Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NYC Marathon: Race Report

I have been putting off writing this report. In fact, I haven't even been able to bring myself to read any of my friends' race reports from that day. The four hours, seventeen minutes, and thirty eight seconds I spent running the NYC Marathon were, in a word, miserable. I don't remember ever enjoying it. Maybe I did for a brief moment while climbing that hill for the first mile - but even then I was so preoccupied with focusing on my plan, my watch, my gloves and arm warmers, etc. that by the time I "settled in" to mile two, and the pain started, I had missed my narrow window of enjoyment.

Well, that's depressing. This isn't a happy report - it wasn't a happy race.

I thought about waiting a bit to write this - for a little bit more distance. I want so badly to be writing a report where I am psyched about a huge PR like I did after Grandma's Marathon in June. But I just can't. It does not feel like I got a big PR. It doesn't feel like I got a PR (I did).  But less than being bummed about my time - I just cannot help by wince at my memory of the experience.

I will say that everything else about the weekend was amazing. I had a wonderful time with my parents, an awesome, fancy hotel room, tickets to two fun Broadway shows, great meals, and a great time seeing some of my old running friends and meeting some new ones. The race aside, it was a brilliant, perfect, getaway.

Here is me excited at the expo, picking up my race pack:



Here are me, my mom, and step-dad at Carmine's:



Here is a picture of me and George Harrison at our Autism Speaks Team dinner at Hard Rock Cafe:



Here is a picture of me and one of my bestest pals in the world, Susie Hellman, right before the race:



OK...the race. Heregoes:

For reference as to what the plan was, you can click here.  And I apologize in advance if this is TMI for some of you. Race reports can't always be pretty.

The trouble started as I came down the bridge at mile 2. This is supposed to be a nice easy downhill but I got what was the most painful, stabbing side-stitch on my right side, just under my ribs. I literally don't think I have had this type of side ache since high school sports when I was a sprinter/soccer player. I haven't felt anything like this in years and don't ever remember feeling it distance running. It was incredibly sharp and I panicked. I had no idea what to do. I refused to stop for fear of falling off pace too early. I just ran through it knowing that these things usually pass...and it did after several, agonizing minutes. It had taken my breath away, though. So much so that I had to stop and use my inhaler. Though I have pretty severe asthma, I NEVER, or at least rarely, use my inhaler mid-race or mid-run. I take it sufficiently beforehand and that is usually enough. But I needed it.

At the beginning of mile 4 the side-stitch came back, strong as ever. Like a big, sharp knife. Again, I ran through it but it was not easy. I was able to stay on pace because I was so fresh - but I was scared that my day was over before it began, and I was in terrible pain. I was totally zoned out in my own scared, panicking place. I hadn't even noticed that we were on the streets of Brooklyn, which were lined by screaming people, bands, etc. I was just freaking out inside.

My nutrition plan has me eating four Gu Chomps every four miles. (This worked flawlessly at Grandma's) I realized near mile five that I had forgotten to eat so I got out a pack...but I couldn't eat it. My stomach wasn't queasy and I didn't feel sick. I just couldn't create saliva or get myself to swallow. I managed to get two down but it wasn't easy. I stuffed the others back in my pocket.

Long story short, I was pretty much able to stay on pace through the half (I was slightly over, but that was more because the mile markers were usually after the chaotic water stations, so while I was "on" pace...I crossed the miler markers slightly late)...but after the half, I knew it wasn't going to happen. The side-stitches never came back, but I now had a new problem: horrible cramping pains deep in my lower stomach/uterus (sort of like menstrual pains (they weren't), sort of like gas pains)...they were sharp and increased in sharpness/bloat until they were unbearable...then they would subside for a few minutes before returning. This happened for the rest of the race. It was awful. This problem was something I am slightly more familiar with (I have IBS) - but I have no idea why it was so extreme. And it obviously enhanced my eating problem. I don't think I ate more than 5-6 Gu Chomps for the entire race. I kept just throwing them on the ground.

The last 13 miles, and really the whole race, was the hardest physical thing I had ever done. I have never had to dig that deep, and stay that mentally strong for that long. THE MARATHON IS SO LONG!

The weird thing, though? I knew, and was 100% certain, that I would be fine when the race ended. That stopping would stop my weird, internal problems. And I was right.

For the last 13 miles I would stop and walk every time the sharp abdomen pain got really bad. That would usually clear it up. After mile 16, my legs were feeling it from the hills - and I think the fact that they got no fuel increased my inability to be able to keep up my intended pace. That said, my splits are such that, when including my walking breaks, and (unsuccessful) potty break at mile 21, I was likely going somewhat close to my intended pace when I was actually running. My internal organs were just forcing me to stop too often.

For the second half, I kept an eye on my watch and my B and C goals. I was pretty sure my B goal was out, but I thought that if I took sufficient walk breaks, such that they would clear out the tummy pain temporarily and allow me to run at a decent clip, I might still set a PR. And I did. By about 6 minutes.

But it doesn't feel like it. At all. It is hard for me to take something positive from 4+ hours spent in such misery - in my favorite city in the world, in a race I was so looking forward to for so many months. Maybe I built it up too much. Maybe the experience was too loaded with emotion and memories. Whatever the case, I am not yet able to look back at it and see it as a success in terms of my result. That said, I am proud of myself for finishing - for pushing through when things went sour so early. Old Sara Jane, pre-Wendy Sara Jane, may not have had (likely would not have had) the mental toughness to do that. She's changed me. And of that fact I am proud. And grateful. And, I am hungry to get back at it.

I want it more, now. Despite the horrible memory of this experience, I can't wait to hit my next cycle. I still love the marathon. I still want to be a marathoner. I'd just like to get to the place where this particular race is a distance memory and I can't still feel it and don't still wince at the memory.

For those who are interested, here are the splits from my watch:


My official time is 4:17:38.

I ran my first ever marathon in 2007 in 4:57:58. I ran the NYC Marathon in 2008 in 4:49:18.

My previous PR was from Grandma's this past June: 4:23:07.

I think my 100-meter-dash PR was 12.57...but I digress... ;)

My goal is to run my next marathon in sub-4 hours. I am not deterred. Just more determined. And more confident than ever that my mental toughness will not be an issue.

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Here is a picture of me and some of my running pals enjoying post-race spirits:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Follies Full Circle

Well, here we are. NYC Marathon eve. I really can't believe it. When Wendy and I started discussing having her take part in the great "experiment" of coaching me (a sprinter) to something better than a 4:47 marathon time, this day seemed SO FAR AWAY! We knew from the beginning - back in April, that this was the goal race. I was already entered in this race and Grandma's Marathon. Grandma's was too soon for a full training program...so we decided that would be a step along the way. NYC was the big goal. And it's TOMORROW!

Now, I love New York City. I "grew up" here. It's where I feel I first lived as an "adult". I moved here in January of 2002 (when I was 23) and was here until I got relocated for work to Maryland in 2007. I miss it terribly. It's awesome to be back.

Today, we (my mom, step-dad, and I) had a free afternoon, so we hit the half-price ticket booth to get tickets to a show. I absolutely love Bernadette Peters, and Sondheim is to me what Jesus is to Christians, so I put in my vote to see Follies. We got amazing, center orchestra tickets and the show. was. amazing. Loved it.

During the second act, as the four main characters were performing their "follies," I started to think about what the word "folly" means and I had a massive "DUH" light bulb moment. I had dictionary.com'd that word before. On May 15th, in fact. When I wrote my first blog post.

I am a Broadway girl at heart. Always have been. I am what those in the the biz call a "twirlie." I never pass up an opportunity to karaoke show tunes; especially if "I Know Him So Well" or "Out Tonight" are in the book. So when I was trying to decide what to call this blog, I wanted something clever...and I wanted it to play on my whole personal experiment/doubt/curiosity/etc. as to whether or not I really am a pure sprinter or if we might be able to turn me into a more respectable (in terms of what I wanted to achieve, anyway) distance runner. I also wanted the title to make some sort of play on a show tune or show. It's my thing. And whether it was clear to those reading it or not, I wanted it to be in there. I wasn't exactly sure how I would do that in a way that would reference my doubts as to whether what I was trying to do was silly, given my past life, and nature, as a pure sprinter. And it really did seem kinda like a silly quest. Maybe not silly - but I definitely wasn't sure if I would have success...and often felt a little stupid (as my first post suggests) calling myself a marathoner.

I thought through the musical theater canon and almost instantly thought about Follies.


As a girl who saw herself as pure fast-twitch, continuing to pursue the beast that is the marathon did, at times, seem like a foolish undertaking. A folly.

If I do say so myself, my intended play on words aligned with my goals, and passions, perfectly. But I didn't even think about it until part way through the second act. Then BAM! I am at Follies! Woah. Full circle.

Thanks for all of your support, everyone. I am gonna give it my all tomorrow.

And if there is one thing I can say I have learned from this experience, even before I run the race, it is that what I decided to try to do with these fast-twitch muscles of mine was, after all, no folly at all. It's actually been completely life-changing, and self-affirming, in ways that I can't even begin to get into in this little post. I owe about 65% of it to Wendy. I do. But I will take credit for having the courage to give it a go, and the cunning to convince Wendy to come along for the ride.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Race Day Tracking Options

Many of you have asked about tracking. I figured I'd do a blog post about it so that those of you who are interested have something to refer to...there are many tracking options!

Here is the general NYC Marathon website: http://www.nycmarathon.org/index.htm

First of all, if you want to watch the elite race (it's going to be an AMAZING one) you can do so for free here: http://www.universalsports.com/marathon/nycelites/

The NYC Marathon website has all of its tracking information on this page: http://www.nycmarathon.org/Join_In.htm

My Bib # is: 31582

I am in the Second Wave which starts at 10:10. It will likely take me as many as 10 minutes (if not more) to cross the actual start line, though. My own personal "chip" time will start when I cross the start.

These are the options:

Tracking via the Web - Online
That is, you sit in from of your computer and when I hit certain timing mats, you see where I am on the course...There is no pre-registration required. You just log onto the NYC Marathon website on race day, find the link for "tracking" I imagine they will have it here: http://www.nycmarathon.org/Join_In.htm, type in my name and/or bib number (#31582) and you should be all set. There is no fee for this.

Tracking via SMS (Text Messages)
In the past, this hasn't worked well. When I hit certain timing mats, my chip is supposed to activate the system to send a text message to those who have pre-registered here: http://tadpole.textingforward.com/nyrr/. Unfortunately what seems to happen is that the servers (Verizon, ATT, Sprint, whatever) get bogged down and the texts messages are delayed, kinda defeating the point. The marathon says they are improving this, but they can't really change how the cell phone company's servers operate and what they can handle. This costs $2.99. You can sign up for this now.

Tracking via App with iPhone or Android Phone
This is new this year and the information is here: http://www.nycmarathon.org/Join_In.htm. This is potentially an awesome way to track - if it works. Again, this works like the previous methods wherein you get get updates when I hit certain timing mats on the course. But there's more. I will be running with my iPhone tucked away in a back pocket. If you have the App (which also costs $2.99, though there is a free, limited version for iPhone users only) my phone will work as a GPS and you will be able to track my every move on the course. Basically, my phone will send a signal and if you sign up to track me (you can track up to 10 runners at the same time) you will be able to see where I am on the course at any given moment. Kinda creepy. Kinda crazy. Kinda cool. Hope it works!

So there are your tracking options! If you are curious as to whether I am on pace to hit my goal, you can refer to my race plan here: http://runsjbrun.blogspot.com/2011/11/sjs-race-plan-from-coach-wendy.html

I actually have 3 goals, just in case things don't go exactly as planned:

A Goal: sub-4 hours
B Goal: 4:10
C Goal: PR (sub 4:23)

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I also wanted to share with you the greatest pre-race pump up gift EVER. I always tease my friends, sisters Kelly, Kara, and Kendall (Wheeler, Grgas-Wheeler, Goucher, Schoolmeester, whatever...) because of the lengths they go to in order to support each other. One thing they always did back in the day...and still do for Kara (the only one still competing) is make professional (screen printed or embroidered) shirts in support of each other. So, for example, when Kendall was running at the state cross country meet one year, the ENTIRE family (mom Patty and Kara and Kelly) all had on these blue hooded sweatshirts with GIANT red lettering that said: Go Kendall!

It's adorable. Anyway, I've teased them about it and told them it would be the BEST THING EVER if I, too, could be like a Grgas-Wheeler sister and have a shirt made in support of me. Anyway, Kendall got a little crafty and made me a shirt of my own. And no, it doesn't bother me that the shirt was originally intended for a certain Olympian. That's the brilliance of it, really. Thanks Kendall!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

SJ's Race Plan--from Coach Wendy

"4:23?  4:23?!?!  Really?!"
"Yes, really."

That conversation happened between me and my husband, Tim, last June.  We had been tracking Sara Jane as she was running Grandma's.  After she crossed the 18 mile mark, I became so anxious that I had to go for a run myself.  I thought I would be home in time to "see" her finish, but I had missed it.

As the dialogue above indicates, I was shocked at how well she did.  Not because I didn't think she could do it, but because I had designed such a super-conservative race plan that I couldn't believe how much she picked up the pace at the end.  She was not super well-trained for Grandma's, and she ran a 24 minute PR.  Wow.

My first text to her was "You can run sub-4 in NY."  She was not convinced at first, but she is now.  And that's all that matters.  Her training this time around did not go exactly as I had planned it, but I actually think that as worked in her benefit.  From my own most recent marathon experience, in which I blew up royally, I've learned that listening and responding to your body's warnings when it's clearly telling you to back off is a really, really good idea.

SJ is ready for sub-4.  Of course, it's a marathon...which means a lot of things can happen.  Weather, fluid issues, stomach issues, etc.  If it's a good day, she's got the fitness and the toughness to do it.

I've never run New York, but I've done a lot of reading about it.  Unlike Grandma's, it's not a flat course.  It's a lot more complex, and a whole lot more crowded.  Using maps, a book about the race, and a video of the 2009 NYC marathon, I devised a race plan that I think will work on race day.  It takes into account a lot of things:

-Hills--NY has some hills, and the majority of them are at the very end.  Not such a good place for them, but that's where they are.  She is strong, so I think she will fare well on them.

-Crowds--I'm starting her off slowly, just like in Grandma's, but a reason for this unique to NY is how stinking crowded it will be at the start.  I do not want her bobbing and weaving for a position--that would waste energy.  Not to mention get her all flustered.

-It's a marathon--and what I mean by this is that, even if you're well-trained, it can be an off day.  I've instructed her to keep evaluating how she's feeling.  If she's working too hard well before she should be (anywhere before 17-18), she needs to reign it in.  She won't get a sub-4, but she'll get a nice PR and avoid an epic blow-up and potentially a whole lot of walking.

So, the plan.  Here it is, broken down per mile:

Mile 1:  9:40--slow due to the crowds, the fact that it's all uphill, and she needs to get warmed up and not let adrenaline force her up that hill too fast.  I don't know if she'll actually run it this slowly (she happens to think its TOO slow, but that's what I'm prescribing).

Mile 2:  9:00--The downhill side of mile 1.  I told her this split may be even faster than this, depending on the grade of the hill.  I want her to just be coasting at this point.

Mile 3:  9:15--Easing into goal pace (which is around 9:09)

Mile 4:  9:10--The race turns flat here.  Miles 4-10 I want her right around goal pace.  I am guessing this will be a very comfortable pace for her.  My concern here is her going too fast because she's going to feel good.  It is vital that she holds back, especially given all her leg speed...could get her into trouble!
Mile 5:  9:10
Mile 6:  9:10
Mile 7:  9:10
Mile 8:  9:10
Mile 9:  9:10

Mile 10:  9:05--Okay, slightly under goal pace from here til mile 15.  Just four seconds, but we have to make up for a slow start and a slow finish.  I don't imagine she'll even perceive the change from 9:10 to 9:05, though.  I have read that the best way to negative split is to do so in very small increments so that you don't even realize you're doing it.
Mile 11:  9:05
Mile 12:  9:05
Mile 13:  9:05 

Mile 14:  9:00--Another slight increase in pace, and this is right when things start to get a little tough.  She will be working a little bit here, but still able to hold pace without too much effort.
Mile 15:  9:00

Mile 16:  9:30 (uphill)--There is an uphill here, and the last thing I want her to try to do is to charge up it and stay on goal pace.  That will toast her quads, and she's still got 10 more challenging miles ahead.

Mile 17:  9:00--Hoping she gets back on pace here with a little help from a downhill at mile 17.
Mile 18:  9:00
Mile 19:  9:00

Mile 20:  9:00--And the real work begins.  Holding onto this pace at this point in the game is going to be tough.  It's going to really, really hurt.  The hope is that her fitness + a slow start keeps her strong enough to hold on here.  At this point, when she evaluates, she should find herself saying "I'm never running another marathon again."
Mile 21:  9:00
Mile 22:  9:00
Mile 23:  9:00

Mile 24:  9:30 (uphill)--Ouch.  Just reading about this mile makes me hurt.  A big uphill at mile 24.  Good luck, SJ! ;)  She can do it...but I don't think the 9:30 will feel easy at this point.

Mile 25:  9:15 (mix of down and uphill)--These are some ups and downs, and I'm planning on her fading a little bit given how tough the course is, so I've added in a little wiggle room.

Mile 26:  9:20 or as fast as she can go!--Again, a little built-in wiggle room because I'm guessing her quads are going to be on fire by this point.  If she feels great, then she'll fly in faster, but this has a planned safety net in place.

0.2:  Sprint!

This should get her in just about half a minute under 4 hours.  Of course, it's impossible to run the splits exactly as I've asked her to (though she did an amazingly good job at Grandma's), but if she stays pretty close to this, she's got it.  And even if she bleeds some time at the end, a major PR is almost guaranteed.

I'm so excited.  Seriously--I'm more excited about her race than my last race.  It feels weird to say that I coach her, because she gives so much back to me in the form of friendship.  I don't feel like any kind of authority over Sara (and those of you who know her will understand that it would be hard for anyone to feel that way over her), but like we're doing this together.  And, for whatever reason(s), it serves both of us extremely well.  Be sure to track her on Sunday!!

GO, SARA JANE!!

The Final Countdown

It's getting so close! At the end of my last post I said I would be back with some little tidbits including the things I am doing to pump myself up for the race. Though perhaps at the expense of completely neglecting my responsibilities as a second-year law student, I have been focusing on the following:

  • My participation in this race as a part of TeamUp! With Autism Speaks
  • How excited I am that my parents will be in NYC for race weekend
  • Selecting some theme/pump up songs and creating a playlist for race weekend (though I won't carry music during that actual race - too much to enjoy going on on the actual course).
  • Dedicating each of my miles.

Autism Speaks
As many of you know, I am running this race for more than just myself. For the second time I am running as a part of TeamUp! With Autism Speaks. I didn't need to run with this team to get entry into the race - I got in via lottery - I just so enjoyed running with the team in 2008 (when I also ran with the team despite winning the lottery) that I asked if I could join them again. In 2008, when I first ran the race, my nephew Jack (who turns 7 today!) had recently been diagnosed with Autism. My family had so many questions/concerns and I was introduced to the world of Autism Spectrum Disorders in a way I never imagined. Soon after I ran that race, my nephew Henry (now 4, almost 5 years old) was also diagnosed. As such, Autism has been a part of my family's life for several years now. I am exceptionally close to my sister and nephews - I lived with their family for 8 months prior to law school. I adore them so completely - and wouldn't want them to be anyone other than just the way they are - but I, like everyone else who sees a child struggling with some of the challenges of Autism - know how much more research needs to be done. Running on the team, and fund raising for the cause, feels like something I can do to help. It is especially exciting this year because I have been spending this semester as a legal intern with the Government Relations department at the Autism Speaks officer here in D.C. Running with this team is so meaningful - the people I met doing so last time were incredible and I so enjoyed hearing their stories and sharing their 26.2 mile journey as part of the same team. I am thrilled to be back to do it again.

Barb and Neil
This past summer I came across a great deal on hotel rooms in NYC for marathon weekend. It was too good to pass up, so I booked myself a room. Then I called my mom and she jumped at the chance to spend a long fall weekend in NYC. So she and Neil, my step-dad, are coming to town! This is exciting for many reasons - but mostly because it just makes the weekend feel like more of a full-on vacation. I get family time AND a marathon in my favorite city on earth! My parents have always supported me when I've run Grandma's Marathon in our hometown of Duluth, MN. Last time I ran the NYC Marathon, it was a bit lonely and I missed having that support network. This time, the support network came to me! I am glad I will have someone to collapse on after the race! The best part is - they will be able to join me at the marathon eve, pre-race dinner sponsored by Autism Speaks for all the team members. As Jack and Henry's grandparents, I know they will enjoy being a part of the get-together as much as I will.

Theme Songs!
This is very important. As a former music major - and musicology PhD-pursuer, music is a huge part of everything I do. I create a soundtrack to everything I do in life. Particularly sporting events! I have tried with no luck to embed some video into this blog...but I will share links to what I have chosen and (1) the theme song for Wendy and I, together, as a team, as we get ready to put all of our hard work to the test and (2) the particular song that is pumping me up right now for reasons unknown...I've never had any shame about what charges me up musically.

Theme Song for me and Wendy: How Far We've Come by Matchbox 20.
I loves me the Rob Thomas and, well, the chorus of this song is just about perfect as anyone who has been following this blog since here would have to agree. (Great video)

Personal pump up song:  Numb/Encore by JayZ and Linkin Park
Jay Z --> always effective. (Video not the best)

Now, there's a whole playlist filled with songs...but I'll leave it at that.

Mile Dedications
Wendy gave me this idea. When she ran her first marathon she said, off the cuff: Want me to dedicate a mile to you? (She was dedicating one to each of her kids and who knows who else). I liked the idea. Particularly with the particular race plan we have which requires me to really be on the ball - and checking my pace - every single mile. (Race plan info coming soon!) I figure while I am trying to hit that target each mile, it would be nice to think of something other than the fact that I want to reach that particular goal at that particular time. There are so many people who inspire me to be better, to be more, particularly when it comes to me as an athlete. I have decide to select 27 of them (someone's got get me through that 0.2!) and write their name on the back of my pace band to coincide with each mile. I am hesitating as to whether or not to post, and annotate, this list. I definitely wouldn't want anyone to feel left out if I didn't put their name on there...but at the same time, it'd be fun to let those close to me know that I have appreciate their support through my training. We'll see. I am still working on assigning numbers to names in a way that has at least some minimal level of significance.

My NYMarathon App tells me there are 3 days, 19 hours, 17 minutes, and 22 seconds until the race. I'd better get off this computer and start packin'! I head to the big apple on Friday morning.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Week!

Well, here we are. Not a lot to say quite yet. I have a lot of reflections, but none that have yet to form into a cohesive thought. So this will be brief. This is where we stand:

End of Week 18 of 19-week training cycle

1-35 (long run: 12 miler - two weeks after Grandma's Marathon)
2-28 (long run: 14 miler)
3-45 (long run: 16 miler)
4-39 ((long run: 18 miler)
5-28 (12 miler - bailed due to heat)
6-45 (long run: 18 miler)
7-7 (no comment)
8-27 (long run: 15 miler)
9-41 (long run: 17 miler)
10-46 (long run: 18 miler)
11-41 (half marathon PR!)
12-50 (long run: 20 miler)
13-48 (long run: 16)
14-7 (bad hamstring trouble following terrible massage, did some XT)
15-39 (long run: 20) Still recovering, hamstrings not quite right, jogged Army-10 the day after the 20.
16-43 (long run: 22) Massive back pain early in the week - not sure the cause. Eased up by the end of the week.
Taper
17- 34 (long run: 13)
18- 21 (long run: 8)
19- Next week = Race Week!

So many things didn't go as planned - yet so much went well. I grew as a runner both mentally and physically in ways I honestly never imagined. I can't wait for the next cycle...but I am getting ahead of myself.

So, what are we attempting to do here. It seems a bit absurd when I actually write it. I am trying to cut 48 minutes off of my marathon time with 6 months of training. (Woah!) I cut 24 minutes off in June at Grandma's Marathon...we were shooting for a 21-minute PR back then and I exceed it by 3 minutes by executing a conservative race plan. So now, well, 24 more minutes to go! It's neat how the numbers worked out that way...

It's exceptionally ambitious, I might say, and there are moments when I am like: Sara! Take this step by step! That's SO MUCH TIME! As a former 100-meter-dash runner, I used to lay in bed at night dreaming of cutting hundredths of seconds off of my PR. So 48 minutes - or 24 minutes - either way you slice it, it's a big undertaking.

But I 100% believe I am capable. Now, marathons are crazy events and the stars really to have to align to have the perfect day. There is so much that can go wrong, much of it beyond your control. But that's no reason not to give it a go. So I'm goin' for it.

I get my race plan from Wendy tonight. As of right now I have no idea how I am executing this race. I know we are starting slow (something smart to do in any marathon - but particularly in NYC on the bridge) and are going to shoot to negative split. After my success with this sort of plan at Grandma's, I completely believe in this strategy. This one will just be a bit more nuanced as it's a much more complicated course.

Maybe I'll get Wendy to do a blog post about how she developed my plan and I'll link to it here... :) She doesn't have much to do since she just defended her dissertation and become a doctor (PhD!) last week. If you haven't already realized, Wendy = rock star.

OK, that's it for now. But I'll be back this week to discuss some other exciting thing about the race, including my running as a part of Team Up! With Autism Speaks, my excitement that my parents will be in NYC for the race, the theme songs and pump up songs I've chosen for the occasion, and my plan to dedicate the miles I run...

Stay Tuned!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lucky 13

When, last night, Wendy told me to run 13 miles today, I had to chuckle a little. Or maybe snort. 13? Really? Not 12 or 14? Nice coach. When I set out this morning, I had decided there was no way I was going to run that unlucky number of miles. I'll do 14, I decided. And just take it very easy at the end.

Well, with the comedy of errors - or bad luck - or whatever this run ended up being...in the end 13 seemed decidedly appropriate. And while I was completely miserable for a good portion of this run, a little part of me inside was smiling. I have often had one, terrible, horrendous, problem-filled run leading up to race day. My runs had been going so well as of late (particularly my great 22-miler last weekend) I knew I was due.

It was 48 degrees when I headed out: perfect for this Northern Minnesota girl. I decided not to carry water - it was only 13 miles, it's cool, and there are water fountains every 2-3 miles on this path. No need. But I still needed to carry a small running pack as the capri tights I was wearing had no place for my inhaler. That was fine, I thought. I'll start with running gloves and then have a place to put them when my hands get hot, as the inevitably do. But when I stepped outside, it felt really warm. No need for gloves, I thought. I threw my gloves back inside the door and headed out on my way.

I got to the first water fountain about a mile in, but was not at all thirsty yet and ran right by. I'll hit the next one. About this time, though, I realized my hands were starting to feel very stiff. Damn, I thought. Why didn't I bring those gloves? I am wearing this stupid belt! There was no reason NOT to carry them. Stupid. At least my running was feeling good and easy at this point and I was enjoying the fall scene. At about the three mile marker I hit the next water fountain...I was feeling a little thirsty so decided to stop. It was dead. Awesome. Great plan, SJ.

Onward. I plugged along - my hands getting increasingly cold. It was massively uncomfortable, but ah well...nothing I could do about it. Around about the 5 mile mark my hamstrings decided to rebel. They weren't so much in they type of pain that they have been when they have been aggravated throughout this cycle - though I did run 5 Marathon Pace miles yesterday and I am sure that tired them out. But they were in pain from numbness. Not directly from the cold, I surmised, but because this pain is referred from my sciatic nerve, and when my back gets tight, my hamstrings get tight and start to hurt. They were feeling increasingly numb but, again, not directly from the cold, but numbness that felt like the cutting off of blood. I decided that what was probably happening was that my back was tighter than usual because of the cold and that was having a negative effect on my hams. If that assessment makes any sense. Whatever was going on, it sucked. It was VERY uncomfortable. Again, not like I'd re-injured them, but just like they would NOT work and were completely lacking blood flow. Even though I felt great otherwise, and my HR was exceptionally low, it was very hard to run - my legs just did not want to turn over.

Around this time, 6 miles in, I also started to feel hungry. No, not hungry - STARVING. And I have no idea why. I barely even need to fuel on a normal training run of this length. Thankfully I had grabbed an already opened, half pack of Gu chomps before heading out. When I got to 6.5, my halfway point where there was thankfully a working water fountain, I hate the near-frozen chomps, got some water, and tried to stretch. As I started to head home, however, I realized my stretching attempt was less than successful. It was gonna be a long jog.

Shortly after the turn around, and even though it was getting warmer outside, my hands all of the sudden felt VERY cold. And not just cold, numb. I couldn't make fists and there were jolts of numbness vibrating down from my arm. It was an awful feeling. I have no idea why it was happening. My fingers shouldn't have been that cold. Lots of other runners were passing me with no gloves and they seemed fine, but I was exceptionally uncomfortable. I tried my best to pull the sleeves of my tight-fighting long-sleeve running top over my hands and plugged along. Again, it was so strangely uncomfortable I just kinda had to chuckle. 13 miles Wendy? Really?

When I had about 3 miles left, I started to have to go to the bathroom. Bad. And not the kind a girl can do easily in the bushes. Thankfully, I knew there was a port-o-pottie coming up. The port-o-potties on this running route are very well maintained and are almost always clean and, even if not super clean, well stocked. I got to the john, stepped inside and, of course, there was no paper. Awesome. I promptly left and decided to forge ahead to the next one, which was about 2 miles away and a mile from my house. But I got about 15 seconds away when I realized I had no choice. I turned around, sprinted back, and used the not-so-well-maintained pottie. Again, awesome.

I forged ahead. This running route ends with a 1/2 mile long, very steep, climb. I have been very proud of the way I have pounded up this hill at the end of run after run during this training cycle. When I got there today, with 12.30 miles showing on my watch, I decided to cut my losses - and give my poor, numb, non-functioning hamstrings a break. I walked. Not because I had to...I wasn't even physically tired. I just decided it was the right thing to do. :-)

Anyway, it was quite a run. When I finished (and after I called the deli next door and ordered an everything bagel with bacon, egg, and cheese - remember, I was STARVING), I texted Wendy the following:

Awful run...exactly what I needed. :) I believe in the karma of one horrendous run this close to race day.

She replied:

Awful how?

To which I responded:

I'll blog.

Exactly two weeks from today, at 10:10am, I will start my sixth marathon.

I am ready...and I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting Close: Taper

Yes, I've been bad about my blogging again. Urgh. I really do enjoy doing this for myself as much as anyone who might read it. It's a good exercise.

Anyway, my hamstrings are gradually improving, just like they did last time. Now that I am in taper, I am feeling confident that that will be decent come race day.

Here is where we stand:

End of Week 16 of 19-week training cycle (...starting week 17)

1-35 (long run: 12 miler - two weeks after Grandma's Marathon)
2-28 (long run: 14 miler)
3-45 (long run: 16 miler)
4-39 ((long run: 18 miler)
5-28 (12 miler - bailed due to heat)
6-45 (long run: 18 miler)
7-7 (no comment)
8-27 (long run: 15 miler)
9-41 (long run: 17 miler)
10-46 (long run: 18 miler)
11-41 (half marathon PR!)
12-50 (long run: 20 miler)
13-48 (long run: 16)
14-7 (bad hamstring trouble following terrible massage, did some XT)
15-39 (long run: 20) Still recovering, hamstrings not quite right, jogged Army-10 the day after the 20.
16-43 (long run: 22) Massive back pain early in the week - not sure the cause. Eased up by the end of the week.
Taper
17-37 is scheduled for this week, long run: 16
18-taper week 2, mileage will be drastically cut
19-Race Week!

Again, not ideal. And not what we planned. But it's what I've done and what I've got.

Anyway, I am feeling GREAT! My 22-miler Sunday was my longest training run ever and my hamstrings felt REALLY good. Of course my legs were tired at the end - but normal-I-worked-hard-tired, not something-is-wrong-with-me tired. I am pleased.

My goal? I don't know. I have absolutely no idea how to wrap my head around it at this point. I know I am capable of running sub-4. I am just not sure if it might be too little too late for everything to come together given all of my hiccups and problems. All I know is that I feel very strong. I haven't had a lot of the old problems I used to have running (asthma trouble, IBS, blood sugar issues, etc.). From where I stand, I am not sure if I have done enough - and I wish I hadn't needed all of the rest time - but I am going to give it a shot. My biggest mistake this cycle, I have determined, is the complete lack of strength/core work. I need it. Clearly. My big goal following this marathon (yes, I am getting ahead of myself) is to completely tackle that issue before I start training for the next one. I think I could see some major improvements if I added a significant amount of core training. And I think I need the strength work to get this hamstring working properly and not requiring so much rest time.

Getting excited about the trip and the race!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More Hamstring Hiccups

Well after two stellar weeks - a huge 1/2 marathon PR followed by my strongest 20-miler to date, my hamstrings started rebelling again. Same thing as before. Exactly the same. They just get so tight and achy. It's a nerve thing. It's from my sciatic and the pain refers down into and numbs my calf muscles. I decided to get a deep tissue massage, just like I did before. Unfortunately, the massage sucked. Not only did it suck, but it aggravated me far, far worse. As a result, I ran only about 7 miles this week - during what was supposed to be longest week of the cycle: 56 miles. I am frustrated, but not as angry or hopeless as I was in August. Because I know it will be short lived. And I know rest cures it. I am not injured, I just haven't figured out a way to keep my hamstrings going strong for more than a month or so.

Now, a lot of the blame (well, all of it I s'pose!) falls on me. I don't stretch nearly enough. Hardly at all. And really good, solid stretching is what cures this. And not just hamstring stretches but lower back stretches too. Stretching takes time, running takes time, and I just have so little time these days! But that's a bad excuse for allowing myself to get to this place again. I screwed up. I am learning my lesson. I hope.

So today, instead of running 22 miles, I went to spinning class. Well, this whole thing may have been a blessing in disguise. I had a blast and felt SO STRONG! I don't think I have ever taken a spinning class when I was this fit before. Spinning is HARD (for me) but I was able to keep pushing and pushing through this one in a way that was exhilarating. Now, yes, one uses one's hamstrings to cycle too. And I felt them. But eliminating the pounding of unassisted gravity helped things and I was able to get in a really solid, albeit anaerobic, workout. I also realize I miss having a more diverse workout routine. I am NOT one of the people who like fitness for fitness' sake. I am an athlete and I like training. But I do like mixing it up. Trying to get my runs in has taken up so much time that I have completely eliminated cycling, core/strength, or any other kind of training. And I think that has been a big mistake for me both mentally and physically. I am very fit overall, but I am not particularly strong right now. And I keep getting slightly burned out on running. Next cycle - even if it means less miles, I need to find time to get this other stuff in as well.

-----

I have been going through a lot of old pictures lately. (After getting my life out of storage - where it spent the last two years)...lots of fun pictures from my track and soccer days. I have had this whole hamstring problem since it first reared its ugly head in the middle of a 100-meter dash at the Lake Superior Conference Track meet in 10th grade. Right in the middle of the race it snapped - it literally felt like I had been shot - and next thing I knew I was on the ground. There were only a few weeks until the Section 7AA meet and in that time I only did pool workouts. We didn't know if I'd be able to run at Sections. In order to try, the athletic trainer rigged up a sort of wrap for me, using ace bandages and therabands, that went around my waist and around my quad, creating a sort of sling. It made it MUCH harder for me to pull my leg down to get it to turnover, but the sling allowed it to bounce right up (which is what I was unable to do because of the hamstring tear)...well, it was a bit of a miracle fix. I was able to run top speed and qualify for the state meet again. Anyway, here is a picture that was in the newspaper where you can see my crazy wrap:


My 4 x 1 relay team also qualified by winning the meet:


And thus ends my trip down memory lane to the beginning of my hamstring problems.

-----

I Hope to get back to a full week of running this week - and to get in a good long one next Sunday. That marathon is coming up FAST!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Breakthrough

On today's 20-miler I had a breakthrough moment. Well, maybe not a "moment" per se - maybe series of moments, but all at once psychological, physical, emotional and motivating. I changed as a runner.

Yes, that sounds dramatic. (I mean, if the shoe fits...) And yes, we've (we being us runners) all had good runs, even good 20-milers, before. But this run was different than that. It's true that many outside forces (the nice cool fall weather, the finally dry trails) helped eliminate sometimes challenging variables. Still - something about today's run was different. For whatever reason, I felt like I belonged out there more than ever before.

I could tell you about the pace I ran, the things I thought, the people I passed, and the new flavor of Gu chomps I...chomped. But instead, I'll just keep this post brief and leave it at that.

I had my most inspiring, encouraging, and refreshing run ever during a 20-miler - the first run of that length for this training cycle, falling at the end of my first 50-mile week of this cycle.

I am pleased. Sub-4 hours, here I come.

-----------------

Training Summary:

Week 12 of 19-week training cycle

1-35 (long run: 12 miler - two weeks after Grandma's Marathon)
2-28 (long run: 14 miler)
3-45 (long run: 16 miler)
4-39 ((long run: 18 miler)
5-28 (12 miler - bailed due to heat)
6-45 (long run: 18 miler)
7-7 (no comment)
8-27 (long run: 15 miler)
9-41 (long run: 17 miler)
10-46 (long run: 18 miler)
11-41 (half marathon PR!)
12-50 (long run: 20 miler)

Looking back at this, I see my coach seems to have an obsession with the 18-mile distance. Now, in her defense, a lot of this schedule has been shifted around/altered due to my hamstring struggles and logistical challenges from moving. We've really just played it by ear and adapted. The overall consistency, though, going back to my training pre-Grandma's, is definitely paying off.

My guess is that I have 4 weeks of solid training left, followed by a 3-week taper. I only get my training schedule from Wendy on a week to week basis, so I will have to just wait and see!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back On Track With Another PR

Today I ran the Parks Half Marathon for the third time. This is a great, point-to-point, local race on a great route made all the better by excellent organization. I know my pal Vivian Adkins, who has run every single one since the race's inception (this was the 6th year, which Vivian unfortunately had to miss as she is making a BQ attempt in a full marathon), would agree with me that this is just a great event.

As of a couple of weeks ago I had no idea what we would use this race for - or what to expect from it. My running was crummy, I wasn't enjoying it, my hamstrings were screaming and me, and I was just burnt out. But things started to take a turn about a week or so ago and I began thinking that maybe I could really use this one to test my fitness.

There are 8 weeks to go until NYC...so it was a great time for such a test.

The race starts in Rockville, Maryland and ends in downtown Bethesda, Maryland - very close to where I live. It's kinda hard to see, but here is the course map:


Because I don't have a car, and metro doesn't open early enough, I had to take a taxi to the start. That was fine because once I finished I had a quick bus ride home while everyone else was shlepping back to metro to ride back up to their cars in Rockville. It worked out well.

I had a bit of frustration this morning when I realized that my Garmin was completely dead. Oops. I quickly got it on the charging cradle and called the cab company and asked if they could give me an extra 15 minutes. They obliged. Thankfully the 30 minutes I had it plugged in was enough. Not that I was completely wedded to my splits or time for this race, but we did have a bit of a plan, and my biggest fear was going out too fast. The first 2 miles of this race start with some pretty long downhills and it's easy to get carried away (which I may have anyway).

Our goal (mine and Wendy's, of course) was to see if I could maintain 8:45 pace - giving myself a couple of miles in the beginning to ease into it so as not to completely piss off my already irritable hamstrings. Well, the slower start went completely out the window with those downhills. I had forgotten that the course started this way and once I was on them, I wanted to take advantage. I have very strong quads and I don't worry about shredding them on hills like some people do...so I pretty much just charged down them. They weren't steep, but they were long, and, well, it felt good. After those first couple miles we headed into the park, onto the narrow paved trails that we would be on for the rest of the race.

This race has lots of hills, both up and down, but other than a couple of doosies, most of them are short lived and even kinda fun. Here is the elevation profile:


We've had major rain and flooding here for the past week, so we knew the trails would be messy in some spots. And they were. We definitely had to dodge some major mud slicks and puddles...but overall the terrain was pretty good, all things considered. I basically just charged along, trying to stay around 8:45 pace...

At around 8 miles I ended up running with a woman and she and I would push each other for the rest of the race. It was wonderful. I think each of us went through mini bad patches but, without saying we were doing so or really talking much at all, we pulled each other along. It stayed this way until the end - where she was able to pull away from me and beat me by a second or two...darnit! But really, I am so grateful I had her, especially in the last 3 miles...where there was one huge hill and we both committed to charging up it together. She truly helped me stay strong and focused...so thanks Katherine, whoever you are!

The whole race I knew I was working harder than I ever have in a half marathon. But I just decided that I would much rather crash and burn than wonder what it might have been like had I just gone for it. This wasn't a goal race of any kind...so who cares? So I just kept at it.

In the end I of course wished I had pushed harder in certain spots - but really, I can't complain. I have been eating crap and not really taking great care of myself for the past few weeks since my move, so I am pretty proud of myself for just going after it and coming up with (what I think is) a huge PR.

My previous PR was 2:02:32. Today I ran 1:54:55.

Given this, and considering I wasn't tapered, my hamstrings are just starting to come around, I had a couple of bad and almost nonexistent weeks of training, and I haven't been particularly great with my nutrition...the thoughts of going sub-4 at NYC are back.

There's clearly more work to do - but it seems like I might actually be back on track. I feel particularly hopeful because my legs felt absolutely fine afterwards - better than they have after some shorter, slower training runs. For that, I am pleased.

My Garmin is not speaking to my computer, apparently, but here are my splits: (Mid-race I wished I had turned off autolap, like I did in the marathon...as those tangents can be disheartening!)

Official Chip Time and Pace
1:54:55 (8:46 pace)

Watch Time and Splits
1-8:48
2-8:28
3-8:42
4-8:39
5-8:43
6-8:40
7-8:37
8-8:38
9-8:43
10-8:43
11-8:43
12-8:54
13-9:00
0.25-(1:33/6:12 pace)
Total: 1:54:58 (8:41 pace - for 13.25 miles)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Negligent Blogger

Well, it's been almost a month since I last wrote. The last post mentioned the problems I was having (with my hamstring pain and lost motivation) and those problems continued up until a week or so ago.

I didn't run as much as I was supposed to and I didn't enjoy the running I was doing. I was in a rut.

There was a lot going on, too. I finished up my summer job, had tons of interviews for next summer, was in my cousin's wedding, moved from Minneapolis to Duluth and then back to my condo in Maryland, and even squeezed in a short camping trip. It was all good stuff. 100% great, really. I just hated running. Well, that's not entirely true. I still loved running in theory - I just didn't, and couldn't get myself to, enjoy doing it. It hurt and I was tired of hurting all the time. I was tired of hurting while sitting in interviews in heels and a suit. I was tired of hurting while ON the runs. I just reached a point where I'd had enough.

And I told Wendy that was the case. She pushed me to keep going, suggesting that my (sub-4) goal might not be possible if I didn't suck it up, but I didn't care. I didn't. And I finally told her: "No." Not doing it.

Anyway, I won't recount all of the awful runs I had that were responsible for this negative attitude - but I am writing today because I finally feel like I am back on track and enjoying it again. My hamstrings are still giving me some problems, but they are cooperating a bit more (and I am putting up with them a bit more).

So here is what we've done:

19-Week Training Plan, mileage completed to date:

1-35
2-28
3-45
4-39
5-28
6-45
7-7 (tipping point!)
8-27
9-41
10-46

I ran 46 miles this week and felt better than I have in weeks. I ran a great pace run yesterday, Saturday (10 miles total, 6 below theoretical race pace) and followed that up with a slow 18 today. It felt good to be working hard again, even if it was really hard work. I liked it. Whew.

Next weekend is the Parks Half Marathon. I love this race and have run it twice before. It will be a good test of my fitness and will help me and Wendy plan more realistically about what I should shoot for in New York. I've thought about my goal a lot, but every time I try to make a decision (I just want a PR! 4:15 would be great! etc.) I realize I honestly just don't know what I am capable of and right now we should leave it at that.

I have also thought a lot about the nature, title, and purpose of this blog and this adventure. I can't help but believe more and more that, as running goes, this body of mine is truly meant for sprinting. I am starting to believe the thesis I had before I started this thing and think that perhaps my long-held belief is right - I am a sprinter. That doesn't mean I can't run long; clearly I do. But I have (unfortunately?) regressed back to a place where I do think there are some real limits on what I can accomplish in races like the marathon. Have I pushed to that limit? No. Am I doing so now? No, not really. But perhaps the injury problems, and the pain, and the seeming inability to keep the mileage high for very long is, in many ways, the result of my anatomy. We'll see.

Fast-Twitch Follies? Perhaps.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pushing Through

End of Week 6 of 19.
13 Weeks until the NYC Marathon

Total Mileage
Week 1: 35
Week 2: 28
Week 3: 45
Week 4: 39
Week 5: 28
Week 6: 45

As is probably clear from the mileage totals above, things have not gone exactly as planned. Not at all. I haven't blogged for two weeks because week 5 was a bit of a bust - at least in my head. We made week 4 a step-back week for logistical reasons (life got busy) with the plan of getting back on track in week 5. Well, that didn't happen as I missed a run, suffered a minor injury, and burned out on my Sunday long run all that one week. It was a bit of a downer. Other than my tough, hot runs in Duluth over the 4th of July - this blog has been, for the most part, filled with positive vibes and strong runs. Things are getting harder.

I have bad hamstrings, that's just part of me...I have torn them both and they get tight very easily and it is often a task to get them loose and to keep my legs turning over as I'd like. I thought it was a problem I only experienced in sprinting (which I retired from in 1999 after my second torn hamstring in the middle of a race) but when I trained for my first marathon in 2007, I struggled with my hamstrings in the final two months leading up to the race. I saw a physical therapist who told me that it is not, as I had thought, scar tissue from the tears. Rather, it's referred pain from my sciatic nerve and something I just have to spend a lot of time caring for. (The problem I have caused the tears, the tears aren't causing my current problems.) The discomfort is always there, but usually nothing more than a slight niggle or annoyance.

Well, in week 5 I did two training days (a Tuesday and Thursday) in a row with speed, one fartlek, and one with a couple of miles at about tempo pace. On Friday, the day after the fartlek, I headed out at 5am for an easy run and not only could I not get any turnover in my left leg, but I had excruciating pain shooting up through my hamstring and into my butt. I spent about two minute shuffling along and thinking I'd try to tough it out but realized that wasn't smart. It wasn't just tired or sore...it was injured. I went home. Damn.

I iced it, took some ibuprofen and hoped for the best. I headed out on Saturday with the hopes that it would be okay if I just went easy on it...no go. Not as painful as Friday but still not right. On Sunday, I headed out for what was supposed to be an 18 miler. Thankfully, my hammy was finally back in business...unfortunately it was a zillion degrees and the heat completely got the better of me. I bailed after 12 miles.

This week, week 6, I got back on track and hit all my runs. Coach took away my mid-week speed work and, for now, we are only doing a marathon pace run on Saturdays. That's all I get in the speed department. Sad face. I had a couple of good runs early in the week and was grateful that the hamstring problem was short lived. But my runs on Thursday, Saturday, and today were just no fun. I completed them. I ran a 10 mile marathon pace run yesterday, with a 2 mile warm up and cool down (6 at pace), and I nailed my pace miles - but I was miserable doing it. Today I logged my 18-miler but I was miserable most of the time. I just couldn't snap myself out of feeling so, incredibly tired. Not my fitness level - that feels great. My legs are just not giving me anything I want. They are so, very tired. Such is the way it goes smack dab in the middle of a marathon training cycle.

I did spend a little bit of time during my long run today reflecting on things that haven't gone wrong as of late. This list is a bit remarkable and it was worthwhile to make myself conscious of how lucky/fortunate I have been on these fronts considering what I've dealt with in the past:
  • I have minor colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and there have been times in my life when I have had to run around the block because I had no way to predict when I would suddenly need a bathroom. 
  • I have severe asthma and allergies and there was a time when my allergist suggested I run with a mask so that I could make it without having an asthma attack from the pollen.
  • I am slightly hypoglycemic and usually run with glucose tablets because every now and then, and at times I can't predict, I suddenly feel intense dizziness from a drop in blood sugar.
I haven't carried glucose tablets in weeks, it hasn't even crossed my mind. I carry my inhaler on every run but have not had to use it once on the run (after taking it at home before starting a run) this entire training cycle. It hasn't even occurred to me, since I've been training in Minneapolis, to take a route that has bathrooms.

So, my legs may be a bit trashed and my running may not be particularly inspired...but I've got a lot that's going right.

Right now, I'll take it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week 4: Running Long and Strong

For a little recap on miles:
(19 week training schedule)

Week 1 (6/27-7/3): 35 miles (this was only one week after Grandma's on 6/18 - I think Wendy counts this as a recovery week, but I started my training log here).
Week 2 (7/4-7/10): 28 miles (cut one run due to work/holiday/logistics)
Week 3: (7/11-7/17): 45 miles
Week 4: (7/18-7/24): 39 miles (step back week moved up one week - from next week to this week...i.e. upping the miles next week).

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So here we are. I missed one run this week due to scheduling/logistics with work and family visiting. It's early - and Wendy decided to just make this week the step back week instead of next. So we're fine. The challenge this summer is simply finding the hours to do the runs. I have lots of work obligations (stressful stuff like happy hours and receptions) that I need to go do - I'm trying to land a job for next summer and then my real life after school. As such, we've had to be a bit creative with scheduling.

If you've been following this blog since the beginning, you know that Wendy only wants me running four days/week. But lots of miles on those days...and sometimes doubles. But that is sometimes not feasible with this job because I can't get out there before 5am (too dark, not doin' it) and there are so many things in the evening. So we have been doing 5 days some weeks (to meet the overall mileage target). While I sincerely do not want to leave Minneapolis and am not really excited about going back to D.C. for the fall, I am looking forward to getting to make my own schedule again. Ah, school. It's good for that.

I can't believe I have already reached a 45 mile week. The most miles I ever ran in a week before this training plan was a 50 mile week. Once. In 2008, I think. I am going to have a lot of miles on my legs come November.

The runs have been going well and I am feeling really strong. The toughest runs have been my Sunday long runs. The pace work and fartleks are the easiest. I love running fast. Even if it's technically harder, it's not harder for me mentally because I am more focused, paying attention to a number and I get to get my legs turning in a way I love. But my LSD runs (long slow distance) have been the hardest this cycle.

I ran 8 easy miles yesterday and 18 easy ones today. Both runs were blah. Not bad...not necessarily hard, just blah. My legs felt dead. Fitness-wise I feel fine. I can definitely hold a conversation and I am not breathing heavy. But my legs are tired. They feel heavy. Now, part of it may be my diet, which has not been great this summer. I was doing well with it before Grandma's...but again, all this work-pampering hasn't led to the best stuff in my stomach. I have gained a couple of pounds and can feel it. I also think mentally it's just harder for me to go slow. I do need to remember, though, that I am going much faster than I used to for these runs. In past training cycles, my LSD pace (for my goal race pace of 10 minute miles) was 11-11:30 minute miles, or 60-90 seconds slower than race pace. That's what I was always told to do. I am running all of these slow, easy miles between 10:15 and 10:30 pace (sometimes with a few fast finish miles at the end). Not because Wendy told me to. She hasn't given me any pace - just slow and easy. I just can't seem to run them slower, even when my legs are tired. It's like this is just my natural LSD pace - for the most part. It's as if my heart rate, mind, and overall fitness are there but my legs haven't quite caught up. They will get there. I am not worried. I just have to buckle down and do it and I don't enjoy these workouts as much as I want to.

Still, I can't believe I've already logged an 18 miler! Happy face. I followed it up today by watching the final stage of the Tour de France and then taking a 2.5 hour nap. Again, happy face. 

Sorry - no fun tidbits or stories here! Just plugging along. Thanks for reading! And thanks - to so many of you, for responding with your bits of encouragement and inspiration. I need them. I value them. You're part of why I get up at 5am consistently and I'm grateful!

Bring on more miles.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hamster Day

End of Week 3 of 19. 111 days until the NYC Marathon.

It is hot in the Twin Cities. Too hot. I have been doing a great job of adjusting to the heat and have really been proud of how I've fought through some tough temps to get my workouts in. But today it was just going to be too much. As of last night, the high was going to be 97 (before heat index). I first decided I just had to start today's 16-mile long slow run at 5:00am to beat the heat. Then I looked at the hourly. At 5am, it was already going to be 81. And it's just so darn steamy here. I talked to coach, and we both decided my best bet would be to hit the 'mill. Problem is, I don't have a gym here. Fortunately, the friend who I am living with this summer has a membership to a fabulous health club and she volunteered to take me this morning. Perfect.

But I am a bit ahead of myself. I haven't reported anything I have done in the past 13 days. That's mostly because I have been terribly busy with my summer job. It's also because I have just had a series of stellar workouts. Really, really solid training. Last weekend I upped my long run to 14. It went much better than the previous week's hot 12 and though I was definitely spent at the end (because of the heat) I felt good and was happy with my pace. I have also been happy with how great my legs feel. I am just getting stronger and stronger.

Wendy has started adding some speedwork which I LOVE. She has to prescribe things relatively specifically to reign me in because I love running fast. I am a sprinter at heart, after all. For the first couple of weeks it was just some steady pick-up miles in the middle of my run. Not looking at pace, just picking up to a steady, marathon-like pace. Those are fun, because I never really know what pace I am running. It's always interesting to look at the data.

Last Saturday, we added my first more specific speed workout. It's slightly silly to say it was specific, because it was a fartlek - my very first one EVER. For those who aren't familiar:


I had heard of fartleks for years...all the way back to high school where I teased the cross country/distance runners on the track team about their funny sounding workout. But I always shied away from them because the lack of structure - which is the entire point of the exercise - stressed me out. How far do you run fast? How do you know? Which mailbox or light post or tree do I choose? Was that far enough? Fast enough? Wendy anticipated that this lack of structure and direction would be difficult for me, so she made a suggestion that ended up working perfectly. She suggested I use my music and pick up the pace during the choruses of the songs and then run easy during the rest. Brilliant. She had basically taken the exact thing that makes me love spinning class and put it in a running workout. I was in heaven. I have spent my entire life studying music and nothing feels better to me than being able to USE music to guide me. Whether it's a soundtrack I make specifically for a bus trip or subway ride, choreography for a dance, or the background music on a wedding video, I love using music to say more. A quote I've always loved: "I like myself best when I am listening to my favorite music." So true. So...being able to use music to guide my workout was a blast. It was still random. The music was on shuffle and I never knew what was coming next. Some songs have REALLY long choruses, as it turns out. And some very short. I had SO MUCH FUN. I can't wait until the next one.

Yesterday, I ran my first Pace workout. Pace workouts are intended to get my body used to feeling the speed we are aiming for as my average marathon pace in November. I have hesitated to say what our goal is, because I don't want to jinx myself. There was something about leading into Grandma's without ever talking about how huge a drop in time we were shooting for (after only 3 weeks of true training and 2 weeks of taper) that made that experience exciting and magical. But we've got about 16 more weeks to go here. And I want to talk about my workouts, my progress, and the other races I will be doing as tests along the way. So heregoes:

I intend to break 4 hours in New York City. Yup. On a way harder course, packed with 45,000 people...I plan to drop another 24 minutes from my time. And, minus an injury or other problems along the way, I am fairly confident that I can...I will...do it.

So, during yesterday's workout, I ran 9 miles with 4 at Pace. I ran the pace miles around 8:50 and it felt great. It felt fun. It felt doable.

So back to today - hamster day. I ran 16 on the treadmill. Anyone who knows me, though, knows that I truly don't mind - and even like - doing long runs on the treadmill every now and then. And it's the hamster-ness that I like about it. Especially when I am training for a big race. I guess I just love the pure fitness of it. Sure, I like running outside in nature, over hill and dale, that's great. But I also kind of like just banging out some miles for the sole purpose of bettering my fitness. I recognize that it is not the same as running outside. But on a day like today, I am certain that I was able to complete a much better workout indoors. I ran 10:21 pace at 1.0% incline for 16 miles. Easy, fun, and even kinda relaxing to be in a hoity toity health club.

I am loving training right now. I am getting up at 5:00am 2-3 days during the workweek and loving it.

And, of course, I still love and absolutely adore my coach. Wendy's instruction, guidance, and encouragement has been good for me on more levels than I can articulate. She's changing me in ways far beyond my running. She just rocks.

Monday, July 4, 2011

12 going on 25

Today was the first "long" run of my NYC Marathon training cycle. It was originally planned for yesterday (Sunday, my long run day) but with the holiday and family stuff it was going to be hard to squeeze it in with all of the eating, etc. So I asked Wendy if we could move it to today. She said that was fine.

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I had 7 easy miles on the schedule for Saturday when we drove from Minneapolis to Duluth. Because it had been so hot in Minneapolis all week, I saved this one for the afternoon so I could do it up north. Well, that was a mistake. It was just as hot in Duluth as in Twin Cities and I had to really gut out those 7 miles.

My runs for the past week have been relatively un-reportable. We are still working on recovery while at the same time starting to add on some easy mileage. My legs have been a bit tired, though not terribly so. I have more been using this time to adjust to (1) early morning, 5am runs before work and (2) the heat. I am NOT a hot weather runner - or person. I hate it. I would much rather be cold and bundled up than stripped down to the last possible piece and still overheated. A Duluth girl through and through I guess.

The good thing about the 7 on Saturday was that my legs felt fine. Back to normal. No residual soreness. But I felt tired and spent the entire way. My breathing was labored and I just wanted to get it done. I had tons of family (and food, and wine, and a grill, and a fire pit) back at my house and I just wanted to get there. I truly thought it was the heat that was killing me. Then I looked at my watch. I am still only looking at distance and just running by feel. I check the data after I am finished. I had averaged 9:29s on this run with my fastest one being 9:03. Well no wonder it felt labored. In my runs all week I have been averaging about 10 minute miles. Just fine for where I am in recovery, etc. I keep realizing over and over that I have absolutely no sense of pace. I felt like I was going fast, but I thought it was just because I was laboring from the heat. Alas.

Today I had to run 12. Just 12. That was my "long" run. It. Was. Miserable. So hard. I swear it felt worse than my last 20...so I will say it felt like 25. I got out at 8:30 but it was already hot. I pretty much knew it was going to be an annoying grind starting about .90 miles in when a bug got itself lodged in the bottom of my eye. I will spare the grity details of how I gutted this one out...but I really didn't enjoy it. After 6 miles, I stopped and bought a gatorade which was a really smart decision. It helped a LOT. I was back at my car at this point and the old me most definitely would have gotten inside, called it a day, chalked it up to the heat, and driven home. But there is no way I can get away with that when my poor coach's organs keep conspiring to keep her down and yet she still gets out and runs! At 8.75 I stopped again and used the loo. Also a wise pit stop. On this entire run, I really had to just decide that I was stuck doing this for the next however many minutes and that was that. And it was.

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Song that got me pumped up the most on my run today? Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me." Go ahead. Judge away. I learned it in spinning class and it's a winner for me while exercising.

Most irritating thing on this run? Super stingy sweat running in my eyes. Why do I feel like this hasn't happened to me before? I mean, I trained through the summer in Washington DC! Perhaps I did not have my visor pulled tight enough. Not sure, but it stung like crazy and I was so covered with salt I was helpless to fix the problem.

Favorite part of this run? The end. But not because it was over. But because I saw my splits and was proud. Well, at first I wasn't. They kinda bummed me out. I want so badly to get faster. I averaged 10:28s which just seemed slow - despite how hard I was working. Then I remembered (1) this was my first hot long run of the season, (2) I am still only 2 weeks post marathon, and (3) a run like this during my past training cycles, for either one of the first two reasons, or neither, would have most definitely averaged b/w 11-12 minute miles - likely closer to 12 in this heat. I am getting faster. I just need to be patient and keep plugging away and leaving my excuses to the old me.

It's amazing how fast our accomplishments become the thing we want more than anything to exceed.