Race ready, blog not-so-steady

Hey you! Remember me? I’m the girl who wanted to blog about her marathon training and have alas made it this far, only to fail. But I guess its better to fail at the writing than the running.

There are fifteen days until my first marathon. I’m already starting to feel a post-race depression kick in. I feel it every time I work out. I feel it while I taper. What do you mean I only have to run EIGHT miles this weekend?! Ooh-wee, I’m leaving the vaseline and the GU at home, papa.

Two weeks ago, I finally hit the point where I knew I was ready. I ran 20 miles – the only thing that scared me more than the actual run. That day was phenomenal. The sun was out. My Honey Badger pre-workout did it’s justice and turned me into an unusual 6 a.m. chatterbox. (Seriously… do NOT try and talk to me in the morning). I had my traditional night-before sushi coma that was more delicious than ever. I slept well. My body felt great with no injury in sight. Everything went just as it was supposed to.

When training started, I vowed that each long run would be met with a new product test. This time, we worked really hard at the whole eating thing. I have never craved nor savored a bagel more than I did at mile nine (and I’m a Jew, so that says something). I was let in on a *spudworthy* secret at mile 12 and at the end, I devoured a hamburger, fries, three beers and two shots of whisky that numbed any cramp or pain that came my way. So, when a runner tells you they “run to eat,” it seriously is so very true.

After a two mile incline in the super hot sun, my running gal pal told me I should give myself a “whoop whoop” at the top. What came out of my mouth and what she actually heard resulted in my new mating call, my new holler and what you should yell at me any chance you get (like from the cheering sections on race day): “Jew Whoop!” While that’s not what I said, it’s fitting and Ann had every right to think I would come up with something so clever.

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As I sprint around some of the memories from that day, the one that keeps crossing my mind the most is the thought of being ready and how I felt it most in the last three miles. Truly, it’s because of the people I had with me that day. The ones who texted me every few miles to check-in, the ones who surprised me with a group Facebook follow, the ones who pulled over in the middle of the street to honk at me, and most importantly, the ones who ran with me. I have never felt luckier in life than I have since training began.

But also knowing that I’ve worked my ass off these last six months has left me with such a feeling of completion, even though I haven’t officially ran the race yet. I’ve remained committed. I haven’t quit. I’ve dedicated early mornings, late nights and weekends to accomplishing something I never dreamed I would do. Something I told everyone I would NEVER do. Something I am, now, GOING to do.

Fifteen days separates me. Each day I get a little more nervous, but each day I recall that feeling of being ready because I AM ready.

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I’m here….

…and I’m alive with so many training updates to make. But alas, I’m a failure at life… or just blogging… with no time to spare. If you’re really invested in my journey, (and why wouldn’t you be?) I update more frequently on my Facebook page: Sara and Her Soles.

Sarcasm and funny author voice aside, I’ve really loved sharing this venture with you. With 17 days to go, I’ve got a lot on my plate but not a single day goes by where I don’t think about updating you all. Xo.

One month and counting.

I have been training nonstop since November 1. I’m not sure what the other side of this is going to look like, but I am imagining there will be some sort of culture shock thing happening. Part of me wishes that shock was because I was traveling to Europe or somewhere exotic, but alas, it’s because I signed up to run 26.2 miles. Yeah, I volunteered to do that.

This weekend will be my last distance run before I taper. Twenty freaking miles. As you’ve all read before, there’s always a million things going through my head. Some of them practical, like don’t forget to eat your carbs, others a sign of delirium – like what if I don’t put enough Vaseline on my thighs and I can’t run all 20 miles because I’ll be so busy trying to escape the chafe and then I’ll have to quit, ask for someone to pick me up and sulk in embarrassment before having to warm myself up to do it again. Or my whole training plan gets ruined and I have to quit trying to run a marathon less than 30 days out all because I didn’t wear enough stinkin’ Vaseline. Yeah…

Anyway. There’s a street here in Reno named McCarran and it makes one big loop around the city for about 23 miles.  In the local running scene, to run the whole street is known as the “McLoop.” I’ve always wanted to be a part of the groups that do this run a few times a year. A lot of people will only run parts of it and get picked up along the way. Others use it for a training run. It’s hilly. There’s lots of places to stop along the way. I’ve ran parts of it on my own courses. Mostly because of prior commitments, I haven’t been able to participate before. But now, it’s finally my turn to McLoop! Or … at least mostly McLoop.  Technically I only need 20 miles, not 23. But I have this awful quality that forces me to finish everything I start – like puzzles, books (even if they take a year), the ten sushi rolls I ordered at once.

Back to that training nonstop since November thing. This is it. This is the final hurdle for me. The point where as long as I can do it, I know I’ll be good on May 1. I know it’s going to be tough. I know I’m going to hate life, want to hurl over on the side of the road and die, but at the end, I’ll be so incredibly pumped and proud. Frankly, when I wrote my training plan last fall before even agreeing to sign up, it was these long runs – the in between – that almost stopped me from registering. It’s a huge time commitment and I just wanted to skip from A to Z. But I’m here. I’ve made it. Tapering cannot come soon enough. And on the flipside, that 15-miler now doesn’t seem all that bad with a looming 20 ahead.

(PS; I know it often sounds like I hate running and you’re probz like “why the Hell did she even sign up?” But I promise you, I love it. I love the accomplishment. I love the battle wounds. I love the medals. I love the journey. I love running.)

PPS – If any of you Renoites would like to join us on the McLoop – for even just a couple of miles, we’re starting at  7 a.m. and welcome any and all company!

Super Sad Soppy Running Story

Six months of non-stop training is sure to teach you a lesson or two – not just in what you’re attempting to do, but about yourself, your journey, who you are and everything in between. I’ve said over and over this is quite the emotional journey for me and I’ve shared numerous times that I was once really fat. And while I’m still emotional, I’m no longer fat. My thighs still rub, the scale is still pretty high, I haven’t inched from my size 14 jeans and I can still truffle shuffle. But at the end of the day, running has changed me, running has taught me, running has formed me. The aforementioned transformation has never been more prevalent than it has throughout this journey.

Things I’ve noticed or learned bout myself while training for a marathon:

  • I talk about running… a lot.
  • The thought of a marathon makes me want to pee my pants.
  • I half-doubt, half-know I can do this.
  • I buy a lot of things when I have a goal in mind. New running pants, GU packets, Naan hydration tabs, new running belt, new music, new water bottles. All things I think I need, but really, shopping is a nervous tick for me.
  • I have come a really, really, really long way. I always introduce my running story as “I played soccer for eight years as a goalie because I hated running.”
  • Can’t stop, won’t stop.
  • I actually do like running with friends – but only on long runs and only ones that will still let me put my headphones in.
  • Eight miles isn’t that far for me anymore.
  • A 10K is my new running average.
  • My body is done losing weight, and I’m okay with that. Look at all that muscle!
  • I can lift heavy weights, do hanging leg lifts and use the drop back bench.
  • You CAN chafe on your back, and your side, and crack, and well, everywhere else.
  • I like listening to Podcasts on long runs.
  • If I want to run faster, run through the ghetto.
  • I can run 18 miles then go to Wine Walk after.
  • Motivating a fellow runner, who may be a stranger, is a lot of fun.
  • That I have incredible surroundings – not just in where I run, but who runs with me through body or spirit.
  • I love eating toast with peanut butter before a run – no matter the distance
  • I refuse to drink the night before a run – even if it will calm my nerves. Now, after the fact…
  • Sometimes, thinking about a huge stack of pancakes is all it takes to get me to the finish line.
  • I hate chocolate energy gels, which is weird because I don’t hate chocolate anything. I am woman.
  • If you dance your way to the finish line, it still counts.
  • I’m not fast, but I can go far.

Most importantly, I’ve learned how incredibly proud I am of my body and my mind. How comfortable I certainly am in my own skin. How there is no ideal “runner’s body” just an ideal runner. I mean it when I say that my eyes start to water every time I picture myself crossing that finish line. Not just because I’m going to get a swanky medal that says I did it, but because this body, this body that has come so far, from a place where with the mind alike it was so dark, because this person, this me, did it. I did what was once unthinkable.

In 33 days, this will all be final, all be real. In 33 days, I’ll have learned the greatest lesson of all: that I AM a Marathoner.

The 18-mile slump ender

Alright, it happened. Four and a half months into training, I hit my wall. My point of exhaustion. My point of disinterest. My point of wanting to quit. I’ve had to force myself to the gym, force myself to run, force myself to be cautious of my diet and more. I skipped a few runs. I strayed from my training schedule. I went on vacation, drank wine and fruity little drinks, ate everything in sight (including cake for breakfast… Hey, it was my birthday) and avoided my Saucony shoes at all costs. Sure, it helped me regain focus – but man was it rough to return from a “do what I want” mindset back to “goddamnit I’m running a marathon in less than two months, I probably shouldn’t eat this whole box of Girl Scout cookies.” And what better way to get past a wall than to run 18 grueling miles?

But alas, Friday night I ate a healthy serving of spaghetti and meatballs, went to bed at 10:30 p.m. and woke up Saturday earlier than I even do for work. I went through the usual preparations: hydration tab, coffee, bathroom break, toast with peanut butter and banana, bathroom break, put away the dishes, cleaned up trash, vaselined my who-ha, played Candy Crush, bathroom break, pre-workout, packed my fanny, bathroom break and whatever else I could find to procrastinate. At 6:58 a.m., I was gone.

I mapped out my route the night before – from home, down my usual South Meadows and Longely turf, to some new pavement with plenty to stare at as I ran by. I took my first break at mile six, a lovely, strangely crowded-at-an-early-hour Starbucks and was pretty confident in how I felt. I caught wind of some foot pain in the first few miles so those passed rather quickly complete with begging them to get me through *just* sixteen more miles.

As I neared my halfway point, I noticed a familiar sight – bright orange cones, mile markers, an aid station and some cheerful volunteers – I was crashing a race! Party on, Wayne! I had forgotten about the Biggest Little City Half Marathon that was debuting that day, but more so,  I had no idea it was crossing my path. As it was on a public course around Virginia Lake, I kept doing the damn thing (with proper race etiquette of course). The coolest part? I recognized some of the local elite runners so I knew I was running alongside the fastest. Regardless, they all treated me like I was one of them. Every runner I crossed paths with, thought I was one of them. They cheered me on, gave me the thumbs-up and a few even said, “only six more miles to go!” Ha! You funny people. I’m flattered, but these legs have to go another NINE MILES )(@*$(*@#.

I took a decent break at the halfway mark to refuel, stretch and snap a selfie. I felt good. Hell, I felt great. A week ago, I had a real tough time running ten miles. How was it that just a few days and a few skipped workouts later, I was feeling stronger than ever? Actually… who cares? I’m a bad ass.

Annnd.. that all changed quickly. I felt myself losing the gusto. An emotional switch instantly turned on. I got overwhelmed with the thought of May 1. I got teary-eyed thinking about my journey. I was a mess and hobbling my way through it. Then suddenly I hear “three miles to go” trigger from my Nike app. I matched my furthest distance. Only a 5K was left. Just three miles. You made it this far. Go.

Though the last bit was met with speed walking, backward walking and of course, painful strides, I did it. Three hours and forty-five minutes later – I did it. Where the hell was my doughnut and beer? (Answer: across the street. When I was done, I b-lined for the nearest grocery store and raided the bakery. I was glad to have those tasty, well-deserved calories burn right through my runner’s body.

Lookout world, I’m an almost-marathoner.

The Longest Yard (or Mile… Whatever)

Pardon my tardiness on this post, I just ran 15 miles. Just as in six days ago but who’s really keeping track? My quads, apparently.

I did it! I think one of the biggest road blocks I’ve had in my mind during this training ‘venture is that I couldn’t fathom running more than 13.1 miles so this may be perhaps one of my most important milestones of the whole process. I will say, around mile three I was ready to quit. My foot still isn’t 100%, and the pain at times was worse than listening to Taylor Swift while waiting in line at the DMV next to a guy who wreaks of cigarettes and feet. But when I set my mind to something, stubbornness is my anti-hero. I didn’t want to let myself down. I mean, I wrote all of those haikus about it! And while that may have been the longest three hours and 15 minutes of my life, I sure as Hell celebrated success with a “whoop whoop,” an ice bath in the Truckee River and two giant blueberry pancakes from Squeeze In. Also, I Mia Hamm-ed it with a celebratory shirtless, victorious cry of never loving my body more than I had at that moment.

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How does one run fifteen miles in Reno? Here’s one way: start at Huffaker Park, run along Longley, to Neil, behind the airport and to the Grand Sierra Resort. From there, loop around the back into Rock Park and follow the trail along the river four miles out and four back. Then have your friend’s boyfriend pick you up and deal with your running stench and bragging on the way to the aforementioned pancake restaurant.

Proud is an understated word for this run and I was very happy and thankful to have Ann with me along the way. From the friendly chatter, to the new products she lets me try to the out-of-sync dance parties we have along the way as we both listen to our own music, running with a friend has never been as big of a necessity or reward as it has been during this training adventure. Oh, and she takes amazing selfies of us.

Training Goals for Feb. 2016

I know yesterday’s post was all “oh em gee, three months until race day already!?” but I’ll express such one more time: THREE MONTHS FROM TODAY. I. AM. RUNNING. A. FULL. MARATHON. -Insert trickle of pee here-

Whew, that aside. Here’s what I’ve got my eyes on for the month:

  • Distance runs: 12, 14, 6, 16.
  • Seven more classes to complete the 30 Day Challenge
  • Resume once-a-week personal training
  • Stick to independent strength training schedule
  • At least once a week 5K at lunch
  • Continue healthy, clean diet once challenge ends
  • Start testing salt tabs
  • Yoga at least twice
  • Seeing Britney Spears with my family (dancing in my seat is totes cardio)

Friends, here’s where I’m going to really need your help. I’ve never run more than a half marathon and now I’ll have to do that twice in one month. The craziest part? After those two runs, I only have two more long distance runs in March (18 and 20) before I taper. Things are happening faster than I thought. Except my pace – definitely, definitely not faster. Anyway. Please check in on me on Saturdays to make sure I haven’t died, please don’t be offended when I turn down Friday outings and please, please, for Heaven’s sake, meet me at the end of each distance run with a giant cookie and glass of wine. Just kidding… kind of.

Hey, this time, three months from now, I’ll have run 26.2 miles.

Sock it to me

Before every big race, I have pre-big-day traditions that, like carb-loading and hydrating, I wouldn’t feel ready to run without. In anticipation of running the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland in ten days, I thought I’d share one tradition that has turned out to be one of the most important, albeit, life changing.

Buying new socks.

12088345_10100805221621448_2303560925920131562_nI instantly feel fifty years older after typing that, but it’s true. One of my favorite race day preparations is heading to the Reno Running Company and scoping out the two synthetic foot coverings that will take me anywhere from ten to soon twenty-six-point-two miles. What color should I get? Should I stray from my favorite brand? Would it be weird if I sniffed them gleefully in the middle of the store because I never thought I could know such happiness?

Sorry, that got weird.

Truthfully, socks are often overlooked by runners (including myself for a long time) and like a great pair of running shoes, they can, and do, make all the difference. From protecting your ankles to warding off blisters and cuts to helping with blood flow — here are four tips for picking the perfect running socks:

  1. Avoid cotton at all costs. Since our feet happen to be one of the parts of our body where we sweat the most, you need a fabric that will control moisture. Otherwise, you risk a soggy foot and bigger chance at a few nasty blisters. Instead, look for socks with synthetic fiber that will wick the moisture off of your feet.
  2. Get the right fit. Since I’m a long lost cousin of Big Foot (size 11s represent…), I tend to buy mens socks because they provide full coverage and better ankle support. And because no part of your body is safe from chafing, a good fitting pair of running socks will protect you from the aforementioned worst feeling in the world. If you’re purchasing at a running store, they’ll most likely have some samples you can try on, or at the least, a good exchange policy.
  3. For faster recovery, try compression socks. Lots of runners wear them on long runs to support blood flow, while others will wear them post-run to reduce lactic acid build-up.
  4. Get funky! Pick your favorite color, pick a bold pattern, pick something that’s you because when your feet hit the pavement, nothing is more important than feeling confident that you’ll have a rockstar performance.

And there you have it! My favorite brand is Feetures, but I’ve also purchased from Brooks and Nike. What’s your favorite brand?

Self Doubt and the Finish Line

Content strategy is one of the many skills I’ve picked up along the way and thanks to many long runs, admittedly nights of heavy wine pours, silence during an epsom bath or simply just passing the time, I’ve created some pretty great, executable ideas.

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place where I could seek support, both from myself and from others, where I could offer my novice running advice, and where I could put career skill (which I so enjoy) to personal use. With each run and each workout, I focus on this blog. I’ve come up with posts focused on training advice, funny tips to make running seem less intimidating, social media posts that would make for great race week motivators. Yeah, those social media posts…

On mile 8 of my 9 miler this weekend, I started thinking about Transformation Tuesday. How I can’t wait to post a picture of my former self and say, “This girl is about to run her first full marathon.” All of a sudden I was a ball of emotion. I probably cried myself through that last mile – which was seemingly more like my eyes became an ice cube dispenser because it was so cold outside. I was overwhelmed and on the verge of an anxiety attack. But I had to finish.  What helped me power through? Thoughts of my size 24 jeans. Thoughts of not being able to fit into my desk in high school. Thoughts of bullies making sumo sound effects when I would walk by. All these things that haunted me for most of my life because of how much I weighed.

You see, the pounds may be gone, but those moments are engraved in my head forever. Those moments made me, yet they’ll also always haunt me. There are still days where I hear my estranged mother calling me fat, random strangers telling my dad that I’d be really pretty if I lost some weight, boys in high school refusing to acknowledge my existence because of a silly number on a scale. To all those people, all those moments in my life: thank you. You made me. You broke Me. You encouraged me to lace up my sneakers and experience a world I was never privy to.

The intent of this post is not to seek pity nor words of fortitude, rather to inspire and say this: just like a slice of toast with peanut butter before your next training run, use those moments of self doubt and rather-not-remembers as fuel. Fuel your desire. Fuel your journey. Fuel your life. And fuel a better you.

As I rounded the corner, a quarter mile to the end, I said to myself, “Hell yeah. That girl IS about to run 26.2 miles.”

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Flashback: Here’s me in 2008 on a tour of Harry Potter filming locations in London.