Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ten Things I Learned While Running A Marathon: Part I

I finished a marathon! Whoohoo! On September 6th, 2015, I ran my first full marathon. 26.2 grueling miles. Here are TEN THINGS I LEARNED WHILE RUNNING A MARATHON (PART I):

1. Training is more of a commitment than the race
And what I mean by that is that in my training to get to the mileage point I needed in order to feel comfortable going into the race, I ran big runs of 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, and then another 24 miles. For someone at an 11 to 11:30 minute per mile as I was, that's a 3.5 hour PLUS commitment on a weekly basis. For six weeks. So for every week for six weeks I had to find four hours in my busy schedule to run...before it got to be 80 degrees, and since 90 was the running temp for much of our high desert summer, that meant 5:30 and 6 AM start times.

2. You're not the only one racing with you, you're just the only one running
By this, I mean, who is awake when you're awake and pounding the pavement to chat with you on the phone as you're bitching and whining and hurting. Who is willing to stay on the phone with you for an hour or so to get you through the next six, eight, or ten miles. I spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents and with my friend Taran. Taran because she is three hours ahead and it was a decent hour, and my parents because by the time I was truly dying, they were usually awake (around 7 or 7:30AM). I also got a chance to check in with other people who I don't normally, however, and that was a true gift. There were a number of people who ran a couple miles with me here and there - safely nestled in my ear, connected through the miracle of cellular service.

By this though, I also mean the day of the race. My goal was 4 hours and 45 minutes. In my mind, that meant my CREW would see me off, have breakfast, meet me mid-point, and then see me at the finish. They probably thought that initially too.

The night before, however, husband's godmother innocently asked, "well have you thought out your checkpoints and where you are going to see her?" That lead to an in-depth poring over the course map where we determined that spectators could see their runners at miles 5.5 and 9 quite easily, as well as check in at mile 13 as the race crisscrossed the start/finish area in a figure eight. I declaimed what I thought my pace would be and we mapped out times for my CREW to be them leisurely stops about an hour in (5.5 miles), a half hour waiting game where they had to cross the street to see me as I looped three and a half miles to mile 9, and of course, another hour-ish until I made it halfway.

The only problem with our strategy, however, is that I took off from the start line in the 30 degree weather with energy to burn (more on that later) and muscles that were too frozen to know what was happening. Instead of an 11 minute pace, I clocked sub-tens for the first couple miles and finally texted my CREW via Siri that I was ahead of schedule.

Needless to say, they missed me at mile 5.5 as I arrived almost ten minutes before I said I would - by the time they called to see where I was, I was rounding off the end of mile six. But they scrambled and saw me at mile 9, caught me at mile 13, and then my husband's god-sister valiantly offered to pace me for a mile or so at mile 14, which was wonderful and then again at mile 22-24, which was much needed. My family and Tyler's godfamily hip-hopped the remainder of the course (easily once they caught on to my speedy pace), and were the most supportive team ever.

My mom and dad with Banyan and Mom's new corgi puppy, Scout. Best crew ever, though the pups got a little tired of waiting around for everyone.

So you're not the only one running, you're just the legs of the whole operation. Everyone needed a nap by the time we were done!

3. Dress to Impress
So this summer in Bend was abnormally warm, for the first time in the five years since we moved here, we invested in an A/C unit. Mostly because we were scared of killing the animals because it was so hot, though it did have the side benefit of helping us humans sleep easier.  Bearing that in mind, I tried to be as wise with my training runs as humanly possible, rising at a ridiculous hour in order to be done before the temps elevated much over 75 degrees. After my race in June that ended in 85 degree heat (and later got to the high 90s), I wasn't interested in repeating the experience.

True to form though, Bend nights finally got cold again, and we had the first chilly weather of the season for Labor Day weekend, when I had my race. It was TWENTY EIGHT degrees when I started my race.

When you run a half marathon, there isn't a whole lot of need to have variegated gear to account for changing weather. You're just not running that long. For my marathon, the temp was supposed to go from 28 degrees to 65 degrees in the ~5 hours I would be running. Think: down vest to tank top weather. This was a whole new ballpark for me as I don't own running sleeves and didn't own cold-to-hot headwear (I love my new Buff headband and wear it constantly). I started in my Northface jacket over a slimmer zip up sweater that I could shed while running, but decided against the heavier jacket minutes before the start of the race and just started in the zip up. I tucked my red, chilly fingers in the sleeves of the jacket and was happy I wore thicker running pants than I otherwise would have.

But sure enough, by mile 13, the jacket was gone (handed off to my CREW) and the headband not quite so firmly over my ears, and I was toasty and heated in a tank top! It's a different sort of animal, dressing for a marathon...

4. Too Much of a Good Thing
So you know how it's not usually until after the fact that everyone tells you the stuff they assumed you knew? Apparently many hobby-marathoners keep their high mileage (20+ miles) runs to two or three at the most. I did FIVE and ran into a wall. A very hard wall made out of thyroid fun, exhaustion, nausea, and some dizziness. "Overtraining," friends told me. "Right," I scoffed. And then runner friends mentioned the aforementioned fun fact about high mileage runs. Thanks, guys.

The one advantage to overtraining is that it literally forced me to taper for a solid two weeks. So while I was nervous on race day, because I hadn't done more than 10 miles in a row since two and a half weeks prior, I had energy to burn and that kept my little legs pumping and made it impossible to slow myself down to where I "thought" I should be! I finished ten minutes ahead of my goal, and was running solid ten minute miles until mile 18, when I was training at 11+ minute miles.

Finished with a mileage pace 45 seconds per mile faster than my training runs!

5. Music to Move To
What you don't realize is how much time you'll spend just running. Ugh. Lots. For my race I managed to get through with a pre-planned playlist: don't guess with this! I sat down and spent a couple hours putting together a playlist just for my race. With my half marathons, I usually just skip around my entire library as necessary or I use RockMyRun - a very cool running playlist app with pre-mixed playlists. Don't screw around with a full marathon though.

For my training runs, I made a lot of phone calls. Lots.

And listened to a couple books on tape.

So for my actual race, I did have a book on tape queued just in case, but between my music and my crew, I never actually needed it! There's something to be said for knowing you're going to see friendly cheering faces every four or five miles.

Soooo this post is now really long, so you'll just have to wait til the next one for the remaining things I learned!