Road to a marathon?

As I said before, I was waiting until after the Rome 30k to officially make the decision as to whether I’d run one this spring or not, and I survived the 30k, so I guess it’s time to commit.  I will say yes.  I’m running a marathon, and it will be in Albany…..unless I get too harassed by my running friends about it, and then I may disappear and run one the week before or after just to sneak it in.  Yep, that’s right, I’ve already checked into back up choices.  Just a fair warning to all of you who run with me and are reading this.

So, why a 30K?  To me, it just seemed like the next logical progression, and according to my training plan, I’d have had 18 miles to run that day anyway, so why not?  Oh yeah, yes, I’ve been following a marathon plan even though I haven’t admitted to everyone out there that I was planning to do a marathon.  I’m actually in week 9 of the plan that I picked up after Savannah.  So far, the running load seems pretty well suited to the level I’m at.  I still may do some tweaking to my plan towards the end, but the Rome 30K actually fit well into my plan despite opinions of some of the naysayers out there.  The plan was originally supposed to go to 26 miles, but I have no desire to hit that mileage prior to my full, so I changed it up to hit 22 miles, so I’m actually spending at least a couple of weeks at each distance as it increases.  I think I prefer this to continually hitting a new distance every other week, and I’ve yet to accept a plan exactly as it is written, so I always follow a “Stephanie” plan, so why change now.  Here’s my plan: marathon plan

When I originally signed up for the Rome 30k, Jeneen signed up to run it too, then about a month ago, Jessica signed up to run it with us as well, so the 3 of us booked a room made plans about when we were leaving on Friday to head to Rome, GA.  Then, about 3 weeks ago, Jeneen was told she needed to take 2 weeks off due to an injury, so she had to bail since she wouldn’t be ready.  No problem, Jessica was going.  I was good.  I still had some company, but wait, the week of Thanksgiving Jessica started having some pain in her Achilles, but she seemed to be dealing with it ok.  On November 29th, I got a text from my BRF Dani telling me that she had registered for the Rome 30K.  She’d wanted to go, but due to work couldn’t, and somehow the stars aligned, and she could now go.  Woo hoo!  The 3 of us were going to have a blast.  Ok, make that 2.  On December 3rd, I got the word that Jessica was having to bail due to a new pain in the hip.  WTH!  At this point, I was just hoping that I wasn’t the next one going down on the injured list.

I think that week was one of the longest yet since I started running, but luckily I had a huge ornament exchange that I was hosting on Monday night, and the rest of the week, I was finalizing plans for our running club’s Christmas Party, so I was slightly distracted.  I was confident that I could run the distance, but I kept going back in forth in my mind about my race plan.  I think I was still debating it Friday when I picked Dani up from work around 3:50 in Atlanta until I finally vocalized it to her on the ride to Rome.  I was planning to stick with her for the first 12 miles at a 12 minute/mile pace using our 3:1 run:walk ratio because that is my training pace for my full, then for the last 6+ miles, I was going to try to pick up the pace a little bit.  She took that time to make it very clear that she was not planning on picking up the pace with me, but I already knew that I told her, and I didn’t expect her to.  We somehow made it through traffic easily and barely had to stop on 75N which is amazing on a Friday afternoon in Atl.  I’m beginning to think that this 30K was meant for Dani and I to be running together from the beginning, and honestly, if I wasn’t running it with her, then I probably would have goofed it up.  She helps me stick to my plans.

When we arrived in Rome, we were able to swing by the local running store and grab our packets.  I had remembered my water belt, but I had forgotten my water bottles on the counter before I left the house, so I decided to buy a set of replacement ones, mine leaked anyway.  I’ve gotten in the habit of bringing my own water even though races provide it.  Perhaps it’s a bit of a control issue(most likely), but I like having my water to take my Gu when I want rather than having to wait for a water stop.  As we were checking out, we asked where to eat dinner, and they recommended Bella Roma.  On the way, we passed our hotel and the starting line for the race….check, we won’t have to figure that out after dinner.  The restaurant was an Italian restaurant, and it offered pasta, pizza, calzones, etc. Some of the pastas sounded delicious, but due to my allergies which are still unknown (even after allergy testing), I thought I’d better stick to something simple that I felt pretty safe about, so I ordered pizza, and Dani had a calzone.  I also had my traditional 2 beers the night before a long race, and then we were headed back to the hotel to check in.

dani

Dani after dinner

As we were waiting to check in, the lady in front of us asked for a late check out, and she was told the latest that the Days Inn could do was 12:30PM.  She was thrilled and said that’d be PLENTY of time.  I looked at Dani and we had a bit of a chuckle because that was going to be cutting it close for us, but we’d take what we could get, and that was as late as they’d allow.  I think we got to the room and settled in around 7:00PM, but it felt like it was 10PM.  We talked some more about the game plan for the next day, we planned to leave the hotel at 6:45AM since we were a 1/2 mile from the start/finish and the race would start at 8AM.  I told her that I was going to walk back to the hotel after the race and let her drive my car back since we were a 1/2 mile from the start/finish.  That way, I could already be showered by the time she made it to the hotel since we were on a tight schedule.

As soon as I tried to go to sleep, the feeling of being tired left.  I think I woke up about every 30 minutes throughout the night thinking about everything including my race plan, the Christmas Party that night, what I was wearing for the race, how many Gu’s I had planned to take, etc.  I finally gave up on sleep just before 4AM and grabbed my phone for something to do until Dani was awake.  I read through all the post on Facebook wishing us good luck from after we went to bed, and I even had some well wishes already coming in from that morning as well.  Dani always gets up ridiculously early for races, so she was awake around 4:45 I think, so I could start getting ready.  Yep, I think I was dressed and ready by 5:30AM.  If the race could have started at 6AM, I would have been good with that at this point.  I really just wanted to get started, so I could have it done.  We killed some more time and then headed out at 6:45AM.

I wasn’t expecting it to be so cold.  The winds were around 10mph, and I hadn’t paid attention to the forecast for the winds, so what I had planned to wear wasn’t quite enough.  Luckily, I had my Brooks jacket with me that I had bought in Savannah at the expo, but it was thin, so we sat in the car for about 30 minutes after we arrived since the crowd seemed pretty thin.  Finally, we got out to head over to the porta potties where there was no line still at 7:20ish.  As we left the porta potties, we ran into Stephanie and Keri from our local running club on our way to the starting line area.

rome30k

L-R Me, Keri, Dani, & Stephanie freezing

The Rome 30K was a very small race, so there was no corrals or wave start.  They counted down, fired the gun, and we were off.  We had driven the first few miles on the way to the restaurant last night, so we knew what those miles were like, but that was the ONLY thing we knew about the course other than the promises that it was flat other than a hill around mile 3 and that same hill again around mile 14.  In my experience, race directors’ opinions of flat usually don’t agree with mine, so I definitely had my concerns as to what would lie ahead, so Dani and I started off around the 12m/m pace that we had planned, and we hit the road for another training run.  The first couple of miles were very flat until around mile 3 where we started hitting some very small inclines and the decent hill of which they had warned, but it wasn’t anything crazy.  The plan was to Gu about every 3.5 miles since that would be about every 40 minutes, but since that wouldn’t fall at a water stop I’d need water.  I had decided to skip wearing my water belt, but instead I had put one of the water bottles in my skirt pocket.  I figured I’d refill it when it started running low, and it would cover me between water stops.  It worked really well and kept me from having to wear the belt which was nice, so I think I’ll do this again for my marathon.  Around mile 6 we passed the first of the transitions for the relay teams.  By the time we had reached it, I think only 2-3 relay teams were still waiting.  Shortly after we passed this area, a police car started following us with its lights flashing.  I looked at Dani, and asked, “what happened to everyone behind us?”  Neither of us could see the others, and we both KNEW we had 10 people at least behind us.  I was beginning to wonder if they’d quit, but I knew Keri was back there, and I didn’t think she’d quit plus it was still pretty early for that many people to drop out.  There was a guy in the first mile who seemed to be wheezing probably due to the cold, so maybe he dropped out, but surely there weren’t that many who’d thrown in the towel.  We’d also passed a porta pottie somewhere around mile 4 maybe, but I didn’t “really” have to go, so I skipped it, but of course, now that there’s a cop on our tails and no porta potties I was starting to think about it.  We passed some rural areas with patches of woods that I wanted to duck into, but I figured that wouldn’t be the best choice right in front of the police.  I didn’t know if they’d give me a ticket for that or not, and I certainly wasn’t in the mood to find out during a race, so I just tried to stop thinking about it, and I hoped that my body would reabsorb the fluids.  Yeah, I know that’s crazy, but for some reason, the urge usually disappears during a race if I can put it off long enough.  The course remained relatively flat, so we could see runners in front of us most of the time, and we were starting to gain on a couple of runners even though we were sticking to our 12 m/m pace.

We had passed a few runners by the time we completed mile 9, and I had sped up about 10 seconds on that mile probably due to having people in sight, so we slowed back down a little for mile 10, and somewhere in mile 11 I looked back and Dani was starting to fall behind.  I’d already started to pick up my pace and pull away without realizing it.  I’d planned on it being around mile 12, so I wasn’t too far ahead of plan, and Dani waved to me, so I waved back which was our way of telling each other, “see you at the finish.”

Now, it was time to test my plan.  Could I consistently pick up the pace slightly all the way to the end for negative splits?  My legs felt great at this point, so I thought I could, but I still had a long way to go, and the last 2.6 miles would be new waters for me, but here goes nothing.  Around mile 13, I caught a girl that I had seen early on and had hoped to catch later in the race because she seemed to just be taking random walk breaks rather than scheduled ones.  As I was coming up behind, she was walking next to a guy, and as soon as I approached, she looked back at me and took off running.  Ok, I’ll chalk that up as coincidence.  Now, my watch started to beep for my walk break, so I broke to a walk.  She was about 10 feet in front of me and did too.  Hmmm.  Now, I’m starting to think she’s messing with me.  Little does she know that I’m stronger now than I was at the beginning of the race when she passed me early on.  My legs weren’t loose yet then.  I’ll play your little game chick, and I’ll win!  GAME ON!!!!  As we passed mile 13, and my watch beeped for me to run again as she took off too, I decided to push the pace and see just how bad she wanted to stay ahead of me.  My run pace was in the mid 9’s, and mile 14 came in at 10:45, but I passed her.  BOOM!  Take that!  Ok, maybe it was just all in my head, and it was a coincidence that she was running and walking just when I would and speeding up as I did, but either way she was going down & she did.

After I passed her, I still had over 4 miles to go, so I slowed it back down a little and settled back into my plan to gradually increase until the end.  I had topped the last hill shortly after I passed my victim, so I was feeling pretty good about being able to get negative splits the rest of the way.  Around mile 16, we broke off to head through a park on a paved path.  We hadn’t run this on the way out, so I had no idea what this part was like.  It started to go downhill though, and we were running by a river.  That was all well and good, but I knew that meant that I had to climb back uphill at some point.  We ended up having a couple of short steep hills (granted they were only 20-30 feet long, but they’re still hills to me!) in that last mile with the final one coming as I made the turn for the last 200 yards to the finish, but I made it!!!!!!!!!!!!  Check out my Garmin here:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/413209805

Official gun time was 3:38:43, and my Garmin time was 3:38:12.  For the most part, my splits were negative, and right now, I feel really good about a marathon in March.  I feel like my training is right where I’d like for it to be, and my goal for my marathon is to complete it in under 5 hours, but I’d be thrilled with under 4:45, so there you have it folks.  It’s in writing on the internet now Kevin.  I just put it out there for the world to see.  Not only did I commit to completing a marathon, but I just shared a time goal as well.  😉

Allstate 13.1

Early Sunday morning, I met my running peeps from Moms Run This Town and Atlanta Southside Runners at Walmart to carpool to Brookhaven for the Allstate 13.1.  We arrived a little before 6AM with our crew which gave us plenty of time to meet up with some people who were meeting us there and to hit the porta potties, take photos, check bags, and just hang out with each other for a little while.  Everyone seemed overly relaxed for this race.  For many, it was a training run in preparation for their upcoming full marathons, and for me, it was a training run for my upcoming half in Savannah, which would hopefully translate into a great race for everyone.  Not having the pressure of a time looming over my head is often when I run my best races.

Around 6:50AM, we headed to our starting corrals.  A few people with us were in the A, B, & C corrals which were the only actual corrals.  The rest of us lined up by the pace team signs in one huge corral, but since it was a smaller race, this wasn’t an issue.  My plan was not to PR this race since I still haven’t worked up to running over 10 miles since my injuries, so I headed towards the 2:20 finish time with Dani, Jeneen, and Keri.  On the way, Jeneen was questioning whether she needed to line up at 2:20 or 2:15 because she wanted to PR, but she sometimes underestimates herself, so she was thinking 2:20 would be a PR (which it would be), but 2:20 for a PR for her was aiming pretty low considering how she’s been running lately, so I piped up and told her she had to beat my PR which was 2:17, so she had to get in the 2:15 corral.  I had all the confidence in the world that she’d have no problem crushing it.  A quick fist bump, and we left her at 2:15.

MRTT McDonough/Stockbridge  https://www.facebook.com/groups/mcdonough.ga.mrtt/

Left to right
Keri, Dani, Me, Jeneen, & Joy

The corrals started to move, and Dani and I started walking forward.  We were about 1/10th of a mile from the start and everyone was starting to run, but I didn’t want any added distance since I was already worried about hitting the wall at mile 10, so I walked to the start.  At the end of mile 1, Dani told me we were ahead of our planned pace, and we were, so we slowed down, but that lasted until about the end of mile 2 for me.  At that point, I got tired of trying to “watch” my watch, so I just decided to run a comfortable pace for me.  I was still using the run:walk method that I’ve been using, and I kept it at the 2:30 run to 1:00 walk that I’ve trained with, but I ran the speed I felt like running.  This might not have been the best plan for a “training” run, but I had initially thought I’d try to run 8 miles or so at tempo, so just running what was comfortable was a good gauge for me to determine where I was in my quest for a PR in Savannah.  Looking back at my splits, my flat, rolling hills, and downhill miles were pretty close to the pace I need in Savannah, but I definitely struggled on the long uphills.  Somewhere around mile 8 or 9, I decided to add an extra 10-15 seconds into my run portion of my interval, so I’d simply run while I continued to count to 10 or 15 after my watch beeped to start my walk.  By doing this,  it was also taking 10-15 seconds off of my walk break.  I did this for 3-4 miles other than around 10.5 miles where I had to walk a little extra up a hill.  The extra run time didn’t seem too difficult, and I have 4 weeks until Savannah, so I plan to play around a little with a 2:45 to :45 ratio between now and then.  My last 2 miles ended up being my fastest which seems to be a typical pattern for me.  I think when I get a certain distance from the finish adrenaline takes over, but by the time I reached the finish line after those last 2 miles, I was out of breath and felt slightly nauseated.  I think I can speed up the rest of my half, but I won’t have that much left in my tank at the end.  I had more reserves left for those last two miles than I’d want if I were trying for a PR.  It’d definitely make me wonder if I had really given my all if my last 2 miles at Savannah are that much faster.

My Garmin data from Allstate http://connect.garmin.com/activity/386840209

I’m still liking the Galloway run:walk method, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be doing as well coming back from injury if I was trying to just run the entire way.  I still feel some twinges in my hip when I do long distances, but the walk breaks seem to be just enough to keep the twinge at bay.  I’d probably have re-injured myself by now if I wasn’t using the run:walk method, so I plan to stick with it for a while.  Part of it is curiosity too I think.  I almost feel like I’m doing speed work using it, so I’m curious to see if I can continue to hold the running speeds that I’m hitting while gradually lowering my walk speed and/or time and increasing my run times.  It’s not something I’m planning to do quickly, and it would obviously start with only short runs, and maybe the last couple of miles of long runs, but it’s something that has peaked my interest to try.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line
Official time 2:22:58

Allstate 13.1

2 medals because I entered the Atl Challenge by completing the Allstate and Publix half marathons

Excitement is off the charts….

….for my upcoming race schedule that is!

After my injection in my neck last week, most of the numbness in my arm seems to be gone.  I’ve only had mild numbness once or twice since the day after the injection.  I still haven’t attempted to get back on my bike, but my focus has now moved onto my upcoming running race schedule.

This Sunday, I will be running the Allstate 13.1 in Atlanta, but it is simply a training run for the Savannah Rock N Roll Half which I want to try to PR.  My plan for Allstate is to run part of it as a tempo run.  I’m thinking 8-9 miles. I then have the Monster Dash on Oct. 20th before the Savannah RnR on November 9th.

My current PR for a half is 2:17:07.  I’m still using the run:walk method, but I’m optimistic that I may be able to PR using it at Savannah. I just need to either speed up my walk or change up my ratio.  Yesterday, I was able to average a leisurely 11 minutes a mile on a 7.7 mile run using a 2:1 ratio.  When I got home and looked at my Garmin numbers, my run pace was usually around the low 9’s or high 8’s, but my walk was really slow, so I’m hoping to work on this over the next 4 weeks, and see if I can get my overall pace down for Savannah.  I’ve really been enjoying using the run:walk method, and I feel like my recovery time from day to day is much better.  I am no longer reaching the end of my long run feeling exhausted like I couldn’t run any further.

My Garmin data from Sunday

After Savannah, my race schedule is going to get a little crazy!  I have the Serenbe Hill Country 15K on Nov. 23rd.  I ran it last year the week after my very first half, and it KICKED my butt!  I’m hoping for some redemption this year.  It’s an awesome race, but it’s a trail run, and I haven’t ran many trails.  My biggest concern is whether I need to stick with the 15K or drop to the 5K because after Serenbe, I just registered for the Rome 30K on December 7th because of peer pressure and due to being temporarily insane.  I’ll be running it with one of my BRF’s Jeneen.  It’s a big jump to try 30K for me, but I need to test the waters of farther distances.  Right now, I just want to finish the 30K and not die at the end. 😉  If the 30K goes well, then I will be moving up my timeline on my first marathon to run Albany on March 1st, but no commitments yet!

For next year, I am registered for the Red Nose Half, Albany, Publix, and the Ragnar Trail Relay in Conyers, GA.  I’m looking forward to getting a Ragnar Relay, marathon, and Half Ironman checked off my running bucket list sometime in the next year provided I can stay injury free, so stay tuned for updates on my journey towards these goals!