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American Stroke Association

What a week! Somehow I acquired a cold and a wild case of burning, itching heat rash all across my waist. I have spent all week popping Wellness Formula and trying various cures on the rash. I have been a woman possessed. I want my 16 miles!

Gayle and Verna are out of town; so is Anjali. This is my chance to walk with Beth. She is walking on behalf of her brother, who is a recent stroke survivor and is coming out to watch the race. It’s a relief to know I have someone to walk with in San Diego. Gayle and I have been going through separation anxiety for weeks.

This is also my first time trying Gu. Gu is an sports energy gel that runners use to maintain blood sugar levels. When I started this, Art, my brother, asked, “So are you going to use Gu?”

“Ugh, no!” I said. ”I’m sticking with raisin and peanuts. I’m doing this naturally.”

“You should at least try it,” he said.

So here I am, with a tube of vanilla Gu in my pack. The coach recommends using it at Mile 14, so that if it upsets my stomach, I’m almost done.

We’re in Santa Monica again, and it’s amazing how much easier this is with good company. Beth and I are good pace-mates and spend most of the miles just getting to know one another. She’s been using Gu for weeks and really likes it. So at Mile 14, I squeeze my tube of vanilla Gu into my very hesitant mouth. It tastes just like vanilla icing. A bit too sweet, but not bad. (I actually now like the chocolate Gu better…just like a tube of chocolate pudding.) About 15 minutes later, we are on the way back up Ocean Park, with that long hill looming before us, the one I prayed my way up last week. Beth and Anjali also had hill trouble. Beth said she almost cried when she saw how steep it was.

I have a sudden burst of energy, confidence, brash cockiness.  “Oh, we can do that hill. It’s not so bad.” And we take off with more energy than either of us had last Saturday, although we’ve just done three more miles. Suddenly we get it and start laughing. It’s the Gu talkin’!

Monday, I check in with Jeff, my chiropractor. I have actually gained weight, but it’s all lean muscle, and I’ve dropped my body fat by 5%, so I’m moving in the right direction. No wonder I’ve been so constantly hungry! I’m burning more calories.

So, with the satisfaction of 16 miles (and dancing Saturday night, if you can believe it), and the reduced body fat all making me feel like an athlete, I decide to do a speed trial.

Here’s the deal. The Kona Marathon gives you up to nine hours to complete the course;San Diego only gives you seven. If you’re not at the half-way mark by a set time, they divert you onto an 18 mile route, and if you’re not at mile 19 by a set time, they put you on a bus and drive you to the finish line (and you don’t get to walk across). I didn’t know this when I started, and it worries me. I’m putting in a lot of work, and I don’t want to get diverted or bused. I want my 26 miles. The coach says not to worry yet, that we’re still building endurance, but I worry. When we did the one mile time trial, I came in at 15:35. But I wasn’t strong enough for my speed, so I’ve been focusing on strength and endurance. And that 15 minute mile just goes away when you add hills to the equation.

So Wednesday night, I set out to do three miles as fast as I possibly can, just to see what speed feels like in my body and what I can learn. I learn a few things: The stronger my shins are, the happier I’ll be. Using my arms makes all the difference; 50% of speed is in the arms. My body is willing, and able, to go fast if I attend to its needs. And attitude is everything. The confidence from the weekend made me go, “Three miles? Ha. I can do a fast three miles. I just did 16!”

Marathon time trialThe end result? I do three miles in 43:04, which is a brisk 14:35 per mile…a full minute faster than my kick-off time. It doesn’t mean I can sustain that over 26 miles, with hills, but it’s still a huge improvement from where I started. Spirits are up!

Read More

In 2005, I stunned myself by signing up to walk the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon on behalf of the American Stroke Association. This post is one of a series of reflections and Training Tales from that time. The whole series begins here.

Many thanks to Randii Oliver for help with graphics!