Coaching to a San Francisco Marathon Finish

IMG_5287I shared my own race recap yesterday for The San Francisco Marathon (The Mental Game – The San Francisco Marathon Race Recap). It wasn’t my best race, but it wasn’t without merit. Personally it was a learning experience and the course was so scenic, even if it was challenging. I ended that post by saying that something pretty awesome did happen at that race. What could be so awesome on such a hard day?

The fact that my husband, son, and daughter were there running also. I am continually grateful that we’ve become a family that runs together.

So what can add to this?

I was able to coach each of my family members for their races. Yes. Coach.

I have been wanting to get into coaching in my spare time. I’ve read numerous books on coaching. I talk to my coach all the time about coaching (and he’s allowing me to assist him with some group training for The Ventura Marathon). I listen to podcasts about coaching. I’ve coached a church member to her first half marathon. And I’ve helped someone to run her first no walk break mile (and we’ve become friends through the process!). I find lots of parallels between coaching and pastoring by the way!

My daughter, Megan, has been getting help from me for about a year…and before that she often piggybacked onto my own program since we run a lot of the same races. Unfortunately she pulled a groin muscle while we were in Boston and was unable to run for a few weeks. In mid-May we decided that the best course for her would be to drop down to the half in San Francisco so as not to re-injure herself. She ran the half and is now training for The Ventura Marathon in October and the Ray Miller 50K in December.

Scott Matt San Francisco
Scott in blue and Matt in white on their way up to the Golden Gate Bridge

My son, Matt, ran his first marathon in 2016 and vowed that he’d never do another. Over the years, I, as an annoying mom, would ask “when are you gonna run a marathon again?” He always responded with an emphatic “never!” On Christmas Day I asked, “so are you going to do the full in San Francisco?” I expected him to say “no” but he surprised me with a “sure, I’ll do it.” I promptly signed him up for the race. And, coached by his mom, he successfully completed his 2nd marathon at San Francisco.

The most exciting story is that my husband, Scott, was able to complete his first marathon. He came in just behind me, I heard them announce his name, while I was drinking some ice cold chocolate milk!

He was tired, as we all were. His muscles cramped at mile 21 and he was momentarily freaked out by that never before experienced feeling. But he pushed through and finished his first marathon. I am so proud of him! Our wedding anniversary was July 30th and what better way to celebrate 30 years than run a marathon!

I’m grateful that these three loved ones trusted me enough to allow me to be their running coach. It is a bit scary putting together a plan for someone else. It is also gratifying and fun.

 

The Mental Game – The San Francisco Marathon Race Recap

uhFZx8tXTay%gfy0NrsSvg
Pre-dawn, pre-race pic with my husband. We were also celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary

nice-new-trail-shoespero-la-cosa-mas-importante-en-toda-la-escritura-es-la-manera-en-que-tratamos-a-unos-y-a-los-otros-cuando-tenemos-odio-o-cuando-no-tenemos-empatc3ada-estamos-viviendo.jpgTwo years ago our family decided to run the 2nd half of The San Francisco Marathon. Then, to receive a special “half it all” medal, my husband and I returned the next year and run the first half. Of course, we had to follow up that effort with the next challenge – 52 Club – for those who run both halves followed by the full in consecutive years.

We knew it was a tough and hilly course. We also were confidant that our experience in already running both halves would help us. Hmmm. It turns out that previous experience didn’t help me much.

I went into this race feeling pretty confident. The weather was forecast to be perfect for racing, and except for the wind on the bridge it was. My running of the first half the previous year was one of my best races (not fastest – there were hills!). My average pace (on my watch) was 9:01 at this race, so I thought that a targeted pace of 9:20 was doable. (I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon)

2018-san-francisco-marathon.jpegI came nowhere close to 9:20! Instead I ran one of my slowest marathons in a time of 4:39:05. What happened? Lots of things…here are the one’s I’m contemplating.

  1. I had a terrible night’s sleep! According to my Garmin, I got six hours of tossing and turning. It felt like less than that and I remember being concerned while I was trying to go will myself to sleep.

    Pre-race anxiety can cause lack of sleep and for this reason, I think, many advise us runners to make sure they sleep well two nights before the race. My Friday night sleep was just “OK” in that I slept for a bit more than eight hours but most of it was restless sleep.

    For me, this is a problem of menopause and one for which I have yet to find an adequate solution. I continue to try meditation and hopefully it will eventually help.

    In the end, this lack of good sleep didn’t help my mental or physical game on race day.

  2. Bad race strategy. As mentioned earlier I had thought I could average a 9:20 pace. I still think that I could do this but I should have approached it differently. Next time I need to run by effort and ignore the times on my watch. My coach tells me this all the time! I guess I’m a slow learner. Anyway, I think that I was trying so hard to not run too fast up the hills, followed by constantly checking my pace on the downhill, that I wore myself out mentally. Part of my rational for thinking this is that, even with the hills, I had the slowest average heart rate for any race that I have ever run! Would I have had a similarly bad outcome if I’d gone faster? Maybe, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I didn’t put it all out there.
  3. I wasn’t as ready for the hills as I’d thought. Over the past few months I’ve been doing lots of my long runs inland, where there are some good hilly courses (I live near the coast in CA). In the two months before the race the inland temperatures had climbed to the point that running would be difficult. So those last runs were along the coast where it is mostly flat. In retrospect I should have just move my runs up to the very early morning and kept hitting those hills.

    I also hadn’t realized that the true downhill portion wouldn’t commence until about mile 20. I have no excuse for this mistake! The course was changed slightly from previous years so it wasn’t exactly as I’d run it before but the final 10K was the same. I remember thinking at one point, “another @$#&^%$ climb!” I think my brain was more tired of slogging up those hills than my legs were.

  4. I didn’t have a contingency plan. I honestly thought I would ace this race and when that wasn’t happening I started to mentally check out. I bailed so thoroughly that I even had a little mimosa and a sip of beer when offered somewhere around mile 23!
  5. I’ve gained some weight since last summer. In fact I was at my lightest when I ran that half marathon last year. Pushing more pounds up those hills is certainly not easy…even if I’ve been having great strength training sessions and awesome runs. (The Never Ending Struggle with Weight is Downright Scary)

As I think about this more, I can see so many analogies to life. Sometimes we are surprised by the difficulties we encounter that we lose momentum and perform badly. At other times we surprise ourselves by how well we can do in the face of adversity. A benefit of endurance sport is that experiences like the San Francisco Marathon teach us about ourselves and thus prepare us to know that we can get through hard times…even if the getting through is not very pretty.

At the end, the race was just a race. One that taught me to better prepare myself mentally and physically.

But there’s more! There was something pretty cool that happened at this race and that story will be my next post. Stay tuned!

The Never Ending Struggle with Weight is Downright Scary

“In further studies, they found that weight loss, both in people who are lean and obese, triggers a powerful suite of biological and psychological responses that work together to restore the lost fat… In effect, substantial weight loss triggers a starvation response, whether a person is lean, overweight, or obese—and this response continues until the fat comes back.”
From “The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts that Make Us Overeat” by Stephan J. Guyenet, Ph.D., page 129

The above quote from “The Hungry Brain” isn’t very encouraging at first look. But on further reflection it’s helpful for anyone who has struggled with the up, down, then up again (sometimes higher) of weight loss and weight gain because it helps us to understand the real struggle.

Most of the people I know who’ve battle obesity don’t struggle because they don’t know what to do. I’d venture to guess that most overweight people are very well versed in the world of diet and weight loss.

img_0486-e1533579908583.jpg
Me in Napa in July, 2009. I was not at my heaviest but probably pretty close to it.
Z1ba1HsdTZy3F6BhpUWj6g
At the same winery this year. This is a more fit and healthier me…and I plan to stay this way!

I’ve personally tried most commercial as well as fad diets out there. I’ve read countless books. I’ve joined various programs. When I look back at the past 40 years (I’m 55 and remember dieting as a teenager), I’ve probably lost and re-gained hundreds of pounds. It’s probably not a stretch to say that maintaining a weight, any weight, is not something my body has much experience with. My actual experience has been down, then up a bit more than where I started…down again, followed by a bigger increase and so on. This led to my highest weight of at least 250 pounds in 2012. It was probably more than this, but I quit stepping on the scale.

I’ve been at my current weight for two years. Well, I’ve gone up and down within a 10 pound range in that time. It’s been a struggle! A year ago I hit my lowest weight of 163 – an 87 pound weight loss! Maybe it is no coincidence that I also had the best half marathon ever in terms of how I felt. It wasn’t my fastest because it was up lots of hills but it was awesome! (I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon)

But I was unable to maintain that weight, even though my desire had been to get to at least 155 so that I would no longer be identified a “overweight” according to the medical world. Over the past year the pounds have slowly come back so that today, after a wonderful vacation that was fill with activity I weighed in at 174.4. An 11 pound gain in one year! At least I can still say I’ve lost 77 pounds.

I share this because I want to let people know that the struggle is real and I want to help myself and others to find peace with themselves, regardless of weight. Sometimes this peace is elusive, because there is a great deal of shame associated with weight gain. We tend to look at the person who struggles with their weight as someone lacking will-power, restraint, or even self worth. But it is far more complicated than that. Our bodies are far more complicated than that.

In “The Hungry Brain” Stephan Guyenet, shares years of obesity research that is both demoralizing and hopeful at the same time. Demoralizing because he clearly shows just how difficult it is to fight our own brains… in the often futile effort to maintain weight loss. But then it is hopeful for the same reason. If it’s not solely about will power then we can remove the sense of shame, while also making changes that can be helpful.

For Guyenet, the one answer lies in “Restricting Reward.”

High-reward foods tend to increase food intake and adiposity, whole lower-reward foods tend to have the opposite effect. This suggests a weight management ‘secret’ you’ll rarely find in a diet book: eat simple food. The reason you’ll rarely find it in a diet good is that, by definition, lower-reward food is not very motivating. It doesn’t get us excited about a diet, and it doesn’t make books fly off the shelves. We want to hear that we can lose weight while eating the most delicious food of our lives, and the weight-loss industry is happy to indulge us. The truth is that there are many ways to lose weight, but all else being equal, a diet that’s lower in reward value will control appetite and reduce adiposity more effectively than one that’s high in reward value.

I like the use of the word “reward” in this context. We can think of food as a reward and when we do it is usually very tasty calorie dense food. Or sometimes it is that salty-crunchy-sweet snack that we turn to in times of stress – tortilla chips are my particular weakness here.

But we can also think of other rewards. Rewards like feeling good and being able to move can impact us far more than can the immediate gratification of something we eat.

And still it is hard! Personally I will clean up my diet, eliminating those unhealthy foods that have crept back in… and I will continue to run and strength train and maybe even start bicycling once in awhile…I can easily do these things because of the rewards of fitness!

If you would like to share your own struggles, please feel free. There is strength in community and that is another reward that far surpasses any food!

To read past posts on this topic:
That Weight Struggle – Weekends
That Weight Struggle – Environment
The Never-Ending Struggle with Weight
What Happened to Healthy Eating? Boston Marathon Training – Week 1
Body Image – Gratitude 8/10Slow & Steady – Racing Weight Week 4
Really?!?! Racing Weight Week 3
Ummm – Racing Weight Week 2
OOPS – Racing Weight, Week 1
Racing Weight – Getting There

Consistency – You Can Do It

IMG_4366
This tattoo, with the words run, live, breathe and gratitude celebrates the rewards of consistent training. Check out the link below if you want the story behind the tattoo

As I’m approaching the San Francisco Marathon (the 9th!) I’m thinking about an important element in marathon (or any distance) training. Consistency!

While in the middle of training, or building mileage and fitness we might not notice how much or how hard we are working. But in looking back it’s easy to recognize the rewards of consistent training. It’s not the occasional good workout that will lead to a good race effort. Rather, a good race effort is found in consistently putting in the miles, week after week. It is through this consistent training that our bodies adapt to running.

All runners will have the occasional run they don’t want to do. It may be due to a busy schedule. It may be due to fatigue. It may be due to general soreness. It may even be that you just don’t feel like running. So what should you do? In most cases the answer is to run. How do you know if you should back off?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Feeling too Busy -RUN
    Even if you have to make the run shorter, it will help you to get out there. It may even help you get through your tasks in a better frame of mind. That’s a big benefit of running!
  • On Vacation – RUN
    A wonderful way to explore a vacation spot is to go for a run.
  • Experiencing General Soreness – RUN
    General soreness and injury are not the same thing. If you have achy and sore legs, a very easy recovery run may make them feel better. Make sure you run easy (as in slow).
    If you have very sharp, localized pain, this may be injury. It also may be stiffness. If, after a few steps the pain worsens then stop. If it feels better, then you are good to go. Sometimes we have little aches and pains that come and go and we have to make educated guesses about whether to run or not.  
  • Injured – DON’T RUN
    We need to learn to distinguish between good sore (your muscles are working and improving) and bad sore (injury). A good rule of thumb: if you have soreness that affects your gait (limp for instance) then take time to recover.
  • Feeling Crummy – RUN
    Although it might not feel comfortable, you can run with a head cold or allergies. The general rule is if the congestion is above your neck then you are good to go.
  • Have a Fever or Chest Congestions – DON’T RUN
    If your chest is congested, and/or if you have a fever, don’t run. You body needs to use its energy to fight the infection so allow it time to recover.

Sometimes, we’re just not sure. It’s ok to give it a try (unless you have a fever!) and then stop early if you’re not feeling well. You can always check with your coach if you’re not sure.

Happy Consistent Running!

About that tattoo: We Made a Pact!

 

Run in this heat? Yes!

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 9.40.21 AMConsistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

These words have been my mantra the past couple days. Officially I’m tapering for the San Francisco Marathon (July 29), but that doesn’t mean all running stops. It just gets easier, or at least it should.

So far this week I’m not feeling it. Instead I’m feeling hot, sweaty, tired, and cranky. I don’t like the heat! Well actually the high temperatures are not that bad as compared to others places…but their higher (86 yesterday) than is normal for us! Making it worse is the humidity. Right now it’s 77%…we’re not supposed to have 77% humidity!

I think the real problem is that the heat is trapped and we’re not getting our nightly cool down. As you can see in my photo, our low should be a nice cool mid-50 degrees this time of year. Instead we’re hanging out in the high to mid 70s. This makes good sleep in our non air-conditioned home elusive.

So that’s my whining!

Yesterday I woke up and thought, “it’s too hot to run.” Then I drank my coffee, changed my clothes, and did my 7 miles. My method for keeping my easy runs easy is to use my heart rate as a guide. My goal is to stay between 130-140 bpm. Yesterday my average HR was 133. My average pace was 9:51. Not bad for a hot morning!

At lunch time, I needed to do a strength workout. I do these in the gym at the back of my local running store, and there is no air conditioning at the back of the store! I thought all morning, “maybe I’ll just do it tomorrow.” But tomorrow (today now) I have a massage scheduled, so better get it done! Other than sweating so much that I could see wet spots all over the floor, the workout went well. Yeah!

Last night I went to bed hot. Woke in the middle of the night hot. Woke up this morning hot. I sat with my morning coffee (too bad I don’t like iced coffee!) and thought, “gonna have to skip today’s run.” I even had a second cup, which I never do before running.

fullsizeoutput_10aa.jpegAnd as I drank that second cup I remembered Des Linden’s advice, “keep showing up.” I thought about the inspirational Western States Endurance Race where athletes ran 100 miles in temperatures that topped 100 degrees. With these thoughts, I put the coffee down, changed clothes, and set off on my easy 5 miles. It went well!

Consistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

That’s what it’s all about. In running. In life.

Happy Tuesday.

Fun? Endurance…Is it fun?

This morning I listened to Mario Frailoi’s podcast interview of UltraMarathoner Dean Karnazes.   https://www.themorningshakeout.com/category/podcast/

As are all The Morning Shakeout podcasts I’ve heard, this one was insightful, inspirational, and informative. I love how the conversation continued to draw new questions out of Mario, as he said something like, “one more…”

One part of the dialog reminded me of a blog post I meant to write after Boston.

img_0094
I showed this photo to the clerk at the Sam Adams Brewery to get a free glass. He asked, “why are you smiling?” Because I just finished!

In the immediate aftermath of the race, whenever someone would ask, “How was Boston?” I’d immediately reply, “It was fun.” Then if we had time for conversation I’d go into a description of the horrible weather (freezing temperatures, torrential rain, grueling head winds My First Boston Marathon – The Race ).

Usually the response was, “you call that fun?” At one point I decided that maybe I need to come up with a better description of my experience. Hard? Tough? Laborious? Strenuous? Maybe these are all good descriptive words, but they don’t get to the reality of the experience.

As I think of my response to the question, “how was it?” on other races, I realize that I most often say fun.

img_0012
The immediate aftermath of my first 50K! My husband didn’t want to take the photo because I looked so awful. I wanted it so I could remember. Yes, it was fun

My first 50k, The Ray Miller 50/50. This took just over 8 hours! For the last hour I suffered with the weird feeling of being simultaneously hungry and having a stomach ache. This race was exhausting in a way different than a road marathon. And as I think back, it was fun. I’m doing it again! Race Day – Ray Miller 50K Recap

Every marathon I’ve ever done has been HARD. Boston was maybe the hardest, because of the weather. But I can say doing them was fun.

The 5K. I have a love/hate relationship with the 5K. This is the hardest race distance for me. It’s the only race where consistently, I contemplate quitting. Usually just past the 2-mile mark. And yet, every summer I participate in Boogie Nights, a series of 10 Wednesday evening 5Ks. I love it! I hate it! It’s fun!

Here’s a definition of fun according to Dictionary.com:

[fuhn]
SynonymsExamplesWord Origin

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com

noun
  1. something that provides mirth or amusement: A picnic would be fun.
  2. enjoyment or playfulness: She’s full of fun.

I can definitely say a race is not the kind of fun you would equate with a picnic. Maybe the second line gets at it with the word “enjoyment.” Certainly not in the sense of playfulness, but rather in the sense of enjoying the accomplishment.

Mario and Dean talk about this near the end of the interview with the discussion of a phrase Dean seems to be known for, “It’s supposed to hurt like hell.” Mario asked about this and Dean told the story of his Jr. High running coach saying this to him (listen to the podcast for the story!).

My own coach transformed my running when I wondered when I’d get fit enough that my long runs would be easier. He responded with the words, “It’s supposed to be hard.” Ohhhh….once I knew this, my running improved immensely! Filling our minds… or finding a mantra

So how can “it’s supposed to hurt like hell” and “fun” go together? They just do, for runners. Struggling and making it through are fun. Maybe not in the moment but certainly after.

Outside of my Boogie Nights 5K attempts the next three Wednesdays, my next chance to “hurt like hell” while having fun will be the San Francisco Marathon, July 29th. Yeah!

The Running Skirt

0539_06348
My first half marathon. I wore this running skirt until it was “falling off too big.”

A few years, and many pounds, ago I couldn’t wear shorts when running. My legs were too fat and the material would bunch up between my legs. That was definitely not comfortable. I also wasn’t fond of leggings because, well, they just showed those hefty thighs rubbing against each other.

 

One day, while browsing through the running clothes section of my local REI, I discovered a running skirt. Basically a skirt over short tights. That was the solution. I wore running skirts throughout most of my weight loss journey. I also grew to dislike those running skirts, because for me they represented the reality that I was trying to cover up that which cannot really be hidden.

img_0366
These were my first running shorts.

When I lost enough weight that I could wear running shorts I was ecstatic. I vowed to myself that I would never wear a running skirt again!

 

Of course one should never say never. Right?

A couple weeks ago a friend gave me a coupon to use at our local Lululemon outlet store. I’d never worn these running clothes, so with my 25% off I checked it out. I bought some awesomely comfortable shorts. Also, much to my surprise, I saw a skirt…yes, a skirt…that I thought was cute. I tried it on, liked it, and bought it.

So much for never wearing a running skirt again!

 

ijflal55qipwegyxvt9qw-e1528990184765.jpg
Cute and comfy…my new running skirt! I kinda like how my legs look here too.