Marine Corps Marathon

The Lottery is Open

For the first time since 2004, the Marine Corps Marathon is using a lottery system for registration. As of today, the lottery is open, and will remain so until March 15 in order to give runners plenty of time to decide whether or not they want to throw their hats into the ring. It makes me sort of sad to see the MCM going the way of the lottery, since for a long time it was one of the few big marathons left that you could register for without having to qualify or get lucky. But given how hard it’s gotten to register in the past couple years, the move makes sense.

Photo on 2010-11-23 at 18.58

Post-race spoils in 2010.

I ran my last marathon in 2010, and it was a rough one. Since then, I’ve registered for them, but backed out of every single one. I can’t even remember anymore what I planned to do or when it was. I think the last time I signed up for a marathon was in 2012, when I planned to run the MCM. I grew up outside of Washington, so it’s a race I’ve always wanted to do. I got several weeks into my training and struggled through many a long run before I just sort of fell apart and realized that the race just wasn’t going to happen. With summer temperatures and the humidity, my running was just miserable. Mentally, I just wasn’t that into it. Ultimately, I decided not to do the race. I also decided I didn’t want to run marathons anymore. 

Fast forward a couple years, and I’ve once again experienced that desire to just hit the road and run until complete collapse (which, admittedly, would happen to me after roughly 8 miles at this point. But hey, that’s what training is for!). I’ve found myself missing the long runs, hour upon hour of putting one foot in front of the other. There’s something so pure and simple about training for and running a marathon, and the whole process leaves you with a feeling that you’ve been cleaned from the inside out. It scares me to say it, but I think I want to run another 26.2-mile race.

So when I heard that the MCM lottery was open, I went immediately to the website to find out more about the process. Here are some important facts: you’ve got 21 days to enter; you don’t pay any sort of fee until you register; race registration is $110, which is really reasonable given the cost of a lot of marathons. I almost entered immediately, but I stopped myself. I called it quits with marathons because they stopped being enjoyable. Instead of 16 weeks of highs and lows, the training period was just one long low. Runs would be preceded by tears and mental anguish. I never felt confident enough in myself to have any certainty that I would make it through my next long run. I got so wrapped up in the fear of failing that I put myself in a position where I couldn’t even try. I don’t want to go through all of that torture again.

What’s funny about all this is that if I enter the MCM lottery, there’s no guarantee that I’ll get in. I mean, that’s what makes it a lottery. But that hasn’t stopped me from getting nervous about it! If I enter and I do get in, there’s nothing keeping me from deciding not to register after all. And that hasn’t stopped me from getting nervous about it, either! Basically, I’m worrying about whether I should commit to the possibility of committing to running a race. I don’t think deciding whether or not to enter the lottery is supposed to be the hard part!

Fortunately, I have 21 days to think about this–three whole weeks to analyze the minute details of the pros and cons that accompany entering a race lottery to determine if you might get to register!

Hmm…Is it possible that I’m being a little silly about this?

Sunday Run-down: September 26- October 2

This horse is fitted with a horse collar to be...

October. Image via Wikipedia.

Okay, seriously, how is it possible that it’s October already?  Where did September go?!  I guess it doesn’t really matter–it’s gone, and it’s not coming back.

This past week I spent a lot of time thinking about the Marine Corps Marathon (I know, still!).  Everyone’s comments on my post about it seemed to make so much sense, and with every one I read, I’d think, “Yeah, she’s right, I should/shouldn’t do it!”  Either fortunately or unfortunately, though, today I was struck down by a case of emilie-stomach and I ended up having to forego any running as a result.  I wish I had some idea about where this nausea comes from, since I feel like that might help me to figure out what to do about it.  Needless to say, I was unable to run 18 miles.  I didn’t even feel up to the 10 miles I had on my calendar as an alternative to the 18-miler (and also as training for the Philadelphia half-marathon if I decided to drop the MCM).  So I guess the decision is made: I will not be running the Marine Corps Marathon this year, and that’s that.  At this point I just think it would be unreasonable and irresponsible of me to continue acting as though it were a possibility.  And I feel fine about this decision.  My only regret is that I didn’t make my mind up soon enough to transfer my bib to someone who really wants to do the race.

At any rate, before I ended up feeling miserable today, I had a pretty good week of running and thought I’d be on target to hit my mileage goal, in spite of having stomach problems on Friday afternoon.  Let’s have a look.

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 3 miles

Wednesday: rest

Thursday: 3 miles, 60 minutes yoga

Friday: sick

Saturday: 7.5 miles

Sunday: sick

For a while there, I wasn’t having too much gastrointestinal trouble, but it looks as though those issues are back.  Hopefully this week they’ll go on hiatus or something, and leave me alone so that I can get in some quality running time.  I can now pretty much commit myself to half-marathon training, which I’m excited about because I’ve designed my own training plan (which I’ll share some time this week).  Also, now that it’s October I’ve started my next 30-day challenge, and I’ll be telling you more about that soon as well.  With luck, this month will be a good one–cooler temperatures and less humidity always seem to make for better running, right?

Do you have any plans or goals for the week and/or month ahead?

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Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?

Marine Corps Marathon

Image via Wikipedia

This past Sunday I got all my long run gear together and headed out to Central Park in an attempt to conquer 18 miles.  I got through one, and then I gave up.  I was already drenched, nothing felt right, and mentally I think I’d given up before I even got to the top of my first hill.  The humidity was between 75 and 80%, and the temperature, while not super high, was probably in the low to mid 80s, maybe the high 70s.  It was miserable, and so was I.

By the time I got back home, I’d made up my mind: I would not be running the Marine Corps Marathon.  A week ago, I’d decided that I could actually do it, that I wouldn’t have to drop out of the race after all, and that even though I would do it slowly, I would still run those 26.2 miles.  At this point, I have no idea where I stand.

I originally registered for the MCM in 2010, but decided to defer my entry when I realized that running both the Marine Corps and the Philadelphia marathons was a bit ambitious.  I’ve wanted to run this course for a long time: I grew up right outside of Washington, D.C., and running through that area means a lot to me.  The idea of it makes me feel connected to my family, including my maternal grandparents, both of whom passed away in recent years.  At this point, I’d say the race is more sentimentally significant to me than it is an athletic goal or achievement.

Between now and the marathon, I could potentially do long runs of 18, 20, and 18 again before beginning my taper.  But none of that changes the fact that I’m probably pretty severely undertrained at this point.  I know people who’ve gone into marathons without doing more than a 13-mile long run, but do I want to be one of those people?  Could I be one of those people?  Just because they exist doesn’t mean that my body can do the same thing.

I keep wondering what it is that made my training go south (and why it’s gone south more than once in the past few years), and I think that while part of it has to do with approaching the whole thing in the wrong way, a big part of it has to do with how much I am still struggling to fuel myself well and treat my body with the respect it deserves.  Recognizing the role my eating disorder has played in the process of preparing for this and previous races makes me want to show it up by doing the marathon.  Deep down, though, I know that that’s not really the way the problem needs to be addressed, let alone solved.  At least I can take comfort in the fact that I have finally managed to identify how much of a negative effect my ED has on my running.

I guess what it boils down to is the fact that I have no idea what to do.  Do I let myself off the hook, lay the idea of running the marathon to rest, and start focusing on training for the Philadelphia half-marathon in November?  Or do I do what I can in the next few weeks, and show up at the starting line of the MCM fully understanding that I can always DNF if I have to, and that anything could happen?  I don’t expect to PR, and I don’t even know that I’d expect not to take walking breaks.  But I’d be putting myself at risk for injury, and possibly stressing myself out more than necessary.  Honestly, I’m stumped.

Have you ever faced a situation like this?  If you haven’t, what do you think you would do in this case?

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Let’s Pretend it’s Sunday

A calendar showing the leap year day.

Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve been feeling like time has been flying by, leaving me with little idea of where it went, and whether I was even involved in its passing. The weekend before last, I spent both Saturday and Sunday in a coaching certification run by the Road Runners Club of America, and this past weekend I was in a CPR/first aid training session for most of Saturday.  Things can get difficult when you don’t have much of a weekend twice in a row, let me tell you!  All this activity has been combined with a healthy dose of riding the old emotional roller coaster as I’ve been trying to determine whether or not I should still run the Marine Corps Marathon this year.  The week before last I had no idea; last week I had abandoned the idea entirely; and this week I’m feeling like it might be possible for me to just run it, and not race it.  It would be nice to have the experience, but it would also be pretty rough on my body.  My recent change of heart comes from the fact that I’ve been focusing on applying what I learned in the RRCA coaching class to my own running, the result of which has been one of the best weeks of running I’ve had in a while.

Shall we run it down?

Monday: rest

Tuesday: rest

Wednesday: 3 miles on my way to LUNA Chix bag watch

Thursday: 60 minutes yoga, 4 miles

Friday: rest

Saturday: 6 miles

Sunday: 16 miles

I don’t think anyone could be more surprised about that long run number than I am, especially since I’d basically given up on myself.  But those 16 miles yesterday felt really good.  I was running strong the entire time, today my body doesn’t feel nearly as beat up as it has after other long runs I’ve done, and I’m pretty sure I had a few more miles in me.  Maybe being my own little human guinea pig with my coaching is working.

How was your week in workouts?  Any major accomplishments? frustrations?  You know what to do.

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Sunday Run-Down: August 8-14

Wow, it is wet, wet, wet here in New York.  It started raining this morning, and as far as I know it hasn’t stopped all day.  There have been moments where it has let up slightly, but that’s about it.  Great day for a long run, huh?

If you’d told me on Wednesday that I would manage to get the mileage on my training schedule done for this week, I don’t think I would have believed you.  At that point, I hadn’t run a single mile and, feeling sick to my stomach, I’d gotten home from work and basically crawled into bed.  My previous week of training had been a wash, and I was starting to think maybe a marathon was just not in the cards for me after all.  But somehow I managed to pull things together.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 20 minutes of yoga

Wednesday: Rest (and a valiant effort not to throw up all over the place)

Thursday: 60 minutes of yoga

Friday: 7.5 miles (let the running begin!)

Saturday: 7.5 miles

Sunday: 14 miles

As you can see, it certainly wasn’t the most balanced week, but it all worked out.  My legs felt a bit tired on yesterday’s run, but I felt really good today.  So good, in fact, that I think I could have gone on to do more than 14 miles if I’d really wanted to.  I didn’t, though, figuring there really wouldn’t be any point in pushing it when I was doing what my training plan called for.  Even though I was soaked the entire time I was running, today’s long run was far and away the best one I’ve had in a while.  It was also a great confidence boost, since I’ve been feeling pretty anxious about how ready I’m going to be for the Marine Corps in October.

I’m definitely going to make sure that my mileage is spaced out a bit more evenly next week.  I mean, it worked out this time around to cram 29 miles into 3 consecutive days, but I’m not thrilled by the thought of doing that every week.  I’m also planning to do another two yoga sessions, as I’ve been seriously lacking in that department in spite of how good it feels to do it.

What are your plans for the coming week?  And what did you accomplish this week?


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I’m just going to come right out and say it: I pretty much let this week go down the toilet. Now, a lot happened that was beyond my control (I was sick Monday, Tuesday, and yesterday), but I didn’t do a great job pulling things together during the week’s remaining four days. I ran on Thursday, and attempted a run yesterday but didn’t get all that far. I had planned on doing a long run today but let myself get carried away with all-or-nothing thinking, and decided it wasn’t worth the effort since I’d already blown it for the week. Oh well.

This is the point where people usually start to say, “It sounds like you should take a break from running.” There may be some truth to that. Maybe. I think the problem is less the running and more the way I approach it (and, one could argue, many other things in my life). I’m always far too invested with the accomplishment, and it seems that because I get so focused on the end product I lose the enjoyment of the process that gets me there. Whether I keep running or stop for a while, that’s not going to change, so as far as I’m concerned I might as well keep running.  While I keep running, though, I’m going to work on addressing this attitude–and by that I mean doing more than just saying, “Oh, yeah, that’s happening”, which is how I’ve been dealing with it up until now.

The first step in this endeavor is going to be dialing things back a little bit. I’m training for a marathon, and that’s not going to change until October 30th when I cross the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon. But for the past six weeks I’ve been following a plan that I know I could downgrade from. It’s the plan I wanted to follow, and not necessarily the plan I should have followed. So from this point forward, I’m going to follow Hal Higdon‘s Novice 2 plan (previously I’d been following Intermediate 1). The next six weeks of training will look like this:

Instead of running 5 days a week, I’ll get an additional day of rest and a designated day for cross-training. Hopefully this will help me feel a little more energized, since I’ve been walking around lately feeling a little bit like a zombie.

The hardest part of taking this step down is that it hurts my pride. It’s silly, I know, but every year I set my sights on a training plan that is just slightly out of my reach, and every year I get frustrated by the fact that it ends up being a bit too much. In my weaker moments, I just want to throw my hands up, acknowledge that I’ll never improve, and give up. The rest of the time, though, I am much more in touch with why I’m running–it’s not so I can win, or even have bragging rights. I run because I enjoy it, and that’s going to be the case regardless of whether I’m running 15 miles a week or 50. And if I want to continue running, and continue enjoying it, then I’m going to have to recognize when it’s time to step back a bit. This is one of those times, and I’d rather call myself a novice than risk pushing myself too hard and resenting running as a result. So a downgrade it is.

Have you ever been in a situation like this, where you had to scale back a little bit? How did you deal with it?  

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Sunday run-down: July 11-17

Thanks for all the blood blister-related advice.  Nat insists that the blister looks smaller, but I don’t think it has really changed since it appeared lo these couple weeks ago.  Based on your comments, it seems to be pretty common to drain blood blisters, and I’m beginning to think that I should probably go that route.  It can’t be good for that blood to just be sitting there between layers of skin…can it?

Anyway, on to less disgusting matters, like this week’s mileage!  Overall, this was a much better week than the last one (thank goodness).  Here’s how it went down:

Monday: rest

Tuesday: 5+ miles with the Dashing Whippets.

Wednesday: 3.4 miles with the LUNA ladies.

Thursday: rest

Friday: 3+ miles–one of those days when I sat around for a few minutes seriously debating whether I wanted to run or not, and ended up very happy that I decided to go.

Saturday: 5 miles

Sunday: 9.4 miles, a long run victory!  This was a difficult one, let there be no doubt about that.  I ran with the Dashing Whippets again, but ended up entirely on my own after a few miles.  Ultimately, that was fine, since the rest of the group was holding a pace that I didn’t really want to run.  My priority was to get my mileage in, even if I had to run as slow as possible in order to do it.  I wore my Garmin but didn’t have it display pace, and I’m really happy to have done this run.  Unfortunately, I’m still feeling nervous about future long runs.  I guess I’ll try not to worry too much about them, though.  Worrying isn’t going to do me any good.

Sunday was the only time I wore my Garmin.  Every other day this week, I ran without it.  I think deciding to take a break from it has been really good for me to far.  I’ve had more runs where I felt immersed in the run itself and able to let go of worrying about my pace; overall, I’ve been able to relax a lot more and enjoy the act of running while paying attention to how my body is feeling.

One thing I’ve started really thinking about this week is cross-training, especially when it comes to strengthening exercises.  In previous years of training I’ve really neglected cross-training, and since I’m still in the early weeks of training for the marathon, I think I probably still have time to incorporate some moves that could help me to strengthen my body and help me to run better.  I know my core and legs could definitely benefit, and some upper body work couldn’t hurt.  My goal this week is to try using the ten-minute mentality to get some  strength work in.  Hopefully that will start me down the right path!

How was your week in workouts?  What are your goals for this week?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Embrace: Living Off the Clock

Even a broken clock is right twice a day

Image by slack12 via Flickr

Hello friends, and welcome to Monday evening.  After the weekend I had, it’s become to clear to me that in spite of the work I do toward maintaining a positive attitude and trying to keep on down the road of ED recovery, I still have a lot to learn.  Among those things: how to relax and go a little bit easier on myself.

Lately, everything has been a source of stress and frustration.  I’m stressed in the morning once I leave for work, I’m stressed throughout the day, and I’m stressed on my way home as I think about all the things I need to fit into a short space of time.  The things I love, like running, doing yoga, blogging, and spending time with Nat, get jumbled with everything else, transforming me into a tightly wound ball of anger and frustration.  I’m not able to get anything done for myself, and once you reach that point, it becomes nearly impossible to get anything done for anyone else.  It’s not the way I want my life to be.

Last week I wrote about how rigid I am when it comes to living by the clock; I’m so addicted that I hesitate to leave for a run without my Garmin, even though that thing sometimes annoys the living daylights out of me and can often contribute to a perfectly fine run becoming horrible just because my pace is different from what I thought it might be.  There’s value in knowing what time it is, but is  it really so important that I know exactly how much I’ve run, down to the hundredth of a mile?  Does my pace really matter so much that it should dictate whether I feel good about myself or not?  I think the answer to those two questions is the same, not to mention pretty obvious.

I got a really wonderful comment on yesterday’s post:

I just wanted to share my friend’s experience in case it turns out to help you. She also struggled with an eating disorder and is an avid runner. She said that she had to stop running except for fun — she doesn’t enter races, she doesn’t time herself or track her distances. She just gets up in the morning and goes for a run to feel the ground beneath her feet and to think about her day. She told me that running was very similar to her obsessions with food — she found that tracking time and speed, etc., was very unhealthy for her and kept her from fully recovering.

It made me realize that although I think running has helped my recovery in a lot of ways, the tracking aspect of it has often become stressful for me.  The mileage, the times, the paces…it all becomes one more way in which to evaluate myself and come up short.  And so even though I’m currently signed up for two races (and expensive ones that are hard to get into, no less), I’m going to challenge myself to embrace the idea of letting the numbers go.  I will still run the Marine Corps Marathon as well as the Philadelphia Half-Marathon, but I’ll do my best to train for both of them without my Garmin.

Now, there may be a few runs that end up in the category of exceptions, but that can’t be helped.  For the most part, I’ll rely on my knowledge of where the mile markers are so that I know that I’m doing enough mileage per week to be well-conditioned for these events.  But the focus will no longer be on my pace or the exact distance of my run.  Instead, I’m hoping that living off the clock will help me to learn how to focus on myself, and give my body what it needs.  Maybe it will be a huge disaster.  Who knows?  At least I will have tried.  I certainly don’t have anything to lose, and I might end up gaining an immeasurable amount.

Is there anything you think you could embrace that might help you eliminate a source of unnecessary stress in your life?

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Sunday Run-down: July 4-10

July: The shearing of the sheep. In the backgr...

July, as depicted in a Medieval Book of Hours. Image via Wikipedia.

In a few hours, the first full week of July will be over.  Truth be told, I’m already tired of it, July and August being my least favorite months of the year.  The heat and humidity are unbearable no matter what you do, and personally I just have a really difficult time feeling good when you break a sweat standing absolutely still.

This was also my second week of training for the Marine Corps Marathon, and although last week I was feeling strong and this week started off well, things quickly went downhill.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 3 miles

Wednesday: 5 miles with the LUNAs.

Thursday: rest

Friday: 3 very sticky, humid miles.

Saturday: 4 miles.  I’d planned on doing 5, but had felt sick and very tired throughout most of the day.  I was only able to make it through these miles by alternating walking and running.  It wasn’t a very good feeling.

Sunday: 5 miles, even though I was planning to do 9.  After yesterday, this just felt like a slap in the face.  I’m used to having a bad run, but it’s really tough when you have two back to back.  After four miles, I stopped trying to rally my mental state and just gave up.  Now that I’m back here sitting on my couch in the A/C, I feel like my body probably would have been able to handle 9, but mentally I just didn’t have it in me.  In order for my body to have done it, my head would have had to have been behind it, 100%.  There was no chance of that happening.

I can look at this week and recognize that I succeeded in a number of ways: I got out for 5 runs, I ran a total of 20 miles for the week, I managed to push myself when it was hard (in some cases, anyway).  But I also look at it and just feel discouraged.  Part of me is frustrated because it seems like no matter how much I run, I never really get stronger.  Part of me is disappointed because I don’t want to be dealing with this kind of self-doubt while I’m training for my fourth marathon (I mean, at what point does that go away?!).  Another part of me wonders if I’m just not cut out to run long distances, or possibly to run at all?  And finally, there’s a part of me that’s worried about why it’s rare that my weekends turn out well, and far more common that they turn out like this.  Why do I feel sick to my stomach so often?  Why am I so tired?  What is causing the depression I seem to be experiencing to be so much worse on the weekends than it is during the week?  I don’t know how to find answers to any of those questions.  I don’t know if it’s stress (which is what my doctor says) or something more.  But man, what I wouldn’t give to just have a few weeks, maybe a month (or is that too much to ask) where I just feel consistently good.  What a treat that would be.

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Sunday Run-down: June 27-July 3

Even though it’s been July for a couple days now, I just can’t get used to the idea that July 4th is tomorrow.  It’s weird!  June went by so quickly!  But July 4th=holiday, so I’ll take it.

Today marks the end of my first week of MCM 2011 training.  I went by Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 schedule, and I felt good.  I was considering either that training plan or the Novice 2 plan, and even though I’m hoping to stick with Intermediate 1, I figure that if I really need to, I can fall back to Novice 2.  I think having a contingency like this will work well for me–hopefully it will help me to avoid the sort of stress and anxiety that could result from missing a few days of training.

Overall, this week went really well.  My training plan calls for 5 runs a week, and even though that can sometimes seem like a lot, I feel like I’m at my best when I spread my mileage out over several days like this.  Four days of running per week is usually the minimum amount that I like–anything less than that and my mood starts to dip.  During those weeks when I’m able to fit in five runs, I feel really good.  And I think it’s worth mentioning that this week, I didn’t fall victim to my usual weekend depression.  So maybe five really is some kind of magic number.

So how did the week look?

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 3 miles

Wednesday: 3.4 miles (I had been planning on doing 5 but pulled a last minute switcheroo for LUNAChix-related reasons)

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 5.2 miles

Saturday: 8 miles

Sunday: 4.5 miles

Total: 24.1 (unless my math is way off, which is entirely possible)

I’m hoping that next week will be just as good as this one.  I don’t feel overtired, I don’t feel like it was difficult to get my miles in, and even though I wish the week had been slightly more balanced  (doing 3, 5, 3, 5, and then 8), I’m really pleased overall.  For next week, I’m hoping to get a yoga session in and get in another 5 runs.  Next week the long run increases to 9 miles, which is the longest I will have run since the Brooklyn Half, if I’m remembering correctly.  Wish me luck!

How did your week go?  How is the upcoming week looking?