Apr 18, 2014

Marathon Motivations (5/5)

Ellen: The somewhere-in-between-er

Ellen: The Somewhere-In-Between-er

Over the last 4 days we have shared the stories of 4 different runners in different runners in various phases of their running and marathoning lives. The idea was to demonstrate that running, and more specially the marathon distance, is awesome because the hard work, dedication, discipline, and camaraderie that it inspires are common denominators for all of us who dare to take it on, whether our goal to win the race or just to make it to the finish. Of course we were also hoping to supply our readers with a little motivation and inspiration for any races they might have on calendar or be considering for the future.

This project was especially rewarding for me because it presented a fun opportunity to catch up with some of my favorite running friends, and it was also really cool to get to brag about them all over the internet! So today, as I am traveling north for the big goal race on my calendar, we'll be sharing my marathon story here on the SportTracks blog. The story of the somewhere in-between-er. I've done the just-make-​it-​to-the-finish goal, I've chased the Boston Qualifier. I'll never in a million years make it to the running big time, but I'm ready to take a little more time off the old marathon PR and to have a blast doing it! I feel like it may be a little cliché and run of the mill as far as marathon stories go, but for what it's worth, here it is!

But First, a Few Words on Why Ellen is Awesome:

Editor's Note: Ellen came to us with unbounded enthusiasm for everything endurance, and especially running.  Her presence is a vehicle of pure joy, and she spreads it about liberally, both in our social media and in person.  Her voice carries through the halls of the office, and echoes off the walls, searching for anyone she can infect with her passion.  I am convinced she is a cure for seasonal depression.  So, if you ever doubt whether running is rewarding and enjoyable, go on a run with Ellen.  She'll remind you of how fun it really is.

Our Marathon Motivation Interview with Ellen:

SportTracks: How many marathons have you completed?

Ellen: Six! And if all goes according to plan, I'll be toeing the line at lucky #7 on Monday!

SportTracks: What marathon are you currently training for?

Ellen: The aforementioned lucky #7: Boston, baby!

I certainly love a good cheering crowd and funny signs, but that's not always enough to get me through 26.2 miles without at least contemplating stopping to cry on the side of the road. 

SportTracks: What are your goals for Monday's Marathon?

Ellen: Well, there are a few basic goals that I have for every marathon. These are as follows: (1) Have fun.  (2) Run well. (3) Don't poop... in that order. Another big goal for me this year is to walk away with absolutely no calamities or disasters of any sort. My 2012- 2013 marathon calendar looked something like this: November, 2012: New York City Marathon, cancelled. April, 2013: Boston Marathon, bombed.

It's time for me to break this little bad luck streak, and more importantly, it's time honor the victims of last year's bombings and those who were there to courageously respond to them. It's also time to celebrate the awesome tenacity and resiliency of the city of Boston and to reclaim and toast our marathon accomplishments that were tragically overshadowed last year. #BostonStrong, y'all!

Aside from all of that, I am on a mission to make it from Hopkinton to Boylston Street  in 3:19:59 or faster. This is a pretty lofty goal for me (to run it would be besting my current PR by a good 9 minutes), but I  believe that with the work I've put in this training cycle and a little Boston Marathon magic I can make it happen!

SportTracks: Why 26.2? Tell me how this beastly distance appeals and beckons to you personally...

Ellen: I thought Kyle summed this one up so beautifully in yesterday's post. Much like her, I love the marathon because it indiscriminately makes people work for it. Whether you are an elite or a total newbie, you can't just do one on a whim. All of us must make sacrifices and put forth effort just to make it to the start line, and there's just something so cool about that!

I find it amusing that people often use the marathon as a metaphor for life, because the second reason that I love this distance is that following a training plan is extremely structured, black and white (completely unlike life, or at least my life). You want run a time of x:xx? Ok, do these specific workouts at this specific pace, run this many miles per week, do these core exercises, take this many rest days, etc. Boom. It's as simple as that.

If anyone out there has mastered the art of applying the structure and focus with which they train for marathons to other aspects of day to day life, please tell me your secrets in the comments.​

I lead a pretty hectic and frazzled existence, and there's just something satisfying and comforting about having a clearly defined goal and a well-laid out plan for getting there. If anyone out there has mastered the art of applying the structure and focus with which they train for marathons to other aspects of day to day life, please tell me your secrets in the comments.

And yet, putting in the work and following the training plan are not necessarily enough to get you that 26.2 PR you've been dreaming of. No matter who you are, it also takes unwavering belief in yourself, the perfect alignment of the stars and planets, and a little sprinkle of magic. Sometimes you get all those things and sometimes you don't, but this mysterious, wildly unpredictable side of the marathon keeps me coming back time after time. Plus you just can't beat the energy of cheering crowds, high-fiving little kids, and running shoulder to shoulder with a few thousand of your closest spandex-friends with a shared goal of personal triumph and finish line glory. As the wise country/ pop star Taylor Swift once said, it's miserable and magical. And that's why I just can't seem to get enough of the 26.2.

SportTracks: You must be training your butt off, like all day everyday! What keeps you motivated to keep on keeping on day in and day out?

Ellen: Well, that's an easy one! The short answer is my awesome running community. I'm truly blessed to have found a fabulous group of friends who are willing to wake up extra-early and run with me on any and all days of the week. Before I knew them I ran, and I even ran marathons, but not nearly as consistently or as fast as do now. And I am certainly having more fun now than I was back in my pre-run group days! It's really hard for me to imagine how I ever ran without this group, and I'm so appreciative of how they inspire me, motivate me, teach me important stuff about life and myself, and crack me up daily!

SportTracks: Briefly describe your pre-race preparation routine (the final days leading up to your marathon and race day itself.) We especially want to know if you have any particularly quirky, funny, or bizarre race rituals.

Ellen: In the days leading up to the race I do my best to stay relaxed and un-stressed by having as much low-key fun as possible. Some my favorite calming race week activities include hugging babies and puppies, eating a lot of delicious food, laughing, Cards Against Humanity tournaments, and napping. About 2 days out from the race I start hydrating my face off by drinking LOTS of water, often fortified with Nuun electrolyte tablets. I throw an occasional latte (preferably from Peet's) into the hydration mix here and there just to keep things interesting. (Note: There is no scientific evidence supporting this hydration strategy.) Then on race day eve I lay out my outfit and paint fingernails AND toenails some obnoxiously blingy color combination (race day nails must be a minimum of two different colors) to get pumped for the big day.

My go to race day breakfast is always a Smooth Caffienator Picky Bar, a banana, a glass of water, and maybe just little bit of coffee to help facilitate the second phase my race day preparation ritual, which is.. drum roll... Pooping. Don't even act like you didn't see that one coming. I must have at least two successful bathroom visits before a race to believe that it is going to be a good day. 

It is very important to me to look fast on race day, and I've found that this is best achieved through accessorization. Neon colored compression socks, shwings (which are wings for your shoes), my lucky Picky Bars sweatband (which Lauren Fleshman took off her own wrist and gave to me!!!), and as many temporary tattoos as possible are all ALWAYS part of my race day ensemble. Other than that, I don't really do anything weird or unusual. :)

SportTracks: A lot can happen over the course of those 26.2 miles on race day. How do you strategize for optimal race execution? 

Ellen: Yeah, so that is the part that I'm still trying to figure out. I certainly love a good cheering crowd and funny signs, but that's not always enough to get me through 26.2 miles without at least contemplating stopping to cry on the side of the road. I do find it comforting and motivating to channel the energy and wisdom of my run friends, especially if I know that they are out there running the same race as me, but I think the biggest challenge for me with strategizing for the marathon is choosing the most constructive way to wrap my brain around the distance. In pretty much all 6 marathons I've done thus far, the goal has been to run at an even pace the whole way. This plan has worked out really well for me on maybe 2 of those 6 occasions. It has failed me miserably a few times as well. I don't like these statistics,so I'm trying something different this year in Boston. I am going to divide the race up into segments and just try to focus on conquering one manageable piece at a time before moving on to the next one. I going to attempt to avoid the "I'm mile X, just X more miles to go!" mentality, as well as stressing out over running one specific pace the whole time. I suspect this may be easier said than done, but hopefully my premeditated game plan will give me the focus that I need to avoid sabotaging myself with doubt and negative self-talk. This strategy has worked really well for me at the last couple half marathons I've done, so I'm feeling optimistic!

SportTracks: What is thing that you like most about marathons/ marathon training, and what is the thing you like the least?

 Better to start slow and finish strong than to run out of gas at the half and get stuck riding the struggle bus home.

Ellen: The things I like the most about marathon training are probably my answers to questions 4 & 5: The tiny element of structure and clearly defined goals that the training injects into otherwise chaotic, gray-area-filled life and the sense of comfort and accomplishment that gives me. And then of course I just really dig getting start nearly every single day doing something fun and productive with great people that I love.

As for what I like the least, I would say that it's a tie between being super-exhausted all the time thanks to high training volume, and hectic work schedule and mourning the loss of Saturday night as a time to go do fun things. One of the many reasons I love running is that it is the cornerstone of my social life, and my running friends are truly like family to me, but sometimes I feel like I end up cutting corners on hanging out with my non-running we-still-like-going-out-on-Saturday-night friends because I'm just to dang exhausted to do anything other than sit on my bed by the time Saturday night rolls around. Plus, Sunday is long run day, so I've got to rest up for that. (I have been down the hungover-dehydrated-long-run road before. It was occasionally tolerable in my youth, but it is completely unbearable to my current 30-something self.) So Saturday pretty much always brings an early bedtime for me, and that kinda bums me out sometimes. It's all worth it in the end though!

SportTracks: Any great words of wisdom or advice for your fellow marathon trainees out there who might be reading this post?

Ellen: Yes, I have two pieces of advice, in fact! First and foremost, start conservatively. Don't go out too fast! Cling to your pace plan no matter how awesome you feel in those first 10 miles. Trust me, struggling through the last 3 miles of your marathon sucks much less than struggling through the last 11 miles of your marathon. This is the voice of experience speaking. Better to start slow and finish strong than to run out of gas at the half and get stuck riding the struggle bus home.

And secondly, go after your goal with all you've got, but don't forget to have a little fun out there! This is your big day! You've worked so hard for this! Don't forget to soak up some good energy and enjoy yourself out on the course. Give and receive some high fives, thank some volunteers, have a laugh at some irreverent spectator signs! You deserve it, and you just might find that staying relaxed, happy, and outside of your own head as much as possible will yield faster finish time! Good luck and fast legs to all of you who have a big race on the calendar this spring! You're going to awesome, I just know it!