Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training, Week 4

I can’t believe I’m already four weeks into this training cycle.  This was an interesting week of training, seriously lacking in strength training, stretching and foam rolling. J and I sanded and re-stained our deck, which turned out to be one of those jobs that you think will take a day or two and takes an entire week, so most of my afternoons were filled with deck work and not strength training. By the time we finished each evening, we were hot, tired, and filthy, and I just wanted a shower, not another workout. Oh well. I got all my running in, at least.

Monday:

AM: 11 miles. My schedule said 80-90 minutes with the last 20 minutes getting progressively faster. I was cruising a little quicker than 5k pace, 30 seconds from being done with the fast part… and my foot slipped on some mud (or probably on nothing, but mud at least sounds like an excuse) and I fell. Sidewalks are evil.
photo (10)I gimped through enough of a cool-down to make it 11 miles and called it good. I was thankful that my only wound was a knee scab and not any real injury.

PM: 45 minutes of strength training. And thus ended my only double day this week.

Tuesday:
9.1 miles easy and a quick core workout

Wednesday: 
16 x 400m repeats with equal recoveries, 11 miles total with warm-up and cool-down. I did half the repeats on a downhill slope, but I got sick of running up and down the same street, so I moved to the flat. Not the best training decision, probably, but a better sanity decision.

Thursday: 
9 miles “easy” that didn’t feel easy at all, quick core work.

Friday: 7 miles slow and easy, then some core work

Saturday:
This was our anniversary (6 years! Hooray!). We wanted to get away for the weekend but didn’t want to spend a bunch of money, so we spent it in Colorado Springs. J’s aunt and uncle live there and are always happy to have us stay, and we hadn’t seen them in quite a while, so visiting them on our anniversary weekend was perfect.

I’d asked Aimee, who lives in Springs, to recommend a downhill run for me so I could start prepping for this marathon. She recommended the Santa Fe Trail, a rail trail that runs parallel to the mountains. It was a fantastic recommendation, as the trail was beautiful and the elevation profile was very similar to the marathon’s. I started way too fast for a long run, so the last few miles were a slog. I know I’m at risk of doing that in the race, too, so I’m hoping I learned my lesson here and will pace myself better next time.My iPhone doesn't come close to doing justice to the beauty of these mountains.

My iPhone doesn’t come close to doing justice to the beauty of these mountains.

J is an awesome husband; he got up super early, drove me to the trailhead at Palmer Lake, killed a couple of hours, and picked up my gross sweatiness 17.3 miles later. That is love, folks.

After my run, I cleaned up in a Panera bathroom (classy, right?), ate some food, and rehydrated, and then we headed to Garden of the Gods. I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and J hadn’t ever been, so it was a new experience for both of us. We had a great time. Garden of the Gods is stunning.

No filter needed for that Colorado sky.
No filter needed for that Colorado sky.

We didn’t want to fight the crowds in the main part of the park for very long, so we ventured off on some side trails — fantastic choice. We saw just a handful of other people but plenty of scenery on our 4.5-mile hike.
photo 3 (5) photo 4 (2) After Garden of the Gods, we grabbed some lunch and spent the afternoon wandering around Old Colorado City (a fun little tourist trap near Garden of the Gods) before heading back to clean up for real (as opposed to Panera-bathroom style) and go out for a nice dinner. And then we went to bed early because I was friggin’ tired. Not a bad way to spend an anniversary!

Sunday:
J’s aunt and I have talked about doing the infamous Manitou Incline together for years, but we had never done it. We decided Sunday was the day, and since J is a good sport, he agreed to do it, too. And then he saw this, and questioned his sanity (and his love for us):
photo (12)

The Incline is that little line going up that mountain: a trail that climbs 2050 feet in .92 miles. The whole trail is made of steps like these:Aunt Jan reaching the summit!

Aunt Jan reaching the summit!

It was definitely a challenge. Some people run the thing, which is insane to me. Today was supposed to be my rest day, so I didn’t even try to run. The view from the top is definitely worth the hike… it’s gorgeous! You can see the entire city.
photo 1 (5)The trail back down is longer but considerably less steep (and less treacherous), but I still didn’t run because of the whole “rest day” thing. The whole hike made for another fun morning in the great outdoors. If I lived in Colorado Springs, I’d definitely be a regular up here… it’s a great challenge, and I’d want to see how fast I could eventually do it.

So the week ended up with 64.4 miles of running, minimal strength training, and a whole lot of outdoor fun. Overall, I’m okay with that, but I definitely need to get my strength training, foam rolling, etc., back on track this week.

Ever fallen like an idiot on a run? Please tell me about it so I know I’m not the only one.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve cleaned up post-workout?

Have you ever (or would you ever) done the Incline?

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“What Do You DO All Summer?”

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a teacher.”

“Summers off, huh? Must be nice. So what do you DO all summer?”

That’s a conversation that every teacher has about 47,000 times a summer. Sometimes the tone is snarky, but most of the time, I think people are simply curious. A few people have left comments on the blog asking how I spend my summers, and I’m assuming that these people fall into the “curious” category and not the “snarky” (if I’m wrong, leave me to my delusions, please). Here’s a little insight on how I spend the time I’m not required to be at school.

  • I teach. I don’t teach summer school every summer; I’ve taught it only twice — once at the middle school and currently at the community college. This college gig is not bad — two hours a day, three days a week (plus grading and planning time, of course)–but it would be nice if my students came to class a little more often and a little more promptly.
  • I read. A lot. Summer is prime time for professional reading.  I subscribe to several English teacher journals but rarely have time to even open them from August to May, so I spend a lot of time in the summer catching up. I also bookmark lots of online articles throughout the year, thinking “I’ll read them later.” “Later” always ends up being summer.

    I also read a lot of adolescent literature during the summers, which I’ll readily admit does not feel like work. But I need to stay abreast of current YA lit trends, hit books, and up-and-comers so that I can recommend books to my students and have discussions with them. And I usually buy the books I read so I can put them on my classroom shelves, so Amazon LOVES me in the summer.

    "Research"
    “Research”

    Of course, I also do more pure pleasure reading in the summers — from novels to nonfiction to running books/magazines to my Internet friends’ blogs. Though I also read those things during the school year, I have more time in the summers to read what I want to read.

  • I write. A lot. I firmly believe that a person cannot be a good writing teacher if she never writes. That’s part of the reason I started this blog, actually — I hoped that if I had an audience and a consistent topic that interested me, I would at least do some writing during the school year. In the summers, I do a lot of other writing, too, from responses to silly prompts I find in books or online to professional writing (which someday I will get the nerve to submit to a journal). I have also participated in writing groups and classes in the past, but I’m not this year simply due to scheduling.
  • I catch up on little things. As the year goes on, my stacks of “things to do later” just continue to grow. Small but necessary things like filing paperwork and inventorying my classroom library tend to get put off all year. Once the maintenance crew is done with my room (usually in July), I head in for a few days here and there to take care of all that junk.
  • I work on improving what I do. All year, I jot little notes about what needs changed. in each unit and in the class as a whole. In the summer, I go back and make adjustments. I also adjust my plan for each year based on the incoming students (that’s the great thing about being in a tiny school — I have all my kids at least twice).
  • I take classes and go to workshops. Some summers, I take all-summer classes (like when I was in grad school and when I did the National Writing Project). Other years, like this year, I just attend a few day- or week-long classes and trainings. Regardless of their length, these classes/workshops give me a chance to learn something new and network with other teachers — and I don’t have to take a day away from students.
  • I go places. I may have made it sound thus far like summer is all work and no play, and that’s not true. Summer also gives us a chance to get away for a while. J and I usually try to take one big trip a year (South Carolina was this year’s), but we also do weekends in the mountains and visit family (see this post about our visit to my parents or this one about our weekend in Evergreen last summer). Even short weekend getaways are challenging during the school year, so we relish our chances to get away and relax.
    beach toes at mbsp
  • I go to the gym at non-peak times. And I love it.

    photo (9)
    Look at all the people not around me!
  • I go to the bathroom when I need to. Yes, this feels like a major privilege. If you get to do this on a regular basis, don’t take it for granted.
  • I use silverware and chew my food. I know this sounds ridiculous, but having time to eat is something I look forward to most in the summers. During the school year,  I almost always pack a morning snack of veggies and almonds… and it often takes me three hours to get it eaten. And our lunch break is 25 minutes, so by the time I get all the kids out of my classroom, use the bathroom, fill my water bottle, and get my turn at the microwave, I usually have just a few minutes to shovel down some food and get back to class. So it’s really nice to, you know, chew for three months.

So, in a (fairly large) nutshell, that is what I do all summer.

If you are a teacher, what do your summers look like? If you’re not, what would you do with a summer “off”?

 

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 3

Another week of training is in the books! I call this week “The Week of Thunderstorms and Denver Trips.” I am sick of the rain and wishing I-76 was a little shorter, but otherwise, it was not a bad week. Here’s how the training happened:

Monday:
AM: 12.3 miles of hills. I also made two new friends — a couple of dogs who decided that we were BFFs and should run together. They ran with me for about 4 miles — in spite of my constant, “GO HOME, DOGS!” and the glares from drivers who I’m sure were wondering why the heck “my dogs” weren’t on a leash.
Also, though I’ve had major trail envy lately, this run reminded me that the plains can be pretty, too.
photo (7)

PM: 45 minutes of full-body strength training

Tuesday:
AM: 12.5 miles. I should have gotten up just a little bit earlier, as I was supposed to run 14 and ran out of time… although I probably should have just done it, since none of my students feel the need to show up on time. Grumble grumble.

PM: Core, stretching, and foam rolling. Blah.

Wednesday:
AM: 4 recovery miles, followed by core, stretching, and foam rolling

PM: The foiled trail run I talked about in Thursday’s post. Whomp whomp.

Thursday:
AM: 10 miles with 5 at tempo. Why are tempo runs always so hard? Theoretically, I was running at half-marathon pace… and yet I felt like death after 5 miles. Explain that, please.

PM: 45 minutes full-body strength, plus a short bike ride with the hubby

Friday: 
AM: 5 recovery miles. My watch was completely dead, so I ran “naked,” and it was kinda nice.  I should do that more often.
photo 1 (4)Later, I did a quick core workout in the midst of cleaning my house. I’m cool.

Saturday:
18 miles. It was supposed to be 18 miles with 10 at goal pace, but I had a tough time hitting the pace. I was not happy.
photo 2 (5)It was hot, but not that hot, and humid, but not that humid (especially compared to what you Southerners/East Coasters deal with), so I don’t know what the deal was. I’m hoping it was just a crummy run, and I’m not ready to adjust my goals just yet… but I hope the next goal pace run gets a little easier!

Also, after six marathons fueled by GU, my stomach has suddenly decided that it hates GU. So I also spent half the run trying to keep the GU down. Not cool, body.

We spent the rest of Saturday walking around the Denver Botanical Gardens with my family. That was considerably less painful and more fun than my run.
photo (6)Holy cow, I look like my mom in that picture.

Sunday: 
Rest. I did 35 minutes of yoga to try to loosen up my stupid-tight legs and my workout for the Lyons Share Ab Challenge, but that was it. And I went to Denver again, this time for brunch with my girlfriends. I didn’t take any pictures because I was busy getting caught up on their lives.

Totals: 62.8 miles, 2.5 or so hours strength/stretch

And that’s that. This week is a bit of a cutback, so that should be nice.

How did your week go?

Thursday’s Thoughts… Out Loud

I started writing a different post this afternoon, and when I sat down to finish and post it tonight, I was just no longer in the mood. My brain was done for the evening, apparently, so instead I decided to join in with Amanda for a Thinking Out Loud post, since I haven’t done one for a while. Buckle up for this ride on Cassie’s crazy thought train.

Thinking-Out-Loud

  • We went to a wedding last Saturday and got all gussied up. (“Gussied” is a word that needs to be used more often, don’t you think?) I did not take a single picture… except this one. Of my feet. At the hotel. I really like these shoes and all, but I’m not sure why I thought taking their picture was necessary and photos of J and me, or the bride and groom, or the friends we never see, were not so important. Also, what the heck is that dent in my foot? I have never seen that before.
  • photo 1 (3)This coffee cup… I need it. That way, I could honestly say, “I drink only one cup of coffee per day!”
    photo 2 (3)
  • I kept seeing all these tweets today about a giveaway of workout panties. Nice giveaway and all, but the word “panties” just grates on my eardrums. It just sounds… icky. Can’t we just say “underwear”? And if I don’t stop hearing that awful Chris Brown song about pushing panties to the side every time I turn on the radio, I might go insane.
  • P.S. How is Chris Brown even still making music? He is a bad person. Consumers, stop buying music made by girlfriend-punchers. Not okay.
  • I finally went to Trader Joe’s last weekend. They haven’t been open in Colorado very long, and of course they are far from me because no cool things come to the plains (except for me, obviously), but I finally got to see what all the hype is about. I liked it. Bargains, bargains everywhere!
  • Last night, I was super excited to go to Denver and meet Lynne, Heidi, Marissa, and Amy for a trail run. So I drove an hour and 45 minutes one way… and the weather gods started laughing. “Oh, you want to run up the (very exposed) side of a mountain?” they said. “No. Instead, watch all the cool things we can do with lightning.” So my new friends and I spent a good half hour huddled up under the bathroom roof, watched a bird try to commit suicide (seriously. It was weird.), and waited for the storm to pass. Finally, the lightning moved out and we ran/hiked a whole mile. Stupid weather. But at least I got to meet some cool ladies, and hopefully we’ll be able to actually run together sometime.
  • Speaking of trail running… Logan has me toying with the idea of running an ultra.
    Buying these two things last weekend didn't help.
    Buying these two things last weekend didn’t help.

    Which is crazy because seriously, where am I going to train for that? There are no trails here, and I can’t drive three hours every weekend to train. But reading her and Heidi’s recent race reports makes me kiiinda want to do one, too. And then I look at 50-miler training plans, with their back-to-back 4-to-5-hour runs, and I read that to estimate your finishing time you double your marathon time and add two hours, and I poop a little.

    I guess I have time to decide (i.e. talk myself out of it)… there aren’t any Colorado ultras this year that I can logically do and still PR in my September marathon. That’s not true. There is one, November 1, but I’m too chicken to do it. November in Colorado can be beautiful… but I also remember bundling up to go trick-or-treating in a LOT of Halloween blizzards.  Running 30-50 miles in the snow and cold sounds just awful.

And there’s a glimpse into the things that happen in my brain sometimes. You’re welcome.

Do you think “gussied” needs to make a comeback? What other words should we use more often (or less often…I’m looking at you, “panties”)?

Should I run an ultra? Logan, you’re not allowed to comment on that one. 🙂

 

Four Strategies for Downhill Training

I’ve mentioned a few (hundred) times that my quads and I are nervous about running the Colorado Fall Classic Marathon. I’ve run reasonably well on courses with lots of downhill before (Estes and Boston, specifically), but those were rolling courses. This one is all downhill, dropping 2500 feet over its 26.2 miles. And downhill running hurts.

In this article, Matt Fitzgerald explains why running downhill is so painful:   “When your foot strikes the ground, impact forces try to make your knee buckle. Unconsciously, you contract your quadriceps to stabilize your knee and remain upright. But your knee does flex and your quads do stretch a bit when you land, so those muscles are essentially pulled in two directions simultaneously. This strain causes microscopic trauma to the muscle fibers.” The effect of that trauma is twofold: limited performance and substantial soreness.

Obviously, I’d like to avoid both of those effects as much as possible (though post-marathon DOMS is inevitable), so I’m working hard to prepare for that long descent. Recently, I’ve searched all over the Internet, dug through some of my favorite running books, and learned a lot about downhill running.

As an English teacher, I know that one of the best ways to learn about something is not just to read about it, but to synthesize all that information and create a piece of writing. So today, I’m practicing what I preach and compiling some information about how to become the best and strongest downhill runner possible. I hope you learn something from this little synopsis, too!

Four Strategies For A Solid Downhill Race


1. Run downhill. A lot.

Duh. Fitzgerald says that “a single downhill run that is extreme enough to cause significant soreness provides a protective effect that lasts up to two months.” Of course that doesn’t mean that just one downhill run will entirely prepare me for this race, but it does mean that every downhill run I can get in will be beneficial. I don’t live near any long hills, but I’m hoping to get in at least two long, all-downhill runs. Even without long hills at my disposal, research suggests that I’ll be able to reap similar benefits from running downhill repeats. Here are some examples of killer downhill-repeat workouts from this article by Jason Karp:

  • 4 x ½ mile downhill (2-3% grade) at 5K race pace effort
  • 3 x 1 mile downhill (2-3% grade) at 10K race pace effort
  • 5 x 100 to 200 meters downhill (6-8% grade) at 5K race pace effort with walk back up hill as recovery

I’ll also be running most tempo and interval runs on a decline, even if they’re on my gym’s incline trainer.

A word of caution: Just like you would with any new stimulus (speedwork, increased distance, etc.), add downhills gradually. Going from zero downhill running to five days a week of downhills is a recipe for injury. Start with one downhill workout every week or two and build from there.

2. Run uphill, too. Running downhill exclusively will strengthen your quads, sure. But you’ll be neglecting your hamstrings, glutes, calves, etc., as Pete Rea explains in this article. Running uphill will develop those back-body muscles, giving your body better balance and the strength to push through that long downhill course. Ian Torrence explains, “Any short hill sprint or long ascent workout develops power and endurance, two necessary attributes when descending tricky slopes.”

(image source)

3. Find the downhill running form that works best for you, then keep it consistent. Running form in general is fairly individualized, and downhill running is no different. In his book You, Only Faster, Greg McMillan explains that the “best” form varies from runner to runner, so experimenting is the only way to find the form that is truly best for you (p. 217). There are some form guidelines that all runners should follow, though. In Advanced Marathoning, Pete Pfitzinger discusses those guidelines: “On downhills, try not to brake. Keep your center of gravity perpendicular to the hill” (p. 147).

I did some major braking the other weekend when I ran at Green Mountain... mainly because I was afraid of breaking my face.
I did some major braking the other weekend when I ran at Green Mountain… mainly because I was afraid of breaking my face.

This article from Competitor has some great downhill form advice, including using your arms for balance and looking ahead down the hill, and everything I read emphasized the importance of avoiding overstriding. Keep your feet under your center of gravity, just like you (should) do on the flats.

4. Do downhill-specific strength training. Certain strength exercises can help prepare a runner’s legs for the brutality of downhill running. Along with basic strength exercises like squats and lunges, Torrence suggests this quad strengthening movement:

(it’s apparently called “quadruped eccentric quad strengthening, but I call it “shifty downward dog”) and box jump-downs with a  small hop. Bobby McGee, quoted in this Runner’s World article, encourages other plyometric-type exercises that include “hopping and bounding” so your muscles get used that that pounding.

A strong core is also essential for all running, but especially downhill running, as your core is what keeps you upright and balanced. Planks (front and side), v-ups, metronomes, Jane Fondas, leg lifts, hip bridges, etc., are all making regular appearances in my strength routine.

5. Eat a lot of cereal. Just kidding. That one is in preparation for my all-night trail relay with the ladies of team Cereal Killers. But really, it can’t hurt.

Downhill running provides some unique challenges, that is certain. By following these tips, I’ll be ready (I hope) to tackle 26.2 downhill miles three months from now — and you’ll be better able to approach whatever declines your next runs send your way.

Any downhill running tips I missed?

What’s the most challenging race you’ve ever done?

Favorite cereal?

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 2

So, June is halfway over. Let that sink in for a minute. That means school starts again in less than two months. Summer is going crazy-fast, but at least it’s been enjoyable so far!

Training went well this week. We’ve had some cooler weather for mid-June — I was actually a little chilly on a few runs — which makes for great training weather. Here’s how the training went this week:

Monday:

AM: 9 miles easy
PM: 45 minutes full-body strength, including the core work from Megan’s The Lyons Share Ab Challenge mixed with some of the moves from Greg McMillan’s core workout. Every time I say “core work” for the next month, it’s probably safe to assume that I’m doing some combination of these moves.

Tuesday:

AM: 10.2 miles easy
PM: 30 minutes core work and stretching while watching The Bachelorette. Since I only watch 30 minutes at a time, I’m way behind, so don’t spoil it for me. 🙂 Here’s a way-too-close photo of my plank face. I get bored planking.
photo 3 (1)
Wednesday:

AM: 6.1 recovery miles. Sometimes I am as proud of myself for keeping recovery miles slow as I am for hitting my speedwork paces. And I took a picture of my feet post-run, because that’s what running bloggers do.
photo 2 (1)
PM: The same as Tuesday: core and stretching and Bachelorette-ing.

Thursday: 

AM: I needed to run cruise intervals, which means longish intervals fairly fast with short recoveries. I also wanted to run the interval portions downhill to prep for this downhill race. I debated my options: Drive out to the hills (but I was short on time since my summer course started this week), run on a long-enough-but-not-steep decline closer to home (but I’d have to have equal recoveries so the intervals could be all downhill), or use the incline trainer at the gym (which only goes to -3% decline, but would allow for appropriately short recoveries). I chose the incline trainer, so I ran to the gym as a warm-up, did 7.5 miles of downhill cruise intervals, and ran home as a cool-down for a total of 10 miles. I could definitely feel the decline’s effect in my quads the next day, which I’m taking as a good sign.

PM: Back to the gym for 45 minutes of strength training.

Friday: 

AM: 5.2 recovery miles

PM: Again with the core and stretching. I also spent some QT with the foam roller. I did not like it. Ouch.

Ouch.

Saturday: 

18-mile long run. I ran the hilliest route I can run from my house… which is clearly not that hilly compared to what I’d like to be running, but sometimes you’ve just got to do the best you can with what you have.
18milerelevationI enjoyed this run quite a bit. It was nice out — actually getting hot by the time I finished, but the sun felt good!

Sunday:

Rest day. I did Megan’s Five Minutes to Flat Abs workout as part of the abs challenge, and that was it. We went to a wedding last night and I was up way past my usual bedtime, so I didn’t mind taking a rest day today. I also did not take any pictures of J and me all dressed up, so you’ll just have to take my word that I do occasionally wear a dress and make-up despite what the pictures on this blog suggest.

Totals: 58.6 miles running, 3ish hours strength/stretching

Now that the second week of training is in the books, I feel like I’m getting my marathon mojo back. I realize how dumb that sounds, but I don’t really care. Have a great week, friends!

How was your week?

Been to any cool weddings lately?

Throwback Thursday: My First Marathon

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a Throwback Thursday post. I made that realization as I was finally categorizing past posts today. Note to bloggers: Categorize as you go. That was a huge pain. 

Anyway, I also realized that I’ve never written about my first marathon, Rock ‘n Roll Seattle in 2010 — the one that infected me with this desire to keep running them. So here’s the story. Enjoy!

I shuffle around the start line in the predawn light, shaking out my legs, straightening my bib, and exchanging nervous smiles and small talk with the other runners. Eighteen weeks of training have gotten me here– eighteen weeks of hard runs and ice baths, of early bedtimes and even earlier alarm clocks, of avoiding refined sugars and alcohol. Eighteen weeks, and it all comes down to this moment. In just a few minutes, the anthem will play and the gun will go off, and I’ll have 26.2 miles to test my training, to see if I have the endurance – mental and physical –for this task.

I don’t have much time to stress, thankfully. Before I know it, the gun has fired and I’m shuffling forward, anxious for the pack to thin so I can find my stride.  The first few miles pass quickly, and soon the sun is high and the spectators are out, ringing cowbells, playing music, and cheering enthusiastically as we run by. I bypass several aid stations, thinking I’ll avoid the crowds and catch a drink at the next one – a mistake, I realize just before mile 10. I’m lightheaded and dizzy, and I have to slow to a walk. At the aid station, I grab and gulp several cups of water; by the time I’m done, I feel like a new woman. I run the next few miles with a silly grin on my face, exchanging high-fives with spectators and jokes with fellow racers.

seattle rnr marathon1

After mile 20, though, I hit the metaphorical wall I’d read about on all the training websites– the wall I’d hoped to avoid. My legs throb, my lungs burn, and I look down to make sure my feet are still attached. I keep pushing, praying that I’ll break through that wall and feel fresh again. Along with not hydrating, I haven’t taken in any nutrition. I promise myself that I’ll avoid that rookie mistake IF I ever run another marathon… which is not looking likely at this point.

If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.
If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.

Eventually, I feel a little better, but some sadist of a course-planner threw in a hill at mile 25. My legs refuse to carry me up. Defeated, I slow to a walk. Another runner pulls up alongside me just as I slow. “Don’t walk now!” he urges. “Just top this hill, and you’ll hear the crowd. They’ll carry you to the finish line.” Encouraged, I start running again. Every step hurts and I want to quit, but I can’t stop now. My new friend runs with me for perhaps a quarter mile, adding valuable seconds to his own time to ensure that I’ll make it. I thank him between gasps and urge him to go on. He smiles, wishes me good luck, and disappears over the top of the hill.

Eventually I top the hill, too, and see that he was right. The road to the finish is lined with screaming spectators three-deep, and I can hear the finish-line band blaring. I pass the mile-26 sign, and then the finish line is in sight. The clock says 3:29:13– I’m seconds away from my goal time. My legs scream, but from somewhere deep inside me comes one final kick. I push hard, hearing Jordan’s shouted, “THAT’S MY WIFE!” as I glimpse his grinning face from the corner of my eye.

seattle rnr marathon2

 

I cross the finish line as the clock flashes 3:30:07. I made it! I slow to a walk—a shuffle, really– and gratefully accept water from a smiling volunteer. Another volunteer slides a medal over my head, and a third directs me to the end of the chute, where my grinning husband envelopes my aching, sweat-soaked body in his arms and tells me how proud he is.

seattle rnr marathon3

I missed the volunteer with space blankets, but I have to sit down. I sink onto the fender of a semi, gulping Cytomax and loosening my shoes, while Jordan stands beside me, swinging my medal and beaming. I’m exhausted, I stink, and every inch of me hurts, but I’m also proud of myself like I have never been before.

I look up at Jordan and grin. “When can I run another?”

 

Tell me about your first race!

“You Smell Like Vacation”

Holy writer’s block tonight. I could not think of a thing to write about. So I started digging through some of my old writing and came across this little ditty. Last summer, I participated in Teachers Write, and online writing “camp” for teachers, and wrote this in response to one day’s prompt. Since we just got back from another vacation, I thought it would be appropriate to post this… plus, I have already have pictures to go with it. Of course, with the pictures, this post could also be titled, “Watch Jordan and Cassie age.” Ha. 

 

“You smell like vacation,” he mumbles, still 90 percent asleep but catching a whiff of my sunscreen as I gently kiss his cheek. As I lace up my shoes and ease out into the sunrise, his murmured words bring back a flood of memories, a jumble of the trips we’ve taken in the few short years we’ve been together.

As I start to run, I hear the roar of the ocean and feel the slap of its waves, and my mind recaptures the sense of awe from the first time I saw, smelled, and heard it – our first trip together, to Mazatlan, where we sweltered and sweat, escaping the heat with sugary drinks in the pool.
cassie_jordan by the ocean

I slow down for a stoplight.

A hot puff of steam from a Yellowstone geyser shoots up next to me, its sulfuric odor briefly overpowering.
Wife at Great Fountain Geyser

The light turns, and I keep moving.

Sweat trickles down my back as we hike through a bamboo forest, and I feel the cooling relief of a fully-clothed leap into a waterfall – a relic from our Hawaii honeymoon.
Bamboo Couple2

A semi blows past me.

I pause to inhale the sweet scent of wildflowers and the tangy odor of pine, keeping my ears alert for the rustling of bushes, the sign of a nearby Yosemite deer – or a mama bear, protecting her two little cubs.

I reach the halfway point and turn around.

My shoulders tingle a bit, and I reach my left hand to my right shoulder, then flinch away in pain. Blisters. I knew I should have reapplied sunscreen after that last dip in a Playa del Carmen pool.
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I tip my handheld water bottle for a mid-run drink.

Instead of water, I taste the sweet musk of a good merlot, one far out of our budget, on our Napa tour.

I stop to tie my shoe.

A chilly, salty breeze blows across me, and though I briefly shiver, the soft lapping of Dungeness Bay waves at sunset stills me just in time to hear a bald eagle call from his post on the powerlines above my head.
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All too soon, I’m turning back onto our street, slipping back into reality as I slow into a cool-down. The sounds, smells, and tastes of vacations past fade away as a wayward sprinkler squirts me and my stomach rumbles.

As I untie my shoes, my now-awake husband drops a kiss on my forehead.

“Mmm,” he says. “You smell like vacation.”

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 1 (Actually)

The week before we left on vacation, I titled my weekly workout recap post “Week 1 (Sorta),” because I didn’t want to “officially” start training until after vacation, so this one is “Week 1 (Actually).” It was a tough week — the first time I’ve topped 60 miles since October — but a great one. I had some solid training runs and some beautiful training runs with pretty flowers, so it was a win, all around.
photo 5

Monday:

AM: 11. miles easy

PM: 45ish minutes full-body strength, along with Greg McMillan’s Runner’s Core workout. I was at the gym for more than an hour, but I spent at least 15 minutes jabbering and not working out, since I’d been on gym hiatus for couple of months and had people to catch up with.

Tuesday:

AM: 13.1-mile hill run…although it’s four miles from my house to the hills, so it was more like a 5-mile hill run sandwiched between 8 miles of flat. I’m going to have to start driving or biking out there for hill runs. It was a beautiful morning, either way, and the top of my favorite/least favorite hill has a pretty view:
photo (3)I need to find out who owns this property so I can get permission to run out there.

PM: 30ish minutes of core and stretching. Having The Bachelorette back makes it easier to make myself do these things. I tell myself I can only watch trashy TV if I’m also stretching and/or doing core.

Wednesday (National Running Day)

AM: 5.2 recovery miles. J rode his bike as I ran, which I loved. We need to find a better route, though; this isn’t exactly a bike-friendly town, so I think we’ll have to stick to the park when he comes along.
photo 1PM: Basically the exact same as Tuesday.

Thursday: 

AM: 9 miles with 4 at tempo. Tempo runs are always hard for me, and I was tired, sore (still, from Monday… clearly it had been a while since I’d lifted), and hot. I told myself to run what felt like tempo pace and not focus on the actual pace. I was pleased, when I did check, to see that I was hitting the right pace. So that was good.

PM: 45 minutes of full-body strength and McMillan core again.

Friday

Friday was my favorite running day ever. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. J had meetings in Denver (he’s kind of a big deal), and we figured there was no sense in letting the other half of his paid-for king-size hotel bed go to waste. So I left home bright and early and drove down to Green Mountain in Lakewood. I wonder why they named it that.
photo 3I got in some solid trail running, which I desperately need before the Chase the Moon relay in July, and some good downhill training to prep for my marathon in September. I wanted to just go forever, but I made myself stop at 6.2 so I wouldn’t be too sore for Saturday’s long run. And I took a selfie, because that’s what bloggers do, right?
photo 4

Then, I found J and borrowed his hotel key, cleaned up, and went to Athleta and bought some new shorts with a gift card I’d had since Christmas. It was pretty much the best day ever.

Saturday

I was excited to do my long run in Denver and get a change of scenery. Since J needed to check out of the hotel before his meeting started (i.e. before I was done running), I drove to my brother’s house and ran from there. He lives by a lake, so I did a couple of lake laps, then hopped on the Platte River Trail, which goes through downtown Denver. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too lazy to dig my phone of its pocket on my Camelback. I am a good blogger, remember?  You can go look at Amy’s blog; she lives near my brother and runs around that lake all the time. And she is a better blogger than I am, so she has pictures. Too bad she was running Ragnar Snowmass this weekend, or we could’ve run together.

Anyway, I ran 17 miles (it was supposed to be 16, but math is hard), then went to brunch with my brother, which was nice. I’m not sure why, but that 17-miler really took it out of me. I was beat. I guess it was a combo of the high-mileage week, the trails and mediocre sleep Friday, and the slowness of the brunch restaurant, which made me miss that 45-minute refueling window by a long shot (but they comped one of our meals, so it wasn’t all bad).

Sunday

30 minutes easy yoga. It felt amazing on my tight hips.

Totals: 61.6 miles running, 3ish hours strength/stretch/yoga

So overall, not a bad week at all. It feels good to be training hard again!

How was your week? Are you training for anything right now?

Do you ever get to tag along with your spouse on work-related trips? What do you do while he/she is working?

South Carolina Trip: Part 3

This is a long one, kids. I don’t want to drag our week-long trip out into a month of posts, so settle in. But first — Did you catch Part 1 and Part 2

Although all of our vacation was enjoyable, Tuesday was definitely my favorite day. I had read about Brookgreen Gardens before we left, and I was so excited to see it. The gardens did not disappoint. If you’re in the South Carolina area any time, definitely set aside at least half a day to see Brookgreen!

Brookgreen Gardens is 9100 acres of flowers, trees, poetry, sculptures, trails, and even a zoo. We spent several hours there and didn’t even make it to the zoo — it’s that big and engrossing. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a nice photodump of some of my favorite shots (in no particular order) from Brookgreen.

butterfly bench brookgreen statue brookgreen childrens path2 brookgreen oaks

Entrance to the "Beyond the Wall" trail
Entrance to the “Beyond the Wall” trail

dragonfly

This donkey was a made of succulents.
This donkey was a made of succulents.
This was in a designated children's garden, which we had to investigate. It was so cool -- full of little paths like this and kid-friendly sculptures.
This was in a designated children’s garden, which we had to investigate. It was so cool — full of little paths like this and kid-friendly sculptures.

brookgreen13 brookgreen11 brookgreen7 brookgreen8 a thought

Not all the poems were serious.
Not all the poems were serious.

We loved Brookgreen and could have easily spent more time there. The $14 ticket gets you a weeks’ worth of admissions, but we only had Tuesday morning to spend. We didn’t even make it to the zoo, because by the time we ate our late lunch, it was getting quite hot and humid, and we were ready to hit the beach.

We left Brookgreen and drove less than a mile to Huntington Beach State Park, which is also a must-visit! Near the park’s entrance is an information center that has a boardwalk out over the saltwater marsh, from which we saw millions of baby crabs crawling about (no picture of the crabs — we tried and tried and couldn’t get a clear one). The nature center was informative, and the short walk and crab-viewing was pretty cool, too.

huntington beach SP

From the nature center, we walked a two-mile trail through the woods. It was quite an experience for these Colorado dwellers: walking on both pine needles and beach sand was unique!
huntington beach trailIt was hot and buggy in there, but we still had a lot of fun exploring. When we finished, though, we were even more ready for the beach. We splashed and played and lounged for a couple of hours, but then thunder started rumbling and ran us off the beach. Boo. At least I got to relax in this little chair for a while.
huntington beach

We planned to go back to Murrells Inlet and give the restaurants there another try, and since the thunder cut short our ocean fun, we had some time to kill before dinner. The storm had passed, so we walked the marshwalk for a minute, then decided to get a drink at Bubba’s Love Shak. Because seriously…its name was Bubba’s Love Shak.
bubbas at murrels inletWe hung out in the rocking chairs on Bubba’s patio for a while,  watching some marsh goats while we sipped our beers.
rockin at bubbas marsh goats at murrels inletOnce we finished our drinks, we walked over to Wahoo’s Raw Bar and Fish House, where I had what was probably the best sushi I had ever eaten. It was way better than the night before. YUM.

On Wednesday, we had tickets booked to go to Hopsewee Plantation. We got there a little early, so we spent some time wandering the grounds, since they weren’t included on the tour.

hopsewee  2 hopsewee 1

Then, the tour of the house started. It was interesting, but honestly, probably not worth the $20/person price tag. I wish we would have toured Magnolia Plantation by Charleston instead, but this was still informative and fun.

On the upstairs balcony -- the floorboards and railings are still the original, 200-year-old wood.
On the upstairs balcony — the floorboards and railings are still the original, 200-year-old wood.

After the tour, we went to the plantation’s tea room for lunch. This was the best part of the tour. They have a traditional tea option, but I opted for a salad, and J and I ordered a bottomless pot of tea to share (you could try as many of their teas as you wanted).

hopsewee 5

After lunch, we drove back up to Myrtle Beach; we’d been here several days and had yet to visit actual Myrtle Beach and its famous boardwalk. We walked the boardwalk for a while, but honestly, we were underwhelmed. It was basically just crowds, a ton of tiki bars and junky tourist shops. Meh. We did ride the famous Skywheel, though, and that was fun.

view from skywheel skywheel j 1After the Skywheel, we headed back to our resort area, fed the turtles, and had dinner, then cruised back to the condo and crashed.

Thursday was our last full day, so we wanted it to be as vacation-esque as possible. We tried to sleep in (our bodies don’t understand that concept), I ran, we had a leisurely breakfast, and then we headed out for one more beach day. We’d asked a local to recommend a quiet beach, and her recommendation didn’t disappoint.

SCUnfortunately, when you’re a ginger, you start to sunburn after a few hours, regardless of how diligent you are with the sunscreen and cover-ups, so by mid-afternoon, it was time to say farewell to the ocean. Sigh.

Luckily, La Belle Amie Vineyard was nearby, so we wandered around the beautiful vineyard and cute gift shop, tasted some wine, and then hung out on their porch in more rocking chairs. I think I need to get a porch rocking chair.

photo 1 (4)After the wine, we went back to the condo to clean up and went out for one last nice dinner. It decided to rain buckets that night, but that’s okay; we enjoyed our last fresh seafood feast anyway.

borther shuckersFriday was pretty uneventful; we had an evening flight out of Florence and had planned to spend the day exploring that city — after stopping to feed the turtles once more, of course. Turns out, there is nothing to do in Florence, South Carolina. We stopped in the small town of Conway, which had a cute riverwalk and downtown area, then wandered around in Florence for a while before heading to the airport for another late-night flight, which was made even later by a delay in Charlotte.

We made it back home around 2:30 Saturday morning and promptly passed out. That’s way past this grandma’s bedtime. But it was absolutely worth it for the fabulous vacation we’d just had!

What? You want one more beach picture? Oh, okay.
photo 3 (2)

What would you most like to do on a South Carolina vacation?

It’s never to early to start thinking about next summer’s vacation. Where should we go?