Tuesday, July 28, 2015

50K Training - Let's Get Started

Last December, I ran my first 50k at the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic. It was a small, well-organized race.... all road, five 10k laps. I trained consistently and had a solid race, finishing in just under 5:35. During my training, I ran marathon distance twice: once in an actual marathon (Pensacola, which was brutal) and then from my house to my parents' house on Thanksgiving. That was pretty epic, and the turkey has never tasted so good! I used the UltraLadies 50k training plan, which alternated high and low-mileage weeks, and it was one of the most enjoyable training seasons I have ever had.

So now that the heat is driving up into the 90's, that means it is time to start training for fall/winter races again! Since I enjoyed last year's training so much, I decided to follow the same plan for the same goal race. However, this year I would like to improve my race time, and I am making three major changes to my training:

1.  Speed Training... Despite my best intentions, I didn't do much speed training last year. Almost ever run was at an easy pace. This year, I plan to incorporate some tempo pace, speed intervals, or hills into my mid-week semi-long run. Nothing crazy hard, but enough to remind my body what it feels like to push past my comfort zone.

2.  Strength Training... Again, nothing crazy. This spring, I started following some of the BeachBody workout DVDs, and as a result, I slimmed down and gained some muscle. I'm mainly going to focus on PiYo during my training cycle. It is a low impact program, with a focus on flexibility and core strength. Three or four PiYo workouts per week would be a great balance to the running.

3. Nutrition... Something else I learned from the BeachBody programs was the importance of good fuel. I've always KNOWN that food is fuel, but it took the discipline of following an actual nutrition plan for me to see where I needed to improve. For me, it has been eating more veggies and making more quality choices when it comes to carbs.

All of these changes, but particularly the strength training, will take more discipline than I've had to summon in a long time. Accountability has always been a good motivator for me, so I have decided to blog about my training -- each week's planned workouts, actual workouts, and nutrition summary.

I ran my first official training run this morning, and it went well. I still need to get in a strength training workout tonight. Double workout days will take some getting used to.

If you're still reading, thanks for joining me!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Autumn / Winter Dreaming

I find that I have been overusing the word "sweltering" in my running log this summer, but it's an accurate description of the past few months. Last summer was hot, but I was running in the rain at least two or three mornings each week, and I came to love those stormy runs. This summer, I can't recall running in the rain at all -- just suffocating humidity every single morning. I believe it was 94% today. Suffice it to say, I am dreaming of fall weather. When I am sloshing down the street looking as if I just went swimming in my running clothes and shoes, I am fantasizing about crisp cool air and effortless miles.

My consolation for most of the summer was that, hey, at least I wasn't training for a marathon. I still ran double-digits on the weekends, but I wasn't following a training plan and I certainly wasn't doing any speed training. I had the best intentions, but it's hard for me to run without a goal for that long. I started toying with the idea of a fall or winter 50k earlier in the summer, which was one of the reasons I kept up with my weekend long runs. About a month ago, I decided that the Tallahassee Distance Classic in December would be a good first ultra for me. I pulled up a 50k training plan, and started following it loosely on July 28. With kids' end-of-summer activities, I've had to make some modifications, but now that school is in session, it looks like I should be able to stick with it. 

I am using the UltraLadies 50K program. The best thing about this program is that every other week is a recovery week. Not only will my body be able to recover from the many 20+ milers, but so will my brain! Two weeks in between long runs, and I will have forgotten how hard the last one was.

As it turns out, the training plan has me scheduled for a 26-mile long run over Veterans Day weekend. Coincidentally, the Pensacola Marathon is the same weekend, and I have a friend who is making that race her first half-marathon. I ran the full in Pensacola in 2012. It's a tough course, but it's affordable and it's close to home. I decided to sign up for the 26.2, and I hope I can treat it as a training run instead of a race. So after the many times I swore I wasn't running a marathon this fall, I am completely eating my words.

I'd really love to race some shorter distances this fall, but it's hard to work those into a marathon / ultra marathon training schedule. Hopefully, with the week-on/week-off structure of my training plan, I will be able to run a few shorter races. 

Planning for chillier races has made these hot soggy mornings a little more bearable. I just hope all this humidity training pays off and makes me stronger.

This was only 2.5 miles into an 8-miler. Already drenched.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I think I just outran the law.

My blog is titled "Running from the Law" in large part because I've spent most of my adult life struggling with the fact that my chosen career as an attorney turned out to be the wrong career for me. I've worked in a large city at a large firm, and I've worked in smallish town in a solo practice. I've tried litigation and I've tried transactional real estate work. I didn't like any of it. Well-meaning friends and family members were adamant that I could find a path within the legal community that would bring me satisfaction and happiness, if I just kept looking. I've had near-strangers ask me why I don't like to practice law -- after all, don't lawyers make a whole lot of money and why wouldn't I like that? Note: not all lawyers make a lot of money, but that is beside the point.

I have chosen happiness. For me, that means NOT practicing law. This month, I started a new job in which my law license is not required. Can I just tell you how liberating it felt to deactivate my license? My new job is not as prestigious as some of my former jobs, but it has been a lot of fun so far. FUN. For real. That's me talking about my job.

The realization that I can go forward and really enjoy my life has carried over to my running. I pushed back an October race in favor of a December race, so I could spend a little more time taking it easy this summer. I haven't followed a training plan in months, and I haven't seen a track in six months. I'm still out running four or five mornings a week, but only because I want to be there. I know that at some point, I'll feel like training for something epic and fast, but I also know that it is completely fine that I don't want to do that right now.

In the meantime, I am just going to soak up some Florida sunshine and enjoy my new, more relaxing life. I just outran the law after all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Case for Training Logs

I recently read an article about why runners might NOT want to keep a log. The issue had to do with runners pushing ourselves to meet certain mileage or speed goals when out bodies were telling us to back off. I'll admit I am completely guilty of running an extra mile or three to hit a nice round number at the end of the week or month.

But here is my argument in favor of training logs: they remind us how far we've come and what we have actually achieved. The month of March is a fine example for me. I've been logging my miles at dailymile.com for a couple of years, but this year I also started keeping a paper calendar for each month, just writing down the distance and pace of each run, a monthly goal, and a monthly recap. I update the paper calendar a few times per month.

I ran a half marathon on March 29. It was a blast of a race, which was my #1 goal. However, I also made some stupid fueling and pacing errors that left me feeling pretty beat up and disappointed in myself. When I have been thinking back on the month of March, that race has been the first thing to come to mind, and I have been feeling like March was a month of lost fitness.

However, I pulled out my March calendar today and entered about half a month of running. Total mileage was 105 -- that's more than I ran in February. My goals had been a 5k PR and a half-marathon PR. I may not have run a half-marathon PR, but I ran two strong 5ks, including a 23:57 PR in which I was also the 2nd place overall female and 1st place masters female. I ran a beautiful 5-miler on the beach while my kids were on Spring Break. I ran another beautiful 5-miler the day after my half-marathon, which was my 41st birthday. I finished the month at our Monday night run group, accompanying two fun-loving little girls for two miles. March was actually pretty awesome for running.

April goals -- now this is going to be fun! No mileage goals. No pace goals. My goals are to run at least one trail run, run at least three double-digit runs, and strength-train at least four times. Totally do-able.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What next? Running without a goal

I officially started marathon training in July last year, ran the Chickamauga Marathon in November, caught my breath for about a minute, then trained for and ran the Tallahassee Marathon in early February. Before the official marathon training started, I spent months training to get myself ready for my marathon training, and before that, I was training my way out of an injury. Before the injury, I trained for and ran two fall marathons in 2012. In other words, it's been a long time since I was not working toward a marathon.

Tallahassee went well. I did not reach my time goal, but I did accomplish one of my other goals, which was to cross the finish line feeling like I had run the best race I could on that day. I still don't feel like I have conquered the marathon. It's a totally different beast from the other distances I have raced, and even after five finish lines I still have a lot to learn. For now, though, I'm satisfied to give it a rest for a while. 

So now what? I don't want to run a marathon this fall. Correction: I don't want to train for a marathon this summer. It's one thing to run twenty miles when it is 50 degrees out, but quite another to do it when it's 85 degrees with 90% humidity, and that's what summer in Florida is all about.

In the next month, I'll run two 5ks and a half-marathon. The half will be the last opportunity for a long race around here until fall. I'm not going to stress over that one. It's the day before my birthday, and it looks like a party race. No time goals. No expectations. It's going to be fun.

But that leaves me feeling a little lost. Without a goal race, how do I structure my training? I don't want to get complacent and lose the gains I've made in the past year. On the other hand, my body is telling me loud and clear that I can't maintain the mileage and intensity of this last marathon training round.

So with no big goal race, here are a few mini-goals I might think about:

1.  5k PR: With all the focus on the marathon and dedicating most Saturday or Sunday mornings to the long training runs, I've missed out on shorter distance racing. It's been a year & a half since I ran my fastest 5k, and I know I'm faster now. I've got a 5k this coming Saturday, another two weeks from now, and most likely a few others before summer hits.

2. Trail running: Get a few friends together to run the trails. Something I've been missing.

3. Think about an epic relay for the fall. I've been approached about a couple of them.

4. Maintain the mileage. Maybe not 20 miles, but I could aim to run at least two long runs over 14 miles each month. It would make the next marathon or half-marathon training cycle that much easier.

5. More naked running. Not nude-naked, but free from technology. No watch, no music.

Food for thought.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 in review, 2014 aspirations

2013 was a pretty darn good year for running. I kicked off the year recovering from an IT band injury and ended it with a strong New Years Eve track workout that made me realize just how far I've come this year.

It was a year of firsts: my first race as a Master (40+) runner (where I finished as the first female master), my first 8k, my first 1st-place overall female finish.

Total mileage was 1,240, by far the most miles I've ever run in a year.

I didn't race much, as I was mainly focused on rebuilding base mileage and training for the Chickamauga Marathon, but the races I ran were all great experiences. The marathon was superb: a beautiful course, a fun family trip, and a new personal record.

The last race of the year was the Round the Bay Relay. Last year when I ran this race, I had to take the shortest leg and I had to walk parts of it because of my injury. This year, I picked the last leg, which included three bridges and some traffic-dodging, and I felt wonderfully alive and strong. Running with five mother runner friends made it even more fun.

I'm looking forward to 2014. My goals are not time-related, although I am due for some new personal records in every distance. My most challenging running goal is to stop obsessing about the numbers. I love running, and that should be enough. I have been beating myself up every time that I don't meet my goal race time, and that just ruins the fun.

My next goal is to share running with others and make it meaningful. I was recently matched with a virtual running buddy at "I Run 4". Ciaran is six years old and he lives with cerebral palsy, along with several other challenges. I am already quite smitten with him. We cheer each on, and I hope to earn him several medals this year.

Race-wise, I am planning on the Tallahassee Marathon in February and the Pensacola Run Rock n Fly half marathon in March. After those races, I'm looking forward to just running for fun through the summer and growing our fledgling running club Run 30A. I've got some friends whispering about the Chicago Marathon this fall, so that's on the radar too.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon: Race Review!

There is a good reason that this race has been ranked among the top marathons in the country. It's a small race in a fairly small town, but it was one of the most organized races I've ever run. The volunteers and runners were welcoming and friendly. And the scenery ... oh the scenery!

My husband, children, and I made a family vacation out of this marathon. We rented a spacious cabin in the Lookout Mountain area for about the same price we would expect to pay for a mid-range hotel. We arrived Thursday afternoon and within 30 minutes, my husband was asking if we could come back next year. The view from our balcony was breathtaking, there were plenty of books and board games to entertain us, and the owners had even stocked the refrigerator and pantry with breakfast food for us.

On Friday, we drove to the battlefield, toured the visitor center, and drove the course. I highly recommend that anyone running this race for the first time should familiarize themselves with the course -- both its physical layout and its history. I had been concerned about the hills. I come from Florida, and although I have some decent hills on my regular running route, I was afraid that I might be in over my head here. Driving the course gave me the mental preparation I needed. Learning the history of the Civil War battle that took place here 150 years ago was also great prep work. It made the race that much more interesting, and the educational aspect earned my daughter "excused" absences from school.

Here's something you don't see every day: three native Floridians!

The expo was held in a church gym. It was small and well-organized. First we visited the Junior Marathon table to pick up my daughter's race packet. In addition to her cool tie-dyed t-shirt, she got a mini 26.2 sticker, just the perfect size for her bicycle. (Quick side note: for the junior marathon, the kids had to log 25.2 miles of running before the race, then raced the final mile on the course to earn 26.2 total.) After picking up my daughter's goodies, we went to the marathon table, where I was quickly given my race packet, a ladies long-sleeved tech shirt, and my choice of a hat or gloves with the race logo! Given that I was only able to find one glove in my running drawer while I was packing, I chose the gloves. I thought that extra bit of swag was a nice touch!

Back at the cabin, I cooked a pasta dinner and went to bed nice and early. On Saturday morning, I woke up and got ready, then woke everyone else up. My 4-year-old son was angry about something or another, and we didn't get to leave as early as I had planned. It was a 45 minute drive to the race site, and I had read that traffic could be congested on race day. It certainly was, but we got there with plenty of time. Honestly, as chilly as it was, I'm not sure I would have wanted to arrive any earlier than we did. The field near the starting line was covered in frost. We huddled around a small fire pit with some other runners until they called the runners to the starting line.

I have never gone into a race feeling so prepared. The training had been hard, and I knew that I was as strong as I have ever been. There were no little aches or pains to worry about. I felt like I had a sub-4:00 marathon in me, but I had decided to shoot for a more conservative goal of somewhere around 4:05 to account for the hills. For the first time, I walked to the starting line without feeling nervous at all.

The race started with a blast. Not kidding. A cannon blast. How cool is that! The course starts with a short loop around a field, so I was able to toss my hoodie to my husband at about 3/4 of a mile in.  Then we headed down a somewhat narrow service road to get to the loop that I'd be running twice as part of the full marathon. The first two miles had a lot of downhills, which meant that I really had to focus on keeping my pace in check. My pacing strategy was to run the first mile 10-15 seconds slower than goal pace, and the second mile about 10 seconds slower.

This photo is from the race site and really captures the beauty of the course:

I think I finally started to feel my frozen toes around mile 4. That's about the time that the course got nice and "wavy". There were uphills, but they weren't hard, and they were always followed by a nice downhill. We were running on a paved road through the woods, and there were frequent monuments and markers honoring the various battalions that had fought in the Battle of Chickamauga. Then I encountered That Hill #1 somewhere around mile 7. It was a little bigger and a little steeper than anything that had come before. I eased up a little on my pace going up, knowing it was too early to expend any unnecessary energy. I was looking forward to coming out of the woods to the spectator area at mile 8, and I was really hoping that my family would have chosen that spot to spectate. Not only did I want to see my childrens' signs and beautiful faces, I also wanted to hand off my gloves to my husband, as I had discovered that the gloves made it really hard to access my fuel. Unfortunately, they weren't there, so on we go.

The full marathon course took two little out-and-backs away from the half course between miles 9 and 11. After running with the half-marathoners, those out-and-backs felt a little lonely. One of them crossed outside of the national park onto a residential street and ran uphill alongside some railroad tracks. This was my least favorite part of the course, and all I could think about was how much it was going to suck the second time around. We came out of this detour right into That Hill #2, which was about as steep as they get. It wasn't that tall, but it was like climbing stairs. Once we got up that hill, though, the next couple of miles were easy and scenic.

Shortly after the 12-mile marker, we came to another spectator area, and my crew ROCKED it. They had signs and they cheered so enthusiastically. What a boost! I kept trying to get around the outside of the woman in front of me, but she was high-fiving all the spectators, so I settled in behind her so I could high-five my little ones and finally had off the gloves. My husband was thoughtful enough to offer me a Gatorade, but I didn't feel like I needed it.

Then the half-marathoners split off toward their finish line, and the crowd thinned out. I hit the halfway point at 2:02:17 feeling great! Now it was time to push the pace down into the 9:00-9:10 range for the next six miles. I returned to the wavy hill portion of the course, passing other runners but not getting passed. I felt myself struggling and slowing a little bit on the uphills starting at mile 16, but I made it up on the downs. Then I reached That Hill #1 again, right around mile 18. I just didn't have the energy to run up that hill, knowing I still had another 8.2 miles ahead of me. I'd seen other runners struggling with the hills, walking the uphill portions, and I gave in. I ran/walked That Hill, and hated myself the whole way. My pace for that mile was 10:30, slower than any miles I'd had during training.

After that, I had a hard time on all of the uphills, and I took frequent walk breaks. I had definitely hit the wall. When I felt like I was running hard, I'd look down to see that I was only running at a 9:40 pace. Finally, at mile 23 (during that second out-and-back portion I disliked), I covered my watch with my sleeve and decided that this was no longer a time-goal race, this was a lovely jog in the park. Mentally that helped a lot. The runners were spread pretty far apart at this point, but the ones ahead of me looked like they were struggling more than I was. I targeted the closest runner ahead of me, and gradually picked him off, then moved on to the next runner. I was back in control, even though I wasn't running my goal pace.

As we finally made the turn off the loop portion of the course, I heard something I hadn't heard in miles: runners quickly approaching from behind me. I had long since given up the 4:05 goal, figured 4:10 might not be possible, but thought I could come in just over 4:10. When I glanced behind me, I was mortified to see the two 4:15 pacers about to pass me. I asked one of them (a really kind older gentleman) if they were actually on target for 4:15 or if they were running a little faster. He admitted that they were a little ahead of schedule, but since they didn't have any runners pacing off them anymore, he'd try and get me to the finish line as close to 4:10 as possible. That meant picking up the pace through the service road. When that road ultimately took a strong uphill slant, I let them go on without me and walked most of that hill.

The next little portion of the course went through some quiet streets past businesses. As I was running through a parking lot, a volunteer yelled out "You're almost done! Listen, you can hear the announcer at the finish line from here!" Sure enough, I pulled out my ear buds, and I could hear. Sweet sweet sound! I entered the loop where we had started and heard the announcer talking about the Junior Marathon. No no no! They could not start my daughter's race without me! I hauled butt up the hill at mile 26, and loved every second of downhill for the last 0.2, sprinting to the finish line at 4:14:37 (nearly a 7-minute PR, not bad).

I hurriedly found my daughter in a bounce house, pinned on her race bib, and rushed her over to the starting line just in time. I have no idea how fast she ran her mile, but she finished powerfully, sprinting with beautiful long strides down that hill, passing a bunch of older boys in the last stretch (her favorite part, of course).

Proudly wearing our medals, my daughter and I marched into the "runners only" tent for some goodies. I had some yummy warm soup, a little banana pudding, some orange slices, and half a piece of pizza. It had become overcast since I finished, and the temperatures were dropping. We gathered our crew (which had doubled, thanks to some friends who drove over from Nashville for the day), stopped by the grocery store for cookout supplies, and drove back to the cabin to celebrate.

Apparently, I didn't eat enough at the post-race area, and I waited too long to eat back at the cabin. A few hours after the race, my stomach was definitely unsettled. Before long, I was puking. Think "The Exorcist". It took hours for my stomach to finally settle down....at which time, I happily inhaled two cheeseburgers, half a container of Pringles, and a beer.

I am not ashamed to say I also enjoyed an early Sunday morning beer while sitting in the hot tub on our balcony. I missed out on celebrating on Saturday, and this seemed like a proper start to the day. We had a lovely lazy morning, took naps after lunch, then headed to the Incline Railway at Lookout Mountain. We watched the sunset then headed back down the mountain to look for some dinner.  Urbanspoon led us to an awesome restaurant called the Terminal Brewhouse. It was impossible to decide on what to eat because it all looked SO good. Plus they brewed their own yummy beer.

Recovering in style:

We took our time driving home on Monday, stopping in Birmingham to visit a few friends. My legs were only slightly stiff. About an hour away from home however, my throat got a familiar tightness. Seriously? I knew it was strep throat immediately. An hour later, I crawled into my own bed feeling feverish. I was waiting at the urgent care center when it opened Tuesday morning, and they confirmed it. Ugh.

On the one hand, I had the best family vacation and I set a marathon PR at a beautiful, well-organized event. On the other, I am very disappointed that I didn't reach my goal of 4:05. I know I CAN do it, and I felt like I did everything right leading up to the race.

And that's why I keep running these things. I keep chasing down the day that the stars will align and I will run the perfect race. I'm looking ahead to the Tallahassee Marathon in February. It's flat and fast, a definite PR race if I can stay healthy. I will MOST DEFINITELY run the Chickamauga Marathon again, only next time, I think I won't set a time goal. I'll just enjoy the ride.

So proud of my Junior Marathoner!