Saturday, May 27, 2017

Training & 935 & Vi Update

I've been running the last few weeks, but way shorter workouts at a slower pace than I trained for the marathon. It doesn't really feel like training most of the time.

I've been sticking to the trails for most of my runs to try to build up my endurance on trails for training for the Asheville Marathon even though that training cycle won't start until late this year. I have doubts that I'll be able to effectively train to beat the timer at the AM, but I want to try at least.

This past week, I started in on week 7 of 10k training and started adding interval work to my schedule. I ran 10 intervals of 1 minute at high intensity (basically run fast) with a 2 minute recovery. I decided to do that on the road instead of trail so I could focus on running fast and not have to worry so much about tripping. I was really busy this week and didn't have time to drive to a paved closed running trail. I considered the treadmill, but short, intense intervals are not well suited for the treadmill unless you already know how fast you need to run to reach a high level of effort.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my run minutes were in the neighborhood of 8 minute/mile pace. Some faster, some slower, since the road I chose to run back and forth on has a slight elevation, so some intervals were slightly downhill and others slightly uphill.

It was a tough workout for me, but highly satisfying.

Then on Friday I got to run 7 miles of the Pinhoti trail with some decent elevation to it. It was a great training trail and I really wish I could run there all the time! I had so much fun running the downhill, but was appreciative of the training I got going uphill as well.

I've had my new toys about a month now.

Garmin 935xt updated impressions

The Garmin Forerunner 935xt is pretty much my constant companion now. I wear it almost 24/7. It gave me decent feedback about how much I'm moving when I sleep. Continuous HR monitoring let me see my resting heart rate is in the mid-50s instead of the mid-60s like I thought previously.

The battery life of the 935 is pretty good for what I'm doing now. I only have to charge it every 7 days or so, but once I start running more, I'm sure I'll have to charge it more often.

The biggest drawback of the 935 for me is the onboard HRM doesn't handle abrupt changes in HR very well. So doing short intervals of high intensity for a minute doesn't show an accurate HR during the interval. So it's hard to measure HR vs perceived effort during the run. To fix this, I will use my chest HR-Run strap during interval workouts.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with my decision to upgrade from the 630. I really thought I would miss the touch screen, but I find that's not really an issue and it's kinda nice to be able to wipe the sweat and dirt off the watch face without worrying about changing the data on the screen.

LifeBeam Vi impressions

Quite frankly, I'm not impressed so far. Vi doesn't talk very much. The first run I did with her, she was pretty chatty, but subsequent runs have been quiet. It's hard to get her attention for a command. You're supposed to be able to tap the right ear bud, but it's so hit or miss and then she can't understand me most of the time and then I'm back trying to get her attention to listen. So I end up just listening to my podcasts or music like it's any other set of really expensive Bluetooth earbuds.

So yesterday, Vi got an update for her software. The update promised better mic and voice recognition. I was excited and took her on my run with me. Things went great for about 1/4 mile. I was able to touch the right earbud to get her attention and get her to tell me my heart rate. Then she stopped responding. The Android app had crashed. Oh joy. I got her going again and she said we were ready to run and then wouldn't respond again. I decided to stop messing with her because at least my podcast (Embrace Running's Vancouver Marathon recap and Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail episode #20) were at least playing correctly and I didn't want to make Vi mad enough not to play those at all.

There's an Android app update promised in the next week or two, so I might just wait until that's available before trying again.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Running Toy - LifeBEAM Vi

This week I started using 2 new toys. This post will focus on one of them.


This was a Kickstarter project my husband saw last year. He said "hey, honey, that looks like something you should get!" I love how my husband not only tolerates my obsessions of endurance running and endurance horseback riding, he downright encourages (enables??) them!

I've been running with a "necklace" bluetooth headset (the LG Tone Ultra) for about a year now. It's really nice not to have to worry about a cable winding around my body and attached to my phone.

So when my husband saw this bluetooth headset that also boasted HR tracking and a built-in running coach, he thought I'd like it. I wasn't convinced at the time, but after a few weeks of pondering, I put in a pre-order in January. I expected it to arrive just after my marathon in March, so I was hoping it would help kickstart (pun intended) my rear back into running after the marathon. Last year, I took 4 months off from running after the marathon and I didn't want to go that long this time.

After some back and forth with the LifeBEAM support team, during which some of the emails never reached me, I finally got a shipping tracking number and the device arrived this week. I got to run with it for the first time on my Friday evening 5 mile trail run.

There was no paperwork in the box itself. Just the headset, a charging cable (a standard micro USB cable), a soft carrying pouch and a large pod with various sized ear buds and fins to find that perfect fit. The box itself has text that announces the Vi (pronounced Vee) is already charged, tells you where to find the power button and says to go download the app. And that's it.

I downloaded the Vi Fitness app from the Google Play App Store for my Android Moto X Pure phone and started it up. The app advised to pair with the headset. I pushed that button and it popped me over to the standard Android Bluetooth settings. I tapped the item marked "Vi Earphones (35A)" and my phone connected and a voice in the headset cheerfully announced the device was connected. So I returned to the app. Which continued to insist I needed to pair with the Vi. I forced the app to close and then opened it again. Still said I needed to pair. Long story short, it didn't recognize the Vi being connected until I turned my phone completely off, then back on, made sure the Vi and my phone were connected via Bluetooth before opening the app again. Then things were moving a little better.

I couldn't figure out how Vi would get my heart rate, so I had to go to their site and look through their FAQ before discovering that the HR is an optical HR sensor built into the left ear bud. I had only the right earbud in during set up. No wonder it didn't see my HR. I popped the left ear bud in and almost immediately got a HR reading.

I headed to a nearby trail system for a run. I wasn't sure exactly how long I was going to run, so I just chose the "Free Run" option instead of a set distance or time.

Me wearing the Vi headset. I need to remove the tag!

The Vi voice talked to me during my run. You can change how much she talks in the app settings, but I just left it at the most talking. I figure I can also turn her down later if I want. I ran my podcast app which conveniently paused when Vi wanted my attention.

Vi gave me tips throughout the run about running form, running too hard and how to use the headset. Such tips as, hold the +/- buttons to skip forward/back on your music or podcast player. Or tap the right earbud so she'll listen to you.

You can say "Heart Rate" to get a bead on your heart rate. This is what I did often during the run so I could compare it to the optical HR sensor on my newly acquired Forerunner 935. They matched almost perfectly. I hadn't been expecting much, so that was a nice surprise.

Since I've only run with it once so far, I don't know if it'll turn out to be something useful or just a gimmick. I'm interested to see where they go from here.

New Running Toy - Forerunner 935

This week I started using 2 new toys. This post will focus on one of them.

Garmin Forerunner 935

I have been a Garmin user since, well, eons ago. I used the Garmin Forerunner 201 and the 301 and on and on. I have a lot of units in my arsenal. For training for my first marathon, I bought a Forerunner 630 and have enjoyed using that. When the 735xt came out, I decided it wasn't worth upgrading and I would miss the touch screen of the 630.

I happily used the 630 for training for my first and second marathons. The biggest pain point for me on the 630 was battery life. If my 630 wasn't fully charged, my 20 mile long runs would tax the battery and I did get a low battery warning on it during both marathons. Not a happy thought that my data collector would die on me during a marathon! I always ran with my backup Forerunner 620, just in case. Even though the battery life on that one isn't much, if any, better than the 630.

Anyway, when the 935 came out, I wasn't sure I wanted it. I did want to upgrade, but I was annoyed at the $500 price tag for a watch with an optical HR sensor. I haven't been impressed with optical HR sensors I've used in the past, so that was a gimmick I didn't want or need, since I'd use my existing HR strap. Also, I was worried the optical HR sensor part of the watch would be uncomfortable, especially for something I didn't want to use.

So I went looking for reviews and read DC Rainmaker's review on the 935. If you've never read his review on a fitness gadget you want, you really, really should. He's very thorough. He showed a picture of the back of the 935 with a very flush optical HR sensor. The optical HR sensor would not be uncomfortable and get in the way. That did it for me. I pulled the trigger and put in an order at REI, even though it was on back-order. It shipped the next day. :-D

I ran with it for the first time on Tuesday. A 2.75 mile flat paved run at a local park. I used my regular 630 paired to my normal HR chest strap. I did not pair the 935 to my HR strap. I wanted to see what the optical HR sensor would do. I wore the 935 in the normal watch position and the 630 further up my arm on the same arm.

The 630 paired to the HRM-Run chest strap gives Running Dynamic metrics. That information is provided to the 935 by a tiny pod device that clips to the back of my running shorts. That was an additional purchase. This thing is smaller than a foot pod and just turns itself on and off. No fuss, no muss. I tend to forget it's back there. The watch has a handy feature to remind me to take it off when I finish a run. While the directions say an occasional spin through the wash is ok, it's not recommended and one should take precautions to remove the device from one's shorts.

I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the optical HR on the 935. It was very close to the HR strap. The biggest issue with the optical HR is the fact that it can take a second or 2 to register a change in HR and if you're doing short intervals or hovering around the max HR alarm you've set, it can take a little longer to respond to changes than the chest strap. But when I was running evenly and steady, the HR was comparable. I am starting to think I can get away with skipping the chest strap altogether! Which would be great as the HRM-Run strap rubs me and I have scars from marathon training with it.

While I didn't mean to test this HRM theory, my very next run, I forgot my Foreunner 630 at home. So I bravely set out to run trails with only my Forerunner 935 and the running dynamics (RD) pod. It was fine. The data looks fine. The HR looks great and it kept me from overreaching and running too fast. And it was so freeing not to have that chest strap digging into me!

Believe it or not, on my 3rd run with the 935, I AGAIN forgot my 630. That run I also forgot my RD pod, so I didn't have any of that data for that run, but I'm most interested in the pace, HR and elevation data anyway.

I am actually wearing the 935 all the time. Even while I sleep. The band is very comfortable. I can get the watch snug for the HR reading, but I don't feel like I'm being choked at the wrist. It has been many many years since I've worn a watch when not running.

I've discovered my resting HR is about 59 bpm, which is a good 6 beats lower than I thought it was.

I charged the watch on Monday afternoon as soon as I got it and have not charged it since. I have worn it 24x7 for the most part. I have recorded specific activities with it. I've run 3 times, ridden my horse once and done PT with the other horse several times with this watch. It still shows 54%. I'm starting to wonder how I'll get by when I have to finally charge it up again. ;-)

Although I actually do miss the touchscreen of the 630, the 935 is quickly taking its place as my main running watch.

Garmin's comparison tool for the Forerunner 935, 735xt and 630: Comparison Tool

Of note, the Forerunner 630 is a "previous model," which basically means they're not making them anymore.

Bridge Street Half Marathon & 10k Training

It's been a month since I posted to my blog! I need to get back into the habit because even if nobody else reads these posts, I enjoy looking back on them as a running diary.

Bridge Street Half Marathon

I did make it to the Bridge Street Half Marathon on April 9. I had originally planned to get a hotel room, but scrapped that and got up at 3:45 or so to drive down to Huntsville, AL, for the 7 AM start. It was chilly at the start, but I warmed up quickly.

At the start, near the 3 hour pacer

I started with the 3 hour pace group. This was the first time I'd been at a run that had a pace group slow enough for me to run with! Unfortunately, they were running too fast for a 3 hour pace, so I dropped back after a mile and a half and let them go on. I caught and passed them in mile 4 and never saw them again.

Super cool part of the run through McMillian Park and their double helix path! 

I really enjoyed the run. The first 9 miles were fairly easy for me, but it got a little harder for the last 3 or 4 miles. I was running around a large group. They were pleasant and not at all annoying, but I didn't like playing leap frog. We were going about the same average pace, but doing different run/walk ratios to get there. To get away from the leap frog, I sped up and dropped my walk breaks. I got a comfortable lead on them and then, around mile 11, there was a porta potty. I needed to pee and I hadn't seen a porta potty for miles and miles. So I debated and finally zipped into the porta potty. I lost my lead I'd had on the group and had to speed up once again to get my lead back.

Around mile 12, my right calf began to bother me. I didn't speed up any, but I also didn't slow down, so it didn't really help my calf muscle. The last 1/2 mile was a bit of a struggle as my calf was hurting and I was running faster than I should have been, but the finish was "just there" so I pushed to get it done. The finish line was in the middle of the open air Bridge Street Town Centre mall. Pretty crowded!

I got my medal and a water bottle and stumbled over to the closed carousel for a little breathing room, literally. I had hit my max HR just at the end there and needed a little room to move around to let my HR drop slowly. I finished in 2 hours 47 minutes, so well under the 3 hour mark.

My favorite part of the entire run was a father with his young children. They were clearly following a runner, but I never was able to identify which runner they were cheering on. But they certainly cheered me! The little girl was 5 or so and her little brother was maybe 3. Their dad had a wagon he pulled them in. Because the run winds around the streets of Huntsville, this guy and the kids were at several spots along the race route. The kids were giving out high fives! It was great fun to see them and I looked for them along the route. I saw them 4 or 5 times. The last time I saw them was just near the finish. They were crossing the street in front of me to reach the finish line (I still had to run around the outside of the shopping center first). The little girl ran to get in place to give me a high five. Her little brother was in the wagon pulled by their father and I circled around to get a high five from him as well. Really made my day to see them so often. They seemed to be having so much fun and I certainly enjoyed it as well. I did take a picture of them but I'm not going to post it here out of respect for their privacy, but they were great.

10k Training Starts!

I started my 10k training the week after the half marathon. Due to my calf muscle being a little tender, I took a full week off before starting training for the Nashville, TN, July 4th 10k. The 10k is a street run, but since I signed up for the Asheville Marathon next March, I'm spending a lot of this training cycle on trails. Since I'm not running nearly the mileage that I ran for marathon training, I figure this is a good way to ease into trail running with the shorter runs. Of course, it makes for slower runs. To boot, I'm also training to HR this cycle, so I'm spending a lot of time trying to find that sweet spot for the fastest pace within my HR limit for any given run.

Part of the trail at Smith Park in Brentwood, TN

Week 1 Stats 

Number of Runs: 5
Number of Trail Runs: 3
Training Mileage: 11 miles
Training Time: 2 hours 54 minutes
Training Average Pace: 15:47
Elevation Gain: 1,290 feet

Mill Creek Park parking area off Old Hickory Blvd

Week 2 Stats

Number of Runs: 4
Number of Trail Runs: 3
Training Mileage: 14 miles
Training Time: 3 hours 43 minutes
Training Average Pace: 15:54
Elevation Gain: 1,958 feet

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Post Marathon

Post Marathon Training Analysis

I'm pretty happy with my marathon training cycle this time around. Compared to training for my first marathon last year, I ran:

2017 Marathon Training (2016 numbers in parenthesis)

  • 17 weeks training (16 weeks in 2016)
  • 74 runs (40)
  • 540.5 miles (299.5)
  • 127 hours (73)
  • 18,544 feet of elevation gain (4,531)
  • Average 31.79 miles per week (17.62)
  • Average 4.4 runs per week (2.4)
  • Average 7.3 miles per run (7.49)
  • Average 1 hour 42 minutes per run (1 hour 49 minutes)
  • Average pace 14:06/mi (14:38/mi)
Annoyingly, these numbers include warm up and cool down because I pulled them from SportTracks' online reporting that doesn't allow reporting by active vs resting laps. But they still show a significant difference from last year to this year.

Due to injury, I didn't run at all in the 2 weeks leading up to the 2017 marathon, so I basically stopped the training at 17 weeks instead of the initial 19 scheduled.

I was much more consistent in my training numbers and my pace this cycle and it paid off with a more consistent performance in the marathon.

Post Marathon Aches and Pains

I was way more sore after this marathon than I was last year. Maybe because I pushed through when I wanted to quit and walk the rest of the way. The day after the marathon in 2016, I felt relatively fine with only minor soreness. This year, it was Friday, 5 days later before I felt that way.

This year, I had an ankle injury about 3 weeks before the marathon and only ran twice in that time period. My ankle did bother me some in the marathon, but not enough to quit. In January, I injured my right elbow carrying a heavy hand-held water bottle on the outside of my arm for 9 miles of a tempo run. It never occurred to me to switch hands. Duh.

My ankle and elbow didn't bother me enough during the marathon to quit, but a week after the marathon, both were still bothering me after the residual soreness had worn off. So I went to an orthopedic surgeon to get x-rays and an opinion on both.

The verdict? Arthritis in my left ankle, along with a small bone spur. The bone spur is likely the cause of the pre-marathon injury. I broke this ankle in 2008 during a horseback riding accident and was subsequently plated and had 3 surgeries on it. The arthritis is not necessarily surprising.

Tendinitis in my elbow. The cream they gave me for my elbow reminded me of somebody putting my arm in a fire or on a hot radiator (looking at the brothers here...). But I gritted through that pain because after the cream dried, my elbow felt 100%! Unfortunately, after 3 or 4 uses (2 days), the skin on my elbow looked like it had been burned. I discontinued the medication. I'm debating going back for something else or just wait it out. Not sure where to go from here.

Post Marathon Rest

I put my self on a mandatory 2 week rest period and when I saw my doctor, I was given another 2 weeks of no running. So I'll likely start back running sometime this week or maybe next.

Sasha grazing after a 19 mile training ride.

In the meantime, I've been having fun with my endurance horse, Sasha. She has been off work for about 5 1/2 months due to her having an issue at a ride in September, then Tanna getting hurt and taking up a lot of my time and marathon training taking up a lot of my time. I also manage to hold down a full time job.

But, now that I'm not running as much, I've started riding Sasha regularly again and having fun with that.

Next up?

Well, I need to start back doing some easy running. I have a half marathon in mid-April that I may or may not get to. It has a generous time limit of 4 hours, so I could go do it and just lolly-gag around the course. Then I need to figure out a 10k training program for my July 4th 10k. Looking even further ahead, I'll do a 1/2 this fall and then back to training for another marathon for next March. I've signed up for the 2018 Asheville Marathon that is run on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. More about that as time goes on.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

2017 Chattanooga Marathon Recap

Going to get my packet first thing in the morning.

My alarm rang at 5:30 AM. I got up, showered, dressed and left my hotel room a little after six. I headed to the elevator banks. I was wearing my 2017 Chattanooga Marathon hoodie I'd purchased online over a short sleeve shirt and a pair of blue jeans. The other occupant of the elevator noticed my jacket and asked what job I was doing for the marathon. I smiled and said I was running it; just had to go get my packet since the Expo closed at 5 PM on Saturday night instead of 7 PM like last year.

Since he mistook me for a volunteer, I decided he must be one, so asked his job. He said he was going out to check the course markings to be sure we were not going to have a repeat of the slightly short marathon from last year. I thanked him for that and we parted ways as the elevator opened.

Me in my comfy hoodie before getting ready for the run.

I stepped out into the cool, dark morning on the streets of Chattanooga. I walked the 1/4 mile or so to the Expo where they were giving out race packets. I got my green backpack bag that held a bunch of Chattanooga information and pamphlets, a gray T-shirt and my race number: 151.

I went back to my hotel room and finished getting dressed for the race. I had gone back on forth on wearing capris or shorts, but with the help of a friend and the fact that it wasn't terribly cold on my walk to get my race packet, I chose the shorts. The news was saying it was 36° outside, but it just didn't feel like it to me. I added arm sleeves (men's dress socks that had the toe cut out) to my short sleeve shirt, a knit hat, knit gloves. 

I removed the extra material from the bottom of my race bib (meal ticket, bag drop ticket and some other ticket I don't remember now). I had a moment of panic when I realized there were no safety pins! I hadn't remembered to look on the table at the Expo and there were none anywhere in my packet. I did have my Running Buddy Bib Clips in my suitcase though! Yay! I attached my bib to the front of my shirt.

Next came my Flip Belt. I added lip stuff, my ID, a credit card, and my truck key to the zippered pocket. Then a zip lock bag with a couple of individually wrapped wipes, a couple of blister band-aids and an extra set of ear buds in case my bluetooth ones decided to stop working. Finally, a picky bar, a pack of cliff shot bloks and a gel. All in the Flip Belt. I flipped it over to secure the openings. I slid my cell phone into the left thigh pocket of my shorts, another picky bar, pack of cliff shot bloks and 2 gels in the other thigh pocket.

Finally, I pulled on a sweat shirt I'd picked up new that week off a sale rack.

Me ready to run!

And it was time to go! I left the hotel and went to the nearest city bike rack and rode the mile or so to the start line. The bike rack I was planning to return my bike to was full, so I headed to the next closest one and was able to leave it there.

My legs were COLD while I was riding the bike, but after that, I wasn't cold at all. I jogged back to the start line and joined the line for the porta potties. 20 minutes until start time.

Waiting in the the porta potty line

I like the way people tend to line up for porta potties with 3 or 4 lines spread semi-equi-distant apart and people just go to the next available one between the lines of people on either side of them. Works well and most of the lines go down quickly. I spent my time in line stretching out a bit and fidgeting from excitement.

I got to the starting corral about 10 minutes before the start and stood a bit back from the 12:00 pace sign. The marathon and half marathon runners were all starting at the same time. 3 minutes before the start, I removed my sweatshirt and hung it on the corral fence for them to pick up and donate.

I had a nice chat with a lady doing her second marathon since 1999. She'd done over 20 though before that! She was very nice.

And we were off! Of course, I walked the first minute or 2 with the rest of the crowd. As I approached the start line, I begin running and started my GPS watches.

Shortly after the start, I realized I had not taken my pre-race gel, so I pulled it out and did that, veering off course slightly to toss the empty pack into a nearby trash can.

We passed a bank that had 48° on its sign. Yeah, happy to have the shorts instead of the heavier capris.

The first mile went pretty well. I was actually a little concerned because I was having no trouble keeping slow enough to keep pace. Usually the excitement of a race pegs my HR and I go too fast. I was worried that wasn't happening. I settled immediately into my 12:30/mi pace. I decided to go with my usual long run routine. Run 12:30/mi pace for 4.5 minutes, walk for 1 minute. Walk uphills, cruise downhill.

During the second mile, the half marathoners turned right while the marathon course continued under I-24. The field thinned considerably to just the 450 or so marathoners and the marathon relay runners. By the way, that number was down from 2016's numbers of around 575 teams (single or relay).

Running toward I-24; suddenly alone

I ran the 3rd mile 50 seconds too fast and dialed it back for the next 2 miles. The course was the same as last year through mile 4, but in the St Elmo neighborhood instead of veering off to Virginia Avenue, the course continued south on Tennessee Avenue before looping back and running back north on Virginia Avenue instead of Alabama Avenue, which was last year.

The St Elmo neighborhood had 2 places where streamers were set up across the road for us to run through with people hanging out by them, clapping, cheering with music playing. Very festive. I found it hard to not run too fast with all the encouragement!

Just before the 8 mile marker, the course moved to the Tennessee Riverwalk at the South Broad Trailhead. This was a nice change from last year's section up Broadway. For one thing, by moving to the Riverwalk, we avoided having to run just south of the finish line at mile 9! I did not enjoy doing that last year. Seemed a bit cruel to see the half marathon runners finishing and hearing the cheering and knowing I still had 17+ miles to go!

Entering the Riverwalk

Around this mile also, I began to see the same runners I would see during the remainder of the marathon. In particular, this one guy that was walking. He was going about my average pace of 13:30/mi, but walking the entire thing. So two thoughts went through my head on that score. Good for him! And, boy, I run so slow, people can walk just as fast. :-/ Oh well, keep going! I would run past him and he'd catch me up on my walking breaks. We exchanged a couple of pleasantries, but pretty much lived in our own worlds.

By now, it had warmed up nicely. I had dropped my knit hat at the mile 2 aid station and my gloves at the mile 4 aid station. I still had my arm sleeves on, but was starting to move them down my upper arm to expose more skin.

I was feeling pretty good at this point. Keeping to my plan. Eating on time. I'd even taken a Snickers bar at mile 4 and a Twix at mile 10. No real issues to complain about. A beautiful day, great volunteers, a perfect day for a run.

Approaching the aquarium

We stayed on the Riverwalk until the Aquarium, then ran around on the parkway and Battery Place to pop out on Veteran's Bridge. The mile 12 aid station was just before the bridge. I dumped my arm
sleeves there, so just running in shorts and a t-shirt. It felt great.

The dedication plaque

Crossing over the bridge, we continued into the hills. This is when the hills really started in earnest. Or at least when I really started feeling them. The course went north on Barton Avenue and then looped back by the Chattanooga Country Club and curved under Veteran's Bridge.

View of the Country Club golf course from the top of a hill.

At the mile 16 aid station, I paused at the aid station and about fell over! Suddenly stopping made me feel like I'd just gotten off a ship I'd been on for days. But I managed to not fall down. I took a Snickers bar and continued on. But this time, my stomach said NO to the Snickers. I had to spit half of it out. I managed to keep the rest down, but nope, not planning on eating Snickers in the latter part of a run anymore. I was a little worried the next time I was due for a gel, but my regular Caramel Machiatto Gu went down without a hitch.

Even though I walked the hills and ran down them, they were starting to take their toll. That or just the cumulative mileage. I was experiencing some leg and foot pain by mile 15. Not debilitating, but not comfortable either. I paused and stretched every 3 or so miles from here on out.

View from Walnut Street Bridge

The course crossed back to the south side of the Tennessee River over the pedestrian Walnut Street Bridge, then through the University of Tennessee campus, where there was a live band. By this time, I'm at mile 19 and wondering if I'll finish at all, but still hitting my paces, even with my bathroom and aid station breaks. By mile 15 last year, I was already letting my paces slip, with only 2 miles out of the last 11 hitting my pace.

Me at mile 21.

After mile 21, though, I had something else to think about since the course was different. Instead of running up by the zoo and then running by the Chattanooga National Cemetery along Holtzclaw, we ran along Kirby Avenue and south on Highland Park Avenue.

Finally, I came out on Main Street, headed west. Mile 24. 2.2 miles left. I was fighting for every running segment. Almost crying when I'd walk and dreading the next running section. I flipped my GPS to show me how long I had to run before I could walk again and then flipped it away because I really didn't want to know. I just listened for that beep. Each time I walked, I wasn't sure I would run again. I kept thinking, I can just walk now. I've already done better than last year. It's ok, just walk. But somehow I reached down and ran when it was time to run. But it hurt. My music really helped me here. I could run to the beat. My training really helped me here because when I ran, I was running my 12:30/mi pace. Because I'd run that so much in training it was automatic.

Finally, I turned off Main Street to swing up to 13th Street and to the final turn of the marathon.

Approaching the last turn; about 1/2 mile from the finish.

I turned the corner. I could see the finish line. And yet, I could not run. I could not convince my legs to run. I picked out landmarks and said, ok, start running here. And I didn't. So picked another one. And didn't run.

Finally, though, I saw the 13 mile sign for the half marathon. Only a tenth of a mile to go. I can do that. So I did. I began to run again. There was a cop at the end of the finish chute and he high fived me and encouraged me on. So I ran. The announcer announced my name and as he did I raised my hands above my head and yelled in victory. Just a few more steps and across the finish line. Whooohoooo!!! Second marathon down in 5 hours 54 minutes and 45 seconds (official chip time). A 20 minute PR.

GPS time and completely AWESOME medal!!

And it hurt. It hurt a lot. I got my medal and a bottle of water and headed back toward my hotel, whimpering with every step. My legs were hurting, my arms were hurting, my back hurt. But I had that cool medal! And I was done!

I reached my hotel and decided to take the stairs because they were closer to my room. And was shocked at how much my quads hurt when I tried to climb those stairs. I paused and thought but decided, yes, up the stairs. I grabbed the railing and hauled myself up the stairs with every painful step. Yes, yes, I do this for fun...??? Or maybe just to see how tough I really am, or am not.

But I did it! I finished and finished fairly strong, the walking during the last 1/2 mile aside. All but 2 of my mile splits were no slower than 20 seconds off my target pace. And those 2 were 14-minute miles and both of those were miles with restroom breaks. My splits were fairly consistent which makes me happy. I trained for consistency and that's what I got.

Runner's T-shirt

This was a great course this year. I was super happy to get a PR, but the course was interesting as well. The volunteers were top-notch with lots of cheerleaders, even in the later part of the course for me as a slower runner. The weather was perfect for me as well. The shirts are great and the medal is very cool.

During the run and for the first 2-3 days after, I was thinking I wouldn't do another marathon. Now, I'm thinking maybe I will. I don't know that I'll get faster. I'm just not fast at all. It's a lot to run for almost 6 hours. It's a lot of training to be able to do so. I don't know. I have a couple of marathons in mind for 2018. I can't do both because they are only a week or two apart. So I will probably train for the harder one and have the easier one as a back up if my training goes badly.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy the feeling of having completed marathons! And turn my attention to my endurance mare, Sasha, and get her ready for her own distance events.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2.5 Days Pre Marathon!

The weather for this year's Chattanooga Marathon is looking very much like the weather last year. High 30s for the start, warming into the low 60s by the finish.

I have tentatively picked out the clothes I will wear and have packed them. I also packed a pair of shorts and a pair of winter tights just in case the weather changes at the last minute. I have confirmed my hotel reservation. I have packed the gear and food I will use during the race.

Last year, I used an Amphipod hydration belt with a couple of water bottles. This year, I'm going with my trusty Nathan soft flask hand held and a FlipBelt with a zipper pocket for my phone. And, of course, I'll be running with my Forerunner 630 and Forerunner 620 watches.

Before I tweaked my ankle, I had a different race strategy. Now my strategy is to get through it. I'm going to approach it like any other long run, with a long run pace instead of my marathon pace. Walk the uphills. I'll be thrilled with a finish. A strong finish without having to only walk the last 2 miles would be even better.

I'm excited to see how it goes.