Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reflecting back on nine months of training

It's been 72 hours since the marathon and I am itching to get back to the gym already. The problem with this whole "running thing" is that it's highly addictive! I'm daydreaming of new marathons I want to run (cough... cough... LA...cough....cough), new training plans I could follow, new running gear I want from Santa.....

It's safe to say that the Santa Barbara Marathon will not be my last! The sore muscles will heal, and with my little vacation coming up (hello naps! hello feasting! hello lots of rest!) my knee will get better, and my insatiable appetite for hitting the road will be fulfilled.

And now indulge me, if you will, in some post-marathon reflections. It's been a long time coming. (alert, long post....)

Why did I start running and training?
I never thought I'd be a "runner." I ran a whole bunch, but never with purpose or a goal.

But back in late January/early Feb, there was a family disaster that completely threw me for a loop. It was something that shook me from the core: I felt like everything I wanted to believe about the world had been betrayed. I was feeling blue and mopey for weeks on end, feeling sad and angry at the world.

I remember the day I got the news from my mom: I went to the treadmill and it was like I could not run fast enough. I cranked that sucker up high. I wanted it to hurt. I wanted my lungs to beg for mercy. I wanted each bone rattling step to crush the anger I felt inside. Heck, I even imagined that I was stepping on the faces of all the people I was mad at with each step I took. Obviously, it wasn't a happy place to be.

On a whim, I visited a new running store in town, just to look at the merchandise, maybe get some retail therapy. (Hey, a new pair of Sauconys>Jimmy Choos for this girl)

What I walked out of that store with though, was something no new, sparkly, lightweight shoe could ever give me.

When I walked out of that store, I felt so invigorated, so challenged, so giddy; something I hadn't felt in a long time. I had found a new goal, a new purpose, a new outlet for all my feelings.

That little postcard I saw, innocently resting in a neat little stack, a measly piece of paper surely overlooked by many, brought me so much effing excitement I was like a little kid who had just been told she never had to do homework again.

The inaugural Santa Barbara Marathon?

In December?



OMFGTIC (haha, take a guess)

The idea tossed around in my head for a couple of weeks, but let me tell you. It made me so effing happy to think about it. I don't really know why. But the idea of pushing my body, testing my limits, taking out all my aggression, getting in racing shape... who knows why that was the most appealing thing to me at the time. I could easily have decided that I wanted to be a stripper or a cyclist or a sky diver or a coke head.

I started Googling races in Santa Barbara, and one of the first search results yielded the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. 13 miles? With Wine? With lots of wine? In Solvang? You bet your ass I was as giddy as a kid who found out his uncle is Ben. From Ben and Jerry's. :)

I signed up, and as they say, the rest is history. I've been training and running non-stop since late February/early March. Three HMs, three 10Ks, one 15K, and one marathon later. Phew! And you know what? Running has saved my sanity so many times. It continues to provide me with new challneges, new goals, and new opportunities for retail therapy. It even gave me a chance to bond with James in a new way: training for a marathon together, spending countless hours on the road together, fueling, recovering and daydreaming together.... it's been a priceless experience. So glad I didn't choose to be a stripper. ha!

How did my training start?
I definitely didn't go into the whole running thing from square one. I had been running shorter distances (less than 5 miles) on a consistant basis, and I was a gym rat, so I had a pretty good base to start off with. But I had close to zilch knowledge about training.

I mean.... the first pair of shoes I started with.... I just got the cheapest one at Foot Locker! (I know, gasp!) ((It was Saucony Pro Grid Guide, which actually turned out to be pretty darned close to what I needed... haha beginner's luck!)) I was running in all cotton clothing...ick! and knew nothing about hydration/nutrition.

My first running goal was to run the HM, and I had two months to prepare. My plan was to slowly increase the time I ran (not distance) every week. Week one I headed out to see if I could run for 60 straight minutes. It hurt, but I succeeded! The second week I ran for 60 minutes and 30 seconds. Third week I ran for 61 minutes. I slowly built it up to 95 minutes before the big race day. I have no idea how I finished my first HM in exactly 2 hours: I probably drank one cup of water the entire race and ate nothing during the run!

From the moment I finished that crossing line, I knew I could tackle the big M and I started a more serious training regimen.

I spent wayyyyyy too much time at work on Runner's World while pretending to work, started the blog, bought a marathong training book, bought new shoes, and discovered Cliff Shot Blocks and water bottles. At this time, James also decided he wanted in on this whole racing thing. Yay! Score!

What did I learn about Marathon Training?
  1. Have properly fitted shoes. Do some research on your own first. Maybe even get a couple of different shoe stores' opinions. Shoes can make such a HUGE difference. Don't just get the cheapest one like I did, or believe you are an overpronator cause someone told you so. Try on multiple shoes; even multiple shoes of the exact same model. Each one fits just a tad bit different.

  2. Sweat whicking clothes. Nuff said.

  3. Running socks. Not the stuff that's $3.99 for 6. Get the good stuff. Lessons were learned the hard way. Ouch.

  4. Build up slowly. The best advice I ever read was the 10% rule. Building up my mileage was a SLLOOOOOWWWW process, as I already mentioned. But I wholeheartedly believe all my knee woes would have been greatly exasperated had I been more aggressive in my training.

  5. Strength train! The first couple of runs were brutal..... on my shoulders and arms. I have a weak upper body, so my shoulders would get totally trashed. So I started a vigorous upper body strenth training routine, and this has GREATLY increased my comfort level on long runs. If you need any ideas, I've got em!

  6. You will get in kinks and knots in your muscles you never knew existed. Foam roll that shit. It's amazing. It changed my life.

  7. Invest in Body Glide. I'll spare you my vag chafing stories.

  8. Run on a flat surface. And no, this doesn't mean avoid hills. This means run on a road that's not slanted.
    I am a nerd, so naturally, I read all 7 pages of user reviews of the Santa Barbara Marathon. A good % of runner's commented that the slant of the road was brutal on their knees and hips. Come to think of it, on my 18 miler and my 20 miler, I complained to James about how the slant was hurting me. Come to think of it, my ITB pain only started after my 20 miler..... Coincidence? I think not! And on an article about ITB pain, it said running on slanted surfaces can cause your knee to turn inwards, causing pain. So yeah. I'm pretty sure I know the culprit of my pain. Whenever I run on a slant, I notice the pain IMMEDIATELY. So run on flat surfaces, but don't avoid hills. I like hills.

  9. Run hills.
    It will make you stronger, and when you pass people on the uphill in races, you will feel so BAD ASS.

  10. Carry hydration. My favorite is Coconut Water. I like the Guava Coconut Water, but plain Coconut water mixed with some Strawberry Kiwi Gatorade is also really good. Coconut water is like Nature's Sports Drink. Good stuff.

  11. Clif Shot Blocks.
    LOVE. It's as good as candy.

  12. Eat. :)

  13. Don't forget to cross train.

  14. Sleep. A lot.

  15. Garmins are soooooooooooooooooo useful and fun to have. I think it was worth every penny.
All in all, in the 9 months I've been training, I've gotten so much stronger, both physically and mentally. Racing has taken me to Solvang, Maui and Healdsburg, three places I would never have gone had it not been for a race.

I don't plan to stop racing or running anytime soon.

My body is tired from 9 full months of non stop training, so I am going to take the month of December to fully relax and recover. This is perfect timing, because I am headed off to Japan next week! I am so excited; I have not seen my family in over a year. I know a LOT of good food is going to be involved, along with a lot of naps, a lot of strolls through the city, and a lot of good old resting. Obvisously you can't keep me away from exercise for too long, so there will definitely be a couple of gym sessions and a couple of short runs thrown in there, but I'm looking forward to giving my body some much needed R&R.

That way, I'll be good and ready to RACE into the new year!

Phew! So a long post.

I don't know if any of it is even remotely interesting, but it sure was fun to write it!

Thanks again for reading, and giving me so much encouragement and advice along the way. I know my marathon experience was so positive because of all the love I received from the blog-o-land!


  1. Great advice! I just started training for my first half marathon. It's good to see that with a little determination (and the right equipment) long distances can be done. And, I totally agree about running keeping you sane! I've been a happier, nicer person since I started running!

  2. Great post! It's really interesting to read your running story from start to finish. And how amazing that running has become such a mechanism for coping with life's struggles & challenges. (I can say the same)

    What perfect timing for a trip to Japan! Enjoy the recovery time - you've earned it!

  3. I absolutely LOVED this post and getting to know more about you and your training and the back story on how it all came to be. I am so frigging proud of you and happy that I was able to watch you grow as a runner these past few months!

  4. P.S. Can you please email me your address??? Thanks! :) (redheadrunning @ gmail)

  5. Great post!

    Take lots of pics on vacation ;)

  6. Great reflection!

  7. great post and great info! congrats again!

  8. You really have come a long way. Awesome work. Great tips too.

  9. Great post, congrats again on your marathon finish!

  10. Congrats on the marathon and sorry for secretly stalking your blog! I just finished my first race (half) and I must admit this whole running thing has changed my life. Thanks for allowing newbies like me a glimpse into yours.

  11. Congrats! I just ran my first full in October and it will NOT be my last... Just keep running!

  12. Great post. I haven't been following your blog from the beginning so it was neat to read how you got started. And that's a great list of tips! I may have to try coconut water, although I'm going to have to say in my opnion GU Chomps are better than Clif Shot Blocks. :-)

  13. I love this post & i couldnt agree more!!!! :) I'm so proud of you and your accomplishment! :)



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