Monday, June 17, 2013

Week 7: More Miles and Old Friends

Week 7 of 30 was another solid week of training. It's hard to believe I am almost 1/3 of the way through this cycle. 30 weeks sounded like so much time when I first made the impulsive decision to sign up for a 50-miler. But the time is flying by!

This week I did what I would consider to be my first real back to back weekend "long" runs. Most ultra runners agree that back to backs are the key to being well-prepared for an ultra distance race. Basically, you run long runs on both Saturday and Sunday so that on Sunday you are running on tired legs. This prepares the legs to keep going when they are tired - as they obviously will be in a 50-mile race. This weekend's runs were still pretty short: a 12 on Saturday followed by 8 on Sunday. Still, I felt the results of the back to backs on Sunday - the 8 felt harder than it seemed like it should have! But I plugged through and felt good completing a solid, 40-mile week.

My 12-miler on Saturday, in addition to being my longest run of this 30-week training cycle, was also my most challenging. I was in Madison, WI visiting my friend Kara as she preps for the USA National Track Championships in Iowa this coming weekend. I've been in Janesville, WI, just 35 or so miles away from Madison. So I drove up and spent the weekend catching up with a great old friend. 'Twas loads of fun. On Friday, I arrived early enough to watch her team do a workout on the track. I LOVE tracks so I enjoyed just being there. Then, on Saturday, I left the hotel before Kara so I could get started on my slow-paced 12-miler before she headed out for her workout. Despite my earlier start time I had the pleasure, during this workout, of having Kara and her teammate Shalane catch up to me - and blow by me - just 4 miles into my run. Always a good confidence builder. ;)

Anyway, about half of my 12-miler was on trails and hills, so it was much more challenging than the relatively flat bike path I have been running on so far this cycle. This is exactly the kind of workout I needed, so it was great for me physically and mentally. But it made my 8 on Sunday feel tougher than I think it otherwise would have. Whatever the case, I got in the miles.

It was fun to be in Madison - such a great town. It's been a long time since Kara and I have been able to spend that much time catching up! We realized we first became friends in 1992 (in Jr. High) and felt very old. (Watching her very young teammates practice also makes one feel somewhat ancient...oy.) Saturday afternoon, I accompanied Kara and Shalane to their second workout of the day. One run was enough for me so I just watched. And took pictures. Snagged this gem:

Nothing like hanging with some pros to make you come home and hit the core work!

This week I will have somewhat reduced mileage since I will be running the half marathon on Saturday. Not too reduced, though. As I told Wendy (and I have to remember) this half marathon is not the (or even a) goal. I really just hope we get some decent weather and that I can enjoy the experience.

Training Mileage Sumamary
Week 1: 30
Week 2: 31
Week 3: 36
Week 4: 36
Week 5: 27
Week 6: 32
Week 7: 40

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Week 6 / Half Marathons / Missing My Dad

On Sunday I completed Week 6 of 30 of my JFK 50-miler training. I was travelling and in school for a big chunk of time again, so my mileage didn't move up much. I ran 32 miles. Everything is still feeling great - for which I am truly grateful! I have been working hard on strengthening and stretching my problem areas and it seems to be paying off. Core work works! Excited to start upping my mileage this week.

The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (or as I call it, the Grandma's Half) is coming up in just 11 days. Crazy! I've decided that I am not racing it all out - I am just not in shape to do that. I'll push the pace a bit to give myself a good workout, but I am not "racing." There's no way I can come close to my PR...and I have been so healthy that I do not want to risk injury during this base-building period when things have been going so well. Mostly I want to just enjoy running by that beautiful lake on that awesome course. It will be hard, though. I am really, really going to miss my dad.

This past March 16th, I ran the Rock 'n' Roll USA Half Marathon in DC. The start was less than a mile from my home, so I figured, why not? I was really looking at it as a way to kick my butt back in gear. I had not been running much at all, so I was not expecting anything in the way of a good time. I just wanted to get out there, get inspired, and start training regularly again. At this point had no idea what I might even be training for. I just knew I missed running and was having trouble getting back into it.

The race was fun. OK, it wasn't all fun. I had horrible abdominal cramping the whole time, had to stop twice, and my hips were screaming at me from about mile 5 on. But I finished the race satisfied. I ran what I thought was a fine time, about 10 or 11 minutes slower than my PR. Given my fitness level and issues, that was just fine. Most importantly I left the race course excited about running. I went home, showered, got some work done and took a nice nap. Nothing better than a post-race afternoon nap!

Then at 6:30pm the phone rang. It was my brother. My dad had had a heart attack. We didn't know anything except that it happened at his home and the paramedics were not able to revive him. He recovered, but what followed was both the most hopeful and heartbreaking 10 days of my life. In the end, my dad just couldn't hang on. He passed away on March 27th.

My dad loved Grandma's Marathon weekend. He especially loved when I ran the race (half or full). He was so incredibly proud of my athletic pursuits and never missed an opportunity to tell me so. I love Grandma's Marathon weekend not only for the race, but because of the family gatherings that follow. It's hard to comprehend that I won't see him that evening after the race; that we won't share a beer and some ribs or burgers until I simply cannot keep my eyes open anymore.

On March 16th I ran my 16th half marathon. I told my dad about it in the hospital. It was the last time I got to impress him with my athletic achievements. In 11 days, I'll run my 17th half marathon at my favorite event. I'll enjoy it, but it will be bittersweet. I connect running Grandma's with family time and fun. I still intend to experience both of those this year...but there will be a huge piece missing from the weekend...and an even bigger hole in my heart.

This year will be my first half marathon at Grandma's since 2004! I ran my first ever half marathon at Grandma's in 2003. Since 2004, I have run the full marathon in Duluth in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011. It will be nice to go back to starting the race a bit closer to the bridge!

Today, Wendy had me do some speed work. Speed work always reminds me of my high school track days: I love it. During my cool down, I thought about all of the memories and sadness I referenced above. And, well, I thought I'd share them here.

Me and my dad after I set a PR at Grandma's Marathon 2011. Party time!

Training Mileage Summary
Week 1: 30
Week 2: 31
Week 3: 36
Week 4: 36
Week 5: 27
Week 6: 32

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Weeks 4 & 5: Quick Update, Quick Catch-Up

I am trying not to go too long between posts. But I don't have much to report. Training is going well - really well, actually. For me "really well" means I am having no injury problems (barely a niggle!) and I am still really, really enjoying my runs. Those things are far more important than hitting any sort of time or distance benchmarks. I completed week 5 of 30 on Sunday, June 2.

We are starting to work in things other than just slow, base-building running - and I really enjoy mixing it up with different types of workouts. Last week it was hills. I actually LOVE hill work. My body is naturally suited to stuff that requires power and strength and I love the challenge. This week I am starting to work in a little bit of speed work so it's not a total shock to my system (like it was in the 10K) when I run a half marathon in a few weeks. I'll be running the world's best half marathon at Grandma's in my hometown of Duluth, MN on June 22. I still haven't decided if I will be racing it (i.e., pushing hard to try to hit a decent time) or just running it (i.e., just getting in a good workout as part of my training). Either way, I'll be running it faster than I have been doing my training runs and I don't want to completely piss off my hamstrings and hips.

This past weekend and this upcoming weekend I am in DC taking a summer class. It is a condensed class with VERY long days over the we've had to be creative with my miles and scheduling. As such, we are pretty much in a holding pattern as far as my overall weekly mileage goes. I think that's a good thing, though. It's giving me the chance to start slow and really get my body used to running 6 days/week again. That said, I am looking forward to getting through this class, getting past the half marathon, and really starting to increase my mileage. So far in this training cycle my longest run is 10 miles (which I've done twice, and quite comfortably). I'll max out at 10 again this week.

I do need to give a public shout-out to my ever amazing coach and friend, Wendy. I am certain I am getting far more detailed attention and care - with regard to my training plan, scheduling, adjustments, overall fitness and health goals, etc. - than I would get if I was paying some coach online or at a gym to help me. I am extremely lucky and very grateful. Thanks, m'dear! Let's keep rockin'!

Training Mileage Summary
Week 1: 30 miles
Week 2: 31 miles
Week 3: 36 miles
Week 4: 36 miles
Week 5: 27 miles