Tuesday, March 31, 2015

See You Next Year, March!

213 Miles.

213 miles... that's how far I ran this month.  I couldn't believe it when I saw the numbers after I synced this morning's run (which was awesome, BTW).

Compare that to March 2014 when I ran 81 miles, trying to prepare for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  At the end of the month I had just started straight running instead of run/walking, and I was running 4 days per week, doing 1 day on the elliptical (which would transition later to my 5th day of running), and strength training 2-3 days per week.  My long run was topped out at 9 miles.  All of my running miles were just easy miles.. I did no speedwork at all.

Oh what a difference a year makes, huh?

I have to admit:  I'm kind of sad that this is the highest number I'll see until probably September.  It truly is all downhill from here, when it comes to the Pittsburgh Marathon, anyway.  Starting this week, both my medium long runs and my recovery runs decrease in distance.  I have a cutback long run this weekend, and then next Saturday is my 3rd and final 20 miler. And then - it's taper craziness!  April looks like it has "only" 182 miles in store for me.  I've worked really damn hard to get to this point.  I never thought I would be here today, that's for sure.  I also didn't think I could sit here and tell you that I think I could do more, and depending on how the next 5 weeks go that may play into my decisions for the fall.

But for now I'll say farewell and thank you, March 2015.  This month I was pushed harder and farther than I could have imagined and I gave it my all.  Let's hope it pays off in a PR come May 3rd.

JASR 2015 - finishing the 30K.  Any time I have a smile on my face when my foot hits the finish is a win!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 13

Where did that week go?  It went zipping by me, that's for sure.  It was an interesting week, with both high points and low ones too.  Here's what happened...

Monday: Strength & Core workouts.  I don't quite know what happened today but everything from the kids getting to school to my work getting done was just late.  But, it got done, so that's that.

Tuesday:  8 mile easy run on the North Shore.  I always know when the weather is getting nice and races are coming up because the trail tends to be more littered with GU packets, etc.  It makes me sad that people think it's ok to toss them just anywhere.  I always put them back in the pouch of my Amphipod or even in my pocket.. even if it's messy.  I can wash my clothes or the bottle, it's no big deal.  I've even been known to stop and turn around during a run if a wrapper blows out of my hand or I drop it.  That's just me.  I guess I still have some Girl Scout in me.  I was Alcoa's mascot (a walking can!) to promote recycling in an Earth Day parade years ago too - betcha didn't know that one!

I did some yoga later that day as well.  Still sticking with it!

Wednesday: Speedwork Day!  The plan called for 9 miles including 5x1000m repeats with 500m recoveries.  My target pace (7:15) was much easier to hit on these than the 600s last week!  I was a little WTF? about it at first but after thinking about it, I think I know the reason why.  1000m gives me more time to ramp up and hold the pace whereas a shorter interval like a 600 or 400 I feel like I gotta go bat out of hell crazy or I'm screwed.  Then I just end up running at least the first one way too fast and then being really tired for all the subsequent ones.  At least that's what my assessment of the situation is.   This was a great overall run, though.  Of course I was riding a high because I just found out I got into MCM too!

Thursday:  I had to mess around with my schedule this week due to Just A Short Run taking place on Saturday.  Initially, I was supposed to have Thursday off and then run a 12 mile medium long run on Friday, but I felt better about running those 12 miles today and then resting on Friday before the race.  So, that's what happened.  I was a little sluggish feeling after just doing a hard 9 miles the day before, but it's what needed to be done.

I thought maybe I'd be able to at least get a core workout in later, but honestly I was wiped out.

Friday:  glorious rest.

Saturday:  Just  A Short Run 30K - 18.87 miles on my Garmin.  I also did a little run/walk warmup, but I didn't time it, so I don't know.  Probably around a half a mile.

After what he called the "Murphy's Law of a 30K", my husband went out and got me these as a little gift.  How sweet!  I've used them once so far and now I totally get the hype!  They are awesome!  I'll have to let you know what I think of them after a week of training and getting outdoors with them.

Sunday:  I was a little stiff when I got up this morning and I certainly wasn't up for going out in the cold again.  I knew in my heart a few days ago really that I was going to the gym today.  I never know what to expect out of a run the day after a long run/race, but this was really great!  Now, my foot hurts like crazy (if you read my JASR recap you'll know why), but it doesn't seem to affect my running, so I'm not really worried about it.  I have been icing it, though.  There's really not even any swelling - it's just a good ol' bruise/soft tissue trauma and chafing.  Otherwise, my legs feel great, and as usual I feel a million times better after a well paced recovery run.

A little bit of yoga, and my week is complete.  :)

Total Miles Ran: 52.94 as tracked on my Garmin, but I'm gonna go ahead and bump that up to an even 53 - like I said, I didn't track my JASR warmup.  I'm sure it was more than .06 miles, but I'll just take the round up, ok?  Cool.
Total Running Workouts:  5 - 1 easy, 1 interval workout, 1 medium long, 1 long run/progression "race", and 1 recovery
Total Strength Workouts: 1

Nutrition this week: pretty good!  I did a lot of prep cooking (homemade goulash and crockpot chicken were highlights) and went back on my reminder of "eat a fruit or veg for a snack FIRST", which really helps me not just dig into the pretzels or chips or whatever my rungry hands want to grab.  Victoria & I did a mother daughter night and I let her pick our dinner which ended up being pancakes, eggs, and turkey sausage.  This was another 50+ mile week, which means that I've been constantly hungry, but I'm really pleased that I haven't been eating just crap all week.  I did score some Easter Bunny Kit Kats (so cute!) though so don't hear me being all miss perfection here.  Moderation, folks.
Mmmm goulash.

 This is Meatball.  Meatball has decided in her ripe old age that she's addicted to celery.  Any time we bring it home, she jumps in the shopping bag before we put it away if we don't do it fast enough... Then, if you leave the fridge open for 30 seconds to put creamer in your coffee, she will run in from another room and do this.  What a weirdo! Bad kitty!  No wonder I go through so much celery these days!

2 more weeks until taper!  5 more until race day!  One thing that getting into MCM has done is taken some of the stress of training for Pittsburgh away.  I'm really happy about that.  I'm eager to get to race day, give it all I've got and see what happens.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Just A Short Run 2015 - 30K

I could also title this recap:  The training race where just about everything went wrong.  But I'm not going to because I think if I say that too many more times I'm going to have a run where everything (and I mean crap I haven't even thought of) does, in fact, go wrong.  So let's just leave it at this was a hilarious chain of events that I truly hope never happens again to myself or any of you out there!
I love this medal.  I think it's top 5 in my collection.

First off, I have been so excited about coming back to the Just A Short Run event.  JASR 2013 was my very first half marathon, and I had a great experience.  Again, it's an Elite Runners & Walkers event, and they are just super people.  Prime example:  When I went in to pick up my race packet the other day, I asked one of the guys if they minded if I ask them a couple of questions about shoes and feet.  I've been not so happy with my Adrenalines lately and I think I might be due for a change.  Even though they had stuff going on, Justin took the time to talk with me, assure me that I'm not off my cracker for thinking that my stride has changed or the shoe has changed too much for my feet or that I just need another type of freaking shoe.  Most of all, he didn't get all huffy when I said I really didn't have the time to do a full evaluation and try on a bunch of shoes because I had to go pick up my kids.  He didn't act like I wasted his time by not giving him a sale and he seemed genuinely interested and concerned about my issue.  I will be going back soon to see what's up with my feet.

But, back to the topic at hand - I could go on about my love of Elite, but that could be its own post.

As I've said several times I was not all out racing this race.  I was using it as my long run, which called for a progression and marathon pace miles.  And as has become usual for me, I wanted to use my heart rate as a guide.  So, I wasn't all hyped up and nervous about this at all - which is a total shift from when I ran JASR the first time around.  In fact, if anything I really wasn't motivated enough, given the weather. But, this would be my first 30K - so I was in for a PR no matter what!

I got to North Park a little after 8 AM.  Just like Spring Thaw, since it was so darn cold (a "feels like" temp of 4? Ugh), I didn't want to be outside more than I needed to be.  So I had Nick drop me off up the hill a bit and I ran/walked for warmup as I heard them play the National Anthem.  I was worried I was later than I was, but then after the song ended the race director and the DJ both talked a bit, so I was ok.  I got in the 30K corral (it starts in a different place than the other races) and chatted with some people.  The 9:00 pacer was a genuinely nice man who was also joining in complaining about the awful cold weather.  He paced Spring Thaw too, so he shared in our misery.. haha.  My plan was to stick with him for the first few miles to give my legs, lungs, and heart rate monitor time to warm up and then go from there.

McKinney hill was downright laughable.  Honestly - I didn't even notice it.  And sticking with the pacer, I felt like I was crawling up the thing, but I kept to my plan and stuck with him because my hrm was still telling me I was dying.  Funny how something was so intimidating once before, but now that I've made running it a regular thing it's just like "oh, that was it?".

My HRM started working sometime before the 3.6 mile split, and I took the chance to start running ahead of the pack a bit since my heart rate was on the low end.  I didn't want to throw down the throttle just yet, but I wanted to increase the pace gradually the first two loops.

The first lake loop just kinda... went.  It was unremarkable, really.  My legs were fresh, my heart rate was right on, and I felt good.  I did have some obstacles to deal with, though - mostly revolving gear issues. My earbud kept falling out of my ear.  The wind was awful and didn't help that.  My earwarmer/headband also kept slipping out of place.  I think it is one of the many things I have that have just gotten old and need replaced.  I actually told my husband earlier that I need to get a pair of Yurbuds (finally).  I've been cheap about getting them for myself even though he's had them forever and raves about them all the time.  Also - my Amphipod strap kept falling off... So between the earbud, headband, and bottle, I was always having to mess with something.  It was truly frustrating.

A lot of people seemed to finish after my first loop because during the second loop there was much less of a crowd.  I was feeling really good despite the previously mentioned gear issues and I pressed on for loop #2.  Then - I had more issues to deal with.  Coming down the hill by the spillway my shoe came untied.  That's a first for me during a race!  And yes, it was double knotted to start!  Another reason I can't stand these shoes!  I sped up a bit so I could safely get to the side without tripping anyone up and tied my shoe.  This took a little bit of time because my hands were FROZEN.  I had to take my gloves off and my fingers were just numb.  But, I got it tied, finally, and kept going.  The other thing that unfortunately happened during this second loop is that the top of my Amphipod froze.  So, now I had to start utilizing the course fluid stations, which were serving a totally different liquid than I was drinking, and the two did not mesh well at all.  My stomach rumbled and I seriously went through bouts of either nausea or feeling like I might shit myself for the whole rest of the race.  Not good.

Speaking of race nutrition, this is another thing that went awry for me - I kept forgetting to take my GUs on time!  My five mile Espresso Love was taken at 5.27 miles, my 10 mile Salted Caramel was taken around 10.5 and my final mile 15 Cherry Lime Roctane wasn't taken until almost the 16 mile point. My head was obviously frozen and inserted in my ass.  But I am sure that this contributed to both my stomach troubles and my feeling really drained that last mile.  I got behind on my sugar... and as living with a diabetic has taught me - once that gets too low, it takes forever it seems to pull back up and then once it is up, you feel like ass.

Other than all the lovely things going on, I was still able to pick up my pace on this second loop and my legs felt good, even if other things didn't.

On to loop #3... If I thought the crowd had died off before, I hadn't seen anything yet.  I actually went through spots on this loop where the other runners/walkers around me weren't even running the race!  It was just like running North Park any old day, but every once in a while was a fluid station with awesome, cheerful and encouraging volunteers.  Seriously, these guys deserve huge credit.. We were out running in this awful weather.  They stood there and held frozen cups.  I think they had it worse but they still did it.  Love those volunteers!

Well what do you know, but again during this loop my damn shoe came untied!!  This time, since I was concerned about keeping up my pace and finishing, I really jerked those shoestrings tight, and unfortunately tied my shoe way too tight.  I am now sitting here with a huge bruise on the top of my foot that hurts like a bitch.  I couldn't believe it though - once?  Ok.  Twice?  WTF?  Things just got hilarious from here.  To get through this race I really just had to start laughing.  If it wasn't one thing it was another.  If I wasn't putting my earbud back in for the 1000000000000000 time I was putting the strap back on my Amphipod.  If I wasn't having to coach myself through nausea and potential diarrhea, my foot was feeling screwed up.  This just wasn't a run that was supposed to go smoothly.  And I accepted that and moved on!

I was able to catch up to the 8:30 pace group during this loop.  The pacer had some microphone/speaker thing and kept yelling out to people.  I kept going back and forth from thinking this is totally obnoxious to maybe a bit helpful.  Eventually, on that final turn off the lake loop to head back in toward the tennis courts I was able to leave him behind me but with that speaker all I could still hear was "Yeah, yeah, all you, looking good, you're awesome, let's do it, make your move", etc.  lol

I crossed the finish line in 2:38:00.  Average pace was 8:29 according to chronotrack time.  Of course on my Garmin I had to go the extra distance and ran 18.87 miles for an average pace of 8:22.  I will never be good at running tangents, and to be frank, I really don't care.  I know some people are all like "but your time, your time!", but I'm like fuck my time... it is what it is.  In races I like to do crazy stuff like run the whole way over to the other side of the road for a "Power up button", or to high five kids or a band member or just simply because I like the view better somewhere else and need a change.  To me, I need to make a part of this fun.  I'm not a professional runner.  I don't even consider myself a good runner.  I run because I like the challenge and the way it makes me feel.  Running certainly doesn't pay my bills so I'll do what I want with it, ok?

After the race it was good to catch up with Jennifer, who ran a fantastic half marathon!  It's always good to see a familiar face when you've crossed a finish line.  Our friend Mike K was also running around providing encouragement and humor as always.  Thankfully the upstairs of the boathouse was open for heat/stretching/bathrooms because I had to hang out for a few minutes while Nick & Garrett came back from Trader Joe's... lol

All said this what exactly what I wanted it to be - a training run.  And, in training you learn to adapt and overcome things just in case you have the worst thrown at you on race day.  So, after probably more than my fair share of really great long runs, I had one that put me to the test.  I'm thankful for that.  At least now I know that I will be wearing different shoes for the marathon, I won't bother with a handheld, and I'll have new earbuds too.  Hopefully it will be too warm on marathon day to bother with earwarmers too. It's all about practice and perspective.  :)

Hey - I ran a 30K and got a new PR! I'm happy!  Training is still going as planned!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I'm Going Back!

If you follow me in other areas of these interwebs you know I've been joining in the excitement and chattering that is the MCM Lottery process.  It's such an electric time - lots of new people hoping for a chance at a great first time marathon (I remember that was me last year!), tons of people wanting to run in honor of a loved one or several,  and others with varying reasons of why they want to run the Marine Corps Marathon.  After running it last year, I can tell you that every moment from the time you fill out the lottery form to the finish line festival in Rosslyn is worth it.

The lottery was completed and notifications of congrats or regret were to be sent out after midnight/early Wednesday morning.  I stayed up until a little after midnight but then knew I needed to get some sleep.  I wasn't going to drive myself crazy because I remembered last year I didn't find out until late afternoon.  But... I did set up my banking to alert me if a charge was put on my credit card and gave the MCM email address a special tone - just in case.  ;)

A little after 2 am I got startled awake by a text message - the MCM fee had been deducted from my account.  I just sort of giggled a bit and then rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.  A short while later, my phone went blingity bling with the tone I gave the MCM email.  I opened it up to read my "Congratulations" email, and then I stupidly farted around on my phone a bit with Twitter and Hay Day (my kids have me playing that damn game - it's an addiction!), and then got to sleep.


So let me tell you how and why I chose to go back to MCM this fall and why I am just so stinking thrilled that lightning struck twice for me and I got selected (lots of people that I know from last year unfortunately did not and I'm bummed for them).

I've been going back and forth on just what I wanted to accomplish this fall.  Did I want to give myself a break and work on lowering my half marathon time or even the 10K?  Did I want to run another marathon for a PR/for fun/for a BQ attempt/for a charity?  Did I want to take another "racecation", and if so, where to?  I also wanted my family to weigh in on it - more so than last year.  Admittedly I jumped on MCM guns blazing after feeling so screwed over on my first marathon due to injury.  But this time what did the family really want?

To be honest, the last few weeks of training for Pittsburgh really had me going back and forth.  On the great weeks I'd be all "Hellllll yeah, I'm going for it all" and on the down weeks I'd say "nope, no more marathons, this is too much".  After many talks (some tipsy talks.. haha) with my significant other he asked me why I would consider stopping myself now.  Why try to talk myself out of doing things before I even really try to do them.  And so, it became certain that I was definitely in for a fall marathon.  But where?

I asked the family to help me with a pros and cons list (go ahead and laugh, but this is my type A coming out).  I gave out a list of potential marathons and everyone had to talk about the WHY for that race as well as what would suck about that race.  On the list we had MCM, Philly, Baltimore, Atlantic City, Wineglass, Steamtown, Erie, and Air Force.  One by one they got crossed off the list.  Baltimore - even though it's the SCRR field trip for the fall we hate the Ravens too much.  Eff that.  Erie - more of an end of summertime race, which would have me training pretty soon after Pittsburgh.  Also, boring.  Atlantic City - while it sounds like it would be great fun if just Nick & I went, it's not kid friendly and we promised the kids they can go again.  Wineglass - this course appeals to me because uh, DOWNHILL and I've only heard numerous wonderful things about it, there's really not much else in the area to prompt a family racecation out of it.  Yeah, yeah I know the glass stuff, but unless you have met all 3 of my kids you have NO idea how frightening that sounds.  Steamtown - Again, it sounds like a wicked fun course for just my purposes, but it's in Scranton.  I'll say it again - it's in Scranton.  I haven't been in the Scranton area since I was a band nerd in the late 1990s.  I'm pretty sure my kids would hate it too.  

We were left with our final three:  Air Force, Philadelphia, and Marine Corps.  About a week before the lottery started we crossed Air Force off the list, but it was a tough call and will likely reappear on the list in future years.

Final two:  Philadelphia and MCM.  The final decision would be made by - the MCM lottery.

I put Marine Corps as my first choice for a few reasons.  First of all, I really enjoyed the event last year.  The whole weekend of events.  Second of all, I really want another go of it.  The little mistakes I made like trying to chase a pacer at first to running the middle flat part too fast to burning out at mile 25 and then walking a little part of the Iwo Jima hill at the end do still enter my mind.. especially on these long hard training runs for Pittsburgh.  I want a re-do!  I want to say I did NOT walk that hill at all!  haha.  I also would like to experience the things that I missed out on the first time around.  It's also the 40th anniversary of the Marine Corps Marathon and it's looks like they're going to do some awesome things with that.  I'm already a fan of the gear and colors they previewed.  And.. it would be kind of cool to be on my way to being a member of the MCM Club - people who have ran 5+ MCMs and who get automatic entry for life.  I could totally see myself making MCM a yearly thing.  But... I think what really sealed the deal on MCM for me is reading my training logs and recaps and most of all - watching my finish line video.  I knew last week that because I can still FEEL all those emotions watching that video and can sit here and cry and laugh that I had to try to get into the race again.  It truly is that epic.

I put my lottery ticket in around 5 minutes after they opened registration.  And then I endured the seemingly long wait to find out my fate.  As my husband said - "Will we be eating cupcakes or cheesesteak?".

Well honey, the answer is I'll be carbloading for Marathon #3 at Georgetown Cupcake again!  At least this year you'll already know where the post-race beer tent is to find me at!

As for what my "intent" is, so to speak, with this year's MCM -  NFI.  Let me get through Pittsburgh first, and check back with me on that sometime in June. ;)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 12

It about that time.  What time, you ask?  That time in my training plan where I come out and admit that I'm tired.  I'm tired of running, planning to run, figuring out where I'm going to do specific workouts, calculating every gram of carb and protein when I really want to eat more bacon and instead have to eat more couscous, worrying about running, worrying about every sensation in my body, worrying about getting sick, worrying about making my times, worrying about whether I'll be able to PR, worrying that my training might not be going right, doing running laundry, figuring out how to juggle money for race fees and running needs (you go through shoes pretty quickly running 50 miles a week), missing lifting heavy more than 1 day per week, balancing "real life" outside of being "a runner", blogging, and about a million other things.  This happens at a certain point in every training cycle I've been through for every race I've ever done, so I expected it.  I'm actually impressed that I waited until Mesocycle #3 to have my meltdown.  When I trained for MCM this happened in Mesocycle #2.  Then I just drifted off into the abyss, quit blogging, and then all of a sudden - BAM - marathon over.  Goals crushed.  So, I guess this is progress.. I "hit the wall" later and I don't plan on going away so you're all going to have to deal with my whining.  You can always hit the X or the back button!

This week wasn't all bad, though, and thankfully I had some flexibility in my week.  Per "the plan" I was supposed to have an all-out race (10-15K) on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday.  However, this is one area in which I deviate from the as written plan because I know myself.  When I go all-out on a race, I really go all out (we all know that I ran from the 6.67 mile point to the finish of the EQT 10 Miler with a broken pelvis because I'm a hardass).  There's no way in hell I'm running a good long run the day afterward.  So, during the couple of weeks that call for this type of thing I'm just subbing in some easy miles or pace miles if I feel fantastic or resting if need be.

Monday: Strength & Core workouts.

Tuesday: First day of harder intervals.  8 miles that included an easy warmup, 5x600m repeats with 300m recoveries, then cooldown.  The wind was awful that morning, and unfortunately since I was doing an out & back half of the run was into it.  Ugh.  I was wearing my MCM hat and it blew off twice!  The first time I was lucky enough to catch it, but the second time it went rolling down the trail and I had to turn around and go after it.  The good thing was that it happened at the end of an interval, but it still threw me off.  Anyway, my plan was to keep all my 600s around 7:15 pace.  In true form I ran the first one WAY too effing fast - 6:58 pace! - but the others came in at 7:15, 7:15, 7:11 and 7:05.  Proof that I still can't pace myself worth a damn.  lol  I did some recovery yoga later on that felt great.

An Irish girl enjoying her Irish fare.

Wednesday: 12 mile medium long run.  After running intervals a longer run is like a vacation... haha.  I did have some, uh, effects from indulging in corned beef, cabbage, soda bread and Guinness the day before, but I got the run done and felt pretty good.  I still am in awe sometimes that I consider this distance a regular ole thing during the week.  Didn't this used to be the run I worked my way up to on the weekends?  lol

Thursday:  rest day!

Friday:  Now I have to out myself and admit that this is the first time this cycle I have both skipped a run and cut a workout short.  First of all, I didn't sleep for shit the night before.  Garrett has been horribly ill and was to the point of screaming in pain so off he went to Children's.  After spending until nearly 4 AM there, he finally got some antibiotics and pain medication.  I wish doctors would start listening to me before shit gets to this point.  Garrett is my third kid - I think I know by now if he has "just a cold" or something more serious.  When we had him at the doc several days prior, we were given the "oh it's just a virus, it'll go away on its own" answer.  God I hate that!!  I truly miss the days of my childhood where you went to the doc, got some damn penicillin and/or codeine and went on your way.  Now it's like pulling teeth with docs to get them to write a damn prescription or even get a chest x-ray.  I know they're afraid everyone and their grandmother is drug seeking these days and people have it in their minds that antibiotics are the devil but seriously.... this is ridiculous and kids shouldn't have to go through this type of crap because some other people have their heads in their ass.

whoooa... sorry for the rant!  Anyway --   So, I was tired.  I felt like crapola, I had some nagging BS happening in my butt/hip (piriformis - foam roller to the rescue).  A five mile recovery run on the plan?  Nah, how about I recover with some rest... I tried to get in a strength/core circuit and cut that a cycle short too because I just didn't have the strength for it.

Saturday:  Like I said, I had some flexibility in my plan this week because of Saturday being a scheduled "Race Day".  Given the fact that it was supposed to be a 10K - 15K distance, and I didn't get my recovery run in on Friday, I figured I'd get out and try for 10 miles in the easy range.  I haven't done a full easy run in a while and I thought it would give me a good prediction of how I was feeling and what I should do about my long run on Sunday.  My legs started off really tight - it honestly felt like I was trying to will tree trunks to run - but thankfully by the second half they were loosened up and I was feeling good.  My legs are usually stiff and sluggish at the beginning of a recovery run, so I'm guessing I was just feeling the same kind of effects since I did miss my recovery run and didn't get to slog the junk out of my muscles then.  I finished the 10 miles feeling strong and confident that I could at least get the miles in on Sunday.

Sunday:  I loved taking a break from North Park, but I do know that my city trails are mostly flat and I don't want to lose any hill fitness that I've gained from running NP so much this winter.  Also, JASR is coming up and I wanted at least one more stab at making McKinney my bitch before then.  My plan was to start from the boathouse and head up the way the JASR starts for the 30k (which is what I'll be running), then take McKinney, and then back around the boathouse, and do the horseshoe, and then back up McKinney again and then another out & back past the boathouse to Babcock and back.  I felt pretty good, considering how tired I'd been in the days prior.  No lies - the second time up McKinney felt tougher than the first, although looking at my Garmin stats I was only 4 secs slower that time, so it couldn't have been that tough.  The only thing that really sucked about this run was the fact that since I started mid-morning instead of early or later in the afternoon I went through the whole gamut of temperature changes.  At the start it was pretty cold - I had my gloves on and my hands were still cold.  I was ok a few miles in, but then by the end the sun was high and shining bright and it was so warm.  I had no more need for the gloves or the earwarmer and I had my jacket unzipped.  If I would have had the option I probably would have stopped and put my jacket and stuff in my vehicle, but I didn't, so I just kept on going.  I really do need to keep this in mind in the coming weeks, though.  Easily removable layers or just simply under-dressing for the beginning is what wins for me in the Spring.  I absolutely hate being warm when I run.  But, at any rate, 17 miles done at 8:31 pace is pretty good no matter how you look at it..  It's amazing how far I've come in a year... even just the past few months.

I love this trail even though it's flat. :)  I'm hoping it "greens up" soon.

Total Miles Ran: 47.06
Total Running Workouts: 4 - 1 interval workout, 1 medium long, 1 easy, 1 long
Total Strength Workouts: 2

Nutrition this week: You know, given the fact that it was St Patrick's Day I did well this week.  Yeah, I probably drank enough Guinness for myself and 2 non-Irish, but the rest of the week, even with the stress and sickness in the house I really did right by myself.  Again, prep cooking FTW.  Oh, and fresh Spring asparagus being available.  I can eat roasted asparagus any meal of the day.  I also tried out Tropical flavored Nuun this week - very yummy!

This stuff is great - and it's local!  More places should be carrying it.  I can't stand having to hunt for it!

My kids all love this stuff.  I have to hide a pack when I bring it home because I won't get any otherwise!

It was a week.  It was good and bad.  That's marathon training for you!  On to the next one!  This week I have another race (that I'm not racing and it'll still be a PR.. haha), and I'll have an announcement on my fall racing plans by midweek!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 11

Short and sweet:  It was a tough week.  Ok, I'll obviously elaborate on that, but if you want the quick version, there you go.  I will say, on a very positive note, the weather was freaking beautiful all week.  I have much less laundry to do because I was able to wear a single layer - and even shorts! - some days.  This is always appreciated.

This week I had a couple really tough workouts, including what I can call my worst run of this whole training cycle.  I attribute this to the fact that I've had a lot of personal life stress happen and it seeped into my running.  I am a mom, first and foremost, and when things are not right for my kids, they aren't right for me.  That's just the way it is.  My middle kid had some terrible things happen to him at school last week.  The kids that did it were foolish enough to record themselves doing it on an iPhone and then pass it around.  That video is now in the hands of the police.  It's just been a whirlwind of awful.  And that's all I'm really going to get into since this will become a legal matter and may end up on the news.

So, let's get to the running and other workouts of the week, ok?

Monday:  Strength & Core workouts.  I love these.  This was my only scheduled day of strength this week since I had a long week of running.  It may be the start of cutting down to 1 strength day per week from here out as well.  We will see.

Tuesday:  I got to run on the North Shore Trail, clear and ice free and gorgeous for the first time in ages!  I was so happy just to be out there this run sailed by.  7 mile recovery run with the last .75 mi being a progression of 30 sec strides.  Amazing!

Wednesday:  The tempo run.  I've read several accounts of people using this training plan who claim that this particular run is the hardest in the whole plan.  Harder than the long runs, harder than the intervals.  And you know, I will agree with that.  BUT... I don't think I needed to psych myself out as much as I did about it.  I got it done.  This was an 11 mile run made up of 2 miles of easy warmup, 7 miles tempo and 2 miles of cooldown.  Was it hard?  Absolutely.  Am I glad this is the last tempo run of the training cycle?  You better believe it.  But, I completely crushed this run, all tempo miles were paced well, I got to enjoy the North Shore Trail again, and the weather was perfect.  Aside from almost stepping on a huge dead rat, this was a great run.  Very hard... but successful.

I did some yoga later in the day.

Thursday:  REST DAY!  I really needed it too after Wednesday's hard effort.

Friday:  On the schedule was a 12 mile medium-long run.  My schedule was crazy, and included meetings with school officials, etc, so I wasn't able to get this run going until afternoon.  I was concerned about being under-fueled at this point, but you do what you have to do, right? I have to work the running around "real life".. So I made myself feel better by putting on my favorite running skirt and heading to the trail in nearly 60 degree temps.  The run went well, for the most part, but I did feel the effects of running later than usual even though my pace/heart rate didn't reflect it.
12 mile run in my favorite skirt (it's a Brooks Epiphany, fyi).  I joked on Instagram that you can see my iPod, my HRM, and my Spibelt through this post-run sweat soaked shirt.  haha!

Saturday:  5 mile recovery run.  Usually I enjoy these nice and easy runs.  Not this time.  After a decent start I just seemed to fall apart in every way.  I couldn't keep a decent cadence, everything felt "off", I started having random aches and pains - especially bad in one knee, I started breathing heavily and the last mile my heart rate just spiked and I had to slow way down to recover... during a recovery run.  It was frustrating, demoralizing, and totally threw me.  I questioned everything from my sanity and wellbeing to my ability to run the next day, ability to run the marathon, I wondered if I was injured, I reflected on all the crap laid on me this week... It wasn't good.  I came home, tried to relax, iced all the places I felt bad.  I really contemplated ditching my Sunday run.  I did some yoga and it felt ok.  I carb loaded as usual.

Sunday: I rolled out of bed and felt pretty good.  I didn't seem to have any issues as I walked around the house, did some drills in the kitchen (yes, I'm a weirdo), and tested things out.  So, I slowly got myself together physically and mentally and figured I'd give the run an honest effort.  I knew I'd kick myself in the ass if I didn't even try.  I wanted to do this run on my old MCM long run route (figuring I'd get 3 varied 20 milers this training cycle - 1 North Park, 1 personal favorite, and 1 city streets/marathon course run).  I started on the North Shore Trail in Millvale, and went from there.  I took it easy on myself the first couple of miles - kept the heart rate at the low end.  There were tons of other runners out, which was nice to see.   Right by PNC park, the river was flowing over the trail, so I had to turn around, go up the steps and then run up General Robinson.  That was actually cool to see.  Anyway, I made it up to Western Ave and then onto the West End bridge and then carried on as usual.. I love this route and was feeling great!  A couple of times I glanced at my average pace in disbelief but I kept my eye on my heart rate and ran accordingly.  I've detailed the route many times (including most recently on DailyMile), so I won't bore you with it, but it truly is my favorite.  I really only started getting a little tired during that last mile and I think that's because during mile 19 I started bawling like a baby because one of my favorite songs came on (Hole - Letter To God), coupled with the fact I was blowing off all the stress..  So there I was running and crying and laughing.  I can get delirious when I run long... haha. But when all was said and done I felt like I could have kept going, and at the end of a 20 - that's a GREAT thing.  The best part was not having a single pain or nag the whole time.  I didn't even have to stop and stretch (although I did a bit at a short stoplight by Hot Metal).

It was a little windy on Sunday so I wore my vest, but I had capris on the bottom!  The best thing about this vest is that it weighs absolutely nothing and has a million pockets to stash all my stuff (you know, like emergency toilet paper)!  Oh and you see we have the return of the RunnerMom Bondi Band!

Total Miles Ran: 55.06 - another weekly record!  This is actually my peak mileage week in my training plan.  The next couple of weeks will be around 52, but my workouts change, so the intensity is the same (or greater..).
Total Running Workouts: 5 - 1 recovery + strides, 1 recovery, 1 tempo, 1 medium-long, 1 long
Total Strength Workouts: 1, as planned.

Nutrition this week: I did much better this week.  I did "celebrate" Pi day in a major way with both pecan and very berry pies, but I did a lot of shopping and prep work at the beginning of the week to always have healthy meals on hand (or at least made quickly).
Breakfast example: Scrambled egg whites, strawberries, Ezekiel cinnamon raisin toast with fruit spread, and Greek yogurt.  I don't usually "do" the single serve flavored yogurts because of all the added crap in them, but I wanted to try this new kind because it has no added sugar or artificial stuff in it.  It was pretty good.  Coffee there too, of course.  ;)

Dinner: Parmesan herb tilapia with a sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon and a salad (spring mixed greens, peppers, and awesome tomatoes).  I ate this same meal several times this week - including after my long run - it was so good!

Overall it was a good week, although tough and not without some personal issues.  I remain confident that things will end up the way they are supposed to, so I'm just going to keep my chin up and keep on truckin'.

This concludes Mesocycle #2 in my training plan and I am now in #3 - Race Preparation.  Gone are the progressively longer midweek runs and tempo runs and now I will move on to holding on to the strong endurance base I've acquired while adding interval speedwork.  We will see if I can add some more bursts of speed to this strength.  Of course my overall focus remains on running hard when I need to, running easy the rest of the time, and recovering well.  Oh, and having fun of course.. Keeping a sense of humor about things is key during this last month of work before taper!  I've got one last long run "race" (JASR 30K - automatic PR, baby!) as well as the last 20 miler to take care of during this phase.  Let's do this!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 10

Another week down.. This was a recovery week for me.  I sometimes don't know what to think about recovery weeks.  I know my body needs them.  I know they are just as important to the plan as the buildup weeks.  I even crave a step back from the intensity of the harder weeks when they're getting to me.  Then I get that time to rest and I'm bored.  My runs are mostly on the easy side of life and while that should be super happy fun time, I find it meh.  I think it is because (other than making sure you really rest) there are little to no tangible goals to smash.  You're kinda just hitting "pause" on yourself for the time being. But, ask me about this next week after putting 55 more miles on these legs - including another 20 miler - and I'll probably be crying for another break.  lol

Monday:  I did my strength workout and my core workout.  That core workout is killer and I love it.  I get a sick pleasure out of hurting when I twist for the next day.

Tuesday:  8 miles in the easy range.  I took on McKinney and then what shall be called the North Park Horseshoe.  It was an ok run.  What I will mention is that I noticed that there were a larger amount of birds chirping loudly the entire run.  It was kind of chilly that morning, but I think the birds knew warmer days were coming soon!

A little hard to see, but there was a HUGE woodpecker just drilling away at this tree!  Everyone that walked or ran by looked up to see what was making that sound.  I even heard it over my music!

Wednesday: Well, as luck would have it we had another bout of crappy weather.  It figures... this was the day of my only "hard" run of the week.  This time we had massive flooding in front of another winter snow storm.  We just can't win!  My back yard was such a mess that when I stepped off my back porch I went right into a puddle of water.  Great.  Now in the morning it was just rain/light snow but I knew the bad stuff was coming and I really don't like to do speedwork in conditions that might or might not be catered to injury.  So, I went to the gym.  Safety first.  My plan called for 8 miles, including 5x800m repeats with 400m recoveries.  My goal was to do these in 3:45 (7:30 pace).  I did them in 3:45, 3:45, 3:42, 3:39, and 3:39.  Success!  I felt great doing them too.  Probably could have gone faster, but the treadmill makes it easier to control myself than the outdoors.  ;-)

I also did a brief yoga video - Yoga With Adriene's Foundations of Yoga video on Half Moon Pose.  I was actually able to get myself into a half moon successfully for the first time with no support!  Yay!

Thursday:  Another school cancellation for the kids and another treadmill run for me.  5 recovery paced miles.  It was a good run, aside from a calf cramp I got toward the end.  It went away and I haven't heard from it again, so I'm guessing it was just treadmill monotony getting to it.  Just one of those things.

Later on I got in my strength and core circuit.

Friday:  Rest!

Saturday:  I had another 8 easy miles on the schedule, this time with strides during the last mile.  I went to North Park and saw Amanda and Jennifer as I was just getting warmed up.  That badass Amanda was just finishing up 14 miles after running doubles (seriously, girl got on the treadmill twice that day) the day before!  My run went pretty well, although I must say I enjoyed the fact that it warmed up so much especially during those strides at the end that I was hot!  That just pumped me up to be able to wear less clothes for my long run.. ha!

Sunday:  Recovery week means a "short" long run and this week I was scheduled for 14.  Earlier in the week I was excited about only running this far, but the night before/morning of I was really just not motivated.  I think it was the combination of "Spring ahead" and the fact that Garrett is sick and wanted to sleep in my bed all night.  Since I knew if I tried to get up early I'd just feel like shit I allowed myself to just get up whenever.  Admittedly I loved - and must have needed - the rest.  As did Garrett. :)  My run ended up being more of a late morning/early afternoon run and that was ok with me.  The run wasn't all bad.  It was even warmer than Saturday and even with less/thinner gear on I still felt overdressed!  My heart rate was spot on, but the back & forth of the North Park Horseshoe kinda sucked.  I started off doing the McKinney loop and that was fine, but not being able to complete the lake loop really stinks.  And.... yes, I'm going to come out and say it and I say it every year - I hate North Park when the weather gets nice.  Reason being - way too many people and dogs.  All of a sudden there are like 3 times more runners around.  Also, heaps of walkers and groups of walkers with strollers and/or dogs (and it seems to be dogs who don't know how to walk on a leash without lunging at everyone that goes past) walking 3-4-5 wide acting aghast and prissy if you need to go by them.  If you read this blog you are more than aware that I hate having to weave and shuffle around.  I've come to accept it as the norm in race beginnings but on a training run?  Eff that, I want smooth sailing.  Hopefully this week the warm temps will melt off the yucky stuff on the city trails and I can safely run elsewhere.  A girl can dream.  At any rate - 14 miles in the books.

Total Miles Ran: 43.08 (yes, I promise this was a cutback week!)
Total Running Workouts: 5 - 1 easy, 1 interval workout, 1 recovery, 1 easy + strides, 1 long
Total Strength Workouts: 2

Nutrition this week: Can I just get away with an LOL?  Just being honest this week I ate a bunch of crap.  I ate some good stuff, too, don't get me wrong - I even came up with one of the best smoothie recipes I've ever made - but I did inhale a buttload of cookies and ice cream.  In fact I'm pretty sure that's all I did on my rest day was eat.  Friday was also our tradition of "Family Movie Night" where this week we ended up watching all the Tinker Bell movies and I think I ate the hugest bowl of popcorn in existence.  That's another thing I dislike about recovery weeks - even though I'm working out less I'm still just as hungry.  I did get some fantastic cayenne hummus at Aldi that I've almost eaten all of.  Gimme pretzels, baby carrots, grape tomatoes or a wrap and hummus and I'm a happy girl!  I'm definitely going to get back to work this week on the food front as well as the running.

It's back to the hard work this coming week.  This week I will hopefully hit another weekly distance PR and I've got my second of three 20 mile runs happening.  I'm fairly certain that this is the last one I'll do alone, though.  The last one will happen when SCRR does the "marathon course preview" run.  This week I've also got my last and longest tempo run of my plan.  It's all coming together, I've just got to put in the work and be smart about it.

Here's to more warm running days ahead!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Heart Rate Training - A History & Guide

I've had some people ask about my training, in particular the heart rate guided training I've been doing, so I figured I'd put together a little tutorial of sorts.  Hopefully this will answer some questions and get you started if you're interested and ready to go.  By no means is this meant to be a Gospel of heart rate training, but I'd like to share some things I've learned and been through with all of you.  Warning, this is long and wordy.

First off, why train off your heart rate instead of pace?  Well, where do you get your pace numbers from?  Most of us use a pace calculator or chart found on the internet or in a book that gives us a listing of training paces based on either a recent race time or our goal time for an upcoming race.  This isn't a bad thing, or even wrong, however it does have its drawbacks.  If you're basing your pace off a previous race, is that an accurate representation of your fitness now?  And when I'm talking NOW, I mean today.  For your workout you have on the plan this very day.  If you're basing a marathon training pace time off a 5K you did 3 months ago, that might not be where you need to be for today's 5 mile general aerobic run, for example.  Your fitness might have improved, you might be having a great day, you might be a little under the weather, the season is different so you have elements to contend with, you may have taken some time off of running due to injury or personal preference and need to rebuild a bit.  If you're pacing yourself based on a specific goal time, are you sure that's the goal you should be going for?

Training by heart rate takes into account your individuality.  The problem with "one size fits all" training plans and pacing guides is they assume that everyone is able to go through the motions from day 1 to race day.. each mile, each second of pace.  In most cases, that's really unrealistic.  You're going to have great days where you can (and should!) push yourself.  You're also going to have days where you just don't have it - your body is tired, maybe you have an underlying sickness, stresses, an injury creeping up, whatever - and in this case you need to back off even if you think that 8 mile run just has to be ran at 7:30.  Keeping your body healthy and recovered lets you train efficiently and makes you stronger overall.

I do not recommend you attempt to start training by heart rate in the middle of a training plan.  It will just stress you out, give you something else to worry about, and at this point in the game (if you're training for a Spring marathon like me and you're on the downhill of training anyway) it probably won't provide you with the benefits you're hoping for.  Wait until the end of your season and you're in rebuilding/maintenance phase.  Heart rate training is not easy.  Well, ok, it is easy on the body however it is not easy on the mind.  It takes determination and dedication and blind trust.  And it most certainly takes you chucking whatever runners ego you have out the back door.  Your speedy legs are going to slow down.  You're going to get pissed off and frustrated.  You might even say "screw this" and put the monitor away and go on with your bad self after giving it a whirl.  I did that once.  Start heart rate training when you have the ability to dedicate yourself to it.  Bookmark this page and come back to it when you are.

My heart rate journey started 2 summers ago.  I was listening to podcasts about running and doing a lot of reading about running (ok, who am I kidding, this is still a daily thing for me!) and hearing people talk about heart rate training really got my interest.  People were having great results running what seemed to be lots of miles at an easy pace.  After a while their fitness would improve and that pace kept getting a little faster and a little faster... They stayed injury free too!  So I gathered all the info I could - I read articles and books.  Learned the names Lydiard, Maffetone, Karvonen, Hadd, etc.  And I was fascinated and of course, wanted to give it a try.  After investing in a heart rate monitor that hooked up to my GPS watch I started what I thought would be a "plug & go" easy thing.  My plan was to run within my easy aerobic zone, where most runs are supposed to be.  Simple, right?  NO.  I had been running between 8-9 minute miles for my "easy" runs.  I would learn that pace was most certainly (especially during the humid summer) not easy.  I knew my max heart rate for the aerobic zone and I would hit that during the first quarter mile.  To keep my heart rate in the appropriate zone, I'd have to take walk breaks - and a lot of them.  I was struggling to keep a 12 minute mile at times and on longer runs I was doing more walking than I ever wanted to.  I grew more and more frustrated with the method and threw in the towel - this couldn't be right.  I was "fast", I was "fit", running slow and taking walk breaks was for the birds.  So I quit.

Then my stress fracture happened, I had to relearn everything, and since my injury stemmed from blatant ego and overuse I got an attitude adjustment.  After last year's Pittsburgh Half I strapped the monitor on again.  I trained all last summer at low heart rate allowing myself random days "naked" while building up for my MCM plan.  Yes, running those 11+ minute miles I turned my nose up at the year before.  And I loved it.  I learned to pace myself better on effort and eventually I wasn't having to take walk breaks every run.  My easy runs got easier too!

I did not use my monitor for all of my MCM training runs.  I would put it on here and there for my easy runs and recovery runs and some long runs, but I was not 100% with it.  In hindsight I would love to have done what I'm doing now, but hey, it worked out.  After I recovered from MCM I put the monitor back on full time and rebuilt my mileage and now... well here we are and you can read back through my training blogs to see what's been happening.  :-)

So you want to give it a go?  Great!  First - get a heart rate monitor.  I'm currently using the one that goes with my Garmin 210 when I run outdoors.  When I'm in the gym, I use a Polar FT4 (which I actually prefer over the Garmin - it seems to not jump around as much and not be so sensitive to random things like what shirt I'm wearing, etc like the Garmin is).  The FT4 is great because it works with the treadmills at pretty much every gym in town and I rarely if ever need to look at my wrist - my heart rate is displayed right there in front of me.

You've got a HRM.  I'll assume you know how to set it up and enter your personal info and whatnot.  Now what?  Well, you could just take off on a run and come back and wonder what all the numbers mean.  Or you could do a bit of prep work and be thankful you did.

First things first.  To train accurately you need to know your max heart rate.  Here's where things can get tricky.  There are several calculators to figure it out.  They are based on different studies.  Here is a link with a few methods.  You also will want to figure out your resting heart rate, particularly for finding out your heart rate reserve and utilizing the Karvonen method (which is probably the most accurate calculator in my opinion).  Figuring out your resting heart rate is easy - when you open your eyes first thing in the morning, grab your iPhone (or watch or anything with a timer on it), place your fingers on your carotid/pulse point to the side of your throat and count for a minute!  Easy peasy.

Now after that I'm going to tell you that those calculators are ok, but.... they are still not absolutely accurate.  I'm sure you can see why - most assume that everyone your age has the same fitness!  That's certainly not true... I can tell you for a fact that I am more fit than a lot of 36 year old women and there a lot of 36 year old women more fit than I am.  So what do you do?  Well, you could get a bunch of extremely expensive tests done at a hospital or sports clinic that your insurance will never ok and most people will look at you silly for wanting or you could just put yourself to the test.  Just be careful, and be prepared to want to puke.

Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning has pretty much been my bible of running for the past weeks.  In this book he recommends finding your maximal heart rate my running 3 sets of hill repeats (around 600m) all out.  If you truly run them at 100% you should see a number that's within 2 beats of your actual MHR.

Other methods include:  After a warmup, run hard for 3 minutes, then recover for 2 minutes.  Repeat this process 3 times and you should be at MHR during the third repeat.
Run 10x100m all out sprints.  Your highest heart rate recorded is approximately your MHR.
Wear your heart rate monitor during an all out 5K.  Again, your highest heart rate recorded is your MHR.  There are more, but those are what come to mind and fingers at this moment.

Now you have a HRM and you know your maximal heart rate and your resting heart rate.  You've survived either the physical test and/or the math test.  Hooray!  The next step is to make a plan!  If you're just building base or maintaining fitness, you can stay in the easy and recovery zones, maybe taking a day a week to do a tempo or some intervals.  When I did that, I used the chart here.  If you're training for a race, this is another spot where things get personal.  You base your zones on your training plan.  And I can't tell you what that is.  For me personally, I'm basing mine off my plan's book - also found here.  You can see that my plan differs from most in that my long runs are paced just a bit faster than my general/easy runs.  Most plans call for the long run to be as slow as possible.  Like I said, go with YOUR plan.

From here, you're on your own.  Again, be prepared that to keep your heart rate as low as it is prescribed to be might get frustrating.  You very well may need to walk up hills.  I did for quite a while... Pittsburghers, you know that "hill" on the North Shore trail that puts you out by the Science Center?  I had to walk that so many times because that little thing would spike my heart rate!  Eventually, I didn't have to anymore. It comes around, you just have to be patient with this.  Some days your easy run pace with be blazing fast and other days it might be just a step above (or even under!)  a recovery run.  The point is to stay in zone and try your hardest not to spike out of it.  The longer you stay in your appropriate zone, the more that particular run is working for you - which is the point.  All runs have a purpose, even the "just running" ones. Something I found helpful in the beginning is only showing heart rate on my watch.  I had no idea what paces I was running until the run was over.  I knew if I saw those super slow miles tick off that I'd get tempted to speed up.  And by all means, don't get stressed over this.  It's supposed to be helpful and fun (well, fun for nerds I guess and I am one) and if it's not for you - then it's just not for you.  No harm no foul.

One more thing I want to mention before wrapping this up:  The weather.  Yes, "hot" topic around these parts these days, but it is very relevant when using your heart rate for training.  When the weather is hot and humid you may want to adjust your training zones.  Here's Pfitzinger's recommendation:

If the temps are in the 70s and the humidity is low - increase zones by 2-4 bpm
If the temps are in the 70s and the humidity is high - increase zones by 5-8 bpm
If the temps are in the 80s and the humidity is low - increase zones by 5-8 bpm
If the temps are in the 80s and the humidity is high - go as easy as you can!

I hope this has explained some things and helped at least one person!  Feel free to get in touch with me on here, email, Twitter, wherever you find me and ask questions if you have them.  Again, I don't claim to know it all, but I'll be happy to share what I do.  Get out there and enjoy running easy, running long, running injury free and just being able to do it!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Marathon #2 - Training Week 9

Welcome to March, folks!  Week 9 is complete!  Do you know what that means?  It means we've hit the halfway point... it's all downhill from here... the home stretch is approaching... however you want to put it.  Yeah, 9 more training weeks (8 weeks and 6 days from today!) may seem like a lot still, but to me it's not.  Especially with the plan I'm using and how it's broken up.  This coming week is a recovery week followed by the last week in Mesocycle 2.  Mesocycle 3 is referred to as "Race Prep", so it's really starting to hit home.  If 9 weeks still seems to long for you, try this:  6 more building/hard weeks to taper.  You can push it for 6 more weeks!

Here's how my week went:

Monday:  I started my new strength workout.  This is one I made completely on my own using exercises that would hit each muscle group and exercises that I just find fun.  I ended up making 2 different strength workouts so that I could alternate them and I made a separate core workout.  This was Strength workout #1 and I followed it with the Core workout.  I was hurting the next day.  I guess my plan isn't as easy as it looked on paper.  I think I may take a couple sets out this week and see what happens.  But all in all, good stuff.

Tuesday:  6 recovery miles on the treadmill.  I was really feeling Monday's workouts!  oof!  I also did yoga.

Wednesday:  14 mile medium-long run.  Yeah, I agree...  I don't consider something over the half marathon distance "medium".  It's a damn long way!  I was on the verge of devastation when I found out they were closing a large part of the North Park lake loop for 30 flipping days (seriously, they couldn't have found another time of year to do this?  We're training for a marathon here and the trails suck!!).  But I snapped myself out of it - put myself in "adapt, modify and overcome" status and figured this would be a good time to try out some new roads.  So I chose to take on a Kummer Road/McKinney/Lake Shore Loop.  Twice (plus an out and back to make up the miles).  I'd be lying if I said this wasn't damn hard.  I had to really trudge up Kummer the second time up and my heart rate went over range so much just shy of the top (sooo close!) that I had to take a short walk break to bring it back into range.  Just keeping it real here.  But - I ran 14 miles on a freaking weekday!  Who does this crap?  This was my first and last midweek run of this length for this training cycle.  *heaving sigh of relief*

Route map.

Elevation.  Yeah.

Thursday:  6 more recovery miles.  I was able to hit up North Park instead of staying at the gym today.  It was a little cold, and I was hungry and had to pee for most of it.  So it wasn't the greatest run ever.  I was still a bit tired from yesterday's "medium long" run.  I had another round of strength and core training on the schedule, but I really didn't want to workout for another hour, especially given how hard I remembered my plan was.  So, I compromised with myself and said that I would make it more of a circuit and do two rounds through the strength plan (instead of doing all the exercises 3 times for 10 reps, I went 1 time for 10 reps each and then repeated it) and then 1 round of each exercise of the core workout.  It ended up coming out to just over a half an hour and I was satisfied with that.  I actually think I might do this regularly on the days I also run.  I'm really exercising a lot these days and I definitely don't want to go overboard on extras when I'm already tired.  Make no mistake - my marathon training plan is freaking hard and my running comes first.

Friday:  Glorious rest!  A welcome thing because I had one hell of a hangover... ahem.

How Calloway prefers I spend my rest day.  He's gonna smother me one day and I know it.

Saturday: The Spring Thaw!  - 15 mile race with a 1 mile warmup.  200 miles logged in February!  My performance during this run prompted me to do three things that evening:  Renew my SCRR membership finally, sign up for the JASR 30K, and sign up for the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Yep, you heard it here first - I have not been registered for this race this whole time.  I'm such a coward...

Sunday:  6 recovery miles on the treadmill.  My legs were tight and I have a cranky foot from where my shoe tongue obviously tried to attack me, but I got it done and felt better.  I did a short yoga session, practiced some Eagle pose, and relaxed the rest of the day.

Total Miles Ran: 48.25
Total Running Workouts: 5 - 3 recovery, 1 medium long, and 1 race!
Total Strength Workouts: 2

Nutrition this week:  I give myself a gold star for this week.  I did a lot of prep cooking and had tons of pre-made healthy foods ready to go.  I know this is what I should do all the time but I'm lazy and make excuses/find other things to do that keep me from doing it sometimes.  Such is life.  Oh, and yes I did indulge in some Girl Scout cookies since this was delivery week and I've been surrounded by them.  But I was smart about it and didn't just gorge on sleeves of thin mints while watching Netflix (although that was freaking tempting).
My little cookie monster.

I had a really great week and I hope you did too!  Keep getting those miles in.  Spring is coming - the weather report is showing near future temps in the 40s!!  We might be too hot in that!  haha  May 3rd will be here before we know it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Spring Thaw 2015 - 15 Miler

This was my first "race" of 2015.  I've been planning on doing this one from the start because it fit perfectly in my training plan which called for a 16 mile run with 12 miles progressing through marathon pace.

I know everyone has their own opinions on the matter but I don't mind North Park races.  If nothing else, running the familiar "lake loop" is a good gauge of fitness when you've done it enough to have a baseline to go off of.  I also happen to enjoy the events Elite Runners and Walkers hosts.  They've got a nice "local" feel, low frills while still providing a good service for good causes, and the people that work for the business always seem like they legitimately give a crap.  Which is important to me.

I went into this race with a plan.  Simply do my long run as written (see above) and be rewarded with a medal for it.  This of course required running via heart rate, as I've been doing this whole training cycle.  I made a last minute decision after my last blog post to go ahead and take my Amphipod bottle to try out "racing" with my own hydration.  More on this later.

One thing that I expressed to my husband beforehand was that I did not want to get there too early.  Gun time was 10 AM and the morning temps were 0 after a night of negative windchills.  Seriously.  I definitely didn't want to be hanging around outside freezing my tail off for longer than I had to.  So, I pretty much wanted to get there in enough time to get a warmup mile in (so I could say I ran 200 miles in February as well as get the missing mile from the run as planned) and then get settled in just in time to start.  I ended up sleeping until just after 8, and I got to North Park a little after 9:30.  The timing was perfect for me.  I got my warmup mile done and did some dynamic stretches.  I also had a few minutes to hook up with Jennifer and Amanda and share strategies and commiserate over the brutal cold.  It's always nice to see a familiar face or two at these events!

When we were called to line up I figured my easy first 3 miles would put me somewhere behind the 9:00 pace group.  I lined up a bit behind them, just so I could keep them within my sight for reference.  Something that I am aware of that happens when the temps are this low is my heart rate monitor often acts up until I'm sweating enough for it to kick in (until it does it spikes high and reads just ridiculous numbers).  Yes, even if I wet it just before.  A little online research has told me this is a fairly common issue, so I just prepare myself for it if should happen.  This particular day proved to be one of "those days" and my monitor didn't kick in until right before the 2 mile marker.  No biggie, by placing myself behind the 9:00 group (who were going a little faster than they should - mile 1 ticked off in 8:56 and mile 2 in 8:44) my heart rate was right in the low end of range when it picked up.  Perfect.

From here, I just ran my own workout based on heart rate.  I picked up the pace when I could and backed off when I had to.  I still say the counterclockwise loop is easier than the opposite.  I had passed by the 9:00 pace group before the first loop was over (I think around 2.5 - 3 miles in), and that first loop was just so incredibly easy.  I did pick up my pace and move into my "race pace" heart rate range as intended after mile 3.

Right after I crossed the line to start another loop I found myself behind a guy and girl running together.  I overheard him say to her - "Ok, I'm going to go and finish the rest of this at 8:15 average" and he forged ahead.  I thought to myself I couldn't possibly be running that kind of pace, but I was on his tail running by heart rate and feeling really damn good.  Eventually we were running side by side and we struck up a conversation.  He was training for the London Marathon and trying for a BQ time.  His BQ time is 3:40, which ironically enough is also mine (even though I'm not training for a BQ right now! no worries!).  That was kind of funny so we got to chatting about other races and PRs and the typical runner things.

I always find it funny that when you get to talking with someone that the miles go by really fast and you don't even realize how fast you're going.  I was still keeping an eyeball on my heart rate (ok, I was being extremely anal about it), but I was still keeping pace with this guy as we caught up to and passed the 8:30 pace group and headed into the homestretch of the second loop!  As we were rounding Babcock, he asked if I intended to keep this pace the last loop (he was also doing 15 miles) and after analyzing how fast I'd been going I told him I'd probably slow down the last loop.  We talked some more and then he seemed to charge ahead a bit - really, it was me slowing down via heart rate monitoring going up the hill.  I was able to catch up to him again after the boathouse.  Loop #2 - done.  Still feeling pretty good - although really happy there was "only" 1 loop left!

At the next fluid station I caught up to (and actually passed for a moment) the guy I had been running with.  He came up behind me and said "hey, you didn't slow down!" and I just laughed.  I just kept on running by heart rate.  I started to get a little tired the last two miles.  I didn't really slow down (my last 5 miles were all between 8:06-8:11 on my Garmin) and my heart rate stayed steady, but I could just feel it.  I lost my running pal going up that last hill but he was still in sight.  I was half tempted to charge ahead but I figured why ruin a near perfect workout by going over heart rate limit?  So I stuck with my plan.  The downhill obviously let me pick up the pace again and as I ran into the parking lot, my youngest son Garrett jumped out and said "Hi!" to me.  I rounded those road cones and then hauled in for the finish.  Admittedly, I let my pace get down to 6:28 cruising across.  Just call it a stride out.  lol

My official finish time was 2:05:36.  On my Garmin I ran 15.17 miles in 2:05:40.  Yes, I still suck at tangents.

Overall I'm happy with this run.  I didn't let myself go nuts, I stuck with the plan and I had a fun time.  I got an automatic PR, put in my 200th mile for the month of February, and here's a fun fact: I ran my second fastest half marathon ever during this race (1:48:00 on the Garmin - beating even both of my Pittsburgh Half times - the fastest of those being 1:48:52).  To say that I'm not completely over the moon with where my fitness level is right now would be a lie!

Oh, about the Amphipod:  Loved it.  It was awesome being able to just fly past the fluid stations and be able to drink when I wanted/needed to.  I never felt dehydrated and I also didn't feel like the bottle was cumbersome to carry for this distance at this pace.  I'll have to give it some more thought about using it during the marathon.  Maybe I'll give it another try at JASR!

It was a good day!