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Today is the First Official Day

Me in front of the Brandenburger Tor with the Berliner Bear last August. This is about 200m before the finish line.

That’s right: Today is 16 weeks out from the Berlin Marathon and official training has started. I am warily excited. I’ve tried this before and didn’t make it. But I am stronger and more prepared physically and mentally.

Thankfully, I’m not alone. Rob has committed to training with me and cheering me on during the big race (what he doesn’t know yet: I’ll have a map with places he and his family will meet me, complete with estimated times that I’ll pass the spots), plus my Springfield training partner just announced that she’ll be training for a sprint Tri during the summer (not as good as training together, but better than nothing!), and a new-found running blogger buddy starts training for his marathon two weeks after I do (although under rather mysterious conditions).

The Goals

I have read several blog posts recently (by Vanilla and Nitmos) that sorta give me the impression that runners are supposed to post race goals on their blogs a few days or weeks out from the race. I’m just going to do it now. I know I’ll revisit these goals closer to the race, but I just want to share what I’m thinking at the beginning of my training. Might be funny to read later.

Pie-in-the-sky Goal: 10:30 miles for an overall time of 4h 35m 18s
Seemingly Realistic Goal: 11:30 miles for an overall time of 5h 01m 31s (I will cross that finish line in under 5 hours!)
I Like Shiny Things Goal: It’s my first marathon: I’ll be satisfied with finishing on my feet and not crawling. (Even crawling wouldn’t be bad as long as I finish…)

We’ll see…

The Training Program

I based my training program on a combination of Hal Higdon‘s novice and intermediate marathon plans. I’ve scheduled 10 pace days during the 16 weeks, and this time around, I’ll be doing some “weight training” on the side as well (more on that in a bit). Here’s what it looks like. You can add my calendar, which I’ll be updating after each run, to your feed reader here or view it here.

The “Weight Training”

I have committed to strengthening the rest of my body during the 16 weeks by competing against myself in a fitness test. My original plan was to do the initial test today and then re-test myself 8 to 10 weeks in. Unfortunately, I was in a bike accident last week (nothing major–just fell up a curb, as only I can do, into another biker) and I have a nasty, painful bruise just under my left kneecap. It hurts to put any weight on it, so the girly push-ups I do (no laughing!) are out for at least one more week.

Which means… there is still time for you to join me in this fitness challenge! Charity was the only one to take me up on it when I made the initial offer. Is anyone else out there interested? If so, check out the original post and leave a comment to join in the healthy action!

That ends my first post from the marathon training season. I’ll be dreaming of the finish line tonight.

A Question for Runners: Dehydration?

I drink only water 95% of the time (the other 5%: Beering with my colleagues on Friday nights, and one Dr. Pepper a week as a special treat), so I don’t need to drink more water, or so I thought.

But the last couple times I have run, I have felt dehydrated later in the evening. Obviously I need to make sure I am drinking more before, during, and after my runs since I’ve been feeling dehydrated, so that is not my question.

I try not to drink after 9:00 because I want to avoid waking up in the middle of the night to relieve myself, but tonight, I’ve given that up because I hate the dehydration headache, and I hate taking a pill for it when more water will make it go away.

So the question: Should I trust the pee test (it’s pretty clear, but I still feel icky)? Or should I trust the “once you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated” test (I definitely feel thirsty still)?

Adventures of a Runner in Stadtwald Giessen: Cuckoo clock? Snow in May? Air Conditioning?

Today Rob and I hit the pavement for a nice out and back romp through the Stadtwald Giessen. We ran from the beginning of the trail, almost at Rathenaustrasse, to the very end of the path. I heard and saw two beautiful pieces of nature today and one perk of running in shade near water that I just had to tell you about.

Cuckoo Clock?

About six minutes into the run I heard what was undeniably a cuckoo bird. I have never seen or heard one before, but I have heard my share of cuckoo clocks, and this sound was exactly like those potentially annoying time pieces. Exactly.

It sang its song about four times, and we didn’t hear another one the rest of the run, but I was simply dumbfounded at how clock makers have precisely mimicked the sound of this bird in their intricate wooden clocks.

Snow in May?

At about 20 minutes in, I looked to the left and there, under the vivid green canopy of trees, I saw what appeared to be a blanket of fluffy snow on the ground. I could tell by a few white flowers near the path, not to mention the wonderful temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius, that it was not snow, but rather small firework bursts of white flowers. It was beautiful.

Air Conditioning?

At several points throughout the run, it felt as though we were running in an air conditioned forest, as strange as that sounds. I think it was the combination of the very gentle breeze, the generous shade afforded by the tall, leafy trees, and the occasional creek running close to the path. Whatever the cause, though, I loved it.

I remember running just south of Sequiota Park and the 2.1 mile marker on the Galloway Creek Trail, where the trees get thick and the path runs right next to the creek. Even in the summer, it would feel like we were running through a cave because the trees held in the cool air coming off the water. It was just like that today.

The Running Season has Officially Started!

A few weeks ago, I announced my bid for the 2008 Berlin Marathon (for those of you who read the 4-part series on my running history, it might be interesting to know that every time I try to type “2008 Berlin Marathon,” I start typing “2008 Chicago Marathon“), and today is officially the opening of Linden’s running season. It has been really cold this winter and Linden just doesn’t run in the cold. I could have started running last week, but there were some threatening cold days this week, and when I start, I don’t want to stop again.

So we rode our bikes the 10 minutes through town, straight to the entrance to Stadtwald Giessen, locked the up, and ran. As you head into the Stadtwald (“shtaught-vault,” or “city forest”), you run up a slight incline for about 2 miles. There are places where it levels off a little bit, but for the most part, it’s a long killer incline. I am used to running on flat ground, this even this baby “hill” leaves me way more winded than I should be. Nice thing is that I always go faster down the hill, so that means negative splits!

When we made it back to our bikes, we saddled up and headed back into the Stadtwald. We have heard rumor of Kloster Schiffenberg, or the Schiffenberg castle monastery, a castle which housed monks for nearly 800 years. We headed in the general direction, but turned around, we think, right before we got there. All in all, we were out gettin’ the blood pumping for just short of 2 hours. I like this bike riding thing! (Hint, hint, Vanilla!)

Some of my favorite quotes from today’s workout:

  • As he ran behind me so we could make room for other runners and after the other runners had passed us, Rob said, “I can smell you. (long pause) You smell delicious. I wanna have you with some potatoes.” I can only hope he meant I smelled like a bratwurst or Frikadellen, because Germans sure do like those two dishes with potatoes.
  • After the run: I had told him during the run that he was a bad running partner, so when we were done, he said, in his best Valley Girl impression, “If you had just finished running with Sarah, you would totally be chattin’ it up right now. (Throws his hip out to one side and twirls his imaginary hair) Well, actually, you’d be twittering to each other. You would talk like that, too: (Different girl voice) ‘Sarah is twittering: How was your run, Linden?’ (Back to Valley Girl) ‘Linden is twittering: I feel good, Sarah! What about you?'”

Sarah is definitely a better running partner because her Run Talk motivates me (Rob is, to me, most annoying when we’re running), but he sure does crack me up!

My Running History P.S. Fitness Test

I forgot a second announcement I meant to post alongside my “I’m running the Berlin Marathon” announcement. So here’s a little post script on yesterday’s post.

Remember those Fitness Tests I and so many others failed in high school? I’ve decided that I do not want have that failure hanging over me anymore. (Not that it is something that has been bothering me since 11th grade or anything…)

I’m more physically fit than I was then by a long shot, so I think I can rank at least in the “Good” category. But I’m going to shoot for hitting “Excellent” in the 12-minute fitness test and the sit-and-reach test. That means that, according to this Washington Post page, here’s what I’ll need to hit.

12-minute fitness test: 1.45 miles (Excellent)
Sit-and-reach flexibility test: 22.5 inches (Excellent)
1-minute sit-ups: 38 (Good)
Modified push-ups: 30 (Good)

I have already started doing push-ups, sit-ups, and regular stretching, but I am going to test myself on the first day of marathon training, May 26, and 8 weeks in, on August 4. I want to see where I rank at the beginning of training, and then see how much I progress.

So, you know my next question… Who’s in? Anyone else out there want to overcome those demons from high school? Or just up for another fitness challenge, like the 8-week, 100-mile challenge? Let me know if you’re in by leaving a comment!

My Running History is MY Running History

Linden at the end of the Giessen half-marathon

Linden at the end of the Giessen half-marathon

I have been telling you about who helped me believe it was possible for me to start running and who helped me continue being a runner, but today I’m going to try to tell my part of the story. Well, at least the most relevant parts. :)

When I started training for that 2005 Chicago Marathon, Rob and I had one car and we lived just north of Grand Street. We both worked at Bed Bath & Beyond. This means that both of us spent lots of hours at Border’s waiting for the other to get off work. I spent most of my time reading about running, and I started with Hal Higdon’s marathon book.

If you’ve heard that running is 90% mental and 10% physical, you’ve heard right. It seems like to me that your body learns how to run waaay quicker than your mind. Hal acknowledges this, as did other books I read through (and furiously made notes on, anal-retentive that I am):

Running Mantras

I wanted to be prepared.

  • “Hello, Hills! Come run with me!”
  • “I am a marathoner.”
  • “I never quit on a run!”
  • “I love to run! I will not stop!”
  • “I run no matter what the weather is like.”
  • “I always feel strong when I run.”
  • “My legs are getting stronger, my lungs are getting stronger, my mind is getting stronger.”
  • One that Beth told me: Counting backwards from 100 while breathing out on the odd numbers and in on the even numbers.
  • One that Sarah told me: Remember the part in Indiana Jones where Marion asks Indy where it hurts and she kisses him? Ask yourself the opposite of that: “Where doesn’t it hurt?” Helps you ignore whatever pain is nagging at you.

Running Visualizations

I imagined a group of my athletic friends running in front of me. I’d catch up to them, they’d cheer me on, and then I’d start running faster than them, rushing through them to their cries of support.

In another, I would see just two or three of my friends up ahead. They’d be cheering for me, holding banners, jumping up and down.

On hot days, I would imagine ice melting in my shoes. Special ice that didn’t make my socks soggy or my shoes heavier. Magic running ice. :)

When I was feeling especially tired, I would catch up with one of my “imaginary” friends. Then a band would appear around us, linking us together. She or he would just keep on chugging ahead, pulling me along.

I would imagine my feet as feathers. Or my fatigue as a thin layer of skin that slowly peels away as I run. Finally, I just step out of it, feeling refreshed and renewed.

The most powerful image I had was one almost every book recommended: the finish line of your race. It was easy to imagine Chicago, with its million supporters along the route, cheering for everyone.

Berlin 2008

And I think that last visualization will be even more effective as I start training for what will actually be my first marathon. Last week, I registered for the Berlin Marathon, which takes place on September 28 (we saved beaucoup buckeroos by registering early). I have spent about 2 weeks in Berlin over the course of the last 8 months, and I know the starting and finishing lines very well (I’ll even run my last few miles down a street called “Unter den Linden”—how awesome is that?!).

At the same time that I am excited about getting to run my first marathon in such an important world city and the city that gave me the love of my life, I am very nervous about stepping in this ring again. I am nervous about announcing my bid so early and so publicly. What if I get sick again? What if I get injured? What if I just get lazy without a dedicated running parter who will kick my butt every day (not that Rob isn’t dedicated, but we have different values on running public races and needing a goal to strive for, plus it’s easier to say no to him than to Sarah)? What if I don’t run the right mileage and am under-prepared because I don’t have a Garmin or a trail that is marked every tenth of a mile (like the Galloway Trail, where I did about 90% of all my running when we lived in Springfield)?

Some days I believe in myself. But others I just know I’ll fail. I know I’ll disappoint everyone again. Or maybe I’m just afraid of disappointing myself all over again.

In the end, I decided to do it, to announce my marathon goal almost six months away from D-Day. I hope that, as I continue to blog about my training (which will definitely pick up starting the last week of May when training starts), my running and non-running blog readers will encourage me. Will you do that?

Because I am going to need it.

My Running History is Sarah’s Running History

Sarah and Linden after the Frisco 5k (March 2007)

Sarah and Linden after the Frisco 5k (March 2007)

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how Beth encouraged me to take the first few running steps down my path as a life-time runner. Today, I’ll write about how a girl who I never thought I’d know more about than her and her fiancé’s names and wedding date the first time I met them pushed the runner in me and started down the “Road to the Marathon” with me.

I met Sarah long before we became friends: I registered her and Chris at Bed Bath & Beyond. Then we met again in Pummill 401 (the English Department‘s Graduate Assistants office). We kind of started being friends the first semester of grad school, but our friendship really began when we started running together in the spring semester in McDonald arena. I think she needed someone to boost her into running longer distances, and I needed a running partner to help get me out of my slump, although I didn’t know it at the time.

When we first started running, I really enjoyed how much Sarah knew about health, and I think she liked my encouragement. I remember the day she mentioned that she’d like to run a 5k eventually. We had been running 2 miles that week, so I told her that a 5k is only 3.1 miles. I added, “Why don’t we just see if we can do 3 today?” And we did. The rest of that semester, we ran our miles, talked, and she showed me how to use the weight machines. (You all know what it’s like to be the only person in the gym who can’t figure the machine out, while all the buffed beauties walk by and snicker at you as they add more weights. Sucks.) We didn’t stay in touch during the summer, but she ran her first 5k and even took second place in her age category.

When school started back up in the fall, we started running and lifting together again. Our desks were next to each other, so we talked a lot, plus we took a web design class for tech writers. We spent almost every Friday together doing homework for the class, checking for typos and sytax mistakes.

It was the next spring semester that our running became very serious. Sarah mapped out our road to the marathon, thanks to the great support and publicity running has in the Springfield area: a 5k during spring break, a 10k in the June, a half-marathon in November, and then a full marathon in spring 2009. With the exception of a week off here and there for illness, injury, and vacations, we ran together four days a week from the middle of January until I moved away in late September.

When you find a good running partner, you will learn a lot about her. You don’t just plod along those miles silently! You talk. And you tell her things you didn’t think you would because you have four more miles to go and you need to talk to fight that pain in your knee. You listen and learn about her as she does the same thing.

And your running partner sees you at your weakest. When you feel like every muscle in your body is going to snap, your running partner tells you you can go on. When your mind is screaming that you are an awful runner, that you’re slow, that you’re tired, that you really want to walk, she says no, you can’t walk, “Push it, Linden. I know you can. We’re runners, not walkers.”

We ran that 5k, we did the 10k in the hot June heat, but that is where our paths diverged. I moved half a world away about 3/4 through our half-marathon training. Luckily, I found a half-marathon in mid-October and I ran it. Sarah continued on with an awesome showing in the Cohick Half-Marathon in early November.

But my running story is not over, and nor is my running story with Beth or Sarah. Life is so much better when shared with others, but sometimes, we have to forge ahead without the people who make us strong and cheer us on physically by our sides. So tomorrow I’ll write about the leg of this journey that will, by necessity, be all mine.

My Running History is Beth’s Running History

Beth at her marathon

Beth at her marathon

During my junior year of college, I watched as my best friend spent hours during the week and even gave up her entire Saturday afternoon and evening during college planting carb shots along her running route and then running her miles for the week. Running?! Weird. She had a goal: The 2003 Chicago Marathon.

If you didn’t know me and Beth in high school, this won’t seem as weird as it was to me then. When we were younger, we hated physical activity. We waited to take the required gym class until our junior year (most people took it their freshman year). Even though we had lots of spirit, we were always the last two people to be picked for teams. We failed the Fitness Test, despite all of Coach Alms’s patient support of our un-athleticism.

By the time she was training for the marathon, though, Beth had also become an aerobics instructor and a certified personal trainer. The entire time she was training for her first marathon, she kept telling me that if she could do it, I could do it. I slowly started believing her. So she started me on the American Running Association’s Walk-Run program when I wanted to lose weight before I got married. I didn’t complete the program, but I made it a little over half-way through, enough that I discovered that with the properly increasing training program, I could run for 30 minutes! It was amazing, because when I started the program, I struggled to run for even 2 minutes.

Because of her amazing marathon accomplishment, I was inspired to give it a go myself. I registered for the 2005 Chicago marathon and started a novice Hal Higdon training program. With Beth’s “If I can do it, you can you too” message running through my head, I dove right in. It was not all easy, but it was such a great lesson. If you look at the training program closely, you will notice that the weekend long runs increase gradually. That, my friends, is the secret to starting to run if you never have before. Each time the mileage increased, I knew I could do it, because I had run just one mile less before.

The 9-miler was so hard. Rob and I ran it on a hot, July Friday afternoon. I was dehydrated and I had never run in heat before. It was as much of a mental struggle as it was a physical one. But I completed it with the encouragement of my husband an mental mantras, repeated step after step after step.

The next week was a 10 miler with Beth. It was awesome. I don’t know if it was because we ran in the early morning coolness, but after that run, I knew I could finish the marathon. It was a great victory.

But I didn’t run the marathon. Six weeks before the marathon, I started grad school, including teaching for the first time. It killed the running schedule I had for the summer, plus my sleeping schedule. Bad combination: I got bronchitis, and you can’t run when you can’t breathe. I didn’t finish the training, and didn’t feel like, as a newbie runner, trying 26.2 miles. It was a tough decision, but then: Sarah.

Stay tuned tomorrow to hear how Sarah helped me along my path of becoming a runner.

100 Mile–8 Week Challenge: End of Challenge

This challenge did not end with a bang for me. It just kind of fizzled out. But I’m not too worried about that; I met the challenge goal and that is that.

On Sunday, the weather finally turned beautiful, so we went for a really long walk, winding in and around our little area of Giessen. So it was impossible to map. Even though we didn’t venture more than a 3/4 of a mile away from our home, we found many new restaurants and a botanical garden! I look forward to all the nice weather ahead of us this year so we can discover more about our quaint little town. Anyone want to come visit so we can try those restaurants with you? *hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

So even though I am reporting 5.6 miles for this week, I know it was more. And I’m okay with that. How did your challenge go?

Week 8 total: 5.6 (plus some)
Challenge total: 109.5

Related Posts
Week 1’s post
Week 2’s post
Week 3’s post
Week 4’s post
Weeks 5 and 6’s post
Week’s 7 post

Three Things I Never Thought I’d Say

Three years ago, if you would have told me that I would proudly say the three statements in this post, I would have laughed in your face and called the loony bin for you.

  1. “I can run for a long time.” Yeah, three years ago, I was happy to make it 10 minutes, much less three, four, or even twelve times that. I used the American Running Association’s Walk/Run Program to slowly build up my body’s ability to run. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the secret to running any distance is a gradual increase in mileage. If I can do it, I KNOW you can too!
  2. “I am a Runner.” If you read my post from the other day, you’ve heard my deliberations on whether or not I deserve to call myself that. I think religiously waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 on Sunday mornings to run anywhere between 4 and 11 miles separates me from the joggers. I might not be a “full-fledged Runner” yet, but I’ve at least proven that I deserve to be among the ranks of True Runners. If you didn’t believe me on point number 1, I definitely would have thought you were crazy if you told me that I would give up four sleeping-in mornings a week to go out and sweat. I never would have predicted this sort of atypical Linden behavior. But I like that it’s becoming typical.
  3. “One of my guilty pleasures after a long run is an ice bath.” Oh, man! I am still not sure what it is that makes them feel so nice, but I actually look forward to slipping into that frigid water after a long, hard run! (Applying coldness to injuries helps to stop the injury process, and if you combine that with the gentle compression of the water, you are getting two M./R.-I.C.E. treatments in one with an ice bath.) See, usually, I HATE cold water. My showers are normally hot and steamy, and I tend to nudge the temp up as the shower goes on and either the water gets cooler or I get used to it. I remember laughing at this idea about two years ago, actually. Then I had one after my first 12 miler. And I was immediately hooked. :)

One of the things I like about my new, healthy habits is recognizing the ways I’ve changed. Some (like waking up so early!), I don’t think that I’ll ever truly get used to, but others (like my icy guilty indulgence), I already cherish. I think these changes do two things for me: I actually see how I am growing as a person and an athlete, and I realize that I can change my habits if I really want to. All it takes is dedication, time, and a little willingness to give up old, comfy habits.

EDIT: Quote to inspire me to pay closer attention to what I eat:

At the end of the day, no matter what you eat, food accounts for about 60 to 70 percent of the total process of living healthy. The other 30 to 40 percent is still due to physical activity, so you still got to get your butt off that couch and get movin’!

Thanks to iVillage for the great article on 8 “Superfoods.”