Training During A Pandemic

What a strange time we live in.

As some of you may know, I work for an endurance events company based in Boston. In mid-March, we had our first wave of event cancellations, followed very suddenly by orders to bring our work laptops home and to begin working from home indefinitely. Well, I had about one lovely day of working from the comfort of my dining room table before I received the news that I had been furloughed, along with approximately 85% of my coworkers.

So here we are – it is now mid-May and the beginnings of spring are just beginning to show in New England. I’ve been fluctuating between moments of calm, enjoying the extra time to myself and moments of significant anxiety (When will life go back to normal? Will I still have a job when this ends?)

The only bright side in this whole horrible pandemic has been running for me. And while it might seem trivial, training has been the one thing keeping me sane through this sh*t show. See, in January of 2020, I ran a paltry 52 miles total for the whole month. In February, I managed to increase that to 87 miles total.

Training MileageWhile there’s nothing wrong with those numbers, I remember feeling so deeply stressed out about work that it was incredibly difficult to find the motivation to crawl out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to go out for a run. Nothing was terribly wrong at the time, but I wasn’t exactly happy either.

Post Run CoffeeContrast that to the past few months. In March, I ran 120 miles. In April, I hit 175. In the past four weeks, I’ve averaged about 39 miles a week. I’ve been running about 6 days a week with one rest day. I’ve been strength training at home (thank goodness for the collection of dumbbells and various gym equipment pieces I’ve amassed over the years!). My body has been feeling strong and resilient (even when my mind feels the opposite). My creaky Achilles tendon has been happily managing the increased load and my injury-prone hamstring has been fully present and engaged at speed work sessions.

In addition to all of the training, I’ve also had more time on my hands to think about my goals and what I want to do with my life. One of those things is run coaching. I’ve been interested in coaching ever since working with a coach myself (I credit my coach with helping me knock 20 minutes off my marathon PR, taking if from a 3:53 to a 3:32). Before all of this pandemic stuff started happening, I had even signed up for a coaching certification course through Road Runners of America. I’ll be taking that seminar in July, though whether it will be in-person or virtual, remains to be seen. I have had plenty of time to review all the various running and training books I’ve purchased though, and it’s been fun to educate myself on the science, physiology and various schools of thought regarding running performance.

Books about RunningI know many people have taken up running since the pandemic begun, as it’s one of the simplest forms of exercise, not requiring anything more than a good pair of sneakers and an open road. While I’m not an expert, I do have lots of experience and a lot of time on my hands. 😊 So, if you have questions about starting a running program, good sneakers to run in, or anything else marginally related to road-racing, please reach out or leave a comment! Hope you are all staying safe and sane during this pandemic. Depending on what the next few weeks bring, I may be checking in here more, sharing life updates and training tips. Stay healthy and happy running!

Wearing a mask while running

The mask I use while running.


Getting Ready to Run

Hello.  This is still Marie.  Nora continues to be super busy with work and the final weeks of training for the Baystate Marathon. But you will hear from her soon!

Meanwhile a little update from me.  By this time next week, I am hoping to have run for the first time in 3 years. I’m excited but also a little scared. I know I am starting this process again from the very bottom rung.  Even lower, I guess because I do not have that 40 year old body I had at the beginning of my running journey.

When I started running, I would run a mile from my house and then walk the mile back.  For a while, I was pretty happy with this. Then one day, after the mile run, I said to myself, “I’m a healthy 40 year old woman, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to run 2 miles…” So I did. I worked my way up slowly, but some of the milestones are still very vivid. Like the day I ran my first 8 miles, doing this run on the Battle Road in Minuteman Park. I finished at the visitors center overlooking the beautiful garden and the Old North Bridge. For me, that day it felt like I had finished a marathon and I texted my husband, “you are married to a freakin’ Amazon Queen!”

It was soon after that that Nora expressed an interest in running longer distances – possibly even a half-marathon. And thus began our crazy love affair with running – and this blog.

So we will see how things go as I try to get back to something which had become a pretty big part of my life. In the meanwhile, I am still playing around with the ten or so programs my Boston Scientific rep made up for me. I am trying to see which ones get me through the night, (still some issues with this) and which ones are good for sitting for extended periods of time. I am trying to get used to the sensations, and even though it feels weird at times, there are also periods where I completely forget about it.

So the journey begins: I will keep meeting with Boston Scientific rep to tweak the programs, and I will keep in touch with their patient ambassadors for info and encouragement. And I will try to stay positive and I will be sure to celebrate all the milestones – even the little ones. Because I am still an Amazon Queen…

My friend and artist Eileen F. painted this picture of me walking on our trip to Cuba last fall… so I am on the road…


Silver Linings

After all this, I’m not sure I want to do the whole silver linings thing, and I swear if I hear one more person say “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, I might scream! I read a ton of books about the power of positive thinking, meditated, tapped (yes, there is such a thing, it’s called EFT, for anyone interested) and generally made myself crazy trying to will myself to be healthy. It did not work.

But along the road to my SPS, there were a few bright spots, so I think it makes sense to mention these….

My new friend Cindy. She only lives around the corner from me, and though she is also a runner, we belonged to different running clubs and so we had never run together.
We saw each other at races and began to chat, mostly because our husbands knew each other. (Also, I had seen her running stats on line and didn’t think I could ever run with her.  She is super fast and I was a little intimidated.)
Then we met again, as we tried to get involved in the local Achilles chapter. The group walked, because I couldn’t run, and we got to chatting. That led to meeting a few times for coffee, and then an occasional movie. That “occasional” movie ended up turning into a Friday night dinner/Netflix tradition, and since Cindy’s husband works nights, it’s perfect for a girls’ night in! Many nights we never turned on the tv, or turned it on pretty late because we talked so much over our bottle of wine.  There were many world issues to be solved and we discovered we had so much more in common than running.
(Disclaimer: I did not drink and drive. Even though she is only a mile away, my husband Jim, or Uber Jim as we came to call him, always waited patiently for my call in order to come and get me…)
Over the last three of years, these Friday nights have meant a lot to me.

And then there is Penny. Feeling down for so long I had really been craving some “pet therapy”. From my recent post about Brady, you guys know we still had a wonderful pet but we had always been a two-dog family, and I was really craving a dog that I could call mine. After Nora ran the Chicago marathon for Paws New England, I started cruising their instagram feed… I found Penny, who was called Gayle at the time. She was a three year old mutt and they said she was gentle and very affectionate and cuddly. I filled out the paperwork and hoped for the best and two weeks later she was ours. I was eight weeks out of my first surgery and things were not improving.

Penny joined me on my walks and on my bed, the first of our dogs to ever be allowed to do that. She was a soothing presence when I woke in pain in the middle of the night and my thoughts began to spiral into sad places. Her breathing, or touching her paw, helped. After my second surgery, my husband had to take over the dog walking duties and Penny was fine with that. I wanted her to be “ mine” but basically she loves everyone and that’s a good thing.  She is a sweetie and I’m anxious to see if she will make a good running partner!

And lastly there’s my husband, Jim, though this maybe doesn’t fall into the category of silver linings: he drove me to so many appointments, took notes and asked questions when I sat there close to tears, my mind a muddle of fear and despair. He tied my shoes, walked Penny when I couldn’t, and didn’t complain about eating so much frozen food because I couldn’t stand long enough to cook.

So now that my pain is lessening, I know I am on track to getting my life back…maybe not the exact same life, but that’s ok, because in my new life, I have Cindy and Penny.

My birthday at Cindy’s house!

Penny
Meeting Penny

Lessons in Aging and Mortality

So this is my second post since my surgery. I’m about 2 and a half weeks out and have met with my Boston Scientific representative once to work a bit on the programs. I would say things are pretty good though we have yet to find a program that will get me through the night.

But in the meanwhile, our 12 year old lab, Brady, began to fail and we finally made the difficult decision that it was time for that dreaded visit to the vet.  But it got me thinking…

Just about three years ago, Brady and I had a little adventure. (I was already in pain but it hadn’t turned into the 24/7 nightmare that would start a few days later.) Brady was a big lab, but despite that he was afraid of his shadow.

So on this day, I took him out for a bit of exercise. We were at a pond and we were walking because Brady, who was 9 then, or 49 in dog years, could not chase the tennis ball the way he had in the past. Instead we walked around the pond and I would throw the ball gently just a few yards ahead so he didn’t have to go into an all out sprint to retrieve it. He was up ahead of me, and on this particular day, he decided to be brave – and to check out the little black furry creature he could see up ahead. As I got closer, I made out the white stripe and I began to run- but it was too late.  As I got to him, he was rubbing his eyes and foaming at the mouth as he tried to rub off the skunk spray! The skunk “hightailed” it into the woods nearby. I cursed; the one time he decided to be brave!

We drove home and my son and husband and I tried all kinds of shampoos to get him clean. For months, he still smelled skunky if he got wet, and my car smelled for a year!

But the reason I’m writing about this is because this incident- and his final day with us just yesterday kind of bookmark my three year saga with my back.
And it made me realize he kind of grew old with me, and I with him…. he was “49” and I was 57 when this all started…  three years later he would be 84 in dog years …and in a sense we grew old together…
When I would watch him struggle to get up, and I felt like crap , too, I would tell him, “I know honey, getting old sucks”. Because until this thing with my back felled me, I had felt as good as any 57 year old woman who can run a 4:15 marathon, so pretty damn good.

Brady was not a cuddly dog, but one morning when I burst into tears, he came over to me and stuck his face into mine, which was both out of character and comforting.
When he couldn’t chase the tennis ball anymore, we would take him to a local pond, because he could still swim, and we would toss the ball and sip our ice coffees watching him do the thing he loved most. Swim. We managed to do this up until last year, because at that point he could no longer get into the car on his own – and of course, I could not lift him.
I feel like I grew old with him and by the time we realized he was just too uncomfortable too much of the time, he had shown me how to age with grace.  There were never any “f-bombs” when he tumbled down the 2 stairs into the yard because he was losing control of his legs. He was always happy to eat, and always ready to go out for even those short walks up and down our dead end street. There was never a snarl or a whimper when he struggled to get up, though he had to have been in pain.
He was sweet and gentle and happy in all the good moments, and I bet he didn’t dwell too much on the bad ones – the way I have for the past 3 years.

So even though I now have this new Spinal Cord Stimulator, which I hope means that I will- at least for a few years yet – not feel so old and decrepit, I hope I can hang onto the lessons in aging that Brady taught me.
Age with grace…don’t forget to eat… and when the time comes to leave this home, trust that there will be tennis balls in the new one…


Hello Again

Hello!

So much time has passed since I last updated the blog – just about a year. Between life, work, travel, school, and running – this blog got put on the backburner. And while I am still running and training as much as ever, most of my updates are currently on Instagram. But, my mom has a lot of updates she has been wanting to share for quite some time. Below is an update from the other half of 2 Generations Running! Stay tuned for many more.

 


Hello out there. I know I haven’t written here in a long time. But I think I am finally coming down the final stretch of what I think will be the longest marathon I will ever run: 35 months of chronic pain, which will hopefully end now that I have my spinal cord stimulator implanted. That’s roughly 12 seasons, 35 full moons, and 7 dental check ups, and no matter how I measure it, it’s just too long.

It’s impossible to say how these last three years have affected me. It doesn’t scratch the surface to say it was a roller coaster of hope and despair….when there was hope it was short lived and rather than writing about how badly things were going, I thought it was better to stay quiet, to wait for a day when things might really seem to be moving in a good direction.

And now so much time has passed it seems weird to come back to this blog. Especially as I don’t know if I will ever be much of a runner again.

But Boston Scientific, the maker of my SCS, has a wonderful program of patient volunteers who share their experiences with prospective patients. My two Patient Ambassadors were extremely helpful and encouraging, and their stories fill me with hope and the real belief that this could work for me.

So, I’m hoping Nora won’t have to change the name of the blog just yet!

So I will start to post again, and try to chronicle a recovery I never thought would be so long in the making. And maybe, some time down the road, Nora and I will get back to checking off those states, and we will run that half  marathon in Alaska, which I had planned to celebrate my 60th birthday. And if I’m 61 or 62, or 70 when we get there, I guess it doesn’t matter – as long as I am finally moving forward.

First Half Marathon | 2 Generations Running

(Photo from our very first half marathon ever!)


Chicago Marathon 2018 Race Recap

Here we are, a week out from Chicago and I am finally sitting down to write my recap. To make a long story short, I didn’t achieve my goal. After running 3:32 in less than ideal conditions in Hyannis, I felt ready to break 3:30 and that’s what I had trained for this whole cycle, but unfortunately I didn’t get it done on race day. But I’ll get to that.

Chicago BoundI flew out Friday afternoon and thankfully had no issues with my flight. I landed in Chicago around 3 and quickly Ubered to my hotel downtown (I stayed at the Congress Plaza hotel directly across from Grant Park and highly recommend it). I dropped my bags quick as I could and walked a couple blocks up the street to the Hilton where I was able to catch a free shuttle to the expo. There were multiple shuttle pick-up points throughout downtown, which I thought was an awesome touch on the organizers’ part.

After picking up my bib without incident, I wandered the expo, picking up some great swag and bumping into a few friends who were also running. With Chicago being my first World Major (and big city marathon), I was really excited to get some good gear at this one and the expo did not disappoint.

I got a late dinner with friends that evening and then crashed pretty hard back at the hotel.

Saturday came bright and early with some pretty intense thunderstorms. Thankfully, they seemed to have passed by the time I went out for my 20 minute shakeout run, but it did make me nervous about the weather for Sunday and whether the start would end up being delayed if there were storms. After my shakeout, I met up with the other Oiselle Volee members who were in town at a nearby Panera. I ended up sitting across from Allie Kieffer there, and LOVED getting to chat with her a bit about marathon training and her build to NYC (Allie is a professional runner who came in 5th at New York last year).

Oiselle Volee at Chicago Marathon(Allie is the one in the middle holding the baby – haha, that’s not her baby!)

In the afternoon, I went to a live podcast recording hosted by Bibrave, featuring Peter Sagal and Meb kKeflezighi. This ended up being SO entertaining (love Peter Sagal!) and the perfect activity to keep me off my feet and relaxing.

Oiselle VoleeThe Oiselle group who attended the podcast recording!

Chicago Marathon Bibrave live podcastAfter that, I just headed back to my hotel to relax and get ready for the big day. I watched some Netflix, laid my things out and generally did a good job keeping things very low-key. Going into the marathon, I knew I was going to be tempted to do ALL of the meet-ups and special events that were going on with the race, so I wanted to make a concerted effort to relax and do everything I could to ensure a good race day. Mission accomplished on that front at least.

That night, I read and tried to go to sleep around 9:45 or so. Unfortunately, as soon as I laid down, I started thinking about the race and getting excited. Despite using every trick in the book to try to fall asleep, my body wasn’t having it. I knew my sleep had been pretty good leading up to the race so I wasn’t overly stressed about it, but it was more annoying than anything else. All told, I think I got about 3 hours of sleep MAX that night. It was definitely the worst I’ve ever slept before a race, so maybe it did affect me but it’s hard to say.

FINALLY, my alarm was going off and it was time to get up. I got ready in my room, alternating between drinking coffee and Maurten. I had my bagel and peanut butter which I had brought with me and I was ready to go. Team Paws was doing a bag check/breakfast for team members right in the hotel I was staying in, so I popped down and dropped my bag off. This was much nicer than trying to deal with the craziness of the race bag check.

Team Paws Chicago MarathonI used the indoor bathrooms a couple times and wanted to use it ONE last time before heading out to the corrals, but the lines suddenly became INSANELY long in the hotel. The wave 1 runners for Team Paws were on their way out, so I headed out with them thinking I could just do a quick porta-potty stop before jumping in my corral (this was about 6:30 am, the race started at 7:30).

I should have known this would be cutting it too close for another bathroom stop. The lines for the porta-potties were INSANE. And even though there were a lot of them, the line barely moved. At 7:15, I heard someone say behind me that they closed the corrals at 7:20, so I immediately jumped out of line and headed to my corral (E – the last one in the first wave).

At this point, the crowds were PACKED. We were all standing on top of each other and people were jostling for position, but it was impossible to move very far. I tried to relax and stay calm, but mostly I was freaking out about the fact that I hadn’t been able to use the bathroom. I debated whether to stop for a porta-potty on course, but I knew that would probably add at least 1 minute (probably 2) to my time and I didn’t want to risk that and possibly miss my goal. I figured I’d give it a few miles to see if the feeling went away.

Chicago Marathon(Picture of the start from Saturday, hence the lack of runners)

FINALLY, the race began and my corral began to creep towards the front. It took a good 15 minutes for us to finally reach the start chute and actually cross the line. As we started, I thought to myself, “Here we go. 26.2 miles.”

The first few miles ticked by quickly. My coach had advised me to use the manual lap function on my GPS watch since the tall buildings and bridges completely throw GPS watches out of whack in Chicago. I was supposed to be around 8:10 – 8:15 for the first 10k. I clicked off the first mile in 8:06, followed by 8:26 and then 8:09.

I felt great. I was so excited that after MONTHS and MONTHS of hard work and anticipation, I was finally running the freaking Chicago Marathon. The spectators were amazing. Even though it was cool (low 60s) with spitting rain showers, the crowds were out and they were cheering.

(I was too focused to notice and/or smile in a SINGLE race photo. Oh well…)

I tried to settle in, knowing the plan was to pick up the pace a bit after the first 10k. According to the Chicago tracking app, I averaged 8:10/mile for the first 10k. On the fast side of what my coach had prescribed, but still within reason.

Miles 7 through 11, I was aiming for 8 – 8:05ish pace. I ran 7:52, 8:02, 8:02, 8:04, and 7:58. Pretty good. I was running relaxed and soaking in all the cheers I was getting for Team Paws along the course. I particularly loved the woman who was standing with her two dogs, who yelled out to me “We love Team Paws! They gave me these two!” I focused on sucking down my gels every 3-4 miles. I think around this point, I may have started using a mantra I had heard from Amy Cragg that I really liked – “I breathe in strength, I breathe out weakness.” I was still feeling good, I was more just trying to focus on my breath.

After mile 11, it was time to start getting more serious. The goal was 7:50-7:55 pace for the next 4 miles. I ran 7:58, 7:54, 7:51, 7:56 and 7:53. I checked my overall time as I came through the halfway point and I was at 1:45:56. A little behind where I wanted to be, and I definitely felt a little rush of nerves. On top of that, I could feel some light fatigue in my quads. I knew it was WAY too early to be feeling the miles, and that was my first inkling that maybe it wasn’t going to be my day.

It was after mile 16 that things began to fall apart more rapidly. I was supposed to be running 7:45ish pace, but I hit a 7:57 and then 8:06 for mile 18 and it was pretty much at that point that I realized sub 3:30 was not going to happen. I was using my mantras and trying to stay strong, but I just knew I didn’t have any more 7:45ish miles in my legs and I didn’t want to blow up with 8 more miles to go.

To my credit, I didn’t freak out. I decided to ease up and to try to have fun and enjoy the crowds and the experience as much as I could to the finish. I was NOT going to let myself walk, but I would run slower. Mile 19 was 8:09, followed by 8:49, 8:48, 8:49, 9:01, 8:50, 8:49 and 9:01 for mile 26. I wish I had been able to kick a little more at the end, but I was having this awful high chest cramp that wouldn’t go away.

After crossing the finish line, the emotions started to wash over me. 3:37 is a great marathon time and definitely not something to be ashamed of, but I just felt so sad to miss my PR and the BQ. On top of that, my legs were in HORRIBLE pain and the damn finishing chute was so long and they kept yelling at us to keep moving forward. All I wanted to do was sit down but there was nowhere to sit and I was getting cold and my bag was back with the Team Paws bags at the hotel.

In the hours after finishing, I really thought that this might be my last marathon. I couldn’t get over how much my legs hurt (and how much the last 8 miles hurt). To devote so many months to training and to miss my goal just sucked. Now that I’ve had a little time to reflect, I know I’m not done with the marathon. I’m going to take the spring off to focus on shorter stuff like the half marathon and the 10k – and any other race that sounds fun. 🙂 I also want to focus more on strength training so that I can really get ahead of the Achilles and hamstring issues that tend to plague me during marathon cycles. Next fall, I hope to be ready to take another crack at 26.2 miles.

And I would be remiss not to give everyone who reads this blog and supports me a HUGE THANK YOU. If you donated to my fundraising efforts, I am so grateful. I ended up raising $1800, $300 more than my required minimum. If you cheered for me or tracked me, THANK YOU. All of the positive vibes and support I felt throughout this training cycle was incredible.

Team Paws Chicago MarathonMarathon #5 is in the books!


20 Days to Chicago!!!!

Holy crap,

I can’t believe how fast this snuck up. In typical fashion, life got REALLY busy and I haven’t written a blog post in ages. But I’m back. 🙂

Chicago TrainingAs this training cycle begins to wind down, I don’t 100% know what to think. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster. In the time I’ve been training for Chicago I encountered:

  • an achy Achilles (seems like this is likely to keep popping up if I don’t stick to my PT exercises).
  • TWO hamstring scares – one on each leg.
  • a cold that wiped me out during my peak weeks of training.

But I’ve also run the most consistent and highest mileage ever during a marathon training cycle.

Chicago BuildLook at that consistency! That steady build of miles! According to my Garmin, in the past 4 weeks, I’ve averaged 48.2 miles/week. I’ve had one week over 50 miles already and I’m set to run one more big week this week before the real taper begins.

Before Hyannis, I didn’t have time to accumulate this many weeks of steady training (Hyannis was in late Feb looking at the chart). So while I have felt more fatigued, I’m also really excited because I KNOW I’m stronger.

In this cycle, I’ve run two 20-milers and two 18-milers. The first 18 went GREAT. I remember finishing and feeling like, “hey, I bet I could easily go another 2 and hit 20 miles no problem.” The middle 8 miles were supposed to be moderate, about MP + 15 seconds, getting faster towards the end. I hit those splits solidly. Two weeks later, I ran the first 20-miler, a doozy of a workout with a lot of MP miles and faster. I can honestly say, I went into it excited and ready to work. The first two sections of the workout went well, in that I was hitting my goal splits, BUT I could tell that I was working really hard to do so. I was supposed to run 7:30 and 7:15 pace for 2 miles and 1 mile respectively after that, and I came NOWHERE close, slowing down pretty dramatically.

A day or two later, I came down with a pretty rough cold. In hindsight, I think maybe it was already beginning to affect me which was why I struggled so much on that run. The cold lasted longer than I expected and made everything feel really hard – even easy little 6 mile runs. THANKFULLY, I think I’m finally on the mend from that.

All of this to say – that no, this training cycle hasn’t been perfect, but looking back, I do think it’s been really good. During my cold, I think I got a little depressed that everything was feeling so hard and I didn’t know what to think. Now, I can honestly say that I’m excited again. I’m ready to run the streets of Chicago and experience my first World Marathon Major! Haha, it’s definitely going to be different than all of the small-town marathons I’ve run before.

Hyannis MarathonLoved Hyannis, but not exactly many spectators out there!

Oh, and speaking of Marathon Majors – today I get to submit my qualifying time for Boston! My time of 3:32:01 puts me right on the bubble of whether or not I’ll actually get to run in 2019, so honestly it kind of feels like I’m entering a race lottery! I thought I would feel panicky about it, but I honestly don’t. I’d love to run Boston in 2019, but if it doesn’t happen then that’s ok too. If I don’t get in, at least it means I won’t have to train for another marathon through a New England winter! 🙂