It’s All In Your Head

The photos from CIM came out today — not that Steve didn’t take a few on his phone. What is interesting about the pictures and the ones Steve took, including a video (which I just can’t get off his phone because he is not here and I am being the hugest bum in the world this week) is that I don’t look like I’m in the most pain I’ve ever been in. I don’t look like I’m basically walking and like I’m positive I won’t be able to finish. For the most part, I look the same as when I was running well. Eventually, I look like I’m about to die in the pictures. But, long before it shows up on film, I was already falling apart. The thing is: it’s not visible to anyone else.

This is right where things started to go really bad, because I remember that guy. And I remember the photographer. And, I remember thinking my legs are failing and I am in excruciating pain:


Crossing this bridge was probably the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. It was about four miles to go. Four miles. How was I possibly ever going to make it four miles?


OK, this is where I finally look like I’m about to fall over. Because I am. The people at the finish line started yelling at me right after this to keep moving and I almost punched them in the face:


And, yes, for the record, it got really cold after I slowed down. I took the long sleeve off around six miles in and was totally fine while I was moving. But, when I slowed down 2’/mile my core temperature dropped too. I think it screwed me up permanently because I basically didn’t warm up for two or three days.

Just remember, though, no one else can tell how much it hurts.

Training Week: Dec. 2-8

This is what I did last week, not that you should copy what I did, since I massively failed at the whole point — running fast when it was time to run fast. For the next two weeks I will not be doing much of anything, since it’s my official 1-2 week off-season break before diving into IM training at the end of the month. At that point, I will put this all behind me and we will start over with a blank slate — except a blank slate that is still sort of fit. Right?


Ran 7 miles with 2 x 2 miles at marathon race pace, except actually the first two were 6:52, 6:56. So, then I tried to make sure the second two-miler was exactly on pace — 7:03, 7:06. But, it was concerningly not easy. I tried not to worry about this.


Ran 4ish miles very easy. Actually ran it as a tour of my old Chicago neighborhood and went by my old house.


Light Crossfit workout. Which sounds stupid. But, basically just ignored directions that said “heavy weight” and used the whole thing as a sort of up-tempo effort to shake things out.


Rode 1:00 easy. One of these days was supposed to be swimming, but it’s too cold for swimming.




Ran 4 miles easy with four or five hard pick-ups and two minutes at race pace.


The personal marathon disaster.

Now, I’m alternating between moping and eating too many cookies to mope. We’ll see how I feel at the end of two weeks or so.

Race Report: California International Marathon

Yesterday, I ran the first half of the race in 1:33 and the second half of the race in 1:57. I don’t think I’ve ever blown up that much and finished. Actually, I’m positive I’ve never had such a terrible, painful race and not dropped out, because if it’s going that badly it’s usually for a reason.

The race started ok. I barely made the start, which wasn’t really my fault. I mean, I suppose it was my fault since I could have left earlier, but at 6:45 a.m. the shuttle bus from the drop-off point hadn’t reached the start yet, which was happening at 7 a.m. I made it though. I ran up the side of the corrals and jumped in at my spot and they said “3, 2, 1. The start of the California International Marathon!”

The first half went by. I ran 7:05s more or less. A couple 6:57 miles, a few 7:10 miles, but mostly right on pace. It was cold. So cold that my legs froze and I couldn’t feel my shorts, so I kept becoming convinced that I wasn’t wearing shorts and having to look down to check. At each aid station, the water that spilled on the ground had re-frozen into ice and everyone was slipping all over. Other than that, it was good. I felt good.

Around 12 or 13 miles, it wasn’t exactly easy anymore, but the pace was still there. I figured that’s ok; it’s not going to be easy forever.

Then, rather abruptly, around 14.5, it became excruciatingly painful. You know how after a marathon or a hard race, you can’t bend your legs or move or walk? That was how I suddenly felt with 12 more miles to run. My IT band felt like it was ripping out of the side of my left knee, my calves were knotted up, but mostly my quads were quivering with pain. It felt like my thigh bone was jamming into my hip and grinding on the top of my knee. It felt like everything was tearing every time I bent my knee or at my hip. What I’m saying is: it hurt, a lot.

Just keep going one mile at a time, right? Make it to 15 miles and then 16, etc. I was running 7:20s and then 7:30s at that point and fighting for it. There may have been hills there; I honestly have no idea. I kept going, but every step pain was shooting up my left leg. How was I possibly going to run 10 more miles? Around 18 or 19, I decided to stop to go to the bathroom. I’d had to go for like 10 miles — which is part of my whole stomach problems I need to figure out — but while I was running well I wasn’t going to stop. Now, though, as the 3:10 pace group was about to catch me, I thought maybe it could be a re-group. I’d go to the bathroom, stretch a second, and then start again, just 8 more miles.

It didn’t exactly work. TMI, etc, but when I sat down in the port-a-potty, my legs started shaking like crazy and wouldn’t stop. I never really got moving again after that. By the time I saw Steve a bit before 20 miles, I was 100% sure there was no way I could finish. I could barely walk and was shuffling 8:30s, how could I run six more miles? Why would I want to? The only reason I didn’t stop was because it was still like 30 degrees out. That is way too cold to wait for a bus after you DNF and Steve was on his bike, so I couldn’t get a ride. If he had the car, I would have definitely dropped out.

I don’t know exactly how I made it to the finish. It was one unbelievably painful step at a time. I went from 8:30s to 9:30s to 10:30s, I don’t even know. I don’t think I made it a single mile without stopping, thinking each time that maybe this time I could stretch my leg out and it’d stop hurting. It was so painful, pounding pain and every tendon, muscle, bone in my legs had already given up on me. I stopped trying to run and just tried to move forward. With 2 or 3 miles left, you hit the main area of Sacramento and are crossing these streets that are numbered. The race ends at 8th St. We were at 57th. At that point, it was one block at a time, one step at a time. I’m pretty sure the last two miles took me 25 minutes.

I don’t know exactly what happened. It was complete muscle-skeletal, body failure. Aerobically, I was fine, which made the whole thing particularly infuriating and put me on the edge of tears that whole time. I knew that my foot has been injured and I knew that because of that I hadn’t necessarily been able to train as much as I needed, so I knew there was a possibility I wasn’t going to be able to run the 3:07 I wanted and that I’d blow up. But, I made my bet. I ran on pace and thought I’d hold onto it as best as possible and maybe I’d slow down some and end up running a 3:10 or 3:11 or something. And, it turned out, I didn’t have the muscular endurance for that. I’ve only been able to run over 15 miles twice this block and my body just didn’t have it I guess. I’m pretty sure if it had been a half-marathon, I’d have been able to PR. But, it wasn’t a half.

On the plus side, I did finish. Even slowing down that much, I still ran a 3:30? Which is ok I guess. (Yes, I get that would be great for some people. But, the 3:07 I was aiming for would also have been terrible for some people. So, other people’s expectations are kind of irrelevant.) And, I know now that I can finish. The last few miles, when I knew I’d make it eventually, I thought, ‘Well, it’s going to hurt at the end of Ironman, so if you can’t do this, how are you going to do that?’ So, there’s that.

And, now, I’m really fucked up. Not so shockingly, way way more screwed up than any other race I’ve ever done. Picking up my foot to get into the car requires actually grabbing my leg with my hands and picking it up. I don’t intend to do anything for a week or two. And, then, it’s time to figure out how to get some of these problems fixed.

California International Marathon

Time to run.

Ate a whole bunch of food. Got my race number. Have my layers and layers of warm clothes ready for the 20 degrees in the morning. Picked a race outfit too, naturally.


Yes, Tupac helped me pick the outfit, but he didn’t come with us. We were considering it – if we got one of those little pet backpacks. Instead, Steve is going to bike all over and I’m going to try to run fast enough to be in the right spots at the right times.

All of you better be thinking of me and judging me if I don’t do good. That way when it starts to hurt, I’ll know I have to go faster or all my internet fans will hate me. Obviously.

#6228 tomorrow

The Real Problems with a Taper

So many athletes complain about tapering before a race, that they get all antsy and can’t sit still and MUST. GYM. GO. This makes no sense. Do you people not own a TV? Or a computer? Or a library card? Come on, learn to lounge like a professional.

The real problem with the taper is that you can only screw it up.

The last week or two before a race, there’s no workout you can do that’s going to win it, there’s no fitness you can really gain, nothing magic that’s going to happen. The work is done. All you can do in the last week or two before a race is screw it all up. You can only get hurt or sick or not sleep enough or not eat enough. You can’t win the race in the taper, but you can definitely lose it.

Welcome to my super cheerful thought process and why I generally try not to think too hard.

CIM is on Sunday. At this point, I probably haven’t screwed it up. (Ahh, jinx, jinx!) But, I’m also not 100% sure about that. My goal is under 3:10, which is like sub-7:10 pace, which feels significantly not easy in workouts. Two months ago I would have said my goal was more like 3:04, but then my stupid toe started hurting and I had to not run for a week and the world ended. On the other hand, I’m still in significantly better shape than I was at Chicago last year when I ran a 3:17 off of like two tempo runs that whole training cycle. So, as long as my toe/bone spur/messed-up foot stays in in the dull ache category and doesn’t move into the sharp knives kind of pain, I should run somewhere between a 3:04 and 3:17. Maybe.

And, in the vein of ‘things you should be doing during your taper,’ yesterday when I was looking for the gif I wanted of a kid failing at swimming, instead I found lots and lots of gifs of animals swimming — because what do I have to do besides spend an hour looking at cat gifs. I’m pretty sure I can teach Tupac the Cat how to do this, right after I teach him to stop running out the door and into the bushes every time someone comes home:

Training Week: Nov. 25-Dec. 1


This last week was the first taper week before CIM or the last real week of training or Thanksgiving, depending on your point of view. As such, I did what any logical person would do: short, fast, and rest.


Rode about 1:05 easy to and from the high school and home and the running store to buy new shoes, obviously, to solve all my problems. Ran 4.5 miles what was supposed to be easy with the high school boys, but they were in a mood, so it was relatively quick.


If you read my Twitter, you know I was not excited about what my high school boys decided to do for Tuesday. We met at 6 a.m. in the dark and cold on the high school track for their last hard(ish) workout before the state meet on Saturday. It was so dark that when they started doing their 600s, they kept yelling at me across the track: ‘Can you see us, Kelly??’

After doing some of their warm-up and cool-down, I did my own track workout: 1 mile at 6:38 (supposed to be marathon pace, but marathon pace feels crazy slow on a track, like no one should run that slow on a nice smooth track), then 5 x 800m at 3:01, 3:01, 3:02, 3:00, 3:03, then another mile at “marathon pace” — actually 6:42, which is definitely not my marathon pace.


Ran 4 miles easy along the Chicago River near my parent’s house. My face was so cold I wanted to claw my eyes out.


Turkey Day 5K. 19:44 — not too good, not too bad.


Off. Partially to visit family and partially to properly prepare for the high school reunion in the evening. Oh, and partially, because it was a good day to rest.


Swam 2,000 easy, which felt good for about 800y and then definitely did not feel good. Then, did about 30′ or so of TRX and light core work, etc — mostly telling Steve how to use the TRX.

On a side note: If you need a gym in Chicago, the Lincoln Square Athletic Club is a winner. It’s part of a chain in Chicago, but I can’t speak about the other ones. I only went to this one is because it’s new and it’s by my parents. It’s nice, mostly because it’s new and not because it’s really fancy, but what was really impressive is that it had all the stuff. You know how most gyms have fancy weight machines, but don’t have basic yoga elastic bands for people to use. Or, they have stationary bikes that connect to your iPhone, but they only have one size of kettlebell. This place had all the stuff. We did some TRX on straps that were out for anyone to use and some core work on Bosu balls and stabilizing platforms and then Steve did some yoga work and I did some light weights. And, then, and this was the kicker for me: I took a shower in one of those overhead waterfall showers. Eventually, my life will be complete when I’m able to install one of those in my own house.


Ran 10 miles along the lakefront, with Steve accompanying me for some of it — something he regrets now. Easy, but with some slightly uptempo miles in the middle. Mostly, though, I average 7:50s (which is fast for me for an easy run) because it’s just so damn flat in Chicago. Also, it was downright pleasant out, having warmed up to the high-30s.

TOTAL: 6:55


Turkey Day 5K — The One in Which Steve Runs

Because I skipped the PA cross-country race last weekend, I wanted to do a 5K or something this week to get the legs moving before CIM. It’s my theory that if you run a fast race a week or so before a marathon, then marathon pace feels much easier.

Fortunately, Thanksgiving is the most popular day in the country for races. So, I picked a turkey trot near my parents’ house in Lincoln Park in Chicago. The only downside was that it was cold even for Chicago, like 18 degrees by the lake. When I took my gloves off to pin my race number on, I had to do it quickly before my hands froze, but it got harder the longer it took because I couldn’t feel my fingers. It was like trying to dismantle a bomb.

Somehow, I managed to convince Steve to run the 5K too, even though he hasn’t run in seven years. I figured it was my last chance to beat him ever if he starts running again soon. And, I didn’t want to be out in the cold on my own.

So cold after the race. Still, so cold.
So cold after the race. Still, so cold.

We warmed up for about 15′ and took off the top layer of sweatshirts, but that was pretty much the extent of getting ready.

Steve dropped me in the first mile, but I figured my only chance was that he would blow up. Also, I was running the fastest I really should/could right now. I hit the first mile around 6:10, but it felt great and easy. The second mile was a 6:25 or so, but it still felt pretty good until the very end when we turned and the wind made my eyes start to water. The last mile I felt shitty, but I suppose that’s to be expected. If you didn’t feel shitty in a 5K, then you probably aren’t trying hard enough. I was fighting to not slow down too much, but I’m pretty sure I still slowed down. Instead of passing people, people started to pass me and I started to wonder where the end was going to be. Where? Where?

I ended up crossing the line in 19:44, about 50″ behind Steve and about 20-25″ slower than I had hoped to do. It was never going to be my fastest 5K, but I thought it’d be a little faster. Still, it was about as good as I could have hoped for and it got the job done — ready for CIM next weekend.

Then, about 10′ later I probably could have done the exact same thing again, but I couldn’t have gone any faster. Steve, though, was sure he could have run faster, but was also crippled from running at all and has pretty much struggled to walk down stairs since Thursday. I guess that’s what being in marathon shape is. I hope.

Training Week: Nov. 18-24

Who knows. Who KNOWS. Did I mention coaching yourself can be stressful and cause a lot of self-induced panic?


Ran 8.75 miles with 6 x 5′ at 6:41, 6:40, 6:25, 6:38, 6:28, 6:33. The ones in the 6:20s were actually the easiest because of the false flat of the long path, so that one way is slightly downhill and one is up. Also, I guess I eventually got in a groove.


Rain. God I hate the rain. Tried to bike to the ferry, but failed. Turned around after getting soaked, which totaled like 30′ of biking. Then, took the bus to cross-country practice, because I didn’t feel like getting wet again. But, with some kind of accident and traffic, it took an hour. AN HOUR. I’m not making this up, I can run from my house to the high school in 40′. After I finally got there, ran about 3.5 miles easy with the kids.


TRX class, which was surprisingly hard and ab-aching.

Swam 1,600y easy after, with a handful of hard 100s thrown in.


Crossfit class in the morning. I deadlifted 160 lbs. That seems like a lot to me, but I guess it’s not? Then, we did like a set of stuff that involved a lot of overhead presses (which I’m terrible at ever since I slammed a bar into my mouth and bit through my lip) and a lot of sit-ups (which were awful with how much my abs hurt from TRX).


Ran 20 miles. It’s a combination of my favorite running route, plus running up and over the hill from my house into San Anselmo, then hooking up at Phoenix Lake, watershed, back down to Deer Park, through Fairfax and back over the hill. It was rough and slow and felt awful. But, I did manage a couple 7:30s and even a bit of that at 7:00 at the end, so I suppose that’s encouraging, even if it felt really hard.


The beat-up-ed-ness prompted a revised schedule. Biked 25′ or so to pick up the car, then ran around the high school sectional meet to watch — mostly SPRINT, jog, walk, SPRINT.


Did not make it to the race I intended to make it to. Mountain biked the 680 Trail instead, which amounted to about 1:40 of riding — some of it really hard, the kind where I have to lean way over the front of my bike to stop it from tipping, and some of it not so hard. If you haven’t been to the trail, you should try it. And, yes, you will feel like you’re lost.

Not bad overall? Maybe?

TOTAL: 10:05

Not Even Showing Up to the Start Line

Yesterday, I was supposed to run the Pacific Association cross-country championship race in Golden Gate Park. And, by “supposed to” I mean that I hadn’t exactly signed up yet, just that it was on my training schedule and I fully intended to go.

But, I didn’t go.

It’s not that I dislike the PA XC Champs race. It’s terrible fun and I’ve done it most years. And, usually, it falls the day after the high school cross-country sectional race, so I’m all invigorated to go out there and run some crazy stuff over logs and up hills and through sand. This year, though, I just wasn’t.

I was worn out and tired and things hurt. The combination of a few days of TRX, Crossfit and my last/only 20-mile run left my body pretty beaten up this weekend and running around the high school meet didn’t do much to help. In fact, it hurt my toe more, with all the sprinting back and forth across the field in random shoes without the orthodic, etc. So, when I woke up at 7 a.m. yesterday to eat breakfast and head to Golden Gate, instead, I just didn’t get up.

This isn’t exactly a strategy I would advise and it’s left me with more than a few doubts going into CIM, which we’re just going to not talk about, and a little sad I missed the terrible fun. But, when you know it’s going to be a hard race and you know you’re going to spend a lot of the race questioning why you care about coming in 43rd or 39th, you kind of have to be all in at the start and not asking those questions beforehand — or it just isn’t going to go well. (And, the last thing I need right now is another shitty race.)

So, instead, I slept until 10 a.m. and went for a mountain bike ride. Hoping that was the right decision, right coach?