Thursday, October 13, 2011

Marathon Weekend

The Marathon may just be on Sunday, but it really encompasses an entire weekend.

Have you ever been to the Chicago Marathon Expo?

You don't have to be a runner to think it's awesome. And believe me, it's awesome.

Most people I know go on Friday. I guess it's because they're locals and they can. Or because it's less crowded. Or more likely it's because the anticipation is killing them.

Imagine the movie 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' when Charlie walks in to Willy Wonka's factory. I think that's the look on just about any marathoner's face entering the expo. It's sensory overload, in a good way.

I could easily spend half a day visiting the lay of the land. The new gadgets, destination races, celebrity appearances, nutrition samples... But coach Kim reminds me that I need to get off my feet, so we enter the expo on a mission.

Two and a half hours later, we exit with my bib and race packet, a few gus, and two shirts. A new expo speed record.

Friday night's also traditionally a large pasta dinner night. This year I had mine at home since most of my dinner friends were still traveling Europe after their Berlin Marathon. I went to the ethnic market a few days before and got everything we needed to make dinner.

Saturday I sleep in. Like, past 7:30. I haven't done this in about 6 months. Weird.

In the early afternoon, Dave and I head down to my charity's luncheon at the Hyatt McCormick Place. The luncheon was much smaller than last year. Salute said they had a smaller team this year, but were able to raise more money. Great news for a great cause. One guy raised over $9,000! Amazing.

Late afternoon we head back home and talk to my Mom about her arrival. My mom is my biggest supporter. She's come to just about any race she could in these last few years. She could write a book as to how to follow a runner through the Chicago Marathon. As part of the marathon ritual, she comes to the City the night before the race and spends the night.

As Saturday progresses, I notice I'm getting a sore throat. Family, friends and co-workers all around me have been sick, but I'd hoped I could fend it least until after the race. I take tablet after tablet of Airborne and hope for the best. There wasn't much else I could do.

I laid down around 9:30. I knew there was no chance I'd fall asleep at that time. The night before the marathon is the only night of the year I don't sleep like a rock. I tossed and turned for awhile, but eventually fell asleep, crossing my fingers the sore throat was nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mission: Go to Ethnic Market. Buy Gatorade.

It's four days before the Marathon.

My achilles is on the mend, but my mind's driving me crazy.

Hello taper madness.

I get home from work and I decide a nice walk to the ethnic market in my neighborhood will do me some good. It's about a mile from my place and has fresh, reasonably priced produce. Actually the market has a lot more than that, but most of the dry goods are in languages I can't read (though I know enough Spanish to know it's not in Spanish), so don't tend to go down the aisles.

I have a long list of veggies we need for a recipe. The recipe calls for veggies, chicken and lots of pasta. Perfect for a Friday dinner before the marathon.

I walk around the market with my basket and get red peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, carrots and romaine lettuce. I'm even able to find the market's homemade salsa which is marked in English for the dumb patrons like me.

I start to walk over to the check out line when I remember one last thing on my grocery list: Gatorade. I wanted to make sure I made a better effort to drink more Gatorade in the few days leading up to the race.

Does the ethnic market carry Gatorade? I saw Coke and Pepsi on the way in, so there's hope. I walk down the narrow aisles, the ones I usually avoid, until I come upon a rather large selection of Gatorade. I wasn't anticipating having so many choices, so it takes me awhile to decide what flavors of Gatorade I want. Meanwhile, people who can read the language on the packages other than Gatorade stroll past me with their carts.

Eventually I pony up to the register with 4 - 32 oz bottles of Gatorade and a bunch of produce. What a strange combination the check out girl must have thought.

I pay her all in singles, which likely got her off the thought of produce and Gatorade.

Massage & Physical Therapy

Crossing the finish line of the twenty miler was good and bad.

I was pleased with being able to stick with the 10:30 pace throughout the run.

My achilles, on the other hand, was hurting.

Sh-t! How do I manage to do this to myself each year?

I headed over to the NovaCare tent where a PT took a good look it. There was a long line of people, all with similar aches from training.  She said she was happy to hear I'd been experiencing it for only a week and thought some deep tissue massages and PT would put me in good shape for race day. I appreciated her positive attitude as I was trying to stay positive myself.

Flashbacks of last year's doctor's visit just a few weeks before race day appeared in my mind as I called the doctor on Monday. If I went to the doctor's office, I was certain to hear, one way or the other, that I should give up running. Or I may have to visit an orthopedic, have an MRI, maybe an X-Ray, all before going to PT. So I took a different approach when calling the doctors office. Instead of calling and saying I had a running-related injury and wanted to see the doctor, I just asked if I could go straight to PT. The nurse wasn't sure if this was possible, but said she would check.

Ok, that went better than I thought. Now on to the next thing that will help straighten out the achilles - massage.

Who doesn't love a massage? I found a massage therapist (a former distance runner no less) who lives two blocks away and tends to run long on his sessions. Really? Yeah, really awesome.

We worked out a game plan for working on the achilles over the next week. After I left the massage therapist's house on Monday night, I already felt better.

Wednesday came and I still hadn't heard back from the doctor's office. I call the doctor's office in the morning and the answering service tells me they are not in the office yet. I call later on and I told they are at lunch...twice. Then I call again in the evening to find out they close early that day. I then call their suburban location and get a hold of another nurse who was able to tell me the doctor approved my request for PT and she'll send it over.

Thursday morning I have the script from the doctor and call PT. Their schedule is booked for the rest of the week, so I'll have to come in Tuesday. Now I start to worry. I'm basically losing a week here. I won't be doing a 12 mile long run in this condition. Then I remind myself what Kim A. has told me all too many times - as long as you have a 20 miler under your belt, the runs during the taper don't matter.

Thursday night I go back to the massage therapist where he's able to loosen up my calf muscle and I continue to stretch it out. I do a two mile light run that evening and it tender, but not painful.

Saturday I go out on a run on my own. I'm fearful I can't or shouldn't push a 12 mile run on a bumb wheel, so I go out on my own to see what I can do. I end up run/walking about six miles. I am frustrated, but I try not to let those thoughts linger. It's still bothering me, but it's bothering me less. That's good.

Tuesday I get in to the PT and she works her magic. Thursday I return. More magic.

The following Saturday I go out to run a great 8 miler, my last long run before the marathon.

I continue to stretch and go to PT, but I feel much better.

I'm good to go.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

20 miler #2

Alright. I've had one great 20 miler with Carrie. Now I'm going to do the official 20 miler - the Newton Ready to Run.

Each year we do the Ready to Run in the third weekend of September. This year, with my close friends resting up for Berlin, I was going to tackle it alone. Well, not alone really. Instead of three hours of constant conversation about anything under the sun but running, I'd have short dialogs with some of my fellow 10:30's in my wave. The rest of the time I'd try doing a long run with my iPod.

The twenty miler course started at Wilson and headed north to around Bryn Mawr. We then headed south, like, so far south we ran out of lakefront path.

At the start, samples of Gatorade prime was handed out. I used it to wash down a few gu chomps, then it was our wave's turn to start.

I approached the twenty miler different this year. The weather was cool and overcast. I decided to announce a goal finish time of 3:30 to a few friends. I wanted to see if making a decision to state a finish time would help me mentally stick to a consistent pace.

The 20 miler is a journey, literally and figuratively. It's certainly a long distance to run, even for the best in shape. But I think the mental part is really the toughest. I find it's easier to keep my legs moving forward than it is to often deal with whatever is going on in my head. Whether I have made the mistake of counting backwards from 20 or if I realize I've underestimated where I am on the route.

Year and after year, the 20 miler has been a warm race. This year, the course weather condition flags stayed green meaning 'ideal running conditions.' Not something you see often mid-September in Chicago. There was on and off light rain, but from the sounds of chatter around me, most appreciated the cooling effect as opposed to heat.

As mile one turned in to five and ten, my pace stayed on target, but my achilles was not happy.  It continued to grow tigher and my calf muscle throbbed along with it. In the last few miles of the run, my left IT band had begun bothering me as well.

Once again, the group I finished with was happy to see the South Shore Cultural Center where the finish line was. Immediately after crossing the finish line, I headed over to the the NovaCare tent. I had finished in 3:33.

It's been a week - time to have someone take a look at the achilles.