Archive for March, 2012


Winning

I read a great quote today,

“Winning is not about headlines and hardware [medals]. It’s only about attitude. A winner is a person who goes out today and every day and attempts to be the best runner and best person s/he can be. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism, and never, ever, ever giving up.”
– Amby Burfoot, Editor-at-Large, Runner’s World

Now I have no idea who Amby Burfoot is but this concept really resonated with me. Last week was not my best week of running ever. Monday night I struggled through 1.5 very slow miles. I woke up at 6am on Thursday to get in 3.1 miles before heading off to work. And on Saturday I spent as much time complaining about having to run as I spent running 4 miles. I just didn’t feel like running.

The point to my not-so-great week of running is that actually did 3 runs. There were many obstacles – sore legs from the previous long run, work commitments, lack of motivation – and yet I actually managed to finish 3 runs. Was my weekly mileage impressive? Did I rock out my runs? Not really. The 3.1 and 4 mile runs were at a reasonable pace. But in many ways this was one of my more impressive weeks.

Why do I say that?

I could have taken Monday off. I wasn’t fully recovered from the 12 miles the weekend before. My legs were sore. I had a difficult day. I was tired. But I did something instead of nothing. Thursday morning I didn’t need to get up early for work. I could have slept late. But I set my alarm, got up, and went. And Saturday I had a million excuses. And I knew I’d have to do my run on the treadmill while watching Disney Junior shows. Not exactly inspiring. Again. I made it happen.

So maybe last week I really was a winner after all…

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I won’t lie. The inspiration for this post is something I read on Facebook today. A friend linked to a blog post that talked about a Pearl Izumi ad about the Marathon. This ad campaign is not new and neither is the controversy it invokes.
Pearl Izumi is a shoe/running gear company that periodically runs ads that seem, on face value, to imply that only elite runners should tackle a marathon. The ad goes like this:

The Marathon. Once a test of will, now a test of patience.

Underneath the ad continued to say the the marathon used to be an elite running competition and now there are people who “mosey” across the finish. The writers try to imagine how Phedippides (the Greek messenger who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the latest war news and then promptly died) would feel about people taking it slow. They go on to say that the marathon needs to be raced or we will lose the spirit of the Marathon.

Hmm. It’s easy to get offended by the ad. I know many runners who boycott Pearl Izumi in protest. Since I’ve never encountered any of their products, it’s hard to stage an effective boycott. If I boycotted Athleta, it might be a different story!
I think there are 2 ways to look at this ad.
#1 is that Pearl Izumi believes that slow runners shouldn’t be allowed to run a Marathon. Somehow the participation of slow runners diminishes the elite-ness of a Marathon and will ultimately destroy the very essence of the Marathon. This concept is not isolated to this ad. In fact I have been told that my Monday night running group (which I missed this week) was started in response to this very idea. The local runner store that sponsors our weekly runs wanted to make the point that anyone (in this case any woman, since it’s a women’s running group) can run races. As a slow runner who has completed a Marathon, I have voted against this concept. Most marathoners in the year 2012 are NOT elite runners. And it is our interest and our registration $$$ that helps keep the Marathon alive. Furthermore in a society where obesity is so prevalent, what better than to promote racing as a great lifestyle choice. I know that in the last 2 years I have gone from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one because of the challenge of finishing the Marathon. And I’ve shown my children the importance of fitness and achieving goals, etc.
#2 The more interesting question that the ad raises requires a different interpretation altogether. Maybe the ad isn’t saying that slow runners shouldn’t run a Marathon but that anyone who chooses to run a Marathon should be trying to do his/her best. Maybe the message isn’t against the 6 hour marathoner but against the marathoner who stops at every character meet and greet for a picture, regardless of the line. Or grabs a beer while running past Germany (at least that’s towards the end of the race so maybe not a good example). Does turning the Marathon into a carnival-like environment where 8 hours is as good as 4 hours diminish the accomplishment? A barely sub-6 hour Marathon was the very best I could do on that day. I had nothing left in the tank. With more training and better fluid management could I do better next time? Probably. But I raced my marathon to the best of my ability and gave it all I had. And perhaps that is all Pearl Izumi is asking us to do.
It does make me think again about my upcoming race schedule. Is it wrong to go Goofy if it means taking it a bit easy on the half so I juice enough for a full? I can’t honestly say that I’m sure. I think I would have modified time goals for both races. My best half marathon was just better than 12 min/miles. So maybe a training pace of 14 min/mile is an appropriate goal for the Donald. And then I can see what feels right for the Mickey. Not taking it easy but treating the weekend as a 39.3 mile race and making appropriate pacing adjustments.
I personally think I would have a difficult time doing a race without any regard for time. If I do the 5k on Marathon Weekend with my kids, I would consider that a fun run and not a race. It’s just not in me to completely ignore the clock. Treating a race like a training run would be ok with me, as long as it’s part of a greater training goal.
Somehow I think that satisfies the mandate to respect the Marathon….

Just keep running…

What motivates someone to pick a training plan and then stick with it? I don’t mean “try when it isn’t too inconvenient to get many of the runs done.” I mean “wake up at 4am is that’s the only way to get my training done” motivation. On some level I truly believe that if I were ever able to finish even 90% of the scheduled runs in my plan, I would actually go faster.
In the grand scheme of things I seem quite dedicated. I mean I work full-time as a surgeon while trying to raise 3 young (and sometimes difficult) children. And I’ve finished 3 half and 1 full marathons. Pretty impressive! And yet when I look over my week to week training, I miss a lot of runs. Or I cut short my long runs. I know my mother (who actually reads this) will tell me that I’m being a little hard on myself. But I don’t mean it that way. I’m trying to understand how busy people with real lives achieve running goals successfully. I’ve done pretty well but I feel like I could do better.
This was a week where I did better. Monday I debated going to running clinic vs. running on my own. Beautiful weather but sometimes just doing my own thing is easier. Instead I chose the group thing. We ran 2.68 miles with no walk breaks and I killed the big hill at the end. Pace around 12:30 min/mile. Awesome!
Tuesday I finished up in the OR a bit early due to a cancellation (child had a bad cough). The weather was gorgeous! I don’t like to run 2 days in a row so I walked 3 miles. I always using Disney time limits for pacing and beat the 16 min/mile requirement (thinking ahead to Goofy and possibly walking the half!). Wednesday was a freebie. Thursday was a bad day. Hugely busy and stressful. Left home a 7:10am and got home at 6:30pm. Exhausted. Dinner was ready and waiting. It would have been easy to succumb to the temptation to give myself the night off. But I didn’t. I changed into my running clothes and managed 2.5 miles using a run 5/walk 2 ratio. The pace was only so-so but that’s not the point. I ran.
This week I made myself plow through my training. With 12-14 miles on tap for the am. But what happens next week? Or when we go away for Spring Break? How do I keep the mental imperative going? What do I do when I try to schedule my weekly runs and my choices are 4:30am or 8:30pm? How many runs in a 12 or 18 week training plan are “optional”, especially when you use a 3 day a week running plan?
By the way, I ordered a book called Running Weight which may help me stop the weight gain!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past 2 years training for races. Although I didn’t run any races in 2010, I started the couch to 5k program and trained for the January, 2011 half marathon. My first act after finishing that race was to register for another race. I then signed up for the Disney Full Marathon and spent at least half of 2011 training for that event.
One issue I’ve had throughout my training is figuring out how to properly fuel for my runs. It became clear to me after several months of running, that being I sufficiently fueled after a long run made me very, very cranky for the rest of the day. I discovered that chocolate milk post-run and then carbs for lunch helped this quite a bit. I have a system during my long runs that’s come through trial and error. I take Endurolytes every 30 minutes (essentially buffered salt tabs – I tend to sweat salt) and some fuel – either GU or shot bloks or sports beans – every 45 minutes. I finished with a glass of chocolate milk. Depending on the run that may not be enough to keep me from feeling cranky and depleted later in the day.
One thing I’ve noticed during marathon training is that my appetite has increased substantially. I feel hungry often. And if I don’t eat enough, I feel light-headed and crappy. Classic hypoglycemia stuff. So I tend to try to snack during the day – at least as much as a surgeon’s schedule allows. I read that many people fail to lose weight during marathon training but my problem went well beyond not losing weight. I was fine with my starting weight! But now I’ve gained 10 lbs in the past year. And I’m not having an easy time getting rid of it! (Damn you age 40!!!)
Many people have tried to tell me that my weight gain is merely my body replacing fat with muscle. I wish! If that were true my pants should still fit. But, alas, they are getting tight. And I’ve been asked a few times in the last several months if i was expecting! I think I’ve really just gained 10 lbs that I now need to lose. And losing it isn’t so easy.
I’m trying to do a better job of keeping healthy snacks handy and eating smarter. But I’m still training and still hungry. And I still feel light-headed when I don’t eat often enough. After my 5 mile run on Saturday I was cranky all afternoon, despite what should have been adequate fueling.
Anyone else gain weight with training? Maybe it’s just the dreaded 4-0!

Some of the people who read this are probably crazy runDisney people like me and realize the importance of April 10th. For those who are sane – or at least differently crazy – April 10th is the day that registration for the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend opens. One month from today I can sign up for the 2013 marathon and any other races over that weekend. Which leads me to the title question….
Approximately 2 years ago (right around early March, as I recall), I registered for my 1st ever race. That race was the 2011 Disney World Half Marathon, At the time I could barely run a mile and had only the Couch to 5k training program as a guide. A woman on the Disboards, who I have never met in person, was writing a pre-trip report about her training for the 2011 Disney Half. She was also a novice runner. I probably knew about Disney’s Marathon Weekend because it’s on the Disney calendar but I had never considered participating. When I started reading her story, a light bulb went off in my head (which is funny because it happened while we were experiencing a 5 day black-out and camping out at my mother-in-law’s house). I had failed to complete the couch to 5k on several occasions. I figured that paying $$$ to participate in a race would force me to finish. (I’m extremely stubborn so i was going to finish even if it meant crawling!)The rest, as they say, is history.
I love to talk about how incredibly inspiring my 1st marathon weekend was. I loved every minute! The race was amazing and the camaraderie of the weekend was nothing short of awesome! And while I would never, ever say that I “only” ran a half marathon, I felt a certain hierarchy of medals. 5k then Donald (1/2) then Mickey (full) then Goofy (both). I knew right then and there that I would try for a Mickey medal in 2012. My ultimate goal was a Goofy in 2013.
Those who have read my race report for the full marathon know that the last part of the race was anything but ideal. I mismanaged my fluids and overheated. Although my legs were still ok, my body wasn’t doing so well and I walked the last 6 miles. I felt that I probably should try repeating the full in 2013 (the 20th anniversary of the full!) in order to “redeem myself” before trying Goofy. Recently I’ve been re-thinking that decision.
Amongst runDisney fans there is a bit of encouraging people to try races or try more races. It’s not uncommon for Goofy runners to actually go “Dopey” – an unofficial designation that includes a 5k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday. When I signed up for the Tower of Terror 10 mile run in September (an evening race), I debated also doing the morning 5k. Few people tried to talk me out of it. (I decided not to do the 5k because I won’t do well with an early morning and a late night on the same day.). So peer pressure is strong for going Goofy.
The bigger “issue” that made me start re-thinking Goofy is the status of my current training. As I talked about my elusive time goal for the next race, I began re-thinking the whole concept of running for time. Would I enjoy racing more if I focused on the experience rather than the outcome? Is it the journey or the destination? Or both? The experience is even more a part of the races in a runDisney race. People wear costumes and stop for character pictures, for crying out loud!
If my goal in January is to take revenge on the full marathon course and run the race the way I would have liked to run this year, I should just run the full. If I am willing to accept that my training will never be optimal – I’m a surgeon with 3 young children after all – then maybe I should give up watching the clock and enjoy being Goofy.
I have a month to decide…. (I know I don’t have to register the 1st day I can but I also know the 20th anniversary of the Mickey medal will be quite popular and I don’t want to miss out!)
Opinions welcome! (For the record my husband thinks I should do the Goofy…)

Today was one of those unseasonably warm and beautiful days that occasionally happens in the late winter in New York. Temperatures in the 60’s with Spring in the air. This sometimes means that spring will be here soon. Or it can mean that we should expect a blizzard any minute. Nonetheless it was a perfect day for a run. Despite leaving the house at 7am and returning home a little before 6pm, I was determined to take advantage of this glorious day!
One of the many things I love about the Garmin watch that I received from my lovely husband for a holiday gift, is the freedom to run where my legs take me. Today I wanted to enjoy the path along the Bronx River. Last weekend I began to explore this lovely trail but ended up running for a while on a road. That would have been fine except this road, though not highly trafficked, is a known “speedway” where teen drivers like to test the limits. I chose to travel North on the path but took a roundabout route to get there.
Sadly for me this route was also quite hilly. I pushed through the hills which I’m sure will serve me well in Central Park come April 15. I enjoyed almost everything about my run – the weather, the scenery, the path, the solitude. Everything except my pace. See I, perhaps foolishly, set a time goal for myself. For my upcoming race I’m really shooting for a 2:30 half marathon. That’s 6 min/mile faster than my PR which means I need to shave about 30 sec/mile off my best time. If I can’t achieve 2:30, I’d still like to try to beat my PR of 2:36:41. Which still means running faster than 12 min/mile for 13.1 miles. Today I managed 2.9 miles in 37:20 or 12:39 min/mile. At least a min/mile slower than I want to go on race day.
I tried a run 3/walk 1 ratio today. Only because I was trying to play around with my intervals. My plan for my long runs and the race is run 2/walk 1. My course was very hilly and I was trail running as darkness arrived. But I’m still slower than I want.
Which brings me to a bigger question. If I can finish a marathon and several half marathons, all comfortably within the time limit, do I need to be faster? Should I be satisfied with the experience and the bling and forget all about PRs and time? Or is there a certain value in pushing myself a little faster and a little harder. What can I reasonably expect from myself? I have a demanding job. I probably average 50 hours or more per week, not counting on-call and phone calls. I have 3 children who need a mommy. How much time can I devote to my running?
I’ve tried to stick to Galloway’s 3 day a week plan. But this week I had to take kids to doctor appointments on both Monday and Tuesday. And Wednesday night was a work-related event that got me home at 10pm (after leaving home at 6:30am). Weekday mornings are challenging because I leave at 6:30am at least 2-3 days per week. Should I expect myself to get up at 4:30am to run? Or is that unreasonable?
I’m competitive by nature, probably most of all with myself. I read about people running “easy runs” at 10min/mile and think that I should be capable of racing at that speed. But maybe that’s taking the fun out of running? I’d love to hear about how other people deal with the need for speed…