Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Split Personality

I laid out my Christmas presents in front of the tv cabinet. Pink Hello Kitty bag, a different pink Hello Kitty bag, pink lunch bag, pink Hello Kitty stocking. Anyone seeing a trend here??? :) I like pink, I like cuteness, I have shoes in every color and style, I change my purse every week or so. A colleague-friend once told me I looked nice. I replied "Thank you, I try."

It all changes though, the second I put on my Mizunos and UnderArmour sports bra. They're like my own personal ... what's the opposite of Kryptonite? The Cape? All of a sudden, I immediately stop caring how I look. Things like rain, snow, puddles and mud stop deserving any consideration whatsoever. Questions stop starting with "If...?" and become "How...?" "Can I...?" becomes "I can...!"

My normal self has massive germ issues, the runner picks up clothing off the side of the road because she's cold.

Normal self hates snow and cold, and tries to avoid both, even admitting she's a great big baby about the cold, runner sees bad weather as a minor inconvenience that can't interfere with Hal's prescribed mileage.

Normal self loves sleeping in late, runner wakes up early as needed to run before it gets super hot.

Normal self doesn't leave the house without wearing make-up, runner couldn't possibly care any less about that or hair or anything that interferes with function.

It's like I'm my own Janus :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Back together with boyfriend Hal

Need? yes!!! Miss? yes! Love? Not so much lol
Hal Higdon is one of my favorite people, certainly one of my top ten favorites of people I've never met. I successfully used his beginner training program for the spring 2012 races, and used the novice 2 for the fall ones. Following his programs with about 98% fidelity got me to goal time, even with only marginal work on intervals or hills.

All along I was planning to use his novice 2 program again for the spring 2013 training. It took so long to get in shape that I wanted to maintain, rather than let my fitness diminish and have to rebuild it. So I've been maintaining, and my legs are in rough shape. They feel super fatigued and I asked my yoga teacher to work specifically on hamstrings tonight, as mine have been screaming. I'm not officially in training mode and already feeling so lethargic and weak? Not good!

I had planned to maintain between the spring and fall races this year, but a sprained ankle kept me from any running for 9 days, then I was very slow to rebuild because I resumed running a few days / weeks sooner than I probably should have so I kept the mileage really low, lest I hurt it worse. While it was frustrating at the time, it was ultimately for the best because it gave my legs time for REST without losing much cardio capacity. After Columbia City in the fall - it was a Saturday race - I was back to running 3 times a week by Tuesday. Is it any wonder my poor legs are exhausted?

So it was time for an immediate overhaul of my off-season training. I scrapped the cross training on Wednesday, and plan to keep it out of rotation for a few weeks. My heart and lungs are in great shape, so forcing myself to bike twice a week is just more work for my legs and isn't doing one bit of benefit. It might even be detrimental to my health, so it's off the table for now.

The other big change is getting back together with my boyfriend Hal sooner than anticipated!!! I was planning to pick up his program with 10-12 weeks to go before my first spring 2013 marathon. I looked at it again though, and we're back together this weekend. It's week 2 of 18 and the long run is 9 miles, which is completely do-able, then I'll stay with my man through the Martian. At that point, I'll have to maintain for 4 weeks, relax for a week or two, then start training again.

I guess it's official tomorrow. I'm "training for a marathon!!!" It's the perfect go-to excuse for anything I don't want to do :D

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Michelle Bemis - Ironman? What?

I've had several conversations with a 3-time Ironman. In almost every one of these conversations, he has said he can totally see me completing an Ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I just don't see it! Yet at the same time, I don't think it's impossible per se, because I know I can commit to and train for a big race. It just takes time and a ton of dedication (delusion). Big problem though - I hate swimming!!! I can swim, I just do not enjoy it one bit. Then I asked...what is a ballpark time for the swim? 2 hours-ish. Do-able? Not right now. Possible? Sure, if I was willing to put in the time and effort.

No part of me wants to attempt the Ironman....not right now at least... It makes me wonder though, how and why we instill dreams in other people. I've certainly done it. I told the Ironman about Badwater. I've told my Indy roadtrip friend several times that I know with all certainty he can finish a full marathon. We complete a goal or event (or in the case of Badwater, read a book about it) then seem to transfer it other people, where the idea sits in the back of their brains, not inspiring real action, but not going away either. Then eventually after the idea has ruminated long enough, you start to think "What if..." which eventually becomes "How....?" Besides there's real confidence that comes from someone saying "I completed this really difficult event and I know you can do it!!!!!"

Will I attempt the Ironman? Probably not, but never say never. Multiple marathons were never on the agenda either. Stranger things have happened :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A good day :)

Thursday was a good day. It was SUNNY!!!!!! YAY!!!!! It was sunny when I left for work, and still sunny when I returned home at the end of the day! I texted my friend at lunch and asked her "It's 40 and sunny. Why am I working? Prime running weather!!!"

Did I want to run after work? Of course not, but the conditions were pretty good and I had to go as soon as I got home, or I wouldn't go at all. On Tuesday when I got home at 5:10 and it was already dark, I opted to not run at all, then felt disappointed in myself all evening. Tuesday was the first scheduled run I skipped since August, but I was still upset and disappointed that I gave in to the cruddy weather and darkness. As a result, I haven't run since Saturday and it was rough today.

The temperature had dropped to the upper 30s and I had to race against fading daylight. My right hamstring has been a little sore the past few weeks and while it normally loosens after 2 miles, it's never good. So there was that. My lungs were working really hard in the cold and it was just a rough run mentally. Physically I forced myself through it and finished with a better pace than I was expecting. I averaged 9:34; I was anticipating something 10+

Internet pic, but I think it's the same one
Other good stuff was working at one of my favorite schools (I can say this almost every day), scheduling a job interview for tomorrow, and a student giving me a Christmas card and Meijer gift card - grocery money!!!

Despite the gross awful weather on Tuesday, there was one good point - I found a $3 glass pig at Pier One, with pink wings!!! It's like they knew I'm running the Flying Pig Marathon! :D Since it was so cheap, I bought two and the first person to join me in Cincy gets the other little piggie. Chris from Indy? Friend from Indy roadtrip? Ironman? Middle school secretary? We can all run marathons when pigs fly. Oh wait....we already have.... hehehe

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The self-writing blog

I don't even have to come up with my own blog ideas anymore. People keep sending and telling me funny things that are as good as or better than anything I could come up with on my own.

My friend send me the runners Christmas tree on Monday. Tuesday I got this:

Hah! I'm sure everyone has seen it already, but so funny, so true. Besides Sylvia Browne said years ago that we have nothing to worry about this year.

The other funny contribution this week came from a phone conversation with an Ironman. 

"I actually like running now," I said, "Through the first five marathons, I did not like running, there was nothing fun about it, I hated it."

"Indianapolis was the fifth?"

"Yup. Something happened the week between Indy and Columbia City. It was like a switch."

"Indy was the one where you threw up?"


"So you got something out of your system that morning?"

"Hahahahahahahaha yup!!!!" So funny, so gross, so true!!!!

As a last minute goal - run 1000 miles this year. I'll hit it with miles to spare :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Summer vs. winter

Running in the winter is a drag. I have to start by 4:30 pm if I want to finish before it's pitch black. I have to bundle up in three layers of clothing, my lungs have to work harder, my nose runs the entire time, then the cold air always gives me a dry cough for the duration of the run and a few hours after.

There is one consolation, however, that I get to wear my knee socks!!! I think running in shorts and knee socks is the cutest look ever. Besides I don't like my pants. Yes, they keep me warm, but they don't fit as well as the shorts, so as long as it's over 35 degrees, I'm in shorts.

Rather than wear a solid color knee sock or something boring, I try to find the ugliest designs I can haha The only bad thing is that the purple ones don't fit snug on my calves, so they slip down after a half mile. As a result, they have been downgraded to gym wear. The others fit perfectly and don't move for 26.2 miles. Whee!!!

The only real criteria I have for socks - aside from being hideous! is that they be Merino wool. I used to wear SmartWool exclusively, then I found the gray ones in the clearance bin at REI. They're REI brand and 1/3 the price of SmartWool. I wore them once and all was good. The red, yellow and gray pair are DarnTough and they have a lifetime warranty. If I can wear them out, the company will replace them. Sweet :)

I must spend too much time working at Cabrini High School, where the students wear uniforms, but the girls are free to wear whatever socks they want. I have seen some seriously ugly socks that wouldn't match ANYTHING! It's funny though.

I wore the brown ones for every race in 2012. I'm thinking burgundy for 2013. If I wear the same socks to every race, I can quickly and easily look at a photo and know the year :)

For comparison, here are my winter and summer socks. Yes, they used to be white at one time. Ewwww. I think Mom has darned every pair when my toes poked holes through the seams. $12 for footies is too expensive to replace because of a little hole! All are SmartWool :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Yeah I'm a dork

I posted the photo from my friend yesterday then immediately thought.... you know, it's kinda funny in a completely tacky way. What fun is being the adult of the house if I can't decorate however I want, even if that means setting up my Christmas tree as a complete joke? :) The dumbbells behind the tree add a little something, don't you think?

Happy Festivus for the rest of us :)

Here's the normal place I keep the medals. Again, it's great to decorate however I want :)))))

Monday, December 3, 2012

Funny or tacky?

My friend emailed me today:

"Oh, I forgot one thing that I saw - I thought it would make you smile.  Let's just call it a "Runner's Christmas Tree." I could TOTALLY see you do this. lol" 

It's funny, yet really really tacky at the same time. Happy Christmas runners!

What do you all think? Cute and creative or seriously tacky?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy happy happy!

I got the BEST email today:

A running company has taken over managing the Columbia City marathon for 2013 so it WILL be held again. Yay!!!!!! Add it to my list :D (Never mind the hills or the brutal wind. I've already forgotten about those :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Off-season goals

I live a goal-driven life. I set goals, I accomplish them, repeat. It's only natural that I already have my 2013 running year planned out, and I have clear off-season goals:

1. Lose 5 pounds. I'm down 11 since June and five more will take me to the lowest weight of my adult life. Hal says runners do better when lighter. I'll test the idea :)

2. Stop the 9&1 running-walking pattern. My normal 4.85 route has become easy to run without any walking. I need to keep upping the distances.

3. Run faster!!! I know I need to go to the track and force myself to run short fast repetitions. I'm dreading it. Every training run in November has been significantly under 10:00 average pace.

4. Strengthen my core.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The problem with moderation

I seem to have a problem with moderation. It all started with the Mizunos. It made no sense whatsoever to buy one pair when the price was right and I knew they were the best running shoes in the world. I figured I would stock up when the price and quantity were right. This picture is old - there are ONLY five new pairs left! >:(

That logic seems to have spread to food. My Kroger stopped selling the good salsa, so when I was at a different location and they had it, I bought every jar. Same with the gel bites. Kroger usually charges $1.89, but occasionally they go on sale for $1 a pack. Last time I saw that price, I bought both boxes of the flavors I use (15 envelopes per box). I like what I like :D

It should go without say that I buy my cereal from Amazon six boxes at a time.

Speaking of moderation problems, here is part of the shoe collection. In my own defense, I've had the same size foot since middle school so I've been accumulating the collection over 20 years and I haven't really bought any since my favorite shoe store in Milford closed years ago. Brands that are extremely comfortable: Franco Sarto, Bernie Mev, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Caparros, Medici.

Marathoning is a moderation problem as well. I don't do one or two a year, noooooo I did 5 this year and planned 4 spring, 2 fall, and the Goofy for 2013. Two are still in the decision phase, as is a 50k. Why do one when I can do four in four weeks???

Yeah, I'm pretty much set in my ways :)

And this is just a funny picture. A Flat Stanley came to visit from San Antonio. I took him home so I could take him as my date to a Tigers game. I came home from work and he had gotten into the fridge....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nice emails

I've gotten a ton of really nice emails over the year. Here are a few:

Way back in April I commented on Nita's blog:

I've always taken significant time off between marathons (like, a year lol) so I restart with the "couch potato to 5K program." It's ridiculously easy but a nice transition from casual exercise to focused running. 
My spring marathon is tomorrow and I'm def feeling the pre-race jitters, not even about the running, but about the darn weather! I run TERRIBLY when it's cloudy and the forecast is 98% cloud cover :(

She responded:
I love that you do that. We want to enjoy running INJURY free!! It takes a lot of discipline and sometimes burying our pride to start at the beginning. But I believe you are on to something good..Sometimes we should go back a little farther to move forward a lot better!!1
I am soo sorry about your marathon tomorrow...We are supposed to get thunderstorms and I have a 10k on Sunday...I am still praying...I will be praying for you too! DO not CLAIM a terrible run for yourself...YOU stay firm on YOUR TRAINING..and not the weather. You have trained too hard to let "Mother Nature" steal your Victory!!!
After the Free Press debacle of running with a head cold, from someone who actually has completed a 4:33 marathon:
"Congrats on the marathon! You did it under circumstances that others would have just quit. You should be proud :)"
And from an Ironman:
"Sorry to hear, but good for you for sticking it out! That's a far more rare quality than even being a marathon runner!"
From a woman I used to work with:
"Congratulations on finishing the Detroit Marathon. That is a great accomplishment. Think about yourself 5 years ago. Would you have thought you would be attempting a marathon and finishing it (And not in last place!) I really appreciate the motivation you have given me these last few months. As I see your determination, it makes me stick with my walking and swimming. Keep it up."
For a few weeks in the summer, it seemed like EVERY part of  my body hurt. Both my heels hurt, my right arch was sore, right quad was tight and sore, my left hip was really sore every time I ran, my shin hurt where it had stress fractured in 2011, then my lower back felt stiff and nothing helped. 
I emailed my friend, "Right now I'd be happy to break 5 hours. I don't think my body is built for punishing runs like this."
He responded "I don't think 99.9% of peoples body is meant to run a 26.2 miler - it's an oddity. It isn't normal."
Hah! Always a good reminder :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Race withdrawal

October 21 was written on my running calendar, circled in red pen, burned into my mind as my focus point from January 1st through the entire summer until it was finished. We all know how that race ended. 13 measly seconds :(

All my determination and focus shifted to the Indianapolis race, then to Columbia City. There was always something there, something I was working towards, a definite goal.

Then I finally broke 5 hours, and while I'm super thrilled about what...? Last week and especially last weekend were weird. I didn't have a race to look forward to, nowhere to drive, no trip to pack for, no special trips to the grocery store for pre-race food. I'm going through race withdrawals here!!!!!

I ran on Saturday, just because I don't know what to do with my Saturdays if I'm not running. I certainly didn't have to, and my legs were fatigued at 5 miles, but after the 5th marathon I started to actually enjoy running!!!!! Now I'm addicted!!! lol

The secretary at one of my schools is a runner and she thinks I'm crazy to do consecutive marathons, but it works for me. I get my body in shape, then maintain that level for a few weeks and do as many races as are feasible to take advantage of my fitness. I seem to heal better and faster every time, so it works for me.

But now. The Martian is FIVE MONTHS AWAY!!!!! Bah!!!! Yes, the amount of time to wait is awful, but even moreso is knowing I'll lose some of my fitness between now and then and have to rebuild it. Maintaining fitness is so much easier than building, but I can't maintain through the 2014 Goofy. I need to let my body regress a little and heal.

I looked online for yet another marathon, but there aren't any within driving distance until April. Gonna be a long winter :(

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This is funny

Before the Monumental Marathon, my friend took a self-portrait at the starting line. Unbeknownst to him, I was lurking in the corner of the photo frame, totally ruining the picture.

Yeah, I have a singular focus - work, you stupid iPod!!!!!! haha I don't care about my water, about my heat blanket, nothing but the dead iPod!
Here's a much less funny picture :(

Please reconsider!!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Columbia City :)

Breaking 5 hours is the primary reason I loved the Veterans Marathon. Even aside from that, however, there was a lot to like!!!

Parking was free and abundant! I parked 1 block from the start / finish line so it was no trouble to get my camera after I finished.

A church served hot homemade soup at the finish line. When I tried to make a donation, they said they weren't accepting donations from runners :)

Rather than a crappy shirt full of sponsor logos, participants each got a jacket, polyester on the outside, fleece on the inside. It's men's sizing, so the sleeves are long enough!!!! Easily the nicest gear I've ever gotten at a race.

The Y was open for post-race showers.

I generally drink water and/or Gatorade from every table, yet there were SO MANY fluid stations that I passed by several without stopping. Most of them had bananas, oranges, Gu - more than anyone would need or want.

Every church on the route, and the VFW were open so runners could use the restrooms.

It was NOT an out and back route. 

Packet pickup was in a tent!!!! I'm used to pick ups at places like Cobo Hall or the Indiana Convention Center. This was great though because I walked in, got my stuff and left. No crowds to dodge :)

Sitting on the ground at the finish line. Look carefully - there is the slightest DOWNHILL at the finish :) and yes, that's a tank under the street light.

I talked with Lauren before the start of the race. She is one of the teachers from West Bloomfield (less than an hour from my home) who had arranged to run New York as a fund raiser to fight bullying, but when the race was cancelled, they decided to run the Veterans Marathon instead. I saw her a few times on the course, then again at the finish. I said it was a great race and I really enjoyed it, but I doubted I would be back in 2013 due to the monster hills.

60 hours later.....

I liked the small town feeling, I enjoyed talking to an elderly woman while I was doing pre-race yoga accompanied by Axl Rose's wailing "Welcome to the Jungle." Despite the hills and the wind, I REALLY liked the race. Registration two days beforehand was cheaper than early registration for a big race, so if the forecast is good, I'll be there :D

Due to the number of participants, I was expecting a duplicate of the Martian, but the Veterans race was GREAT! It didn't have the mind-numbing boredom of doing an out an back on a closed course. I was alone for 92% of the race, but I train that way, so it was totally fine. In fact, I'd rather be alone than be at mile 8 and see people run past me at mile 17.

Sign at the side of the road at mile 16: It's not if you can, but if you will.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

6th time is the charm

"She had an idea. She knew immediately it was a bad idea, but once it was there it was like a challenge. She couldn't not do it...'Bridget is single-minded in achieving her goals,' Dr. Lambert had written. 'Single-minded to the point of recklessness.'" (Brashares, Ann, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, 184-185.)

At the start of the year I wrote down my three goals and posted them on the wall by the front door:
1. Finish grad school
2. Run the Martian marathon in 5:00
3. Run the Free Press marathon in 4:33

Eleven months into the year, I STILL hadn't broken five hours and I was obsessed with it! I know in the grand scheme it doesn't mean anything, none of my friends or family care about me any more or any less if I break 5 hours, but it mattered to me!!!!!!

I had trained all winter, all summer and it was still 8 minutes out of reach. I knew if I didn't hit the time, my whole running year would have felt like a waste of time and effort and I would have been disappointed, regardless of finishing 4 marathons - 1 in the hail, 1 in freezing cold, 1 with a head cold and 1 with the flu. None of that mattered though - I wanted my time to start with a 4!!!!!!!

Free gloves!!!!
There was one last chance within driving distance - the Veterans Marathon in Columbia City, Indiana near Fort Wayne. Making the decision itself was a catch-22. If I didn't try, I would regret wasting the opportunity. If I tried and failed to PR, I would regret it. There was the slight chance, however, that I could do it. I knew my legs contained a sub 5-hour finish and I had to try!!! Surely God wouldn't give me a freak illness for a THIRD time, would He?

I've always done large marathons and I knew this was a small one. What I didn't know was that it was in small town Americana! I love small town Americana!!!! It seemed like the whole community showed up for the "worst parade ever." Men were dressed as historical characters, the high school marching band played before the start, the start was a cannon shot in the middle of the road, a crane leaned over the start, from which dangled the American flag, historic planes flew over the course twice. It was great!!!

My iPod was charged (and working!) and I tried to not obsess over the mile splits. I didn't try to force myself to slow down when the first two miles were sub 10-minutes. I trusted my training and did what felt right to my legs. The first 6 miles were completed in 1 hour exactly. I hit the half timing mat at 2:18 and started crying. "This is going to happen!" I told myself. "Don't #%ck up the second half and it'll happen!!!!!"

Unfortunately I had read a question and answer ahead of time on the discussion forum. A runner asked if it really was that hilly. The response was "YES and the wind blowing across the fields in the second half is BRUTAL!" My reaction was:
"La la la la la I can't hear you!"
Yes, it was that bad. The second half was ALL hills and really windy. Then I realized - all the running I had done after the Free Press was somehow ALWAYS into the wind - it was obviously to prepare me for this!!! Mind over matter, just don't think about it.

Step by step I kept going and every time I checked my watch and did the math, I was still on pace!!!

I got into mile 26 and saw two high school kids sitting on the curb. "It's at the second light," one promised me. My side was cramping, but I couldn't stop. I had "Lose Yourself" on repeat for the last mile and Eminem's inspiring words kept echoing through my ears and my spirit "Success is my only motherf#@!ing option, failure is not." I just kept going.

I was cruising the last 0.2 miles. I wanted to slow down and savor the moments, knowing IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!! but my legs were flying and why would I ever stop that???

4:58:09 baby!!!!!!! I collected my medal then stepped off the course, laid down on the street and sobbed like a little girl.

FINALLY!!!!!! From a technical standpoint, it was the most difficult race I've ever tried and I did it!!!! I can relax now with the 5-hour monkey off my back.

In analyzing the time, I averaged 10:33 for the first half. It ballooned to 12:14 for the second, but no matter. I PRed by 10:27 :)

"Marathoning is more than a physical activity. It's a state of mind that says anything is possible!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012


After Saturday's marathon, I laid down and closed my eyes for a few minutes while my friend showered and packed. My end of the conversations sounded a lot like this:

"I'm really disappointed with the race. Why can't I do a 5-hour marathon? I tried soooo hard and worked on it all summer and I can't do it!!! It's so frustrating and disappointing."

Later in the car, I was still bummed.

"It's like ballet all over again. It's like marching band part 2. I studied ballet for years and years and got into the best class in the best school in southeast Michigan, but I was, like, the worst person in the class. Band was the same thing. It was so much work! Yeah, I was part of a state winning group, but I had to do so much work to be one of the worst people. It was never natural. Why do I keep choosing activities that are so hard for me?"

It's a good question. I seem to keep picking hobbies for which I don't have a natural talent. I can get to the highest level through hard work, but I'm never good and it's sooooo frustrating. Why am I not picking activities for which I have a natural affinity?

Immediately after the race I was pretty accepting that a 4:33 or a PR just wasn't many to be this year, but I was still bummed. On Sunday I was even more bummed and complained a little to my friend via email.

He responded:
"Just remember, with ALL that was thrown at you, ALL that shit, you STILL made it through.  You still slayed the "I'm quitting" demon and pushed and pushed through it.  I'm very proud - and envious - of you!"
"I think I would feel defeated as well.  But I still feel you did a great job and you did something I could not have done - ESPECIALLY in the sleet and rain.  come on mother nature - seriously? seriously?"

Even Hal Higdon agrees with my friend. He says your friends don't care how you placed, they don't care if you set a personal record. They just care that you finished.

For a few days I slept with the medal right next to my bed, the only time I've slept with a medal. It represented the hardest run I've ever done, but it also represented that maybe I can't do everything I want to. What a horrible realization. 

I saw something online that I'm trying to internalize:
Dead last is greater than did not finish, which trumps did not start.
I'm not dead last though, I finished ahead of 100+ runners in Indianapolis, even with how awful I felt. Why can't that be good enough?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"I want to shake his Nerds"

I provided the clue 6 for my last-minute marathon. It was a percentage, which means I've now marathoned in 6 percent of the states after finishing the Monumental marathon in Indianapolis.

When my friend and I registered, the forecast was 68 and sunny. It got progressively worse every time I looked and it was a rough race. It was the hardest marathon I've finished, even more difficult than the 2010 Free Press when I was woefully unprepared and got through on grit and foolishness.

It was close to a 5-hour drive and I found out my friend doesn't like disco music. What??? What good is xm radio if we can't jam to channel 7? The expo was nice enough, shirts are nice enough, but those were far from priorities. My priorities were clear: a 4:33 finish OR break 5 hours OR at the very least, a new PR, which would be 5:07.

I slept TERRIBLY on Friday. Actually I'm not sure I ever fell asleep. I might have just rested my eyes all night. Saturday morning I was out of bed at 5am and ate my normal pre-race breakfast of a MetRX meal replacement bar and a "Mexican Coke." Just before leaving the hotel I had the worst premonition "I think I need to throw up." Less than a minute later, I lost my breakfast, my Friday dinner, and any energy I had. I was completely lethargic driving to the starting line and didn't even want to leave the car. My friend was running the half and set up text alerts on me, so he knew when I reached the half, and the 30k marks. I warned him if he didn't get updates, to look for me in the medical tent.

It was cold in the morning - not even 40 degrees, but I was HOT. That was disconcerting. Much worse was that my iPod refused to work!!! ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH! Every single training run for 3+ years has been to "the ultimate 4-hour cardio playmix" and I have to run 26 miles without it? Help!!! Friend offered me his, but without MY playlist, it was a nice offer, but not what I needed.

I had no food in my stomach, no energy at all, but I had paid for the race and driven 5 hours to do it, so I set off. I met up with the 5-hour pace group, led by Jenny. She was great!!!! But the group was a little big for me. A few runners ahead was a woman with a bib on her back "Pace team 5:00 Chris." I jogged up alongside her in mile 3. "Hi Chris. I'm Michelle," I said, then never stopped chatting.

She was running her first full marathon after losing 100+ pounds. She was AMAZING! We were running easily for about 12 miles and they were passing really quickly, then I slammed into the wall and I felt like I couldn't go another step. She never left my side for 23+ miles, giving up her 5:00 pace to stay with me and make sure I finished. Without Chris by my side, there's no way I would have gotten through it. I wasn't even breathing hard, I just had NO ENERGY, but she wouldn't even let me entertain thoughts of quitting.

When I was too tired to talk, she told me about her kids, about races she's done in the past, why she wanted to do a full marathon. My body never recovered from barfing in the morning, but my mind revived a little and we had some serious giggles. We were doing a run - walk strategy, so we kept passing and being passed by the same people for the second half. One man had candy in the water bottles on his holster - Nerds on one side, Skittles on the other. At one point, Chris said we have to catch up to him. "I want to shake his Nerds," she announced. I thought it was HILARIOUS. Every time we passed "Candyman" after that, we told each other we needed to shake his Nerds lol lol

Around mile 14 it started HAILING!!! Then it turned into a very steady rain. I was wearing a wet sweatshirt, but I knew my tech shirt underneath was also wet, and very thin, so I was going to be cold either way. I had two mismatched gloves - one solid black and one olive green with spiders on it - but Chris didn't have any. What's the easy solution? Pick up a pair someone had discarded on the course!!! We've all done it, right?

I'm laughing bc friend called me Kaufman - the name on my hoodie.
We got to mile 26 and saw my friend waiting for us. We turned left to the finish chute and both found a tiny reserve of energy to run to the finish, passing 5 or 6 people in the last 0.1 mile. I raised my arms at the finish, hugged Chris, then needed my friend's help walking to the car, shivering from cold.

A very hot shower and mini 10-minute nap later, my friend and I went out for dinner, both walking uncomfortably and wearing our medals. Yup, Chris and I were so awesome they gave us medals!!! :D Friend said my iPod died so as to meet her, that I missed a PR in Detroit so as to meet her, that it all happened for a reason. I could be pretty upset about the outcome of the race, but I just didn't have it in me on Saturday. The conditions were AWFUL and running 26 miles is near impossible when feeling well. Add in zero energy and a delicate stomach, and I owe the finish to my running angel.

She's from northern Indiana and she said we need to do it again, that she had so much fun running together. Her daughter wants to run the Free Press so she can run in Canada. I said how great Toledo was last year, so maybe we'll get to run together again. We can be "Team I want to shake his nerds."

ps: The course was nice - FLAT, the people were GREAT. Gold star to Indianapolis for a great race! The suckitude of weather and my stomach were beyond their control, obviously! At one point someone had put up signs with Indiana trivia - read a question, 40 paces later was the answer, so that was a good distraction. Numerous families were on the street with punch bowls of leftover Halloween candy to pass out. A woman was blasting the Rocky theme song in her front yard, another was playing "Chariots of Fire." Everyone was wonderful, especially Chris. THANK YOU for staying with me to the end.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 - I'm not done with you yet

Over the summer I realized time and time again how much WORK goes in to preparing for a  marathon. I was already in really good shape when I started training for the Free Press and it was still really difficult. Before my cold, I felt like I possessed SuperWoman health. I was in the best health, and best shape of my entire life, so it seemed like a total waste to stop after the one race.

Even after the race, I refused to succumb to the cold because I knew the lung capacity I had been building all spring and summer would diminish quickly and I would pant after walking up the stairs, so even with a cold, I was still running. Hal says it's ok. He says the biggest risk is dehydration, that I wouldn't risk any serious problems.

Going as far back as August, I've been looking for another race while I'm in shape. The obvious option would have been to run Chicago, then let Detroit be the second one, but my training was designed around Detroit. Even if I sped up and modified the end of training, Chicago sold out in February.

So I looked online. I don't want to fly anywhere, but after the third week of October, there aren't many local options. Here are the best I could find, and I use the term generously:

The Veterans Marathon in northern Indiana.
Pro: 3 hour drive, nice jacket for participants, Saturday race.
Con: in 2011, 200 people finished the full. It's like the Martian all over again.

The Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis.
Pro: roughly 3500 expected in the full marathon, flat course, Saturday race.
Con: 5 hour drive.

The Inland Lake Marathon near Cleveland.
Pro: not terribly far.
Con: really small field, out and back course

The Bobcat Trail Marathon in central Ohio.
Pro: hydration stations have water, PB&J, pretzels, potato chips, candy, fruit, soda and Hammer Nutrition items.
Con: 90% trail running, only 10% on asphalt, presumably hilly since it's entirely within a state park.
Interesting: Runners have the option of an early start, but those who do so " will be necessary to bring a headlamp/flashlight as well as their own nutrition and hydration supplies."

I texted one of my friends over the weekend about the race I had in mind. I know I'm in shape, my cold will be better and my lungs will have cleared from my cough. Even so, I wanted someone to tell me "yes, this is in fact a GREAT idea!" Not only did I get that, friend offered to drive with me and run. Sweet!

One of the above races will be completed. As a hint, here's a clue: 6

See you at the finish line!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Where are my PANTS???

It's 49 degrees, the wind chill factor is 40 and I CAN'T FIND MY PANTS!!!! I have two pairs of pants for winter running and today seems a good day for the UnderArmour tights. Small problem - I can't find them!!! It's a slight consolation to realize my lime green fleece lined undershirt is missing, as is my navy blue $2 hoodie, and the Pistons sweatshirt I bought my ex, then borrowed and kept, so evidently I moved it all somewhere in the summer, but where....??? Not in my exercise clothes basket, not under the bed, not with the sweaters. St. Anthony help me!

I buy good running stuff in multiples, so I have brown knee socks and purple knee socks, same brand, same design. The purple ones are much cuter, but they don't fit nearly as well as the brown ones, yet I can only find ONE brown sock. I'm a mess today!!!!

I searched for "running tights" in images and THIS is what I found??? haha How does one even describe such a picture??? (My tights are a boring black)

Update: I found my pants, sweat shirts and all my cold stuff in the basement. Brown sock was in the laundry pile - it never got washed last time I wore it. Thank you St. Anthony :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

The trial run

Saturday was cold-ish and windy, cloudy. A good day to stay inside and cocoon, but it was Saturday! Saturday = run day. I don't know what else to do on Saturdays! lol

Besides, I had to get back in the running groove. After the race on Sunday, my quads were sore sore sore, but by Thursday afternoon they were as good as ever. My body was ready to run, but my cold was still raging and I was woozy. There was no reason to push my recovery, so I let it ride a few days longer.

Hal says runners can / should take off as many days as miles they ran, which gives me 26 running-free days. No thanks! 26 days off will destroy my heart and lung capacity, and turn my muscles to mush.

I went to yoga on Friday and felt fine, so Saturday was the day to try it out. I've been having headphone issues and wound up running Saturday without music, but it was ok. I just wanted a short run to get my legs moving again and test my lungs post-cold. It was fine, no problems! :)

Sunday I wanted to push myself a little harder. I wanted to run 60 minutes, but I had somewhere to be at 2pm and I have serious procrastination issues, so it wound up being 48 minutes. It was soooooo cold! The actual temperature was 41, but it was gray and windy. Somehow I was running into the wind the whole way. Crunchy leaves were falling off the trees onto me, blowing up from the ground and hitting me in the face. Many times my visor just about blew away, but I kept going for 4.85 miles. My normal running strategy is to run 0.9 miles, then walk 0.1, but I managed Sunday's run with only one walking break.

I'd say I'm as good as new! Now if the students will keep their germs to themselves!!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

What wall?

Marathoners talk about THE WALL as though it's a real thing. It is, and it's brutal! My first three marathons I ran squarely into THE WALL, the point where the body, mind and spirit completely shut down, and any further movement is done solely on willpower and determination. In 2010, I hit this point around mile 14, the Martian was around mile 20, and Toledo was mile 22. It definitely felt like progress to push back the wall progressively further in the race each time, but it was always there.

It seemed inevitable, and I have my funniest race stories from the miles after hitting the wall. For example, in Toledo I realized that after 22 miles, I can't count backward from 80 to 0. At the Martian, I completely put my dignity on the shelf and sang aloud, knowing I have the world's worst singing voice, and knowing full well that other runners were laughing / cringing at me.

The great Hal Higdon says:
There is no perfect distance for the long run. Twenty miles is the peak distance used in most training programs, if only because 20 is a round number. That is the longest run I suggest to runners using my training programs, even advanced runners. But in countries outside the United States, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) is equally round and as frequently used. Most coaches feel that once you reach 16 miles, you are in long-run territory. That is the point where the psychological and physiological changes kick in.
He also says that miles 20-26 should only be run on a race course, wearing a race number. I have to respectfully disagree with him on this point. My training this summer had two distances past 20 - 20.11 and 21.64, and I was able to keep going at the Free Press marathon, without running headfirst into THE WALL. Sure I was tired, but the upper miles arrived quickly and while I was tired, I had my full mental capability at all times. It could be, though, that I knew the course. It's one thing to know I have 4 miles left. It's completely different to know I have to get off the island, turn left on Jefferson, go by the RiverWalk, turn right, turn left and done!

My next training program I'd like to bump the longest run to 22 miles and see if it lends itself to more time consistency at the end. It's a hypothesis worth testing :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2 miles all week

Hal Higdon even has a plan for the weeks after the marathon. Here's what he says runners should do the first week:

Get all that? haha In other words, NOTHING! No exercise on Monday, no running on Tuesday (massage if it's in the budget - it's not), no running on Wednesday, no cross training either. Thursday is ok for a 2-mile jog, Saturday is the same. Sunday 6-8 miles at the most, depending on how I feel.

I deviated a little because I've learned that forcing my body to move feels better than not doing anything. Monday I put on my Vibrams and shuffled through a very slow mile. I think it was somewhere in the 25-minute area, but I wasn't timing it. Walking flat felt ok, but inclines and stairs were difficult, especially going down. Tuesday I went for another single mile walk slow slow slow.

Wednesday my quads are a little sore, but the rest of my body feels great. Well except for my head and chest which are suffering from the cold. It's getting worse not better :( Weather is great today - sunny and low 70s, but I don't need to rush into running or anything strenuous especially when I'm woozy.

Tentatively Saturday will be my back-to-running today, with a nice 2-3 mile jog. We'll see. It would feel weird for Saturday to pass without running.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Pollyanna persuasion?

Mom asked today if I feel any better about the race after a day has passed. No, I don't. I regard it as a failed race. I didn't hit my goal time, I didn't set a personal best time, I didn't even enjoy it due to this stupid cold.

I could take a different attitude to it. I could see that less than 1 percent of the world will ever complete a marathon and I just did my 4th. I could remind myself that I changed myself from non-athlete to quadruple marathoner. It was the second best time of my life, and it was done with a head cold! If I didn't stop to talk to Tammy, or pause once to pull up my knee sock, I would have hit a new pr. If I wasn't so dehydrated and walked those few extra steps so I could drink a whole bottle of water, I would have. Could have should have would have. Maybe I'll feel better eventually, but I'm still mega bummed right now.

I took a personal day from work because I really think marathons need to be the middle day of a 3-day weekend. I went for a sloooooow 1-mile walk at a 25-minute per mile pace. My legs felt good while I was forcing them to move, but the longer I sit, the more stiff my quads feel. Stairs, ramps and transitioning from sitting to standing is painful. It'll pass in a few days. The recovery seems easier each time.

It's funny. In 2010 I was pretty much the last place finisher, but I was really happy with that race because I just wanted to finish it. Now that I've gotten marginally better - and 1:25:00 faster - I'm disappointed in myself. Go figure :(

What the heck? The 2013 countdown is already on???

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I finished

My dream of the Free Press had 4 parts:

1. It was 62 and sunny (check)

2. My friend finished under 3-hours (check)

3. I ran the race in a haze (check, but in the dream it was because I was experiencing a runner's high, not because I was sick and cloudy headed)

4. I finished in 4:33 (EPIC FAIL!!!!)

Saturday night I took two big gulps of Nyquil at 7:15 and was in bed three minutes later, asleep by 8. I woke up at 1:30, out of bed at 4:00, and I still didn't feel great. I felt so-so at best. Definitely still had a sore throat, but the ear ache was gone. Woozy brain mush was present, but I tried to not think about it.

I had paid $62 for the race and dammit I was going to try!

Mile 2, my left ear bud stopped working. Aaaaaahhhhh!!!! The right one was fine, so I tucked left into my shirt and just used the right one. My quads felt GREAT! They've been stiff for a few weeks, but felt great today. Passed a woman with a funny sign "Run like a Yankees fan."

Mile 5, I was quite certain I was going to throw up. The temperature was still in the mid 40s, but I was POURING sweat, and shivering at the same time. My mouth got full of extra saliva and felt foamy and I thought surely I would leave a little something in Canada.... My breakfast stayed in place, but the excessive sweating dehydrated me and I was cramping. IN MILE 5!!!! Thanks be to God, two nice women had a table with BOTTLES of water and orange slices. I grabbed a bottle and didn't run again until I had downed the whole thing. So cold my butt was numb.

Mile 7, the 4:30 pace group passed me in the tunnel. At least I realized really early I wasn't going to hit goal time.

Mile 8, I saw TAMMY. I went over to her and stopped for a few seconds to say hi. I had posted a picture of her and her husband running through Hell on Halloween dressed as a pig and a frog. She was a spectator in the pig costume today while he ran.

Mile 12, I desperately wanted to end with the half and be a "marathon dnf."

Mile 16, 17, arrived very quickly. I thought there must be something wrong with my playlist to be that far into the songs and still feeling relatively good. Drank from the beer and polka table, enjoyed the jelly beans.

Mile 18-24, the second half wasn't bad at all when I had company. When I ran through the neighborhoods in 2010, I was the dead last loser, but it wasn't bad at all this time. It was even a little peaceful.

Mile 24, I saw the 5-hour pace group just around the corner. Panic time! If I couldn't hit my 4:33 please please please please please let me finish ahead of the 5:00 group. It was so hard, definitely the hardest part of the race, my legs were beyond fatigued, but my mind was screaming "Do NOT let them pass!!! Once they pass, it's all over because you won't be able to chase them down. STAY AHEAD OF THE GROUP!!!!"

Mile 25, there is an UPHILL. Who designed the course??? A guy on the side said it all "Make this hill your bitch!" lol All ten of my fingers were tingly as though they all instantly fell asleep. Tried unsuccessfully to shake feeling into them. Heard one person on the sideline say to another "There's the 5-hour group." Friend said "Is it the right time?" uh-oh, what does that mean???

Mile 26.0, 26.1, on Fort Street approaching the finish line, gasping and grunting to finish, completely oblivious to the crowd, passed several people.

Finish line, I didn't even have the energy to raise my arms. Just let me collapse!

A few minutes later, the 5-hour pace team finished. Yup, I held them off! :D

After I shuffled to my car, I called my brother for my final time. The app and online tracking were both abysmal, but the website said 26.2, 4:53. I was happy with that, not my goal, but a 15 minute improvement over Toledo.

Got home, looked online. 5:08:39. What. The. F^&k??? I WAS AHEAD OF THE 5:00 PACE GROUP! I lose some of my mental capabilities around mile 24,  so I wasn't thinking that I started BEFORE the group, which made their time was irrelevant to mine. I was actually 13 seconds SLOWER than I had been in Toledo.

Not happy with this race. I really don't want to make excuses for my time, but the reality is that I was only about 75% healthy today and a full marathon takes 100% healthy. It feels like a great big waste of time and money. I could have had a crappy run in my neighborhood for free :( I had been as giddy and excited as a little kid on Christmas Eve and THIS is how my running year ends? Booooo :~(

My wonderful girl friend texted after "I love you and am sooooooo proud. I know you're disappointed but u need to stop judging self and be more gentle. Seriously. U just completed a marathon. The original marathon runner died afterwards...and we r talking about soldiers. So yeah. Even though u feel sad, u r an athlete who can push thru pain. Mind over matter. Love u. You are my hero for trying." Very nice of her, but it's still a bitter pill to swallow. I want a Mulligan :(

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Getting ready

I'm not a fan of pre-race expos. I wish all races would mail the numbers and shirts. The numbers are always at the BACK of the booth arranged in a serpentine pattern and I just want to get in and out!!! Sheesh! I understand I need to show my passport for the international crossing, but can't we have an option for "express pick up" in the lobby???

Anyway, picked up my shirt. Bought a pint glass. I saw them online in 2010 and it was $10 for the glass, but $9 for shipping? No thanks! Took a picture of the signs outside.

This was all after I made it to the expo. I grew up in the Detroit area, I've been to / seen Cobo Hall many many times, yet I couldn't find it!!!! I drove around and around, at one point I knew I was driving under the building, but I couldn't find it! Then I finally did, but the only parking structure I could see was full. Such frustration! I wound up parking a half mile away and walking in the cold wearing heels. I'm glad it's over!

Here is the pre-race arrangement ====> Same outfit I wore in Hell, except for the socks.

Still working on this darn cold. Picked up some oil of oregano, which I've heard many people rave about. Consumed major amounts of vitamins c and d, ate honey by the tablespoon. I plan to be in bed by 8 pm. This is the absolute worst day of the entire year to get sick >:(

Time to PANIC

I had a work meeting on Friday. There were 40 people in attendance and approximately 35 of them were sick, sneezing everywhere, coughing deep bronchial coughs. WHY DO YOU PEOPLE COME TO WORK THAT SICK?!?! I sat completely isolated in the corner away from their germs, didn't touch anything, didn't touch my eyes, nose or mouth, and hand sanitized every 5 minutes.

Two hours later - WHY DO I HAVE A SORE THROAT???????  I had a big glass of orange juice, a vitamin d pill and a mug of hot tea with honey then I was in bed at 9:15.

Saturday morning - sore throat and ears are start to hurt. At this rate, by tomorrow morning my brain behind my forehead will feel mushy and I'll be woozy. I'M SO ANGRY BEYOND WORDS!!!!!!!!!

Picked up my race number, yoga, etc. NONE OF THAT MATTERS IF I'M SICK!!!! SOOOOOOOOO FURIOUS!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

$6.87 well spent

My Monday agenda included going to the Salvation Army for warm clothing to wear at the start of the race. Here is the best they had (for what I was willing to pay):

Yes, the fleece jacket is from the men's department. They always have longer sleeves than do women's shirts. Hat and gloves are cute! Why do I always buy cute stuff for races, knowing full well I'll discard it? Well except for Toledo when my vest came home with me... Gloves rarely make it past the first mile though, so it didn't matter one bit that my gloves for the Martian had a hole in the top layer. These pretty blue ones are sooooo soft. I should keep them and wear a pair I have at home and never wear.

The shirt is Vardar. Maybe it's Yardar? Who knows? It's big and warm and has pockets for my tissues. What else do I need?

Tuesday's weather was 56 and sunny - absolutely perfect!!!!!! Hal said only 3 miles though. I made the best of it - averaged just over 9-minute miles with no walking whatsoever. You're killing me here, Hal! Legs and mind wanted to keep going indefinitely!

Running tip (courtesy of my brother): If running an international leg, photocopy your passport, seal it in a ziploc baggie and carry it on the race, just in case. In 2010 mine was taped to the back of my race number, which seems as good a place as any.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Calm

This week - like the previous 16 - is all about getting ready for the race. This week, though, is less about the running and more about everything else. At lunch I made a list of everything that needs to be done between Monday afternoon and Sunday morning.

As a sample,

Monday - post office, Salvation Army for sweater and hat, side work 1 hour, bed by 11

Tuesday - Kroger for race day breakfast, run 3 miles, side work 1 hour, Tigers at 8, bed by 10:45

Wednesday - run 2 miles, work, Tigers at 8, bed by 10:30 (dvr American Horror Story - Asylum to watch at a decent hour in the near future)

Thursday - Tigers at 4, bed by 10:15

Friday - work, expo to pick up race number, yoga, used book sale, bed by 10

Saturday - run 2 miles, different used book sale, make sure iPod and gps watch are charged, and car has gas, bed by 9

What a week!

Running tip - the Free Press advises runners to not wear headphones, but they're not strictly forbidden. Yes, you want to hear the spectators and the on-course entertainment, but it's definitely not constant, so if you trained with headphones, run with headphones (perhaps a little lower volume). Keep consistent with the training. Changing anything last minute, especially something as major as music, would totally throw me off my game!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The emergency purchase

My male readers might want to skip this post.... :)

A few years ago, one of my very first posts was about the world's greatest sports bra, the UnderArmour Endure. I picked up two at REI and I have mad love for them (well as much as it's possible to love clothing that is designed entirely for function). Ok, perhaps it's not the greatest ever, but like shoes or jeans, I found something that works for me, and I keep using the same brand / model indefinitely.

Fast forward a few years. I alternate between the two, immediately rinse out the sweat, wash on delicate, but they both still seemed to be slowly falling apart and just not providing the support they should. I thought I had myself convinced one was in better shape than the other, but no, they're both shot.

Grudgingly I went to Amazon and ordered 2 replacements, for an extremely painful $95. Oh it kills me! Definitely not in the budget, but as I told my friend - $95 is a whole lot cheaper than plastic surgery to lift the girls after they painfully fall to my belly button.

It's the same dilemma Marcie had over the summer. I said a really good bra is an ESSENTIAL so don't sweat having to buy it, and I didn't hesitate to follow my own advice. Besides, let's put $50 in perspective: when my Mizunos were $50, I bought 6 pairs in one transaction, I wouldn't think twice about spending $50 on really good jeans, I don't even blink when the gas pump goes past $50, so I need to get over it and have the same nonchalance for a few dollars that bought me YEARS of comfort and protection.

I tend to think most things should last forever. I wondered, though, how long should a sports bra realistically last? The ideas online were very surprising and I certainly don't believe them.
After 30-40 washes most sports bras need replacing. As a rule of thumb you will need three new bras for every one pair of running shoes," [Seriously? I go through 2-3 pairs of shoes a year, so Runner's World UK recommends 6-9 bras PER YEAR? um yeah, not going to happen]
Another opinion:
Anywhere from three months to a year, depending on how often you wear it and how well you take care of it. 
I first bought the Endure when I was training for the Motor City Triathlon in June 2008, so I guess I got my money worth.

Here's some interesting information as further justification for shelling out for a good bra:  
The average breast weighs between 250 and 300g, and any unsupported movement – such as running – causes three-dimensional movement: up-down, in-out, and side-to-side.
The Shock Absorber Sports Institute (SASI) at Portsmouth University research also shows that on average, a woman's breast moves 9.08cm with every stride when running.
This can result in discomfort, chafing and strain on the breasts' supportive tissue – the Coopers ligaments – which in turn can eventually lead to sagging [which once damaged can only be fixed with surgery].
To explain the chafing that's been going on since ummm February:
Sports bras usually start to chafe when the elastic has begun to age. It can also occur more frequently on longer-distance runs – this is because of the increased movement of the bra against the skin, due to perspiration.
I placed the order Tuesday at 10pm. With free shipping, they were still on my front porch by lunch on Thursday. Amazon rules!

For comparison I held up the new bra against the old one. The old one had stretched almost 1 1/2 inches. Yikes! I wore the new one today and it was great! Well worth the cost :)

Running tip (courtesy of Hal Higdon's twitter feed): Before marathons, begin carbo-loading seven days in advance. Not only pasta: Fruits, vegetables, and grains will get you good to go.