Sunday 9/26

Long run, 9 miles, 1:43
Miles for the week: 27 (5/8/5/9) WEEK 14
Weight: 115

The taper begins! Although I was happy to stop after 9 miles. I could have kept going, but it was nice not to have to. I tried orange Gatorade, since that’s the flavor that’s going to be served at Steamtown. (It’s great to get all the email updates that the organizers send out. Each one gives an updated estimate of the numbers of runners, and now they’re saying probably 1,750.) Kinda yuck–more aggressively artificial-tasting than the lemon/lime–so I’m glad I tested it.

I saw a turkey buzzard in the road at the intersection of Moran, and as it flew into the trees it was joined by 5 others. They circled around and 3 landed in a dead tree right at the intersection, so I got pretty close to them. Huge, kind of neat-looking birds, although their tiny heads make them look dim. The weather started out overcast but then cleared, and it turned into a spectacularly gorgeous fall day. At Stanley Lake the blue sky and turning leaves were reflected in the water. The leaves are coming along very nicely; not a lot of the breath-catchingly flaming reds yet, but cherry red and gold and tawny and mahogany and dozens of others shades of green and yellow and orange and red.

I forgot to give an update on my toes problem. I did get larger shoes, moving up to a size 8, and that seems to have helped. The problem did spread, to 3 toes on the right foot and one on the left, but also stabilized even before I got bigger shoes, and I don’t think I’ll ultimately lose the toenails. They are varying shades of mottled dark pink and purple, but never actually turned black. I did try toe gel caps, but they seemed to irritate the toes on either side.

The combination of WrightSocks and Two Tom’s blister powder has successfully kept blisters at bay. We’ll see if it can hold up for 26.2 miles, although I intend to change my socks at mile 20.

I’m getting very excited! I’m looking forward to the Saturday almost as much as Sunday–driving the course, picking up my packet, the race expo (featuring a talk on the course), and Artists’ Open House Weekend should make it an adventuresome day.

The good news is that my right thigh pain has gradually gone away. My left knee and right thigh still have some soreness/stiffness, but an amount that feels much more normal and not like I’m on the verge of an injury. And now the taper starts, so it will only get better! Running the dirt roads on the right must have helped my legs accomodate to the road camber.

Everything’s been piling up and I’m way behind on most things in my life. In the back of my mind I had the idea that training for the marathon would help me stay on top of other things, because of people quoted in NRMT who said how much it helped their time management. Well, not me. Oh well! I made a few notes after each run even though I didn’t have time to actually write them up, so here’s what I remember:

Tuesday 9/14

Short run, 5 miles, 53:50; splits 11:04, 10:17, 10:11, 11:52, 10:27.

Lovely clear golden sunrise. Rounding Stanley Lake, I heard a polite coughing sound behind me; it was the old grizzled black lab I’d seen with the younger dog the other day, by himself this time. I enjoyed making a fuss over him!

Thursday 9/16
Medium run, 8 miles, 1:26:48; splits 10:26, 11:58, 11:26, 10:09, 9:36, 10:54, 10:52, 11:27.

A little foggy/hazy. I was very pleased by the 9:36 pace; I had been dissasociating but thinking about something energizing (the night before there was a League of Women Voters presentation on low voter registration/turnout and I was thinking about putting a classified in the local papershop (which I did!)). On the Stanley Lake road there was a guy petting his golden retriever, which came running up to me with a softball in its mouth but barking anyway!

Friday 9/17
Short run, 5 miles, 53:30; splits 10:43, 10:12, 10:38, 11:19, 10:36.

Oops! My splits have been wrong–I’ve been putting in my *average* time for the mile instead of the actual time (two different places on the display). But usually that’s the same, except for example mile 4 which the Forerunner overestimated. Interesting.

Heavy rain, the tail end of Hurricane Ivan. I had to run in the afternoon because of a legislative breakfast we held at the library; the good running-related news was that I fit into a suit I love but haven’t been able to wear in a long time! Part-way through the run, I thought of aiming for sub-11 minute miles, I didn’t quite make it, but it’s still a huge improvement over my 5-mile (actually 4.8 mile) times before I started training.

Sunday 9/19

long run, 18 miles, 3:26; no splits data, but the first section (mostly downhilll) must have been about 10 minute miles.
MILES FOR THE WEEK: 36 (5/8/5/18) Week 13 of training
Weight: about 116

AAACK! My Forerunner broke! We spent the weekend in Rochester visiting my mother-in-law (which was nice, and a chance to sleep in a bit two days in a row–thank you, Marcia), but left early enough Sunday so I’d be sure to complete my 18 miles before dark. I didn’t want a repeat of the afternoon 16-miler.

So I’m ready to leave at 3:45, and the Forerunner won’t respond to buttons. It turned on, it captured the satellite signals, but it won’t start the timer or switch modes or even turn off! I’m frantic–the thought of running without it at this point is like running in cotton clothes or something. How will I know when to drink my Gatorade? How will I be able to pace myself through 18 miles?

I came back inside and tried everything I could think of: couldn’t do a hard reset, but did re-install the firmware, googled, checked the Garmin site and the Yahoo group. No go. I found out how to turn it off (hold the reset and power buttons simultaneously), but nothing.

[I called Garmin the next day and they said the button pad had shorted out when it got wet on Friday. It’s supposed to be water-resistant but as it turns out many other people have had their units die under similar circumstances. I shipped it back and hope hope hope it will be returned before the marathon!]

Ok, fallback plan (and why am I so dependent on the stupid Forerunner anyway? this is not good!): my heart rate monitor, which I haven’t used in weeks. I had finally gotten the watch back from the Blueberry Festival kids’ games. But I couldn’t find the watch! I went tearing through the house realizing how messy and chaotic everything had gotten while there’s been so much going on. I was already upset about the Forerunner but trying to keep my cool–I knew running 18 miles would be hard enough. Now I was yet more upset that I couldn’t even use my HRM, plus mad at myself and discouraged by the mess. By nature I’m a messy and disorganized person; I’ve been struggling with myself as long as I can remember. I’ve gradually, very gradually been getting somewhat better, but it doesn’t take much to knock me off the path. (The only thing that’s ever really helped me, aside from the beneficial effects of aging, is the FlyLady system, but even that I’ve not been able to really stick with, although hope springs eternal). So as I was frantically pawing through mounds of papers I should have dealt with, items I should have put away, and general junk, I was trying to think “I’m a marathoner, I can be flexible and adaptable and keep a positive attitude” to fight the overwhelming “waaah! I’m almost 40 and my life is a still a mess!” catastrophizing. And of course, time is ticking by and I have to leave or I’ll be running after dark again!

Jonathan offered me his travel alarm and finally I realized that was my best bet. It was past 4:30 by the time I left, but I did get into a positive frame of mind. I used the little alarm’s snooze feature to add up to 24 minutes (3 8-minute periods) and used that to time my fluid intake and to pace myself. Psychologically it was helpful to know that I was bound to be ahead of the timepiece since I’ve consistenly been running closer to 11-minute miles than 12. The run was uneventful–hard, 18 miles is bound to be for me, but not too hard. I thought I might hit the wall since I was just using Gatorade, not breaking with a gel like I did last week, but I didn’t (a good sign, I hope!) The evening was beautiful, not too hot, and although it was dark by the time I got home, the sunset was lovely. I met a border collie at the farm on Kinney Road, who lay down and practically rolled on his back to show how unthreatening he was. I found 2 new wildflowers I haven’t been able to identify yet; one must be some kind of very showy goldenrod.

I was proud of myself when I got back, and very pleased to have finished the last long run before the marathon! Wow!

Tuesday 9/21

Short run, 5 miles. A little weird not to know my time, but I don’t really care at this point, since my taper begins this week. My body doesn’t know it yet (since weekday runs are the same as the high-mileage weeks), but psychologically it makes a huge difference.

Thursday 9/23

Medium run, 8 miles; another beautiful morning. It’s been perfect fall weather and the leaves are turning nicely. Columbus Day weekend is usually leaf peak around here, although of course I’ll be running further south so it won’t be quite as colorful there.

Friday 9/24

Short run, 5 miles. Very foggy in places, almost clear in others, so I kept running in and out of the mist.

Thursday Sept 9

Medium run, 8 miles, 1:27:29; splits 10:27, 11:56, 11:52, 10:23, 10:01, 11:26, 9:42 [I think that’s wrong!], 11:41.

Since Frances was still tailing off, I thought it would be rainy and cool, but no. Windy and cloudy, but no more rain and surprisingly hot. I’m starting to worry about my right thigh; it’s not quite an injury yet, but it’s not getting noticeably better and I know I’m on the edge of one. It really hurts for the first 1/4 mile of a run, to the extent that I’m limping along. Then it gets better, and running on the right does seem to help. A library patron who’s a marathoner and gives me advice said my shoes must be too small if I’m getting black toe, and the more I think about it the more I’m sure she’s right. (She also expressed confidence that I’ll come in under 5 hours, which is not beyond my wildest dreams but is my wildest dream–boy, that would be cool!) I haven’t worn my new pair of NB 856s, so I should be able to exchange them… I’m paying attention to the all-downhill mile times, and clearly 10:30 is a reasonable slow time to aim for. But the Forerunner must have shorted me on mile 7, because I was done sooner than I should have been. To help with the thigh problem, I was repeating “run easy, run easy” to myself so as not to push too hard.

Friday Sept 10

Short run, 5 miles, 56:10; splits 11:14, 10:41, 11:30, 11:55, 10:50.

More chanting “run easy.” A nice morning, clearing as the hour progressed. I saw two of the three dogs who live on the far side of Stanley Lake for the first time in ages. Young yellow Lab and grizzled black Lab (Labs are the most popular dog around here, and they sure have great personalities, but I wish there was a little more variety!). They came bounding over–I’m sure they could tell I was delighted to see them. It gave me a lift to be greeted by them; another pretty hard run. I miss when every week was “hey, this isn’t so hard!” and that feeling of delighted confidence, but stubborn determination is good fuel too!

Sunday Sept 12

Long run, 18 miles, 3:22:22; splits 10:30, 9:22, 10:40, 9:59, 12:30, 12:45, 12:12, 10:38, 9:36, 10:00, 10:51, 10:55, 11:37, 12:34, 13:56, 10:48, 12:02, 11:28.
Miles for the week: 36 (5/8/5/18)
Weight 116

Whoooh! “If you can run 18, you can run a marathon” is the conventional wisdom, and I did it. I even felt like if I had to, I *could* run more. We didn’t get to bed until 2am because Jonathan was in a show (“Smokin’ Through the 70s” at EPAC, he was great!) and unwinding afterwards is important (and fun) for both of us. But I woke up at 7am, eager to get the run out of the way & go back to bed!

The usual painful first mile, but it was a big boost to be doing a different course from the 16 miles I’d done 3 times now. A good long steep downhill at the beginning, just like Steamtown, with an encouraging 9:22 even to the tune of “run easy, run easy.” This is the first time I’ve run the full length of Bowbridge Road (from 858 to 267), so that was cool. Then doing a lot of 267, which I’ve driven a million million times in the past 15 years, was cool. The shoulder is broad and mostly flat, so even though the traffic was very heavy, it wasn’t too unpleasant. I certainly was tiring after mile 12, but I had a break coming up. I planted a water bottle at the intersection of the St. Joe’s Road on Friday night, so that I could try a tangerine PowerGel for the last section of the run (as I plan to do on marathon day). I got to the water bottle around mile 13.5. Sucked down the PowerGel (not too bad–I chose tangerine because it has double caffeine), took 2 ibuprofens, drank half the water and tucked the bottle into my Camelbak (not designed for that & not very comfortable). I’ve been avoiding the ibuprofen thing before but now I need it. (I took one after my long run on Monday and I think it helped). In Non-Runner’s Marathon trainer they practically recommend gobbling them like candy, which I resisted, but it makes sense to let them help with inflamation on these really long runs.

The strategy worked! The last 4 1/2 miles weren’t too bad even with 4 major hills. I wouldn’t say it was an easy run, but it was manageable–in some ways better than any of the runs from the last 2 weeks. Jonathan greeted me at the door by saying “Welcome, marathoner!” & pretending I was crossing the finish line. :*) I can do this!

Animal encounters: forgot to mention this before, but 858 always seems to have large numbers of squished slugs being cannibalized by other slugs. Ugh. A black dog who slunk around growling, tail curled under and looking at me out of the corner of his eyes, until his (unpleasant-seeming) owner bellowed at him. Where I saw the donkey on Bowbridge Road (the pen is at an angle and most of it isn’t clearly visible from the road, so I haven’t seen it frequently), it turns out there are 3, two adult and one young or mini donkey, spotted white and brown. Domestic turkeys in a coop on Kinney Road, then 6 wild turkeys in the very next field. I thought I was done with wildflowers, but saw wild sunflowers today (first time on a run, I’ve seen them from the car elsewhere in the county). Also nipplewort (new to me), and a very pretty grass (red base, reddish seeds) that I’m going to try to identify. Fall is coming–the locust trees are crispy brown, apples are ripe, Russian olive berries are showing red, and some maples are already turning.

Monday September 6
Long run, 16 miles, 3:03:34; splits 10:17, 10:49, 10:44, 10:10, 11:22, 10:25, 11:19, 11:15, 10:57, 10:42, 10:55, 11:44, 14:41, 12:55, 12:45, 12:06
Miles for the week: 32.5 (5/8/3.5/16)
Weight about 116?
I have my heart rate monitor back but I haven’t been using it… everything except racking up the miles has fallen by the wayside!

We drove back from NYC so I didn’t get out the door until 5:15pm, hoping that I’d have enough light for most of the run. A golden, beautiful evening. Passed two turkey buzzards in a field, and got very close to some deer (a doe right in the road who didn’t notice me until I was about 30 feet away; two deer in a steep field with their heads down in the grass eating–so all I could see was their bodies–who never noticed me at all). Last of the wildflowers: the tallest goldenrods and the brightest purple asters with yellow centers. Negative experience: as a pickup truck passed me on 858, the jerk tossed a handful of used tissues and other trash out of the window. Hard to believe it was intentionally aimed at me (that would be really awful), but littering makes me furious. I passed a little cluster of cars, people, and dogs on Bowbridge Road but the people weren’t very friendly (which is unsual around here!). It got really dark in the wooded areas even when there was still light in the sky, but the dusk closed in long before I was near home. The last few miles were pitch dark, to the extent that I had to stare at my feet when vehicles approached so as not to be blinded by the headlights. Not ideal running conditions, but it reminded me of my delight as a child in feeling that I could do without a flashlight on country roads. I used to boast of being able to see in the dark like an animal, but really it’s just that there is almost always enough starlight to be able to distinguish the light surface of the road from the dark verges, after one’s eyes have adapted to the darkness.

Overall, a hard run; since the first 16 miler, I’ve been struggling. The pain in my right thigh and left knee abate after the first few miles and merge into low-key soreness and stiffness, but there’s no more “hey, this isn’t that hard!”

Wednesday September 8
Short run, 5 miles, 54:07; splits 10:55, 10:26, 10:51, 11:16, 10:39.

An evening run after work, since my long run was Monday. The tail end of Hurricane Frances was coming through–rain, sometimes heavy, and lots of wind. The combination made lovely patterns on the pond at Canada Road and on Stanley Lake. I thought about how I’ve been doing much more dissasociation as a mental strategy now (thinking about other things than running, letting my mind wander from the here and now), compared to the early part of training when association was easier (focusing just on my steps and breathing). I can definitely see that association is better for form and improvement, as the pros say.

Thursday September 2
Medium run, 8 miles, 1:29:25; splits 10:27, 12:09, 11:36, 10:45, 10:09, 11:24, 11:12, 11:44

As the miles add up I am really starting to feel leg soreness. Specifically, my right thigh has been hurting for quite a while–a nagging pain that I can’t pinpoint. Not in all positions, but when I walk it hurts. A library patron who’s a marathoner and has been offering me her advice told me that road camber can be a real problem (which I’ve heard from other sources too). I can’t avoid it, but starting on this run I’ve been trying to run on the right on the dirt roads. On the paved roads it’s too dangerous. I hope it will balance out.

An overcast morning. I saw the same red fox from a few weeks ago, just across the road from where it was before. As I passed the first farm on Moran Road, there were steers loose on the verge. One stuck its tail up and thundered past me. I debated whether I should call the people when I got home, although that would be more than an hour later. Further along I heard a dog barking and someone shouting in the woods, along with general commotion sounds, so it was probably whoever owned them trying to round them up again. Got passed by the first schoolbus of the season–I like waving at the drivers, who always seem friendly. On Stanley Lake road, there was a showy but small white flower growing in the ditch which I couldn’t find in wildflower guides. It must be some escaped garden plant, a chrysanthemum/aster relative. Something that looked just like a wooly bear caterpillar crossed the road, but it was reddish brown on the ends with a very tiny black saddle (instead of vice versa).

Friday September 3
Short run, 3.75ish miles, 34:56; splits 9:22, 9:04, 9:05–bogus times?!?

I was in Brooklyn (NYC, must specify because there is a Brooklyn in Susquehanna County PA!) for the weekend helping out my brother. There’s a track in a park near his aparment and that’s where I went. Terrible, terrible run, and the first I’ve abandoned part-way through. It was hot & humid; I hadn’t had enough sleep; the track was in full sun and I not only forgot my hat but also stupidly turned down Matthew’s offer of sunscreen; I wasn’t properly hydrated; I was stressed; it was unfamiliar territory; and I hate tracks. I would rather run a 10 mile loop than 5 miles on a track any day (twenty laps of the exact same thing! bleah!)

The first mile or so went OK but as I got hotter & started to realize all the things I had done wrong, and as I remembered how incredibly dull tracks are (even a busy one like this, with lots of people to watch) and the prospect of 16 more laps loomed, it got harder and harder. It didn’t help that my Forerunner beeped for the first mile at 3 3/4 laps. If I had really been running flat miles in well under 10 minutes I would have been happy, but when my Forerunner is clearly giving me wrong data it’s very discouraging.

So I started doing “runner’s math”–counting down laps, figuring I could leave the track at 18 laps & run the rest of the way back to Matthew’s apartment (even though it would be on concrete sidewalks or in traffic)–but I was feeling worse and worse. I started to get the sinking feeling in my stomach that means “what I have I gotten myself into?” My legs kept arguing with my brain, insisting on walking if I lost focus for a second. I told myself that toughing it out would be good practice for marathon day. Only five miles, for cripes’ sake! But then I started to think that if I was dehydrated and gave myself even a touch of heat exhaustion, that would be really bad. I was there in NYC to do my brother a favor and I needed to be 100% if possible. I was away from the comforts of home and wouldn’t be able to recuperate properly if I needed to. It *wasn’t* marathon day, and making a short run shorter wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I finally decided that in this case discretion was the better part of valor and I left the track at 3.25 “miles” (according to the Forerunner) and ran back to the apartment. I’m not sure how long the run really was–probably closer to 3 miles total than to 4.

I grew up in Manhattan and I noticed that the grass in this park had the same scent I associate with Central Park–sort of a penetrating sweetness. It’s probably the white clover, but I don’t know why it’s so much more prominent in NYC parks than in our own lawn. Myabe because it’s crushed under so many feet, possibly combined with something in the gritty soil?