Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The One

I've been staring at the blinking cursor for several minutes, wondering how to start this blog. A gal of many words, I don't often find myself at a loss for them. Nonetheless, here I am, stunned.

Monumental '14 training is done.


The eerily empty Pull-Tab Chart, just before my final training run

Every run that was scheduled? I ran it.

Every mileage that was planned? I reached it.

Every pace that was set? I hit it.


Terrific Training
I have never had a training cycle that wasn't at least temporarily derailed by injury, illness, or just plain malaise. Over four months and 500 miles of training, one would expect a missed or aborted run somewhere, but I have been incredibly fortunate... or stubborn, take your pick.

Every run, ran. Every mileage, reached. Every pace, hit.

I still can't believe it.

For my Crohn's-y body to make it to a starting line healthy, doing all I've done in training, is truly remarkable. The training experience has me absolutely brimming with confidence and tenacity. I want that course. I NEED that course. I have a score to settle with that course. Never have I been in a better position to perform.

As previously mentioned, my goal with this marathon is to run the whole thing without stopping to walk. I originally wanted to finish sub-4:30, but I adjusted that goal to sub-4:22 after a reassessment of my current fitness. Truthfully, I want a sub-4:15, and also truthfully, I could probably run much closer to 4:00. However, I don't want too much, too soon. I just need a good, well run marathon.

The Plan, Man
My plan is to start the race extremely conservatively, a 10:00 min./mi. pace. Every 6-7 miles, I will accelerate gently. I will take fuel every five miles. I will sip water or a sports drink at every water station. I will be paced by Wendy's brother, Wes. Sam Rightmyer will run with us for the first seven miles, until she takes the half marathon exit. Wendy will join us at mile marker 20.

And then I'll run 6.2 more miles to the finish, where Ed and Mom (and Dad in spirit, and maybe Sam Cobb), will be waiting for me.  Collapsing into Ed's arms will be a splendid reward.

Now in taper ("Tapertober" just doesn't have the same ring as "Tapril"), I am taking every precaution to make sure my body is primed for the purpose. I'm hydrating. I'm monitoring sodium intake. I'm eating Vitamin C tabs. I'm staying off my feet. I'm visualizing success. I'm even doing the silly things like knocking on wood, avoiding walks under ladders, and calling shooting stars "good omens."

I've done the work, I've attended to the details, I've memorized the plan. All I must do is execute the plan that will carry me the last 26.2 miles of this story.

This is the one.

This is finally the one.

Follow me and other Monumental participants on Nov. 1 through Athlete Tracking.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My "First" Marathon

Fall Marathon Training
I am running a marathon in nine days. Nine days. It's difficult for me to explain what a strange feeling that is. I started official training when everything was green, it was hot and humid, and "fall marathon" sounded like a distant dream. Now, everything is colorful, I wore arm warmers for the first time in months on a training run recently, and the calendar says the number of days until this marathon is in the single digits. Nine. Nine days. Did I mention that? Sorry. (Not sorry.)

I'm not scared. I am, however, apprehensive, because this is my first marathon.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. You've run marathons before!" says you.

"Yes, I have," reply I. However, this marathon is a first of a different sort.

Allow me to explain.

Kona Marathon - June 28, 2009 - My First First Marathon
One summer in Hawaii, I completed what was truly my first marathon. (You can read about it here, but be warned: I had not yet learned to write succinctly.) I was awarded a Lilly Teacher Creativity Endowment to complete that race, which happened to be the Crohn's and Colitis of America's Team Challenge marathon that year, and happened to be on Ed's and my third wedding anniversary, and happened to be run on the World Championship Ironman marathon course, and happened to be in HAWAII.

Kona Finish Line
This race was held in a time long before I cared about core strength, injury prevention, and the like. I had already endured one stress fracture, but I thought it was a fluke. However, because I was hazily aware of my Crohn's-y fragility, I decided to train to run/walk the Kona Marathon. I got hurt anyway. Tendinitis in my hip. Shocker.

My longest training run for my first marathon was 14 measly miles. However, unless I seriously scaled back training, there was no way I'd be able to participate in this once in a lifetime race. So I kept my mileage laughably low, flew to Hawaii, and still had a blast.  I ran/walked the Kona Marathon in 5:53:27 with my husband as my cheering section. The last 10 miles were brutal. Through that experience, my life was changed forever.

Success. I crossed the finish line.

Monumental Marathon - November 2, 2013 - My Second First Marathon
Monumental - Pre-Collapse
Fast forward to Nov. 2012, right after I was hot off a huge, post-major-injury half marathon PR at MonumentalWendy suggested that I train to run the full marathon the following year. Kona was an achievement of which I was proud, but it always goaded me a bit. I wanted to properly train to run an entire marathon. Wendy set up a training program for my second marathon that was safe but effective.

I started calling this marathon my first marathon, because it was the first I planned to run entirely, and the first for which I would I have a complete training program. Well, almost. All was well with the exception of some nagging hip pain that caused me to miss a chunk of my last three weeks of training. We toed the 2013 Monumental start line with high hopes.

You know what happened there. Digestive peristalsis failure. Collapse on mile 23. Ambulance. Telling some EMTs what was up, then apologizing. Leaving the ambulance. Walking—nay, limping—the last 3.7ish miles on what we later learned was not a hernia, but a fractured pelvis. (No wonder my hip hurt.) I finished in 5:26. I don't know the seconds because I never cared to look.

Successful failure. Like Apollo 13, things didn't happen the way we'd planned, but I finished in spite of tremendous adversity.

Monumental Marathon - November 1, 2014 - My Third First Marathon
See why I'm calling it my "first" marathon now?  This marathon is the first that I will start running and not stop until I cross the finish line. Of course, that was the plan last year. However, I am in much better shape this year. Sam's training has my strength high, and Wendy's training has my endurance and confidence high. Also, nothing is broken or severly injured. The only pain I'm experiencing is some minor plantar fasciitis in my heels. Everything is aligning for me to run the whole race and meet other goals about which I'll write later. I just need a good marathon day to realize success.

So, this is my first marathon, meaning the first marathon I'm going to whip in the rear.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bedford Half Marathon - Race Report

I have run lots of half marathons. Prior to October 2014, I had run nine organized road half marathons and countless training runs of 13.1 miles or more. In those nine races, I've run alone, with friends, for fun, for time, with good results, and with rough results. However, no race was quite like my tenth organized road half marathon, the Bedford Half Marathon.

Hometown Race
In November 2013, my hometown, the city of Bedford, Indiana, received some exciting news: we would be hosting a half marathon on October 4, 2014. Local runners rejoiced. We embraced the opportunity to share our sport and our town all in one event.

Bedford-born Chris Galloway was at the helm of the planning. As the months progressed, so did plans for the race. The challenging, hilly course map was released. Folks started registering. Volunteers joined the effort. Bedford was abuzz with running talk. However, one question was on the mind of every Lawrence County dweller: can Bedford pull off this event?

Race Weekend
Welcome to the Fitness Expo!

Wendy and I signed up to volunteer at the Fitness Expo, held the night before the race, where we were charged with the task of greeting folks who entered the expo. I've been to a myriad of race expos in big cities. Though this expo was small, it did not lack big-city energy.  Participants and volunteers were all smiles, jittery with excited energy, and looking forward to the race. The final count reported about 750 people registered for the three races (half marathon, 5K, and 1-mile walk).

Still... could Bedford pull off this event?

Pre-race support from my favorites
Race Day
Race morning dawned cool and breezy. I was able to walk with Wendy to a start line that was only a half mile from my home. Once in the "race village" (Bedford's downtown square), I was immediately impressed with the area. The finish line and chute were organized and professional. Boxes of post-race necessities were prepared for finishers. A stage promised a band and an impressive awards ceremony. Volunteers were ready to assist runners and spectators. As time passed, the downtown area became a hub of activity. It was later reported that Bedford's downtown had not seen that volume of people since the 1920s.

So far, so good, Bedford.

Times-Mail photo of the start by Garet Cobb
The Race
The start was a rush of energy as we headed west on 16th Street. Bedford citizens lined the streets to cheer on the runners. Instantly, I knew that this race was something special to the city of Bedford. As we continued on the course, I became even more aware that the Bedford Half Marathon was more than just a race. Droves of people came to support the event, whether they were participants, volunteers, or roadside cheerleaders. People were coming together.

Nearly every cheer I heard was accompanied by my name. "Go, Jo!" "Get it, Mrs. Cobb!" "C'mon, JoAnna, run!" People here knew me.  I usually thank policemen and volunteers when I run an organized race. This day, they answered, "No problem, Jo!" When I finished, the announcer didn't need to look up my number before he announced, "Look folks, it's JoAnna Cobb!" In the chute, familiar faces offered a medal and hydration.

Everyone was happy. Every. One. Was. HAPPY. It was a beautiful day. Runners inspired the volunteers and the crowds on the streets.  The crowds and volunteers inspired the runners. My facebook was full of photos my friends took of the race. My phone pinged all day with messages from friends, all of them excited about the Bedford Half Marathon.

Bedford, it seems, pulled it off.

Mile 11 with Jon, Mary, & Zach
The Race, Again
Oh, you wanted some of the usual info? :-)  Here it is...

I paired with Zach, a former student of mine who was running his third half marathon and looking to PR. My plan was to run comfortably hard, but not race. I didn't want to jeopardize my performance in the upcoming Monumental Marathon. I figured I would hang with Zach around a 9:00 pace and see where it took me. We were joined off and on by Mary, a friend of mine who was trying to break two hours.

Near the finish
This race story is better told holistically. We managed to nail very consistent miles in the 8:50 range, faster than I had planned, but oh well. The hills were challenging, but very nearly fun. The long trip up Mitchell Road wasn't as hard as I thought, but the rolling hills in the last 5K made up for it. Zach and I talked the whole time. He asked the age old question, "Why does the blacktop on John Williams Blvd. stay black when all the other pavement goes gray?" We saw a guy lose his lunch (breakfast?) early in the race. We talked about school. We talked about how we liked the cold (39°), but not the wind. I gave advice when I thought he needed it. Ed, Mom, and Wendy kept tabs on us, Ed and Wendy on bikes and Mom via car. Wendy kept us informed about our racing friends. We sped up at the end, and Zach and I separated with about a half mile to go. He finished in 1:55:33, and I was six seconds behind him. Mary joined us less than a minute later.

Let me just say that again: I finished a half marathon, without racing, with challenging hills, talking the whole time, in just two minutes above my PR. I could not be more thrilled with my fitness.

Here are the results and the stats 'n' such. Hooray to my friends Becky and Kyle for being the first Lawrence Countians, and to all my friends and neighbors for their great races.

...and what an afterglow it is. Bedford did it. We did it. We ALL did it. It took everyone coming together to make the Bedford Half Marathon what it was. What was it? It was an event that made every single person in attendance appreciate something about someone else. It built and strengthened relationships and community pride. It was everything I love about Bedford, Indiana, and running.

Some More Pics
A finish line with Bedford on it!

Starting with Yancy and Zach

With Mary and Zach on Mitchell Road


Did it!

In the chute with Zach

Got it done!

PS - September
Here are my September running stats:

Miles Run: 135.52
Runs: 13
Hours Run: 21:54:26.2
Average Run Distance: 10.42 mi.
Average Run Pace: 9:42.0
Average Run Duration: 1:41:06.6
Average Temperature: 54.25°F
Longest Run: 7.00 mi., September 1
Shortest Run: 20.10 mi., September 20
Favorite Run: September 13, 15.01 mi.
Trips To Gym: 6
Total 2014 Mileage: 908.62
Total Lifetime Mileage: 3,861.36

(Current 2014 total is 929.27 mi., and current lifetime total is 3,882.01.)