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Tales of a recovering over racer

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Addiction is a powerful thing. I am not sure exactly when it happened but suddenly I found myself wanting to run all the races! Between the Celebration Marathon in January and Boston Marathon in April, I raced nine times and even joined a new running club just so I could compete in their racing series. No wonder my hamstring injury never healed. After Boston I ran in four more races between the end of April and mid-July. I tried resting the hamstring for a week or two here and there and even went to physical therapy. Finally when I had finished the last of the Picnic Island Adventure Runs of the summer in July I decided to focus on getting healthy for marathon training.

I was set to begin the 18 week Hansons Marathon Method with a group of friends at the end of July. I knew I would not be able to handle marathon training with a hamstring injury. I followed the plan almost perfectly for weeks and weeks. I turned down invitations to race, which is difficult for me to do. I even had to skip one of my favorite summer cross country races. I trained consistently and did not race for 11 weeks. I even stopped having the urge to look at race calendars in running magazines.

Then it was time for the Tower of Terror 10 Miler at the beginning of October. “You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination, in The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ 10 Miler!” Thanks Disney, I was already both scared and excited for this.

2014 Tower of Terror 10 Miler

On one hand, I was really looking forward to it because my training had been solid and it would be a good test of my fitness. It is such a fun race; probably my favorite Disney race. But on the other hand, I was extra nervous about racing. Would this trigger my racing addiction? Would I revert back to the bad habit of over racing? I am happy to report that as of two months post-race, it has not. I have kept my racing calendar from filling up. I am staying focused on training properly and only racing when it fits in with my goals.

I think much of that success is due to the amazing time I had at the Tower of Terror 10 Miler. I hadn’t raced in 11 weeks so I could only rely on my marathon training paces to guide me. I started conservatively but quickly sped up because I felt so comfortable. A little before halfway I knew I could really race it. I ended up running negative splits, finishing a little over a minute off my PR that was set 12 years ago. I was the 5th overall female and Masters Winner.

Meagan & me in front of the Tower of Terror after we both had awesome races!

I am not sure if my addiction is racing, adrenalin, competition, or some combination, but let’s just say that my competitiveness does seem to carry over to other areas like Toy Story Mania (the best game/ride in all the Disney parks). Perhaps moving into the Masters category has helped me mature as a runner because I definitely learn from my mistakes and train a lot smarter. It took one great race preceded by many weeks of patience, listening to my body, and good training in addition to some serious willpower to stop over racing.

Masters award arrived in the mail a few weeks after the race.

Tower of Terror 10 Miler Results

Running Journal – January 2015 – Page 3

Running Journal

Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

The Suncoast Striders started out in 2006 as a club based out of On A Shoestring Inc., the local specialty running store in Bradenton, Florida. They offered an organized walk/run on Monday nights for customers, friends, and family, basically anyone in the community who was interested in walking or running as a way to get in shape. The club was originally named after the store. After a few years the club officers saw a need for a walking and running club that offered more opportunities for walkers and new runners to train and receive coaching advice on a regular basis. The need for a club to help local charities organize fundraiser races also grew. In 2010 the name changed to what it is today:  Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club.

From SuncoastStriders.com: “The mission of the Suncoast Striders is to promote walking and running as a way to achieve a healthy and fit way of life through group training opportunities, community events, and coaching.” The club’s focus has always been on encouraging all ages and all abilities to become more active. Sadly, On A Shoestring Inc. closed April 30, 2013 but the Suncoast Striders have thrived, offering four group training opportunities per week plus numerous social events throughout the year. There is literally something for everyone. They promote walking as an excellent form of exercise when many local clubs focus only on their fast runner members. While the faces in the weekly training groups change from season to season with the weather, work and vacation schedules, time changes, and the different events they train for, the heart of the club is a strong group of individuals striving to make our community a healthier one.

Most recently they awarded their second annual running camp scholarship. This news was featured on Running Journal’s website: http://tinyurl.com/ss14schol. The Suncoast Striders offer incentives for their members through programs like the 1,000 Mile Club / 500 Mile Club and summer group run/walk attendance contest where members are challenged and encouraged to be consistent in their training, track their mileage, and attend more group training sessions. The club hosts a number of social events, including picnics and movie nights.

2014 Scholarship Recipient Sydney Britt of Manatee High and Coach Rae Ann

One of the most memorable moments for the club was when well over a dozen members decided to train together for the inaugural Celebration Marathon and Half Marathon in January of 2014. They spent 18 weeks working together and encouraging each other through some tough training, weather, and dark winter nights. But that is how they all made it to the finish line. For many, it was their first ever marathon or half marathon. At such a small, first year event it felt like the Suncoast Striders owned that finish line. One member even bought mylar blankets for everyone in the club so they could be wrapped up once they crossed the line and have that big marathon finish line experience.

This quote, shared by Suncoast Striders member Laura, describes the club very well: “Running has given me many things but the greatest gift has been the people that it’s brought into my life.” Thoughts from Maggie: “I enjoy being part of the Suncoast Striders because I have met so many wonderful people who want to live a healthy and active life. Also it’s not just about walking/running, but making lifetime friendships and going to social activities together.” Another comment from Laura: “I love the Suncoast Striders because I feel like I am at the bar Cheers where everyone knows your name except we drink Gatorade and water instead of beer! I get a great workout and training but also true friends to run with.” From Katie: “Through The Suncoast Striders Walking/Running Club, I have met a great group of like-minded individuals. Together, we strive to be better than we were yesterday. To me, being a Suncoast Strider is about friendship and consistency.”

Follow the Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club on https://www.facebook.com/SuncoastStriders and https://twitter.com/SuncoastStrider

The Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club is a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and USA Track & Field (USATF) club with certified running and walking coaches.  SuncoastStriders.com

 

Suncoast Striders before a Sunday group run/walk

The Craziness of the Long Distance Runner

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was originally a short story (Alan Sillitoe, 1959) and then a film (1962).  I have not read it or watched it yet but I like the title and it influenced the title of this blog entry.  Both titles remind us that long distance runners are a little different to say the least.

My tale starts last night about this time when I was supposed to be going to sleep.  I couldn’t sleep despite being extremely tired.  So I sat up with laptop on my lap and the Hansons Marathon Method book open next to me as I reviewed my calendar of races that I am already signed up for, keeping in mind that Boston is only 8 weeks away!  I had no training plan, nothing to guide me to Boston.  That coupled with less than stellar training since the Celebration Marathon on January 26 was really starting to worry me.  I took about 3 weeks to “recover” after Celebration and then started training by basically doing what I felt like doing.  I did run several hilly runs over bridges and even a couple of hill repeat sessions but that was about it.

Sunday I ran the Gasparilla 8K, won masters, and was 8th overall female but my time was 50 seconds slower than last year and I had a couple of issues with leg/hip pain and a very bad cramp for the last 2+ miles.  All of these contributing factors seemed to hit me last night at bed time.  So I sat up trying to put together a plan.

Between planning workouts around my races and coaching/work schedule and posting like crazy all over social media, I must have stayed up until 1:30-2:00 a.m.  I don’t really remember.  Then I got up at 7:00 a.m. to start my day today with a BodyPump class and dentist appointment.  I thought for sure I would take a power nap mid day before my afternoon track practice.  But I didn’t.  I wasn’t sleepy.  So I used the time to get caught up on some work then headed to track practice.  After practice I lead a group of school board employees (mostly teachers) through a workout to get them ready for their next 5K or 10K race.  This was the last class of the six week session before their 5K and 10K races this Sunday.  As the day went on, it got colder, the wind picked up, and it started to rain.  Thankfully I packed a light jacket and pants.  By the end of class I was wearing all the layers I had and had my hood on!

After class I drove to our Suncoast Striders group run at Riverwalk.  It was cold, rainy, and pretty dreary looking.  I didn’t see anyone when I first arrived.  After changing and getting my Garmin ready to go, Leah, Laura, and Meagan joined me for the dynamic warm up.  I was still pretty chilled from being out in the cold for the past three hours.  I don’t mind running in the rain, but when I am coaching and not moving around too much, it gets cold!!!

I knew what I had hoped to accomplish in tonight’s workout but with so little sleep the past two nights and doing a BodyPump class in the morning, I was not sure I would be up for the more challenging pace.  The workout goal was a 2 mile warm up, 6 miles at goal marathon pace (GMP), and a 1 mile cool down.  My GMP runs for Celebration were 7:50.  The Hansons Marathon Method worked so well for me that I decided to up the ante a little and train at a slightly faster GMP of 7:38-7:49 for Boston.  Despite rain, wind, and cold I had an amazing run.  For 6 miles I averaged 7:38 exactly, even with going over and back on the bridge twice.  I am trying to run bridges (Florida hills) as frequently as possible as I prep for Boston.  When I finished that sixth mile I screamed inside “heck yes!!!!”  Part of me wanted to let that out but I didn’t want to scare anyone walking or running near me at the Riverwalk.  Or have them think I was crazy!  ;)

I don’t know if the reason for my great run tonight was that I was rested enough after Celebration Marathon, was inspired and encouraged by my fabulous friends/running buddies out on a cold, rainy, windy night, or if it was knowing I have a training plan in place after my late night planning session.  Maybe it was a combination of all those factors.  I think part of it was definitely knowing that I now have a map, a plan to get me to Boston.

On my cool down I found Laura and Meagan (they were doing a different workout), we stretched, then met Leah for dinner where I had the most amazing hot chocolate.  Crazy how good a day and a run can turn out!

A mile or two

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Holding the fence as I squeezed under

Brushing the dirt off each other

Sneakers wet from the morning dew

Stretching, as I listened to you

Explain the morning’s adventure.

A light warm up, a mile or two

Then peel the sweats.

Off I went around the track

At blazing speeds, or so I thought.

Half way ‘round, “speed up!” you’d yell

And sometimes “slow down!”

At workout’s end, you gave results

And always encouraging words

Ending with “a mile or two”

As you walked across the field.

Minutes later we squeezed back under,

Leaving our place until next time

Never thinking that our adventures would end.

If I only knew…

 

1990 WMASS Track One Mile Champion

1990 WMASS Track One Mile Champion

 

My dad was my high school cross country and track coach.  I wrote this in college when I was away from home for the first time in my life, missing my family, and being coached by someone new for the first time.   While my dad does not coach me anymore or run anymore, I feel that the lessons I learned from him as a runner and coach have helped me become a better runner, coach, and person.  I decided to post this poem as a blog entry for Father’s Day weekend as a way of thanking him and remembering those special moments.  I would also like to thank my mom for being the most amazing, patient, and supportive mom, team mom, and volunteer assistant coach ever.  She was there at every meet no matter how far away or how bad the weather.  She would help injured runners out of the woods, take pictures, and be there at the finish never knowing what to expect.  One of the two most memorable races with my mom was a home cross country meet when I was trying out a new insert in my shoe.  The insert bunched up so badly and caused me so much pain that I literally crossed the finish line, pulled off my shoe, and threw it.  Let’s just say I was a little frustrated and uncomfortable!  I did not throw it at my mom, but she jokes that I did…it may have been in her direction since she was waiting for me past the finish line.  The other was my junior year when I ran the mile in track and my mom took me to the WMASS championship when my dad was out of town.  I ran as an individual since my school did not have a track team.  We arrived at the meet and I was headed to the infield to pick up my packet and competition number when the coach from a neighboring school told me I would be disqualified if I went on the infield.  I was so nervous since I had never been to such a big track meet before.  My mom was not about to let another coach intimidate me so she took charge, went to the infield, picked up my packet, and I ended up winning and qualifying for state.

Once I figured out that I wanted to be a running coach, all I have tried to do is be like my parents and do all the amazing things that they did for me.  They kept it fun, always pushed me to be my best, and were supportive, caring, encouraging, strong, and understanding no matter the outcome of each race.

1988 WMASS XC

1988 WMASS XC

1987 WMASS XC

1987 WMASS XC

 

 

The Darlings of the team

The Darlings of the team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 weeks

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Two weeks ago I received an email from a woman who needed help getting faster so she could pass the physical test for law enforcement school.  She had one more shot to pass.  Since time was of the essence I skipped the usual first meeting I have with coaching clients and we got to work.

She had to shave 11 seconds off her 300 meter time and 1 minute 1 second off her 1.5 mile time.  At our first workout I told her that the 1.5 mile time goal was likely but the 300 meter time would be tough in just two weeks.  I could not guarantee anything.

We worked together twice a week for two weeks and she ran on her own and cross trained the other days.  I showed her how to properly warm up and we worked on improving her form to make her a more efficient runner.

Two weeks is such a short time but during those training sessions I saw her form improve, her confidence in her running improve, and her ability to embrace the pain that comes with running fast improve as well.

I was able to be there the morning she retook her test.  We warmed up just like we did during our workouts and even did a timed 100 meters to remind her what her 300 meter pace would feel like.  Then she left to check in, take the vertical jump test, then returned to the track with the instructor and other students who were also retaking the test.  She passed the sit ups portion of the test then it was time for the 300 meters.

I timed each 100 meter section of it for her and called out her times so she knew exactly where she was.  She finished in exactly her goal time.  Passed!  Then on to the push ups.  Passed.  Now the final test was the 1.5 mile run.

I reminded her where she needed to be at each 200 and 400 meters.  She started slower than goal pace and gradually picked up the pace.  With a lap and a half to go she really started to push.  I could see the effort on her face and hear her labored breathing.  She learned to embrace that discomfort and in doing so she beat her goal by 24 seconds, which was 1 minute and 25 seconds faster than two weeks ago.

I don’t know who was more nervous and excited that morning.  I felt the adrenaline pumping through my body and I wasn’t even running!  Even her instructor who was giving the test came over to me afterwards and told me how impressed he was with her improvement in such a short time.

I don’t know if there is anything more satisfying than helping someone achieve her goals…especially in just two weeks.

Recalibrate

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

This morning I was in a different mindset as I got ready for our group run at the Celery Fields.  Both of my Achilles tendons have been extremely sore for the past couple of weeks so I decided that I would either not run at all and just oversee the run or maybe walk/jog a little while everyone else did the workout.  It’s difficult for me to go to one of my favorite training spots and not run!

                          

Instead of my usual pre-run breakfast of PowerBar Energy Bites, a little caffeine, and 8-12 ounces of water, I decided to eat a “regular” breakfast which included taking all of my vitamins plus a bowl of organic granola with almond milk.

So the pressure is off.  No hard running today.  No running at all since I had my regular breakfast.  We meet at the school, carpool to the Celery Fields, and a few others meet us there.  We start the dynamic warm up and my Achilles tendons hurt.  We finish that and I explain the fun hill workout they are about to tackle.  I decide to go with them on the easy mile warm up loop just to make sure everyone knows the route.  We had a few new people out today; which is always cool.

Warm up mile loop is done and the group splits up into several smaller groups as everyone begins the actual workout of 2-3 x mile loops working hard on the up hills and coasting the down hills.  I took it easy on the first loop and did not run hard on the up hills.  When I finished that my Achilles tendons actually felt a little better.  I really wasn’t feeling them at all, which was a nice change!  So my warm up loop and the first of the workout loops were both somewhere around 10:00-11:00 mile pace.  Considering the loose rock trails and hilly terrain, not bad.

Remember, I ate my regular breakfast, not a pre-run breakfast so I wasn’t supposed to be running and certainly not running a hard workout.

I just finished two miles on the hilly loop and I was not feeling my breakfast at all plus my Achilles tendons felt pretty good.  I decided to run the second of the workout loops harder and dropped to about 8:46 mile pace running hard on the up hills and coasting somewhat on the down hills.  That felt great!!!  Maybe I just needed a longer warm up – definitely a trend with me lately.  Sometimes I need a 2-3 mile warm up before a workout or race.

I then started my third of the workout loops really pushing the pace on the up hills AND the down hills and finished around 8:18 mile pace.  I could not believe how good I felt.  I then joined the group for the 4 x short sprints up the steep grass hill.  Those things make you feel alive!  Somehow I swear my legs muscles morphed into a Jell-O like substance while my lungs were burning and I became a little light headed.  I had trouble keeping track of how many I had actually run.  Who knew counting to four could be such a challenge.  Okay, a slight exaggeration here, but these are intense!

 

After the fourth short, steep hill sprint we did one more mile on the hilly loop to cool down then a quick stretch after some shin strengtheners.  A total of 5.5 miles for the day.  I am still struggling to adjust my way of thinking about mileage in workouts and total weekly mileage.  Training for that 57 miler has really skewed things for me.  I am keeping much more detailed notes in my training log now so I can see the intensity and types of workouts and not worry so much about my lower weekly mileage totals.

The big mistake I made after the 57 miler was jumping back into 50+ mile weeks with only one week of rest right after the race.  When my Achilles tendon pain started I looked at my training log and I could see it right there plain as day the reason why.  Last week I backed off to about 33 miles and this week will be even lower.  I decided to do shorter runs, increase the intensity of just a couple of them, and also take more rest days to heal up.  I definitely needed to recalibrate my way of thinking about my training.  Yes I am going to be running a 50K in just a few months and yes I am going to run another marathon when I run Goofy at Disney Marathon weekend, but that does not mean that I need to be training the way I was just a couple of months ago.  I don’t always have to run high mileage just because that worked well for me this spring when I was preparing for a 57 mile race in June.

I don’t know if other running coaches have similar issues, but I find that I am often my own toughest athlete to coach.  I always feel like the regular rules of training do not apply to me.  Sadly I am not invincible.  But luckily I do learn from my mistakes and that helps me to be a better coach to others.

Back to breakfast…

I have never been able to run well or run hard after eating cereal with milk or just drinking milk.  As I said this morning was organic granola with dark chocolate bits and almond milk.  I decided to switch to almond milk for my cereal because it is higher in calcium and has fewer calories than regular milk.  I am still amazed at how hard I was able to run after eating all that.  I felt great on the run.  The granola is pretty dense and kept me fueled.  I did not get my extreme post run hunger for quite a while after the run too.  Perhaps a new pre-run meal in the arsenal!

I will definitely keep trying new things to see what works.

Uncharted

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Back in March The Tornado Alley 50 Miler race director emailed me back to let me know that I could run the entire distance myself and that I did not need a relay team but I would need to provide my own crew and fuel.  Okay, now how do I train for this thing?!?

Talk about uncharted territory!  26.2 miles is the longest I have ever run in a race or a training run.  So I did some research on how to train for ultras.  I took some of the ideas I found along with what I have learned over the years and created a training plan that looked great on paper.  I kept the 3 month training schedule right next to my desk so I would see it daily and stick to it.

Consistency is key.  That’s probably the most important tip I can offer.  And that does not mean the schedule is set in stone.  Definitely listen to your body, take rest days as needed, and revise the schedule to fit your life.  But be consistent.

In March and April I had quite a few races on my calendar so I used those in place of some of the tempo and speed workouts.  I started doing back to back long runs in order to teach my body to run on tired legs.  This worked great for many weeks in this pattern – rest day, long run, long run, rest day and then the remainder of the week filled in with some easy runs, tempo or speed, and maybe a race.  But as the long runs got longer and longer I found that I sometimes I needed two rest days in a row before or after my longer efforts.  Some weeks when I was putting in 4-5 hour training runs (25-31 miles) I could not handle them back to back.  So I made the schedule fit what my body could handle.  I was training in Florida which featured many hot, sunny, and humid training days.

I trained at various times of day so my body could adapt to running at the different times.  I was ready for any sun, heat, or humidity that race day might bring.  I trained using all of my drinks and fuel options so I would know how my body would react to them all.

Once I reached the start of the taper, about three weeks out from race day, I was a little concerned that my longer runs were single day runs with two rest days around them and I was not able to do as many back to back long runs as I had originally planned.  But I have found that over thinking things is pretty typical for taper weeks – too much time on my hands so I start to question everything.

But I headed into race week healthy, well trained, and rested.  I had some of my best sleep the week before the race.  I have never felt so well prepared before.

First ultra

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

So how did I get here?  My husband will confirm statements that I have made in the past about how I have no interest in doing an ultra, that “those people” are crazy, and why would you want to run all day anyway?  That was my former opinion about ultras.  This opinion was formed really knowing nothing about them or the training required to prepare for them.

I guess the progression to “here” (having just signed up for my first ultra) would begin with doing longer training runs for my last few marathons (Boston–April 2011, Space Coast–November 2011, and 5 Points of Life–February 2012).  I had several long runs over 20 miles including a few of 26.2 miles during the past year.   I enjoyed my training for these races and really enjoyed those long runs over 20 miles, especially the 26.2 mile ones!

So good training plus better hydration and fuel during the marathons, yet I still could not break that darn 3:30 barrier.  What is up?  I thought I would rock the 5 Points of Life Marathon because I had figured out I needed Gu and used it in training.  I had done the hill training, the long runs, the GMP runs, tempo, speed, everything!  And I tapered.

That is the beauty and the heartache of the marathon.  You train for months and months and then when the big day arrives you can have a great race or you can walk away disappointed.  I think because it is such a big physical and emotional build up, such a commitment and investment of time and energy that if it does not go perfectly, it can be such a let down.  If you bomb this weekend’s 5K or 10K it’s no big deal.  You can go out and do another one next week or the week after.  But not with the marathon.

So with the disappointment from the last three marathons, I thought maybe I need to get away from the marathon for a while and stop obsessing about breaking 3:30 and do something else.  But what?  Maybe I would try my first ultra this year.  Maybe a nice 50K or something.  Then an opportunity, a race, presented itself and I could not pass it up…

Tornado Alley 50 Miler.

It is a six person relay race (similar to Ragnar or Keys 100) where each person runs three legs of varying distances of 2-6 miles and they pass through relay exchange zones where they find their vans full of teammates and take turns covering the 50 miles.  The course follows the path of the tornado that ripped through Western Massachusettson June 1, 2011.  This event even benefits all the towns affected by the tornado, including my hometown of  Monson, which was hit the hardest.  I had to do this!  But I knew there’s no way I could get five people plus a crew/driver to Massachusetts to do this thing with me.  So I emailed the race director asking if I could run the whole thing myself.

Ringling Bridge Run 26.2 Miler

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Most people know this race as the Ringling Bridge Run 4 Miler which is the biggest local timed/scored race in our area.  It’s mind boggling year after year to see more and more people who want to race over the Ringling Bridge!  I mean, I love hills and bridges, but people think I’m weird.  ;)

It looks like there were 2,158 finishers in the 4 miler this year.  I have no idea how many participated in the one mile.  But it’s for a great cause and the money stays locally so it generates great community support.

I ran the Space Coast Marathon on November 27, 2011 then took a couple weeks of rest and recovery before deciding to sign up and train for the Five Points of Life Marathon on February 19, 2012.  That didn’t give me a lot of time to recover, start training again, get in all the long runs and workouts I wanted to, and fit in all the other races I had already signed up for in January and February.  So I created the best possible training schedule I could with all the weekend race commitments I had already made weeks and months earlier.

This brings us to the Ringling Bridge Run 4 Miler and the Saturday I’m supposed to do my longest long run of this hybrid marathon training schedule.  So I combine the two and am very happy with the result!

I ran approximately 8.5 miles before the race then raced 4 miles in 27:09 (6:47 pace) which is 12 seconds slower than my PR.  Wished I realized that during the race so I could have gone for a new PR!  After the race I had some Gu and water then set off for my 14 (approx.) mile “cool down” with water and Gu stops throughout.  I averaged 8:55 for the 26.2 miles and went over and back on the Ringling Bridge (biggest “hill” in this area) four times.

This was the second time I had done a 26.2 mile training run.  I decided this was important to do again for this February marathon because I recovered so quickly from the November marathon.  Oh and did I mention the rolling hills I would see in the February marathon?  Luckily I have this hilly 26.2 mile training run under my belt and have been doing weekly hill workouts since last fall.

Gu rediscovered

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a big fuel problem at the Space Coast Marathon.  During the two weeks after the marathon I was a bit bummed and did not care to talk about it much.  When people saw me around town at cross country meets, group runs, and at the running store I cringed when they looked so excited and asked how it went.  I think they were excited because they also knew how well prepared I was.

But I gave my standard short version recap of how it was pretty good through 20 miles then I just fell apart and struggled to finish.  It almost felt like a script after explaining it to so many people.  After Phil and I finished timing and scoring the county championship middle school cross country meet on December 10, we were headed out the gate to the parking lot and got stopped by a good friend who has completed many marathons, half marathons, and has done even more crazy stuff like Ironman and several half Ironman races.

Anyway, when I gave her the scripted recap of the race she then asked, (paraphrasing here) “you didn’t take any Gu?”  When I answered “no” and continued to explain my intake of water and Gatorade, her jaw dropped and she looked shocked and amazed.  I so wish I had a photo of her face at that moment!  We laughed so hard at her reaction.  It was the perfect mix of surprise and disbelief.  As funny as that moment was, it really stuck with me and got me thinking…

I tried Gu way back in the mid to late 1990s when I was running lots of marathons and I thought it was so disgusting.  The consistency was gross and the flavor about made me gag.  But as with so many things…they can and do improve over time.  I asked around about the flavors that my fellow endurance athlete friends preferred.  I even tried eating Sharkies during a long run before I gave in to try Gu again.  Although I love Sharkies – taste, consistency, healthy – everything about them!  It was too much for my stomach to deal with during a run.  I know people who can eat bananas and Clif Bars during training runs and long races; I am just not blessed with that type of iron stomach.  ;)

So, here we are on Sunday, December 18 at our group long run.  I ran a 10K (about 8 miles total with warm up and cool down) the day before so I only planned to run 12 miles.  I took half a packet of Gu with water at six miles.  The run was supposed to be easy and I averaged 9:23 for the 12 miles but my last three miles were 8:47, 8:43, 8:24 and I felt pretty good.  No stomach issues from the Gu and the Vanilla Bean flavor was not bad.  Still not crazy about the consistency but there’s the incentive to get it down quickly!  Tuesday and Thursday that week were pretty hard runs followed by acupuncture and massage for my knee and Achilles on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s 20 miler.

The Christmas Eve 20 miler ended up being an awesome group run at the preserve.  I think we had over 20 people join in.  The 20 miles took 2:54 for an average pace of about 8:44.  I took a full Gu packet at mile 8 and mile 14 with water stops about every 3 miles.  I felt great and knew I could run more if I had to.  I ended the 20 miler with the last 3 miles in 8:34, 8:19, and 8:08.  That never happens!

2011 Christmas Eve 20 Miler

So, yes, I have given Gu a second chance and discovered its many benefits.  I am a fan!  And no longer wondering when my next marathon will be.  Gu has worked so well for me in these two training runs that I signed up for the Five Points of Life Marathon on February 19, 2012.  I will keep using it in training so I know exactly how much to use on race day.  Fueling issues are now under control.


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