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Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona

First Marathon in the Books!

After more than five months of training, I finished my first marathon – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona on January 14, 2018. I had never been more nervous for a race.  I had calls with my coach the day before and morning of the race. His last piece of advice to me was, “Breathe.”

Being around friendly fellow racers helped too. They all had words of encouragement when they heard it was my first complete marathon.

My race bib, shirt, and medal

Spectators Matter and Dogs!
The spectators for this race are awesome. Seeing their faces and hearing them cheer makes a difference. Some set up extra water stations; handed out orange slices, bacon, and beer; and held up signs. Hat tip to the spectators who made multiple appearances along the route. I was happy to see so many people with their dogs along the race route. Each one made me smile.

Your Backside Matters
More racers need to understand that their backside is entertainment for the people running behind them. I want to see more shoulder and calf tattoos and shirts with interesting backs. Several racers during the last 7 miles complemented the back of my shirt as they passed me. One said it was “dirty lie” because we were only at Mile 19. I responded that my shirt doesn’t say, “Last Mile.”

Watching so many people’s backs confirmed my idea of getting a variation of the Ignite Phoenix bird tattooed on my right shoulder blade and wearing t-back tank tops on race day.

How do these People Know my Name?
At several water stations, the volunteers cheered for me by name. I thought, “Do I know them? How do they know my name?” as I examined their faces for something familiar. And then I remembered, “Oh right, it’s on my bib.”

Still smiling after 26.2 miles and walking home from the light rail. Those numbers of my hand reminded me of when to take my gels.

“Coach, It Hurts.”
By Mile 20, I was in pain, and seriously contemplating whether I could finish the race without walking. I was afraid if I started walking, I wouldn’t be able to start running again. A frequent thought that crossed my mind was, “Coach, it hurts.”

During my training, I did a 23.8-mile run. Coach David said my body could handle the 26.2-mile distance, even if I had to walk the last miles.

I didn’t want to walk, or entertain that possibility, so I flipped from thinking about the pain to distracting myself by mentally going through gymnastics routines. (I was a gymnast for 17 years. I’ve completed many challenging runs with this trick.)

Mile 23 – 5K to go
At 5K to go, there was no way I was going to walk. Even exhausted and in pain, I could run a 5K. At the water station at Mile 24, a volunteer cheered, “Looking strong Ruth!” I didn’t feel strong, but appreciated it.

Mile 25 had the steepest hill on the course. I had some choice words for the organizers at that moment, and then I thought, “This is why I train on hills.”

Finish Strong
I had a good end of the race, coming down the hill at the end of the Mill Ave Bridge and turning the corner towards the finish line. I raised my arms and smiled as I crossed the finish line. Despite being in pain, I look happy in all my photos from the race.

I started walking after I crossed the finish line. I didn’t want to stop moving because I knew more pain would set in.

Post-Race Pain
Oh, and did it hurt. I had pain in my hips, quads, knees, and feet. I had been dealing with a sore ankle for the last week and taped it with KT Tape for the race. It did remarkably well during the race; I felt no pain until I took the tape off post-race.

I hurt so much after the race, I couldn’t get comfortable enough to nap after I got home and showered. Instead, I laid in bed for an hour and watched YouTube on my phone. I had Gatorade and chocolate milk after the race, and I didn’t want to eat for a few hours after the race.

The next day I had substantially less pain than I expected. Most of pain was in my quads. Surprisingly, I’m not going to lose any toenails from the race. I only lost one during training.

Got the Bug
I’ve heard marathoners are one-and-done or get the marathon bug. Even before this race ended, I was thinking about my next race. My goal for this race was to just finish. Now, I want to see if I can improve my time and feel stronger.

Here are my stats from this race:
Finish Time: 4:44:37
944/1852 Overall
344/809 Gender (Women’s)
63/141 Division

Support your Runners at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2015

If you live in the Phoenix area, especially if you live near the race route for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon or Half Marathon this coming weekend, please come out and support the runners. It matters that you’re there.

Photo by Tyler Hurst from Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

Photo by Tyler Hurst from Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

My sister came to Phoenix to do this race before I became a runner, and I drove her to the starting line, saw her start the race, cheered for her around Mile 8 and at the finish line. It was fun to be part of the excitement of the race and see all the fanfare, but I didn’t think it mattered that I was there.

I didn’t understand until I became a runner myself how helpful and encouraging it is to have people cheering for you on the sidelines, even when they’re strangers. It’s even better when you see a familiar face in the crowd.

When I did that half marathon in 2012, I knew my friends would be watching for me around Mile 8 and Mile 11. At Mile 4, I started counting down how far had to go before I would see my friends. It was so great to see my friend Tyler holding a sign that insulted me (per my request) as I ran by him and other friends. That kept my spirits lifted until Mile 11 when I saw my friend Barb who yelled, “Move your ass Bitch!” (I specifically asked my friends to insult me that year. It’s part of my masochistic nature.)

One of my Favorite Race Day Signs Ever - Photo by Jeff Moriarty

One of my Favorite Race Day Signs Ever – Photo by Jeff Moriarty

Even when I don’t recognize the people who are watching us run, it means so much that they came out to support us. I love reading all the funny signs that people make and seeing the volunteers who dress up in funny outfits. It’s mutual people watching. It’s fun to watch runners who wear costumes or running shirts with clever sayings on them. Quite a few people put their name on their shirt so you can cheer for them by name if you want. This year we had the option to customize part of our race bibs. Mine says “First Marathon.”

The 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona race routes will cross Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Wherever you live, you should be able to get to a portion of the race relatively easily. If you’re going to be on the marathon route and you want to make my race, make me a sign that says “Go Baby Duck!” Baby Duck was one of the nicknames my late coach called me. This will only be my second race since his passing. That would make me happier then having people insult me.

To everyone who has ever driven a runner to their starting line, made a sign, or cheered them on along the way, thank you for your support. It makes a big difference having you there.

Marathon Training Week 15 Recap: The 20-Mile Run

0015_1 by Andreas Cappell from Flickr

0015_1 by Andreas Cappell from Flickr

About a month ago, I started getting chest pains after my long runs. A few weeks ago, my cardiologist told me that I have 2 holes in my heart. These holes may or may not be related to my pain. My doctor needs to refer me to a surgeon who can further evaluate my situation and determine whether the holes in my heart should be patched. For the time being my doctor said I’m allowed to run as long as I can handle the pain and I don’t have a stroke.

With his blessing (sort of), I’m back to running, and thank goodness for that because last week had my longest run of my training cycle – 20 miles. I did not want to walk that. Here’s how this week of training went.

Monday: Rest Day.

Tuesday: I had my first run in the real world since beginning to deal with my health issues. I ran 5 miles and it felt so awkward to run on pavement again. I felt like a baby deer just learning to walk, though it got better as I focused on my running posture. I had a touch of chest pain during mile 1. I worried it might continue throughout the run, but it seemed to settle down by the end of mile 2. I felt like I was running more slowly than before my running hiatus but I also felt like I could easily increase my mileage.

Black Cherry GU Chomps

Black Cherry GU Chomps

Wednesday: I ran 10.5 miles – 2 laps around Tempe Town Lake. I wanted to get used to this route because I planned to run 4 laps for my 20-mile run on Saturday. I had a bit of chest pain during miles 1-2 and 8-10 but it wasn’t bad enough to make me stop. I also had some pain in my left leg during the second lap. I could definitely tell I was slowing down by the end. I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage 20 miles on Saturday.

I also discovered my new favorite flavor of GU Chomps: black cherry. These things are caffeinated candy. They’re an awesome pick-me-up.

Thursday: I ran 5 miles while listening to the Dr. Drew Podcast with guest lawyer-turned-comedian Paul Mecurio. I laughed out loud several times during my run. It was a good run but I had some calf pain because I hadn’t been as diligent about my post-run stretching earlier in the week.

Friday: Rest Day.

Saturday: I was reminded that I don’t like running in the cold. I ran 20.5 miles – 4 laps around Tempe Town Lake – starting at 7:45 am on Saturday. It was 35 degrees when I started, and I was dressed in shorts, shirt, hoodie because I knew it would get warmer by the end. One of the upsides of running laps around the lake is I get to stop at my car every lap to get water and a snack if I need it.

My sweatshirt came off after first lap. It was still chilly in the shade but otherwise just a bit cold. During Lap 3, I refueled a bit with some strawberry GU Chomps and an apple pie Larabar. I kept myself entertained with an episode of the Dr. Drew Podcast during lap one and listened to my race day playlist the rest of the time. I finished my 20 miles in about 3.5 hours. I had some calf and quad pain in both legs by the end. It was definitely an act of masochism, but the pain was manageable.

I think there were some other runners who were training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and running laps around the lake. Every time we passed, we’d smile and wave. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one torturing themselves that day.

Sunday: Rest Day. I was supposed to cross train today, but I’m freakishly tired. I’ll hit the elliptical at the gym tomorrow.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 41 miles

Marathon Training Week 5 Recap – First Double-Digit Run

Quick Question: Do you like this format better where I break down my training by day or do summaries of running, biking, and push-ups like I did last week?

5 by rosemary from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

5 by rosemary from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Week 5 of 18 of marathon training was my first 10-mile run. I haven’t a run this far since my last half marathon in 2013. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but was remarkably pleased with how it went. This was also my first week of training while living in my new condo so I’m trying new running and cycling routes.

Monday: My weekend ended with car trouble so this week started out with a trip to the car dealership for repairs. I walked a total of 4.5 miles to and from the dealership. This distance doesn’t count for anything but I want to document that I was moving. My left shin hurt a bit in the process which reminded me of my physical therapist who said that running is easier on my body than powerwalking (which is what I calling walking). I also cranked out 100 push-ups – 5 sets of 14 and 2 sets of 15 – with no problems.

Tuesday: My complex has a gym so I’m taking advantage of it to do some speed work by running on the treadmill once a week. I ran 4.5 miles in 38 minutes. The speed was set between 7 and 7.6 mph. I felt like I was on the ultimate human hamster wheel. The most painful thing about this run was how bored I got. I listened to an old podcast featuring Gary Vaynerchuk from when Crush It came out, but even that barely took the edge off how boring it is to run nowhere.

Wednesday: I did a 6.5-mile run today at sunrise. I opted not to use my iPod so I could get a better sense of the route. I was already running with glasses or contacts so I dind’t want to dull all my senses. I purposely picked a route that I can easily extend for longer distances and one that has some hills. I heard the marathon route for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona has a hill around Mile 20 so I want to make sure I’m ready for it. I also finished my push-ups for the week: 5 sets of 15, 1 set 13, and 1 set 12. I’m looking forward to getting up to 5 sets of 20 in the next week or 2.

Thursday: I made the mistake of running towards downtown Phoenix for my 4.5-mile run and ended up in a somewhat sleazy part of town. I suspect it was a good neighborhood to look for meth or a hooker. Thankfully it was early enough in the morning that few people were out and about. Apart from my surroundings for the last half mile before my turn-around spot, it was nice run.

Friday: Friday was my rest day. I enjoyed not getting super sweaty before breakfast.

Saturday: Today was my 10-mile run. I think I ran a little slower than 10-minute miles and that was just fine with me. I just wanted to finish without too much pain – and I did that. The best part of my run was the podcast I listened to – Profiles with Alicia Malone and Scott Mantz. It’s a podcast about movies and this week’s episode featured the work of John Hughes. I loved listening to them talk about films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club. What made the show extra special (and extra long!) was they had awesome interviews with Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, and Judd Nelson.

Felt good at the time, by lunchtime my quads were sore – didn’t have time to stretch right after my run b/c parents were on their way over.

Sunday: I hopped on my bike for a 19.5-mile ride for cross training this week. I checked out the Grand Canal, which is a good route if you’re trying to get to central Phoenix near Indian School Road or Camelback Road. There were far fewer people on the canal than what I see on the Arizona canal – my preferred canal for riding and it made me sad to ride through poorer neighborhoods were I saw more homeless camps, stray dogs, and trash. I was amused, though, when my route took me past the parking lot for one of the Phoenix bathhouses. I was surprised so many cars were there at 8am. The last half mile of the ride was uphill. I was up out of the saddle pumping as hard as my legs could while telling myself, “This is going to make my legs look awesome!”

My quads are sore from this weekend’s workouts and I’m looking forward to a mellower Week 6. The long run is only 7 miles.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 25.5 miles
Biking: 19.5 miles
Push-ups: 200 push-ups

Please leave me a comment below and tell me if you prefer this format or this format for my marathon training posts.

Marathon Training for the RnRAz 2015

My training program for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 begins this week. I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon every year for four years (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013), (PR: 1:52:04), but then I had to sit out 2014 due to shin splints. Now that I’ve finished physical therapy and learned a new running posture, I’m ready to do another long race.

Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 - Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 – Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

I will be using one of Hal Higdon’s marathon training programs for the next 18 weeks. I’ve used his half marathon training program for my previous races with a lot of success. It’s easy to lock in to his program of how far to run on what day. I’m a little worried about how fast the mileage climbs on the long run days.  I’ll be running 10 miles by week 5. In his novice half marathon program, 10 miles is the longest run you do before the race and that’s in week 11 of a 12-week program. I hope my legs and feet can handle the stress.

I am grateful to be in the best running shape I’ve ever been in heading into a training cycle. I’ve been consistently running and stretching since March as part of the rehab from my injuries. I’m currently running 22 miles a week (2 4.5-mile runs, 2 6.5-mile runs). For previous races I was barely working out so the first 3-mile run of training was painful.

Since I’ve been running so much, I’m slightly modifying Hal’s program for the first 13 weeks. If the run in Hal’s program is less than what I would have run on my own, I’ll run the longer distance. For example, the first run in Hal’s program is 3 miles. I’d normally run 4.5 miles that day so I’ll do that distance instead.

I’ve also heard that the route for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon has a decent hill around Mile 20. So right when I expect to really hate myself, I have to climb a hill. (This will be awesome for a masochist like me.) My training will definitely include some hill work to prepare for this. There was a small hill in the last Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon I did and I could easily tell whose training included hills and who only trained on flat ground.

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

Hal’s program adds 1 day of cross training to the mix. I’ll probably bike 12-20 miles on those days but there may be some hiking and other fun on those days. I think I also want to add some upper body and core strength training by doing push-ups 3 days a week – just push-ups, not the 100 Push-ups Challenge.

The real challenge in doing a race is staying dedicated to the training program. I don’t know if non-runners appreciate how much time and dedication goes into preparing for a race. The race itself is filled with excitement, fanfare, and comradery with your fellow racers. Race day is easy – if nothing else you have adrenaline to get you through it. The training is hard – long hours of pounding pavement rain or shine (most likely by yourself), scheduling your life around your runs, potentially living with perpetually sore muscles, and taking care of minor injuries. (I literally lived in KT Tape my last two training cycles.)

I’m looking forward to training for my first full marathon and being able to share the journey with you.

New Running Mantra: “You Forgot Your Flash Drive”

It’s monsoon season in Phoenix, so I got to go running in the rain last week. A rainy day means I can’t run with my iPod which means I’m left with the frightening experience of running with only my thoughts to keep me entertained. (And trust me, my mind is frightening place that no one should visit alone.) I set out on my 4.5-mile run. I’m sure I looked like a drowned rat within five minutes, but it warm outside and so the rain was a refreshing change to being covered in sweat which has a tendency to sting really bad when it gets in my eye. At the beginning of the second mile, I was settling into my pace and listening to the rhythmic sound of my feet pounding the pavement.  I randomly started thinking of the train episode of The Big Bang Theory and the phrase, “You forgot your flash drive,” started repeating over and over in my head.

You forgot your flash drive.  You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. I don’t know why this became my mantra. It has nothing to do with running, or exercise, or any real aspect of reality for that matter. But it worked. It gave me a solid 9:00 mile pace for the rest of my run.

Funny marathon signs - Smile or it drops by Jeff Moriarty from Flickr, used with permission

Funny marathon signs – Smile or it drops by Jeff Moriarty from Flickr, used with permission

Now here’s the weird part. Two days later it was a beautiful sunny morning and I headed out for a run, happy to have my iPod strapped to my arm and earbuds in my ears blasting my training playlist. Despite my musical distraction, within the first mile my mantra starting playing again my head: You forgot your flash drive.  You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. You forgot your flash drive. So it looks like this is going to be my running mantra this season. It’s so weird but it’s working so I’m not going to fight it. When I start feeling tired, I just play it over again and it picks up my pace. Historically, I’ve asked people to insult me when I’m doing a race. It makes me smile and feel loved. (Thank you to everyone who has ever yelled, “Move your ass Bitch!” at me as I ran past them while fellow spectators looked at them in horror.) I will be running my first marathon at Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona in January 2015. I think it would be awesome if someone would make a sign for me that says, “You forgot your flash drive” and hold it up as I run by. No one else will get it but that would so make my race.