Marathon Training Week 1

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So….it begins. Training for my 9th full marathon started this week. I am really really scared. It probably sounds insane since this is my 9th full marathon, but this is a distance I have ALWAYS struggled with. I have never come under five hours, there have been seasons where I have trained exactly as I should have and still the race went terribly.

Since the last time a race went poorly, I kind of put my head in the sand and decided to avoid my own training by becoming a coach. I had always enjoyed being a pacer for races, and I did want to take my knowledge and share it with others, but I also didn’t want to have to worry about myself either. It was easier to avoid then try and figure out how to change or alter my strategy.

But, I figured I can’t avoid this forever. I am at a point where running needs to be something different, or I won’t keep doing it. I’ve finished. Now I want to finish well.

So my plan is this.

Step 1: Join Marathoners In Training
Step 2: Follow the Intermediate Schedule during the week and the Advanced for long runs
Step 3: Add weight training
Step 4: Blog weekly about how training is going
Step 5: Eat more fruits and veggies

This week went fairly well. I missed one run on Friday, but I got myself out the door for my long run by myself. I also lifted weights twice this week. My runs are getting stronger. During the week I can more easily run an 11:40 pace, but the weekend long run is still at a 13.

I figured taking it one week at a time would be the most manageable.

So here we go, Columbus Marathon 2017…

The struggle with diet

It’s been almost 6 months since I last posted a blog. I haven’t really run any races and I haven’t really worked on my other health issues.

It’s odd when you know exactly what you need to do, but you have trouble taking the leap to making it right. I think so much of it has to do with a level of comfort that one has with the status quo. I have never been great with change, I struggle with it. This is an enormous change that I face, changing how I have spent a lifetime eating. Breaking habits and food associations I developed as a young child.

The truth is, I think this might be my last resort. I’ve been given a variety of medications that are ‘supposed’ to make me feel better, but they haven’t. Even if those medications were working, I wouldn’t want to have to be on them for the rest of my life anyways.
The one thing I know I have control over, let me say that again for good measure, I HAVE CONTROL OVER THESE CHOICES, is the food that I am eating and the exercise that I am getting.

So, how am I going to go about making these changes? One thing I know about myself is that I need to make small changes over a longer period of time that become habits.

This first week, I want to remove two things from my diet, delivery pizza and Chinese. If I were being honest with myself, these are staples to my diet and I need to get rid of them until I find alternative recipes for making them. I also plan to add at least one fruit and veggie each day to my meals.
In the exercise department I am going to get back into my running which was halted due to a recent head cold, but I also want to start regularly lifting again, hitting the gym at least twice this week.

Slow, but steady, wins the race. It’s about a lifetime of changes, not just today or tomorrow.

2016 Columbus Marathon

In all the years I have either run, or spectated this race, it has never been 60 degrees at the start. It was going to be a warm day. However, it has been a really warm summer.

As a coach for Marathoner in Training, there is a tradition of meeting all of the MIT participants downtown before the race, to get plenty of pictures, hugs, and words of encouragement before the race. I am not really a morning person, but you can’t help but get excited at the prerace gathering!

This season I had the pleasure of coaching with two wonderful guys, Tony and Ron.

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I am so grateful to have these  two as part of the team that coaches the 13 minute pace group. They are two gems and our collective personalities match well. There was plenty of hugs and words of wisdom going around the room and of course, plenty of loud music in case you weren’t awake yet.

At 6:30am, the entire cohort of MIT made it’s way to the start line of the Columbus Marathon. I had not participated in the race since the start was moved away from Broad St. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the new location. Other than being a little cramped in the first mile, I thought it was very efficient and organized.

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There were fireworks set off at the start of the A&B corral and then again for C,D,&E. It was a fun way to kick off the event-and of course, lots of friendly faces and positive energy at the start line.

During half marathons, I try not to think too hard for the first few miles and just run. Especially this time around. When I met with Race Director Darris Blackford, he was big on running for the joy of it. I hadn’t been enjoying running much lately and so I decided to approach this race with only one goal: come under 2:50 which was the time I had been pacing at for other events. Also, I wasn’t going to wear my watch.

What is unique about Columbus is it’s ties to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Participants are able to register as a “Children’s Champion” and fund raise for the hospital. Each mile marker is also dedicated to a “Patient Champion” a current child who is being assisted by the hospital. Race participants are able to ‘high five’ these kids and families come out to cheer on the runners and walkers.

I was really excited by how good I felt during this race. The warmer weather really didn’t bother me too much until Mile 10. The course had tons of crowd support and I had friends who came out and cheered me on.

The finish was much improved over previous years. I really liked how easy it was to move along  and get the medal, water, and snacks. The family meet and greet area was packed, but signs designating where to find your runner by last name were posted.

I am so proud to regularly be a part of this event, whether as a runner, spectator, or guest blogger. I love what the community is able to come out and do-and the positive attitude that the race reinforces. I can’t wait for 2017 to come around, until then- Happy Miles!

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(Oh, I finished in 2:44:20 🙂 )

Tomorrow is Another Day

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This is me. I’d be lying if I said I don’t cringe a bit when I see this picture. I know, I just finished 31 miles and I raised money for an incredible organization. But I am really uncomfortable with this version of me. I am 25 pounds heavier than when I started graduate school, and quite frankly, I eat total crap. It’s time. I have laryngopharyngeal reflux, or “silent reflux” that causes a chronic cough. My body has aches and pains that it didn’t used to have.

I need to do something about this.

So, why isn’t easy to take care of ourselves?

The truth is, we all actually know how to do this right? Movement every day, eating mostly vegetables and fruit, with some grains and lean protein.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were just that easy!

I’ve watched every food documentary out there, Food Matters, Food, Inc., Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. You name it and I’ve probably seen it. I know there is an inordinate amount of sugar in our foods today and that our ‘fresh’ foods are grown far away and lose most of their nutrients by the time they reach our grocery cart.

Yet, I can’t seem to pull it together and change. My friend Julia recommended that I use my blog to figure this out. Maybe as I go on this journey of self-improvement it’ll help others and others will throw me a bone.

They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Well, here is my first step in a new direction. I’m overweight guys, my body fat percentage is way too high. I can’t run and eat whatever I want and I need to start taking care of myself.

So here it is:

Weight: 145

Body fat percentage: 35%

Sigh. Time to make that change.

What was it that Scarlett O’Hara used to say? Tomorrow is another day.

 

An Afternoon with Race Director Darris Blackford

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(Originally published for the Columbus Marathon, http://www.columbusmarathon.com)

Confession: I might have been a little star struck. OK maybe VERY star struck. But it isn’t every day that you are given the chance to chat with the Race Director of the Columbus Marathon and I had been given that chance.

After my last blog I had this idea that it would be cool to get to know Darris Blackford a little bit better. I’ve run Columbus numerous times, but really knew little about the man running the event. As a runner from the back of the pack, I was curious to see if I could relate to him. I have often wondered if race directors notice the folks in the middle and back of a race. I could not have been more surprised.

When I arrived at Thomas Worthington High School for my afternoon walk with Darris, I was greeted by a very unassuming looking middle aged man, with graying hair, and the proverbial lean build of a runner. But he offered me a wide smile and quickly came over to greet me as though we were longtime friends.

For the entire week leading up to this meeting, I had been thinking that I might just do a formal interview, but in that moment, I thought that it would be nice to just walk and talk. Sometimes the best way to get to know someone is to keep the conversation casual.

So, at 6pm we set off for our walk. I knew that Darris had injured himself the previous weekend while taking part in the Burning River 100. However, Darris was quick to check and see how my back was doing after injuring it the week before. After getting some general chit chat out of the way, we got down to business. “So why are we here” Darris asked. I told him that I wanted to take the time to get to know the man behind the race a little bit better. I asked him about his experience running 200 marathons and if he could identify a favorite. He was surprisingly quick with his choice, “Marine Corps, there is something about being able to see DC while on foot with no traffic.” For the next twenty minutes or so, Darris was happy to give me these little tidbits about himself, and sure, this was interesting and fun to learn about a fellow runner. Yet, when I was driving home and found myself still smiling from my encounter, I knew that I had gotten so much more.

More than anything else, Darris is a man who loves people and the community he calls home. This is what drives him to make the marathon the best experience possible, for both the participants and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. His passion for the race and his work left me feeling inspired and proud that our city had such a fine event. More than that, I was no longer doubting that he notices ALL of his running and walking participants. He was more than encouraging about the 12 hour run I had coming up and reminded me that I needed to have fun that day.

Yet, some of our conversation was at times sobering and I had a glimpse about the realities of managing such a large scale event. I admit, it is easy to take for granted all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into executing a marathon. While positive and engaging, Darris was quick to point out that the negative feedback about the race could sometimes be tough to hear. I got the sense that, his drive comes from trying to ensure that all participants have an enjoyable event, so when he hears otherwise, he takes it personally. He admitted that he has had to grow some thicker skin over the years. As someone who has finished four Columbus Marathons, the quality continues to improve every year. I know this is due, in large part, to the dedication of Darris and his staff.

In the end, I can’t tell you every little detail I learned about Darris over the course of an hour. What I can tell you is that Columbus is truly lucky to have such an individual as the race director. I can tell you, that he made me feel as though I was just as important as any elite athlete out there. I can tell you that he greatly cares about the health of the community here in Columbus-hence the partnership with the hospital and the desire to raise as much money as possible, so that children can continue to get the healthcare they need.

I can also tell you that one message was very clear, “be kind to yourself and have fun.”

Thank you Darris for your time and inspiration! Hope to see you October 16th!

About the author: Shannon McLoughlin Morrison has her Ph.d. in Education Policy and Leadership. She is an avid runner and coach for Marathoners in Training. She also has two pet house rabbits.

2016 Cap City Half Marathon

This past Saturday, I ran my 22nd half marathon. When did I suddenly find myself having run that many half marathons? It wasn’t so long ago that I was floored to run 7 miles in a training run…

It doesn’t seem to matter how many half marathons, or other races I have run, I still feel terribly nervous at the start. I know the routine, I know EXACTLY what to expect (for the most part), but I always find my adrenaline hiking up just before the race.

This was the first time in a long time that I was running the half marathon and not pacing the event. It has been a few years since I have run an event, or raced one. I was really hoping, based on the way that my training had gone, that I would hit somewhere between a 2:40 finish or 2:30. I was pretty confident I had that in me.

At the start I was about a minute behind the 2:30 finish pacers. Right around mile 4 the wheels fell off. I got really sick at my stomach. I had been doing water-then Gatorade at every other station. I couldn’t seem to handle the motion of running without feeling queasy. Running through campus and German Village was a nightmare, all the restaurants were prepping food for the day and it made the nausea worse.

But, I am stubborn. I know what it is like to run when you aren’t feeling well. So I stuck those 9 terrible miles out. I dug deep and kept trudging forward. I didn’t meet my goal and I was terribly disappointed, but I am proud that I kept moving forward.

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Overall, M3S does a really nice event for this half marathon. It is one of my favorites in town and I feel strongly about it like I do the Columbus Marathon. My friends look at doing races in other towns…not sure I am ready to part with it. I still need to slay this course someday!

The course takes you from downtown Columbus, through OSU’s campus, back downtown, out to German Village, and then returning downtown. There are water stations at every 1.5(ish) miles. If it had been warmer, they could have had them more frequently, but we lucked out with good weather this year. The medal was a beast.

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I mean, this medal was kind of ridiculous in its size. But the faux diamonds were neat and I liked the “I am a Champion,’ written on the side.

All in all, a really fun time and race. I would certainly recommend this one to people. It is a good time!

So you’re graduating! What’s next?

Oddly enough, as I’m driving to a Christmas Party, this thought pops in my head, and tears start rolling down my cheeks. It’s been a few months since I cried. But Maria would have been there. There is no way I would be graduating with my Ph.D. and she WOULDN’T be there. One of our last conversations was about how I needed to put on my ‘big girl panties.’ Maria would have been there.

The truth is I don’t know what is next. I thought I had it all figured out, but I’ve come to realize that life doesn’t work that way. It’s much more complicated than that. What I do know is that I need room to breathe for a while.

Graduate School came at a cost for me. I have worked full time for the entire experience and it was exhausting. I realize plenty of people do this, with families, but it’s not how I ever wanted, envisioned, or hoped to do it. The last year of writing is how I imagine running Badwater (for those uninitiated, it’s a long ass race through the desert that climbs a mountain at the end). It was grueling, I was tired of my committee (my crew), they were tired of me, and it was no longer really a run, but a slow, torturous shuffle to the finish line.

Like Badwater, finishing my Ph.D. left me feeling exhausted, but also confused. I suddenly had time on my hands and while I was emotionally drained, my mind was still too busy to come down. It was a real struggle for the last two months. I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t want to see people. I avoided running races and chose to only meet one particular friend for runs because he understood where my head was at and my need for space (thank you Walt). My husband was my saving grace in all of this.

As I am getting ready to graduate this weekend, one thought keeps popping back into my head. Maria would have been there. I am glad that I dedicated my dissertation to her. While such a small, and innocuous thing- her name will always be out there as part of that experience and I think it helps me grieve a little.

But she would have been there. And even now, writing this, I can’t help but cry for the loss of my dear one. In all this time I have worried that I would forget her. Her image is fading for sure, all I have are a few pictures to look at. I am finding that is less important than the things I have learned from her. One can always wish for more time, but I am eternally grateful I was given any with her.

I have learned one thing in all of this. And that is the fact that I have spent the better part of 30+ years doing what others have expected of me and I have let that dictate my decisions in life. I don’t want to do that anymore.

The one thing everyone says about Maria is her love of life. But I think it was more than that. Maria knew who she was as a person and she was unapologetic about it. She would drive me nuts sometimes because I couldn’t always understand her, but Maria was Maria. I am sure she had her own self-doubts, but the woman knew how to take charge of her own life and lived it authentically-whether that made others happy or not.

I think this is something I can learn from her. I am OK with the fact that I don’t know “what’s next?” That answer is real. I am excited to see how life plays out over the next few months because I am sure it will hold surprises for me. I know that I don’t want to do what others expect, or believe I should do. I know I want to live authentically the way that Maria always did.

I miss her. Sometimes I can’t think too much about her, and maybe that sounds harsh, but if I do, all I feel is the Maria sized hole in my heart and soul. Other times I find myself trying to remember every detail that I possibly can, remember every joke from college, every hug we shared. It’s in these moments that I try to keep pieces of her close to me. It is these moments that I try to remember what she taught me in how she lived her life.

Sunday will be hard. Maria would have been there. I miss my dear friend.

She would have been there. That’s all.