Grand Rapids Marathon race recap

Sunday, October 20th was the day of the Grand Rapids Marathon – my first marathon. I think it was a wise choice to make this race my first because it was an excellent event.

The sticker I received at the finish

The sticker I received at the finish

Matt and I drove to Grand Rapids the afternoon before the race and arrived at the expo around 4:00. The expo took place at the YMCA, which was also the site for the race’s start and finish.

This YMCA is a really nice facility

This YMCA is a really nice facility

The race expo

The race expo

We picked up our race packets, which included socks and a very cool shirt.

The race packet

The race packet

Another photo of the race shirt

Another photo of the race shirt

One of the cool features of the Grand Rapids Marathon is the celebrity pace groups. Rather than boring old pace groups that simply list times, this race uses times run by various celebrities to determine the pace groups. My ambitious race goal was 3:35, so somewhere between 3:29 and 3:44 seemed ideal for me.

I hoped to fall somewhere between these pace groups

I hoped to fall somewhere between these pace groups

Celebrity pace groups

Celebrity pace groups

There were plenty of things to buy at the expo, and we chose to purchase a book written by the race director, Don Kern. His book is about his quest to run marathons on each continent in less than a month. I’m sure it will be an interesting read. Don was also available to autograph the book.

Don Kern's book

Don Kern’s book

There was a booth for the Fifth Third River Bank Run and they were handing out glasses for free! I loved running the 25K in May and was excited to add this to the collection.

Free glass

Free glass

Gazelle Sports had a variety of merchandise to purchase, including some awesome Saucony shirts designed specifically for the race. Matt and I browsed for a bit and that worked in our favor. The racks said the shirts were 25% off, but someone came around and changed the signs to 50% off while we were still looking around! It was nearing the end of the expo time, so I’m sure they were trying to get rid of things.

Gazelle's area

Gazelle’s area

I love this design

I love this design

After the expo, we stopped for dinner at Noodles & Company on the way to our hotel. When we got to the hotel, we discovered that our toilet was broken. Matt found a workaround to still make it functional, but we called the front desk to let them know. They gave us the option to switch rooms or stay in our room for only $15. We chose to deal with a little inconvenience and save the money! We spent a while preparing everything for the next morning and got to bed around 9:00. They always say that you may not sleep very well the night before a race, and I blame at least half of that on our neighbors. The people in the next room stayed up much later than us. They had their TV cranked up, spoke loudly, and hacked up a lung out on the balcony. Grrrr.

5:15 am rolled around too soon after a restless night, and it was time to get ready for the big race. I had my typical pre-run breakfast of a banana and a Honey Stinger Waffle with water. Rain had been in the forecast just before the start of the race, but luckily it had already cleared up by the time we left the hotel. It was partly cloudy and in the low 40s which was perfect. There was quite a bit of traffic in the area when we got there, but we made our way to a parking lot a few blocks from the YMCA a good hour before the start of the race. I hit a porta potty along the way, then we met up with some friends near the start. After chatting for a bit, I figured I ought to drop my stuff at the gear check. While I was there, I could hear the National Anthem. I hadn’t realized it was so close to the start of the race! I hurried up, found Matt, and we walked around the block to get to the start. Luckily, we still had a good 10 minutes or so.

Right before the start

Right before the start

Waiting for the start

Waiting for the start

Matt was running the half marathon and would be going much faster than me, so we wished each other luck and found the pace groups we needed. It was easy to walk on the sidewalk then jump down to the street in the right spot. I chose to start a little behind the Dubya Running Mates, who were aiming for 3:44. I was going to start conservatively and hopefully save some energy for later in the race.

Somehow I managed to not freak out before this race. I figured the nerves would really kick in Saturday night or at least Sunday morning, but they never did. I think I took the pressure off myself by not really pushing for a specific goal. I told myself I was going to go out there and see what happened. Everyone kept telling me that I shouldn’t have a goal time for my first marathon. Even though I’d followed Higdon’s Advanced 1 training plan, I was obviously far from advanced when it came to actually running a marathon. I felt confident in my training and didn’t want to discount that, but I also knew very well that the marathon is quite a monster and anything could happen. I viewed my 3:35 training goal as my best-case scenario, but I wouldn’t be bothered at all if I didn’t hit that for my first marathon. My plan of attack was to start easy, run a pace in the 8:20s until later in the race, then drop closer to my 8:13 goal pace if I had it in me.

The race started and I spotted Matt’s parents before I crossed the starting line. It was awesome that they came to support us, and I saw them a couple more times along the route. Over 1,500 people ran the marathon and just under 2,000 people ran the half marathon. We all started at the same time and the half marathon runners split off before the 9-mile mark. Because both races were together for so long, the course was filled with people. I didn’t feel like it was congested in a bad way though and didn’t weave around people too much.

One reason I chose this race for my first marathon was because it was supposed to be a scenic course. We ran through some of downtown Grand Rapids, and much of the run took place on park and bike paths. It was peaceful and pretty, especially with views of the fall colors in many areas.

Another reason this race appealed to me was because it was billed as flat and fast. There were a few little hills before the halfway point, but nothing significant.

The elevation

The elevation

While there were a number of spectators throughout the downtown, there were not many once we hit the park and bike paths. The people at the aid stations were wonderful and enthusiastic, and there were a lot of people at the various relay exchange points. A few spots here and there did have people cheering, and I especially loved seeing a fluffy white Samoyed several times throughout the race. I had a Samoyed when I was growing up, and it made me smile each time I saw the dog on the course.

The awesome dog I had growing up

The awesome dog I had growing up

I did a pretty good job sticking to my plan to run fairly easy early on. The Dubya pace group was within my view, though they were probably a good 30 seconds ahead of me for a while. I caught up to them before the halfway point and ran near the group for several miles. As I hit 13 miles, I felt a pain in my left knee. I’d never had a problem there before and it bugged me for a while, but I ran through it. Luckily the pain faded after a few miles and I still felt good. The pace was easy enough and I was happy with how the run had gone so far. I wore my hydration belt with a couple of 22 oz bottles, one with GU Brew and one with water. With my own bottles, I didn’t have to stop at the aid stations. I also had some Honey Stinger Chews to eat along the way, and I ate some of those at least every 6 miles or so.

The pace group was nice to keep my pace in check, but with the pacers came larger groups of people. As we ran on some of the more narrow paths, I started to feel like it was too congested for my taste. Around the 16th mile, I finally broke away from them. I didn’t like being right on top of other people and needed more space. I sped up a little to get around them, then I had all the space I needed.

When I ran a 20-mile training run on part of the course a month earlier, one of the biggest struggles for me was on the bike path – Indian Mounds Road. For both the training run and the race, that portion involved an out and back stretch. I was fine on the way out during the training run, but struggled a bit on the way back. There weren’t many people around and it was a pretty isolated area. I had been concerned about struggling with that portion during the marathon, but I was fine. There were plenty of people around at all times. Even when I broke away from the pace group, there were always people in front of me that helped keep me going. Because it was an out and back stretch, soon enough the speedy runners came back in the opposite direction. It was fun to watch them, and I also enjoyed watching people after I turned around. I got to see the various pace groups go by and it was a good distraction.

I didn’t mean to speed up too much, but after 17 miles, my pace dropped for a bit. I felt bad as I passed people off to the side dealing with cramps or those who were walking. I hoped that my conservative pace early on would help me finish strong. My pace for the 22nd mile was clearly slower, and that’s when I decided I should stop to fill one of my bottles with more water. I was running low and knew I was getting pretty thirsty. I pulled off at an aid station, dumped a few cups of water into my bottle, then got going again. That was the only time I stopped during the whole race.

My pace slowed down after that point, and things got a bit more difficult. From about 22-23 miles on, it became a struggle. Aside from the knee pain at the halfway point, I hadn’t had any issues. No other pains, no stomach issues, no cramping. However, I started to get pretty tired and my legs started to break down. The bottom of my feet hurt and my legs got heavier and heavier. I knew an aid station would have some Oreos coming up, so I had that to look forward to. I took a couple of the cookies, but my mouth was pretty dry. I made it through one and a half cookies as I ran before I couldn’t do it anymore. Cookies and a dry mouth were not a good combination. I did have plenty of water in my bottle, but maybe I hadn’t been hydrating quite enough and it was starting to catch up with me. Also, it was probably the fact that I’d gone 23 or 24 miles and I was getting pretty wiped out by then!

Another thing that got to me was the fact that I was going to run quite a bit long. As much as I thought I was being aware of the tangents, I clearly did not do a good job. I’m sure I picked up quite a bit of extra distance each time I drifted from one side of the path to the other when I passed others. While I usually run a bit extra in most races, when the race is 26 miles, each little bit adds up quite a bit by the end! As I got closer to the end, I realized I was going to be about .3 miles over, meaning 26.5 miles instead of 26.2. Since I was feeling pretty miserable and counting down the distance I had left, that fact sure didn’t help me feel any better.

I was kind of surprised that my pace was still around the 8:30s near the end, because it sure felt like I was just trudging along. I was in pain and kept telling myself that even if I ran a little slower, I was still going to keep running. I kept passing more and more people who were walking, and I couldn’t let them get to me. Although walking sure seemed appealing, I couldn’t do it. At the same time, people who were going strong were passing me. I couldn’t let that bring me down too much either. It was a bit of a mind game, but I was mostly thinking about how miserable I felt. When I reached 23 miles, I told myself that I had just over 5K left. It felt like the longest 5K ever.

I knew that Matt should have finished a couple hours before I would finish and that he was going to try to track me. I had my phone with me and we had made use of the “Find My Friends” app. He had talked about coming out to run with me near the end, and I saw him coming towards me when I had a little more than a mile left. Although I was glad to see him, not much could truly lift my spirits at that point. I was struggling and in pain, just trying to get to the end. He kept talking me through it and told me that his parents were going to be up ahead cheering for me. I was happy to see them, as well as my friend Jeff near the finish. I tried to push a little bit at the end. I dropped my pace a little, but really didn’t have much left in me. Here’s how my splits broke down:

My splits

My splits

I ended up finishing with an official time of 3:42:07. Because I should have run 26.2 instead of 26.5, my official pace was 8:29. I prefer going with my Garmin’s pace of 8:23 though. That’s 10 seconds slower than my best-case scenario pace of 8:13, and it’s kind of what I expected to hit all along. It was nice to know that I was right on track!

Almost done!

Almost done!

Don Kern, the awesome race director, waited at the end to shake hands with each person who crossed the finish line. Although I really appreciated that personal touch, I failed to show much appreciation when it was my turn. I had finally stopped running and was absolutely beat. I shook his hand and shook my head as I realized how much pain I was in. I got a bit winded for a minute which freaked me out, but luckily that feeling went away. I collected my medal and slowly worked my way through the food area.

I did it! I'm trying to smile through the pain.

I did it! I’m trying to smile through the pain.

Very nice medal

Very nice medal

A closer view of the medal

A closer view of the medal

As I walked through the food area, I tried to stretch and recompose myself. I was starting to realize all of the places on my body that hurt. I already knew that the bottom of my feet and my calves were trashed, but my hips, IT bands, and nearly everything else ached as well. It probably took a good 5 minutes for me to walk through the food area. I drank a couple cups of Gatorade, then collected a bottle of water, half a bagel, a bag of chips, a banana, and my favorite – a cup of chocolate custard from Culver’s. I worked my way through the area and went to see Matt, his parents, and Jeff. It was great to see all of them.

Instead of a feeling of elation, my only post-marathon thought was that I was in so much pain. I kept thinking, “I hurt.” I didn’t shed any tears as I crossed the line. I was just thankful that I finally got to stop. A feeling of accomplishment didn’t really hit me. It was so hard to look past the pain!

I got my stuff from the gear check to make sure I’d stay warm enough and realized I had a Clif Builder’s Bar in my bag. The bagel seemed too dry since I was probably dehydrated, but the chocolate mint Builder’s Bar tasted good. I followed that up with my chocolate custard and I was growing happier by the minute. I was ready to check out the beer tent with Matt. I’m not much of a drinker, but a beer at the end of a long race always seems appealing. However, I’m very picky and wasn’t really thrilled with the taste of the beer they had available. I had a few sips and was done with that. Oh well!

After a little bit, we decided to take off and go get some lunch with Matt’s parents. It was a bit tricky getting around the traffic and closed roads, but we made it to Peppino’s. They had a post-race buffet available with pizza and pasta, and I wanted to check that out. The choices were pretty limited, so we chose to get our own table and order from the menu. I had some cheesy breadsticks that nearly filled me up alone, then I ate a few pieces of pizza on top of that. Although I had plenty of calories to gain back, I quickly realized that I didn’t need to do it all at once. I was going to end up feeling sick in addition to feeling like my legs were completely trashed. It was quite a mess whenever I tried to walk. As I walked through the restaurant, a fellow runner looked at me and said, “You look like I feel.” Usually a speedy walker, I was the complete opposite as I hobbled around.

Following lunch, Matt and I had a 2-hour drive back home. I was a bit worried about my legs stiffening up. I did put my compression sleeves on in hopes that it would help a little bit. We stopped for gas at one point and I decided I had better try to get moving. Getting out of the car was ugly. I realized how bad my hips hurt and felt a pain in my left knee as well. We saw an old man shuffling through the store, and I knew that I wasn’t walking much better than him. We made it home, and then I found out just how bad it was to deal with stairs. I had always heard that stairs would be difficult following a marathon. I always thought it was because of sore quads. My quads felt fine, but my left knee was a mess. I had to take two steps on each stair because it was agony to bend my left knee.

As expected, I was quite a mess for a couple days following the race as well. Going to work the day after the race was interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever walked so slowly. My knee was a definite issue and it felt like I was limping along, dragging my left leg. Somehow I made it through the day, sore calves, hips, IT bands, knee, and all. I was walking a bit better by the end of Tuesday, though my knee still made stairs very painful. By Wednesday, nearly everything felt fine again, other than my knee. I’m not sure what I did to it, but it may take some time to heal.

Now that the pain is fading, I’m better able to comprehend the accomplishment of actually finishing a marathon. After talking to so many runner friends, it almost feels like running a marathon is just a given – something most runners do. Part of me feels like it’s no big deal because so many of our friends have run multiple marathons. I need to realize that it really is a big accomplishment though, and feel proud of all of the work I put into it. 18 weeks of training is quite a long time, and it meant pushing a lot of things off in order to concentrate on following my training. Even a year ago, I didn’t really think I’d run a marathon. I wasn’t sure my body would hold up, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to subject myself to that kind of torture. Yet eventually I broke down and decided to give it a try. I set my mind to it, and I was able to do it!

I’m really happy with how my first marathon went. Yes, take note that I keep referring to it as my “first” marathon. I’m sure more will come in the future! I need a little time to distance myself from the pain I went through in the last few miles, but when that memory fades, I’m sure I’ll plan to run another. It just may be a good year or so before I put myself through it again! I’ll leave you with the final stats from the race. Not bad for my first attempt!

Some race stats

– Janet

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Week 18 of marathon training

The last week of marathon training…this is it! I’ve spent the last 18 weeks working toward this race and it’s finally here. Marathon #1, the Grand Rapids Marathon, is tomorrow. Here’s what the final week of training looked like:

Monday: Ran 3 miles. It felt kind of weird to be done with my run in less than half an hour. It was kind of nice though too!

Tuesday: Ran 5 miles. My schedule had a 4 x 400 workout on it and I wasn’t really sure how fast I should run. The plan specifies how fast to run 800s, but this week was the only time I had to run 400s and I couldn’t find any info about the pace. Matt thought somewhere around 10K pace seemed good and I agreed. I didn’t want to go too fast so close to the marathon. I settled on aiming for a 7:30 pace, which is a little slower than my 10K pace. I ran 1.5 miles to warm up and a little over 2 miles to cool down just to get more distance in. My splits were 7:16, 7:29, 7:18, and 7:15. I was a bit fast on most of the repeats, but not too bad I guess. Getting in a few bursts of speed for the last time before the marathon felt good.

Wednesday: Ran 2 miles. 2 miles? That’s it? It was a little cool outside and 2 miles wasn’t even long enough for my hands to warm up completely by the end of the run.

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Ran 2 miles. A shakeout run the day before the marathon. Since I was still really bad about getting enough sleep during the week, I made sure to get at least a solid 9 hours Friday night. It was rainy and cool for this one, but the run had to get done. Matt and I went out to the trail and the run was just fine. My feet were numb to start and my fingers were cold for most of the run, but the rain was light enough and I felt good. This was about 20 seconds slower than goal marathon pace. After 2 days of rest, my legs felt great!

Totals for the week: 12 miles of training with 26.2 more miles coming on Sunday!

Right when it was time to really taper in the week leading up to the race, work got ridiculously crazy. Tuesday and Wednesday were especially bad. I easily walked several miles each day and spent way too much time on my feet. I think that irritated my shins, and my legs were heavy and tired by the end of each day. Luckily things were calmer on Friday.

One really cool thing is that so many people at work have been extremely supportive. A manager who has toyed with the idea of running a marathon was intrigued to hear about the whole process. He had me talk to a “healthy living challenge” group one day about my training. I think he really likes the idea that anyone who sets their mind to it can accomplish it. A lot of people have been really curious about how it all works, and a lot of people have been genuinely excited for me. It’s kind of unexpected, yet a great feeling to have support from so many people.

Now that I’ve been through a true taper, I have to say the concept of “taper madness” was blown out of proportion. Maybe it hits some people more than others, but I didn’t notice a thing. I’ve read or been told that I’d have new aches and pains that would freak me out. I’d get irritated and snappy. I’d feel anxious or antsy. None of those things happened and life went on as usual. As I suspected, even though I spent less time running and working out, I managed to fill that time easily with something else. Maybe the craziness at work distracted me and helped keep me from worrying too much. I’ve had plenty of moments where I think about how I ought to pace myself during the marathon, but no freak-out moments. I didn’t have any new pains or feel like my legs were dead. The hip pain I first noticed a couple months ago is still very much present, but luckily it doesn’t seem to bug me when I run. My legs felt refreshed from running fewer miles.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty of anxious moments the night before and the morning of the race, but I’m trying to keep calm. I need to trust my training. I worked my butt off for the last 18 weeks and feel like the training was a big success.  I’m not truly hung up on hitting a certain pace – it was more of a guide for me in how I should complete my training. I plan on starting slow and possibly running somewhere around 10 seconds slower than the goal pace for as long as 20 miles. If I have anything left in me, I can step it up toward the end. If I don’t, I’ll just continue on the best I can. This is a learning experience. I’d rather end up a little slower than I may be capable of and enjoy my first marathon experience rather than run the risk of crashing and being completely miserable.

I have a feeling my biggest worries will be about what to wear. Right now, it looks like the real-feel could range from about 39-46 degrees while I’m running. While I’d planned on wearing short sleeves before, now I’m leaning toward long. I’m also hoping to get that damn Miley Cyrus song “Wrecking Ball” out of my head by tomorrow. I heard it while I was at work yesterday and haven’t been able to shake it since. I don’t run with music, so I usually end up with choruses of bad pop songs running through my head over and over. Please, please, please don’t let THAT song torture me! I’m also hoping I hold it together emotionally. When I saw Matt coming toward the finish line of his first marathon, I got all teary-eyed. I hope I can hold it together so I’m not crying in my finish line photo!

In the meantime, I’m giddy and looking forward to the race. I’m looking forward to going shopping at the expo and seeing the cool GR Marathon gear they have. I’m especially looking forward to finishing this weekend as a marathoner! I’ve come a long way over the last 18 weeks and I know that I’m ready. Thanks to anyone who has actually taken the time to read this blog as I work toward my first marathon – I appreciate your support!

– Janet

Week 17 of marathon training

Week 17 was a nice taper week and the Grand Rapids Marathon is now only 6 days away. The past week was about as perfect for running as anyone could ask for. Sunny skies, nice temperatures, and fall colors made for some gorgeous runs.

Paint Creek Trail was beautiful this week

Paint Creek Trail was beautiful this week

Before I became so obsessed with running, I used to take a lot more photos and post them on my website. Although I am lucky enough to take photos all day long for work, I’ve kind of neglected “fun” photography lately as training has taken up so much of my time. Last week I FINALLY got a new phone with an excellent camera (my old one was terrible) and that will surely inspire me to take more photos again. Most of my runs this week turned into half jogs and half photo expeditions. As a result, this post is loaded with photos.

Here’s how the week of tapering went:

Monday: Ran 4 miles. My typical 5-mile run days dropped down to 4 this week. I split this run up between the Paint Creek Trail and Rochester Municipal Park.

Rochester Municipal Park

Rochester Municipal Park

Tuesday: Ran 6 miles. I had been worried that the taper might leave me with fresher legs and I’d end up going faster than I should, and that did happen during this run. Not that I really went fast, but when I’ve gotten used to running easy runs 25-30 seconds slower than marathon pace, 10 seconds above seemed faster than usual. When I realized I was at marathon pace for the second mile, I slowed down. Yet I was back to it again for the fourth mile. It was nice to feel good, but I have to make sure I don’t push it too much.

Wednesday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by a 4-mile run. I’ve been told I should stop strength training before the race. Lately, I’m down to only once a week as it is, and I honestly don’t do much with my legs when I strength train anyway. I read an article from Runner’s World that addresses this topic, and it sounds like it’s ideal to cut out strength training 8-14 days before a marathon. So, this was probably my last weights session for a couple weeks.

After the gym, I headed out on the trail once again. I’ve spent so much time on the trail during marathon training because it’s flat, close, and convenient. Although I’m extremely thankful to have such an amazing place to run, for a while I’d grown a little bored with seeing the same sights day after day. The fall colors have suddenly brought new life to the trail though, and I loved running there this week. This was my first run with my new phone and I stopped a bunch of times for photos.

Paint Creek Trail

Paint Creek Trail

Along the Paint Creek Trail

Along the Paint Creek Trail

Thursday: Ran 6 miles. I had a 30-minute tempo run on the schedule, so I ran a mile to warm up, a mile to cool down, and did a cut down run for the middle 4 miles. Pretty much all of my tempo runs for marathon training have been done on the treadmill. It keeps my pace steady and where it should be. I had to get out to enjoy the nice weather though, so I attempted to keep a decent pace on my own on the trail. I originally figured I’d aim for miles at 8:15, 8:00, 7:45, and 7:30. I ended up with 8:09, 7:55 , 7:44 , and 7:24. It was a successful run, though my pace was pretty choppy and I was constantly speeding up or slowing down to hit the goal paces.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Ran 4.25 miles. 4 miles seems like such a wimpy weekend run after going through the full marathon training segment. Since this was supposed to be an easy run, I used it as an opportunity to take some more fall photos. I didn’t care if I jogged for a few minutes then stopped for a few minutes for pictures. At this point in training, it’s kind of nice to have no pressure and just go out and do whatever I feel like doing. Matt and I went out on the trail, through Rochester Park, and through Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve.

Paint Creek Trail

Paint Creek Trail

Rochester Municipal Park

Rochester Municipal Park

Rochester Municipal Park

Rochester Municipal Park

Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve is a nice little area off the Paint Creek Trail just north of downtown Rochester. It’s very peaceful and has a lot of pretty sights. We saw a large family of deer in the woods, including the dad.

Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill

Dinosaur Hill

Just a few of the many deer we saw

Just a few of the many deer we saw

Sunday: Ran 8 miles. My last longish run of marathon training. Because it was going to be another beautiful day, I wanted to go somewhere we don’t usually run and enjoy the fall colors. Matt and I decided to run on the Polly Ann Trail and chose to start in Leonard. We ran on the trail once during the summer, starting in Lake Orion. I wanted different scenery, and Leonard is one of the few towns along the trail that has a good area for parking. We enjoyed the sights as we drove to Leonard on some dirt roads through the country. When we got to the parking lot we saw a couple women heading out on the trail on their horses. Aside from them, we saw a few people walking and a few on bikes, but the people were few and far between. The trail was nowhere near as busy as Paint Creek Trail. There was one short portion that was paved, but the rest was crushed limestone. The trail was so covered with leaves in spots you wouldn’t even know what kind of surface was underneath!

Polly Ann Trail

Polly Ann Trail

Polly Ann Trail

Polly Ann Trail

Polly Ann Trail

Polly Ann Trail

Polly Ann Trail

Polly Ann Trail

The trail was beautiful! Although I also enjoyed running through the Lake Orion and Oxford portions of the trail the one other time, I’m really glad we decided to check out the Leonard portion this time. We will definitely have to go back.

Totals for the week: Ran 32.25 miles, strength training once.

I haven’t had a week with so few miles since the beginning of this training segment. It was nice to be more relaxed this week and take in so many beautiful sights. I’m feeling good and I noticed that I had a bit more speed. I’m trying hard to keep the extra speed in check, though the 8-mile run on Sunday was nearly at marathon pace even though it shouldn’t have been.

It’s hard to believe it’s almost time to do this. Don Kern, the race director for the Grand Rapids Marathon, had some great advice in today’s email to race participants – “re-freakin’-lax.” There’s nothing more that can be done at this point. You’re either ready or not ready. I know my training has gone extremely well. The marathon is such a monster though, and it can be easy to worry about a lot of different factors. I need to heed his advice and do the best that I can to chill out. I think I’ll be okay for the most part, but nerves always kick in before any race. Time to take lots of deep breaths and remind myself that I’m ready!

– Janet

Week 16 of marathon training

Week 16 of training for the Grand Rapids Marathon is complete. Only 2 weeks until the big race! Although this past week could be viewed as the beginning of my taper period, it didn’t really feel like it. It just felt like another stepback week. I think this next week is when I’ll notice more as I drop from just above 40 miles down to just above 30. I haven’t run a week with less than 40 miles since mid-August. Here’s what I did for week 16:

Monday: Ran 4.5 miles. I had 5 miles on the schedule but only made it to 4.5. I think my mind was in a fog or something because I had convinced myself that I was going to end up with 5.5 miles. I had my watch on, but I guess I was oblivious. I did not feel good during the run so it was probably for the best. This run actually felt worse than the 5 I did the day after running 20 miles. I went slow and my shins hurt during a good part of the run. Aside from a few moments here and there, I usually don’t feel my shins while I run. It’s more of an issue afterwards. The fact that I felt them so much during the run worried me. In addition, my nose had been pretty runny during the day and I figured I was coming down with a cold or some kind of sinus issue. Just great. I reasoned that if I’m going to get sick, it’s best if it happens 3 weeks out from the race so I have time to be completely healthy by race day.

Tuesday: Ran 7 miles – 6 hill repeats. Sure enough, the runny nose and congestion problem I developed on Monday was no better on Tuesday. By the time I got out of the car after work I was ready to fall asleep. I was determined to keep up with my training though. Running usually makes my sinuses feel better and luckily that was the case for this run. The hill repeats plus a warm up and cool down went just fine. I had an audience for this workout – our cat and the neighbors’ dog were both watching me out the window.

It's always nice to be greeted by our cat when I get home from a run!

It’s always nice to be greeted by our cat when I get home from a run!

About 5 minutes after I was done the sneezing started up again. I also had all of the warning signs of a migraine, but fortunately it never fully materialized. I haven’t dealt with a migraine for at least a couple years and I think the sinus pressure probably had something to do with it.

Wednesday: Ran 5 miles. I felt crappy all day at work and could barely breathe, but decided to try running anyway. It was actually the best I felt all day. Once I was done I went back to feeling like crap again. Too bad I only had 5 miles to run!

Thursday: Ran 8.75 miles. I had 8 miles on the schedule but went a little bit longer. It’s starting to get dark too early now and I ended this one in the dark. I’m not looking forward to the evening headlamp runs! I finally started to feel better today and could breathe again. It’s a relief that it didn’t turn into something more serious.

Friday: 40 minutes of strength training. Typically my rest day, I decided to get to the gym since I hadn’t been all week. I didn’t feel like it would be appropriate to go earlier in the week while I was sniffling, and I finally felt okay by Friday.

Saturday: Ran 4 miles at marathon pace. Here’s where the cutting back started to feel weird. Only 4 miles on Saturday? At least it was a pace run to help keep things challenging. It was dark and raining when I woke up. I wasn’t too excited to head out, but I’m sticking to my plan and if it says I’m supposed to run, I’m going to run. By the time Matt and I went out it was light and had pretty much stopped raining. I still had some congestion that annoyed me during this run, but I was fine otherwise and we averaged 7 seconds per mile under my goal pace.

Sunday: Ran 12 miles. It was raining once again when I woke up, but it let up by the time we headed out. I guess I got lucky with my timing this weekend. Matt ran with me for the first 5 miles. My legs felt tired and I was a bit slow for the first 4-5 miles, but then I must have warmed up enough to pick up the pace a tiny bit for the rest of the run. It was super humid outside and when I actually did have brief moments of rain, I think that felt better.

Totals for the week: Strength training once, ran 41.25 miles.

Everyone keeps warning me that strange things will happen when I taper. I’ll suddenly feel new aches and pains, I’ll be lethargic or really jittery, I’ll have a short temper, etc. We’ll see what actually happens. I have a feeling I’ll be thankful to have a little bit of extra free time! If I was smart, I’d use the extra free time to get more sleep. However, I always find something to fill that time and never get the extra sleep. For example, I write a blog post like this when I ought to be in bed. So if I end up feeling lethargic, I’m not going to blame it on the taper. I’ll be used to it from my typical lack of sleep!

2 weeks to go and I’m ready to just do this thing…I don’t want to wait anymore!

– Janet