Got Long Run Anxiety? The Cure is Right at Your Feet!

Sunday, Sept 7

So last weekend was rough. The long run du jour was a 16 miler. I procrastinated and put it off until Sunday morning, per my usual this training season. Saturday night before bed I had all my clothes out, gels packed, watch fully charged. I got up, had my usual breakfast – gluten free bagel with almond butter, some swigs of day old coffee (don’t judge me) and a big glass of water and drove to the towpath trail in Peninsula. It was an overcast morning at 7am and as I pulled into a parking spot I started to feel anxious. It was a mix of feelings really – dread, fear, and general uneasiness thinking about SIXTEEN MILES! All these questions and doubts kept racing through my head about whether or not I was prepared for this run and further, could I even run another marathon??!! What was I thinking?? My training for this race has been spotty, or at least not as regimented as my training in 2011, but I have run this distance before. I trained and successfully ran my first full marathon in Sept 2011 and my training went really well! Well, all except for my 16 mile training run at the towpath!! It was the most humid day (seriously) of that summer and I had not adequately prepped for it (water, gels, etc). I came home sweating through my shoes, crying, and thinking there was no way I could run this race. SO, that memory was gnawing at me a little bit too, as you might guess.

So last Sunday morning I put myself out of my misery (or more accurately into additional misery) and went home. I left telling myself the oh so famous promise, “I’ll just do it tomorrow. It looks like rain anyways.” Since Labor Day was the next day I had bought myself another day/excuse. But the doubts plagued on as I tried to make sense of this anxiety about long runs issue. I sought advice from my Challenger Runner Group on Facebook and got some great advice to try. I also actually googled “long run anxiety” and read some good tips and advice. It was good info and also made me feel good that I wasn’t the only one who had experienced this. I went back to the trail the next day and decided to let go of the 16 mile expectation and just run what felt good. I ran 6 instead. I felt good and strong and had a good run. So I confronted the anxiety enough to conquer the trail that day, but it left me still wondering what to do about the rest of my training and the race in Columbus. Some family and friends suggested dropping down to the half to take the pressure off and then some others (mostly my 12-year-old) said, “no, mom, you should totally still do the full – you can do it! I was so conflicted. I didn’t have the same desire to train and actually DO the race as I had for my first one, but I didn’t want to quit either.

That night as I thought over my options (the half was already sold out I discovered – wah, wah), I suddenly remembered the Run/Walk plan that Coach Jenny had written as one of her many running training plans. The plan involves a 5/1 ratio of running to walking so in other words, you run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute, run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute and on. What if I tried that method for my long runs to cover more miles and save my legs, etc? My Challenger buddies agreed, as well as Coach Jenny, that that would be a good strategy! She said it was especially a good plan for the heat/humidity and could help with long run anxiety because you are very focused on the present time. Done. That was the new plan! So after a great week of lunch runs with my g-friends I made a new plan for this weekend.

Cut to this morning. I decided to try the 5/1 program. In addition I decided to use another strategy I read about: setting a goal based on time rather than distance. I was used to this for my weekday runs, but it was a new concept for me for long runs. I was a little short on time this morning as I had to get home and get ready for church so I settled on 2 hours – one hour down the trail and one hour back. I wasn’t worried about mileage goals. Off I went! At first I found myself checking my distance against the time and trying to figure out where I should be, but after about 30 minutes in I found it easier to just run. I found running this way very freeing which I think is probably counter-intuitive because you are looking at a watch the whole time, but surprisingly it is quite the opposite. In fact, because I had to keep an eye on my watch I found myself being more in the present moment and did not have time for worrying about how many more miles I needed to go or even how much longer I needed to run. It was simply about completing that 5 minute interval, and then the next and the next. Before I knew it I was at 60 minutes and it was time to turn around. I let myself calculate how many miles I would probably end up getting a couple of times and came up with about 10, but I didn’t fixate on that. Instead I looked around, greeted people, enjoyed seeing two deer up close, and a lily pad area that I swear I have never seen before, even though I have run this same route many times now.

lilypad

I noticed things along the way. I got out of my head and got rid of the worries about the actual run itself. I was just being the run, right then – in the moment I was relaxed and felt strong and comfortable. On the walking intervals (1 minute after every 5) I didn’t beat myself up about walking like I’ve done so many times before. I didn’t have to walk. Instead this time the walking was part of the plan. This proved to be a huge difference in my mind.

As I finished the run I was pleasantly surprised that I had run 10.76 miles in my 2 hours with a 11:09 pace. Not bad! I wasn’t sure how the walking would affect my pace, but pretty much right on par with where I should be. Hmmm. This was a win all around. And a good reminder about the benefit to “being where your feet are” – at home, at work or on the trail. Now about that marathon in 6 weeks…

Columbus Half 2013 – The Race that Almost Wasn’t

Columbus Marathon Weekend!

Sat, Oct 19 – EXPO DAY!!
It started on Saturday shopping at the Expo with Angie and getting caught up at lunch. We made plans to meet at 6:30 am at the church downtown and run together. We had never run a race together and we were excited to do this! We talked about our goals and since Angie was not totally feeling at her best racing self we decided we would pursue my PR and run together. I had run a 2:31:12 at my first half in Cleveland in 2011 and then a 2:31:14 in Pittsburgh in 2012 (yes, I’m consistent!!!). So my goal was to just beat that time, but my dream was really to get like 2:20 or 2:25. Angie and I had both traveled to Columbus on our own – she staying with friends south of the city and me staying with my sister and her family north of the city. With a chilly, but non-rain forecast for Sunday we were set!

After a great pasta dinner with my sis and fam I went to bed at 10pm ready for the restless sleep that always comes with the night before the race for me. The night before is the one that counts and that one was a good night!!

Sun, Oct 20 – RACE DAY!!
I was up at 5am for a 5:30am departure downtown. Bagel and coffee consumed, but I didn’t have to go to the bathroom before I left. This might be TMI, but these things are important on race day!!!

Have to take an early race day pic!!

I had been a little nervous about driving and parking by myself (I usually have my “roadies” with me to drop me off, but they were busy at home with church stuff and lacrosse stuff this weekend), so I had planned ahead and bought a parking pass online for a parking garage in the arena area right by the start. Smart, right? Right. I flew downtown quickly, but ran into stopped traffic right at the exit. My GPS said I had 2 minutes to get to the garage, but somehow I doubted that given that I was stuck in major traffic! At about 6:10am Angie texted me saying she was already there and looking for a bathroom. Almost right on cue I realized, yes, I had to go to the bathroom, like now!! Sitting in traffic that was out of my control, I tried to think positively. “Hey, at least I’m not outside freezing yet!”. It was about 32 degrees that morning – yikes! Soon it was past 6:30am and I was still in line to park. I was feeling a bit panicked, but realized I just had to park, check my gear and meet Ang. It will be fine. Positive self talk – check. I finally turned the corner and saw a sign that said passes only this lane.

“Yes!!”, I thought. “I made it! I’m so glad I bought this pass – I have my own lane and everything – I totally got this!!”

I came up to a traffic worker just to confirm that this was the lane for the McConnell garage. He told me no. I had just passed my garage. I had to go down and around and back the other way, etc. Oh shit!!!!! Are you kidding me!!!!! I did not have time to reroute myself to find this elusive garage. At this point I was so frustrated and upset that I threw the parking pass to the passenger side of the car and for about 10 seconds considered turning my car back around and going back to my sisters house. After a few expletives I decided to give it one more try before giving up. I turned down some random road only to see a parking $10 sign with an attendant at the entrance.

“Yes!!! I’ll just park there instead!!”, feeling some light at the end of the tunnel.

I pulled up to the attendant and opened my wallet to find 4 dollar bills…only. Are you freaking kidding me right now?!!” I quickly explained my situation to the attendant, but he was not interested in just looking the other way and letting me in. Instead he explained that there was an ATM machine down the street and around the corner. Oh, I am so screwed. , I thought to myself. I pulled in a parking spot, grabbed my ATM card and the rest of my stuff and as I was weighing out the pros and cons of just leaving my car there without paying for a ticket a car pulled in right next to me. Realizing that this route would probably mean my car would be towed, I decided to pursue another option.

“Does anyone have any money I could borrow?”, I holler out to the air. I notice the couple in the car next to me, both marathoners, were looking at me now. I basically begged (panhandled as my husband called it) them to borrow some money. I quickly explained my situation to them and they just asked me how much I needed. In the next instant they were handing me the $6 I needed. I tried to get their names, but they just wished me luck. I figured that a) they just needed to get to the start and were running out of time too or b) they just wanted to make the crazy lady go away. It was probably a little bit of both. I thanked them profusely. God Bless them – I will probably never know who they were. Crisis finally averted, I thought. Right.

I booked up to the start line area and texted Angie to meet me at the gear check. I checked my gear and made the last minute decision to keep my sweatshirt on. I had never sacrificed a piece of apparel in a race, but it was SO chilly (about 35 degrees) and I was so stressed that it seemed the easiest and most logical thing to do at this point. It was my gray Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center hoodie, but I remembered I had at least one other one at home. After only one VERY successful trip to the bathroom (remember I usually make three trips on race morning), I texted Ang and said I was all set. She called me and said that she was stuck in the corral and could not get out to find me. I headed down to find her, but the crowd was too big. We stayed on the phone for like 5 minutes (it was now like 7:25 with a start time of 7:30) trying to describe landmarks so we could find each other, but it was no use. We didn’t know what to do!!! We then decided our last ditch effort to meet up would be a the starting line. Okay, good plan. So I moved up to the starting line with group B and stopped at the start, facing the crowd. The race officials looked at me suspiciously and asked me if I had a bib on. I remembered I was wearing my sweatshirt over my bib so I quickly showed them the bib and told them I was meeting a friend so they knew I wasn’t a shady character (stupid Boston bombers). I started waving my hands back and forth hoping Angie would see me. Soon all of corral B had started the race with no Angie in sight. Then I heard my phone go off and I looked at my text message tracking thing alerting me that Angie had started the race. My heart sunk. I missed her and she started. I was on my own. Epic fail number 568 of this morning.

I was disappointed, but I hadn’t gone through all this training and this crazy stressful morning to just throw in the towel now. So I reminded myself of one of my favorite mantras…”if it’s to be, it’s up to me” and I started the race.

Before starting I managed to take one pic of the crowd and sunrise.

My goal was to keep my pace between about 10:30 and 11 min. I was glad I had kept my sweatshirt on.

Me with my sacrificial hoodie!!

I ended up ditching it around mile 3 and the gloves around mile 5. It is always amazing how much clothing is littered along the race route in the early miles. It made me feel better to remind myself that all the discarded clothing gets donated. I felt good and got warmed up by mile 3. At around mile 5 I had this epiphany. The hardest part of this day is over, I realized. The stress of getting ready, being on time, parking, traffic, finding where to go, etc was done. Now all I had to do was run!! This was extremely freeing and motivating for me!! So run I did!

It was a pretty uneventful race at the beginning. I felt good and grabbed Gatorade or water at all but the first fuel stop. I didn’t walk at all this time, though. I just grabbed it sipped and ran through. The crowd was awesome, the entertainment and music was really cool and motivating. I saw some really funny signs too. My favorite was “You are running better than our government!!” Love it!!!

By the 9 miles I was feeling pretty good and wondering how my time was looking. According to my watch at 10 miles I was still before 2 hours – maybe like 1:53 or so!! This is good, I thought – I think I have a decent chance to PR! I only had 3 miles left and had to get it done in quicker than 30 minutes. At one point I knew I could run the last 2 miles at an 11 minute pace and still PR. I was tired, but I asked myself if I really wanted this and my immediate answer was, “yes, I do!!” I just felt great the whole race. No injuries, no concerns, just felt strong. So I pumped it up a bit more and came screaming into the finish feeling like I crushed my PR and I was right!! My time was 2:19:56!!! I found out later that I cut my time by almost 12 minutes!! Angie met me at the finish and we hugged, took some pics and did all the finish stuff together, including massage time!!

So glad Ang met me at the finish!!

YES!!!

Waiting for massages!!

My awesome congrats greeting from my sissy and nephews!!

What a great day. My body is very tired as I write this, but I feel so good, happy and accomplished. Here are my stats based on the other half finishers:

My chip time: 2:19:56
10:41 per mile (view kilometer pace)
Age Graded Percentage: 50 percent
Overall Place 6303 out of 10108 (62%)
Sex Place 3560 out of 6451 Females (55%)
Division Place 348 out of 721 Females in the F4044 Age Group (48%)

I also drilled down a bit further to see where I placed among the 44 year-old females (yes, I’m crazy). I was number 42 out of 97 44 year-old women so I was in the top half!! Yahoo!!! Yes, this race was kind of a big deal.

Countdown to Columbus – Weeks 6, 7 & 8

The weeks are just flying by and yet again I realized I had not blogged about my training in three weeks! So, in an attempt to catch up, here is a summary of the past three weeks.

Week 6: Ran 2 times during the week (total of 5.5 miles) and long run (9 mi.) on Sunday. Practiced yoga twice. Two rest days.
Week 7: Ran 3 times during the week (total of 10 miles) and long run (6 mi.) on Sunday. Practiced yoga three times. One rest day.
Week 8: Ran 3 times during the week (total of 11 miles ) and long run (10 mi) on Sunday. Practiced yoga 3 times. One rest day.

Overall training has gone pretty well. I’ve been following my training program pretty well, actually – better than the past even. The one change I’ve made that has seemed to be great is that I’ve pushed my long run to Sunday mornings so I can go to my favorite Sat morning yoga class! It is a win-win! Then, I just adjust my schedule so Monday is my rest day instead of Sunday. So far I’ve only had one long run that was really tough to get my butt in gear and get done – this past weekend. I usually do it early on Sunday morning – get it out of the way before church on Sunday. I planned to do that yesterday too. I got up early so I could eat breakfast and let it digest for awhile before heading out. Well, I’m not sure why, but I was just not feeling it yesterday. I was drinking my coffee, cuddled in a fleece and decided to do it in the afternoon instead. I’m not sure if it is because the weather is cooler now or what (you would think I would like this since I’m a sweaty girl, right?!), but just gave in to the couch, coffee and balancing the checkbook. Hey, at least I was productive, right? So then all morning, I’m preoccupied with this long run. I gotta run 10…I gotta run 10. Ugh. After lunch and waiting a bit I finally just gave myself the lecture that I just need to “do it”. Thank you, Nike. So I begrudgingly laced up, filled up my fuel belt and headed out. The first 3 miles were awful, mostly because of my head. No, I didn’t have a headache…I had a bad attitude! I kept thinking negative thoughts like “I don’t want to do this.” or “I’m going so slow”. Not very positive or motivating thoughts!! But after I seemed to find my groove physically and got the first hill out of the way, I switched my thinking to notice my beautiful surroundings, think about the people on my prayer list, and just be in the moment. I began to plan an alternative second half of my route which was fun and different. That mind over matter stuff is no joke. I finished the run strong and, like always, I was so glad I did it!!

There are a few things learned here. First there is so much truth in that simple message of “just do it”. How many times do we worry and mull something over…analyze and talk ourselves out of doing something hard, or doing the right thing? Or is it just me. I don’t think so. When usually it turns out that thinking about the thing is way worse than just doing…or actually just starting the thing. And how many times do we miss out on an opportunity because we wait? I’m glad I got out there when I did so I could enjoy the afternoon sunshine before it got cloudy later in the day. Second, the power of positive thinking is so powerful. It is not just a good title for a self help book. It is a legit strategy. What we think TOTALLY impacts how we feel and in this case, how we perform. One might think that as a 44-year-old I would have already learned these lessons. And maybe I have. But that is what is so cool about looking at life as a big classroom. There are always opportunities for “do-overs” for us slow-learners and for reinforcing important lessons for those of us who need to be reminded. So next time you start to procrastinate, stop thinking about it and just go for it instead, keeping your eyes open for what is waiting to be revealed to you!

Countdown to Columbus – Weeks 3, 4 & 5

Yikes I’m behind in my blogging!  I just noticed that I only have one entry for August! Oh well! I need to carve out some time and start making a list of things I want to write about. I usually think of things while driving, but if I don’t write it down – poof – it is gone!

Anyways, so an update on my training for the Columbus half. Things are going pretty good actually. I just finished week 5 yesterday! I have run an average of 2 runs during the week (3 in week 4) and then done my long run on the weekend…7, 5 and then 8 yesterday. And at least 2 cross train days of yoga. My leg issues have gotten better. Yesterday I felt really strong and wasn’t bothered by my leg at all (just the humidity, oye!). I used my fuel belt for the first time in about a year yesterday and I’m glad I did. One sip per mile after mile 4 and then gulped the rest cooling down. I did notice that my energy lagged during the last mile. I probably should have had some runner gummies with me, but I got through it. I had to sit a minute before taking a shower. I felt off – not dizzy really, but my eyes could not really focus. That has only happened one other time before – during a lunchtime run when it was really humid and I had run really fast with the girls. After a took a minute and just chilled out I was okay. More water please!!!!

I think the key to my leg feeling better is the trigger point massage! I’m going to keep going to my massage therapist every other week until the race. Well, yoga helps too, of course! I’m so glad I went to Amy’s power class on Saturday. I was supposed to do my long run, but I just really wanted to go to yoga as I’ve missed that one for a few weeks now. So it was a win-win – I did both!! Who needs a rest day?!

Then just when I thought today would just be a yoga class in the morning and then a rest day full of laundry and getting caught up, Zach signs us up for the Taste of Hudson Fun Run this morning at 8:30 am! I agreed to run with him, but not the 5K…just the mile. I think I can handle that! Plus, he would not be ready to run a 5K on the fly anyways. Hey, I can’t turn my kid down when he wants to do something active!! Bring it on!! 🙂

Countdown to Columbus – Weeks 1 and 2

So, I realized that I had not run any long races in 2013 yet and I was not okay with that. So I looked up my possibilities for a fall half. The towpath was out because I just can’t get motivated to do a trail race and I didn’t want to do any smaller races. I will admit that I like (need?) the large crowds and the cheering. Hey, at least I’m admitting it! So I then found Columbus. Oh yeah, that would work – it met my criteria: large race, I have not done it before, I had time to train adequately, and I think it is pretty flat. Plus, my sister and her family live in Columbus so we could potentially wrap a visit in with it! Registered and done. October 20 here we come!!

The first two weeks of training are done already and have gone pretty well, I guess. My first “long run” I actually did on a Friday at lunch because we got lost and ended up running longer than we wanted to! Then my long run (6) yesterday was pretty good. I have followed my weekly training exactly this week – using yoga as my cross training, of course. There are just two issues/challenges that I’m having right now – one physical and one is in my head:

1. Physical – I have some sort of hip, psoas muscle, hamstring issue in my left leg. It is annoying. I noticed it back in June and got the recommendation from a fellow runner/yogi for a trigger point massage therapist who works with lots of runners. I got into her finally this week and it was pretty cool. She was extremely good and knew what she was talking about. She helped my leg, but it is still not totally better. The trigger point was not as bad as I thought – it actually felt good to have some of those kinks/knots pushed out. I will go back to her next week for a follow-up and see how it is then. What happens when I run is that I start to get pain down my leg to the outside of my knee and also my lower back. Once I got about 3 miles into my run yesterday it felt better (gotta love those endorphins!) and today I feel okay. It is just annoying and I don’t want it to lead to a more serious injury.

2. Mental – So I feel like I’m slowing down and it is bugging me. Part of it is because I have this annoying sensitive area in my leg, but part of it is just because I’m getting older? Maybe because I have a few extra pound than I did before? I don’t know, but I am feeling frustrated that I’m not as fast as I once was or that I feel like I can’t keep up with my other runner friends. I actually find myself chastising myself during certain runs if I have to walk a bit. I know, I know -this is so stupid and not good for me – just being totally honest! I felt good during my solo run yesterday when I tried not to look at my watch, but just let my body find the groove that it needed. Then I was able to really enjoy the run and my surroundings. I know I need to lighten up on myself. My race, my pace – right? I was bellyaching to my husband about it and he said, “hey, I couldn’t run 6 miles”. He always knows exactly what to say. Hmmm – yes I need to remember to be grateful for what I CAN do and enjoy every mile – in the moment. Just when I thought I knew it all…ha, ha!