Posts Tagged by fuel

Taper Tantrums

Hot flashes, restlessness, unexplained irritability and random aches and pains — signs of early menopause? The flu? Some crazy disease? Nope — I’ve just got a bad case of the Taper Tantrums.

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(Source)

Also known as taper madness, this common condition hits marathon runners all over the country several weeks before race day. Though not fatal, potential risks of the madness include: emotional angst, mental anxiety, physical stress, and (of course) driving your loved ones absolutely crazy. ;)

I’ll be honest — before heading into my taper, making it to that rest period was all I could think about. My body was tired and training was beginning to wear on me. I figured I’d welcome tapering with open arms. But this past week, the taper has overstayed it’s welcome. I’ve suddenly been hit with a bad case of the taper tantrums, and it’s not letting up. I have hot flashes at work. I feel feverish even though I don’t have a temperature. My legs are restless and yet yesterday, they felt sluggish and heavy on my 10-mile run. Worst of all, I’ve developed more aches and pains in the past few days than I’ve experienced during my entire time training. Everything hurts, especially my knees!

Logically, I know this is a good sign (well, maybe not the knee pain but I’m optimistically hoping that’s nothing serious). It’s pretty common for your body to go a little crazy when you cut back on mileage. In fact, the achy muscles and tired legs can actually be signs that your body is healing; slowly repairing itself from weeks of abuse. And I know I’m not the only runner out there dealing with these issues during the week(s) leading up to the marathon. But as always, the emotional/irrational side of my brain is often louder than the logical one, leaving me feeling stressed, anxious, and out of shape.

Obviously if I keep this up, I’m going to end up psyching myself out before I even get to that starting line. So during this final week, I’m making a pact with myself: instead of focusing on every little ache, my mysterious fever-like symptoms, and my fear of packing on extra pounds before I get to the starting line because, somehow, even though I’ve cut back on my mileage my appetite is still roaring, I am going to focus on the simple, practical things I can do to make sure I’m feeling rested for Sunday. I’ve talked about my race-week strategy before, but for the next 6 days I plan to:

1.) Drink a lot of water

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My favorite water bottle is going to be by my side at all times. And I’ll just have to think of all those extra trips to the bathroom as opportunities for much-needed stretch breaks.

2.) Eat a lot of carbs, particularly in the form of this:

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Like this delicious dish of gnocchi with pumpkin sauce inspired by this post and based off this recipe (though with a few tweaks).

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Gnocchi w/ pumpkin sauce, spinach, tomatoes, and freshly grated parm

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Carbo-loading at it’s finest

3.) And avoid eating too many sweets.

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As much as I try to convince myself otherwise, candy corn + PB is not good running fuel

4.) Spend a lot of quality time icing

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This week, I’m bringing back the ice massage. I was plagued by shin splints back in my cross country days and often used ice that had been frozen into a Dixie cup to massage them after runs. Though a little painful, this method is pretty effective and really easy. Just fill a little paper cup up with water and stick it in the freezer. When you’re ready to use, peel down the top of the cup and rub it around the sore area, applying a little bit of pressure to gently “massage” it with the ice.

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I’ve currently got an entire arsenal of these things in my freezer, and am going to use them to ice my aching knees and shins as much as possible. I’ll also be using a lot of icy hot and spending time laying on a tennis ball. Ahhh…the many joys of marathon training. ;)

5.) Get a lot of sleep

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What kind of person lets their dog sleep on their furniture?? ;)

I’m not always so great at sticking to a regular bedtime, but this week my goal is to be more vigilant about it than usual. I am aiming to get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night.

These things may not make my taper tantrums disappear, but at least they give me something productive to focus on for the next few days. My hope is that when I get to the starting line on Sunday morning, I’ll know that I’m as ready as I’ll ever be!

On a final note, I’m also putting together my marathon playlist and I’m in need of your suggestions. What are your favorite running/pump up songs? I need something to motivate me through those final miles!

Fueling the Long Run: Nathan vs. Camelbak

This morning, I did my first group long run in a very long time. Becky, Jen and I met for a 14-miler along a beautiful bike path (you can read more about our run here and here). Besides how fast the miles went by or how easily the conversation flowed, what struck me most about this run was the fact that, like our footwear, we all chose to hydrate a little differently.

Jen preferred to carry a bottle of Gatorade and stash Sharkies, etc in another pouch. Becky rocked her Camelbak, and I wore my almost-brand new Nathan Race Vest.

Jen Lauren Becky run

Proper fueling on long runs is extremely important. When you’re out running for several hours, your body loses a lot of fluid – and burns through a lot of calories. In order to keep running well (and avoid bonking!), you need to make sure you’re giving your body enough fuel. You wouldn’t try to keep driving on an empty tank of gas, would you??

The most important thing you need to do during a long run is hydrate! You may be able to survive without gels or other running snacks, but your body will quickly run out of gas if you don’t replace those lost fluids.

The way you take in those fluids, however, is really up to your own personal preferences and needs. And those preferences will also determine how you transport them. While many prefer to run with sports drinks, I am a straight-up water drinker. And I drink a lot of it. For this reason, I have always chosen to run with a pack instead of a fuel belt or hand held water bottle. (Plus, I hate the thought of having something bouncing around my waist for hours.)

I trained for 3 full marathons and 1 half with a Camelbak and was really happy with it. But when the bladder started getting old and leaky, I began researching what other options were available. Even though my Camelbak had served me well, I was in the market to try something new. Especially since I’ve had my eye on the Nathan Race Vests ever since I saw No Meat Athlete’s review a few months ago. So after a lot of debate, I finally settled on a Nathan Vest made specifically for women: the Intensity.

The verdict? It was love at first run.

Camelbak vs. Nathan

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First, it must be noted that my Camelbak is about 3.5 years old. I’m sure there have been new advances in design over the past few years that have improved the way Camelbaks fit – particularly on the bodies of female runners. However, there are some basic things about both packs that are worth comparing.

Advantages of the Camelbak

Although I’m very happy to have made the switch, I would say there are 3 advantages of my old pack over my Nathan vest.

  1. Price – A women’s Camelbak retails on Amazon for about $50 (some smaller ones are even cheaper). In comparison, my Nathan vest was $85.
  2. Mouthpiece – I love Camelbak’s signature Big Bite™ valve. It’s very easy (and fun!) to drink from while running. I could even hold it in my mouth to breathe between sips. On the other hand, Nathan’s mouthpiece takes some getting used to. You open it up like the top of a water bottle, and then have to put your teeth in the mouthpiece’s grooves and bite to get the water out.nathan mouthpiece
  3. Name – Let’s be honest, Camelbak is a little more fun to say than Nathan Race Vest. I think they could use a catchier name…just sayin’…
Advantages of the Intensity Race Vest

nathan intensity (Source)

Here are the top 5 things I love most about my new running vest – and the reasons that make me happy I made the switch.

  1. Fit – The Women’s Intensity race vest is pretty compact. I love the narrow and long design. There are also many different adjustments straps (or — according to the website — a 3-way propulsion harness) that help the vest fit snuggly and keep the weight of the water off your shoulders. My first time out in the vest, it only took a few quick adjustments to get the weight centered on my lower back. I love that the straps are designed to make it super easy to adjust while running. And unlike my Camelback, whose straps would loosen up over the course of the run, the Intensity stayed firmly in place.

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  2. Comfort – I think the biggest worry people have when considering whether or not to wear a pack instead of a fuel belt is that it will make their shoulders hurt. Like any good backpack, these packs are designed to keep the weight off your shoulders and on your chest/back. In my opinion, the Intensity does a much better job, due to the design of the harness. Added bonus for women – the chest strap easily fits under your…well…chest. So you don’t have to worry about squishing the ladies when you run. Another advantage in comfort comes from vest’s the mesh straps. They are extremely lightweight and breathable. I have even worn sleeveless running tops with this pack and experienced no chafing.

    nathan intensity_front(Source)

  3. Storage – One reason why I love running with a pack is because there’s lots of extra room to store things like gels, energy bars, iPod, keys, cell phone…even extra layers. DSCN0688

    The Intensity is designed with the Ultramarathoner in mind, which means there are plenty of spaces for storage! In addition to the main compartment that holds the water, there’s another slot in back where you can put big items like a cell phone and keys. It’s even divided into 2 separate compartments (complete with a hook to hang your keys on!). DSCN0690 But my favorite feature (and a huge selling point of the pack for me) is the two pouches in the front – one that even zips. I used to store my gels in the back of my Camelback, which meant I had to stop and take the vest off or do some crazy stretching moves if I wanted to get them out during the run. Now I have easy access to anything I might need…without even breaking my stride.

  4. Ease of cleaning – It’s super easy to get the bladder in and out of the pack. There’s just one little hole in the back that the water tube has to go through, and then another loop in the front to hold it. On the other hand, I had to feed the tube through one of the arm straps of my Camelbak, which made it very difficult to get in and out. DSCN0694

    The other advantage is that the top of the bladder opens up all the way. I must admit that this made me nervous at first. I didn’t think the fold and slide top would stay sealed during my run. But it holds the water in perfectly. And when I’m done, I can turn the entire thing inside out to wash it. The mouthpiece and drinking tube also separate from the bladder to make cleaning that much easier!  DSCN0698

  5. Enough Water for a Fish – The Intensity holds 2L (70 ounces) of glorious, refreshing water. This is enough to keep me hydrated even on long, hot 20-milers. My Camelbak only held 50 ounces, and on the longer runs I was constantly worried about running out of water.
In summary, the Intensity vest is super comfortable and worth every penny! Its design works for me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a running hydration pack.
Thoughts on Nathan products? Or disagree with me? I’d love to hear how you prefer to fuel!

    A Tale of the Half

    Thank you all for your good luck wishes about my race on Sunday.  It really and truly means a lot.

    And now for an announcement that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for in eager anticipation….

    I am officially a Half Marathoner on SundayShape Up RI Half Marathon…here I come!

    On the surface, this is great news.  I did ask for the switch after all.  And after my crappy month of training, it really is the best decision.

    However, I have to confess that I am a super competitive person — with myself.  So when I didn’t hear back from the race organizers, a little birdie deep down in my sick, twisted heart woke up and started singing softly with excitement.  I thought maybe it might be “fun” if I had to suck it up and do the full marathon after all.  What can I say, I never promised to be the most logical person…

    Thankfully, this is not going to happen.  And I am now looking at this race as an opportunity.  I’ve never actually run a 1/2 marathon, which means an automatic PR (personal record)!  That’s the beauty of running your first race at any distance — it’s bound to be your best.  But…since I am technically a half-newbie, if any of you have some great tips for this distance, please share!

    During these next few days, I plan to do the following things to prepare:

    1.) Obsessively check the weather.  One of the “joys” of New England is that the weather is constantly changing.  We had a freezing cold, rainy beginning of the week, and are now expecting a heat wave this weekend.  Latest reports say Sunday is going to be in the high 70s with a chance of thunderstorms.  Perfect running weather, no?

    Providence Weekend Weather Forecast (02906) - weather.com - Mozilla Firefox 4302010 11952 PM.bmp
    2.) Pick out my running outfit.  This is super important to do before the race!!  I already know what shorts I’m wearing:

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    I’ve worn these (wrinkled) beauties in two previous marathons, when I a) qualified for Boston and b) ran Boston, so why mess with a good thing.

    Since the weather is still in flux (see number 1 above), I have yet to pick out an official race-day top.  But this brings me to another important point.  Whenever you are traveling for a race, bring a variety of different running “outfits” and pack layers.  When it comes to running, it’s way better to over-pack and be prepared.

    3.) Eat lots of carbs, drink lots of fluid, buy the race-day food essentials (more about that tomorrow), limit fats and acidic foods, and avoid sweets and alcohol (can you guess which one of these will be harder than the other?)

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    The day/night before the race, I also plan on limiting protein, leafy veggies, and dairy.  The goal is easy digestion!

    4.) Visit the race expo to get my number, and hopefully a few free samples. :) I absolutely love race expos. In fact, I look forward to these with so much anticipation that it tends to be a let down when they turn out to be nothing more than a couple of booths selling things in a high school gym (sorry Bay State, I think your marathon was awesome but your expo was…not awesome).

    5.) REST.  I’m going easy on the running and making sure to get two full nights of sleep.  This means that I won’t be up to my usual Friday night “shenanigans” of running around town until the wee hours of the night.  (I kid…)

    I’ll be back tomorrow with a few more words of my “invaluable” pre-race wisdom (think more fuel tips and playlists).  But for now, I leave you with some running quotes.  This first one accurately sums up what I love most about running.

    “If you run, you are a runner.  It doesn’t matter how fast or how far.  It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years.  There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get.  You just run.” ~ John Bingham

    And about racing:

    “When people ask me why I run, I tell them, there’s not really a reason, it’s just the adrenalin when you start, and the feeling when you cross the finish line, and know that you are a winner no matter what place you got.”  ~Courtney Parsons


    What to do the Week of a Big Race

    4 more days.  That’s all that separates me from the Cox Providence {Half} Marathon.

    big_city_1 Providence By Night

    While my training has been less than optimal, and I still don’t actually know whether I’m running the half or the full marathon (I never heard back from the race organizers about switching my event.  So…come Sunday, I may be running the full 26.2 after all!), at this point there’s not much to do but focus on being positive and preparing myself the best way I know how.

    Whether you’re running your first 5K or your 100th marathon, race day prep doesn’t just happen the night before. Chances are, you’ve been thinking about and preparing for the race for a long time.  So use the week leading up to the big day to make sure you are ready to run your best race possible.

    There are a few key things you should focus on this week: Resting, Eating, Hydrating, and Visualizing.  Enter the “HOTR HEVR” method of race-week prep!

    The HOTR-HEVR Guide to Race Week Prep

    H = Hydrate!

    waterbottleclosedIt’s super important to make sure you are fully hydrated on race day.  But it’s not enough to just chug water the day before — your body won’t be able to absorb all of it.  Instead, focus on providing your body with a steady source of fluids.  If you don’t normally drink a lot of water, start gradually increasing your intake at the beginning of the week.  The goal is to drink enough fluid so that your urine is almost clear.  If you have a hard time remembering to drink water regularly, get yourself a fun water bottle!!  Or…you can try this strategy: for the 3 or so days before, set your watch for 1 hour intervals.  Every time the watch goes off, drink 8 ounces of water (or other fluid of choice).  While you can certainly get away with drinking less if your race is short, this is especially important in any race where you will be running for more than 1 hour.

    Also… It’s probably best to start “tapering” your fluid intake around 2 hours before bed…unless you want to be getting up all night long!

    E = Eat!

    I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here, but the trick to race week nutrition is to eat enough of the right foods…without over-eating.  This is especially important because you’ll be resting (more on that later), so you don’t want to consume so many calories that it can contribute to some pre-race weight gain.  That being said, this is not the week to “diet” or cut back to lose those few extra pounds before race day.  You want to make sure your body has enough fuel to get you through the big event!

    Again, being careful of what you eat all week long is a bit more important for longer races than a 5K, but here are the basics you need to know.

    Complex carbohydrates are your best friend.  No, this doesn’t mean you should consume massive quantities of pasta (cake) every time you sit down to eat.

    pasta_tiwyf (Source: thisiswhyyourfat.com)

    You don’t want to throw your body into shock…which could result in digestive problems later.  Instead, aim for moderate amounts of carbs at every meal.  Foods like oatmeal, banoatcakes, bagels, pasta, and potatoes are great and will help you get (and keep!) your glycogen stores up.  Make sure to also eat a moderate amount of protein and a lot of fruits and veggies {though you may want to avoid eating these in large amounts the night before.  Let’s just say racing can already work a number on your digestive system.  You don’t need to complicate it with all that extra “roughage…”}.

    IMG_1792Banoatcakes (banana oat pancakes) topped with Greek yogurt, mixed berries and maple syrup

    DSC_0021 Egg sandwich topped with a little shredded parm and mixed greens on a bagel

    Try to limit fats.  This may be different than your normal eating pattern but believe me, you want more of the easily accessible fuel that carbohydrates provide.

    Avoid Alcohol.  Yes, beer is a carbohydrate, but it’s also a diuretic and can dehydrate you.  I know I always have an “off-run” the day after drinking even one glass of beer/wine, so unless you’ve run successfully the day after drinking before, I’d recommend leaving the booze for the post-race celebration.

    Avoid trying new foods.  I  know, I know – on Monday I challenged you to try new foods this week.  But that isn’t the wisest thing to do the week before a big run.  Instead, stick with your tried and true staples.  These are the things that you know won’t have any funky effects on your digestive system.

    Also… It’s important not to let yourself get hungry in the few days leading up to a long race.  While this may sound like a great excuse to eat everything in sight, it just means that you need to be careful not to let your blood sugar drop and your carbohydrate/glycogen stores get used up.

    V = Visualize!

    Think positive!!  Remember your goals for your race, and spend your time visualizing them, thinking about how you want to run and what you will need to do to reach your goals.  It’s easy to let nerves and anxiety take over in the days leading up to the race, but never under-estimate the power of positive thinking.  If you feel more confident in yourself before the big day, chances are you’ll do better.

    The other important part of visualization is to actually view the race course.  If you don’t live close enough to go for a walk/run along the course, look up the course map online and become familiar with the route and any hills, etc.  Sometimes sites will even provide you with a virtual tour.

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    Finally (and most importantly)…

    R = REST!

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    Repeat after me: No workout I do this week is going to improve my race performance.

    I mean it!

    Fight the urge to squeeze in that last minute long-run or speed workout.  You’ve done your preparation. Pushing yourself hard this week will only result in making you more tired, and you risk getting injured.  Unless you’re an elite athlete, during pre-race week, you should definitely subscribe to the “less is more” mentality.

    If you’ve been following a training schedule, it should have built in a couple of weeks of tapering, or cutting back on mileage.  Don’t let this decrease in physical activity drive you crazy – instead look at it as a time to relax and prepare yourself both physically and mentally.

    The goal this week is just to keep your legs loose.  Go for short runs at a leisurely, enjoyable pace.  And if you skip one or two runs because you’re feeling over-tired, sore, or just need to walk your little puppy, don’t sweat it!

    Koli 001Sometimes said puppy would rather walk YOU!Koli 007

    I know some people like to take the day before a big race off, but I actually prefer to rest two days prior and then do a short run (2 – 3 miles) the day before just to get my legs moving.

    Finally, resting also means making sure you get enough sleep!  For the past few weeks, I have only been averaging around 6.5 half hours of sleep a night, which is definitely not enough for me.  If I was really smart, I would have started gradually increasing the amount of sleep I got per night a couple of weeks ago, so that all this week I would be averaging 8.  Instead, I will just be focusing on getting a solid 7 – 8 hours every night until race day.  Last night I got about 7 – tonight I’ll be aiming for 8.

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    Also… Don’t expect to get a great night of sleep the night before the race.  Nerves about the race itself or about getting up in time can often lead to a restless night.  So instead, think of two nights before (so Friday if your race is on Sunday) as being your most important night of sleep.  And if you can’t sleep the night before, don’t stress it!  That will only make things worse.

    Whew! That was one Marathon of a post! If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ve gotten some useful tips out of it.  And as always, if you have any questions, comments…or even disagree with anything I’ve said here, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

    The Upside of Bonking

    Most days, the bumper sticker on my car says it all:

    ratherberunningbumpermagnet

    But, there are some days – some really awful days – when the love I feel for running is replaced by an emotion that more closely resembles hate. And it’s during these days that I start questioning my sanity…and my reasons for putting myself through such awful torture. This past Sunday was one of those days…

    The morning started off well enough. It was another beautiful spring day, the kind of day that carries an excitement in the air that just calls for you to come outside.

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    I ate a good breakfast of oats (mixed with flax, berries, almond butter and topped with granola), and started preparing for my long run. But, through a series of some unexpected events, my morning got a little messed up. And before I knew it, afternoon had settled in. Suddenly, I was overcome by a “racing against the clock” feeling, and, anxious to get going, I just sort of gathered up my gear and took off. I figured I’d be fine.  After all, I was just going to be doing an “easy” 15, since it was technically an off-week in my marathon training.

    But about halfway through the run, things started going downhill fast. By 10 miles, I had to stop and rest. Even though I had been drinking water throughout, I was feeling lightheaded and exhausted. To make matters worse, my sciatic nerve was beginning to flare up (an injury I’ve had to contend with every so often since I initially had a sciatica in high school) and the top of my foot was killing me – the result of accidentally tying my shoes too tight during my long run last weekend. Worst of all, I had brought nothing with me besides water – no energy gels, nothing. And I was bonking big-time.

    Man Holding a Gas Can and Hitch Hiking After Running Out of Gasoline Cartoon ClipartThere are a lot of terms to describe the state of complete exhaustion that occurs when an athlete’s glycogen stores run out  — “hitting the wall”, “running out of steam”, “out of juice”, “dead tired”, etc – but whatever way you say it, the  simple reality is that it sucks.

    The good news, however, is that it can [usually] be avoided with the proper preparation.   (What’s that they say about failing to prepare…? ;) ) And a little too late, I realized I had broken some pretty cardinal rules in the “preparation” department.

    What I did wrong – and how you can avoid it

    • (Im)roper fueling before the run –> While I had a good breakfast that contained a mixture of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber, it was way too long before I water glassran. By the time I set out after 2, the only thing I had had for “lunch” was a piece of a Clif Bar. Before you run, it is important to make sure that you’ve eaten enough to not be hungry, but not so much that you feel bloated or sick. I was hungry before I even started – not a good sign. Furthermore, I drank my coffee slowly over the course of the morning. I always have coffee before a long run and the caffeine can be a good energy boost…provided you drink enough water along with it. Since I drank it over the course of a couple hours, it meant that I was not drinking water during that time. As a result, I started OFF the run dehydrated. So even though I was drinking regularly, it didn’t do much to make up for that deficit.
    • The temperature –> Sunday was a beautiful spring day, but the temperature was much higher than what I’m used to training in. It can be a bit of a shock to your body to go clip_image001[13]from running in 30ish degrees to 65. Of course I can’t control how warm it is outside, but there are important things I could have done to combat the heat.
      • Wear sunscreen! The majority of my run was in the sun. A couple hours out in direct sunlight can zap your energy.  Even though it’s still early in the year, I should have been protecting my skin with sunscreen….or at the very least a running cap (something else I forgot).
      • Hyrdrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Not only did I start off the run dehydrated, but I was so afraid of running out of water that I probably didn’t drink enough during my run (even though, at the time, I was convinced that I had).  This was especially bad since the higher temps made me sweat more than usual.
    • (Im)proper fueling during the run –> As I mentioned above, I had nothing with me besides water. This was a huge mistake, especially in light of the first two points. Even though I have successfully run that distance without any sort of energy drink, gel, or food in the past, I should have brought something just in case. As I said before, it is important to always be prepared on long runs. Even if you don’t think you need it, you should bring a packet of GU or some sort of supplement along with you – especially if you are going to be out for well over an hour (like I was today).

    The upside of all this?

    After stopping and stretching for a few minutes (while drinking extra water), my head seemed to settle back down on my shoulders and my legs loosened up a little.  Not wanting to call it quits yet, I decided to give it another go. I’m proud to say that I finished the run…even though I felt like I was dragging myself along, every step of the way.

    It’s pretty easy to get discouraged after a run like this. And I’ll admit that I had a lot of negative thoughts going through my head during the last few miles. Thoughts about being inadequate and out of shape and totally unprepared for this marathon. Thoughts about giving the whole thing up altogether.

    But later — after I had showered, and eaten, and started feeling normal again — reason returned.   My pity-party ended and I was able to look at things more objectively.  While these runs that take so much out of us absolutely suck, they only serve to make us stronger in the end. Not only did today serve as a harsh reminder to be better prepared next time, but it helped me to once again realize that I am strong, and I can do it. It may not always be fun, and I may not always feel great, or run my best pace. But at the end of the day, if I can make it through the tough times, then I am stronger for it.  And that’s what I love most about running — it’s such a great parallel for life.  Just like anything else, the reward often comes from simply knowing that you’ve made it through some incredible challenge.

    Sometimes, just “making it through” is enough.