This entry might be a tidbit epic. Let me pause and read the last ambien-scrawled entry to see what may or may not have been coherent.
Oh wow. That was a special, magical time. Can we all applaud my lack of grammatical mistakes? (I honestly don't remember writing much of that. But it sure sounds nice and poetical. And is factually accurate, on the whole.)
To recap, last season, post Vineman, I did two more long courses (aka 70.3s), Orangeman in late September and Pumpkinman in late October. Orangeman was a last minute impulse buy via active.com's doorbuster half off rate (who can resist a deeply discounted half Ironman!? Okay, maybe a lot of people, but not this girl.) When you're a budget triathlete such as myself, the allure of a long course within driving distance (a bit south of Long Beach) at half price is just too strong to eschew. So I didn't. I also, being 150lbs, said what the hey, and signed up for Athena. I of course won, because... well, there were maybe only four of us. And second place didn't finish until hours later. Same thing happened at Pumpkinman, that beautiful but brutal Nevada course. I saw only one other Athena on the course, and in the end, I won and had no one else to podium with me. That race was remarkably ill planned. There was an Olympic the same day, and all the support flaked out early, while we long coursers were getting dehydrated and bonking in the heinous 94 degree weather. My hands were completely swollen on the run, but I managed to power through, and even caught the little ladies I was chasing. Say what you will about my ass size and mass, but I sure do have some power to me. Mullers finish strong.
This whole Athena versus age group question was weighing on my mind (weighs... weight... ugh) heavily (uch, more puns) and continues to be a minor nuisance if not a mild plague on my psyche. Were it not enough to be an actress, I now have an additional bonus reason to be weight-obsessed. HOORAY! I've been working on this... the more stressed out I get, the less weight I lose, and even seem to gain it. Having cut out alcohol entirely before the LA Marathon, I lost not a single pound, and felt depressed and shitty about it. Guess what's not helpful for anything? Feeling depressed and shitty. This was also tied into a general malaise/anxiety/existential crisis, due to my lack of anything resembling a career and overall crumbling of certain things I'd grown to rely on, namely my tutoring client, some creative endeavors, and feeling shit about my wounded foot-- I appear to have gotten a bit of plantar fascitis in my left foot from some pre-Christmas marathon training with the Roadrunners, which means my heel THROBS with pain. (Wonder why I didn't update sooner? Well, when you're depressed and feel like you're encased in cement, blogging suddenly becomes an almost impossible task. I had every intention of it, but would just stare at the computer impotently, as if it were an entirely impossible task.) Depression doesn't suit me at all, but it's not something you can easily shake, and it really did take me more than a few college tries this time around. I did have a couple of cry fests that ended in me curled in a fetal ball on my bed in the middle of the day that interrupted some training. Nothing quite like going out for a run only to have to walk home sobbing five minutes later. Dignity!
I also don't really like to spread my shit around-- unless of course, ex post facto, as I am now-- so I tried not to be too much of a sad sack around other people, and did still manage to get my miles in, despite the throbbing heel and lack of pound droppage. (I am convinced this is mainly due to the unbelievable amount of stress I was experiencing... cortisol makes you hold onto bellyfat like crazy. Seriously, how else couldn't I lose weight having cut out all the alcohol calories? Nonsense.) Happily, I turned a corner shortly before race time, and started the slow climb out of that tremendous rut. No more doing distracted standup shows and then bursting into tears elsewhere, thank God. I started making plans for new creative endeavors, took measures to heal myself, take care of myself, and even got a job interview. Hi there, turn of fate! The weekend before the marathon I went home to New York for my friend's wedding, which always serves as a nice palate cleanser, and by the time I was back, I was ready to make some moves. Of course, I was pissed off by the dreadful weather forecasts, and anxious, as I've never tried to run so long so fast (doing a marathon is one thing, but doing it sub four... dag, yo.)
Saturday was raining and cold as eff, and it didn't look too promising. As mentioned in vague terms in the poetical Ambien blog, I rallied the funds to sign up for Ironman Arizona (not a budget road by any means, FYI) with our Dirty Half Dozen... Mike Ruhland, David Gray, William Hurst and Michael Wimer (as well as a few other of our pals, but we're the O.G.s) This will, of course, lead to significant further blogging adventures, as I embark on a quest to be an MDotter, not just a generic Ironman. I'm thinking with this marathon training under my belt, and my awesome dudes there to train with, I'm gonna be SO much better prepared than I was for Vineman, which I nearly fell into backwards. So, that's kinda thrilling. As it were, William, Wimer and David and I have been training in Group 4 of the Roadrunners this whole time, trying to get that sub-4 marathon. Wimer and David were smoking the finish every run, but I wasn't so sure how I'd fare. I was excited that we were all in it together, though, and excited to start our quest that will end in November in Tempe. (Oh, getting chills already! Just being there, seeing people finish, hearing that "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"... that is so worth the extra four hundo. Ew. I said hundo. What a douche.)
At any rate, Wimer offered up his wonderful apartment for an athlete slumber party, and we all zonked out (some of us more drugged than others... ahem, me) by around 9PM and woke up ass early to get on a 4:30 AM shuttle over to Dodgers Stadium, where we waited around and ran up and back to the bathroom a billion times, what with all the hydrating. I again had my anxious battle against my digestive system to make some moves before the race, if you know what I mean-- and I know you do-- and that ultimately worked out to a sufficient end. It was freezing cold and we all had ponchos on, prepared for the imminent rain, and our throwaway warmup gear. Slowly the sun started to appear, and slowly we saw... clear skies. And the rain which was inevitable suddenly was nowhere to be seen, and by our 7:30 start, we were running under blue skies entirely, and by the time we were looping back out of Chinatown and into Echo Park, I had to take off my poncho to let my skin breathe. (I kept it at my waist just in case the weather turned, but it turned out I didn't need it at all.)
I was so excited and thrilled by the glorious weather the running part seemed almost immaterial. I was reading a bit about Chi Running, and just thinking about the idea of that effortless running, and how your energy sort of just moves through you, and I really felt that that day. We ran out the first five miles nice and easy, never going a full 9 mph, then kicked it up as we entered East Hollywood (hi, my home!), and kicked it up more as we went along, following our perfect metronome of a pace leader, Adrian. The man is a beautiful and accurate running machine, and we swarmed him like bees to their queen. I don't think I've ever smiled so much during a race. Yes, there was fatigue, but mostly I was just taking in the empty streets, the gorgeous skies, the happy people all around me, and I felt so, so so so grateful to be there, to be able-bodied and running, and I didn't feel tired or like I was trying, even... at all. It was super zen. I was at one with the LA Marathon.
Of course my chi flow was vaguely blocked by the incredible pressing urgency of my bladder-- having to line up in our starting corral an hour before the race started, there was no last minute pee break possible, and things were getting dire. I was afraid I'd never catch up to our steady, relentless pace group if I ducked out to a port-a-potty, so when we hit that downhill on Crescent Heights, I blasted off like a rocket and kept it up through WeHo and all the way into Beverly Hills, where I, at long last, saw a vacant pee place, ran in, used my amazing ninja speed pee skills honed in college (we had girl pee races... who knew that was going to be so useful!? Or useful ever in life??) and blasted back out, seeing Adrian speed through the mass of runners, as he too had taken a break. I caught up, and felt even more stoked, as now I was happy, with the group, feeling my chi, and significantly lighter and less deeply uncomfortable. We ran through Century City and past mile 18, and I still felt totally kickass, smiling like a fool, high fiving cheerleading high schoolers alongside the route, grabbing water and keeping up my Gu schedule (I ate way less than suggested and did just fine... trying to figure out the whole nutrition thing this season.) I knew we had the dreaded hill at the VA, though I didn't really know what that meant or what to expect, but I felt good about it, and couldn't wait to be on San Vincente for those glorious last home stretch miles we'd run during practice so many early Saturday mornings.
Mile 20 came... and then mile 21... and there was the hill... and it was totally fine. Who knows what alchemy combined to make the marathon go so well... perhaps our exponential taper really did the trick, or my crazy low glycemic pasta binge the day before stored up my energy well. But mostly I'm thinking it was my turn of mood recently, and my positive outlook. Everything about that marathon was beautiful and awesome. The hill was a part of it. I floated up and felt fine. There was a photographer at the top of the hill snapping pictures of everyone looking like death and I'm looking at him like I'm five years old and just got a puppy:
By this point, I KNEW I was going to make my sub-4 time, and I was super thrilled about it. And I was doing it without feeling like utter death, which was even cooler. I was totally pumped to hit those final miles on San Vincente and, like I've been saying for the past few months, "bust a move." i.e. "I'm hoping I can keep up with the pace group the whole time and then bust a move at the last few miles." A.K.A. finish strong, Muller style. Cuz that's how I roll, with mah negative splits, holmes.
Of course, trying to negative split on a marathon gets a little rough, and our pace group was already running 8:40s by that point, but I was all about it, and after seeing my friend Lisa Z, who said, "Wow, you're way out front here!" I felt even more rad, and started to zoom-a-zoom zoom. I caught up to my friend Nancy, who's always been wicked solid during our pace group runs and out ahead with Wimer and Dave, and then caught up to Michael, who'd been ahead of the group the entire time. Our friend Lisa, who's tiny and fast as hell, was picking up the pace too, so I tried to stick with her for the last few miles. It was starting to feel pretty ragged, and it didn't help that my Garmin was showing me to be a full half mile ahead than I was (you often pick up nearly an extra half mile on a course, just since you zigzag when getting water, etc.) My chi was less flowy, and it was battle time. I stayed with Lisa, the bunny to my greyhound, and we rounded the bend to Ocean Ave, where that finishers chute couldn't have seemed possibly more far. I was getting to that very uncomfortable place, where all you want to do is slow down, but you know you shouldn't and you can't, because this is all you've got, this last moment, and this is what it's all been for, but oh my GOD why am I not DONE yet, and is that chute getting FURTHER AWAY?? Lisa seemed to be outstripping me, as was some random other girl who I, for whatever reason, suddenly decided was my mortal enemy. Maybe because she had on headphones and I was jealous. Or that she looked effortlessly sporty in that moment. And because we had the same body type so we were basically doppelgaengers and I had to destroy her. Ya know, the usual. I was making exhausted cries like a pro tennis player with every gasp at this point, and thank God, there was one last water station before the last hurrah, so I downed a few, and then true move busting took place, and I overtook sporty doppelgaenger AND Lisa my bunny, watching that timer click on the 3:54, knowing I was going to finish two minutes faster than hoped, and crossed with great warrior victory, with Lisa coming fast behind me commending me on my crazy power swell, though I couldn't talk to her, because I thought vomiting was inevitable. According to the Garmin, I got up to a 5:22 pace-- probs for like... four seconds-- and a max heartrate of 199, so, yeah, the vomit part seems to make sense.
I didn't vomit (yay!) and was nearly too out of breath to even have my happy crying catharsis, but man, did I feel awesome. And then immediately like I was 80. I could not believe I possibly ran that long doing an average of 8:50min/miles with my last three down to 8:27, 8:06 and 7:53 respectively (and an average pace of 7:22 on that last stretch) and now literally could not walk ten feet normally. We were all hobbling around like invalids, but glorious champion invalids, and we even were given capes-- it was ridiculously windy, which, in my tunnel vision warrior state I did not notice whatsoever, and our warming blankets became victorious superhero gear that flew valiantly in the wind:
I sure look way more awesome still than I did moving... shortly after this, I climbed over a fence to get into Michael's apartment building, since security wasn't going to let us through, and it was like an octogenarian trying to be a cat burglar: worst sneaky maneuver ever. Happily no one saw me, and I hobbled up to the apartment, where we all took horrifying but beneficial 10 minute ice baths in Michael's tub. Even after the trail marathon, I don't know that I felt this sore... I was practically hauling myself around via furniture. And then when I went to take a shower and took off my compression tights, my left shoulder seized up into a Charley Horse so intensely painful I felt nauseous and nearly blacked out and had to sit down. (It would have been super awkward if I blacked out in the bathroom with no pants on. Yikes.)
Michael had invited our coterie of kickass over for a most glorious recovery celebration meal on the rooftop room next to the pool, which had a gorgeous view of the ocean and the runners trickling in below and a masseuse doing recovery rubdowns (SO BALLER.) It was the perfect end to our first major event of the season, and it was so nice to have everyone there who'd been through it all together, even Adrian, our fearless leader. Dave had run into some mega cramping issues, but was happy to have finished, and William finished at under 4:30, which he confessed was his secret realistic goal that he didn't tell anyone-- having been sick, his training was a little off. Michael finished right on my heels, having a fantastic first marathon EVER, and even slowing down to kiss babies and friends on the victory lap in (I don't kiss babies if they're on the way to the finish line, I SLAP THEM DOWN.) Okay so I don't know if Michael kissed babies, but I like that mental image. :-) Lisa, of course, had a strong race, but something went awry shortly after, so she took a catnap in the sun and recuperated. So it was a mixed bag for the group, but by the time we were all noshing on salmon and sipping our beers, everyone was feeling pretty damn good about themselves. I just felt so proud of everyone and myself and so insanely grateful to be there with my amazing, loving, generous friends. It was nearly like I was in a dream-- I'd been looking forward to this moment after, all of us together up there on the roof, looking down on Santa Monica like a set of demigods on our little mini Olympus. And there we were... all with finisher medals on, and we'd done it. We DID it. I did it... in time. Holy shit! And yes, all the crappy feelings of previous months were terrible, but suddenly I felt like, wow, I can do anything, and I just did something truly awesome, I'm a beast, I can totally do this, whatever this might be. And so sure, I do still want to get out of Athena range and see what kind of contender I could become (I have some stats to share in a later time about my conditioning... for inquiring minds and such) but I don't feel shitty about it, because I know that even with some extra weight and a bum heel, I'm a solid runner, and I can handle my business. That's a really good feeling.
So I'm focusing on the positive in every part of my life, and it's spreading like a glorious virus of joy. I'm putting up little reminders (one including the not so subtle poster: GET SHIT DONE) to get my ass in gear more effectively when at home (I like to hibernate and tend to think that watching epic amounts of TV shows on Netflix while "tidying" or cooking counts as being productive) and have started to make a training plan to get ready for the dread Wildflower long course. Next up, first, is the 200-mile Ragnar relay race, which I'm now feeling pretty good about doing my legs at an 8:45 pace... if I could do the marathon as fast as I did, I can do a six mile, two mile, and eight mile leg faster. Right? HELL YES. I like this feeling. The old weak sad crap fat feeling was so unbecoming. Happy positive and righteous Nik is what's up. Life is for the alive, so let's keep living it (said Sweeney Todd before throwing Mrs. Lovett in the oven... though it's a great quote.) It's springtime, bitches! Let's do some bricks!
More to come soon, on lactate thresholds and my Paleo process...