Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014. From Zero to My Own Hero.

As you all know - it's been a wild freakin' year for me.

2014 certainly wasn't what I envisioned it to be pre-November 2013.  I had sugar plum dreams of more races, more PRs, and more running success.  Well, I had a last minute change of plan with my stress fx and reaction.  I won't harp on it too much... if you've been reading, then you know the story.

2014 turned into the year of "I will NOT go away quietly" and "I WILL overcome".  In my 2013 wrapup, I stated my 2014 goals included strength and balance training as well as the ultimate comeback: a Fall marathon.

I'm happy to say that I accomplished all I'd hoped to and more.

During the first part of 2014, I completed a modified version of Live Fit.  I could not do the first few weeks of leg days due to the nature of my injuries, but I was able to gradually work them in as my physical therapy and healing progressed.  Gains were had.  I enjoyed heavy lifting so much that I couldn't wait to get back into it after the Spring running season was over.  I did another round of intense strength training in late spring/early summer before starting to train for the Marine Corps Marathon.

I also incorporated a ton of core and flexibility workouts.  If you've ever had a second thought as to whether to add them to your running plan, let me just say this:  DO IT.  You will not regret it.

Strength and balance - check.

Running.  Well, it wasn't a miraculous year of crushing PRs, but thankfully I wasn't really aiming for that.  This year I wanted to get strong and go long.  After having to drop down to the Pittsburgh Half, my goal was to get it done in under 2 hours.  I started run/walking in mid January at PT after getting off the crutches and getting to a point of walking without a limp again.  January's mileage totaled 5 miles.  I gradually lengthened the intervals and by mid-March was straight out running again.  I worked up to 4 days per week and then just a couple of weeks before the race I ran 5 days per week.  My highest mileage week for that "training cycle" (if you can call it that) was 26.5 miles.  That said, I knew I wasn't going to PR, but I hoped to get under 2 hours and at least try to get close to my previous years time.  I was almost 3 minutes slower on this course than last year at 1:51:xx vs 1:48:xx, but I was really happy with that... especially since I knew when to pull back during the race when I started feeling something going on in the previous injury site.  One thing having to come back has taught me is how to respect my body more than a number on a time clock.

What the Pittsburgh Half did for me was give me a starting point to build on for the rest of the year.  While everyone else in the running world was taking off (literally) doing fast races - 5Ks and 10Ks galore all summer - I was out on my own, building easy longer mileage to prepare me for the epic journey that lay ahead of me in training for my first marathon.  I was a bit bummed that I had to refuse my seeded position at the Great Race, but I knew in my heart that it was the best decision.  I had to stay the long/slow/strong course if I wanted to succeed in the marathon.  During these weeks I started to fall in love with heart rate training.  Yes, you heard that right.  In last year's recap I said I had tried it and "wasn't a fan".  Well, I've totally changed my tune since learning to appreciate the benefit of running slow for the purpose of endurance, strength, and recovery.  Let's face it - we all wanna be fast.  But running too fast all the time (even if it feels "good") isn't healthy OR beneficial.  Using my heart rate monitor I was able to build up my mileage safely and efficiently.  I felt great heading into marathon training.  I've also been using the monitor since running MCM for recovery and for building my mileage even further for the next season.  Instead of being annoyed with it, I now rely on it and actually enjoy the easy, slow runs and love knowing when to push myself harder when I'm supposed to. I'm honestly excited to see what happens training for a marathon using it.

Marine Corps Marathon. What an adventure... from the first run to the race itself.  There's seriously something to be said about the overall experience of training for and running a marathon.  It's really hard to even talk about with someone because it's one of those things you just have to be there for to understand.  The physical stuff.. the psychological stuff... the emotional stuff.  It's all encompassing.  Just like when I was contemplating a 5K, I refused to sign up for a race unless I was sure I could do it well (for me - my times are not a reflection of anyone or anything else).  For that first 5K, it was sub 30 mins I was after.  For the marathon, I really wanted to run it in 4 hours or less.  Coming off a training season guided by babying/recovering from injury and not PRing in the half marathon, I wasn't 100% certain I'd be able to achieve this goal at MCM.  I was going to try my hardest, but I kept checking myself mentally so I wouldn't be completely crushed if I didn't.  I figured I'd be ok with anything under 4:15.  I won't recap the whole race for you again, because you can just read the recap (all 2 parts of it), but I will never forget trudging up that damned hill and coming around the corner KNOWING I hit my ultimate goal.  Every time I watch my finish line video I cry because that wave of feeling is still there "omg I fucking did it... holy shit that was hard.. omg I ran a marathon... wow some of these Marines look so young... I'm so hot and thirsty.. I might puke... omg I did it... I want to do another one...where's this photographer telling me to go...damn everything is tired and sore... did I inhale that banana already... wheres the beer".  Haha.

Fall marathon - check.  Under 4 hours?  Bonus check.

Since MCM, I've really been simply reveling in the glory that is being a marathoner and trying to enjoy various avenues of fitness - different strength training, yoga, riding the bike, as well as rebuilding a nice mileage base... I'm thrilled with where I am right now as I close out the year.

I ran 1157 miles this year!  My highest mileage year yet!  That's pretty cool when you figure I went from running a whopping 5 miles in January to my highest month in September with 166 miles.  I was even able to build my mileage back up to 110 miles here in December!

In my personal life, I've had a lot of ups and downs this year too... as we all do.  I've been able to put my personal training certification to work and help some people with their health and fitness goals.  That's been great.  The kids are all happy and healthy and even ran a couple of races (Kids Marathon & Liberty Mile) this year!  They all just got bikes from Santa (upgraded from scooters), and they are just loving them.  On a down side, our move has been stressful, expensive, and not at all what we'd hoped.  We moved out of the city a bit and so far... it's been a huge regret.  We're already looking to move back and that is a big personal life goal for 2015.  I've unfortunately had to come to grips with the reality that some people who call themselves "family" are the most cruel and hurtful people in your life.  :\

Fitness goals for 2015?  Well, I know I mentioned this in my last post, but I'm really looking forward to this Yoga challenge.  Who knows, maybe I'll get into it so much I'll consider a deeper practice when its over.  We'll see.  One thing I really like about Adriene is her sentiment of "Find What Feels Good".  That should be a mantra for the whole year, really.  I mean, if you're doing something that doesn't feel good - physically, mentally, spiritually - why do it?

As for running, I'd love to PR the marathon, but honestly a finish in my hometown is a great reward as well.  I want to stay as injury free as I can as long as I can.  I also want to try out some new distances this year (a 30K is planned - automatic PR, baby!).  I also want to challenge myself by running more hilly courses.  I tend to sway toward the comfort and flatness of the North Shore and the GAP, but in reality I really need to run McKinney hill or that damned lodge hill more than once or twice a year.  My current neighborhood is also hilly as hell and I think more of my easy/recovery days will take place here.  This coming year is about challenging myself to go out of my comfort zone a bit while still honoring my body and finding what feels good.  I just want to enjoy life, all.

Happy New Year everyone!  Thanks for reading along and being my cheer squad and inspiration/motivation.

The #1 song that got me through 2014.  

And #2.

And lastly... if you ever see me running, singing, and crying at the same time I'm probably listening to this.  haha.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Back in Marathon Mode Again!

No more off season.  As of yesterday that is a thing of the past.  You know, I really don't even like that term anyway... "off season".  It's one of those things I say because everyone else says it, but I really don't believe in it.  I don't really have an off season because I'm always doing something with a goal in mind.  Being a trainer, I'm a big fan of periodization, so I simply go through phases:  I'm either focused on running, or focused on a strength goal, or something else.  I'm such a type A personality and an overall fitness lover that I always have a training plan... even when there's no race date circled on the calendar in the near future.

During this particular "off season" I focused on strengthening my glutes/legs in addition to building easy mileage to prepare me for the upcoming running season.

Glutes:  As I mentioned, I used an outline of the Strong Curves program and tailored it to fit me.  I have noticed results in not just aesthetics but in overall strength and that's great.  I can't say that I'm extremely wowed by the transformation, but I think I just need more time to work on it.  From where I started to now?  Thumbs up.

Mileage building:  I used my heart rate monitor to stay in the "easy" zone and keep things slow and easy while running 3-4x per week.  I have totally changed my mind about heart rate training this year.  I'll get into it more in my 2014 wrapup which will post tomorrow.  I ran long runs of 8-12 miles on the weekends and the runs during the week gradually increased in mileage as well.  I recovered very well between runs (I thank the HRM for this) and was able to build back up to 25-30 mpw during the last month as planned.  I feel very prepared going into my training plan for marathon #2.

That said --  TODAY was my first run of my training plan for marathon #2!  I'm happy to say that it went really well!  I ran an easy (via hr) 2 mile warmup, then did a 4 mile tempo run followed by a 2 mile cooldown (also via hr).  I was thrilled when I saw I ran the tempo run faster than intended even though I felt like I was going slow.  Good sign?  I hope!

So, here's the deal with this next marathon:  I'd love to PR, and I'm training for a PR.  But I'm not going to be all crazy butthurt if I don't.  A couple reasons why - 1) This is a different course. Here's an honest confession for you:  Pittsburgh's marathon course scares the hell out of me.  Not the first half, but the half I've not run yet.  I believe it to be a tougher course than MCM.  That said, I also am a scientific/numbers person and trying to compare performances on different courses/different seasons/etc is just so crazy..  Given fitness level vs course, I think someone capable of running a 4:00 in one place could run a 3:55 somewhere else and a 4:10 on another course, etc and still have "given their all".  There's just too much variable in the marathon as a whole and I'm not going to go psychotic over it.  2) I'm aware that having to train over the winter means that weather is going to dictate a lot.  Training over the summer/fall is ezmode: heat and rain.  Both you can just deal with and run through.  Heavy snow/Ice/subzero temps?  Not so much... Runs for this cycle may need to be moved indoors if I have to and am able to, or the schedule shuffled around, or *gulp* skipped as an absolute last resort.  We'll see what Mother Nature brings over the next few months...

I'm also going to do things a bit differently than I did for MCM.  First, I'm going to run more mileage.  Last training plan I peaked at 46 mpw.  This time around will be 55.  I'll also be going with the theory of "slow down to get faster", which has thus far proven itself to me. I'm going to be utilizing my heart rate monitor for the majority - if not all - of my runs.  A common running error for a lot of runners, and I know this to be true especially for myself is the tendency to run faster than you should for general purposes.  The heart rate monitor has kept me honest with this lately, and I've learned to embrace it rather than pooh pooh it.  So, prepare for me to slow down... way down in some cases!  Don't worry - it's all for a purpose.  My hard/workout runs will be intense (and I'll be doing a bit more of those this time around too), but the others will be super easy.

Secondly, I'm going to continue with workouts from Strong Curves.  I won't be doing the plan as written, but I will be doing 1 or 2 workouts per week as part of my plan in place of the strength circuit I used last time around.  That circuit got so freaking boring, and even though I stuck it out, I can't see myself doing it for another 18 weeks.

Yoga will be an important part of my plan, especially through the month of January.  I've signed up for 30 Days of Yoga with Yoga with Adriene and I'm really excited about it.  Flexibility has become really important to me post-injury and I am hoping to deepen my yoga practice with this program.  It's going to be a challenge for me because I don't think I've ever stuck with a yoga practice for 30 days straight.  The closest I've come was when I was pregnant and doing it about 3-4 times a week.  So, this will be interesting.

Here's to a successful, healthy, and FUN adventure ahead!
Calloway is not a fan of marathon training.  Or of me screaming at the TV during the Steelers game.  He is a fan of snuggles, food, sleeping on my face, and trying to aim his hairballs on my running shoes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Oh Look - We're in the Home Stretch of 2014!

Isn't is always amazing (and scary) how some times it seems like time just drags along (like waiting for the doctor after the med assistant takes your vitals) and then others it just flies by dragging YOU along kicking and screaming?

Welcome to Life, right?

So, the first week of December is gone.  Which means now we're counting down to Christmas, 2015, MY BIRTHDAY (closer to 40 than 30... ahem), and - a new year of running and racing/training.

First let me tell you about this first week of December 2014.   I was able to put in just a tad over 25 running miles.  I'm very pleased with this as I feel like if I can keep this up (and inch it a bit closer to 30 in the next couple weeks), I will have a nice solid base for the coming year.  My legs are feeling good, and I've been doing small "speed tests" if you will... just to put my toe in the water physically and mentally.  I know I've said it before, but I really want my old speed back.  At least close to it.  I know I'm going to have to go through the ol' suckfest painfest to get it back, but I'm willing to do it.  That's another reason I'm trying to keep a decent base of mileage going into a new training cycle - this way I'm not adding both speed and new distance as a shocker to the body at once.  Injury prevention, yo.

I'm now onto Phase 2 of my "grow an ass" strength training plan.  I really wish I had taken pics at the start, but I can definitely see, and most importantly FEEL a difference.  My husband says he can see a difference too, so I guess that's a good thing.  I've always had the stereotypical flat Irish rear end, so it's kind of cool to start seeing something going on back there.

I was also able to get in a good yoga session this week.  Just a half hour vinyasa flow, but I know it helps.

Last week's runs, a pre-workout selfie (not of my ass), and my current favorite Spotify playlist.  I still can't believe I used to carry 100 more lbs on my frame.

This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, but given the holiday season, my eating hasn't been 100% on point.  I've consumed more festive dessert than I should (hello last night's M&M cookies and ice cream).  At this time I'm not concerned because I do track everything on MyFitnessPal and don't go over calorie limits, but I know it's something I need to be aware of and keep in check so I'm not UNDERconsuming vital nutrients.

Speaking of vital nutrients, I found a new flavor of Emergen-C that has become my new favorite:
Why is the rum always gone?

I've been plowing down this stuff for years.  I have 1 packet a day and if I feel like I might be coming down with something, I up it to two (and try to make one of them the Immunity formula).  It works for me, YMMV.. the makers certainly aren't paying me to pimp it to you.  And please spare me the "omg you're drinking chemicals and GMOs and rat poison and the blood of Satan's spawn and really you're just making expensive pee" (kinda went through this on a running page on FB that I'm no longer active on).  Again, it works for ME.  Just like Jack Daniels and Coke Zero on a stressful day.  Placebo effect?  Maybe.  I don't care.

So - looking forward to 2015...  Would you believe I still don't have everything all planned out?  Right now I'm thinking I will run the Frigid Five Miler.  I think I can PR that race even in current condition.  I'm 92% sure I'm running the Pittsburgh Marathon as well as the 5K the day before.  And by that I mean that I already have my whole training plan typed out.  It scares the shit out of me, but they say if your dreams don't scare you they're not big enough, so there's that.  Also in my plans is the JASR 30K (another automatic PR because I've never ran a 30K - so there!).  I know I "should" actually race a 5K at some point to get a more accurate gauge of fitness, but I really hate 5Ks because they make me feel like crapola.  As for the rest of the year?  NFI.  My family is pressing me to run MCM again because they had such a great time with the whole weekend.  I don't know.  I mean, it would be cool to go try to do better than I did the first time and be kind of familiar with it, but at the same time I want to do other things (Philly, Wineglass, etc).  Maybe I'll just enter the lottery again and see what comes of it.  Again, I don't have much planned.

In the non-running and non-real life:  OMG Sons of Anarchy.  Tomorrow is the final episode and I'm going to be so sad when it's all over.  What will I do from here?  This is one of those shows I've watched every single episode of every single season of.  Like House.  I still am not over his antics and I still think Cuddy is a bitch.  Rescue Me - still laughing/crying over Lou and the red velvet cake.  I suppose another show will come along (I still have Homeland and Grey's Anatomy - at least for now), but this was one of the ones to remember.

Tig & Venus forever. :)