Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week Twenty: Life After the Marathon

Autumn Red

A Passion for Euclidean Geometry

Hiding_Sort of

Week of October 21, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Slow walk around the neighborhood (untimed)

Wednesday: Off (flew back to Texas, so there was plenty of walking around airports with my luggage)

Thursday:  Evening run!  The first post-marathon run.  29 minutes total, with 10 minutes of slow running.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Power-walked to the bank and back, 26 min. total.

Sunday: First post-marathon LONG RUN.  42 min. total with 30 min. running at a comfortable pace.

Estimated mileage: 7.8 miles. Total minutes: 97.

I flew back to Texas on Wednesday and returned to work on Thursday.  I am so glad that I took several days off from work after the marathon; I can’t even imagine trying to run a marathon on Sunday and then working on Monday.  For the work that I do, which involves a lot of time on my feet, walking to and fro, that would have been complete torture.

And I’m happy to report that I’ve even run twice since the big race!  I felt pretty good during both runs, though I am experiencing a little twinge of something uncomfortable on the back of my leg, behind my knee.  I think with some more time, whatever it is will heal itself.  While I am getting myself ready to begin training for my next half-marathon (another Armadillo Dash!), I’m not in a rush to begin piling on the long run miles.

This week I’d like to return to my yoga mat for some dearly missed stretching and quiet time.  Thank goodness I haven’t lost all my flexibility due to marathon training, but I’m ready to work on my back and hips on the mat.

What’s on your fitness agenda for the week?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon

Detroit Marathon 2013_People Mover 10_26_13 cropped

At long last: the marathon report.  Because the first marathon is such a landmark event in a runner’s life, I feel a hint of trepidation at the thought of trying to write about it.  But in the end, I can’t NOT write about it, so here we go.

3:30 AM: I nearly have a heart attack when my alarm goes off in the middle of the night.  I manage not to turn it off but instead hit the snooze button and end up waking up my brother too.  Oops.  (But he’s nice about it.)  I wash my face and dress, unsure how exactly to layer warmer clothes over my racing clothes.  In the end, I wear pink pajama pants over my running skirt and get nicknamed “Pajamas” at our after-party celebration.  I also wear a favorite tattered sweatshirt—my Red Wings sweatshirt.  Perfect for the Detroit Marathon!

Moon Peeking Out

Running Outfit_Maybe

I eat a cold breakfast and drink cold coffee, grateful to have done most of my breakfast prep the night before.  It turns out that I have more than enough time and can spend a few minutes on Facebook, posting some race-day thoughts and letting my family know that they can track my progress during the race.  Once the race starts, my sister decides to post updates on my status for everyone to see (so sweet of her!).

James (JD) and his friend John pick me up a bit after 5 AM, and we head into the city for the race.  We arrive and park easily in the pre-dawn darkness and head to Cobo Joe’s, a bar that several running groups have rented out for the day.  JD secured John and me spots in Cobo Joe’s, and I am touched by his care.  It’s a chilly morning, and having a warm, safe spot to leave our things is wonderful.  We finish hydrating and pre-race-fueling and head out to the start.

We line up toward the back of the pack.  JD is hoping to run a sub-5:30; I’m just hoping to finish.  We marvel at the sea of runners around us; the energy is electric.  We are all here to run, ready to run, can’t WAIT to run!  It’s an exciting place to be.  Despite the chilly morning, I barely feel the cold.  I just feel happy and ready for what the day will bring.

Miles 0-8: “I think this is going to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”  We start the course about 20 minutes after the fastest marathoners cross the starting line, and it’s slow going at first.  The crowd is packed.  JD jogs slowly; I alternate walking and jogging.  We see piles of clothes as people start stripping off their warm layers in anticipation of warmed-up bodies.  JD tells me that any clothes dropped in the first few miles of the race are collected and donated to homeless shelters.

The start of the marathon is full of incredible sights, my favorite of which is the run up and over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada.  As we approach the bridge, we can see the runners moving like ants along the bridge.  Running up to the bridge, I turn to JD and his friend Renee and say, “I may be exaggerating, but I think this is going to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”  I am bubbling with joy.  By the time we’re on the bridge, we can look out onto the water and the sunlit city.  The marathon has begun.

We pass over the bridge and enter Windsor, Canada to begin the international portion of our race.  (Did you know the Detroit Marathon is an international event?  We run over a bridge and through a tunnel—to Canada and back!)  Windsor is fun and festive, and we feel good.  JD is keeping a very solid, steady pace; I’m keeping up with him just fine.  We run along the riverfront and enter the underwater tunnel to come back into the United States.  The tunnel is…interesting.  I have to duck beneath and between people who have stopped to take photos at the flags that mark the border between the US and Canada.  There are a lot of people taking pictures during the race; I’m not one of them, hence no real race photos in this post.

JD had warned me that the tunnel feels stuffy and hot compared to the cool October air outside, and he’s right.  The tunnel is fun to enter, but I’m glad to get out when it ends.  On top of the refreshing air, when we come out of the tunnel, we’re greeted by cheering crowds and signs that say, “Welcome home!”  We’re back in Detroit, and we keep running.

Miles 8-17: Slow and steady keeps the miles flying by.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of this part of the race.  We still feel pretty good, though my knees are starting to feel tight.  This is a neighborhood part of the course; we ran through Corktown, Mexicantown, and Indian Village, I believe.

Mile 17-18: How long is one mile?  After Mile 17, JD and I lose each other, and I lose track of where I am in the race.  I stop paying attention to the mile markers then become convinced that I have definitely passed the Mile 18 marker.  Nope!  So Mile 17 feels really long.  I start pacing my walk breaks so that I can alternate bites of a Clif bar with water or Gatorade.  JD and I have been taking a really conservative approach to fuel and hydration—neither of us wants to have that sloshy, full feeling in the stomach while we’re running.

Miles 18-20: Preparing for the hardest run of my life. Miles 18-20 take us out toward Belle Isle, a small island in the Detroit River.  Belle Isle is rumored to be the hardest part of the marathon.  Crowd support is sparse, the Isle is windy, and you’re about to pass the 20-mile mark, which is the start of new miles for a lot of first-time marathoners.  By Mile 18, I’m already into new miles, but knowing that we are now in single-digit numbers for the remaining miles is exciting and terrifying.  I don’t feel tired or low on energy, but my knees and hips are starting to feel painfully sore.  Not injured sore, work-out sore.  Which is, I think, about as good as I could hope to feel by Mile 20 of my first marathon.

Despite the pain, running over the bridge to Belle Isle is fun.  I look out and see the Ambassador Bridge that we ran over hours ago.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  It’s hard to believe that by Mile 20, I’ve been running for almost four hours.  I’m at 3:46:15, and I start to realize and believe that a sub-5:00 marathon is within my reach.  I keep trucking!

Miles 20-22: Onto Belle Isle and beginning our descent into pain.  Contrary to what I’ve been told, I actually love running on Belle Isle.  It’s beautiful and peaceful.  My legs hurt pretty bad, but the wind is calm and the Isle is green and sparkling.  I’m in love. 

Miles 22-24: Holding on for dear life.  Mile 22 is just before we cross the bridge to leave Belle Isle and run along the Detroit riverfront.  The riverfront is gorgeous, but I can’t really appreciate it because I’m in too much pain by now.  I set tiny goals: run to the next mile marker, run for two more minutes, walk for just two minutes and then start running again.  I am doing everything I can to keep up the pace because 5:00!  It could be mine!  And how can I not go for it while I’m here and injury-free?

But oh, the pain.  At this point, the effort to run is purely mental.  My legs have long since given up getting any relief from the searing tightness.  They feel a bit numb from the effort.  But not numb enough: pain is taking over all my faculties. 

Miles 24-26: Please don’t cry.  I crawl through the last whole miles, which take us back onto city streets.  They are literally the hardest miles I’ve ever run.  I struggle to not start crying.  We’re so close to the end, and I know if I start crying, I will lose it completely.  The pain, oh, it needs to end…

Mile 26 to the finish: It’s almost over.  It’s a strange feeling when you cross Mile 26 of a marathon.  You’re basically done, but wait, no, that damn fifth of a mile sits between you and the sweet finish line.  I feel like I run to the finish line in slow motion; I am “running” so slowly that it’s not purely an illusion.  But the watch doesn’t lie: if I can just claw my way to the finish, I’ll finish in under five hours.  I want this so bad that it’s all I can think about.  Finish, finish, finish…

FINISH: Wow, that was amazing.  And at last, it’s over.  26.2 miles covered in one morning.  I’m stunned and elated to have finished in an official time of 4:56:50, more than five hours after the official start of the marathon.

Surprisingly, I don’t start crying at the finish.  I wanted to cry earlier, but now I’m just done.  I move through the finish chute, collecting my medal and enough food to feed me for the next month.  I’m quickly chilled after I stop running and end up tying my space blanket around my waist to keep my bare legs warm.  I sit to rest a bit, eat, and drink some water and chocolate milk.  I have a hard time getting up again, but I stagger down to the end to wait for JD.  I see him and feel relief—he looks so happy with a marathon medal dangling around his neck.  We compare loot (SO MUCH FOOD!) and wait for his friend Renee, who is not far behind.

After congratulations and time-checking, we head back to Cobo Joe’s for drinks and pizzas.  It is truly a party, with cheers and smiles and lots of congratulations.  I am so happy to be with these people today and so lucky to have been able to run this race.  I eat until I am pleasantly full, making sure to drink water too.  I chat with JD’s running coaches, one of whom saw me on the course and cheered for me.  They are an absolute delight, and I wish I lived close enough to join the running group for their twice-weekly runs.

Finally, after basking in the afterglow in the city, we pack up and head out.  JD and I are both…beyond words.  Happy, relieved, full of pizza.  It’s been a good day.  I take a few photos on our way out of the city and feel that all those long, sweaty, lonely hours in Texas this summer were worth it for this one day of running.

Joy.  That’s how running your first marathon feels.

A few more photos from marathon day.

Old Churches

Eastern Wig and Hair Co

Church Plus Stoplight

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Recovery and Ruminations on Failure

Tall Trees

Today I went out for my first post-marathon exercise: a slow walk next to the tall trees with their autumn leaves swaying in the breeze.  It’s chilly in Michigan today, so I was bundled up in tights, a scarf, and a sweater that has its own built-in hand-warmers.

Hand Warmers and Fingers

As I walked, I thought about the marathon training cycle that ended successfully on Sunday.  I keep thinking that I really should not have run such a fast marathon.  (A side note: yes, I know that for some people, a five-hour finish is not fast.  For me, it was fast and unexpected.  Let’s just agree that fast is a relative term, okay?)  After all, I walked most of my long “runs.”  I learned how to power-walk for long intervals, slowly building endurance.  I tinkered with speeds to learn how difference paces felt, at least on a treadmill inside an air-conditioned gym.  And in the end, I chose to be outside in the Texas heat because that’s what I do: I train outside.  It’s just part of who I am.  Whenever I’m inside on a treadmill, I’m always wishing I were outside, even as I’m grateful to have the treadmill as a work-out option.

My marathon training was a series of struggles, but the most important struggle happened between my ears.  I believed that since I failed to execute my training plan perfectly, I had already failed at the marathon.  I was so hard on myself about all my setbacks, secretly convinced that I deserved to fail because I had failed in so many little ways already.  And yet…4:56:50.  Not only did I finish, but I ran the marathon respectably well.  Better than I thought possible.  Which brings me back to the mental game and a question I can’t answer:

How do we decide what is possible?

Looking back now, I feel much softer toward myself.  Not only has it been a crazy year, a year of transition and heartache and falling in love and finding myself again, it’s been a year of doing things I have never done.  I never dreamed that I’d resign from a job without a new job waiting for me.  I never thought I’d ask a new boyfriend to go on a huge, multi-destination trip with me.  And I never thought I’d start a marathon feeling so unprepared for the miles ahead of me.

When I’m being kind to myself, I can acknowledge that since August, I’ve had a very full plate.  Starting a new job is a challenge by itself, let alone a new job plus marathon training plus the rest of my life.  I fit marathon training into that life as best I could.  Sometimes I nailed my training plans; other times I fell short and tried to be flexible.  The point is that I didn’t let a lack of perfection completely derail me.  I kept at it, kept trying to do better.  I think Sunday’s performance was my ultimate “do better.”  And that felt amazing.

I want to work on being more positive with myself.  Not just with my running, but with everything.  It’s never too late to do better.  I believe that with my whole heart.  But it’s also important to know when to persist and when to back off.  If I had felt I was courting injury, I would have backed off of marathon training.  If I felt like I was under-performing at work or hurting people by being negligent, then I would have reconsidered my schedule.  Mostly, I felt the tug of disappointment that I had to settle for “good enough” in every area of my life.  But maybe “good enough” is still really damn good.  The experience of stretching myself to my limit is worth having.  It provides perspective, builds discipline, encourages growth.  I think this year has shown me my limits and my ability to adapt.  I am grateful for all of it.

Gorgeous Yellow Leaves

Boots Tights Leaves

SPI Belt_Not just for running anymore

{SPI belt: not just for running any more!}

Thanks for reading, sweet friends.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

We Gave It Our All

Bib Plus Medal

We came, we ran, we finished: JD and I are now marathoners.

Today was an amazing day.  Really, everything about the 2013 Detroit Marathon was awesome: the course, the volunteers, the police/security/border patrol.  But sharing the first marathon experience with JD was the most special thing about today.  Like many runners, we had toyed with the idea of running a marathon separately, but it was together that we made it happen.  And I love that we ran Detroit together, our beloved hometown big city.  The course blew me away with its beauty and grandeur, from crossing the Ambassador Bridge into Canada to Belle Isle to winding through historic Detroit neighborhoods.  It was Detroit as I’d never seen it before.  Seeing it through an adult’s eyes and on foot was a novel experience, one that I will forever treasure.

I’m exhausted tonight, so I just wanted to pop in to say that the race went well, we finished, and we are still (painfully) mobile.  My legs hurt so bad that when my niece tried to get me to go for an evening bike ride or sit in my lap, I had to say no.  Exercise is not my friend right now, nor is any pressure on my tender knees and quads.  I feel like a terrible auntie.

But before I go, I want to report our finishing times.  JD clocked an amazing 5:25:11, nicely snagging that under-5:30 time he wanted.  I finished in 4:56:50, a time that I had no business running, and yet there it is.  I’ll take it!

I’ll be back soon with a longer, fuller race report.  For tonight, I’m basking in the glow of a successful first marathon and ready for a deep, restful sleep.

Until then…run with heart, friends.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week Nineteen: The Home Stretch

Excellent Happens Here'

Giant Marathon Map

From the Passenger Side

Week of October 14, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Evening run: 31 minutes total with 20 minutes running

Wednesday: Off to Detroit + Evening run with JD’s running group (29 minutes total, with 24 minutes running) 

Thursday: Off.  Completely off.  Didn’t even go outside today.

Friday: Played with Devin in the yard and went for a quick walk/run with him (untimed)

Saturday: Walked around the marathon expo with JD and went to the apple orchard with the family (Does jumping up and down on a teeter-totter count as a work-out?)


Estimated mileage: 5.5 miles. Total minutes: 60.

The marathon is upon us, friends!  This morning James (JD) and I went down to the Detroit Marathon expo to pick up our bibs and soak in the marathon excitement.  For me, this week has made the marathon feel real in a way it hadn’t before.  I’m sure it’s because I’ve done almost all of my training alone, and on top of that, I’ve struggled with my commitment to this race.  But I’m here, and I’m ready to run/walk 26.2 miles starting just after 7 AM tomorrow morning.

I’m especially excited for JD to run this race.  He’s been training with a running group all summer, and his speed and endurance have both skyrocketed this year.  I think he’s going to have a fantastic race.  We’re going to try to run as much of the marathon together as possible, but I will be taking powerwalk breaks in between running bouts.  As I’ve told a lot of people, my walking plan for tomorrow is not a “death walk”—it’s powerwalking, which means the goal is to keep up the pace and effort throughout the race.  The “death walk” or “death shuffle,” as some people call it, is what happens when you’ve run as much as you can, and fatigue forces you to walk.  My goal is to avoid the death shuffle and to stay strong until the finish.

I have no idea how fast I will finish.  Those last nine miles or so are going to be very tough, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll finish by 5:30.  And if not 5:30, then please let me finish before 6:30 when the course closes!

Either way, JD and I are super excited for our first marathon.  Whatever tomorrow brings—rain or sun, cold or hot, wind or calm—I hope we have smiles on our faces at the end.



See you at the finish line, friends!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Week Eighteen: Almost There…

Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi

Voyage to Saturn

A New Friend

Week of October 7, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Evening run: 31 minutes total with 20 minutes running

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Morning run: 42 minutes total with 30 minutes running

Friday: Off (off to Corpus Christi for the last wedding of the year!)

Saturday: Off (tooling around and celebrating in Corpus)

Sunday: Evening run: 89 minutes total with 51 minutes running

Estimated mileage: 14.2 miles.  Total minutes: 162.

Over the weekend, Paul and I went to Saturn, which was a short walk from our hotel in Corpus Christi.  In fact, we visited the whole solar system, from Pluto all the way to the sun, although we did it in two legs, from Uranus to the sun one day and then Neptune to Pluto the next.  It was pretty awesome because it’s not every day you get to tour the planets!

(Wait.  Maybe I should back up and explain our interplanetary journey?)

We visited a scale model of the solar system in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Last Friday, we headed south for our final wedding of the year.  Paul’s stepbrother was getting married, so not only were we finishing our wedding circuit, but I was poised to meet Paul’s extended family.  It was a really wonderful weekend; his family was so gracious and welcoming.  I had already met some of his immediate family, including his parents, sister, and sister’s family.  (Fun side note: I met his sister’s family when I was missing my front tooth.  After the accident and a visit to urgent care, we went to Houston for his niece and nephew’s birthday (they’re twins) because why not?  I had nothing else to do that day, other than mope about my missing tooth.)  At the wedding, I also met his stepfamily and his aunt and uncle, as well as friends and acquaintances from years gone by.  Weddings are always interesting and a bit nervewracking for me (and everyone else?).  This particular wedding had a few bumps, but overall it was a lovely and love-filled weekend.

Paul and I had a free morning on Saturday, so we found breakfast at a fun local diner (Hester’s Café and Coffee Bar) and then set off for a little mini-adventure.  We visited K Space, an art gallery in which Paul’s friend Matt had a piece in the current exhibition.  We walked along the sea wall, which is where the scale model solar system is on display.  It’s a brilliant use of the space: the planets and sun are proportionally spaced apart, so the walk from one planet to the next represents the distance between, say, Saturn and Jupiter.  And walking along the sea wall is a required activity for tourists—it feels like instant vacation to stroll along the sea, looking out at the ships and water.

On Sunday evening, I dutifully set off for my last “long” work-out before the marathon.  My training plan called for 45 minutes, but I had missed a work-out earlier in the week, so I decided to roll them together and ended up clocking 89 minutes of running and walking.  It was an uncomfortable run; I had a cramp in my diaphragm for much of it, so I ended up walking more than I would have liked.  That’s running for you: you never know how any given run will turn out.

As I type this, I am above the Earth, en route to Detroit from Houston.  Paul and I ended up driving to Houston late last night and staying at his sister’s house.  This morning we had a very filling, relaxing breakfast at Black Walnut Café, which our friend Courtney introduced to us.  If you didn’t know it already, Houston has some seriously delicious vegetarian food.  Besides Black Walnut Café, we’ve also fallen hard for Fadi’s, which serves amazing Middle Eastern food.  Next on my list of places to try is Bombay Pizza Co.—they make pizzas and top them with Indian-style toppings, such as saag paneer.  Yum!

I’m looking forward to my week in Michigan, but truthfully, I already miss Paul and my cat.  Which reminds me: I almost forgot the required cat photo!  Here you go:


Two updates down, one more to go before Sunday…

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week Seventeen: Camping and Cooler Weather

Incredible Stone Formations


Week of September 30, 2013:

Monday: Off

Tuesday: Evening run: 34 minutes total with 25 minutes of running

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Evening run: 49 minutes total with 37 minutes of running

Friday: Went for a hike while camping with Paul at Pedernales Falls State Park

Saturday: Another hike!

Sunday: Long run: 60 minutes total with 49 minutes of running.

Estimated mileage: 13.2 miles.  Total minutes: 143.

We’re down to the final countdown before the marathon: six days until the big M.  And here I am, weeks behind on my training log, as usual.  Better late than never, right?

Last weekend Paul and I headed west to Pedernales Falls State Park, a mouthful of a name that I can’t seem to say without pausing to get it right.  It was a gorgeous weekend, and though we had just one night of camping, we went hiking twice, cooked a wonderful (if slightly burnt) dinner, and saw a skyful of stars and our very own Milky Way shining across the light years.  I’m hoping to write more about that weekend on my other blog, so if you read both, I might be repeating myself.  I hope you’ll forgive me!

The weather turned chilly on Saturday as we drove to San Angelo for the wedding, and the cool weather stayed with us the next day when we came home.  What a difference it makes for running!  I had the most wonderful run of my training season that day—I felt speedy and strong in the pleasantly autumnal weather.  It made me so excited for my trip to Michigan and the marathon itself, which is slated to give us a temperature high of 55 degrees F.  55 degrees!  I haven’t seen weather like that since…well, maybe since that weekend in San Angelo!

In unrelated news, my sister Theresa sent Lucy some presents, including a little cat carpet with a feather and a zipper pouch for catnip.  Lucy loves her new carpet!

Lucy and Her New Carpet

Going After the Twine

And here’s proof that Paul and Lucy are soulmates:

Paul Likes the Carpet Too

He loves the carpet too.

This week’s goal: finish my marathon training posts before the actual marathon!  One down, two more to go…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Week Sixteen: 3:32!

A few photos from my Saturday morning (my last one at home for the next few weeks!):

 Current Reading

Clouds Gathering

Sleepy Kitty

{Current reading material // Lounging outside on campus // Morning cat}

Week of September 23, 2013:

Monday: Long powerwalk, 110 minutes

Tuesday: Evening run, 42 minutes total with 30 minutes running

Wednesday: Off (date night!)

Thursday: Evening walk, 32 minutes.

Friday: Off (felt a little under the weather)

Saturday: Off (but walked around campus on a fun tour)

Sunday: Long walk/run, 212 minutes total.  Details below.

{Both estimated}  Total miles run/walked this week: 30.4.  Total minutes: 396.  WHOA NOW!

Today’s post is a two-parter.  Over the weekend, Paul and I had a friend in town.  It was Lewis!  Lewis of Austin Sea Veggies and the goats, and we were thrilled to hang out with him.  Lewis invited us to tag along with him on a sciencey Saturday adventure.  I met up with Paul and Lewis at Antonio’s, where we met even more friends for pizza and chatting.  (Note: black beans and avocado sound odd on pizza, but they are delicious.  Assuming you love black beans as much as I do.)  Afterward, we headed over to meet a professor and talk about an undergraduate research project involving coral and the tiny dinoflagellates that live with them.  Paul and I did more listening than talking during that meeting, but I like to think that we each offered something of value.  There should be more partnerships between mechanical engineers and biologists!

Afterward, we walked around campus and toured several of the fish tanks, including Aglantis in the MSC, our big beautiful student center.  Paul and I had visited Aglantis once before, as part of a Tuesday lunch date.  Today we got to see the underworkings—the pumps and hidden tank that are used to add algae-derived nutrients to the main tank.  By this time, I was ready for a nap, but my engineering-minded boyfriend was busy peering into the secret compartment.  It was very fun to get a taste of a different kind of science that’s happening right here on campus.  My work is pretty far removed from zoology, yet the techniques of molecular biology can be applied to virtually any organism.  Which probably means that I’ll always have a job, assuming that job involves things like nucleic acids and genomic sequences.  That’s certainly why I have my current job!

On Sunday afternoon, I set out for my final long work-out.  The schedule asked for 3.5 hours, and I was determined to clock 3.5 hours on my feet.  After the pity party/reality check in my last post, I realized I had one last shot to get some serious mileage into my training before the marathon.  I could do this!  I could conquer my laziness and make those mikes happen!  And as you can see above, I did, but here’s the twist I used to keep myself from getting bored.  After a warm-up, I did a running ladder of sorts, starting at 1 minute and working up to 10.  It looked something like this:

Run 1 minute.

Walk 9 minutes.

Run 2 minutes.

Walk 8 minutes.

Run 3 minutes.

Walk 7 minutes.

And so on, all the way up to running 10 minutes.  Over the course of 100 minutes, that’s 55 minutes of running.  It is an excellent way to keep your pace up while run/walking.  I did one full version of that ladder, walked for 10 minutes, and started another one, ending at 8 minutes of running (because I’d reached my time goal for the work-out).  Altogether, I logged 91 minutes of running.  I’m so happy with the ladder work-out that I will probably use it during the marathon at least once.

At the risk of bragging, I will say that I am immensely proud of myself for Sunday’s work-out.  At an estimated 17.1 miles, it is the final push before the marathon and my longest on-foot work-out ever.  I have struggled a lot with my commitment to this race.  More than once I have wondered if maybe I should not be doing it at all.  I can say now without hesitation that I am a half-marathoner at heart—I love 13.1 and see myself racing that distance for years and years.  I’ve had a real mental block for 26.2, on top of the other challenges that marathon training has posed for me, such as the time-intensive work-outs and the unforgiving Texas heat.  26.2 just hasn’t felt do-able for me, which has translated to an I-can’t-do-this attitude.  Hence my ambivalence for the past four months.

But now…now I think maybe I can do this.  17.1 is still 9.1 short of 26.2, and believe me, I was hurting by the end of 17.1.  More importantly, now I remember why we sign up for something as crazy as a 26.2-mile race: to see if we can do it.  Those of us who are first-time marathoners don’t know if we can do it.  When we push outside of our comfort zones, we give ourselves the chance to be amazing, to be better, to be more.  We do it to lift ourselves out of our daily experience.  To ascend, if only for a moment, to greatness.  Our own personal greatness.  There’s a fine line, I think, between identifying as people and identifying as the sum of our accomplishments.  I know I will be the same essential person after October 20th—I’m still me.  But if I manage to finish that damn marathon, I will be a buoyantly accomplished version of me.  I will be a marathoner.  And that’s pretty awesome.

To the marathon, friends!