be more like Tuesday's child. I'm going to rest when I need to rest. I'm going to shop for some new food and live without pizza. I'm going to be a better role model for my kid! A better partner for my man! I will be graceful! And a lot less constipated.

11 April 2012

Week 14: 25 miles and... sidelined

First, my Week 14 recap. I had to trade one mid-week run for cross training because - get this - I laced my shoe too tight on last week's long run and I guess the top of my foot got bruised or something. After my 8-miler on Wednesday I had shooting pains and knew I'd have to take some time off. But I conquered the bike for a 50-minute workout on Friday and did my 12-miler (pain-free) on Saturday. And I took my first ice bath. Wow. An ice bath on top of runner's high is like very good drugs.

Pace range for this week: 9:33 to 9:55
Temperature range: 33 - 45 degrees

Details for Week 14 (Apr 2 - Apr 8):
Monday: off
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 8 miles (ouch!)
Thursday: off
Friday: 50 minutes cross (bike)
Saturday: 12 miles
Sunday: off

Week 14 went pretty well, but on Sunday afternoon, Maple got sick. Really sick. Our scanning thermometer is stupid (well, often wrong) but at one point it read 107.2. When she gets sick, Maple always has REALLY high fevers. The pediatric night nurse advised us to go to the ER, but when I went to wake Maple up, her temp was down to 99, so we let her sleep. The next day she was diagnosed with strep, the flu, and pneumonia. And I got sick too. My doctor didn't do any tests since I didn't have a fever, but she said my right lung was weak and that I probably have a touch of bronchitis or flu or pneumonia. She gave me a massive IV dose of Vitamin C and put me on a strict regimen of an inhaler (the kind used for asthma) and multiple supplements. As much as I worry about the overuse of antibiotics, I really wanted them, but I agreed to see what happened in 24 hours. If I got worse, she'd prescribe them. But I started getting better on Tuesday.

I usually run on Tuesday, but I didn't. When Wednesday came around, I was feeling a little better and wanted to exert myself to avoid the dreaded MS relapse. I jogged one mile. My lungs burned a little and I almost had an anxiety attack, but it felt good to do something. I'm hoping I can run a bit more tomorrow (Thursday), but I'm pretty sure my 20-miler is not going to happen on Saturday. That's the bad news. The good news is that my legs feel awesome after 3+ days off.

The question now is, what the heck do I do? I feel like the 20-miler is really important, but so is the taper. My current thought is that I'll replace this:

Week 15: rest, 5, 5 @MP, 5, rest, 20, rest (35 miles)
Week 16: rest, 5, 4 @MP, 5, rest, 12, rest (First taper week - 26 miles)

with this:

Week 15: rest/sick, rest/sick, 1, 3, 5, rest, 5 (14 miles of sick)
Week 16: rest, 5, 20, rest, 4@MP, 5, rest (34 miles)

This shortens my taper by half a week, but gets the 20-miler in. Maple and I will be visiting my folks from Tuesday to Sunday, which is what will allow me to do the mid-week 20-miler. I'll miss the long run in Week 16, but since it's the start of the taper, maybe that's okay. I don't think I have any hope of doing two longs runs during this week and next.

Anyone have any thoughts about that?

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm running "the marathon", which around here means Boston. I always say "I'm running a marathon, not the marathon." But I'm excited to volunteer at the Marathon on Monday. Sean and I will be minding the clock at the 20k mark and wearing earplugs to mitigate the effects of the Wellesley scream tunnel.

01 April 2012

Week 13: 35 miles

My legs felt good this week. I think sticking to the Ravennas is the right thing for now; every time I try to change my footwear, I am sorry. My mid-week "semi-long" pace runs started to taper this week, and I had an amazing 5-miler at 8:34 pace. My long run this week was slower (10:45) than my recent long runs. I have to trust that the magic of the taper will allow me to run 26.2 miles faster than I can run 19 right now.

I go into every long run with some fear, which makes sense because I've never had a lot of trust in my body. I've always been scared of seeing what my limits are. When I was younger, I remember attempting new tricks in gymnastics, or new dives when I was on the diving team. If it was too scary, I'd just refuse to do them, like a horse who refuses a jump and sends the rider flying. I put myself out there and seemed to be trying, but in my heart I knew I was refusing. It applied to running too. I ran intermittently in high school and college, but I was always a slow runner. When it got too tough, I slowed down.

And now, because of my MS, I have an even better excuse. About six years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a migraine (I've never had one before or since). I spent the next six hours throwing up, and I completely lost my equilibrium. It felt like I was in a fun house, falling into the walls and crashing into things, with the whole world spinning uncontrollably. After a week in the hospital and countless pharmaceuticals, I got better, but I haven't gotten over it. I'm scared my body will betray me again, especially if I push it too hard. I spend a lot of time worrying about losing some critical bodily function, like walking or controlling my bladder. I anticipate the next breakdown. But my husband reminds me that it's not happening now, and he's right I need to focus on what's happening in this moment and not worry about what might be.

My tempo/pace runs, speedwork, long runs, they are all tinged with fear. Training for this marathon has helped; I'm doing distances that I never thought I'd do, and pushing myself in ways I haven't before. But I think there's more...

Pace range for this week: 8:34 to 10:45
Temperature range: 27 - 43 degrees

Details for Week 13 (Mar 26 - Apr 1):
Monday: off
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 5 miles (8:34 pace!)
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: off
Saturday: 19 miles
Sunday: 1 mile with Maple

26 March 2012

Week 12: 32 miles

Four runs a week is starting to agree with me. I used to prefer five or six, but with the long runs creeping up in mileage and my ankle tendons a semi-consistent source of semi-pain, it's making more sense for me to stick to four. I'm supposed to cross train on one of my three days off, but I prefer to watch The Biggest Loser and lay in bed. Can I consider it cross-training when I get up to refill the ice bag? The only awkward thing about taking Sundays and Mondays off is that my mood take a dive on Mondays and I forget to breathe sometimes. But I'm learning to remember that it's second-day-off syndrome, so I shouldn't beat myself up over eating four candy bars in an hour. Right?

Speaking of candy bars, I think I forgot to mention that in Week 11 I experimented with a wheat-free sugar-free diet. Sometimes when I have MS symptoms (like the random tingly foot I had a couple of weeks ago) I convince myself that some extreme dietary measure will save me. This usually takes the form of eschewing dairy, wheat, and/or sugar consumption. In Week 11 I avoided all those things and, aside from achieving freakish bowel regularity, I didn't feel any different. As a result, I ate everything in sight during Week 12. It was crazy and a little grotesque. I should be less extreme and more consistent. After the marathon I might blow up like a balloon, which is what happened when I stopped hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2001. I might be the first marathoner to be on The Biggest Loser. We should all have a dream.

In Week 12, I did all my runs as prescribed by Dr. Hal. I did my final "longish" pace run (8 miles) at my target 9:00 pace, which as I've said a few times is really more like a tempo pace for me. I felt pretty proud after that one. I don't kid myself that I'll run the entire marathon at 9:00, but it's good to have a challenge. From now on my pace runs are five miles or less, while my long runs stretch to 20 miles.

For my long run this week ("only" 13 miles), I met up with Kat from Eating the Week. We ran the Boston course, although we were too early for the crowds, water stops, and general fanfare that accompanies the last long run for Boston hopefuls. I ran five before meeting her, and we ran eight together. I have never experienced eight faster miles. Not pace fast (duh), but blink-and-they're-done fast. It was great, especially since my stupid ankle tendon was sore the whole time. Maybe those shoe experiments from last week weren't such a good idea. Or maybe I'm going to have ankle issues no matter what shoes I wear. Anyway, running alongside Kat was like running with an old friend. We chatted about all sorts of fun stuff like Viagra! And vomit! Afterwards, we had donuts at my dining room table with her family and Maple. I really hope to run with her again soon because it'd be nice if 20 miles felt like four.

On Sunday, Maple and I ran a mile together in the rain. That was the farthest she's ever run. I'm so proud. I now know what it's like to really really wish your kid takes after you. Well sort of. I hope she's faster than me.

Pace range for this week: 9:00 to 10:09
Temperature range: 41 - 60 degrees

Details for Week 12 (Mar 19 - Mar 25):
Monday: off
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: 8 miles (pace)
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: off
Saturday: 13 miles
Sunday: 1 mile with Maple