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2017 Grandma’s Marathon – 3:38:55

Two years ago, Grandma’s Marathon, a point-to-point race along Lake Superior ending in Duluth, MN was a goal race for me. I worked my ass off in training and was feeling confident for a good race. Then three weeks before the race, everything started to fall apart. Long story short, I did not end up running racedespite going out there to cheer anyway.

This year, Grandma’s Marathon again became a goal race for me. I put together a training plan I was very excited about that included many half marathons incorporated into my long runs. Unfortunately, little went according to plan. I still ran five half marathons, three 10ks, and a 5-mile race, but I spent much of the last three months dealing with a really frustrating hip injury. Thanks to that injury, I ended up with hardly any training—as seen below in those screenshots that are sized way too small to actually read 🤷‍♀️.

I knew going into the weekend I should have the ability to get to the finish line. I expected it to be a shitshow, but this isn’t my first rodeo and I’ve been unprepared for marathons before—hello, almost every time I run Goofy/Dopey Challenge.

Pre-race

Grandma’s is a Saturday race so I flew out on Thursday to give myself a little time to not rush before the race. I flew into Minneapolis-St Paul which left me a two and a half hour drive to get to Duluth. Everything for my travel was entirely uneventful and I showed up at the hotel with plenty of time to check in, relax for a bit, and then walk over to the expo. The expo was pretty dead when I got there and I was able to get my stuff right away, do a quick lap, and get out.

Unfortunately, I’m two for two at crying at the Grandma’s expo now. Two years ago, I was crying over my DNS, this year I was crying over being laid off literally the day before. Oh well, shit happens. I’m fine (for real).

Amelia Gapin at Grandma's Marathon race expo

Ready? Ready.

Friday was an easy chill day. I hung out at a coffee shop for a bit to get some stuff done, walked around downtown and the finish area, did a shakeout run with my friend Sophie, watched Kara Goucher speak, and then grabbed dinner with my friend Kimmie. It was a nice day and just what I needed to get my spirits back up and accept my layoff. I spent most of the day with a big smile on my face.

There is stuff like this all over the city.

I did what I could to fix this photo, but the light was really hard to work with.

Race morning

Since Sophie’s hotel was still back in Minneapolis, I offered to let her crash in my room the night before. We woke up around 5am, threw our clothes on, and walked over to the buses to the start. We had hoped to make the train, but it seemed as though we ended up being a few minutes too late for that so we hopped on one of the school buses.

The ride over was relaxed and Sophie got to experience pre-marathon Amelia who doesn’t like marathons. Like, let me tell you, in the week before marathons leading right up to the starting gun, I hate the marathon. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. And I’m miserable to be around because all I do is complain about it.

Flat Amy.

We got to the starting area very early. The temperature was cool, but with some humidity. At points, there were sprinkles, but not much. The forecast called for rain around noon, but clear skies during most of the race.

Anyway, after hitting the porta-potties and checking our bags, we split up. Sophie was going for a BQ so she seeded herself a bit ahead of where I did since I was planning on taking it nice and easy. I was surprised the start corral was entirely self-seeded. It’s not a massive race, but it’s still 8,700 runners. I expected there to be some sort of predefined corrals. For the most part, everyone seeded themselves according to the pacers in the corrals. I lined up right next to the 3:45 pacers. I had planned to run a 3:50, but there was no pacer that and I was confident I could hang at 3:45 even without much training. But as the corrals filled and we got walked up, I ended up quite a bit in front of the pacers before the race started. Honestly, I don’t know why I even bother. I haven’t actually run with a pace group for a marathon in nearly four years.

The wait in the corral seemed like it was ages and I was antsy to get the shitshow on the road. Eventually, with little fanfare, we were off!

Miles 0-13.1

I didn’t have a solid race plan other than to just keep it steady and easy early on. I started off extra slow trying to let the 3:45 pace group catch up to me. It took a while, but they finally did…only to have me drop them again pretty quickly after that. As I fell into my natural rhythm, I noticed I was running quite a bit faster than planned, but my effort was really easy. Because I run by effort, I trusted the feel over any numbers. Though, I had my watch switched to manual lapping so my mile splits were exact to the mile markers instead of whatever GPS approximation I was going to get from my Garmin. This at least allowed me to keep a read on what my feel was translating to. I only ever check my watch on the mile, never in between.

Even though my effort was very low, my legs didn’t feel great. It wasn’t a feeling of them being worked, but more just them not wanting to be running at all. I know my body well enough to know not to worry about that feeling so I did my best to ignore it. However, I did check in on my heart rate regularly. Even though I was running by feel, I wanted that information available to me. Through the first half of the race, I was 147-151 which is nice and low.

While it was cool before the race, the sun was now out and it was warming up quickly. The temperature was much higher than I’d prefer for a marathon. When I could, I favored the left side of the road which had off-and-on shade, only breaking from that to hit the tangents around right turns. The race has very few turns, but there are a lot of curves in the road.

Crowd support was rather light. There would be some groups of people cheering when we’d pass by a lodge or something on the side of the road, but mostly it was a very quiet first half.

The few times I had looked at the elevation chart, it looked like it was relatively flat race with a 100ft net downhill. I guess I didn’t look close enough at the scale, though, because I was surprised to find the course is pretty much rolling hills the entire time. There aren’t really any big climbs, but you’re rarely running flat. Some runners enjoy this variation, but most of my miles are logged on very flat routes so I’m not in the kind of hill shape I used to be. I was glad I had run the hills in Central Park the last three weekends before the race. At least that was something.

Anyway, I kept my effort very even though the first half of the race, but if you look at my splits, there is a lot variation from the hills. I didn’t increase or decrease my effort while going up or down, I just kept doing what I was doing.

As we approached the halfway mark, there were more and more people cheering. Because there is also a half marathon that starts at the 13.1 point, the set up was still there and I guess people hung around to cheer. This was a nice little boost.

I crossed the half at 1:49:42.

What is going on with these splits.

Miles 13.1 to 26.2

Checking in with my body at the halfway point, I was liking how I was feeling. I felt like I should have a negative split in the cards if I kept up what I was doing. However, it was getting quite warm. I had been sweating pretty heavily for most of the race already and while I was taking water at most stops, I wasn’t getting that much down.

The next few miles ticked off like nothing while I kept things steady. My heart rate eventually started creeping into the upper 150s, but nothing I was worried about.

By mile 17, I was in the best of moods. I had a big smile on my face and just couldn’t stop thinking about how much I love the marathon. This kept up through most of mile 19. That mile was a pretty big downhill and my second fastest mile of the race. By this point I had stopped worrying too much about my effort level and let it creep up a little when it felt right.

The reason why I say “most of mile 19” up there is because things changed pretty quickly for me. Before I even got to the mile marker, I went from “aw haww” to “oooohhhhh noooooo.” Things started feeling harder and I was no longer having such an easy time. I was still okay, but I knew it wouldn’t be a fun seven miles to the finish. My biggest problem was the dehydration must have started setting in because I started getting nauseous. I would end up dealing with this nausea to different degrees for the remainder of the race.

The one plus side here, though, was that we had started to make it into town and there were people out cheering and playing music. As I crossed the 20th mile marker, I knew I was good to make it to the finish, but that I wouldn’t be enjoying the last 10k. I just said to myself “it’s basically just one lap around Central Park…without Harlem Hill.”

Miles 21 and 22 felt fooooorever long. I was still keeping a pretty reasonable pace, but I felt like I was going slower. The 22nd mile marker was at the base of basically the last climb of any decent length. When I saw the hill coming, I knew I was going to be struggling to get up it so, as soon as I hit it, I switched into a strong arm swing to power myself up. I think it was about 80% my arms that got me up there. That and seeing Kimmie cheering and screaming in my face.

Crossing the 23rd mile marker, I slightly lied to myself and said “okay, just a 5k to go.” I didn’t worry too much about that other .1. We were starting to get closer to downtown Duluth, where I had cheered two years ago. This was the part I knew I needed to get to. I knew the energy there would bring me in. By now, I was starting to actually slow down. My legs were tired and my nausea was…not great. There were a couple points where I thought I was going to have to stop and puke. I tried not to think about it too much.

Amelia Gapin running in downtown Duluth during Grandma's Marathon.

In downtown!

As we made our way down Superior in downtown, I stuck as far left as I could to stay in what remaining shade I could find. The crowd was very loud and the buildings helped to really echo the sound. It was extremely encouraging. When I finally saw the 25th marker coming up, I knew I was getting close. I knew didn’t have to dig in for much longer.

I also knew at that marker, there was a left turn and the last tiny hill up an overpass. Once we were over that, it was flat to the finish. I had nothing left to push with because of my nausea, but I also knew my time was good and I was probably going to pull off a negative split and a sub-3:40 finish. I was pretty stoked about that, but more stoked by the idea of being done.

We hooked around the convention center and along the harbor and finally made our last turn. As I saw the finish line come into view, I was so happy to be there, but it felt so far away.

After what felt like years, I finally crossed the finish looking better than I felt, at least according to my finish video.

A 3:38:55 was good enough for a negative split and my second fastest marathon time since transitioning.

This half was a least a little more even…ish.

My legs felt completely trashed and all I wanted was to drink everything in sight. I think I looked like I had fallen in a pool, I was so sweaty. I walked around to try to keep my legs moving and grabbed my free beer. I ended up gulping it down pretty quickly so I could start walking back to the hotel. I made sure to walk along the course as much as possible so I could cheer while walking. As I walked more, my legs started to loosen back up a bit at least.

Final thoughts

I’m really glad to have actually run the race after my DNS two years ago. I ran a pretty solid race even though I was struggling the last few miles. I think this makes five straight marathons I’ve negative split which is pretty rad. Though, that said, my splits this race were super duper erratic. I don’t think I’ve ever had such erratic splits during a race before…or even in a training run. I tend to be steady with an overall negative trend. In this race, I was all over the place, up and down. It’s not a thing I was worrying much about during the race or am worried about now. I know my effort was pretty even through the first 18-19 miles and the variations were due to the hills each mile. It’s just strange.

2017 Grandma's Marathon medal

Nice medal!

I really like Duluth as a city. It’s charming and quaint and everyone is very friendly. It feels like it could be the 8th town in Nightmare Before Christmas, Marathon Town. It feels like this is something they’re preparing for all year and the people really love the event. The race is well organized while maintaining a very personal and small-town feel. It’s a good vibe. The crowd support for the first 3/4 of the race is light, but there was plenty later on when it mattered.

I’m happy to have marathon number 11 in the books and I’m grateful to have had a decent race considering the last three months. And that brings me to my hip… Notice how I didn’t mention it during the race? Yeah, it wasn’t a thing, really. I’d say there were maybe five to ten total minutes added up through the race when I even felt it at all. I was staying very focused on my breathing and that was doing the trick. Those little bits when I did feel something, and we’re talking like a 1 out of 10, were when I had stopped breathing properly.

12

A Racecation Without the Race

The bib I should have been wearing

The bib I should have been wearing

As you already know, I was registered for, and trained for, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota this past weekend. And as you also know, I DNSed this race. And, if you follow me on Twitter, you might also be aware of the fact that I still went to Duluth anyway to cheer and did not handle it in any way at all like an adult.

Even though I wasn’t running, I still wanted to head out and support my fellow runners. Good crowd support is a hugely important part of running a marathon so I felt like I should give back a little. Plus, a non-refundable flight (the most expensive part of the trip) and a chance to see a place I’ve never seen before didn’t hurt either!

Earlier last week, my work had a 24 hour hackathon where we get to hack away on any project we want to work on. We get to build some really cool stuff and it’s always a great time, but it’s intensely tiring. There is a lot of drinking and not a lot of sleep. I was hacking away on my project until 3:30am before calling it a night and crashing on a couch in a conference room. After just two and a half hours of sleep, I was awake and hating pretty much everything, but I still had a lot of work to do on my project so I wanted to get right back to it. I knew it wasn’t going to be super functional yet and it was going to be ugly and crashy, but I really wanted to have a proof of concept to present to everyone at the end. I plugged away at full steam until the very end of the 24 hours and was pretty proud of what I had created.

Anyway, what’s this have to do with my racecation? Well, shortly after giving my presentation, I had to hightail it out of work to catch my flight. People were still presenting (some super cool stuff, too!) when I left, but there was no time to stay. I hopped on a train to Newark Airport and jumped on my flight to Minneapolis.

Remember, I’d only slept two and a half hours and had woken up at 6am the day before.

I touched down in Minneapolis just after 8pm and hustled my way over to pick up my rental car. I had a two hour drive to Superior, WI ahead of me still. Luckily, the drive was incredibly uneventful and I was able to make great time.

Nicest bathroom in an airport ever?

Nicest bathroom in an airport ever?

You may have picked up on the fact that I drove to Superior, WI and not Duluth MN. That’s because Superior is right next to Duluth and by the time I went to book a hotel they were all full. So I ended up staying in a dorm at the University of Wisconsin-Superior which was just a ten minute drive to/from the Grandma’s Marathon finish line. Yes, you read that right, a dorm. Apparently, this is a thing and a few of the area colleges rent their dorms out for race weekend. I had actually heard some positive things about it so I figured I’d give it a shot.

When I rolled up to UWS, I found myself plopped down in a room that looked exactly like the dorm I lived in at Rutgers many (many) years ago. It was a little weird, but also kind of cool. You don’t get much in the way of amenities, a towel, a pillow, bedding, a bar of soap, and…a Hershey’s kiss. The bathrooms are dorm bathrooms and don’t come with hairdryers or anything like that–I was smart enough to think about this and bring a travel dryer with me.

Once I was all checked in and dropped my stuff off, I asked about places to eat nearby that would still be open. It was 11pm and I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours. It didn’t seem like I had a ton of good options, but the two guys working the check-in suggested a local bar with a really great burger. The burger turned out to be decent and the bar was pretty dive-y, but I was totally okay with that. The bartender carded me…which was the first of many times I was carded when buying alcohol on the trip.

I got to bed around 12:30 or so and woke up early so I could run out to Target real quick to buy a pair of cheap flip flops to wear in the shower since I hadn’t remembered to bring any with me. After a quick shower, I headed into Duluth to get coffee at Duluth Coffee Company where I planned to plop down and work for the day–I didn’t want to use a vacation day so I had told my manager I’d be working remotely. When I walked into the coffee shop, they were blasting Jawbreaker and continued playing awesome music for the four hours I was there. It was pretty damn great.

Once I was done with work for the day, I figured I should head on over to the race expo and at least pick up my packet. I had been seeing tons of runners out doing their pre-marathon shakeout runs and coming in and out of the coffee place; it was really starting to hit me hard that I wasn’t running anymore. So, in what was probably a mistake, I walked on over to the expo. On my way over, I started to think, “fuck it, I want to run…I can’t not run.” I was definitely not in any state to be running a marathon; huge lack of sleep, horrible diet, dehydrated, etc, but I was really getting close to making that decision. I started going down a mental checklist of things I would need to buy at the expo and what I’d need to do to prepare for a race I wasn’t prepared for. However, by the time I actually got to the expo, my knee was bothering me just enough to knock a little sense into me.

The expo was pretty crowded, as these things tend to be, and it was a little confusing over by the packet pickup area, but I squeezed my way through. I can’t say I was in a super good mood being at an expo for a race I had registered for, worked REALLY hard for, and wasn’t running, but I was reasonably okay.

Then it happened.

The moment I had my race packet and bib in my hand, I started to fall apart. Bad.

I couldn’t get out of that expo fast enough. I felt a huge lump in my throat and it took all my strength to hold back the waterworks. You may not know this about me, but I don’t actually cry very often. It’s actually pretty rare. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cried in the last five years and when you factor in that the last three years have been the most intense and emotional time of my life, it might actually turn out that I’m dead inside. I mean, it’s not that I don’t feel sad (I sort of do all the time), it’s just that I never quite can cry even when I start to feel like I’m getting close to.

Anyway, I got out of the expo as quickly as I could. I was probably even pretty rude to people as I tried to squeeze through the crowds to the exit. I didn’t need a whole mess of random strangers seeing me have an emotional breakdown. Tears were coming out, but I knew I needed to stop holding back. I needed to feel this and finally cry it out and process it all. I needed that, but I also needed to at least get back to the car first and not breakdown in front of people.

When I got to the car, I let it out. I cried. I hated everything. I really just wanted to go drown myself in Lake Superior. I was not okay. And I felt dumb. Really, really dumb. It’s a marathon. It’s not the end of the world. It wasn’t even my first DNS and I’m sure it won’t be my last.

The thing is, though, running is really important to me. In fact, it’s the most important thing to me. I literally credit running with saving my life. It’s so important that it’s the only real reason I have stopping me from getting gender confirming surgery (you know, the one that turns my downstairs from an outtie to an innie). I don’t want to lose three to four months of running while I recover. And the most fucked up part about this is I’m fairly certain this would actually help solve the problems I’m having which are keeping me from running right now and kept me from running Grandma’s, but more on that in a bit.

So there I was, crying my eyes out and being miserable in the car. I was really struggling to handle the fact that I put in the work for this race, more work than I’ve put in for any previous race. I was super emotionally invested in this race. It was really not pretty, but eventually, I pulled it together and decided to get dinner since I literally hadn’t all day. Dinner was nice and I chatted with the waitress for a few minutes about what the cool bars are in town.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my night. I didn’t fly out to Minnesota to hang out in a cinderblock-walled dorm room. After a FaceTime with my wife where I wallowed and felt sorry for myself followed by a reprise with a close friend, I decided I should go out and do something. I went to a bar recommended by the waitress…which, going to a bar alone is sort of a big deal for me. I have no problem doing some things alone, but going to bars has never been on that list and this was the second night in a row alone in a bar in a state I’d never been before. Groundbreaking…or something?

Drowning my sorrows

Drowning my sorrows

The bar, the Red Herring Lounge, turned out to be pretty rad. I had a couple good beers and chatted it up for a bit with the bartender who was super nice. She suggested I head on down to where the finish area for the race was to check out some local bands that were playing in a tent next to the one where the official Grandma’s Marathon party was happening. Eventually, I made my way down there and watched a couple bands with another beer in my hand. But, I was feeling pretty miserable so I called it a night before the show was over.

Yup, savory donut

Yup, savory donut.

On race morning, I was woken up at 5am by runners heading out for the half marathon. Less than five hours of sleep, of course. I took my time getting ready and really tried to hold myself together as best I could, but I knew it was going to be emotionally trying to be out there cheering. On my way over to my cheering spot, I stopped at a place called Big Apple Bagels and was reminded of my policy that if it’s not from the greater NYC area, it’s not a bagel, it’s just a roll…or a savory donut.

I had made plans with Twitter friend Teal to meet up and cheer with her. She was in a very similar situation as me, she had trained for the race and gotten injured two weeks before race day. We chatted about how much it sucked, but we did a pretty good job of keeping it from turning into a pity party.

During the more than four hours I was out there cheering at mile 24.5 I coined the term “running dysphoria.” It’s kind of like gender dysphoria, a thing I know more about than I’d like, but related to running instead of gender. This is what I have right now.

Once I was finally out of strength to keep it together, I knew it was time to call it a day and start my two hour drive back to Minneapolis. I wasn’t crying, but I wasn’t okay on my walk back to the car either.

This drive wasn’t quite as uneventful as the first. I was on a race against the fuel gauge in the car. I needed to return the car with a full tank, but I didn’t want to have to stop twice for gas. I was constantly checking the car’s estimated range against Google Maps’ distance and knew I was going to be cutting it close. The car was giving me 20 extra miles past what I needed…until it stopped showing me distance and just said “low fuel.” That’s when I started to freak out a bit. Since it wasn’t a car I knew, I didn’t know what that really meant in terms of remaining fuel. Then I got stuck in some traffic and made a wrong turn while trying to find a gas station. My anxiety level went through the roof, but I made it to a gas station in time! I probably didn’t need any more anxiety in my life after the couple of days I had just had.

After dropping off the car, I started to fall apart again. I saw runners in the airport and the runner dysphoria kicked back into gear hard. After getting through security, I started to break down again. The tears came back out. The lump in my throat reappeared. I was, again, not okay. And I, again, felt really stupid and pathetic. I went into a sit-down restaurant since I had a ton of time before my flight and tried to hide how much I was crying as best I could. I texted with a few people and tried to make myself feel better, but nothing really worked. The only thing that was enough to at least break the tears was getting rickrolled by the music in the restaurant while burying my misery at the bottom of a surprisingly decent burrito.

Then, to add insult to injury, my flight was delayed for over an hour because of rerouting issues and then us not having enough fuel on the plane (!!!). It was delayed to the point where I no longer had a ride home from the airport. Ugh.

So, yeah, that was my racecation. No race and not much of a “cation” either.

In the end, as miserable as I am/was, I think it’s good I went. Even though I couldn’t run, I got to support my (other) community and I got to see a pretty cool new place I’ve never been to before. Duluth is definitely a rad little city (more like a big town), but it sort of feels like it should another town in Nightmare Before Christmas to go along with Halloween Town and Christmas Town. Marathon Town. It feels like this whole city prepares all year for this race and it’s all that matters there. Definitely feels like the biggest thing going on in Duluth. But whatever, that’s kind of cool. Also, I was a little unnerved by “Minnesota Nice.” I don’t know how to handle everyone being so incredibly nice. Being a Northeast gal, it’s super weird to me.

tl;dr: I went to Duluth for a marathon I didn’t actually run and was intensely emotional about it.

Lake

Lake Superior and the Ariel Lift Bridge from down near the finish line (click to expand!).

Lastly, since I mentioned it up above, my current state of running… Yeah, it’s really not any better, in fact, it’s worse. Thanks to a few helpful internet friends, I do have a theory that, at the least, makes a ton of sense. My testosterone blocker, Spironolactone, doesn’t just stop testosterone, it’s also a potassium-sparing diuretic. Bummer. I mean, I knew that and I knew it before I ever started taking it. I just figured it’d all even out since I run so much. I guess maybe it doesn’t. Anyway, it might actually be that I have too much potassium in my body, the opposite problem most runners have. This would cover my symptoms of sore and fatigued muscles with a little dose of arrhythmia. And it would make sense that I run fine when it’s cold out, but two years in a row (100% of the time since I started hormones), I started to have these same problems when the weather started getting warmer. Increased sweating means increased electrolyte loss which means increased chemical imbalance in my muscles. I can’t prove it and I’m not sure how exactly to test if this is it, but it all adds up. Plus, my last set of labs, which were just two months ago, showed my potassium level at the absolute upper limit of acceptable. It’s totally possible that I just got pushed over the edge. I’m not sure what to do about this other than increasing my salt intake and decreasing how much kale and avocado and other potassium-rich foods are in my diet. I mean, really, if you eat anything close to healthy, you’re going to have a ton of potassium. Ugh.

Or…I could just cut the problem off at the source (pun intended) so I don’t need spiro anymore.

11

The decision to DNS a marathon

How I feel while writing this

How I feel while writing this

I haven’t really posted about it here yet, but my training for Grandma’s Marathon has completely fallen apart. I don’t know exactly what caused it, but it’s gotten really bad. When I say bad, I mean I’ve been heavily considering DNSing (did not start) the race for the last couple of weeks. Yeah, that kind of bad. I’m not injured, I’m just…my body hates me.

Rather than make you read this whole post to get to the important takeaway, I’ll just drop it right here. I have officially decided not to run Grandma’s Marathon in two weeks.

The last time I checked in with y’all here, it was halfway through training and things felt like a positive-leaning mixed bag. I had some good weeks, I had some bad weeks, but I was still hopeful to have a good race. I still felt like a 3:30 finish was possible, but I’d likely just go for sub-3:40 and use that as a jumping off point for the fall.

Unfortunately, since then, things have sort of nose-dived. Hard. Into a volcano. Filled with alligators…that can somehow survive the lava.

It started three weeks ago with my 19-mile long run. Two days before, I had skipped an 8-mile run to give my legs a little extra rest, but didn’t think anything of it. The 19-miler went reasonably well, that is, it felt like most long runs do. The only weird thing was my left calf felt a little tight from the start. It wasn’t too bad so I didn’t think much of it, but it stayed like that for the whole run. Because we had a wedding to attend two hours away that afternoon, I had gotten up very early to knock out my run and get ready. This didn’t leave me with any time to stretch it or ice or anything afterwards. By the time I was showered and ready to go, I could feel my calf didn’t feel right. It felt kind of like I had pulled something in there. Luckily, I was able to wear flats to the wedding, but it was outside with a lot of walking up and down hills and such to get to different parts of where the wedding was. Throughout the night, things didn’t get any better.

I took the next two days off, which involved missing one run and pushing one back a day. At first I wasn’t too worried, but the pain stuck around without getting much better. I ended up missing that whole week of running minus a four-mile trail run. I even missed my 20-mile long run that weekend.

I tried to get back into things the next week, but my body was exhausted as if I had been pushing myself hard. I had no energy and my legs felt about how they do 4-5 days after a marathon. I missed another long run. I tried to get out there to do it, but I stopped after four miles when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go the distance. Since it was a Saturday, I figured I’d just give it another shot on Sunday, but when I went out there Sunday, everything hurt right away. Calves, quads, knees. It was really bizarre. Because I hadn’t been running, my legs should have at least been rested. It was the kind of pain that said “do not run through this! Stop now!” I listened.

This brings me up to this week. I’ve done one 4-mile run and it felt like garbage. Surprisingly, the very easy effort I gave turned out to be a pretty quick pace. Still, my legs felt awful. Again, it was that whole feeling like I just ran a marathon 4-5 days ago thing.

I really don’t get it, but that last run was the final thing to push me over the edge to a DNS. Could I finish a marathon right now? Probably. Could I still finish somewhere in the mid-3:40s? Probably. But what does that get me? What does running on a body that’s clearly telling me not to do for me? I’m risking actual injury by doing that. If I didn’t have the Chicago Marathon 16 weeks after Grandma’s, this might be a different story. I might just go for it and have fun. But Chicago can still be a good race for me. It’s where I scored my PR. Running Grandma’s does nothing but put more wear on my body when I could instead take the next couple weeks to recover myself and get ready for Chicago training.

If my marathon goal is to a BQ, running a marathon just to add another tick to my marathons-run total does nothing to help me. If I were in good shape, it could be a good tune-up and jumping off point, but that’s not the case. It can do nothing but push me further from my goal.

I’m super, super bummed about this and I’ve been pretty depressed because of it for the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, running is tied very closely to my emotional well-being. This works great when running is going well, but when it’s not…yikes.

The thing is, though, there will be other races. This isn’t the end of the world and I know I’m making the right decision.

The weird thing is since nothing is refundable, I’m still planning on getting on the plane and going out to Duluth in two weeks. I’ll hang out and cheer and just enjoy the scenery, I guess. Since everything is already paid for, it doesn’t cost me anything to go.

My real concern right now is I don’t know what really happened. I don’t know why my legs feel like a boy scout troop used my muscles to earn their knot tying badges. In reality, I don’t feel a ton different than I did this time a year ago. I see a lot of parallels between now and the last couple weeks of training before New Jersey Marathon and the months following. The warmer weather is definitely a contributing factor to both, but only a small piece of the puzzle.

A lot of me wants to just say I pushed myself too much, but I scaled back quite a bit from what I did for New Jersey and I still burned out. Maybe hormones have had more of an effect on my fitness than I thought and the minor tweaks to my marathon training aren’t enough. I tried adding cross-training. I was reasonably good about strength work. I started foam rolling daily. Maybe I need to completely rethink how I train. I really don’t know and that’s what upsets me the most. I don’t know what I to learn from this and how to prevent it from happening again. I had fallen back in love with running pretty damn hard in February, March, April, and early May and I was crushing a lot of runs. I know I still have it in me. I just need to figure out what I keep tripping over.

2

Grandma’s Marathon training update: week 8

Love the view on my regular running route!

Love the view on my regular running route!

Training for Grandma’s Marathon is half over already. It’s starting to feel like the race is like a freight train coming at me!

Training is going well overall, but I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel ready for this race. Even when I have an amazing run and hit mile splits I didn’t think I could hit, I still feel afraid I won’t be able to keep the pace I want for the race.

Two weeks ago, it felt like I couldn’t buy a sub-8:00 mile no matter how much I gave. Even the half marathon I ran that weekend was rough. But last week, I was busting out 7:30s on seven and nine mile runs like they were nothing. My 18-mile long run this past weekend was 7 seconds/mile under marathon PR pace. It’s just been a lot of ups and downs, it seems. It’s hard to get a good feel of where I’m at.

To be fair, I’m still only halfway through training and there are eight weeks to go until the race. That’s a lot of time to make improvements and I’ve done a lot over the last two months. I’ve absolutely been converted to a daily foam roller. It’s amazing the difference in how my legs feel in the morning when I foam roll the night before versus when I don’t.

The thing that’s keeping me completely sane is that I haven’t set a hard goal yet. I’m training as if I’m going for a 3:30 finish, but I’m still 50/50 between really going for it versus targeting 3:40 and making this race a step-off point for a fall BQ attempt. Literally just now as I was typing this, I got the email that I was selected for the Chicago Marathon this year so that’s a big consideration and gives me an idea of what my fall will look like. Plus, I’m also going to sign up for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge (5k + 10k + half marathon + marathon over four days) at noon today! Obviously, that won’t be any sort of a race for time, but it’s something to think about when I plan out my fall race schedule.

I'm in!

I’m in!

1

Grandma’s Marathon training: Weeks 1-4

I finally have a new profile pic on Twitter and Tumblr!

I finally have a new profile pic on Twitter and Tumblr!

Sheesh, I really don’t post here much anymore, do I? Work has been keeping me super busy, but I’m not actually complaining about that. I kind of like it.

So it’s now one quarter of the way through training for Grandma’s Marathon. I feel like training is flying by so far! I’ve converted fully to a morning runner during the week and an afternoon runner on the weekends. It’s been working out for me and I’ve somehow found the motivation to wake up at 5:30-5:45 every morning to run. I never thought that’d be a sentence I’d type!

For the most part, I feel like training is going pretty well. I’m finding I’m much stronger than I thought I was when I started and I’m running much faster with the same effort than I was even just a month ago. The only concern I’ve been having is my right knee and, well, actually my whole right leg. Starting a couple weeks ago, I began having some pain on the outside and inside of my knee, my calf has been tight, and my hip has been hurting kind of all around. When it first started, I took a couple days rest and focused on strengthening. It seemed to help and my runs last week were amazing. Then I woke up Friday and everything was feeling like crap again. Saturday and Sunday’s runs were okay and as I write this everything feels almost great. I really don’t know what to make of it. Mostly, it’s been just under the “I should probably not be running” threshold, but it’s close. I’ve been foam rolling and doing strength work every day and that’s definitely helping, but I feel like I’m flirting a little too much with injury lately.

Right now, my plan is to just pay close attention to it and be willing to let go if I need to. Until then, as long as the strength work and foam rolling is keeping it controlled, I’m going to keep to my plan.

Last week, I hit 40 miles which is my highest weekly mileage since the first week of July last year and I even went to two kick-ass spin classes! I’m pretty psyched about that. It was also three miles more than was scheduled which isn’t smart considering what I just was talking about, but I didn’t plan for it! On Saturday, the wife and I met Miranda and Jim for a little group run to meet Ruthie for a runner ice cream social. The route ended up being a lot longer than was described to me, but it was a fun run and the pace was easy so I didn’t complain. I guess that pre-emptively makes up for me skipping my run today to give my body a little extra sleep to get over this cold I woke up with yesterday.

Last Wednesday’s seven-miler ended up including my fastest 5k and 10k since transitioning which was especially impressive considering it was 12 hours after a great FlyWheel class where I was second on the Torq Board and PRed “total power.” I wasn’t even trying to run fast at first, it just sort of happened.

Despite all the weirdness in my right leg, this is how training has been overall. It’s been really encouraging for me. I’m already running faster than I thought I’d be by the end of training. We’ll see how the next twelve weeks go, but as long as I can keep the issues in my leg in check, I feel like I’ll be in good shape!

This was a foggy run! Usually, Manhattan is right there all staring you in the face.

This was a foggy run! Usually, Manhattan is right there all staring you in the face.

Starbucks, does ANYONE spell Amelia like this?

Starbucks, does ANYONE spell Amelia like this?

2

Training update

NYC skyline with frozen Hudson River

The view from my run yesterday looks way colder than it actually was out

I haven’t done one of these in a long time, but seeing as how marathon training time is almost here, now seems like a good time to start again.

I guess I should also drop in here that I decided on a marathon for the “spring.” Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota on June 20!! Yay! I’m kind of excited for this. I haven’t trained for a marathon since this time last year and I think I’m ready for it again. I’m not going to harp on how rough my running was for most of last year, but things are feeling like they’re coming together now. Not to mention, I’m coming off an awesome weekend running the Goofy Challenge!

Training starts a week from today. I decided I’m going to drop back to the same plan I used for Richmond 2013 and Chicago 2012. That plan worked really well for me. Richmond was a very successful race and Chicago was pretty successful too, even though I didn’t hit my goal. I would love to go for it with the same plan I used for New Jersey last year, but I’m in no way running the kind of miles needed right now to jump into that. Plus, I’m not even sure how to fit those kind of miles into my schedule right now.

I don’t have a concrete goal for the race yet. For now, I’m just looking to PR, but I’ll check back in with my goal halfway through training and adjust accordingly. I would love it if I got myself back to a point where I could go for a BQ, but right now that feels really far away. We’ll see how it goes.

Two weeks ago, I squeezed in four runs and two spin classes with just one rest day. I totaled 21 miles. Not a a ton, but not bad with the two spin classes.

Last week, I ran five days, went snowboarding one day, and took a spin class. I hit 30.4 miles. The spin class and four of the miles where on the same day as part of my first ever double workout in one day! I was super proud of myself. I also felt really good all week. Tired, but less so than I expected. Yesterday’s run, in particular, was awesome. It was a ten-miler in Liberty State Park. The weather was perfect. 41º, very light wind, and sunny! But it was very wet out! Puddle city! All the ice and snow from Saturday was melting and leaving behind all kinds of slush and ice-cold puddles. I ended up stepping into a calf-deep puddle about 200 feet into my run and completely soaked my feet. Though, this is kind of the best thing that can happen in that situation. Once your feet are wet, you don’t have to worry about avoiding puddles anymore so I just had fun running right through them like a child. It was great!

This week, I’m planning pretty much the same thing, but the snowboarding is still up in the air. Once Monday hits, running is my number one focus and snowboarding will be done until next season so I’d like to go once more, but I’d also like to start training with fresher legs and be able to squeeze in two rest days this week. We’ll see how I feel later in the week, I guess.

mountain creek snowboarding

Snoooooow

On a side note about snowboarding this past weekend…it was a great day with awesome snow conditions. Unfortunately, it was partially ruined by being misgendered by my friend’s girlfriend. I had never met her before Saturday and hadn’t even seen my friend since before I transitioned. Throughout the day, she’s use male pronouns for me, but I wasn’t quite 100% sure I heard her correctly. Sometimes, things sound off, but you’re not sure enough to actually speak up and correct. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt in those situations rather than risk calling someone out for something they didn’t actually do. Eventually, on the bus ride home, I heard her clearly call me “him” to my friend. I corrected her and she apologized and then did it again a few minutes later!

It wasn’t malicious or anything like that, but given that she’d never met me before there was no excuse of “muscle memory.” Her misgendering me meant that’s how she actually seems me. And this was after we had conversations in which I clearly asserted myself as a woman in the way I talked about things. At one point, she even asked me “how do you go from having a full beard to being a woman?” I quipped back that I was always a woman and “a ton of lasers.”

This kind of thing is just super frustrating and it really makes my fears about using the gym seem so much more real. I’m either not seen as a woman or I’m not seen as a real woman.

Orale tacos

And tacos because why not?