Photo credit: Maurice Costales

Confessions of an "I'm never going to race anything farther than a mile...2 mile...5k...10k" marathoner

Kara Lubieniecki of Brad Hudson's HTS Elite Team reflects on the importance of having a training log during her 15 weeks of training leading up to her Olympic Trials qualifying "A" Standard time at the California International Marathon (CIM).

I have never been consistent in recording my training. I have heard multiple times from both teammates and coaches that recording workouts and mileage in a training log is one of the best ways to build from past training by learning from successes and failures. Nevertheless, I was lazy and would skip entries months at a time, making any log I attempted useless. The marathon was an entirely different story. Signing up for my first marathon was scary, and keeping a training log became my safe haven.

Why was signing up for my first marathon scary? Here is some background:

The first time I finished a 2 mile track race in high school I walked off the track, walked straight up to my coach and proclaimed that I was never going to race the 2 mile again.

In college I moved up to the 5k on the track, but you couldn't have paid me to race a 10k.

Post collegiate running encouraged me to become comfortable racing longer distances. I'd even say now that the 10k is my favorite event. Still though, the marathon has always been a very intimidating race. However, after I achieved an Olympic marathon trials qualification through the half marathon, I couldn't avoid racing 26.2 miles any longer. Racing a marathon became inevitable if I wanted to continue growing as a runner.

Even though in my mind this race had to be run, I was not looking forward to racing or training for it. So that's where my head was in early September when I began training for the 2014 Cal International Marathon. To deal with the monstrous race that I had committed to, I began to keep a training log, and it was the first complete record of a training cycle I ever kept. To celebrate, I want to share that log with you in the form of this blog. More important than the mileage I ran and the workouts that I completed are the raw internal thoughts I had along my marathon training journey.

However, before we get to my log, I want to highlight the important people that I owe this season to:

Brad Hudson - My coach who stayed patient with me through all the ups and downs, who stayed positive and adjusted my training when I needed it, and who woke up early and came out later at night to support me through various workouts.

Addie Bracy - My rock, training partner, PIC, and one of my best friends. Being a veteran marathoner I went to Addie with a lot of questions regarding how to approach training and racing. I also don't think I could have survived some of those long fuel runs without her by my side.

Carlos Trujillo - My HTSElite teammate who needed little convincing to fly out to Cali to pace Addie and me. On top of that, he did a PERFECT job. Also thank you to Mike Straza for helping pace as well for a portion of the marathon before leaving our group to run an accomplished 2:33.

HTSElite - The team I belong to who trains under Brad Hudson in Boulder, Co. This team is made up of very determined, hardworking runners, and they were with me for many of my miles. They comforted and encouraged me when I needed it, and pushed me when I needed that more.

My family - who only questioned my sanity a few times, supported me even when they did, ran miles with me even when they weren't very excited to, and who made the trip to Sacramento to cheer me on despite it being a critical time for my family to spend time in Colorado.

Alex McGuirk - My boyfriend who could probably write a blog regarding my thoughts on marathon training better than I can. He has heard all of the following multiple times, and I am extremely grateful for his ability to calmly field each one of my freak-out sessions.

Chico State cross country family - They encouraged me and have given me solid advice. Special thanks to all those who were out on the course cheering us on (Brooke, Jonah, Katie, Kyle, Tim, Danny, and anyone else out there that I missed). Congratulations to Anthony Costalas and Tori Tyler for their Olympic Trials qualifying runs!

Marcus Allen Hille - My active release therapist/unofficial sports psychologist. Getting to the start line would have been nearly impossible without Marcus. I am grateful for his patience when I'd show up in his office in near tears multiple times, for his willingness to squeeze me in for 15 minutes even though he's probably one of the busiest people I know, his constant concern for my health, and his friendship.

Heather North - My physical therapist who shows absolutely no mercy when you're on her table (I was not completely healthy going in to marathon training—sorry, Brad, for failing to mention that--and her expertise fixed a problem that had been irritating me for about a year). The thirty minute sessions with Heather hurt way more than any of my injuries. But I always walked out of the office with a little more pep in my step, and she's a huge reason why I made it to the CIM start line.

One last note: My grandmother's health severely declined around Thanksgiving. After a rough couple of weeks, she passed peacefully late last night. She was not accepting phone calls yesterday, but I was told she was well aware of my marathon outcome from earlier that day. I am so grateful for the twenty-five years I had with her and for the support she has provided me in every aspect of my life. I am entirely humbled and honored to be of her blood. She has taught me so much about perseverance, strength, honor, and humility. Standing on the line, she was the person in the front of my mind. My debut marathon, my Olympic trials A standard time, is dedicated to my Grandma Goldie.

So here it is (in true graduate student form):

Table 1. My thoughts regarding training, marathoning, and my physical limits from September, 2014 through December 7, 2014.

Week #
Important Week Happenings My Thoughts
1 (105) After a 5 week buildup, specific marathon training begins -December is SO FAR AWAY
-None of this feels good
-I'm out of shape
2 (110) Frustrating workout: 4x2miles -Still don’t feel smooth
-Addie's crazy. Why don't I feel as good as Addie does? I can't do a marathon. I can't even do 2 miles at goal pace.
-Saucony carries the FastTwitch in orange and blue?!?! Ladies and gents, I just found the shoes I will be wearing for the marathon. I'm going to be unstoppable with the Broncos and Payton Manning on my side
3 (95) My knee starts to hurt after the Tuesday workout. On Wednesday morning my knee was swollen to the point where I couldn't bend it
First fuel run workout
I call my mom 9 miles in to a 12 mile run because my knee hurts so bad.
-These 800s don't feel so bad! Finally starting to feel smooth! Things are looking up!
-My knee feels kinda funny. Not bad enough for me to cancel my double, though.
-What in the world?! What's the deal knee? I was just starting to feel good.
-It’s okay, 2 days of aqua jogging, I'll be good to go for Friday's fuel run
-Knee still many ibprofin are safe to take at once?
-IB profin cures everything!!!!! I am invincible!
-If I don't die attempting to race 26.2 miles, then I’m definitely going to die by asphyxiation by fueling while running
-I can't fight this anymore. I give up.
4 (115) Knee is still hurting
It finally goes away with combo run/aqua jog & lots of help from Marcus
-115 miles?!?! Brad is crazy...actually that makes me crazy too.
-Maybe if I keep talking and say enough "buts" Brad won't tell me what I'm afraid he'll tell me...Nope, pulled from this workout. I want to cry.
-Marcus is mad at me...Apparently ib profin doesn't cure everything
-Knee feels kinda good today! Things are back on track!
5 (110) Shin begins to hurt after Tuesday's workout. Naturally, I run through it until Friday when I drop out of the workout due to extremely sharp pain. -These mile repeats feel good! I can do this training.
-Why does that hurt? That's a new place for me. I can still run, it'll go away.
-This really hurts, I can’t fight it, I'm done with this workout.
6 (80) Brad pulls me from Rock n Roll San Jose half marathon because of my injury.
I take a week off of running and aqua jog
I still go to San Jose to support Addie, and to get away for a vacation (Thank you to Chris and Mary Chandler for hosting us! And thanks to them for treating me to a very refreshing weekend that was much needed ☺)
-My mother is sitting on the floor, massaging my leg on her birthday. My mother is a saint.
-Maybe this time if I keep talking Brad won't tell me what I think he's going to tell me....Pulled from running for the week, sentenced to the pool, pulled from San Jose half.
-This is the first race I've ever missed from an injury. I'm a failure. Marathon training is not my jam. I don't want to do this anymore.
-I hate aqua jogging.
-I really hate aqua jogging.
-If they make aqua jogging an Olympic sport I'd definitely medal. I still hate it though.
-Why did I come here, I don't want to watch this race, I want to be out there, not on the sideline.
-Why am I so emotional?!
7 (60) I come back from San Jose refreshed and ready for a new start
I start running again slowly with zero plan
-I still want this. I will get better. Eyes still on CIM
-6 miles. No pain. Things are looking up!
-8 miles. No pain...
-10 miles, no pain; 10 more miles, no pain...WAHOOOOO!!! Running is the best thing ever! I feel so free! So Exhilarating!!
8 (95) Things finally start rolling
2nd fuel run
-I'm a little rusty, that's okay, things are going to be great. I'm 100% back on track.
-First fuel run back, I don’t think I've lost too much fitness! This feels hard but okay. I can do this. I can do this!
-If I don't die from the actually running a marathon part, I'll probably die from asphyxiation on trying to fuel while running
9 (110) Hard workout of 10 x miles Solo fuel run in the wind, did not go as great as hoped -If this is how hard the last few miles of the marathon are going to feel, I'm screwed.
-I miss Addie. I hate marathon training.
10 (115) Solid set of workouts -This marathoning thing isn't so bad. That was hard, but satisfying.
-I think I just finished off a bag of tortilla chips in one sitting.
11 (88) Race the Pittsburgh 10 miler. First race since USAs -Rust busted!
-Noted: settling during a race is never a good idea.
-10 miles kinda felt long...skeptical about this 26.2 I have coming up
12 (120) Training goes smoothly besides a week of single digit weather and snow Hardest fuel run of the build up Highest mileage week of my life thus far -No winter, NO! I only need 4 more weeks! -Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy now?
-Teaspoons of Nesquick powder? Yes please, I'll have 5
-Ooooh nesquick powder + peanut butter... Can't move. No one disturb me
-120 miles in the books. I'm kinda a boss
13 (110) I get a small cold, nothing serious and nothing that takes me out of training, just annoying -3 weeks! I'm gonna make it!
-I would get sick 3 weeks out. Perfect. Emergen-C, Echinacea, elderberry syrup, zinc...
-I will go to this family event, but if one person asks me about the marathon I'm
14 (90) My grandmother (mother's mom) is admitted to the hospital with congested heart failure. I began having bad dreams regarding the situation and was consistently worried -I can't sleep, I need sleep. I need to stop thinking too much
-I am so incredible selfish. I'm worried about running, sleep, and diet and my grandma is fighting for her life.
15 (60) Marathon week -The most comforting thought I've had: My grandmother's mitochondrial DNA will literally be powering me through this whole race. And if there's one thing she is demonstrating right now, her mitochondria are a force to be reckon with
-It's here. I made it. Only one thing to do now...

*You can assume that explicative thoughts were frequent throughout all weeks, but have been removed for a G-rated blog post.

The marathon went relatively smooth. I have never experienced pain like that before, especially in the final miles. I came out with a 2:35:25, an Olympic Trials qualifying A standard, which was my goal when I signed up. I owe the results of this race to the people mentioned above plus everyone else who supported me over the past three months (friends, coworkers, fellow runners, etc.); it would not have been possible without any of them.

A special thanks to the entire staff of SRA running, and everyone who worked CIM in order to make the event possible. Also, thanks to PowerBar for providing the fuel needed to run an A standard (Strawberry banana gels are best—if you haven't tried them I highly recommend it).

There is no doubt marathon training is challenging both physically and mentally. But there is also no doubt that it was worth it—maybe not worth it in the sense that I want to continue running marathons for the rest of my running career, but worth it in the sense that I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. I overcame mental and physical obstacles, and I can honestly say that I have become a much stronger person because of this journey. The best part is that I have this journey forever recorded. I am looking forward to revisiting weeks of marathon training when I need inspiration for training or when I face obstacles again. All in all, this log will serve as a reminder of what I am capable of and what it took to reach my goals. For all these reasons, I highly encourage all runners to keep training logs of their experiences.

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