Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Time I Ran a Marathon

Today marks five weeks since Kevin and I ran our first marathon, and I'm just now writing about it. It still doesn't seem real. I can't believe we actually did it. 

We had been watching the weather all week, leading up to the race. We were hoping it would change, but it didn't. Rain. And wind. And cold. We were going to get all of it. We didn't actually have any "waterproof" running gear. We had trained all summer and not once did we encounter any rain. Lots of hot, humid days, but no rain. Sure, we've run in the rain before, but not for 26.2 miles. The day before the race, we decided we should see if we could find something that might help us stay dry.

Saturday, October 14, we headed to the packet pick up/expo. We picked up our packets and each bought a Grand Rapids Marathon sweatshirt. We checked out the running gear at the expo and all of the rain gear was super expensive. We didn't want to pay $100+ each, so we decided to check out some other places. 

We ended up stopping at a golf course that was having an end of season sale on all of their gear. We each bought a wind/rain breaker-type shirt and decided that would be good. We spent that rest of the day at home, relaxing. It was hard to sleep that night. I was so nervous, but excited too. 

Sunday, October 15, we got up early, ate some breakfast and got ready. Kevin's mom, brother, and sister-in-law came and picked us up at about 6:45 am. We got downtown, parked, and heading to the start area. At this point, it was still dark, but the temps were in the low 60s. A little windy, but not bad. And no rain! We hung out for a little bit, took some photos, then headed to the start line.

before the race!

(Note: I had never run in a hat, ever, before this race. With the rain and wind that was expected, I was hoping it would keep it out of my eyes. Best decision ever.)

We got to the start line and it was getting real. We were doing this. And so were thousands of other people. Just a few minutes before the race started, it started pouring. We were soaked before we even got started. All we could do was laugh. There was nothing we could do about the weather, so no point in getting mad about it.


All the people waiting at the start.

Selfie in the start line before the rain started.
At 8:00 am, the race started. We were off for the longest run of our lives. I had serious doubts in myself. I thought for sure I would hit a wall, mentally, where I would think I couldn't finish. I had to tell myself to be positive the entire time. I was really careful not to start too fast, because I didn't want to burn out before the finish. We saw both of our families at the start, cheering us on. They were out there in the rain, getting soaked, just to see us start. That definitely gave me some energy and motivation right from the start.





After about mile three or four, I was getting too warm, so I took of my yellow long sleeve and ditched at one of the aid stations. Our feet were soaked already, but we kept going. I counted down every mile. I remember when we hit six miles, and I said "only 20 more to go!" In the back of my mind, I thought there was no way I could run 20 more miles. But we kept going. Only walking at the aid stations while getting a drink and/or fuel (I can't drink and run at the same time...I spill and choke lol). We saw Kevin's family around mile 2 or 3, and they took orders for dry clothes :)





Around mile ten, we were greeted by both of our families. They had towels and dry clothes. My coat was keeping me fairly dry, so I just wiped my face and hands off with the towel. Kevin put on a dry shirt and his wind/rain breaker. We were carrying dry socks in ziplock bags, and around mile 13, we ditched our sopping wet socks for the dry ones. But about a mile later, our feet were soaked again. 







Around mile 16 or 17, Kevin was having some cramping issues in his leg, so he insisted I keep going ahead of him, since I was feeling ok (I mean, every part of my body hurt, but I wasn't cramping). I hated going ahead of him, because we had trained together for four months, and wanted to do the race together too. But he kept insisting, so I ended up going ahead. 


Mile 20 was my fastest mile, by about a minute. I think that was the point where I realized I was actually going to do it. I was actually going to finish. I was going to run a marathon. I settled down, and got back on pace so that I didn't burn out before the last six miles were done. The last three miles were the hardest. I was so tired. Every part of my body hurt. I was wet and cold. But I kept going. And I did it. I crossed that finish line!







And not long after I finished, Kevin crossed the finish line. That's when the tears came. We did it. We both did it. Something that only 0.5% of the US population has done, and we did it. 







It rained, the entire time. For 5+ hours. It was also really windy. And the temps dropped all day. So while it started in the low 60s, it was in the upper 40s/low 50s when we finished. I think there may have been a brief time where it cleared up, but we were on trails in parks, with lots of trees. And since it was so windy, the water was blowing off the trees, so it felt like it was raining anyway. Even with the less than ideal conditions, we did it. I couldn't be more proud of us. The four months of training paid off, and we finished!

The course was great and the race director and volunteers were even better. They were out in that cold, wet weather for us. They handed us drinks and fuel, and cheered us on. I'm so thankful that the Grand Rapids Marathon was our first. Such a great experience! 






After the race, we went home, got out of our cold, wet clothes, took hot showers, and tried to relax. But we were so tired and sore, we couldn't get comfortable. No matter which way we sat or laid, we were uncomfortable. Around 6:00 pm, we decided to lay in bed and watch tv for the rest of the night. We both had to go to work the next morning, and that was rough. But not as rough as Tuesday. That was the worst day for me. I limped when I walked for about 4 or 5 days. Any slight incline or decline was torture. Steps were killer. I've never been so sore in my life. But I guess that's what running 26.2 miles will do :)








Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Running Fuel

Catch up on my running series with these posts:

When you start running longer distances, keeping your body hydrated and properly fueled is extremely important. This is definitely the part of running that I struggle the most with, and know the least about, but I'm learning.

Up until I started training for a marathon, I didn't use any special fuel. I just drank water and sometimes gatorade. When I would do races, I would drink some water at each aid station, and mix in gatorade a couple times if it was more than a 10k race. When I would do training runs, I'd just wear my running belt (talked about here) with two water bottles. But now that I'm running for 2.5 - 3+ hours for my long runs, I know I have to do more to keep my body fueled.

A lot of runners I've talked to use some form of Gu. I've tried it, but there's something about the texture that I just can't do. So, I've been using Gatorade Chews. They taste good and don't have a weird texture. They are kind of like a big fruit snack, which is probably why I like them. When I know I'm going to run more than 6 or 7 miles, I eat one chew every two miles. I don't wait until I start feeling like I need something, because it takes my body too long to recover. Every two miles I eat a chew and drink some water. So far, it's been working pretty well for me.




I've noticed that I start getting hungry around mile 11 or 12, so I think I may need to try and add more in to my runs. I've heard of people eating pretzels, cookies, oranges, and gummy bears during runs, so I may try adding one of those to my longer runs to see if it helps with the hunger.

I also make sure to drink lots of water the week leading up to a long run or race, and drink some gatorade the night before.

My advice would be to try a few things and see what works best for you. Everyone is different, but just make sure you are staying hydrated during your runs. And whatever you do during your training, don't change it up on race day, because you don't know how your body will react to something different. 

If you're a runner, I'd love to know how you stay fueled during long runs. I'm still figuring this part out, so all advice is appreciated!


*This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Must-Have Running Gear

Past Running Series Posts:
Apps, Watches, & Training Plans

When I started running, I literally had some tennis shoes and an armband to hold my phone. Once I got more serious about running, I found out there is so much more that goes in to making your runs successful. Now that I've been running for a few years, and running longer distances, I've found some things that work and don't work for me. So today I'm sharing some of my favorite running gear.




Shoes - When I first started running, my longest runs were only three miles, so I was able to run in my Nike shoes that I had been wearing for years. However, when I got in to training harder and longer runs, I bit the bullet and invested in better shoes. We have stores in Grand Rapids (Gazelle and Striders) that will actually fit you with a running shoe. My first "real" running shoe was the Saucony Ride 9. I learned that running shoes wear out after a certain number of miles (usually around 300-400 miles), so I just recently got the Saucony Ride 10. Once you start getting serious about running and getting in more than a few miles a week, I definitely recommend investing in a good running shoe. 

Socks - I never realized that socks can make a difference in running. A few months ago, I started getting blisters on the ball of foot, near by big toe. They were painful when running and I'd have to pop some of them after a long run. It was pretty miserable. I'll spare you and won't post any photos. I invested in a few pairs of good socks, all different brands. Those socks, along with putting on lotion on my feet before each run, helped a ton. I no longer have any blisters, which is making my runs much more enjoyable. I have Swiftwick, Smartwool, and Thorlo socks and I'd recommend all of them. The Thorlo socks actually have padding in the exact spot I needed, so I used those a lot until my blisters were healing.

Clothes - I'm not picky when it comes to running clothes. Something comfortable and moisture wicking is all I need. Most of my running clothes are from Target and Old Navy and I've been really happy with them. I've also picked up a few things from the Adidas Outlet store near me and I really love their shorts. I wear pants, capris, shorts, tanks, and long sleeves, depending on the weather. Gloves and a headband in the winter when it's cold...but I don't want to think about that yet. 

Running Belt - Now that I'm running longer distances, I use a running belt to old water and fuel. I use a Nathan Running Belt and I love it. There are a ton of them out there, so just find what is comfortable for you.

Reflective Gear - When I'm running early in the morning and it's not quite light out yet, I make sure to wear a reflective arm band, along with bright clothing. There are tons of options for these, just make sure you wear something so drivers can see you!

Head Bands - In the winter I wear a headband to keep my ears warm and my hair out of my face, but the rest of the time I just wear athletic headbands. I hate when hair touches my neck when I'm running, because then I sweat and it sticks to me. So annoying. I've found the adidas headbands are great (picked them up at the local outlet store). But anything similar seems to work for me.

What are some of your favorite work out items? Special shoes? Clothing brand? Random thing you can't live without now that you have it?


*This post contains affiliate links.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Five

ONE. Tomorrow is National Dog Day, so I'm sharing a few recent pics of Admiral. Because who doesn't love dog pics on a Friday?

always getting in to something in the yard
sleepy boy
loves to cuddle

TWO. This week I shared some of my favorite running apps, technology, and training plans. I've included things I've used in the past and what I'm using now, as I train for my first marathon. Make sure you check it out if you're a runner, or thinking about getting in to running.



THREE. I'm majorly over due for a hair cut. I'm ready for a change, but nothing too crazy. I'm loving these medium length cuts, which would mean about 6+ inches off my hair. What do you think?




FOUR. Next week we are hosting a Fantasy Football draft at our house and I have been browsing Pinterest for some fun ideas...can't wait to get to work on them!

source

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FIVE. I'm playing in a softball tournament that starts tonight and goes through tomorrow, and then have to do a long run on Sunday. I think it's safe to say I'll be worthless on Sunday night and probably Monday too. What are you up to this weekend?


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Favorite Apps, Watches, and Training Plans for Running

I wasn't sure what topic I wanted to cover first in these running posts, but I figured training plans were a good place to start. I want to remind you that I am not an expert on running. I'm just sharing what I've learned over the past several years, things that I liked/didn't like, and things that worked/didn't work for me. I was constantly searching Google and Pinterest for all sorts of running information when I first started, so I'm hoping some of this may be helpful to others during their research.


When I decided to sign up for a race, I wanted to find a training plan to get me ready. I downloaded the free C25k app (couch to 5k) and used it to get me started. It worked really well for me because it started out small, which is what I needed. Just a few days a week, and more walking than running to start. When I first started, I could barely run for 30 seconds at a time, but by the end, I ran my first 5k and felt pretty good about it!
Photos from the Fifth Third Riverbank Run. I ran the 25k (15.5) miles, which is my furthest run so far.

While using the C25k app, it told me when to run and when to walk, but I wanted something that would track my distance and pace (C25k may be different now, but at the time, it didn't have those features). I didn't have any type of running watch or step tracker, so I used a free app on my phone called Map My Run. The app uses the GPS on your phone to track your distance, pace, duration, speed, and it creates a map of your route. I used it a lot when I first started running and really liked it. 

At that point I was running pretty often, so I decided I wanted a step counter/tracker. So Kevin and I both got the Fitbit Flex. I know that Fitbit has a ton of other versions available now, but I liked the Flex because it was small and I could still wear it with a watch and bracelets and it didn't stick out (see photo below). You could also easily change out the bands so they matched your outfit if you wanted. I was able to use my Fitbit to not only track my steps through out the day, but also to track my runs (pace, distance, etc.). The app allowed you to compete in different challenges with your friends, which was a great motivator. I used my Fitbit Flex for about two years before it stopped working. I didn't have good luck with their customer service, so I decided to switch to a different product at this point. (However, my sister has had great luck with their customer service and has upgraded to another Fitbit product, so sounds like the customer service isn't all bad.)

wearing my Fitbit Flex (next to my watch) in this pic...not very noticeable
After my Fitbit quit working, I decided to upgrade my step tracker. At this point, I was a little more serious about running, and had started training for my first half marathon. After talking to a few serious runners at work, I decided to switch to a Garmin watch. Specifically the Garmin Forerunner 230. Garmin has a lot of different options, but after some research, I decided this model was the one that would be best for me in terms of features and cost. I've had my watch for almost a year and I love it. It does pretty much everything. Tracks distance, pace, steps, etc. It also syncs to your watch so you can get texts, notifications, answer/decline phone calls, and more (or less if you don't want any of that coming through to your watch). 

The Garmin Connect app records all of your runs and allows you to connect with friends, similar to the way Fitbit does. It also syncs with My Fitness Pal (app that you can use to log what you eat and other workouts), if you use it. A feature of Garmin Connect that I just started using a few months ago is the Training Plan section. You can pick your race distance (5k, half marathon, etc), put in the race date, pick your running level, and it will create a training plan for you. Kevin and I have both been using it for just over two months to train for our marathon. We'll see how the marathon goes, but I know I'm getting faster, because I cut over 1:30 off of my best 5k record while on the plan. I've been pretty happy with it so far, and plan to use it to train for future races too.


I know that was a lot of information, so here's a quick breakdown that's a little easier to follow:

Training Plans
Used in the Past: C25k (Couch to 5k training app)
Currently Using: Garmin Connect (all different distance and levels of training plans)

Apps
Used in the past: Map My Run, Fitbit
Currently Using: Garmin Connect

Step Trackers/Running Watches
Used in the Past: Fitbit Flex
Currently Using: Garmin Forerunner 230

Overall, I've been happy with every training plan, app, and watch I've used, but I'm definitely loving my Garmin the most. The Garmin watches can be quite the investment, especially if you are just starting out, but for someone who is running pretty often, I'd definitely recommend it. 

If you're a runner, leave a comment telling me your favorite training plans, apps, or running watches!

*This post contains affiliate links.