One Important Thing I Forgot that Makes Long Runs So Much Better

Sweat dripped into my eyes, stinging my left one and causing it to close up involuntarily. Passersby secretly wondered how Grumpy Cat had taken the shape of a female trail runner—and why is she winking at me? As I shuffled over the dusty gravel, the smell of the dry weeds lining the trail made 88 degrees feel like 100.

One Important Thing that Makes Long Runs Better | Mom vs. Marathon

That was my long run two weeks ago, and I ended my misery at 5 miles. My feet and legs were chewed up after less than an hour of running. I hung my head as I stepped into my air-conditioned home. I wanted to take my Cascadias and burn them.

How was I going to manage 15 miles the next weekend?

That next weekend was this last Sunday. And I got tears in my eyes on the trail again. But not for the same reason.

I finished 15.25 miles on Sunday. It was my longest run since 2011. And I was so proud of myself I cried right on the trail at mile 14. But it wasn’t necessarily the act of running that I was proud of.

One Important Thing that Makes Long Runs Better | Mom vs. Marathon

It was my perseverance. My willingness to put myself out there again even though the previous week had been torture. And my attitude about it all.

Of course, things didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped they would prior to the run.

First, I’d ordered the Hoka Stinson Lites from 6pm.com last Monday, and I didn’t realize they ship ground UPS. So then I just had to cross my fingers that they’d arrive, at least, by Saturday, which of course, they did not.

Second, it took an hour to get my gear together for Sunday’s run, which became frustrating. (The clock was ticking between when I’d eaten, and when I needed to leave and get running. This always happens!)

However, I got over the shoe thing pretty quick because I didn’t have a choice. So I just had to accept it. It took me forever to get my gear together because I’d purchased an Ultimate Direction Jenny pack and I’ve never used a hydration pack before. (I love it! More on it later.)

All the gear troubles aside, from my first step in my old Adrenalines on Sunday, I knew I was going to have a good run. I said to myself: This is going to be nice. This is going to be good.

I didn’t do this on purpose. I’m not that forward-thinking. I just felt good.

But, about halfway into my run, I realized that just saying my run was good was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Am I having a nice run because I just feel great or because I keep telling myself I’m having a good run?

I think both.

After that, I made it a point to remind myself often about how good my run was going. Obviously, this became harder after a couple hours of running, but by then I was in the homestretch.

No, I didn’t have my nice squishy shoes (the new Hokas arrived mid-run I learned in a text from my husband). And yes, my feet felt like they’d been whacked repeatedly with a meat tenderizer after 10 miles, and my knees and hips acted like they were 90 years old. But I AM HAVING A GOOD RUN. THIS IS NICE. I AM REALLY DOING THIS.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a good attitude on your long run. I 100 percent believe this is why my run went well.

Okay, you can stop reading here.

If you like to read details about long runs, then go ahead and keep reading:

I wore my Brooks Adrenalines, a pair of Lululemon capris, and my Rainier to Ruston short-sleeve shirt. I also wore my Run Happy Brooks hat (I always have a better run in a hat).

I purchased the Ultimate Direction Jenny pack (Ultra Vesta, retails $125) and the AltraSpire 2L bladder (retails $35). Money well spent! I could take water, Nuun, pepper spray, chapstick, food, and I had a place for my phone. And I didn’t have to hold anything! I could never do all that with a fuel belt. (I’m so over fuel belts.)

I didn’t really think I would need so much water and Nuun, but I wanted to try out the pack, so I filled the bladder up half way with water. And I put Nuun in the two front water bottles.

One Important Thing that Makes Long Runs Better | Mom vs. Marathon
Before and after my run

For food, I took two Snyder’s Hanover hard, salty pretzels to eat at 5 miles and again at 10 miles. I checked and each one had 250mg of sodium. Plus, the Nuun has sodium. (I’m freaked out about overhydrating and dying from hyponatremia.)

My hydration worked out as it was pretty warm and I ended up running in the sun for much longer than I’d expected. (Also, so glad I had the chapstick!)

The first 8 miles were really, really good. I actually thought: Hmmm. Maybe I could do an ultra. Maybe I overreacted before. (That changed by miles 14-15.)

I ran on my usual trail across the street from my house, which is dusty and gravelly. But it has a lot of trees and is cooler…and one part of the trail is near a donut shop. I kid you not, I almost stopped and got one.

At about 3 miles, it connects to the Cedar River Trail. This trail parallels a highway. Trees are scarce, it’s loud and it is paved, so there are many cyclists.

I purposely ran a long out and back, so that I would not have to run past my house multiple times or anything that would tempt me to be stop and be done. (I did a little out and back at the beginning going in the other direction that totaled just over a half mile, so I ran to 8 miles out in order to not have to do that little out and back again at the end because I knew I’d quit early if I had to do it again.)

One Important Thing that Makes Long Runs Better | Mom vs Marathon
The start of the paved portion on the Cedar River Trail.

The sort of sucky thing about this out and back is that the trail is slightly downhill on the out and slightly uphill on the back. But, instead of being annoyed by that, I decided to think of it as a good training tool, since my marathon is an out back that is slightly uphill for the first half and slightly downhill for the second half. It’ll be easier!

For two hours I listened to my favorite long run podcast: Talk Ultra. That really helped pass the time. Then, when the going got really tough (and my podcast was over), I put on a playlist full of Billy Joel and Elton John songs. (I started to cry during Rocket Man at mile 14 when I was almost done and could barely believe I ran 15 solo miles without talking myself out of it.)

I should mention that I have changed my training quite a bit since I started training. While I like the idea of Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 training, it was mentally exhausting for me. I had to think about running too much and I felt too pressured to get in all the runs. Maybe if I didn’t have a kiddo and a job, it’d be less stressful. Basically, it just didn’t work for this time in my life.

One Important Thing that Makes Long Runs Better | Mom vs. Marathon
Happy to be home after 15 miles!

A few weeks ago, I went back to what I did for my first marathon (in 2011), which is the Jeff Galloway plan: two 30-minute runs during the week and a long run on the weekend. Boom. Done. Plus, I missed my strength circuits. I was able to get back to strength training last week doing the #20x20challenge with other JillFit fans. (You can see my check-ins on Instagram: @momvsmarathon.)

I am also using JG’s run/walk method. For my long run Sunday, I ran 5 minutes and walked 1. That does two great things: it breaks things up mentally (especially important at the end!) and it helps your feet and legs hurt less.

I was sort of curious how the run/walk would affect my time, but I think I actually was able to do the run faster because of it. I mean an overall pace of 11:10? That’s pretty good for me for that long of a run.

It took me 2 hours and 53 minutes, but I got it done. And with a smile on my face…well, at least for most of it.

The 9 Circles of Marathon Training Hell

Running a marathon is a great goal. You accomplish something only a small percentage of the population dares to do. You experience setting out and accomplishing something big. And you get to put that 26.2 sticker on the ass-end of your minivan.

Buuuuuut. Let me tell you something about marathons.

You have to train for them. And training for a marathon is like being in all 9 circles of hell at once…for six straight months.

Here, friends, let me show you the 9 Circles of Marathon Training Hell.

The 9 Circles of Marathon Training Hell | Mom vs. Marathon

Limbo.

Should I even run this marathon? you ask yourself over and over again. You will continue to ask this while you are running the actual marathon.

Lust.

Oh, how I wish I was already done with this thing like *insert friend’s name here*.

Gluttony.

Why the f*ck is my stomach getting so fa…ooh look! Someone brought donuts! Well, since I ran today…

Greed.

Okay, I need new shoes, and I have to drink water, duh, so I definitely need a hydration pack, and I don’t want to get blisters, so of course I need $50 socks, honey, and…you know what, I should see what’s new at Lululemon.

Anger.

Why the hell did I sign up for this stupid race? I don’t even like running!

Heresy.

Every time I meet a new runner: You know what? Running’s not even good for you. It’s all about lifting weights and eating protein.

Violence.

This is brought on by a constant state of “hangriness.” GET OUTTA THE WAY OF THE FRIDGE OR I’LL TEAR OFF YOUR ARM AND EAT IT WAMPA-STYLE.

Fraud.

What the shit am I even doing? Am I like the slowest runner on Earth? Does this even count as running? Because this feels like walking briskly.

Treachery.

Husband: How long’s your run?

Me, every time: Two hours.

Actual time: Three hours plus stretching plus rolling plus bathing plus napping.

 

So, can you relate?

Pros and Cons of the Hoka Stinson 3 So Far (Review)

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review

Can a shoe solve all your problems?

Spoiler alert: No.

But it is possimpible that it can solve some of them.

Last Friday, I purchased the Hoka Stinson 3 from my local running store. Here is what the Hoka One One site says about the Stinson 3:

The all-new Stinson 3 features the signature category-defining HOKA ONE ONE cushioning and support, and is redesigned from the ground up for maximum cushioning on the road. New for 2015 is a more balanced Meta-Rocker for improved forefoot support, and tuned underfoot geometry for improved ride and stability. The upper features ComfortFrame in the heel and midfoot for improved fit, and light padding on the tongue for increased comfort.

At the store, I had my feet measured and discovered that I have a full size difference between my left and right feet now. It used to be a half size. So that was fantastic news. Ugh.

Based on my needs, I tried two different models: the Hoka Stinson 3 and the Bondi 4. (I originally wanted to try the Mafate, which is pronounced Mah-fah-tay, not Mah-fate, FYI. More on the Mafate in a sec.)

I liked the feel of the Hoka Stinson’s right away. The Bondis came up too high under my ankle joints and rubbed.

As for the size: The size 10 Stinson’s fit my left foot perfectly, but my right foot was slipping out of the back of the shoe. The 9.5’s would have to work. (I normally wear 10’s in Brooks and most other running shoes.)

The Hokas do not have as big of a toe box as I hoped. Originally, I’d gone to the shop looking to try the Mafate’s, which looked online like the toe box is a little more straight and the toe a little more widely rounded. The shop I went to had sent all the trail shoes (the Mafate is a trail model) to the White River 50 race, so there weren’t any in my size for me to try on. But, holding one up (in another size) to the Stinson, there really isn’t that much difference in the toe box. See below:

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
Mafate from below
Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka One One Stinson 3 Review
Stinson from below
Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
Mafate from above
Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
Stinson from above

The teenage cross country runner helping me assured me that Stinson is one of the better Hoka models for both trail and road running, so that’s what I got. He also lives near me and runs the same trail, so he knew exactly what I was talking about when I whined about sharp gravel that’s killing my feet.

I have run in the Hoka Stinson 3’s three times so far: 4.5 miles on the treadmill (with sprints), 13 slower miles on mostly trail and some road, 3 miles on the treadmill (with sprints).

Below, is my opinion on the shoes, which by the way, I’m calling my Barneys (not because they’re unfortunately purple like a certain dinosaur, but because they share a name with Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother).

Hoka Stinson 3 Cons:

I don’t like the color combo. It’s not Hoka’s fault. But the shoes are University of Washington colors and I’m a Washington State University girl, so the purple and yellow combo are usually on my “don’t buy” list. But I’m also an impatient girl, and it was the only color my local shop had in stock. Besides, the other color combo—blue with white soles—seemed like it would get dirtier faster, especially considering I run on a dusty trail.

The toe box is curved inward like most other running shoes. That annoyed the shit out of me, and is a definite con. Who’s feet are shaped like this? I guess what I want is a Hoka with an Altra toe box. Is that too much to ask? I am not sure if I should blame the blister I got on my left toe on the shoe shape or just chalk it up to new shoes.

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson Review
Obligatory blister photo

My toes on my right foot cramp after about 40 minutes of running in these shoes. Not all of them cramp, just two middle ones (the two next to my big toe). And it happens almost exactly at 40 minutes. I cannot figure this one out. This has never happened to me in other shoes. It’s possible it is because the shoe is a little big on my right foot, and with the rocker sole and only a 6mm heel to toe differential…? It happened both on the treadmill and out on the trail. It hurt enough to make me walk during my long run last weekend. But then it went it away. Then it came back. Then it went away. Came back. Went away, etc. Could have something to do with the fact that I’m going from a 12mm drop to about a 6mm drop, I suppose, but it doesn’t happen in my left toes, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything because I have basically no arch in my left foot and a high arch in my right (why my right foot is shorter than my left). Not sure what to make of this strange phenomenon.

My feet get very hot. I guess this means the uppers in the Hokas do not breathe well. I need to find some dry-max socks stat. (Perhaps this is what contributed to the blister.)

Price is an issue for me. I feel like $160 is a lot of money. I do consider it an investment. Hopefully, these will last me a long time and I will get my money’s worth.

Hoka Stinson 3 PROS:

The Stinsons are very light. They look like clod-hoppers, but they are super light. They feel lighter than my Brooks Adrenalines. (Actual weights: Adrenalines are 9.9 ounces and the Hoka Stinson 3’s are 9.8.)

Very stable. I know it looks like you will be running on platforms, but your foot actually sits down in these and you feel very stable as you run. I don’t believe there’s any more of a danger of rolling an ankle in these than there would be with any other shoe. Maybe even less of a danger because the angle of the soles—they sort of flare out very slightly at the base.

So comfortable. Like running on fluffy clouds. I can feel the ground enough on the trail, but not enough that the rocks kill my feet. I feel like I could run forever.

Protects my big toe. My hallux limitus issue in my left big toe is a non-issue in these shoes and that had been a major problem. So these shoes–probably because the rocker-shaped sole–essentially protect that toe joint. It was not inflamed or sore after 13 miles last weekend. That’s huge!

My left ankle didn’t hurt after my long run. Because I can “toe off” better with my left foot, I think, I’m not rolling out and flipping my foot in to land, and causing repetitive strain on my ankle.

I can run just as fast as before. I’ve heard some people complain that these make them run slower. Because I wasn’t in pain at 10 miles, I was able to do some faster running at the end of my long run!

Mom vs. Marathon | Hoka Stinson 3 Review
DailyMile stats

Conclusion:

I like the Hoka Stinson 3’s enough to deal with some of the cons—most namely the hot feet and the cramping right toes. Maybe I need some different inserts.

The reality is that I can’t make it past 10 miles in my Brooks Adrenalines between my hallux limitus and the bottoms of my feet killing me. And my Cascadias don’t have enough support to let me go past an hour of running—my arches hurt bad afterward, as does my hallux limitus toe.

I need a shoe that has lots of cushion to protect the bottoms of my feet, but that is stiff enough to keep my left big toe from bending too much, and the Hoka Stinson 3’s do that.

So, there you have it. Now, “Suit up!” and get out and run.

Have you tried Hokas? What model do you run in? Thoughts?

How to Not Quit Training for Your Marathon

*crickets*

I didn’t desert this blog for no reason.

You know how when your mom says if you don’t have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all?

I was just following her advice.

Because after Sunday’s long run, I’d just about hung up my sports bra and hobbled away from running. For good this time! I mean it!

I took some days off, though, to…um…cool off. Here’s what happened:

Sunday was my fourth double-digit run of my marathon training and I only made it 11 miles. So, I’ve done 10, 10, 10 and 11. And after I finished, I didn’t know if I could possibly do more than that. I was supposed to 12.

I couldn’t even do one more mile. On a treadmill!

The plan had been to break up the run with 6 on my regular gravelly trail and 6 on the treadmill since I’d had such a hard time the weekend before. Well, thanks to an unexpected visit from a friend I hadn’t seen in a while—insomnia—I got a late start Sunday morning.

By the time I was at 5.5, it was approaching 90 degrees, and since heat makes me want to lie down and wait for crows to peck me to death, I went home instead. I grabbed my favorite BCAA drink (which I’d stored in the fridge), got in the car and drove to the gym.

By the way, the gym is a half of a mile from my house. And I drove.

Then, I started the painful process of restarting to run. But it wasn’t my legs that hurt, it was my GD feet! They felt like pieces of glass that shattered with every step. That’s the only way I can think to describe it.

Somehow, I willed myself to 5.5 more miles and called it quits. I drove home with my tail between my legs, and when I got there I declared this whole marathon training thing to be dumb, stupid and I never want to do it again.

Which is a complete 180-degree turn from where I was two months ago when I thought I would be the next great ultra-runner (over the age of 38). I’d planned to kill the marathon, then crush a 50K the following month and then a half marathon the next day after that.

Haha! What a moron. Who was I kidding?

And here’s the other thing: Running over an hour does not help my body look or feel great. My jiggly stomach is all the evidence I need that my body gets STRESSED the hell out on long runs. I can literally feel the flood of cortisol washing through me.

I see those elite ultrarunners with their light and muscular bodies, and feel inspired. They look like they’re flying over the trail. It looks so fun.

I hate them.

Anyway…

So, I’ve had a few days to think on it.

First, I am not quitting this marathon. I’ve already done that once. I will see this thing through to the fiery end.

Although, I admit, I’m nervous about “finishing or else!” because I felt so great and had such a wonderful first marathon with Zoe. I am worried that this one will be just 26.2 miles of me mumbling the “f” word. Will it ruin the joyful memory of the first one?

Second, I think I need different shoes.

Here’s the deal. I have two pairs of Brooks that I run in: the Cascadias and the Adrenalines. I like Brooks, but…I have foot issues.

I did one double-digit run in the Cascadias on my gravel trail and my arches hurt bad. So, I did the next two in my Adrenalines. My hallux limitus toe hurt pretty bad, as did the bottoms of my feet from all the gravel.

That’s the reason I decided to split up my run Sunday…to save the bottoms of my feet. Well…it didn’t work. As I mentioned, they were as painful as ever.

So, maybe instead of a hydration vest, I should look at trying the Hokas.

I’ve read the Mafate can be helpful for hallux limitus.

Everyone’s got their opinion on these Franken-shoes, but from what I’ve read, they can be really helpful to someone like me who a) can barely bend her left big toe and b) runs on gravel all the time.

Maybe if my feet didn’t feel like they’d be beaten with a meat mallet for two hours then I wouldn’t have been so grumpy after my run on Sunday.

I don’t know. We’ll see. Cross your fingers for me. I’m supposed to do 13 miles this weekend.

If you don’t hear for me from a while, you can guess how it went.

Gear Check: Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Vest

Like most women my age, I’ve been saving up for a designer bag. Except this one straps to your back, holds water and was designed by someone with more balls than Michael Kors.

Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest - First Impressions
Link to UD

No disrespect to MK. Love him, but a guy who wears boat shoes sans water vessel doesn’t portray the type of toughness I was thinking about.

Anyway, I stopped in at my local running store yesterday and I tried on the Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Vesta (AKA the Jenny vest as it was designed by ultramarathoner Jenny Jurek). And, you guys, I’m in love.

The vest costs about $125. I have had my eye on it for a little while, so I set aside some money. When I purchase it, it will be the most expensive “bag” I own.

And I’ll only use it once a week!

But it’s worth it. It’s so light, which is super important if I’m going to be loading it up with water and gels and my phone and my pepper spray and God knows whatever else it is I want to take on a long run.

It’s like the magic Mary Poppins bag of running.

I’ve looked at some other vests and they are heavy with nothing in them. Also, most of the hydration packs and vests I’ve looked at don’t have bottles or pockets on the front. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the bottles on the front of the Jenny vest, but I don’t think I’ll mind them–they’re small.

If the store yesterday would’ve had my size in stock, I’d have bought it on the spot. Luckily for my husband, they have to order it and won’t get it till next week.

What’s the most expensive (but totally worth it) piece of running gear you own? (Besides your shoes; that doesn’t count!)

An Interview with Me After My 10 Mile Long Run

Today, Grunhild Swanson became the oldest woman to finish the Western States 100.

Today, Alysia Montano, who is still breastfeeding her baby, won her 7th national title by winning the women’s 800 meter at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

Today, I washed my whites.

Okay, that’s not fair. I also put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. (After my son unloaded it.)

And, well, fine. Because you asked…I did run 10 miles, which I was pretty proud of because I did it alone and that’s the longest I’ve run all by myself in a while, as in probably a year or more.

Yes, it was quite a feat. Since I won the day today sort of like Alysia and Grunhild, I shall now share my post-run interview with myself.

Congratulations on a solo 10-miler. How did you feel out there?

I felt pretty good, you know. I was a little worried about the weather since it hit 95 yesterday, but I lucked out today with cloud cover, a breeze and temps in the upper 70’s.

What were you thinking about while you were out there?

Well, I was listening to an audiobook called As You Wish, so mostly I was thinking about The Princess Bride. I also thought about whether or not I would go blind after a bug committed suicide by flying into my eyeball. The rest of the two hours is a blur, really.

My 10-Miler Interview

How prepared were you for this run?

Well, I skipped my long runs the last two weeks, so I would say about as prepared as I normally am.

Well, congratulations, and we’re looking forward to hearing about how your next run goes.

Thanks! And thank you all for your support out there. Can’t do it without you. Shout out to my boys. God bless. Peace!

This is the Running Book I’ve Been Looking For

We all know lifting weights and doing strength training is good for us. Especially if we are runners.

I have been enjoying my weight lifting sessions. I love seeing how much stronger I am getting. Buuuuut, I have always wondered how beneficial the strength training plan I was using would be for a runner.

I’ve been wondering that for a while. I’d say, pretty much since I’ve started lifting– so about two years now. As much as I sometimes think I could be only a weight lifter, I am in my heart, a runner.

Last night, I was looking for recommendations for a new running book using a search on Pinterest. I just finished Older, Stronger, Faster by Margaret Webb, which I enjoyed and plan to review here later. Anyway, I needed something new.

I came a cross this article, Strength Training for Runners: Do It Right!, on Bodybuilding.com. My index finger trembled as I clicked on the article. Could this be the book I have been looking for?

Guess what?

I think it is! (I haven’t finished it yet, I just bought it on my Kindle last night–only $9.49! But I’ll probably get it in paperback, too.)
This is the Running Book I've Been Looking For

The book is called Anatomy for Runners, but don’t let that science-y title put you off. (Read the Bodybuilding.com article I linked to above for a taste of what you’ll learn in the book.) The book’s author–Jay Dicharry, MPT, SCS–explains that he wrote the book because he was a runner, who kept getting injured.

This is the Running Book I've Been Looking For
Jay Dicharry, MPT, SCS

The book explains–in easy-to-understand language–how running affects our anatomy. And then gives you a strength training plan to complement your running–to make you a better, stronger, faster runner who will (hopefully) get injured less. I can’t wait to get through it.

I will review it when I’m done, but I couldn’t wait to share it here in case anyone else has been looking for this book.