Running Myself Ragged

“In running, you can’t be a beggar. Never beg your legs to keep moving, never beg yourself to keep pushing forward. Because that implies that you don’t have control. Eventually you’ll have to beg your mind too. No don’t be a beggar, but instead be a commander. Command your legs to push, command your feet to keep going. Because you want this. And you’re going to make it happen.”

I wasn’t reciting this quote to myself the entire time, but I remember Jesse asking me around mile 11 if I wanted to walk for a while. But I had to command my legs to push. I wanted it, and I had to make it happen…

A little flavor for how my first half marathon went, but first…let’s backtrack a little to my training days. After the 10K at Hagg Lake, I decided it was half marathon time. I could run 6 miles, and on any other day it would have easy. Well, easier. That much I knew. There are not many 15K options ’round these parts, so it had to be a half. Might as well. Go big or go home, right!? So I spent an afternoon exploring some various options available in the timeframe I thought I needed to train properly and came up with 4 possible events:

How I narrowed it down:

  1. I knew I wanted it to be a trail run, ruling out Columbia Gorge;
  2. I hadn’t quite decided if I wanted Jesse to run with me, but wanted the option, ruling out Happy Girls; and
  3. Let’s just get this over with; the sooner the better, which eventually ruled out Grand Ridge (yikes, I’d still be in training today if I’d chosen that one!)

Ft. Steilacoom in Lakewood, WA, wherever that is, get ready for me! I started doing research on a good training schedule I could implement and stick to. I opened up my handy dandy Google Docs and made a little spreadsheet from a training plan I found online. I pared it down to 10 weeks, rather than 12 (since that’s all I had!). I should note though, that at this point I had not fully committed…I had not officially registered and I had not told Jesse, or anyone else, what I was up to. Just quietly upping my weekly mileage. I eventually told L (as she became suspicious of why I was pushing her to run longer and longer distances), and she became my training confidant and after-work running partner. Funny how Jesse got me started with all this running nonsense and I found myself, for the majority of my runs, without him.

Here are some of my workouts with L.

8-14 to 8-218-22 to 9-22

As you’ll see in the photo on the right above, there is a large break in my training from August 26th to September 17th. No, I wasn’t being a total slacker – it was just that I thought I needed a bit more intense training…in the Alps!

Jesse and I had been planning a trip to Europe and finally made it happen. PDX to AMS on August 29th. Then on to Bristol, London, Paris, Samoens, and Barcelona. We did a few runs throughout the cities, but we both agreed that our time in the Alps was the best by a wide margin. It was in Lyon, France, at the most basic airport known to man, waiting on our delayed flight to Barcelona that I told Jesse about my half marathon plans. He was so impressed (i.e. skeptical) that I was thinking of a trail run for my first half that I knew he’d have to sign up too so I could prove my worthiness of such a feat. In that tiny airport, with sketchy wi-fi, we registered together. I guess it was official O_o

Some of my best training was in Europe (shocking, I know). Not only because it had great terrain, endless routes, and unbeatable views, but also because nothing was tracked with GPS. No apps to start and stop. No time constraints or pace to beat. Just running when we wanted to, and not running when we (i.e. I) didn’t want to. It was all really low pressure and casual, which I enjoyed so much more than my training with my ruthless internal coach. Details on that will have to be an entirely separate post, though!

After 15 glorious days abroad, we returned home and real life resumed.

9-25 to 10-14

The 9.72 miler is a lie. Well, I did go that far, and farther, but I was in Forest Park during the “Pacific Typhoon” in Portland. Jesse was…I don’t know, somewhere, and I had to get in 10 miles that day. So I drove to the trailhead and started in by myself. It was a good start, actually. I remember my first several miles being sub-10 minutes/mi. Some guy in a blue jacket was (unknowingly) pacing me, I had a good playlist going, and the rain wasn’t an issue as I thought it might be. Until…..mile 7. Oh, so much pain! The blister forming had now taken over my entire life and all I could think about was that run being over. “You can do it, only 3 more miles” “Only 2.8 miles and this will be finished” “Only 2.6 miles now!” “Only 2.5 more miles. Wait, I’ve only gone 1/10th of a mile!? FML!” It. Was. Agony. No song could help me. I tried to continue running to just get it over with sooner and I had overcompensated for my foot with my stride that my back was hurting. Worst. Run. Ever. And then I get to the bottom and due to sketchy GPS service, my watch said I’d only gone 9.7 miles (the app was way off from about mile 4 and it kept pausing, hence the discrepancy). So, I kept limp-running past the car for my own masochistic pleasure of having the distance read 10.0. (Note: that blister ingrained such a paranoia in me and has been a bane in my every run since that I now swear by Dr. Scholl’s Blister Treatment pads for every run > 6 miles.)


That was the longest distance I put in before Steilacoom. Here’s why.

The weekend after the 10 mile run, some friends and I were signed up to run the Neon Run 5K at PIR. Before I get into the details of the event, I must preface by saying this was a terrible event that I would strongly advise EVERYONE to avoid. It was so poorly organized and coordinated/directed, packet pickup was a complete joke in that it was mandatory in BFE, and parking was so terrible that it backed up I-5 in both directions. The course was unlit and perhaps a little dangerous, cones were unmarked and people were constantly running into them, walkers couldn’t follow directions and were just in the way (Dear Neon Run: people who plan to walk the entire course should have a different start time. Kay thanks. Sincerely, An Annoyed Runner). Okay, rant over.

We finallly all arrive at the event and our wave was supposed to be at 7:15 PM. Although we were enjoying being herded like cattle, our gun eventually went off around 7:40 PM and off we went. When we were able to break away from the pack, I started feeling better about the event and we were able to have some fun with it.

photo 1photo 2photo 3

Easy 5K on Saturday night, followed by an 11 mile run with Jesse on Leif Erickson Drive. Or so I hoped. It’s never been clear to me if something happened at the 5K the night before or if I was running weird that day with Jesse but I was really struggling around mile 5 with my calf. Okay, struggling is an understatement, I was in such anguish I couldn’t even talk to Jesse and sent him on without me while I cried and walked and in my mind said all the swear words I could think of. I’d worked too hard to have an injury at this point! It just wasn’t fair.

Jesse came back to me, worried, and we had to devise a plan to get me home, as I was barely walking at this point, it was getting dark/cold, and it was at least 4 miles back to the car. We looked at the map and decided I would walk to the fork in the trail about a mile up and then take the trail down to the St. John’s Bridge while he sprinted ahead to get the car and would drive around to pick me up. About this time, 2 boys doing who knows what* (*we all know what!) in the woods came running down, skinny jeans and all, music blasting. How lucky, they were headed the way I was going to go. I lied to Jesse, told him I’d be fine, I’d take the flashlight but not the phone (worst case scenario, I get clubbed and abducted in the forest. Best case scenario? I don’t. But, meh…YOLO). I won’t bore you with the thoughts in my head during the 17 hour (i.e. 12 minute) walk to the bridge, but we’ll just say I was limping fairly quickly now and was quite alert.

The next few (ahem, 6) days I didn’t run, for fear of only injuring myself more. We were in Idaho for my niece’s birthday party and I decided I had to test the leg and see where I was at after all that rest. It’s true what they say:

“Seven days without running makes one weak”

It was a bit of a challenge to get back into it! We did 7 miles that Saturday on a gravel road out by Forest, ID, though I ended up walking the last mile. I could feel the dull ache in my calf and was equally annoyed and terrified that I’d really messed something up. My doctor had said to take some ibuprofen before the race (with lots of water) and as long as my stride wasn’t altered, I’d be fine. With 8 days to race day, my heart was still deflated about my current limitations.

I ended up trying 2.5 miles that Monday and 3.5 miles on Wednesday and not feeling super confident in my ability to run 13.1 miles in two days. I conceded to the fact that if I couldn’t do it, then that was that. I would walk if I had to and would just have to be proud of how far I’d come, regardless of how things ended up on race day.


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