October 19, 2011

Memphis Marathon Training: Week 9

*This will likely be my last weekly recap. I barely have enough time for my workouts and just don't have time to do these posts every week. And let's face it; no one but my parents wants to read about every little run. I'll just stick to posting the highlights!  

Last week, I took a closer look at my favorite place to run -- downtown Bentonville -- in an attempt to get my running mojo back, and Sunday , I ran 16 miles -- a new distance for me!!

Getting sick with a fever and sinus misery seriously threw a kink into my training plan, and it's taking me longer than I expected to bounce back. I'm feeling fine now, but was under the weather for about 10 days and missed several workouts. I can tell I've lost endurance, so anything more than 6 miles is a struggle. But I'm determined to get back on track!

The week in review...

After running the most awful half marathon ever last Sunday, I rested on Monday and tried to take it easy. Funny how running a race with massive hills after spending most of the week in bed doesn't do any favors for my energy level.

I felt so much better! I ran 4 miles on an unfamiliar route, and it was awesome to finally feel good on a run AND get a change of scenery. I didn't watch my pace too closely; I just ran by feel and tried to run faster than I usually do, but not overdo it. I didn't want to take any chances of exhausting myself too much too soon and getting sick all over again.

I took a rest day on Wednesday, even though I should've gone to spin. Fail. I didn't get to my tempo run until Friday!

I needed to make up my missed 6-miler, but I just didn't have the heart for it. My 4-mile run had gone well, but when I reached 4 miles, I was done. I knew I couldn't have gone much farther. So the thought of 6 at tempo pace filled me with dread, and I just didn't want to do it. I didn't want to fail. Also, running hasn't been much fun lately, and I was questioning this whole endeavor. I had zero enthusiasm when I arrived at my running destination after work, so I decided to just go for a walk. It was beautiful out, and I thought maybe if I spent some time by myself and got some fresh air, I would find a way out of the funk I was in. And it worked! I ran and walked 3.4 miles and had a lovely little evening. Go HERE for a running tour of Bentonville, and get a peek into where I live.


I had to work Saturday morning, and even though we're well into October, it was 80 and sunny, so I postponed my long run until Sunday so I could start early.

I met up with Laura around 7:30 Sunday morning for 16 miles -- my longest run ever. We had a route mapped out, but I hadn't driven it so I wasn't familiar with the roads. Bad move. A couple of the roads were pretty dicey with surprisingly heavy traffic for a Sunday morning, no shoulder and no sidewalk. Oops. About 6 or 7 miles in, I forgot the route and took a wrong turn, so my planned loop around the city turned into an out-and-back. Oops again. I learned so many lessons on this run! Lesson 1: drive the route ahead of time.

Also, I was not hydrated well enough before we started, so as the weather warmed up, I started seriously struggling. At mile 9, I felt terrible. Laura thinks I also didn't have enough for breakfast. My tank felt empty almost the entire time. Luckily, we passed by a couple of gas stations, and they let us fill our water bottles with crushed ice and water, and I was so grateful! I usually drink one 22 oz. bottle of water on a typical run, but on this run, I drank THREE bottles, but I was still dehydrated. Lesson 2: hydrate like it's your job for days leading up to a long run. Once you let yourself get dehydrated, it's impossible to catch up during a run.

This was my first run to try to eat real food instead of just ShotBloks along the way, and it was tough. I can tolerate about 4 ShotBloks before I start feeling sick from all the sweetness, and three of them are 100 calories. So ShotBloks aren't going to cut it for anything longer than half marathon distance. I made half a PB&J, cut it into two squares, and squished it in my SpiBelt. It wasn't pretty, but it helped so much more than choking down gummy sweet stuff.

We spent several minutes by stopping twice at gas stations, stopping to walk so we could eat, and then stopping to walk because I was wimping out in the last few miles. If Laura hadn't been with me, I would have been in tears at mile 14. It was so hot, and I felt like I was never going to finish. It was not an easy run, and only terrified me to think of having to do 10 more for a marathon. But I'm trying to remind myself that just a couple of weeks ago, I ran 14, which is almost 16, and I felt good. So maybe I was still catching up from being sick. I'm hoping that's the case. 26 is right around the corner!

Total miles for the week: 23.7

October 15, 2011

Where I live: A running tour

When I'm in a running rut...or any kind of rut...sometimes it helps to stop and reevaluate my perspective. To look for the positive things in life and stop focusing on the negative things I can't change. So instead of spending my Friday evening run staring at my Garmin, pushing myself to keep a fast pace, feeling like a failure when I can't and worrying if I'll be able to finish a marathon, I decided to take you on a tour of my hometown. I left my iPod in the car, ignored my Garmin and took a closer look -- a real look -- into this beautiful place where I live.


On a perfect, crisp fall evening, just before sunset, I didn't run my 6 miles at tempo pace. I ran and walked 3.4, and I do not feel like a failure for it. Instead, I took pictures. I meandered. I daresay I moseyed. I reminded myself why I love our little downtown square, and I remembered why I love to run. There's no better way to see a city.

Store fronts
My favorite place to run is down Central Avenue. I'm always guaranteed to see other runners, cyclists and families out for a stroll. And in this alley, you can get the best grilled cheese on the planet from Hammontree's Grillenium Falcon.

Grillenium Falcon

I adore Central, and nothing makes me happier than running down the tree-lined sidewalk, ducking under branches and admiring the 100-year-old homes and manicured lawns. 

Central Ave

These houses, with their generous front porches, wooden swings and fall wreaths just make me smile.


In my town, tiny parks are tucked away in neighborhoods. I run by this one all the time, and I always think how pretty it is, but I never fully appreciate it. This time, I stopped and smelled the flowers. For real.

Bogle Park
I also love running by the old high school. Home of the Tigers. My school looked nothing like this, but it still brings back happy memories of Friday night football games, pep rallies and friends.
Old Bentonville High
I love living in a town where people lock their doors, but they probably don't have to. I also love that it's pumpkin decorating season.

Autumn house
I ran from downtown over to Compton Gardens, where Trea and I had our wedding reception. It's a former home that is used for private events, and I love how it's nestled in the trees, in the middle of town, but secluded. Lucky for me, someone was having a party, so all the twinkle lights were on, I could smell whatever fancy food they were cooking, and there was a jazz piano and singer that I could hear from far away. I ran down the path toward Crystal Bridges, just as the sun went down, and I was so happy to hear the piano music wafting through the trees. (Does sound waft? You know what I mean.)

Crystal Bridges Trail

A run that I had dreaded all day turned into the perfect evening. Running without my iPod is one of the best decisions I've made in months. I love music, but even my favorite songs are someone else's noise, someone else's thoughts. It was nice just to be quiet and listen to the streets.

I made my way back to my car and was delighted to see it was time for Pickin' on the Square! People bring guitars, fiddles and any other kind of instrument they can carry, and they put on a show. There were literally people with guitars on every corner. Spectators bring lawn chairs and blankets and settle in for gospel and country music. I LOVED it. This is also where the boot-wearing, cowboy hat-loving citizens come out of the woodwork. 

Pickin on the Square

When I left work on Friday, I didn't want to run. All I wanted to do was go home and relax. Would this night have been better spent on the couch watching TV? No way. I hope you enjoyed my running tour; I know I did!

October 14, 2011

Mother Road Half Marathon Recap

I've been putting off writing this because I felt like roadkill on the Mother Road last weekend. I ran this half as a training run with Trea, Jennifer and Lori, and it was definitely my worst race experience to date. Also, it was not what any of us expected it to be.

We arrived in Joplin early Saturday evening and went straight to packet pick up at City Hall. The "expo" consisted of about four tables in a small room - two advertising other races, a chiropractor I think, and a group of ladies who asked us to donate $1 toward the production of a Route 66 quilt. Um, no thank you. Luckily, the local running store, The Run Around {which happens to be awesome}, was just across the street and having a sale, so we scored some good deals.

I thought the "expo" was odd, but that was nothing compared to our goodie bags. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for...the horse head necklace. {Which I graciously left behind for the hotel maid. You're welcome.}

Before we settled in for the night, we drove the race course so we'd know what to expect Sunday. It started in Baxter Springs, Kansas and followed Route 66 back to Joplin, Missouri. This race was advertised as following the "mother road" through two states {three states for the full marathon}. So in every email from race organizers and all over their website, I've read that I would be running down a highway. But, because I'm stupid, it didn't really sink in until I was driving the course that I would be RUNNING DOWN A HIGHWAY. A big, four-lane divided highway in KANSAS, kind of like an interstate -- with absolutely nothing to look at -- for 13.1 miles. Awesome. I thought even though Kansas would be boring, it would at least be flat. Wrong. Giant hills. And I mean giant. They weren't terribly steep, but they were long. The kind where you look toward the horizon and all you see is more hill and it ends in the sky.

If you'll recall, I got sick on my runniversary, stayed sick the whole week leading up to the race and was still under the weather on race weekend. {Side note: There will be no weekly training recap post for week 8. I trudged through a grand total of about 8 miles for the week before this race and spent the rest of the time clutching a box of Kleenex.} I was very worried about how I would do and was concerned about even being able to finish. I was also nervous about getting ready and dealing with breakfast in a hotel and freaked out about it in this post, but everything went fine leading up to our arrival at the starting line.

There were about 260 runners in the half, and we all lined up in the middle of nowhere on a narrow country road - the historic part of Route 66. I planned to keep an easy pace the whole time and just focus on finishing -- no PRs and no race paces. But just two weeks before, I had reached 13.1 in about two and a half hours -- 4 minutes faster than my time at the Bentonville Half Marathon -- and I wasn't really trying. So even though this wasn't a real race for me, in the back of my mind, I hoped I could PR by a minute or two because I had already done it in training. Silly me. I started out way too fast, and I knew my pace was going to come back to bite me, but I felt good and just kept going. I kept checking my watch, and my pace was below my 10K pace, which is pretty stupid since I still wasn't feeling well and wouldn't have been able to maintain that pace for 13 miles even if I had been at 100%.

The first few miles stayed on a country road, and it was actually really nice. I had been dreading this awful course after we drove it, but it was cool outside, the sun was shining, I could hear cows mooing as we passed by, and I was having fun. Since I had decided not to care about my finish time {even though I totally cared about my finish time} I slowed down to take some pictures.

Somewhere along the way, maybe around mile 3 or so, a girl ran right up beside me and started staring at me. I just kept running, thinking maybe she was looking at something in the distance on the other side of me. She kept running with me and kept staring, and finally she said, "Are you Anna?" I said yes, and then she introduced herself -- it was Amy of Amy Does Life, one of my friends on Twitter and Daily Mile who I had never met in real life! She recognized me and Trea and asked if I was feeling better after being sick all week. It was so funny to me to just start talking with someone I've never actually met, but who knows a thing or two about me. I guess I will always be amazed by the internets. Amy ran with us for a while until my pace started suffering on a huge hill. {Amy, it was great to meet you, and congrats on your PR and your first half marathon!!} 

There was a massive hill just before the 6 mile marker, and I walked when I got to the top. This was the beginning of the end. I started walking at water stops. Then I would walk through water stops and just keep walking. I could not find the energy to make my feet run again. Trea kept urging me on with pep talks like, "There are only 12 people behind us. We're gonna finish dead last." Thanks a lot. These pep talks don't help AT ALL.

At mile 8, I was seriously struggling. Trea had issues of his own. He hurt his ankle a couple of weeks ago and was running in a brace, and he started having a lot of pain. On top of that, he had forgotten to wear band-aids and had to take his shirt off so he wouldn't end up with bloody nipples. It was miserable. By this time, it was also hot. And we had seen about 5 spectators along with a whole lot of nothing.

By mile 10, I stopped caring. I just wanted to be done. I was running with my phone in my SpiBelt, and I was seriously trying to put together a plan to quit and have someone come pick me up. Race exhaustion makes you really dumb. All the miles started running together, and I don't remember how much I walked or ran at this point. I know I walked a lot, and the more I walked, the more discouraged I became. I was eating ShotBloks along the way, but I was feeling nauseated and couldn't stand to eat or drink as much as I should have. I ended up being very dehydrated. Trea was ready to hustle to the finish just to get it over with and also because his ankle hurt and he didn't want to prolong the pain, but he stayed with me and walked when I walked.

I was almost in tears when we got to the finish line because I was so embarrassed by how much I had walked and how poorly I had done. But my time was only about 4 minutes slower than my PR in Bentonville, and after being sick and feeling so awful, I was just happy I hadn't barfed on my shoes before I reached the end. I felt like I had been running all day, but we FINALLY made it.

This was not a fun race, but I wasn't prepared to race either. I was still weak from being sick, and since I hadn't been feeling well, I did not hydrate well enough at all in the days leading up to the race, which we all know is super important. So running directly into the sun, into a 20 mph wind, climbing a total of about 400 feet in 13.1 miles with a tummy full of antibiotics was kind of a perfect storm for disaster. The Mother Road was...a mother...but I lived to tell the tale!

October 7, 2011

Race travel and freaking out

This weekend is the Mother Road Half Marathon in Joplin, and it will be my first out-of-town race. I'm getting nervous about remembering everything I need to pack and getting ready/having my pre-run breakfast in a hotel instead of at home. I'm also nervous because I'm STILL sick, and I might not even be able to run at all. I went back to the doctor today for a stronger antibiotic, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I will wake up feeling like a million bucks Sunday morning for the race. We'll see.

This race is point-to-point instead of a loop, so we'll have to take a shuttle to the starting line in Baxter Springs, Kansas and then run to the finish line in Joplin, Missouri. So of course I'm stressed out about shuttle schedules. And what is this I keep hearing about gear trucks? Should I pack a bag that will be waiting for me at the finish line with dry clothes and stuff? What do you put in your bag? What kind of bag do you take? A backpack? Small duffel? Gallon-sized Ziploc? I am totally serious about these questions.

Trea and I have our long run routines down pat, and I'm more than concerned about changing things up this weekend. The morning of our long runs, Trea always makes a trip to McDonald's for egg McMuffins, or I make homemade ones for us, and then we don't leave the house for another 45 minutes or so to let everything settle. We normally eat around 5:45 and are running by 6:45 or 7:00. But at this race, the last shuttle arrives at the starting line at 7:00, but the race doesn't start until 8:00! So we'll still need to get up early and eat early, but I'm worried my McMuffin will be "wearing off" by the time we're ready to start. Maybe I need to get two... {Trea is allergic to both peanut butter and bananas -- runners' favorite fuel -- so our pre-run options are limited. PowerBars and ClifBars are out for him too.} We're running with friends, so ideally, we'll be able to drive one car to the start and leave it and take another car to retrieve it later. This would relieve tons of stress...as long as the race folks will let us do that.

Even though it stinks to be sick on ANOTHER race weekend, I'm still looking forward to this experience because I think it will be a good dress rehearsal for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in December. Much better to figure out our out-of-town/hotel routine now than in downtown Memphis at our first full marathon! I just found out only 262 runners are registered for the Mother Road Half, so this is going to be a tiny race. This is terrifying because my chances for finishing dead last just increased dramatically, but having a small turnout might be easier on us as we learn how to handle racing far from home.

I'm treating this weekend like a training run, so I'm not shooting for a certain time or anything. Since I've been sick for a week now, I'll just be happy if I'm able to run at all. I actually have 15 miles on my training schedule this weekend, so if I'm feeling better, I'm planning to run a mile or so before the race to warm up, and then whatever is left at the end as a slow shake-out run.

So, expert out-of-town racers...how do YOU get ready to race when you're away from home? 

How do you handle racing during training, when the race is shorter than your training distance? 

October 2, 2011

Memphis Marathon Training: Week 7

Some training weeks are better than others, and this week definitely did not go my way. After my 14-miler last Saturday, my Achilles and calves were pretty cranky for a few days. Then I felt like I was fighting off a cold almost all week, and it finally caught up with me this weekend and kept me out of a 5K I was really looking forward to, as well as my long run. I've missed several cross training workouts during my training, but this is the first significant run that I've missed, and I'm completely stressed out about losing endurance and not keeping up with my mileage. But when my nose ceases to function and I'm stuck in bed with a fever, my options for training are pretty limited.

Next weekend, I'm supposed to run the Mother Road Half Marathon in Joplin as a training run, so I'm hoping that missing my 10-miler this weekend doesn't set me back too much. 

Speed 4 Easy
My legs just weren't up for a speed workout after running 14 miles Saturday. I'm learning that these pace-focused runs don't always work out because I usually need more than one day of recovery in between. Instead of pushing myself to the breaking point, I just focus on getting the miles in rather than running at a crazy intensity when my legs feel less than 100%. I ran 4 miles by myself in downtown Bentonville and had to stop several times to stretch. I got some new Asics Kayanos, which offer a little more stability than my Nike Zoom Structures, and this was my first time to run in them. So far, I think I like them, though they are noticeably heavier.

4 miles/42:21/10:35 avg. pace

Cross train Rest
Trea and I went to Little Rock for the day to be with his mom while she had surgery (she's doing OK now). It was a long day with lots of driving, so there was absolutely no time for a workout. But we had a fantastic dinner on our way home at a new Greek restaurant in Conway! We stopped at Layla's Gyros and Pizzeria when we saw it had a 100% rating on Urbanspoon, and it did not disappoint! I had hummus with pita, falafel, a gyro meat pizza with tzatziki and I ate most of Trea's chicken schawarma. After our feast, I had homemade baklava and Turkish coffee, which they served in tiny little cups. This place is super affordable, and the staff was so friendly and helpful. If you're ever in Conway, stop in at Layla's.

8 Tempo
I ran with Laura on the bike trails around town. I always hate these longish mid-week runs, so we ran an out-and-back route so I wouldn't be tempted to cut it short. If you run 4 miles away from the car, you have to go 4 miles back! It was hot when we started, but it got dark before we finished, so it was nice and cool for the last couple of miles. I took 5 minutes off my previous 8-mile time!

8 miles/1:27:30/10:56 avg. pace

Cross train Rest
I skipped spin class again. AGAIN. I really have to get back on the cross training bandwagon. I felt like I was coming down with a cold, and wanted to just go home after work and rest. I thought if I could keep chugging EmergenC and get lots of sleep, maybe the sickness that's plaguing my entire office wouldn't get me. I was wrong.

Even more rest
Have you ever seen so many rest days?!

10 Long and Go Literacy 5K Nyquil coma
This was my "runniversary," the one-year anniversary of my first 5K. I was so excited to run the same race again and blow my previous time out of the water, but I woke up with fever and all kinds of nastiness that kept me from even going as a spectator. Not cool. I spent the morning at a walk-in clinic, but Trea raced and won first in his age group!! He set a new PR and finished in 24:52! I'm so proud of him, but still sad that I wasn't there to see him get his medal. Next year, Literacy 5K. Next year, IT IS ON.

Not only did I miss out on my race, but I also wasn't able to get in my long run. I had hoped that after getting a steroid shot yesterday and a good night's sleep, I would be able to run today, but I still feel awful. Let's hope I can still make my way through 13.1 at the Mother Road Half next weekend! Even though I'm just using it as a training run, I'm more than a little worried about it now.

Total miles for the week: A measly 12

9 weeks till Memphis!

October 1, 2011

My Runniversary

Today was my one-year "runniversary." I planned to celebrate the progress I've made over the last year by running the Go Literacy 5K again, which was my first ever race. This time last year, I had just finished a couch to 5K program, and I was worried about even being able to run 3.1 miles without walking. Now I'm training for a marathon. My, how times have changed!

I had big plans to write this thoughtful blog post about my experience, reflecting on how far I've come since I started running last summer. I was also hoping today would be my big chance to finally finish a 5K in under 30 minutes - much faster than my time of 34:18 last year on this course. I also had plans to redeem myself and not wear an ugly green headband in my race pictures. Yikes.

Go Literacy 5K - Oct. 2010
I picked up my race packet yesterday, had my clothes all picked out and bib number ready to pin. My Garmin was charged, my alarm was set, and I was looking forward to cheering on my friend Kelly. Then I came down with the plague. Sore throat, massive headache, fever, stuffy, runny nose and uncontrollable, incessant whining.

I felt terrible when I woke up this morning. I knew I could probably push myself to get through the race at a less than desirable speed, but it was barely 40-something degrees, and I didn't think burning my lungs and sore throat with cold air was going to help things. I've never missed a race before, and I was so sad when Trea left without me. I almost went and just watched so I could be there to cheer for him and Kelly, but the cold weather and fever won out, and I stayed in bed. The bigger picture is marathon training -- not to mention that I'm running the Mother Road Half Marathon next weekend as a training run! -- and I have 10 miles on schedule for this weekend. So I threw a pity party via social media, and then got myself to the doctor ASAP. I don't have time to be sick! Literally!

Usually, I'm stubborn about going to the doctor and will self-medicate for days before I give in and make an appointment. Not today. Today, I need to get better. I got a steroid shot, which will hopefully kick this crud, and if I'm not better by Monday, I'm hopping on the antibiotic train. I'm also drinking EmergenC like there's no tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Trea and Kelly both had a great race! Kelly beat her last 5K time by two minutes, and Trea set a new PR, placing 1st in his age group! He ran a 24:52!! This was also his first 5K last year, and his previous time on this course was close to 32 minutes. He's been gradually improving all year, but today was fantastic. He was so excited, and I'm so proud of him! Giant bummer that I wasn't there to see him do so well and get his medal.

My big one-year milestone didn't go at all as planned, and I'm still pretty disappointed about it. I've spent all day in bed making a used kleenex mountain, but I'm holding out hope that this steroid shot works a miracle and maybe I can get my 10 miles in tomorrow. We shall see...


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