Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Marathon Training -- week 3

Sometimes you gotta leave the SuperWoman cape at home.

Week 3 started with my husband out of town and ended with my boss out of town. It was an exhausting week with lots of stress that affected every area of my life, including marathon training. I managed to have a few good runs, but didn't hit my "must-do" workout of the week.


Monday -- Knowing my husband wouldn't be in town until Monday night, I adjusted my schedule to make Monday morning an easy cross-training day. In actuality, I wouldn't even call it cross-training. It was a little bit of light stretching before the kids woke up. Better than nothing.

Tuesday -- My training plan called for 6 miles, with the last 3 miles faster than the first 3. As of 5:00 a.m. when I woke up, there were a few tiny green blips on the weather radar, which didn't phase me. When I left my house at 6:00, the sky was looking pretty dark and ominous. Less than a half mile into my run, the bottom dropped out. Rain was coming down sideways and the lightning was everywhere. I ducked into a shelter, checked the radar again on my iPhone, and discovered that those little green blips had merged into a decent-sized storm with lots of red & yellow. I turned around and ran back to my car. I ran again after dinner Tuesday night. Running after sundown is completely different than running before sunrise. I was worried about the increased traffic. It's tourist season here, and I wondered how many drivers had been drinking or were otherwise distracted. Maybe all that worrying gave me a big adrenaline boost, because I ran much faster than usual and it felt great. I didn't run very far, but each mile was faster than the one before it. It really was fun.
Summary  (total for both attempts): 4.63 miles at 8:54 pace.

Wednesday -- Instead of running an easy 4 miles, I ran 5 and picked up speed for the last 2 miles. Lots of wind on Wednesday, which helped me pick up speed at the end (9:08 pace for the last miles), but really made for a struggle in the beginning. Summary: 5 miles at 9:34 average pace.

Thursday: Cross-training -- Cardio Kick-Boxing DVD.  Not my cup of tea. Boss went out of town on Thursday, and the stress at work went through the roof.

Friday: Ahhh, I love easy Friday morning runs. No pressure on the pace, just enjoying the scenery and the rhythm of the run. This was a lovely, calming start to what turned out to be an extremely tough day. Summary: 4.72 miles at 9:29 pace.

Saturday: I intended to run 15 miles, with the middle 5 miles at my goal marathon race pace. I procrastinated getting out the door, and half a mile in I was hating the run. I couldn't get my mind off work issues, my breathing was shallow, and I felt absolutely drained. Sometimes it takes me a couple of miles to get into the groove, so I decided to see how I felt at 2.5 miles. Still miserable, and dreading the faster pace that was coming up. I turned around at 2.5 and headed back toward my car. I didn't make the final decision to call it quits until around mile 4.5. I figured I had enough of a window Sunday morning to get in my full run before my husband left for work, and hopefully a day away from the office would be enough to get my running zen back. Unfortunately, when I woke up on Sunday, there were scary storm clouds in the sky, and by the time they passed, the window of opportunity had passed. It was disappointing -- the long run was the one marked as a "do-it-no-matter-what" workout on my training plan. I'm not sure if I should have kept going on Saturday or if that would have left me too drained to fully participate in Girls Day Out with my daughter that afternoon. I plan on running this one next weekend, instead of the slightly shorter long run on my plan.

Total mileage: 19.35. Hoping Week 4 will be much better!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon Training - week 2

Week 2. The big challenge for this week was working my training plan around my husband's schedule. He left town early Friday morning and was gone the entire weekend. My options were (A) shuffle all of my quality runs, including the long run, to the beginning of the week; or (B) hire a babysitter on Saturday or Sunday morning, and pray it wouldn't be too hot or too stormy when the babysitter arrived. I opted for plan A. Here's how it went:

Monday: Might as well get the one I was dreading the most out of the way. Tempo workouts are mentally hard, especially on a Monday morning. Last week I had tempo intervals, so at least I had a little recovery time in the middle of the run, but this week called for a warm-up, continual miles at tempo pace, and a cool-down. I went in to the run not completely convinced that I was going to push the speed at all, thanks to a big Louisiana-style dinner the night before. My first mile of warm-up took over ten minutes and I thought there was no way I could go under nine, let alone the 8:17 - 8:35 range that I was shooting for. I ultimately decided to attempt the tempo but not to expect to run as fast as I can on a good day. Surprise, surprise, I stayed within target range and only checked on my pace occasionally. I'm glad I took the plunge. Overall distance and pace: 5.75 miles at 9:09 pace.

Tuesday: It's really not a good idea to run speed workouts back-to-back, but I wanted to get my quality workouts completed while I had a chance. This week's second speed workout called for speed intervals on a hilly route. I modified a little. After about a 1.5 mile warmup, I ran several loops through a neighborhood that has some pretty fierce hills (for Florida). They're not that tall, but they are steep and they are very close together. I sprinted up the hills and coasted on the way down, with very little time to recover in between. When I left the neighborhood, I continued to push my pace on the uphills and did one speed interval when it got flat. Hit the biggest hill of all during my last mile -- ouch. This workout left me exhausted. Overall distance and pace: 7.09 miles at 9:20 pace.

Wednesday: An unplanned rest day, courtesy of girls-night-out Tuesday night.

Thursday: Somehow I managed to get my 14-miler done on Thursday morning and still made it to work almost on time. I ran the first 5 miles while the sun was rising. They were SO slow. I worried about meeting my friend at 6:00 for the last 9 miles because she's much faster than me, but once we met up, she helped me pick up the pace. There were lots of starts and stops on this run, so it took much longer than the two hours and 16 minutes of running that my Garmin reported. A warm-up walk with my friend, a couple of restroom stops, a water break -- they all added up. There was no time for stretching or eating when I got home -- just time to take a quick shower, twist my wet hair in a bun, throw on the most comfortable work-appropriate clothes I could find, and haul. Fortunately, I had a yoga mat and some granola bars in my office, and I didn't have the post-run crash I was expecting. This was my longest run of the year so far. Overall distance and pace: 14.01 miles at 9:42 pace.

Friday: Husband left town at 4 a.m. No workout. Just focused on getting the kids to their respective daycares on time.

Saturday: I woke up before the kids, and ran an easy 4.5 miles around our little neighborhood. It's about a quarter mile from my driveway to the neighborhood entrance. This is usually a boring run that I will avoid at all costs, but a heavy rain storm about 15 minutes into the run made it a little more fun. I followed up with 6 short strides. Overall distance and pace: 4.86 miles at 9:11.
Lunch at Chik-Fil-A included fries. Matinee with the kids included lots of popcorn and Coke. I felt guilty afterward so I tried one of my husband's Tapout XT DVDs: Cross Core Combat. Forty-five minutes of core work and pushups made me feel like a complete wimp.

Sunday: More Tapout XT. This time I tried an upper body strength workout. Once again, the pushups killed me. I quit after 25 minutes (despite the instructor's insistence that Nobody Quits), but I pushed hard for those 25 minutes, and my body was ready for something gentler. Thirty minutes of yoga really loosened up my tight lower back and hips.

Summary: 31.71 miles for the week plus two cross-training sessions. Shuffling the schedule wasn't as difficult as I anticipated. I am a little disappointed that I didn't fit in the optional 3-4 mile run this week, but I am glad that I actually did some strength training and quality stretching to fend off injury.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Marathon Training 2013 -- week 1

And she's off!

I am fresh off the first week of training for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, and I am feeling pumped! 

One of my favorite things about marathon running is all the planning and research that goes into it. I decided several months ago that I was ready to start planning for a fall marathon, and I wanted to find one that would double as a fun vacation for my family and fit into our fall schedules. Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon was a perfect match. As the name would imply, the race takes place at a national park where the Battle of Chickamauga was fought during the Civil War. My father-in-law is a Civil War historian, so my husband grew up visiting battlegrounds. He is excited to pass those experiences on to our children. As for me, I may have the ocean in my veins, but I have been craving a little time in the mountains. We found a beautiful mountain chalet about 45 minutes from the starting line where I can cook my own carb-loaded meals before the race, and enjoy an expansive view of the valley below from a hot-tub or hammock after it's over. Another bonus: it's a Saturday marathon and it's a 3-day weekend, meaning I can spend all day Sunday recovering and we can drive home Monday without any expectation of me answering client emails.

The next stage of planning was deciding on a training plan. I'm a big fan of mother-runners Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell's books and podcasts, "Run Like a Mother".  Their latest book, Train Like a Mother, includes training plans geared toward women with busy schedules. For each race distance, they have a "Finish It" plan and an "Own It" plan. I went with the "Own It" marathon plan -- go big or go home, right? To seal my decision, I tried out their 5K "Own It" plan this spring and it was a great fit for my goals and my lifestyle. The plans offer some variety from week to week, more speedwork than I've done before, and a weekly optional run. I usually ran the optional runs, but when life got hectic, it was helpful to know which workout I could skip without beating myself up.

Here is a summary of week one:

Monday: Donning some brand new bright orange Saucony Virratas, I set out for an easy 4-5 miles. Everything was laid out the night before, and all I had to do was gulp down some coffee & head down to the bike path, but Monday reared its ugly head & I had no motivation. I must have twiddled my thumbs in the car for ten minutes checking the weather, debating my musical selections, looking at Facebook posts, before I finally forced myself to get out of the car and start moving. I felt like a slug at first, but after a while I caught myself having fun. 4.69 miles at 9:19 pace (a little faster than my typical easy run this time of year, but within target range).

Tuesday: Tempo intervals. A 2-mile warm-up (rather than my usual 1-mile) really loosened me up, and I hit my target pace on the intervals, just barely. An extended cool-down brought me back to earth. Overall mileage & pace including W/U and C/D: 7.35 miles at 9:10 pace.

Wednesday: For cross-training I tried Shiva Rea's Creative Core & Upper Body DVD. It was yoga with sets of push-ups interspersed. I managed to get it almost finished before my son woke up and demanded breakfast. I think I only missed the final relaxation, which is always my favorite part of yoga practice.

Thursday: Life happened. My plan was to sleep in a little and do my speed workout on the treadmill in my garage. I woke up with stiff shoulders from the yoga DVD. The garage is not air-conditioned, and the humidity was oppressive. I tried moving the treadmill around to find a sliver of a breeze, all the while stewing because my husband doesn't want me to display the treadmill in our lovely air-conditioned living room in front of the lovely TV. I finally decided that I'd wait until evening and maybe it wouldn't be so humid. Never a good decision. I never end up running at night, and Thursday was par for the course.

Friday: Rather than running the optional easy run scheduled for Friday, I picked up Thursday's workout and I took it to the streets. My previous speed workouts have had prescribed distances and goal paces, but this one was based on time and perceived effort. I ran some fast 2-minute intervals with recovery jogs between, sweating buckets (because, oh yes, humidity has hovered between 80-95% all week long). Overall mileage & pace, including W/U, C/D, etc: 5.1 miles at 9:02 pace.

Saturday: Long run #1! Again, I made the mistake of sleeping a little too late, which caught up with me toward the end of this hot and humid 12-miler. I may not have carb-loaded well enough either. Or maybe I should have been taking my salt tablets sometime BEFORE mile 10. Poor planning makes for a tough run. Still I managed to make the last mile my fastest (8:59), with a whole lot of effort, a chance run through a sprinkler (which I made a point of hitting twice), and some awesomely potent musical selections. After a long shower, I spent 25-30 minutes stretching out my hips and legs with an "I-swear-it-was-made-for-me" yin yoga routine I found on YouTube. Workout summary: 12 miles at 9:44 pace.

Sunday: I thought about picking up the optional easy run that I skipped, but decided that my body could use a little relaxation. And I didn't feel guilty about it in the least. That's a step in the right direction for me. I'm a pro when it comes to beating myself up.

Summary: I like the plan. I really like it. I think the flexibility and focus on speed workouts are going to keep me motivated for the full 16 weeks. I'm also feeling good about basing my target paces on a brutally hot & humid 5k that I ran in June. I don't feel like that particular race was a good indicator of my best effort under perfect conditions, but it was my best effort under typical Florida summer conditions. When things start to cool down around here, I may run another 5k to assess my fitness level under those conditions, and then I can adjust my training paces accordingly.