Ventura Marathon Race Recap – How’d that untethering go?

IMG_4727Last Sunday I ran my 7th marathon…that’s hard to believe! My only goal for this race was to run it completely by effort, and to avoid looking at any of the data on my watch (Untethering – Kind of, Maybe). Prior to the race I set the data screen to only show mileage. My rational for wearing my Garmin was to keep track of my food intake, and to have data post race. I was not able to turn off the mile split notifications so it required tremendous willpower to “not look” every time I felt the, completion of another mile, vibration on my wrist. So how’d it go?

VenturaMarathonUpperA2017The pre-race challenge was the weather forecast. Cool at sunrise, but getting hot quickly. One forecast literally said, “sizzling sunshine.” That was ominous. Some of us said, we’ll have to run really fast to finish before that sizzling sunshine could melt us.

Thankfully the race started at 6:30am. The only picture I took was in the pre-start darkness… a beautiful pre-sunrise shot of the coming day.

The race started with a slight uphill start. We actually ran a big loop before heading down to Ventura and I ran this loop pretty well. Mile six of it was a long gradual uphill that took us back to the starting line. I went easy so as not to feel the effects of overexertion later in the race. So many people were passing me. Should I have pushed harder here? Probably not.

venturamarathonm12-2017.jpgAt mile 9 we enter the Ojai Valley Trail. This trail was mostly flat, with a slight uphill in places as it traversed across Ojai. We weren’t on it long before we turned left and headed downhill towards Ventura. At this point the temperature was still cool. At mile 12, I accidentally looked at my Garmin when my wrist vibrated. My reaction? First “oops,” followed by “damn!” I’d just run an 8:35 mile. I felt good, but was that too fast?

Running down the upper part of the trail was fun. It was mostly shady and cool. My church worked the water station at mile 15. It was nice to see the church members out there. My friends who was assisting our church later told me that she was “so cold.” That cool weather was wonderful!

 

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I’ve worked so hard not to be a heel striker, but it is what it is

At about mile 16 my left quad started hurting, and maybe not so coincidentally mile 16 was my last sub 9 minute mile. I don’t know why it started hurting so quickly. Pace? Downhill? I’ve trained very well (I thought) on hills and have been diligent about strength training. So? Part of me wonders if maybe I hadn’t fully recovered from the very intense downhill Cottonwood Canyon Half Marathon (Revel Big Cottonwood Canyon Half Marathon Recap). That was 6 weeks ago, so it shouldn’t have been a factor. But for whatever reason my left quad was not happy.

At about mile 17 we lost our shade and with each passing minute the weather warmed. I would feel myself struggling, with my leg and the heat, but I also kept pushing. Every time my wrist vibrated I had to admonish myself, “don’t look!”

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See how wet my shorts are? I dumped water on my head at every aid station and it all went to my shorts. Total form breakdown here!

Miles 18-22 were real slogs. Here the course, while still downhill, levels out. So, the slight downhill doesn’t feel like much. I felt as if I were going slower and slower and slower. I seriously thought I was running in slow motion. And because of this, I succumbed to temptation and looked at my Garmin when it vibrated to tell me I’d completed mile 22. Much to my surprise I was at 3:21. This was amazing and I realized that if I could just hold to a 10 minute mile or better pace, I’d have another PR.

Of course, this led me to keep looking. It’s like the dieter who eats one cookie and then binges…I began looking at every split.

Mile 23 was 9:55. “Ok, that’ll do it.”

But then mile 24 was 10:14. “I’m sooooo tired and my leg hurts, but if I can just stay steady.

Mile 25 and its slight uphill, 11:31. “Meltdown in full progress, just get me outta here.” Here I resorted to stride for 20 steps, run easy, stride for 20 steps, run easy…and so on. Of course the stride didn’t look like much of a stride but it kept me going.

Mile 26, yeah a downhill at San Jon… but it was no help on sore, tired legs and an overheated body… 12:04. “Don’t walk. Don’t walk. I want to walk. Don’t walk. I want to walk. Almost there. Don’t walk.

Last .20. I saw my family and they were a welcome sight! Megan ran alongside, “come on Mom! you’ve got this.” And with a smile of relief I crossed the finish line in 4:07:47.

This was my 2nd best marathon. I technically qualifies for Boston and prior to the 2018 field cutoff of just over 3 minutes I would feel confident that I have a good cushion at 2:13 under the required time. I won’t be going in 2019 anyway (conflict with work) but it’s nice knowing that in spite of my struggle I was able to run another qualifying time. I was also 9th in my age group (out of 51).

Lesson. I learned that I can run well by effort but that I also need to practice this more. While I gave in at the end and started looking, I wasn’t able to continually look because I had set my Garmin to make that impossible. I think that a lesson for me is that moderation is ok. The occasional check is ok. Obsession with pace is not ok. I don’t know how I’d have done if I hadn’t looked those last few miles. I think that knowing I was so close helped for a bit.

I do know that I left it all out there. After I crossed the finish line, I was spent! My hand was shaking as I tried to drink my water. I took in lots of fluids (water, pineapple juice, and ice cold beer), and ate some fruit and a waffle. I would have loved to have had an ice cold chocolate milk in place of the beer, but the cold drink was helpful. After sitting (in the sun) for a little while, I had to move to some shade. I felt woozy…having fainted in my younger days, I know I was close but put my head down for a bit then got up slowly to walk towards some shade. Matt (my son) stayed with me…maybe to help should I faint. I went to the Saucony booth for my BQ shirt. Went to the Mile 26 booth for a short visit. Then too lunch. Megan (my daughter) walked with me to the restaurant where we decided to eat lunch. I chose to walk because as sore as I was, I knew I needed that short walk for recovery. I have to say that I have wonderful kids!

My next marathon is BOSTON! Yeah! But first I have to get through the Ray Miller 50k on December 2nd. Yikes!

Untethering – Kind of, Maybe

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The data can be helpful…but it’s not the only thing by far!
I confess I’m a running data addict. I like to look at the numbers produced by my Garmin both during and after a run. I used to equate fitness with speed, thus pushing myself to run just a bit faster, hitting a pace on my Garmin, regardless of feel, and then calling it “easy.”

After learning the importance of making easy runs truly easy, I switched from monitoring pace to monitoring heart rate. Keep it easy! This has worked to improve my running fitness, and to help me better run by effort. But I still check how I’m doing too often while running. The problem with being so wedded to the data is that we sometimes allow “the number” to dictate our performance.

In a race, this can be good and bad…depending on the data. A few examples:

  • While running my least enjoyable half marathon a couple years ago I struggled through the whole race…for a variety of reasons. The first of which was my Garmin telling me my “performance condition” was -4. This was deflating…my coach later said, “you need to turn that thing off!” I haven’t turned it off but I’ve since learned through experience that it will ALWAYS give a negative performance condition number when starting a run with a hill climb. Conversely you can get a very high positive number just by starting a run with a descent. Not helpful data.
  • For my third marathon, Surf City, I used a race predictor. This is a data screen that gives real time data to predict a finish time based upon current pace. I walk the water stations, so the prediction always readjusted during these walk breaks. At mile 18, the predicted finish while walking was just under 5 hours. My previous race was 5:04, so I was excited to see that I could walk the rest of the marathon and have a PR. In this case it was helpful. Race Recap – Surf City Marathon
  • I used the same race predictor in my fifth marathon, Carlsbad. This time my Garmin was so far off the course mileage that what I thought I was going to do and what I actually did was off by about 2 minutes. In the later miles this discouraged me so much that I had trouble finishing and missed my first attempt at a Boston qualifier by just over 4 minutes. My coach said, “you need to get rid of that data screen.”
  • In my sixth marathon I ditched the race predictor. But I did look at average pace and I knew what I needed for my Boston qualifier. I had a great run, but like everyone I had to dig deep for the end. I knew that if I could hold on I was “going to Boston.” In this case seeing the number on my Garmin helped. Mountains 2 Beach – Race Recap
  • While not the fastest, I believe that the San Francisco Half Marathon I ran in July was my best race. Seeing the pace on my watch seemed helpful, but in retrospect I think I could have run even better. I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon
  • So…all this to say that I’m going to try something new when I run my seventh marathon on Sunday. I’m going to put one data screen only on my Garmin. Distance. That’s it. I’m going to solely run by effort, by feel. It’s an experiment. I’m a bit afraid…that I’ll go too fast at the start, or go too slow at the start, or feel lost without my “average pace” data screen. I’ll report back on how it went.

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Mora data…this was to remind me I was progressing towards my BQ goal even with a disappointing Carlsbad Marathon
Meanwhile, if you want to get started running, or find ways to be more disciplined in your running, let me know. I’d like to help.

A Nice Progress Marker – Gratitude 7/3

Today it was me, my husband, and my son. Here we are just before the start.
Five years ago my daughter, husband, and I ran our first 5k races at the Channel Islands Harbor 4th of July 5k and 10k. We’d started running earlier in the year. Megan and I were close together but she had a better kick and beat me at the end. She still has a better kick. We both remember our excitement at completing this first race. My time was 36:16. I’m very proud of that time because it is a marker on a new, fit way of life.

July 4, 2012. I’m so happy we were out there that day…and we all sure look different today
We don’t do the race every year because we sometimes travel for Independence Day, so my next race was in 2015, this time a 10k. I was training for my second marathon at the time and this race was in the middle of a longer run. I was absolutely thrilled with my time of 1:04:44. I remember finding one of the coaches for the training program and excitedly showing her my time.

I didn’t run this race in 2016, but ran a 10k on July 23rd in 55:22. I don’t remember the same level of excitement that day. Maybe it was because I was also running a 5k…and it was hot! But I was certainly pleased with the time.

Today I ran the 10k…just my third 10k. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just started hard running last week, after my recovery from the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon (Recap here). I raced a 5k last Wednesday and was disappointed with how hard it was for me…and for my time. My coach thankfully told me I should be happy that a bad day was better than my best day a year ago.  Ok, I’ll take that!

Then on Saturday I had a nasty fall 1 mile ito a 9 mile run. I’m still battered and bruised…and I completed the run.

A friend took this photo somewhere around mile 5. I gave a thumbs up but not fast enough.
My goal today was to beat my 55:22 from last year…and not crash at the end the way I do in a 5k. I started a bit conservatively, felt good after the first mile, and pushed the pace a bit. Almost every mile felt good, with miles 5-6 being the hardest (as they should be). I got a cramp in my side for part of mile 6 but then it went away. I sprinted the last .2 and finished with a time of 51:56. That’s a 3:26 PR! WhooHoo!

A lesson in all this is that progress happens when you stick with it for the long haul. Another…enjoy the journey along the way.

Today I’m personally thankful for: community races; all the volunteers who were out there this morning; and FREEDOM, may we not squander it.

Happy Independence Day!

Ready! – Gratitude 5/27

One of my course long runs…remember to enjoy the scenery!
On this Saturday morning I’m thinking about tomorrow morning when I’ll be running my 6th marathon. My first was the Ventura Marathon, September 2014, and I had 2 goals: to finish and not be last. I did finish in 5:51:02. It was hot that day! I was not last, but was definitely bringing up the rear as the course time limit was 6 hours. In addition to my extreme fatigue when crossing the finish line I remember thinking, “I can do better.”

A couple months later I signed up for the LA Marathon. This is so far the only race I’ve signed up for but bailed on before the race. I wasn’t ready, mentally and probably physically. I remember the forecast was for a hot day and I panicked, thinking “I can’t do it in that heat.”

So, I signed up the Ventura Marathon again…and I signed up for a group training program. This was one of my best decisions!  

Painful finish at the Carlsbad Marathon…a PR by about 7 minutes but short of my goal
I successfully took close to 45 minutes off my time (finished in 5:04:36). After this I started working with Josh Spiker with the long term goal of qualifying for the 2018 Boston Marathon. With Josh’s help I’ve gotten closer and closer!

What to do after a disappointing finish? Remember! That was the purpose of this photo…relentless forward progress.
Tomorrow is my second attempt to qualify. The first was Carlsbad last January where I missed the qualifying time by 4 minutes (4:14:20). I’m ready…scared…ready…nervous…ready! Now I get to wait about 24 hours…and I’m ready!

Today I’m personally thankful for: the running support from my husband, Scott; good coaching; the ability to run.

Failed Lately? Maybe it’s not what you think…another recap

My last two posts title “Failed Lately…” can be found here Failed Lately? Maybe you just needed the right stuff and here Failed Lately? Maybe something is wrong.

For the past two weeks I’ve been thinking about the diagnoses of pneumonia that I received after having a breathing-while-swimming problem on August 25th. The diagnoses didn’t make sense to me because it would mean that I’ve been sick all summer and my successful marathon training contradicts this.

I appreciated the doctor saying, “sometimes shit happens” and we don’t always know what it is. This particular pile of crap has helped to up my own personal fear level for this Sunday’s marathon. That was, until this morning, when I ran across an article that mentioned a sometimes deadly condition for triathletes that is described as fluid in the lungs. Technically it is Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema. http://www.livescience.com/55962-triathlete-deaths-linked-to-fluid-in-lungs.html

Of course I then did a search of this term and found someone’s personal account that described my symptoms exactly. http://www.endurancetriathletes.com/sipe.html

I know that diagnosing oneself off the internet isn’t the wisest thing, but this makes so much more sense than pneumonia. I will send the articles to my doctor to get her opinion.

Meanwhile the good news is that I can approach Sunday’s Ventura Marathon without fear that the lingering effects of pneumonia will harm me.

The not so good news is that the thought of swimming again is a bit scary. But I now know the symptoms in my own body and can be better prepared.

I would love to hear from others who’ve experienced this.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it the sugar? Or even the artificial sugar? One anecdotal story

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We all know there is much conflicting advice on what, or even how, to eat. High carbs or low carbs, high fat or low fat, high protein or low protein, and don’t forget whether or not to eat gluten. Eating has been so complicated!

 

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A few years ago at Huntington Beach. Bandit is riding in the basket.

I am not a nutritionist, or medical professional of any kind. I am – or was – a professional dieter. That’s right, I’ve probably tried too many to count diets over the years. I’ve lost weight and gained it back again as soon as I returned to my regular eating. In retrospect I see three challenges that I faced:

 

  1. I was addicted to Diet Coke. Seriously. For years I drank the stuff in lieu of water. Ironically, I drank caffeine free Diet Coke at home thinking it was healthier.
  2. I’ve always tried to be active, but my activity rarely helped me to lose or maintain a healthy weight. And when I was consumed by my new career and let exercise fall by the wayside my weight ballooned.
  3. Adult onset diabetes runs in my family (both sides) and I’ve always had the fear  of giving myself this disease.
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My daughter, Megan, and I at our first 5k (time of 36:16), July 4, 2012. She’s lots lot of weight too!

When I hit my late 40s my weight had risen to a very unhealthy 243 pounds for my 5’7″ frame. I wasn’t happy but was sure slow at doing anything about it. Then one day my son and I were hiking…I was huffing and puffing when two women passed us while running and chatting their way up the trail. I decided then that I was going to try  again to get fit and running seemed easier than hiking up a mountain.

 

I started running in 30 second spurts. And I started another diet, this time trying lo-carbs only to quickly discover that lo carb eating and running don’t go well together. I realized that healthy carbs were important! I even began eating oatmeal which I’ve never liked, but didn’t really change much else (except to count calories). The weight started to come off and I continued to run. I probably lost almost 40 pounds int eh two years leading up to my first marathon.

That marathon was two years ago, and to my unpleasant surprise I gained wait as the running distances increased. I probably weighed around 210 for that first marathon and ran it in just under six hours. For the next 7 months I struggled with my weight (up and down within a 10 pound range). There was nothing that I seemed to be able to do to get those pounds to go away and yet I had no problem getting them to come back on. Ha! Maybe you or someone you know has had a similar experience. It was incredibly frustrating.

The one good thing that happened in my diet during this time is that I cut way back on the Diet Coke, only drinking it when we were eating out. Eventually it no longer tasted good and I had my last Diet Coke (or anything artificially sweetened in April of 2015).

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My husband, Scott, and I halfway into a 20 mile training run in August 2015 (he was kind enough to accompany me on his bike)

In May of 2015 I joined a running group and started training for my second marathon. I didn’t want to gain weight like I did the previous year. I also knew from experience that I would have days (or weeks) when I would be incredibly hungry. So I decided to embark on an experiment: to eat whatever I want as long as it didn’t have added sugar or was processed in such a way that the ingredients list included a bunch of words I couldn’t pronounce. (exceptions to this are below!)

 

This new way of eating was both easy and hard. The easy part was in not stressing over how much or when I could eat. I just ate when I was hungry. The hard part was in discovering that just about everything has added sugar so finding a quick snack was a challenge…until I settled upon fresh fruit and nuts as my go-tos. I read somewhere that we should “eat the rainbow,” as in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and its been fun doing this. I was also flexible in my eating, so that if a special occasion called for birthday cake or some other treat I ate it and enjoyed it. This is not a diet in the sense of calorie restriction, but rather diet as in eating healthy, eating abundantly, and eating food that really tastes good.

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Now my husband and my two adult children run. This is the four of us at Boogie Nights in Ventura a couple months ago

Has it worked? This morning I weighed 163 for a total weight loss of 80 pounds. For a runner I still have more to lose, but as an every day 53 year old woman, I’m pretty happy with my weight. I figure that my body will stop losing weight when its done losing weight! In all it’s taken me about four years to get here…so some really slow weight loss and I’m good with that!

 

So what are those exceptions to the no added sugar and processed food diet? Food for running…gels and fluids for long runs basically. And I have a favorite breakfast biscuit/cookie and it has sugar so I only indulge in this treat on the mornings I will be running. It works great!

If you too struggle with weight, it’s certainly worth the experiment.

 

 

Failed Lately? Maybe something is wrong.

I’ve had a busy summer and haven’t been doing a good job with this blog. Having some free time this morning I decided to finish up a post about the San Francisco Half Marathon which was July 31. Then I noted that my last post was about a scare that I had while swimming on July 5th.

It was then that I developed a problem breathing while out swimming in the cold waters of Ventura Harbor without a wetsuit. After subsequently buy a wetsuit I’ve had great swims all summer and swam a nice 1.2 miles on August 18th.

Before going out for a swim with a small group last Thursday someone asked, “how far?” I quickly responded, “1 mile!”

cautionIn my swimming I’ve developed a nice even every three stroke breathing pattern. This is what I did on Thursday. But about 10 minutes into the swim I had to switch to breathing every stroke. This was the first warning sign…one that I dismissed because I thought that maybe I had just gone out too fast.

Once that first lap was completed, I experienced the occasional cough while I was waiting for the other swimmers to complete their first lap. This was the second warning sign…one that I stupidly chose to ignore.

caution plusJust a little way into the next lap it was clear that I couldn’t swim, but I still was ignoring the truth. Once I made it to the turn around point I could no longer ignore that my lungs were just not working and I decided to swim to shore. A big mistake at this point was not letting anyone know the extent of my distress because as I swam to shore I found it more and more difficult to breathe.

At one point I was some paddle boarders and I contemplated calling for them to come and rescue me but I didn’t because that would have taken too much precious air. The only good thing is that I am a good swimmer and so I didn’t panic (much!) and finally turned on to my back and kicked my way to shore. Once on the beach I hit the sand and commenced coughing profusely. This was awful. A kind beachgoer gave me a bottle of water to drink.

While waiting for the others to finish (another swimmer had my car keys) I worked my way up to the parking lot, rinsed off my wetsuit and decided to go to urgent care.

Here’s another dumb thing…if you can’t breathe you probably shouldn’t be driving…thankfully I made it to the urgent care without hurting me or anyone else.

The office is on the second floor…I walked up the stairs and you would think that I’d just run a really fast 400 for how out of breath I was. Yikes! Once I made it in to the exam room, the nurse took my vitals and my blood pressure was an alarming (for me) 140/70. The doctor listened to me breathe and decided on a breathing treatment as well as a blood test to check for blood clots.

After the 20 minute breathing treatment (which was interrupted by my having to pee really bad…that bottle of water seemed to have gone right through me) I was still coughing a bit and my chest hurt. The doctor listened to me breath again and decided a chest x-ray was in order. So back downstairs for an x-ray. The walk back up the stairs was easier than the first time so that was a good sign (and yes they have an elevator but I’m a bit stubborn).

Back in the exam room I had to wait for a while and I was finally breathing well enough to relax. When the doctor came back in she said that I look better, I replied that I felt better…finally! Then she hit me with a big surprise, “you have pneumonia.”

That was a surprise! I asked, “How can I have pneumonia when I easily ran 20 miles on Monday?” To which she replied, “you ran 20 miles? All at once?”

Once they were assured that I don’t live alone (I guess in case I got worse), I was set up with some medicine and an appointment to return the next day for follow-up. That night I slept horribly and my husband reminded me the next morning of how the same breathing treatment (many years ago) amped up our (then) infant son for hours…so of course I didn’t sleep well.

On Friday I was breathing fine, but had a horrible headache. When I returned to the doctor’s office the nurse asked about the purpose of my visit and I replied, “apparently I have pneumonia.” To which she replied, “x-rays don’t lie.”

When I saw the doctor and told her that I have a marathon in 2 weeks she crossed her fingers and looked a bit dubious. Then she listened to me breathe and was surprised because my lungs were totally clear… and all my vital signs were good…heart rate of 48, oxygenation of 100%, and blood pressure was still a little high at 130/70 but she was fine with that.

Her advice was to take a couple days off training, run the marathon if I feel ok, and come back in a month for a follow-up x-ray. I asked if this was maybe exercised induced asthma but she said “no” because there is something on my lung x-ray. I asked about the other, more minor episode on July 5th and she said that we just don’t know…but that I am very fit… and finally concluded with, “sometimes shit happens.” I really like this doctor!

If you’ve managed to read this far on the very long post, I’ve had a major league headache for three days and so I decided yesterday morning to drop out of the race. However, my coach wisely suggested that I wait a few more days to decide.

Today, Monday (day 4) I finally woke up headache free…except for the lingering soreness that is the result of the headache!

It’s very possible that I’ve been fighting this infection all summer! Which means that I’m pretty bad-ass in the fitness department! Seriously though, this was a very scary thing to go through.

The moral of the story: stay fit and above all listen to your body because it really does try to tell you very important things.