Monday, August 26, 2013

Marathon Training: Week 7

While I am logging in the miles for my goal marathon, my 8-year-old daughter is training for her own running goal -- the Chickamauga Battlefield Junior Marathon. Many marathons are starting to include "junior marathons" for the kids (hopefully I will be finished with my own race in time to see my daughter's first "marathon" -- it could be tight). The goal is to run 25.2 miles (one mile at a time) during the training period, then on race day, the kids will all run mile 26 together. My daughter has loved the one-mile kid races that often accompany my local 5k races. In one memorable event, she finished 4th out of 4 kids, and she was so down in the dumps when she crossed the finish line. But when they handed out awards, she got a prize for 1st-place girl in her age division, and her attitude did a 180-degree shift. Party ON.

This race has been the first one that has required any training of her. The race officials will only hand out race numbers to children who turn in a completed training log. She hasn't been enthusiastic about her training, and I admit that I haven't been as encouraging as I should be. The training period began on June 1, and nearly three months later, she has only run six miles. We still have two months to go, but we'll need to make it more of a routine thing from now on.

My sweet daughter asked me to run a mile with her Sunday evening around the neighborhood. It turned out to be an extra special time for us, since we rarely have the opportunity for one-on-one time together. I will certainly make running with her more often a priority.

The rest of my running week was successful -- I ran my first 20-mile run for the year, and it was my first 40-mile week in who-knows-how-long. At the end of the week, I feel strong and free of aches and pains.

Monday: Cross-training. Ummmmm, yeah, that didn't happen. It took me years to discover that I love to run. It may take me several more years to discover that I love another activity that fits into my schedule.

Tuesday: 10-mile negative split run. I got a little bit of a late start for this one, considering I was supposed to be showered, dressed, and dropping my boy off at daycare by 8:45 so I could be at work by 9:00. I ultimately cut it a tiny bit short, figuring that I could best use that last 1/3 mile as a cool-down walk. Summary: 9.71 miles at an average 9:26 pace.

Wednesday: Rest day. Also a high-stress day at work. I'm glad those coincided.

Thursday: Speed intervals. I don't quite understand how zone training works if you're not using a heart-rate monitor. I know that zone 5 is balls-out fast. I think that zone 4 might be tempo-pace or slightly faster? This workout of six intervals in zone 3 with recovery periods in between was a little confusing for me. My speed intervals fell between 8:27 and 8:41 per mile, which is somewhere between my target 10k and half-marathon race pace. I don't know if that was where I was supposed to be running, but it was a moderately challenging run. I've got the same run coming up in week 8, so if you are reading my blog and you know a little something about training zones, I would love some input! Overall run: 6.57 miles at 9:19 pace.

Friday: Blissful Friday. The work-week is nearly over and the run is always easy. 3.55 miles at 9:14 pace.

Saturday: My first 20-mile run of 2013 didn't start well. My stomach was a little upset for the first several miles, and that made me question the wisdom of running a full 20. Miles 8-11 were challenging. Although my stomach wasn't bothering me anymore, I was soaking wet and just plain sluggish. I stopped at a convenience store to get a Gatorade & I decided to try a 5-Hour Energy. A mile later, I got a good second wind and finished the last 8 miles feeling pretty strong. Even then, for the last three miles, I was counting down to the finish by quarter mile increments. I've had better 20-mile runs, but I'm pretty sure they were in colder temps. I'm considering this one a victory, particularly since I didn't feel sore the rest of the weekend. Summary: 20 miles at 9:44 pace.

Sunday: Restful morning, and one easy evening mile around the neighborhood with my girl.

Total for the week: 40.83 miles and feeling like I am going to be well-prepared come November.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Marathon Training week 6

It is inevitable that there will be weeks when the biggest challenge of training is not the running itself, but rather getting around the obstacles that keep me away from running. This was certainly one of those weeks. My little windows of opportunity in the morning were plagued with illness and a whole lot of rain.

Week 6 started with an optional run (one of the features I love about my training program is the weekly run that I can skip without guilt if everything else is too crazy). I felt fine on Monday morning, but I decided that it would be wise to give my body a rest after the miles I'd just put in the previous two days (16 and 7 miles).

Monday night, I got sick with a nasty stomach bug. My "you know you're a runner moment" was when I threw up the first time, my immediate thought was, "better push my tempo run to Wednesday and just get some easy miles in the morning".  The second time I got sick, the immediate thought was, "I should have done the optional run Monday morning, since I definitely won't be running Tuesday".

I thought about running the tempo run on Wednesday (no throwing up since Monday night), but I still felt a little dehydrated, so I played it safe and stayed home.

That made three days in a row of not running! I get frustrated when I skip two in a row, but three? I was a stressed-out, endorphin-deprived mess by Wednesday night.

Fortunately, Thursday morning was awesome. My plan called for speed intervals, which I honestly don't enjoy that much unless I'm on a track. However, my Best Running Buddy wanted to try some group speedwork, so three of us met up early in the morning for an Indian-Style run. We warmed up for one mile, then ran single file for about 5 miles. Every quarter mile, the runner in the back would sprint to the front of the line and set the pace until it was time for the next runner to lead the pack.  We followed with a one-mile cooldown. It's always fun to run with friends. These particular friends are faster runners than I am, so it was challenging to keep up when they were leading. This run therefore qualified as a social run AND a speed workout -- two birds with one stone. Did I mention it was pouring rain? A common theme this week. 6.93 miles at 8:57 average pace.

It really feels like it's been raining most days since the beginning of July. On Friday morning,  I looked at the weather radar and it was nasty, but I really wanted to get in 3-5 easy miles and I hoped I could beat the bad stuff. At first it was lovely -- a light rain and a little breeze to keep things cooler -- but I could see the black clouds rolling in with a whole lot of lightning. It hit much earlier than I had expected. My baseball cap couldn't protect my face from the sideways rain, and the streetlights came back on. I headed back home after only 1.75 miles, hoping to get a quick run after work, but knowing in my soul that it would be impossible since my husband would be at work.

Saturday morning, the weather struck again. I woke up at 4:30, looked at the radar, and went back to sleep until 6:00. The weather hadn't improved by then either, but I was fueled and prepped for an 18 mile run, so I kept checking every half hour until around 10:00, when I realized the moment had passed. It was one storm band after another all day. I did venture out around lunchtime when the rain had slowed to a light shower, but I knew my fueling would be off so I just ran as far as it felt good, which turned out to be 7 miles. The light rain didn't last long -- it was pouring most of the time. The running path was completely empty, and the heavy rain led to some giant ankle-deep puddles. I pushed the pace a bit in the beginning, and jumping puddles gave me a few unusual sore spots. Overall: 7.07 miles at 9:22 pace.

On Sunday morning, the radar looked ominous again. There was a huge storm band bearing down on us, coming from the west as our storms almost always do. Still, it looked like I might be able to get 4-5 miles in before the rain started, and I figured if I could get at least 10 miles outside, I could suck it up and finish the last 8 on the dreadmill in the garage. I started slow and easy, not having run this far since last fall. I got to 4, 5, 6 miles with no rain. By mile 7, I could see blue skies. I stopped to fill my water bottle at mile 9, and checked my radar again. By this time, the storm was miles away -- to the north! With an incredulous grin, I cranked up the music and got ready for the second half of my long run. I ended up making it a full 18 miles with not a single drop of rain! An hour after I finished, it was pouring again, and it rained the rest of the day. Getting in a rain-free long run truly was my Sunday miracle. 18.06 miles at 9:44 pace.

There is rain in the forecast every day through the end of the month. I think that getting my shoes soaked probably decreases their lifespan. My long-run shoes weren't feeling so hot on Sunday, so I will start looking for a deal on a new pair this week.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Marathon Training -- Week 5, and Thoughts on Trail Running

Once upon a time, I considered myself a trail runner. The silence of the woods, sunbeams like spotlights through the branches, the jolt of surprising a deer or a rabbit -- there is nothing like it. You have to keep your mind alert to avoid tripping over roots and thorny vines. Emerging from the woods covered in sweat and dirt after a hard run is a complete rush.

When I started running, I ran at least 2-3 times per week on a trail that cuts through a state forest near my home. It was winter, and I initially started running the trail to take advantage of the wind buffer that the trees provided. It didn't take long for me to get hooked. Most days, I never saw another soul. When I did, it was usually a friendly senior citizen out walking his or her dog. My only safety concern was worrying that I might take a nasty fall and need help getting back to my car.

As my goals shifted toward marathon running, I ran the trails a little less frequently. I didn't want to twist an ankle on uneven ground and have to miss a race. I still savored the trail runs I did have, and part of the draw was being out in what felt like the middle of nowhere on my own.

Then in the summer of 2011, a teenage girl was brutally murdered in broad daylight on a nature trail less than 5 miles from the trails where I typically ran. She struggled and fought with her attacker for around 20 minutes according to the murderer's testimony, but nobody saw or heard a thing. Details came out slowly, and it took me some time to fully process the tragedy. After awhile, I couldn't run those trails without thinking about the murder. Some days it frightened me, some days I put myself in her parents' shoes, some days it made me angry. In any event, I don't run those trails alone anymore.

I miss my trail. I miss carefree running.

There is a high-end subdivision that I often pass on my weekly long run. Amid the million-dollar homes, there are several paths that allow me to run off-road through nature, but still have the comfort of knowing that I am withing shouting distance of other people. Some days, if I have some extra time and no pace goals, I treat myself to a "trail run" through that subdivision. It's about the closest I can come to those early experiences.

Marathon Training, Week 5:

Monday -- An early trip to the dentist was Monday enough for me. I took a rest day.

Tuesday -- 3/2 negative split: The first three miles were slow and sluggish, but I breezed through the last two when it was time to pick up the pace. Funny how the faster miles were easier. 5.08 miles at 9:11 pace overall.

Wednesday -- My "trail" run was beautiful. I crossed several bridges, enjoyed the morning stillness, and finished with a few strides. Overall: 4.68 miles at 9:44 pace.

Thursday -- First day of third grade for my eldest. Technically I had time to get in my morning miles and still see her off, but I wanted to spend the morning helping her get ready instead. So I shifted a semi-long run to Sunday, hoping it wouldn't hurt too bad.

Friday -- Always a happy easy run. I was nearly done when I came across a friend who was finishing up a 17-mile run, and we enjoyed some unexpected chat time. My run was 4.05 miles at 9:13 pace.

Saturday -- Redemption from last week's slog-fest! 5 miles easy, 6 miles at marathon race-pace, 5 miles easy. This was a good strong run. I hit the race-paces easily, and mile 16 was the fastest mile of all. Overall: 16 miles at 9:27.

Sunday -- I gave myself some slack, and decided to just get the miles in without worrying about pace. I left my trusty Garmin at home and programmed the Runkeeper app on my phone to beep only when I had run 3.5 miles (the turn-around point) without telling me my pace or time. I took a few water breaks, and met some chatty kids out riding bikes with their Grandpa. It was a fun run, and my legs felt just fine, considering I'd run 16 the day before. End result: 7.52 miles at 9:37 pace.

Training still feels good. I have no major aches or pains to complain about, although I could use a massage and a pair of more supportive shoes for work.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Marathon Training -- Week 4

I'm going to start with the last run -- it tested my body and mind like nothing has in a long time. My scheduled run was 13 miles with a strong finish. However, I missed last week's long run, which at 15 miles seemed like a more important workout to attempt. The plan said to run the middle 5 miles at my goal marathon race pace. Race-pace miles are new to me. In the previous training plans I've used, all of my long runs were at a slow, easy pace. Part of me was dreading the race-pace miles, but when I look at it logically, my goal marathon race pace falls within the faster end of my prescribed "easy" pace range, so it shouldn't be that intimidating. In fact, I averaged faster than marathon race pace in 3 out of the 4 training runs I had earlier in the week, including one at nearly 7 miles. Still, I'm always a little nervous about the unknown...

I got started at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday. According to my weather app, it was already 85 degrees with a heat index of 95. I tuned into a "This American Life" podcast, ran 2.5 miles west, then turned around to run 2.5 miles back to my car, where I had a nice icy bottle of water waiting. I like to break my long runs up into smaller segments -- it's a great mental help. Those first 5 miles were relatively slow and easy.

I eased into the race-pace miles with some upbeat music and headed east for 5 miles. Right now, my goal race pace is 9:14 per mile (hoping that cooler temps will let me push that a little faster in the fall). I easily kept the pace at 9:05 - 9:10 for the first 3.5 miles, thinking if I could do it in this heat, I'd have no problem come November. I struggled a little over the last 1.5 miles, but held the pace under 9:14. Still a good run, and at this point, I was looking forward to an easy pace for the last 5 miles, so I turned around to head west again.

I was feeling pretty beat up after the middle 5 miles, and I realized that I was completely drenched. It was overcast so it didn't seem THAT hot, but I looked like I had gone swimming in my clothes. I stopped at a convenience store to buy a cold drink, and found myself craving a sweet tea. Probably not a good idea, but I bought it, and it was delicious. Less than a mile later, I tripped over my own feet and almost fell. I was so drained that I took a few walk breaks, stopping my timer each time because I wanted to get in a full 15 miles of real running. Eventually, I decided not to push too hard, and let the timer keep ticking when I needed to walk. I just wanted to get those last 5 miles in, even if I had to crawl. I stopped to sit down once, checked the weather, and the heat index was up to 100 degrees. It was a relief to know that it wasn't just me being a wimp. I made it to the end, mostly running, with another convenient store stop, this time for cold water. Heat index was up to 102 by the time I finished, and it wasn't even 8:30 in the morning yet!

The bad news -- that run kicked my butt. The good news -- it would take a serious anomaly of nature to have a 102 heat index on race day. The mental challenges of this run aren't too different from the ones I typically hit in the last 4-5 miles of a marathon. Might as well get toughened up now -- physically and mentally. Overall, I averaged 9:52 per mile -- that's with 5 miles at 9:10, so those last 5 were really really slow. I don't want to know exactly HOW slow yet, I'll check my Garmin splits eventually.

The rest of the week was a mixed bag:

Monday: Still kicking myself from missing my long run the weekend before, and dreading yet another crazy day in the office. Monday morning's easy run wasn't so easy after all. I'm pretty sure I took some walk breaks -- I honestly can't remember. I didn't keep track of my pace. Some days are just like that. 4.6 miles.

Tuesday: Tempo Tuesday is usually good for a kick in the pants. I was still struggling with work pressure, and this run helped a little. Tempo pace ranged between 8:18 and 8:24 per mile, and the last couple of tempo miles were tough. I finished my last tempo interval just before I got to the biggest hill on my route -- YES! I was not looking forward to powering up that bad boy. Overall distance and pace: 7.52 miles averaging 8:58.

Wednesday: Seriously, this week isn't getting any easier. What my body needed on this cross-training Wednesday was a soothing massage, but there certainly wasn't any time for that. Instead, I spent about an hour doing some breathing exercises and yin yoga, with a focus on hips, hamstrings, and back. Good for the body and the mind.

Thursday: The boost I needed! I've been truly blessed in having a running buddy who inspires and pushes me. Conversation made the miles roll by quickly. We were sidelined by a storm & had to take a break a little over halfway through, but it helped with the temps. 6.9 easy miles at 9:07 pace.

Friday: An easy run to ease me into the weekend. Good ol' Grateful Dead on the iPhone, plenty of smiling faces on the running path. 4.12 miles at 9:15 pace.

My August training calendar is printed and ready to go on the fridge. First 20-miler is scheduled for August 24! Let's hope it's a little cooler outside that day.