Life is good. Marathon training is treating me well. I'm tired all the time, hungry all the time, severely sleep deprived, time deprived and constantly stressing about my weight bouncing up and down. Despite all that, I would not trade the experience for the world. I'm realizing things about myself that I never would have without it and I am accomplishing things that I never would have foreseen in the recent years.
I am up to 18 miles now. I ran 16 last weekend, 12 the weekend before, 16 the weekend before that and 13.5 before that.
I know that I'm training properly for a few reasons:
a.) I don't feel like shit after my long runs. There have been many times that I have had horrible stomach problems and cramping in my legs after a long run. I've also been known to not feel like doing a single thing after my long runs and end up sitting around for the majority of the day afterwards. I actually felt better after my 18 miler on Saturday than I did after the Jack Rector Beacon 25k I did a few months ago. I went grocery shopping, cooked dinner, did laundry and ran errands. We even went to a buddy's house and hung out till the late hours of the evening.
b.) "Just four miles" is really just four miles. It seems like anything under 7 miles (my mid-length distance right now) seems to fly by.
c.) My time seems to be very slowly making progress. I was looking at 11+ minute miles a couple weeks ago, now I'm looking at sub 11 minute miles - about 10:45 or so.
d.) I ran up 5 flights of stairs today and was barely winded!
The bad - I have gained a couple pounds and can't seem for the life of me to keep it off. My weight has been varying between 129 and 131, and my lowest weight was 127. This may not sound like much of a difference, but at my height it really does matter. Not just that but I know I ran faster at my lowest weight. I would be SO happy if I could get my weight down to closer to 120 before the actual marathon. I think my problem is essentially explained in this article. I need to try and focus more on eating less processed foods and less on calorie restriction! Also, I'm not as toned as I once was, I haven't had time to go to Body Pump in weeks and it's killing me! I miss it!!!!! I'm going to attempt to reorganize my training schedule a bit to make time for Body Pump again, I hate not being able to go!
The good - No injuries as of yet! *knock on wood* My plantar fasciitis has bothered me once the entire time and I just rolled my foot over an ice bottle a couple nights in a row and that has disappeared again. No muscle pulls, tears, or spasms. And, my knees are doing great! Rik, our Ragnar Relay team leader had strongly recommended that I do some Yoga to help prevent injuries, and I'm ashamed to say that try as I may, I can't seem to find the time to do it. But I have taken up his suggestion on getting a foam roller and have rolled the shit out of my legs since then; focusing primarily on my IT band. I've also made it a point to stretch really well about a quarter of a mile into my run and immediately after a run. While I haven't lost any weight, I feel like I'm still looking good, I'm sporting a 27.25-28.5 inch waist (it varies depending on when I've last ate, etc.), all of my clothes still fit well, and I don't feel disgusted when I look in the mirror! <---- MAJOR non-scale victory! I feel pretty lean for the most part excepting a bulge that sits on my lower abdomen, but I really think that's mostly skin that hasn't tightened up from my weight loss.
Marathon training is not only a physical strain, but it's a mental battle, as well. It seems like every long run is a journey. Katie at www.runsforcookies.com wrote an awesome blog post comparing a run to her weight loss journey here. It was so right on and inspiring that it got me to thinking about how I can relate the two and this is what I came up with:
1.) Pre-journey - I putter around the house thinking about how much I really do not want to run ___ miles and wondering if I cn even make it that far. At the beginning of my weight loss I wondered how in the world I intended to lose 130 pounds and if it was even a possibility.
2.) Warming up - The first couple of miles are tough, I feel stiff and out of sorts, I am still slightly nervous of the task ahead of me and start thinking of alternative options if I can't make it all the way. I wonder why the hell I wanted to do this in the first place. I'm in the habit forming phase of my weight loss journey, learning to eat right and move more, I still feel a bit lazy and don't want to give up my junk food. I'm still just testing the waters and wondering if I can really do this.
3.) Finding my rhythm - I find that I'm suddenly comfortable in my pace and stride, I no longer feel awkward and stop focusing on the movement on my legs and just enjoy the forward motion. I continue to lose weight and find a plan that works for me, I'm going strong and feeling encouraged and hopeful.
4.) Bumpy roads - I come across points on my route that slow me down: uphill treks; cracked pavement; long, seemingly endless roads; I trip and fall, skinning my elbow; I honestly just wish I were done with this run and already home. I hit plateaus and burn outs; I'm tired of counting calories and working out. I'm tired of being "halfway there" and "2/3 of the way there" and "3/4 of the way there". I want to BE there. I want to be at my goal weight.
5.) Determination - I convince myself that I can, must and will finish this run. I stop to stretch or walk for a few paces while I eat some GU and drink some water, I mentally pump myself up to get through it. I force one foot in front of the other and repeat "I know I can, I know I can, I know I can". I play mental games to keep me going, like envisioning the finish line at the Marathon. I listen to songs like "Into the Wild" that remind me that I have a team full of people that has as much faith in me as I do if not more so. I rededicate myself to counting calories and up my strength training workouts. I refocus on what nutrients I'm eating and how to best fill my body with healthy foods. I remind myself that failure is not an option.
6.) Finish line - I'm a half mile from my house (or the finish line) and I have reached the point where there is no question about whether I'll make it or not. I know that I can last giving it ALL that I've got for the next few minutes and so I do. I finally reach my porch enriched with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. I am sitting at 135 and realize that yes, I will reach goal weight, I've lost 125 pounds, five more is nothing! So I bust ass and not only get to 130, I shoot beyond and hit 127. I am oh, so happy to have reached my goal. I actually did it, I lost half my body weight and hit my goal weight.
7.) New goals - I realize that I am not done just because I've finished the run. I've got longer miles, bigger races and new personal bests to set. I reach my original goal weight of 130 pounds and decide that I would prefer to go for closer to 120 pounds. I decide that I still want to work on toning and becoming not necessarily skinnier, but stronger. I decide that fitness and health is my passion and I want to try new things and reach for higher accomplishments. I'm no longer happy being stagnant.
And this folks is what just about every long run is like for me. It's a journey and sometimes a struggle, but without my long runs, my journeys, I would never know exactly how strong and capable I really am. My journeys are what have made me what I am today.