Issa Marathon.

On January 19, 2018 I registered for the Colfax Marathon in Denver. Immediately after I hit the submit button, I looked over to my fiancé Ryan and said "holy sh*t, it's real now." Over the next few months, I will chronicle my journey to 26.2 with the hope of inspiring others to take on their biggest fitness and personal challenges.  Furthermore, writing about this experience holds me accountable and pushes me to compete with myself as I challenge my mind and body in a way that I never have before.  

Ok, I signed up.  Now what? Well, allow me to walk you through my first week of training.

The first order of business was getting a new pair of running shoes, my previous pair had seen and waved goodbye to better days.  I went to a local running store for a gait analysis and learned the technical term for why all of my shoes are severely worn along the inner sole - overpronation. To correct this problem, likely caused by my pancake flat arches, I was fitted with a stability shoe that made me feel like a dope Runningrella prancing on clouds the second I put them on and tested them out.

With a new pair of shoes picked out, I did what every type A personality with a new goal does: shop for all the accessories related to the activity! I got a few pairs of running socks that wick sweat, insulate, and protect from the blisters that come with increased foot pressure; some half-zip tech jackets; and running gloves.

Next on the agenda - creating a training schedule.  It should go without saying you can't train for a marathon all willy-nilly; you have to have a plan, be dedicated to the process, and disciplined throughout its execution. After hours of internet research, I cobbled together a skeleton plan for safe mileage increases based on my level of fitness and a detailed program for the first week that consisted of four short pace runs, one long endurance run, and two active recovery days.

Wind. Hills. Traffic. Cold. Goose Poop. These are just some of the obstacles that running outdoors present. Going uphill, against the wind, in 38-degree weather on my first run of the program was a major reality check since my outdoor pace per mile was two minutes slower than my indoor track pace, but I reminded myself that it was day one of a four-month-long process. I took a deep breath and began focusing on my body, which was easy to do because I was running headphone-free. That's right - I am doing all of my training without music or headphones because the race does not permit them, so why become dependent on the distraction while I train?  

My second and third short runs of the week saw modest improvement and brought me to twelve miles.  Hills became less intimidating, I began thinking of the wind as my personal diva fan, and I had a general idea of where to expect goose droppings. Although I was experiencing gains, I was also starting to notice small pains. Outdoor running taxes your body in a way that an indoor track or treadmill does not.  My ankles were sore, shins throbbed, and hamstrings tightened sounding the alarm to my already sore butt. I knew I needed to resolve these issues before my 10 mile endurance run, so I took an Epsom salt bath and rolled the knots out of my thighs and calves.  Listening to and honoring my body paid off; the next day my legs felt as good as new.

Ten miles. There’s something frightening yet euphoric about entering double digit mileage, and as I drove to the trail I reassured myself that this was just another run. I entered the trail, passing my usual landmarks and admiring new ones as I sought a route that would not require me to double back during my ten mile excursion. One-two, one-two, one-two.  Open your stride, explode from your calves.  Be better than yesterday. Breathe into the aches. Relax your shoulders. Be present.  These are just some of the things that I said to myself to stay engaged with my run, mind, and body.  Before I realized it, I met my distance goal and was sitting on the trail enjoying a post-run yogurt, proud that I made it the full ten miles without a single walk break.  I rewarded myself with my second Epsom salt bath of the week and a protein rich dinner of eggs, sausage, and potatoes to help my body repair the microtears caused by running such a distance.  While rolling my legs that evening, I had the stark realization that I had one more run to go for the week - a three mile pace run.

I woke up less-than-enthusiastic about this run because I knew my body was still reeling from the day prior, even if I wasn’t sore.  I decided to run in Garden of the Gods Park for inspiration and motivation to check off the three measly miles standing between me and my active recovery day. The first two miles of what should have been an easy run were challenging. Uphill, unpaved trails with exposed wooden beams and copper-colored rocks significantly slowed my pace as I navigated the rustic trails. When my running app announced the time for my first mile - 10:58 - I was stunned, and pissed.  I’d never run that slow - pick up the pace.  My second mile was also akin to molasses being poured on a cold day as I dodged hikers, dogs, and questioned whether or not I was still on the trail (hey, I’m not trying to end up on the news...) - 11:15.  And then, something inside of me snapped - I was over it.  I was irritated that I was running slower now than I had all week, I was embarrassed to feel tired during a three mile run, and the toddler deep inside of me was just ready to be at home with a snack.  These emotions manifested into a burst of energy, propelling me to run my fastest mile of the week - 9:44.  I was elated - it proved to me that training is a process, the process was working, and I just needed to train myself to be patient with and open to it.

On my active recovery days, I focused on strengthening and opening my hip flexors which will ultimately help me open my stride and run faster. I clipped into a spin bike for my first recovery workout.  I incorporated sprints, jumps, and climbs into the session in an effort to teach my legs how to effectively respond to varied demands.  Time on the bike also allowed me to enjoy music while I sweat, something that has become foreign during my training. On my second recovery day I went to the gym pool for the first time ever. You read correctly, before last week I’d only been to the pool in an I'm on vacation, piña colada, relaxation capacity. I timidly got into the water with my kickboard and fluttered back and forth for forty minutes, focusing on a proper kick from my hips for the sake of strengthening my legs. The water felt amazing to my aching joints and its sound calmed my mind, drowning out the constant pace and split calculations that dominated my thoughts of late.

So that was how my first week went.  Only fifteen to go.  


Total Run Days: 5
Total Miles Logged: 25
Average Pace per Mile: 10:33
Best Mile Time: 9:44
Best split: +1:29


Dr. Teal's Eucalyptus and Spearmint Epsom Salt
Foam Roller

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