Marathon Update: The Hills Are Alive

IMG_1075In my blog last week I talked about the fact that my first marathon took way longer than I expected.  There are a bunch of reasons, I’ll talk about them more below but one of the major ones was that the Seattle hills just whooped my ass.  I simply hadn’t trained properly for the hills. Though the LA Marathon is very different, I’m determine to own the hills this time around.  Enter hill workouts, there are three different types that I’m doing:

Plain Old Hill Repeats:  Go up the hill, come down.  Repeat.  Sometimes it’s a number of times, sometimes it’s a length of time.

Mile and Back Hill Repeats: start at the base of a hill, run/walk a one mile out and back, go up the hill and come down, then turn around and go up and down the hill,  then run/walk a mile out and back. Repeat full cycle 4 times (increasing the number of times as training increases)

Screw These Hill Repeats:  (I’m sure this isn’t the official name but it’s what I call them)  Set number of hill repeats (I started with 6) Try to do each one faster than you did the last one, try really hard not to die.

“Luckily” I live by Signal Hill (pictured above) so I have easy access to a hill to go up and down. Yay!

Hill work can seriously suck but, I’m betting, not as much as not being ready for the hills sucked.

A lot of people have asked what happened to make my last marathon go on for four hours longer than I planned (I trained for 8.5 hours and it took almost 13.)  I’ve written a bit about it but gone back and forth on writing extensively – on one side there is plenty of helpful information about what not to do in the telling of it,  on the other I don’t want to appear to be “making excuses” for something which needs no excuse (despite the insistence of the haters who like to e-mail me their opinions as if I actually care what they think.) In the interest of telling the whole story, here’s what happened:

I started out over hydrated and nervously excited and so at mile 2 I seriously had to pee.  Unfortunately I was far from the only person in this condition and thus the lines at the port-a-potties were super long.  I took me over 20 minutes in line. (Of course my haters couldn’t figure out that my 25 minute bathroom break was almost all standing in line – likely because none of them has ever done a marathon –  so there are threads online with literally hundreds of posts speculating about my gastrointestinal health and bloviating about fat people’s gastrointestinal health in general.  One of the most hilarious things that has ever happened to me was discovering that there are people spending a ton of their free time discussing my poo.)  So that was 25 extra minutes.

When they re-opened the roads (two hours earlier than the signs said they were going to) they put us on a dirt trail that winds along the water, and also forced us to run up and down a steep, often muddy embankment as the trail had stops and starts. It was way slower than just walking in the middle of the road.  We also had to stop for traffic lights, and traffic where there were no lights, and go into restaurants to use the restroom after the port-o-potties were pulled off course.  Toward the end we were walking in a heavily wooded area in the dark, again – it was much slower than walking in the middle of the road in the day time.  With all of the winding and off-roading, we also walked over a mile extra.

I wasn’t ready for the conditions – I trained in Southern California usually in 70-80 degree weather.  At the marathon it was 40 degrees and I was freezing my ass off. I had never trained in wind like that (up to 20mph), and as previously mentioned, there were the hills.  I was happy with the preparation I had done, except that I should have done a better job of preparing for the conditions.

I trained entirely on my own, but walked the marathon with my Best Friend.  So instead of listening to music with nothing to break the complete boredom but obsessively checking my pace and keeping up my hydration and nutrition strategy, we talked as we walked and I didn’t keep track as I normally would. (To be perfectly clear, this is entirely on me – it was not in any way Kel’s fault).   I just didn’t stick to my plan. Also the closing down of the aid stations after mile 11 didn’t help and we were out there four hours longer than we had water or nutrition for.

So that’s it – I made tons of mistakes, they cost me and Kelrick a lot of time. I set out to complete 26.2 miles in one go, it was absolutely horrible but I did not quit and I finished 26.2 miles in one go. Success, however sucky. I’m eternally grateful to Kelrick for doing it with me and, dare I say, I’m actually kind of excited about doing it again.

Days until Marathon:  287
Current Level of Confidence:  9
Fun I’m having on a 1-10 scale:  9

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16 thoughts on “Marathon Update: The Hills Are Alive

  1. I admire your determination. Loved your marathon story. Things happened and you delt with them. What part of the city is your hill in?

  2. I’m just super impressed with anyone who can do a half marathon, let alone a full one. I do triathlon (and only sprint or Olympic distances so far) and I haven’t quite figured out how to maintain my nutrition and hydration during the race. I’ve been there with the port-a-potty issue – not fun and definitely a time-waster, especially in the odd cases where event organizers underestimate how many loos are needed for the number of participants!

    I love reading about your playlists, as my running playlist changes sporadically, depending on what (literally) moves me at the time.

  3. Wow. There are really people out there with that much time on their hands to think about our poo? Dayum! They must be bored out of their tiny little skulls most of the time.

    But as a longtime Renaissance Faire attendee/participant, a twenty minute wait for a priv is no surprise to me. In fact, anyone who has attended a stadium concert, county fair, Comicon, or a major sporting event has probably experienced the same thing… especially if they are female.

    Hell, I once had to wait through almost the entire fifteen minute intermission to get into a stall at the San Francisco Opera once! I barely got back to my seat before the curtain went up on the second act. Believe me, I wasted NO time in getting my business done.

    1. I have bladder control issues, have had since childhood because of cerebral palsy, & they have naturally been exacerbated by aging, childbearing, & menopause. (And, yes, I have tried kegels, but they don’t help much if you have serious bladder control issues, especially if they are congenitally linked to a disability, as mine are, as is frequency of choking & digestive problems.) So, when I am going to be far away from my bathroom, I wear Depends, or actually my drugstore’s brand, because not only are they cheaper, but they are also more absorbent & fit me better. I can’t recommend them enough & I feel great empathy for those of you out in the middle of nowhere in need of a toilet.

      1. Not that I’ll ever run one, but was wondering how to manage bladder issues on a marathon. Pantiliners are definitely my friend after 3 kids, especially if a cold or asthma has me coughing & sneezing unexpectedly. Anyway, I thought “briefly” that Depends might be helpful but then thought intra garment humidity might be a problem during a long period of activity. I think the answer may be those little funnels women can buy that let them pee standing up….

        How do you balance drinking enough to stay hydrated with not wanting to waste time in bathroom lines? You’d think the run/walk would be hard enough without all these other issues to coordinate!

  4. You completed a marathon! And it sucked… and you are working towards completing another one! Just like the numbers on a scale don’t mean much, the numbers on your stop watch mean even less and can’t undo all you put into training and your own personal accomplishments. On the other hand, if you’ve learned from your mistakes and things go more smoothly this time you can blow away that old number and put a new one in its place.

  5. I am so very impressed with your achievement. You should be so proud, you did exactly what you set out to do, even though the going was tougher, rougher and longer than expected. You are amazing, and an incredible role model. Thank you for sharing your marathon with us!!!!

  6. I live in Seattle and can vouch for how shitty the hills can be just for an ordinary person trying to get from point A to point B. The cold and wind is no joke either. I’m still dead impressed you got through the whole marathon with both of those, add on the dark and crappy places to walk and I am even more impressed.

    Kick those hills in the butt!

  7. i used to live in seattle, and honest, even when i was used to the hills, they still kicked my ass. now that i know about the conditions in which you trained versus competed i am even more impressed that you finished. that’s some moxie you have. rock on!

    thanks for sharing all that information — it sounds like you learned a lot from the experience. and of course considerably different conditions compared to training will affect an athlete — any athlete. the pros often go and train for a few weeks in the locale in which they’ll be competing, so there is nothing weird about you not doing as well as you did in training; it makes sense. in any case, you finished! how many of your critics have ever finished a marathon? or even participated. they’re probably to busy analyzing other people’s poo, *snrk*.

    anyone who feels they ought to discuss a fat person’s gastrointestinal health online really, really needs to get a life. that is utterly hilarious, i am still laughing.

  8. Hill reps. Big respect from me. And being able to run the descents confidently will buy you even more time than being a strong climber.

    Your last experience sounds truly hideous. But just having done 26.2 miles all at once, even if it was a struggle, will put you in a better position for next time.

    I’m trying to convince my son, who is my running buddy, to do a marathon with me next spring. “Everything I’ve read about marathons has convinced me that I never want to race further than 20 miles,” he told me. The boy talks sense. But the distance is SO compelling.

  9. Love these updates! You’re amazing. Hills are the devil I ran my first 10-miler in what I was told was a flat course…flat my ass! When you’re tired, even the tiniest incline will kick your butt. I can’t imagine how you powered through your uphill marathon.

  10. You are a rock star and BIG PROPS to finishing a marathon. I can’t even imagine! I find your posts and personal journey very inspiring. You have changed the way I think about my body and my size. I do have you to thank for that. I just wish there were more people out there blogging about this stuff like you do!

  11. Yeah those hills in Seattle. When I can’t see the bottom of the hill from 10 feet away, my fear of heights kicks in. Then I go around until I find a less steep hill. There was one that took me 3 months to get the courage to walk down. (I don’t have a car, just so you know.)

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