Beastly

Highway 35 to Duluth
Going north to do some running on pavement.
Things that ran through my head, in the minutes and hours after I finished Grandma’s Marathon, my second marathon, yesterday afternoon:

  • Holy cow, that long straightaway approaching the finish line just seemed to get longer and longer, like it was a hall of mirrors. I was so, so happy to cross that finish line!
  • After discovering that I didn’t beat the time from my first marathon, some pretty vocal disappointment (“sh**!”). This was not so much at the lack of a new PR.  It was more in frustration at the discovery that my plan to “save it for the end” by running more conservatively at the start … did not work as a plan to help me feel more energetic for the last 6 miles and/or able to get a new PR.
  • carnation from a marathon
    I missed all the postrun snacks BUT NOT THE FLOWER
    Gratitude! For the Grandma’s veterans, Allen and Mike who knew the easy way to get to the YMCA (uphill and across an interstate from the finish area) where we could shower and put on dry clothes. For weather that ended up optimal – not just for keeping our bodies cool but also for this Tacoma-raised kid who prefers running in rain. For my superfan husband who joined us on this adventure and for the running friends and Grandma’s spectators that made this anything but an ordinary day outside in running shoes. For the terrific friends and other fans, volunteers and race officials that made this a great and fun event.
  • This came later, as in today, but also: gratitude also for this strong body -and mind- that held together for the duration and presented me with no blisters and with a time that wasn’t very much slower (four minutes) than my PR. For finishing the beastly test of a marathon, again.
  • Back to a big thought, last night: Maybe I’ll be one of those impossible people – someone who only runs two marathons? More on this, later.

The facts:

My main goal for this event was to run more conservatively in the first half (than I did in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon last fall) by sticking to my goal pace. I did exactly that. Goal achieved! But it feels like I was tricked by one of those riddle-goals that a genie might present to you. The idea is that it would help leave more energy in my tank to tackle the last 6 miles of the event which will be hard, no matter what. Well, those last 6 were even harder. My pace just seemed to keep slowing down (except for the last 2 miles!). Check out these charts of my pacing, captured from Strava:

What felt to be the main problem: I struggled with a side ache (or really more of an entire front-side, complete rack-of-ribs ache) from mile 20 onward. Not the worst one I’ve had but one that ticked me off! I used to get plagued by these but it’s been a few years since it last impacted my running. There was a water stop in every one of those miles and I used all of them for a short walk-break to try and loosen up that tightness, while also periodically trying Coach Greg’s “exhale eveything you’ve got, three times, that’ll clear it up” prescription, to little avail. I pressed on. Both knees were sore (it was sore ankles at the marathon prior) but those front-muscles (abs, diaphragm, whatever) were giving me quite a fight. Many times, my working mantra drifted from my planned second-half “Light. Soft. Strong.” to “It won’t hurt any more intensely if I run faster so GO FASTER.”

This morning, after a difficult afternoon yesterday of failing to nap or even rest comfortably and then a slightly less fitful night of sleep, the analysis began. I didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but if I did, what could it have been?

  • Flat Arah
    Planning the outfit, gear & nutrition
    Maybe my mind & body aren’t folks for whom that “save it for later” theory works. Maybe we are more of a “use it or lose it” type of a crowd? I have yet to a) not finish a marathon or b) crawl to the finish line. Fitbit tells me my average heart rate for this was 153. Perhaps I could have turned it up a few notches.
  • I only ran once, in the prior 7 days and it was a 6 mile run with 6 100-yard strideouts. My schedule got difficult and my rationale was that if I found an extra hour somewhere, it would be better spent sleeping than fitting in a workout. Given how tired my quads were throughout the race, maybe a couple shorter runs that week would have been better. Or maybe I’d needed more strength training. Or maybe 26 miles on pavement is simply that hard on one particular set of muscles.
  • As I detailed in an earlier post, my training plan was a bit of a hybrid – which I fear meant it may have been lacking in professional guidance. My plan included 3 easy midweek runs , and 2 harder weekend runs; my club pretty much did the reverse, but now and then I crossed the streams and did hard midweek and hard/long weekend runs. Maybe it resulted in overtraining?
  • Mentally, I think the run 5-days-per-week plan qualified as overtraining for me. It may have worked back when I had a five-minute commute, but it was simply too much to fit it into a week containing five 8-hour workdays that each contained 90-120 driving commute minutes.
  • Due also to schedule complications, I was unable to keep at the weekly yoga class for strength, though I did fit in a climb night or two each week. It’s possible that this flexibility made the plan more workable overall, but maybe I had a strength imbalance that resulted in the side ache?
  • My sleep quality (length) seemed to suffer, this time around.
  • Nutrition wise, in terms of the few days before the race: I had good pasta dinners 2- and 3- days out. The day before the race, dinner (out, in Duluth) was nachos and fish tacos: maybe more salty and meat-heavy than optimal? I felt fine on race day, food/digestion wise. I may be hyperfocused on the snacking of the Grandma’s vet in our group (who finished ahead of me), but maybe I’ll try a few handfuls of Cinnamon Pecan Special K the night before my next endurance event.
  • I opted out of using a pace group, though I’d considered using one, based on feedback from experienced friends. I spoke with the people at the expo pace group table who were somewhat helpful but frankly not very encouraging or enthusiastic at all. We arrived at the start line a little late for me to find the pace group I’d thought of joining, but I figured maybe I’d end up near them or at least using them as a marker. Alas, I passed one of the slower pace groups and fairly quickly determined that I needed to get as far away from them and their brethren as soon as possible. I’m sure the pacers & racers were all nice people and a possible recipe for success, but … I needed space and peace. Maybe this is a sign I need to go back to trail running, or maybe it’s a sign that I was in a mood that needed fixing? Not sure. I will say that I could’ve used a little more conversation on the course, in the form of a buddy or fewer other runners clammed up in headphones.
  • GPS watch! It may have to go, for races/events. I finally got a new one about 5 weeks ago, but maybe not having one is key to finding the right pace in my body, during an event. Constantly looking down at my pace made me feel neurotic in the first part of the race, and just frustrated in the last part.
  • Perhaps a negative-split is a foolish goal for a marathon.
  • Maybe I needed to run harder though the darn side ache. My running pal Maggie advised me to use a “you are stronger than you think you are” mantra for this race’s final miles and though I consulted it and riffed off of it, maybe I needed to sing it.

Or, maybe there’s nothing to study except the fact that it’s an endurance test, and each one you do is different, even if on the same course but certainly if it’s not on the same course. There’s no promise of improvement, ever. There can be promise of new insight and growth and I am the one in charge of my attitude and how I choose to feel about how the day went. If I find that I want to do another one of these, so be it.

Let’s see what the next several months hold. I’m looking forward to less structured free time for awhile, and a few 200-mile relay events with good friends, and at least one fun trail race.

Dinner Ticket

I made the reservation –or rather, bought the tickets–  a month or so ago, because I finally could make a reservation there.

Didn’t tell him where but nearly begged him to ask me

That day, advised him to eat a light lunch, as an experience involving at least 14 tasting courses would start at 5:45pm

We drove, drove then drove: through two cities and into a third

Parked, we walked by windows showcasing glimmering wine glasses lined up like a fragile, lethal army, beneath cured meat slices hanging by hooks on the ends of string. Then, past a bright blue industrial freezer door, you know, with a chrome handle as wide as the door? It opens and the bearded Helpful calls to us “guys! C’mon back here! You here for dinner?”

YES

You’ll be sitting with these fine 6 people. That centerpiece that looks like it might have food in it, slide it away to help open up conversation with them. We went to college with one of them, anyway

Hopefully my response to “are you lawyers?” did not offend

Two bites came before our drinks did: a tasty toothpicked canape dipped in “porcini garlic dirt” and then several gems of vegetables and fish, arranged on personal granite trenchers

boubon drink
I already drank the smoke

My drink emitted smoke

Bourbon and smoke go together

The drink for one of the lawyers hissed, foamed and probably glowed in the dark, too. This was … unexpected. The server came back with a cleanup rag and more of the beverage, to top off the class

The evening moved forward, upward, outward with several courses that didn’t require a utensil, one that involved walking though kitchen to have the artistes assemble the course in a plate as we walked it through the line

Smoke (steam) came out everyone’s noses: a roomful of dragons, we were. Such trust in the guy with the bucket of pearls

My first taste, I think of fiddehead fern, raw scallop. And first and maybe final bites of morels, this year

Pork belly that ruined all bacon in the future, forever. Well, for a few days anyway. Bacon can’t be ruined, if it’s still available

menu
This came with the drink bill

The bread in the meal came all in one course, just over halfway through, and we seasoned it with amaretto and bone marrow butters

Ever had a deconstructed beef wellington?

Ever had beef wellington and were able to comfortably move away from the table, when done? Why do that? Perfect portion, cutest little pastry. A plank of tidbits

So, part of the centerpiece was, in fact edible: I KNEW IT. Chocolate breadstick.

The macaron! It was unfair to all other macarons, to dip one end in chocolate, and help it stand up

And just like an rollicking evening spent by a campfire, with scary stories, unfamiliar and sometimes eerie views of familiar things, and much laughter: the last bite was of marshmallow.

20 courses of familiar flavors, unusual textures, exuberant specialists and thoughtful presentation.

Happy birthday to my sweetheart. I’m glad you enjoyed the meal at Travail.

Please pardon -or maybe you enjoyed? – my semi-poetic stream of descriptions. I wasn’t sure how else to describe this ride of a meal, and there was rarely a moment, much less an appropriate moment, to stop and take a picture of all the edibles that came our way, nor of the wide range of facial expressions all over the room, during our time there.

Crunchy crooked forward what?

gong at River Garden Yoga
“That is a huge gong.”
I’ve had chapped lips for 2 weeks.

When last I did training for something big and athletic, my secret weapon was a deep-tissue massage every 5 weeks and a really tough weight training session, every Sunday. This time it’s getting comfortable with 5 runs per week – and organizing my runs so that I can get to a weekly yoga class and spend motoring time with fantastic husband (and his super fun new car). I changed it up out of desire to improve my running but also out of desire to set up time to spend with said husband.

I’m feeling strong as a runner but a little out of whack as me. One of my best friends at work, climbing and cake appreciation moved 1,669 miles away last fall. I’m teaching not four but one yoga class per week. My body spends seven times as much time in the car each week. I’m no longer the knowledgable long-timer at work. I have six…SIX! socks that have lost their matches in the last month.

Those are some of the losses. The recent victories include: better pay in new job, new challenges. New faces, plenty of new things to learn in a new business for me. New conversation topics at breakfast and dinner. New opportunities to listen to great podcasts. That one awesome yoga class I teach each week is populated with a terrific and slowly growing pack of regular students. I continue to discover new music (thanks to husband and Adrienne) and great pose sequences and cues (thanks to the Ted Roseen classes I attend on Saturdays).

Change is good, right?

I don’t know if the chapped lips are due to exposure while running, or nervous chewing on said lips.

I’ve had a kink in my neck for two weeks now, which might be due to something in my new work arrangement – the longer drive that can’t be substituted for a 40-minute walk, the open seating arrangement that offers less privacy but more communication, the laptop, the ebb and flow of my project. Sleeping hard, or not sleeping well at all. Worrying about new things. Or old things. Plenty.

My friend Amy suggested I come to her gong meditation class at River Garden Yoga tonight, tempting me with words like relaxationhealing and even gong which brings not fond memories of TV talent competitions and Jamie Farr. “Sign me up!” was my reply. This is a Friday, a rest day in my training. It’s just another -additional- day in my 14-day run with this sore neck that doesn’t seem to allow me to sleep as restfully as I desire. As part of the practice tonight we needed to choose an intention – sort of like the sankalpa in Yoga Nidra. I did not hesitate to be extremely precise with mine: “Release the movement restriction in my neck. PLEASE.” This was not a day for “I have compassion for me” or “I am steady.”

You know, it kind of worked.

Time for bed.