Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Just Felt Like Running

As I spoke quite a bit about in my last training log, I have been contemplating doing another full sooner than later in hopes to secure me a spot in the 2018 Boston Marathon.  The rational coach side of me says I should probably give it at least another month or two to recover, start a new training cycle that I can complete in its entirety, and attempt a late Spring early Summer race.  But the stubborn, strong willed and impatient side of me is saying I have the miles, I have the fitness and I have the burning desire to give this another shot ASAP.

So conflicted with this decision and wanting to make a smart and healthy choice, I sought the advice of a few run coaches who also happen to be good friends of mine.  Their responses, however, were essentially the same things I have been telling/asking myself, leaving me just as if not more conflicted and confused as to what to do, lol!

So there I was last week, about six and half weeks from the race I didn't know if I should run, but really want to, figuring it was about time I make a decision.  So that's what I did and here is how it happened, along with my week of training of course....

MONDAY: Lift + Spin + Run
It may seem like I spend my whole Monday working out.  I do have a busy, fitness filled mid-morning, but I feel like it's a great way to get the week started.  The kids head to school a little before 9, Hunter has a class he teaches at 9 and I teach spinning at 9:15, so I am able to sneak in a quick little lift before my class while I am kid and husband free.  After spin class, Hunter and I are able to run together, which has become one of my favorite runs of the week.  He's not a huge fan of running, in fact he used to absolutely hate it.  But he's been trying to lose a few pounds and figured the cardio would help with that.  He keeps a pretty solid pace in the mid to upper 8's so it is always some great recovery miles for me.  I spent most of the rest of day flip flopping back on whether I should run the Celebration Marathon or not.  I checked their website to see if they still had open registration.  With a teeny, tiny small part of me hoping to see it was full and my decision made for me, I was more so incredibly relieved to see they still had over a 100 spots left.  Back to contemplating...

TUESDAY: 5 mile Progressive Run
Normally I spend my Tuesdays doing speed work, but not sure about what to do moving forward with training, I figured I would take it a little easy on Tuesday.  Also, if I decided to do a long run that week, it would most likely have to be on Thursday.  So pushing it on Tuesday may hinder what I would attempt to accomplish two days later.   The run went pretty well, nothing special or spectacular, just pretty routine and I was happy with that.  In the past, I would have been very frustrated with a so-so run.  I felt as if I had to get better and faster with every single week.  But this was a good "listen to your body" kind of run and I am more proud of myself for that than a super fast track workout.  A "knock it out of the park run" would probably have had me running to my computer to sign up for the race in January.  But I still wanted to wait and see how Thursday, if I decided to run then, would go for me.

WEDNESDAY: Strength Training
Tuesday evening, I pretty much made up my mind I would attempt an 18 miler on Thursday, and depending on how that would go, I would decide if I am signing up for the marathon in January.  I had ran a slow, easy paced 16 miler two weeks prior so I wasn't all that crazy for going for 18.  With that being said, I have really been enjoying my weight room workouts these past few weeks.  Once Space Coast was over, I was ready to get after it and move some big weights.  Not wanting to let go of that momentum but knowing I had a big run the next morning, I still pushed through a pretty tough workout on Wednesday.  Kettlebell swing, box jumps, hurdles, jump rope, slams, all the fun stuff.  I figured I had plenty of time the next day to workout the soreness in my legs as I ran for a few hours.

Thursday: LSR 18 miles
With an early morning wake up call to get my warm up miles on the treadmill, I went to bed a little earlier the night before.  Man was I sleeping like a champ when my 4am alarm went off.  Luckily only the slightest part of me wanted to shut it off and go back to bed, but I didn't.  I got up, got dressed and got going.  I knocked out about 3.5 super easy miles on the treadmill before heading over to the park to meet up with my Moms Run This Town mamas.  I did another easy 4.5 with them before they all had to leave to get their kids off to school and/or go to work.  The sun wasn't quite up yet so I figured it'd be a little safer to do another mile or two around the lighted, crowded park.

With the sun finally up and 10 of my 18 miles complete, I figured it was time I head over to the trail.  Up to this point, my pace had been pretty easy around 9ish.  Although that felt easy and I felt great, I didn't want to push it too much more until later in my run.  My plan was to take the pace down to the mid 8's once I hit the trail and hopefully push it to the finish with a sub 8 mile or two at the end.

It was certainly not as crazy hot as it had been for my previous long runs of the Summer and Fall, but it was warm and humid out there.  I was covered in sweat, it was even dripping from my visor.  Because I did not have enough time to prepare for my run (I like to get my pre-run goodies from Whole Foods), I had not fueled properly and feared that would be a factor.  I also was in need of new shoes (the ones I ordered were on back order at the time but luckily came in this week), so I was dealing with some foot and calf discomfort.  But surprisingly, nothing about that run seemed insurmountable.  I was able to push through, hit my paces and finish strong.  In the words of Forrest Gump, "I just felt like running" so that's what I did Thursday and I was happy with my performance and ready to make my decision about my race.

Friday: Upper Strength Training + Marathon Registration
With little time for a workout that day, I had to knock out a quick one at Planet Fitness before the kids got up.  I was not in the least bit sore or exhausted from the day before, in fact I found it a little odd how good I felt after running 18 miles less than 24 hours prior, lol!  Still, I did not work any part of my lower body and stuck to my "gun show" workout.  I headed into work and as I sat at my computer, I went ahead and did what I know I wanted to do not just all week but for the past several months...I signed up for the Celebration Marathon on March 29, 2017.

Saturday: Run + Swimming
With my long run done and my decision made, I was excited for a nice easy run on Saturday along with some laps in the pool.  The miles from the week had definitely caught up with me and my run felt like it took a little more effort than necessary, but got it done.  Then in the pool, my darn googles kept flooding, so having to stop and readjust made for a frustrating swim.  Certainly not the workout I had hoped for that day, but a solid workout nonetheless and it closed out a busy exciting week. Spent the rest of the weekend with my favorite boys getting ready for the holidays.

Later that weekend I told my husband, who had been doing his best to help me make and support my decision, that though I know I could not guarantee a BQ (there are always just too many variable on race day for that) but I was more mentally prepared for one than ever.  My mental game is where I have always struggled in the past.  I have always focused so much just the end goal, and an entitled goal at that, taking an "all or nothing" approach on race day.  Going balls to the wall at the start of the race a bit faster than the pace I assume I should be running thanks to an online calculator hasn't really worked for me (I know I should know all this and I do, but this along with my "entitled goal" is a more detailed story I'll save for another post).  Realizing there is a much better course of action along with recognizing what I am indeed capable of, I will take a much more educated and conservative approach to this race, in hopes to at least match or beat my current PR of 3:38:42.

So here's to another (brief) marathon training cycle and another shot at catching my unicorn!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Marathon Training Week 0

Last week was the first week since late May of this year that I was not training for anything specific.  Going into the week I felt like it could go either way.  I would either be relieved to not have any pressure of training or I would feel a little lost without it.  It was definitely a roller coaster of a week with a mixture of both of those feelings along with many more regarding training and my future races.

So here is a little recap of last week's "training" along with my thoughts on my upcoming schedule for 2017.

Monday: Spinning + Total Body
Thanks to racing, traveling and a hectic work schedule, I have been missing my spin crew.  So it was nice to get back into my normal teaching routine and they seemed excited to see me too ;-)  Before class, I always like to try to knock out a quick lift if timer permits.  Because I have been so caught up in the distance running, I have been going pretty light on the legs and been focusing a lot on core and upper.  Well last Monday, I thought it would be fun to hit the legs hard (bad idea lol) with some squats and dead lifts.  Felt good to get after it but my legs were not too happy with me as the week went on!

Tuesday: 5 super easy miles
My legs were pretty cooked from not just the lifting the day before but for the higher than usual mileage they had experienced over the previous few weeks.  I flipped flopped all morning between swimming laps or going for an easy run.  My body kept telling me to hop in the pool but when my break rolled around, so did some nice clouds and a breeze, my heart told me to go for a run.  So that's what I did and it was glorious!  It had been months since I have been able to enjoy some carefree miles in the rain.  It started overcast and breezy, turned to some sprinkles and by the time I was rounding for home, it was pouring down rain.  What an awesomely refreshing run it was!

Wednesday: Olympic Lifting + Plyos + Yoga
"Sure Hunter, I will lift with you!"  Famous last words.  I had planned on doing a light upper and rest the legs a bit that day, but when the hubster asked if I wanted to workout with him, I was like sure it'll be fun.  Ha!  We did some snatch grip dead lifts, jumped on and over things and of course threw heaving things, along with some upper body.  It was a great workout but man was I sore for daysssss!  After work, I taught my usual yoga class at LA Fitness.  I teach so much off the mat but I was able to sneak in a few poses during class for my own benefit too.

Thursday: Swim + 5m Run
Ok, so Thursday would be the day I would dedicate to the pool, except one thing, it also happened to be the most beautiful weather we have had in months!  There was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the upper 50's.  How could I NOT run that day!?!  So I got in a few quick laps (around 1600m) and took the rest of my workout outside for a nice and easy run.  Despite how tired and sore they were, the gorgeous weather made me feel great out there and I was able to really pick up the pace towards the end of my run. 

Friday: Upper + Core
I had very limited time to get a workout in on Friday but was able to sneak in a quick one before work that morning.  I went over to Planet Fitness and knocked out some upper and core. 

Earlier that week, I was really enjoying the freedom with my training.  I had decided I was going to lift heavier, swim more and not worry if I got in a run or not.  But as the week went on, all I wanted to do was make sure I got in a run, lol.  Earlier in the week, I had made up my mind that I would NOT do another marathon next month, that I would wait until March.  But by the end of the week, training for Celebration (January 29th) was all I could think about.  I wanted to see how my "longish run" would go the next day and consider what I want to do moving forward.

Saturday: 7 hard-easy-walking-hard miles
With no plan or pressure for my Saturday run, my hope was to do anything between 6 and 10 miles.  I also brought my swim stuff in case I decided to cut the run real short and just hope in the pool.  But I figured if I was really feeling it that morning (which I didn't expect to but you never know), I would push it and have a routine  8-10 mile maintenance run.   I got going and felt pretty good.  There was some tightness in my left hamstring and my right shin was a little upset with me (I need new shoes) but over all I felt OK.  Just OK though, not great, not even that good, just OK.  I knocked out about 4 miles at a pretty steady pace and took a little break for some water and to readjust my ponytail.  Then a friend of mine hopped on the treadmill next to me who I haven't seen in a while, so I took it as a sign to walk and chat.  For the next few miles, I walked and ran at a super easy pace while we chatted.  Once he left, I picked up the pace and went hard to finish out the last mile and a half to take it to 7 for the day.  Although a part of me wished I produced a much better run that morning, I was grateful for the easy miles, I'm sure I really needed them.

The rest of the weekend was spent with my family.  We took the boys to see Santa, went to the park, the Magic game and hiking.  It was quite a busy weekend but so much fun getting to spend  time with my favorite people.

I am still conflicted as to what to do about the marathon in January.  I know my body is not fully recovered from the two I just ran, but I also feel like I already have the mileage and fitness base, so I know I could totally do it.  I guess it's just a matter of what goal am I trying to accomplish (which would ultimately be a BQ), how bad do I want it, how hard am I willing to work for it and how smart  and realistic am I being about it?  So not sure if that is to go for it now or give it a few extra months to recover and prepare!?!  With time running out, it's a decision I will have to make this week so to be continued...

Monday, December 5, 2016

If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes: What I've Got to Change for a BQ

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  So I guess you could say for the past few years, I've been a bit insane.  With each of my several failed attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I have made very few significant changes in my training and lifestyle.  Yes, I have read countless books, articles and online forums.  I added in more speed work, periodized my strength training better and have attempted to clean up my diet.  But none of these changes have overhauled my training enough for it to provide me with the results I am looking for on race day.

So do I go crazytown and revamp my life?  I honestly do not believe I need to go to such drastic measures, nor do I want to.  I have proven to be a strong runner with the routine I have always known and trusted.  I have come a significantly long way shaving over an hour off of my first marathon time and only missing my BQ by a mere 2 minutes.  My routine fits my lifestyle with work and family and has kept me relatively healthy and injury free for many of years.

But with all that being said, obviously I am missing the boat on something because I keep coming up short.  The minor tweaks I have made along the way have just not been enough to secure me a BQ time.  So I think it's time to take a good, hard look at what needs to change for me to finally turn my Boston dream into a reality.

First thing's first, my marathon training background...

When I ran my first marathon, I had one and only goal which was simply to finish.  Before I began training, I had never raced anything more than a 5k and the most miles I had ever ran at one time was maybe 8.  So really had no idea what to expect.  I read Jeff Galloway's book, Marathon: You Can Do It, and used the "To Finish" program that had me running 3 days a week.  It seemed non-intimidating, it fit my schedule and I was able to still strength train on alternate days.  I stuck to the plan and finished my first marathon in 4:42.

I used the same exact plan for my second and third marathons where I finished in 4:07 then 3:53.  I learned about speedwork while training for my 4th marathon, but a freak injury to my foot (I'm pretty clumsy) ruined my chances for a BQ then.  My 5th marathon was just 10 weeks later.  I was still healing from my injury and recovering from my previous marathon, so I figured I shouldn't deviate from the plan I had always known.  I finished that one in 3:38, which it is still my current PR.

Heading into training for Chicago (my 6th marathon), I was still on a high from the PR I had in February.  I figured since I had come so close then, I should probably stick to the same plan and just push harder, plus I aged up so that 3:38 would be actually be a BQ now.  I was having a great race in Chicago until a hamstring cramp caused me to slow down and even walk much of the last 10k.  My average pace was the EXACT same as my previous marathon but because the course was almost a half a mile longer, I came in at 3:42, missing my BQ by 2 minutes!

7 weeks later I ran another full, but this one was just to finish.  It's a big event for my running group so I was more excited to see them run, plus I got an extra medal for running it three years in a row.  A part of me hoped to maybe pull off a BQ/PR that day, but I was realistic heading into it that my body and mind just wasn't up for the challenge that day.

So 6 years, 7 marathons and 5 failed BQ attempts later, I think maybe it's about time I make some changes...

Being Coach-able
I'm realizing that I am going to need some help designing a solid program and someone to coach me through it.  Although I have been running for almost two decades and am a (strength) coach myself, it doesn't mean that I have all the answers.  It also doesn't mean that I can push myself and hold myself accountable the way someone else can.  I feel like it's time to get this thing to the next level and I feel the only way I'm going to do that is by enlisting the help of a professional.

Stop Flying Solo
Thanks to my crazy work schedule, my husband's crazy work schedule and our two crazy kiddos, it's not always easy to squeeze in my own workout, let alone schedule it around other people.  There is a plethora of group runs in my area and several running buddies I can meet up with, but finding the time is such a challenge.  Of course I have come to realize that no great things can be done alone and it's time I make time to run with people.  Not only will running with stronger runners push me to run harder, but it will also give me motivation, inspiration and of course, accountability.  I am looking forward to many more group runs and running bonds being formed in my future!

I'm a big fan of the 80/20 principle; a healthy, clean diet 80% of the time and moderate indulgences the other 20% of the time.  For someone who had a very unhealthy relationship with food for most of my adolescence and early adulthood (over and under eating), I find this to be a good balance for me both physically and emotionally.  With that being said, there is still certainly room for improvement..  I need to find a way to get in a better variety of healthy foods, especially protein sources, and be a little bit more cautious of my indulgences.  If only I could live off of chips and beer!  Hoping a more balanced, cleaner diet will not only help me with my racing weight but will also help my digestive system cooperate much better too (which was unfortunately a HUGE factor in a failed BQ attempt a few years ago)!

Strength & Conditioning
Probably my biggest strength is my strength training, I am a strength coach after all.  Over the years, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise in my field that has helped not just the athletes I work with but myself as an athlete too.  So I definitely feel like I've got a good handle on that.  Where I often fall short is with my mobility and flexibility.  I pretty much always wait until something is ridiculously tight then finally address it.  So there will be much more foam rolling and yoga in my next training cycle.  Another thing I plan to incorporate much more of is swimming.  It's a great form of cross training for runners and my current PR is from when I did a lot of swimming during that training cycle, just saying.

Probably the biggest factor that has continually held me back in my goal is my attitude.  I doubt myself and give up entirely way to easily.  At this point, I feel as if it is partly due to the fact that failure has (unfortunately) become my comfort zone.  I know what it's like to fail, but I have yet to experience the feeling of accomplishing my ultimate goal of a BQ.  It kinda sounds a little ridiculous but it's almost as if I am afraid of reaching my goal.  The goal itself is not frightening.  It's not crazy ambitious or out of my reach.  It's the aftermath of reaching my goal that scares me.  I've been chasing this one goal for what feels like eternity and I'm nervous about how it will all effect me if and when I finally accomplish it.  Will it have been worth it all?  Will it be enough for me?  Will I be able to do it again?  What will I obsess about then?

Obviously my irrational fear of accomplishing my goal along with the unwarranted doubts about my abilities and what I am capable of are definitely something I am going to have to work on heading in to my next training cycle and race.  Of course it's all going to boil down to preparation.  Knowing that I am prepared both physically and mentally will give me the confidence I need to dominate on race day.

I'm looking forward to what 2017 holds.  I'm ready to make some big changes so that I can accomplish some big things!