5 first-time marathoner problems

Brooks PureConnect running shoes for the marathon first-timer: me

Five weeks out isn’t too close to the race for new shoes … right?

I’m training for the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon, my first-time full. I’ve run three half marathons, but can I say something? I’m starting to freak out about this full-business.

The race is Dec. 14, which means five weeks to go. Am I ready? Will I have enough phone battery? Am I going to be able to complete it without blowing a ligament? Why does my training plan only go to 20 miles before tapering?

Maybe you’re training for your first, too, or you remember these concerns way back when you were a noob wannabe like me.

5. Is my phone battery going to last for 26.2 miles?

During the race, I won’t be using Google Maps to check where I am like I do on many of my runs. That’s my fault, because I usually insist on running willy-nilly style — taking off into streets and neighborhoods where I have no clue where I am. Mapping my location sucks up the most battery of anything else I do with my phone, including streaming music.

I’ve done 18 miles while listening to music, running the Nike Run app but not checking Google Maps, and I’ve ended with a good 20 percent battery left. But I have yet to know what 26.2 miles will leave me with. I’ll likely leave the earbuds at home because I love experiencing the sights, sounds and energy of the day. So, not listening to NPR or music will help save battery. But I’ll be using my phone to locate friends before the race, and I’ll want to locate my husband easily among the throngs afterward.

I can only guess what my battery situation will be, so I’ll just have to see.

But hey. What did runners before smartphones do? They planned meeting spots and guessed as best they could at a meeting time.

4. What all am I going to carry on race day? How am I going to carry it?

I can’t believe I’m still futzing around with this juggling act.

This entire time, since April, I’ve had the carry thing down so pat that I can mindlessly “pack” in 30 seconds flat: Put ice in hand-held Nathan water bottle, then add water. Pop a gel or two in the pocket, along with a credit card. Dig my earphones out of my bag and grab my phone. Done.

But now that I’m reaching higher mileage, what I’ve been carrying this whole time isn’t quite adequate.

The amount of water is fine; cooler temperatures have me drinking a little less. But I not only need to consume more gels now, my body is dying for protein about halfway through, too. A few times lately, I’ve stopped at gas stations to grab beef jerky and Snickers or Butterfinger Bites to shove in my mouth. It’s a disgusting combo that I would normally never put together (or eat at all, at least not on a regular basis). But my body needs it. I can feel all sorts of magic happening on my insides when I eat it.

Does that mean I’m not intaking enough gels up to that point, causing my body to need it so badly at mile 14? That’s another first-timer mystery I have to work out.

Thing is, Dallas Marathon isn’t going to have beef jerky stations. They’ll have Clif Shot stations, but I have my own gels I want to bring. I’m new at this, I’m fussy with my gels, so I’ll have to tote my own. I won’t bring my water bottle on race day, so there goes the little zippered pocket I typically use. I’ve seen runners clip gels to their clothes with those office wing-clip things; I might do that. I’ll have to tote some protein with me as well. I guess I could have a beef stick flopping around, clipped to my waistband.

I bought a FlipBelt recently, and it holds a lot. But when I’m wearing shorts with slick fabric, the belt slips up toward my waist, which is no good. That’s another thing I have to get figured out before race day: make sure the tights I want to wear jibe with this new FlipBelt of mine, so I can carry all my Stuff.

Yes, I’m a needy newbie who needs her Stuff.

3. How close to race day can I buy that new pair of shoes/tights/bra?

I just bought a new pair of Brooks PureConnects, and I’m pretty certain that five weeks out is enough time to break them in. But I need a new pair of long tights, and I probably won’t get a chance to shop for any until a couple of weeks from now. If I get a good couple of runs in them, it will probably be fine. … Or will it? Do I need several long runs in a key article of clothing to know for sure that I’m not going to quit in agony because of Bloody Blister or Fire Crotch? That might be a little dramatic.

Speaking of buying new things close to race day, I also bought a slew of new protein energy goodies from Luke’s Locker to try — more than I have long runs left, actually. But they looked so tasty. I need to decide if one of these is my protein solution, but again — we’re getting close to race day. Bah.

The new shoes were something I needed. But honestly, everything else I’m tempted to buy this late in the game is really just a big spaz-out attempt at feeling like I have a little extra edge.

2. What is that pain about?

We runners know a thing or four about aches and pains. I wrote about my current ankle pain recently here. Unless pains are obviously serious, they’re usually no big deal. We’ve learned our bodies well enough to know when a body part is just protesting a bit and when it’s sending a warning signal. But new pain anywhere close to race date is scary. We don’t know if it’s just a protest pain or if it’s the beginning of an actual issue that could sabotage all our hard work.

1. Is my name going to end up at the bottom of my age group results?

Am I going to bonk? Blow? Embarrass myself? My training plan only goes to 20 miles, so I’ll be going into the race totally untested at 26.2.

Logic says that if I’ve put in the work, and no unlikely funky factors come into play, I’ll be fine and complete the marathon. But my nervousness about this is more fundamental than, how badly am I going to suck?

Like many first-timers, I know it’s smart to simply focus on completing the race and not on pushing through it like it’s my 400th and I’m getting paid. But still, deep down, I’m attached to this thing. I’ve put in so much time (so much time). I’ve pushed my body’s previously-known boundaries. That pushed the limits of my mind. Which shifted my self-perception.

We new marathoners have hated our training, uttered “I’m SO over this” countless times during long runs. We might have cried (no, not me — I’m just asking for a friend). Then we’ve loved it again, uttering thanks to God for the ability to move and breathe and feel.

For some of us, this hard physical work has beat demons, given us answers, made us new.

We’re emotionally attached to the process that’s brought us to this point. If that process culminates in defeat, failure or disappointment, it will feel like my body has betrayed me. Like I’ve betrayed myself.

The stakes feel so high. Not because anyone is betting on us, but because we’ve put in some really hard work.

So let’s do this: Remember when we got one season of half marathon training under our belt, then one race? After that, we totally knew what to expect and could relax for subsequent halves.

We just have to do the same with our first full. We’ll make mistakes, but we’ll learn.

Injury or just training pain? My least-favorite running mystery

A new pair of Brooks PureConnect: Hopefully, the fix to my pain

New Brooks PureConnect on top, old on bottom.

Back in the summer, the inside of my right knee got an attitude with me. I babied it with some ice. I stopped tucking it under me and sitting on it funky in my cubicle. I got better about warming up. I chest-bumped it, all “Get with the program, knee! This marathon is happening, like it or not!” It eventually stopped hurting, and I kept on a’runnin’.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. An old sesamoid injury in my left foot began flaring up. By flaring, I mean the bottom of my foot underneath my big toe felt shattered every time I took a step. But that injury is an old friend; familiar.

Then came inside ankle pain right above it. Not familiar.

Was I running in the wrong kind of shoes (the lightweight Brooks PureConnect)? Was this just part of getting my body ready to do something it’s never done before?

I didn’t care about my knee injury as badly because I had time. But when I had to take I-don’t-know-how-many ibuprofen during my 19-mile run that turned into an 18-mile run this past weekend because my foot was shot, with just five weeks to go, I knew I had to figure something out. This was an unknown that could flush all my training for the Dallas Marathon — my first full — down the crapper.

I researched shoes and paid Luke’s Locker in Dallas a visit with the intent to buy a more cushioned shoe. A helpful guy there straightened me out. He said that if I liked running in a light shoe and that it’s only been recently that the pain had begun, it wasn’t the lightness of the shoe. People run marathons and ultras barefoot, after all. And if I gave my body a heavier shoe now, it might be mad at me in a different way.

When I told him I’d been running in my Brooks PureConnects since April, that was it — the foam sole was packed down from use, and that pair was simply done. I walked around in the store in a new pair, and hello, huge difference.

I bought them. Hopefully, that will do the trick. My biggest concern is that I won’t be able run the race because of injury, or that I’ll injure myself on the day-of trying.

I’d gotten really familiar with what I need to run a good half: what clothes to wear in what temperature, what aches I know will go away and what should be minded, how much hydration to carry for what distance.

But, marathon training is a new frontier. That comes with working through a whole new set of unknowns.

What I’ve learned in the past year about running (and not running)

Been a long time! And it’s been a long year. Lots has happened in the life of Christy, and unfortunately, most of it has had nothing to do with running. Maybe I can share some of those things in a future post.

But as of May 7 I’m back in the saddle, and I’m mulling my previous inactivity so I can better understand how to stay consistent moving forward. I’ve let my lack of movement discourage me and even depress me at times, but I can’t afford that anymore. I’m done.

So, in no particular order, here’s what stands out as I look over my shoulder.

1. I need external motivation.
As much as I’d love to lace up and pop out of bed before the sun on nothing but sole gumption and discipline, I’m not that person. I need a cattle prod (“Omg, I’ve gained 10 pounds and can’t afford to gain any more”) or a shiny, sparkly object dangling in front of me (“Cool! I get a tan even on a 6:30 p.m. run!”). I love running for the sake of running, yes. But it simply isn’t enough to crack me out of my calcified state and put me back on the road or trail, at least not at first. I know this about myself, and I don’t beat myself up for it anymore. I simply seek out sources of external motivation now, harness them, and use them to my advantage.

2. Gear and technology matter to me.
I’d love to be an unencumbered runner who doesn’t care about carrying music or GPS or other “things” with me. But yep, I’m that runner. If I’m going to put in the effort and the miles, I want to know exactly how many miles I ran, what the elevation was that tortured me, how many calories I burned in the process. And I don’t want to have to manually map out my route before or after to find that out, either. I want to know I’m not going to crash and burn early because I relied too heavily on infrequent water fountains in the searing Texas heat, so you’re going to see a water bottle in my hand, and likely you’ll see a G2 packet sticking out of the little zippered pocket on the bottle’s hand-wrap as well. And yes, if I need that extra push, I want to know Gaga or Bun B are just a “play” button away from giving it to me.

In fact, I credit two pieces of gear that I discovered recently with getting my butt of the couch again. They were the external motivators that got me going, and I’m grateful to them. More on those in a near-future post.

3. Clothes matter to me.
Not necessarily the cuteness of the clothes, really. But having comfortable, functional and non-homely ensembles that I can quickly throw in a bag or throw on as soon as I come in from work is key. If I need a new sports bra or if my usual running shorts are too tight right now, those are barriers. Where I spend money is on good, hearty sports bras and quality shoes: Even though I didn’t pay for them, I can now vouch for the greatness of Nike Frees for both support and lightness. Under Armour makes great pullover bras that keep me still (as much as possible). The Nike running capris in this review were too big for me when I first got them, but now they fit perfectly. Sigh. But I can at least now vouch 100 percent that they’re comfortable, airy and supportive. I also found some gray and bright fluorescent yellow running shorts from Target: cheap, really comfortable, the cut is great, and they’re darn cute. I also bought a package of colored men’s Fruit of the Loom A-line undershirts (tank tops), trimmed the hem at the bottom since they’re super-long, and wear those over my sports bras. They’re cotton but they’re so airy and comfy that it doesn’t matter.

4. Route variety matters.
I started off in May walking and running around my neighborhood here in Deep Ellum (northeast of downtown Dallas). It was great, it was exciting, it was easy to just walk out of my door …. then it wasn’t. It got old real quick and I realized that I needed to branch out. I’m ADD when it comes to routes, and I know that now. And it’s ok. I simply make sure I don’t wear out the same old paths. If I think I’m going to see or experience something a little different from before, that gets me out the door more quickly.

5. Marriage can really wreck a routine. At least mine.
I married in my early 30s. That meant I had my solo routines down pat before I aligned myself with another (albeit wonderful) human being who had different solo routines. It became a clash of the solo routines. Part of my adjustment period was re-learning some solo routines and carving out a separate, solo mindset even though I was no longer solo. It was difficult. But now I’m no longer a newlywed, and I’m learning to compartmentalize better: No, the person I’ve aligned myself with doesn’t run. No, that doesn’t mean I have to stop running, or only run with the same frequency that he does (read: hardly ever). Yes, the two shall become one, but remember: There are still two people in the equation. Christy the individual didn’t go anywhere. She can still do the solo things she used to do (sans other men! Rimshot), even though it doesn’t feel that way. For some reason, that break from an enmeshed mentality has been difficult for me.

6. I must have grace with myself or not even do this.
Without getting into a bunch of navel-gazing on how harsh and critical I am with certain aspects of myself, I can be pretty unrealistic. I haven’t run or worked out much in a year, I’ve gained 10 pounds and it’s 100+ degrees outside; I can’t expect a 10-minute mile out of myself. I can’t expect myself to finish a run without stopping and walking some for now. My big goal has always been to be able to run around the 10-mile White Rock Lake loop. A few weeks ago I completed the loop, albeit with many walking breaks and one large sit-down break where I paused my GPS/timer altogether to rest for 10 minutes. I have to be happy that I completed it and slowly work toward straight-up running the loop. Slowly. As slow and as long as my body needs. My other goal is running __ miles per week — the __ needs to be realistic, not idealistic. That fill-in-the-blank is set at 10 miles a week for now. If I run three days a week, I make that goal. It makes me feel good, and I pat myself on the back. If I don’t make that goal? I’ll smile and tell myself “next week.” The Nazi Running Marm act I’ve given myself in the past hasn’t worked as well for me as I’d like to think. It’s ultimately sidelined me in the form of discouragement, and I see that now.