Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 12: Chickamauga Marathon Training: 800's and Strep Throat

Just when everything was going so well...

Last weekend, my daughter and I took a girls road-trip to Nashville, where we visited the science museum, the country music hall of fame, and a Taylor Swift concert. Along with a few t-shirts, a cowboy hat, and some smashed lovebugs on my car, I seem to have brought home an extremely nasty case of strep throat. In retrospect, I was unusually exhausted the early part of the week, but I put it off to the long drive. On Thursday morning, I had an intense workout, so I chalked off the body aches to lactic acid buildup. On Thursday night, I went to a fancy fundraiser with some friends, so when I woke up with a headache on Friday, I assumed I had overestimated my tolerance for white wine. I only went to the doctor on Friday because it WAS Friday, and just in case I was actually sick, I wanted to get checked out during office hours.

For whatever reason, my body has become susceptible to strep throat. When I was a kid and up into my mid-30's, if I got sick, it was always a respiratory or sinus issue. In the past five years, I have had strep at least once a year. I know the symptoms and the course of treatment all too well. Normally, I get a steroid shot and a prescription for one of the few antibiotics that I can take without getting hives. Within 24 hours, I'm usually a new woman. This time, the stinking bug has been stubborn.

This was supposed to be a week of tests in my marathon training. I had two hard workouts scheduled. Thanks to this strep throat, I only had two workouts all week.

I did not run on Monday. I was so tired from driving eight hours the day before, and I just wanted to stay in bed as long as possible.

On Tuesday, I had an easy run. I was scheduled for 4-5 miles at an easy pace with six bursts of 10-second sprints with 20-second recoveries thrown in. It was really humid out, about 90%. Still, it was a run that improved the longer I went. I hit the speed bursts in mile four. Overall: 4.34 at 9:20 average pace.

Wednesday, I was not up for running. That should have been a sign that I was getting sick, but instead I interpreted it as laziness.

Thursday: My epic run of the week. This was my first attempt at Yasso 800's: ten intervals of 800-meter runs with 400-meter recoveries in between. The goal is to complete each recovery in about the same amount of time (or less) that it takes to run the 800's. The theory is that your average time for an 800 in minutes and seconds will be an indicator of how fast you can run a marathon in hours and minutes. For example, if you average 4 minutes and 30 seconds per 800-meter run after 10 rounds, you should be able to run a marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Two things I did differently: First, instead of running on a track, I decided to stay closer to home and run this on the road. This meant I had to contend with minor hills and traffic. Second, since I never read the owners manual for my GPS watch, I have no idea how to switch over to metric timing, so I ran half-miles instead of 800 meters. A half-mile is just over 804 meters, so it was another minor change. Part of me wants to argue that this was a harder workout than typical Yasso 800's due to the combination of those minor changes, and that my results were therefore on the conservative side. However, I was so shocked with my results that I am not going to jinx myself by thinking I could have done better. I can't even type my times on this blog for fear that I'd be setting myself up for a letdown. Suffice it to say, my predicted marathon time was about 10 minutes faster than my "stars are aligned, perfect weather, perfect fueling, perfect course, perfect everything, probably unattainable" goal, 20 minutes faster than my "decent happy day" goal, and 30 minutes faster than my personal record.

I can't say it was a confidence booster. It really scared me more than anything else. I'm not going to readjust my goals for Chickamauga based on an awesome Yasso workout. I have yet to run a perfect marathon, or even a perfect half-marathon, and I have set some pretty unrealistic goals in the past, leaving me disappointed at the finish line. My goal for this marathon is YES to run faster, but mainly to cross that finish line feeling like I ran a smart race to the best of my ability with what I am given on that day.

The rest of the week was a wash. I left work early on Friday, spent the entire weekend in bed, and here it is Monday and I'm still at home, having watched an entire season of Grey's Anatomy on Netflix. Running hasn't even been a tiny temptation the past few days, not even Saturday, when I was supposed to run some serious marathon-pace miles in mild 64 degree temps. At least I had the one good workout to keep me going. It has definitely kept me interested. Perhaps a spring marathon? On a flat & fast course? Tallahassee, might you be my "stars-are-aligned" race??

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 11 Chickamauga Marathon Training

I love it when my training schedule fits in with my non-running schedule. This week I only had four scheduled runs, including an optional run, with a long slow run of 16 miles. My fifth scheduled workout of the week was a "fun workout" -- any kind of fun, non-running exercise. This was a perfect week for a relatively low-intensity running schedule, because my daughter and I took a long weekend to drive up to Nashville for a Taylor Swift concert.

Monday: I had an early appointment in the office Monday morning, and I do realize that wet hair, even in a bun, is not the most professional look, so I took Monday as a rest day.

Tuesday: Scheduled for three easy miles, but after two days of no running, I couldn't help but run a little further. It wasn't an ideal day for running -- it was soupy humid -- but it felt great. Big smiles. 3.83 miles at 9:22 pace.

Wednesday: I was intimidated going into this tempo run. I've done some longer tempo intervals, but never five miles without a break.  My goal pace range after the warm up was 8:17 - 8:35. My actual pace for each tempo mile: 8:30, 8:25, 8:20, 8:16, 8:11. Whoa!! That was a huge confidence boost!  Lower humidity helped, but I think the biggest aid was keeping my mind in the present. Instead of staring down the thought of five miles at that pace, I just focused on the mile I was running at that moment. I ran a long warm up and cool down too -- even with a few cups of coffee, it takes me a while to get in the groove early morning. Overall distance and pace: 9.19 miles at 8:51. Best run of the week.

Thursday: A beautiful morning. I started running around 5:30 by the light of a full moon, and I ran into the sunrise. Again, it was a little cooler and less humid, so this was a comfortable run. I left my watch at home and let my phone track the run without any cues as to pace or distance. I was supposed to run 7-8 easy miles. Final tally: 7.29 at 9:28.

Friday: My long weekend started with a 16-mile run. All that lovely, cooler, less humid weather? Gone. I ran with the full moon again at 5:30 a.m., with the first couple of miles at an incredibly slow warm up pace, and I was dripping sweat within two miles. Shirt soaked by mile four. Unlike last week's long run, the humidity actually increased the longer I ran. In the grand scheme of things, this was a strong run -- better than some of my earlier long runs -- but it was still hard. During my last half-mile, I was mumbling out loud to the very appropriate Beastie Boys tune that had popped up on my playlist: "Because you can't, you won't, and you don't stop". Total: 16 miles at 9:46 pace.

There was no resting after that long run -- I hurried home, showered, finished packing, and checked my daughter out of school around 11:00 for a 5-hour drive to Birmingham, where we went to a high school football game with some friends, and spent the night. Up to Nashville on Saturday, where it was such a treat to see my daughter so excited at the concert. A little tour of downtown Nashville  on Sunday morning, during which I'd guess we walked a mile or two of hills (I'll count that as my fun workout). Then an 8-hour drive back to Florida.

Overall mileage for this week: 36.31

I'll take that hint of fall weather again please. Instead, it looks like thunder storms, humidity, and upper 80's for the upcoming week. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Overachievers Anonymous & Marathon Training Week 10

I have been doing a lot of soul searching over the past few months, really making a conscious effort to figure out where I am in my life now and where I want to be.

In the midst of all this self-discovery, I've had a few A-Ha! moments that were running related, and they made me laugh. People ask me, "why running", and I've often wondered myself what it is specifically about running, as opposed to some other endeavor, that has resonated with me so deeply.

Ahem. My name is Alison, and I'm an over-achiever ("Hi Alison"). As a child, I was not necessarily athletic, but I excelled in competitive things -- I won a lot of awards for piano playing as a child, I always ran for student council or class president and I never lost an election. I was one of the top students in my class. I had a full scholarship to undergrad and law school. I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but to show that I thrive on achievement. Tangible success. At the start of every semester, a professor would hand out a syllabus -- this is what we are going to learn, this is what you are expected to complete, and at the end of the semester you will be graded.

In the real world, I don't get that kind of feedback. Nobody says, we are going to spend the next three months learning how to properly handle a toddler's temper tantrum, then you'll be rewarded with a good grade, and then we'll move on to another topic. Motherhood's rewards are plenty, but it's hard to gauge just how well you're doing.

Similarly, my law practice doesn't have tangible rewards. Sure, I enjoy the people that I work with, and in an economy that is over-saturated with JDs, just having a job in which I actually use my degree is a measure of success in itself. But my practice is an ongoing process -- there is no end reward. I close several real estate transactions each week, some more complicated than others, but it is rare that a closing results in a high-five moment. Sometimes not even a Thank You.

Over the years, I have forgotten that I am an over-achiever. Running brings back some of that satisfaction for me. I can choose a race, set a goal, create a plan. That race is going to happen, and I am going to get a result. If I train properly, I will hopefully reach my goal. It is a tangible result. There is a beginning and an end, then I can choose the next goal. I may not win races, but progress is satisfying.

Measurable results make me tick.

Speaking of ticking, week 10 had several moments where things just came together in a lovely way and made me realize that I have come a long way in this training cycle.

Monday: The blahs from the week before were still there. I wasn't motivated and it showed. I ran a sluggish five miles with leaden legs. This was my slowest run in probably two years. 5 miles at 10:11 pace.

Tuesday: Seems to have become my rest day.

Wednesday: A wonderful run with a friend. We met early and ran East, pausing for a few moments midway through to soak in the beauty of the sun rising over a quiet lake. I felt blessed to be healthy, blessed to live in such a beautiful place, and blessed to have a great friend to who is willing to listen to my ramblings. Something clicked with my running on this chatty morning too -- 6.25 miles at 9:17 pace.

Thursday: With an extra long scheduled for the weekend, my training plan eased up on speed workouts. The closest thing I had to speedwork was a 4-mile negative split run (2nd half faster than the 1st half, the same strategy recommended for racing, only much slower in my case). My first two miles were in the mid 9:20s and the second two were in the upper 8s. Interesting side note: on Wednesday, my daughter's bus was late leaving school because there was a black bear on school grounds. I started this Thursday morning run heading straight for the school (which I should have reached right at the turnaround point), but I remembered the bear about a half-mile before I got there, got spooked, and switched my route. Not exactly what I'd care to come across at 5:30 in the morning. Once again, this was a run that clicked. Overall: 4 miles at 9:08 pace.

Friday: Scheduled for 3 easy miles, I took my time getting ready. Normally I am out on the road before anyone else in the house wakes up, but on this day both of my kids caught me. I thought about skipping this one, since it was marked as an optional run, but I had a busy day at the office looming over me, so I took out some stress on the pavement. Another excellent run -- not too fast, just enjoyed the view and my music. 3.51 miles at 9:33.

Saturday: I can't believe that the best run of the week was a 20-miler. There were no pace goals in this run, so I vowed to keep it slower than my body wanted to go and to really enjoy the scenery. At five miles in, I stopped at a beach access and took a picture of the sunrise on my phone. The next thing I knew, I was at mile 12, pausing to take a photo of an amazing lake view. I stopped at mile 13 for a water refill, and realized I hadn't really stopped for a true break during this run like I normally do. I sat down for a few minutes and just enjoyed the feeling that I still had plenty left in me. At mile 17, I picked up the pace and kept it strong until I hit 20. Still feeling strong and not quite back to my car yet, I decided to keep running. I reached my car with 20.51 miles under my belt. Controlling the pace and keeping a relaxed attitude made this run the best 20-miler I've ever tackled. It also didn't hurt that the humidity, which was a mildly uncomfortable 75% when I started this run, dropped to 46% by the time I finished. It's been so soupy all summer long that I almost forgot what it felt like to run without my shoes soaking wet. Overall run: 20.51 miles at 9:55.

Total weekly mileage: 39.27 and feeling like I achieved something.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chickamauga Marathon Training: Week 9

Week Nine required much less running out of me, which turned out to be good, because I just had a blah kind of week. I've noticed over the past few weeks that the first few miles of each run have been slower than usual. It hasn't affected my ability to hit target paces later in the run, I've just had some seriously slow warm-ups. Maybe after all the rain finally let up, I am having to readjust to the humidity. I am SO ready for fall.

Monday: Monday was pretty awesome. I was in the Port Saint Joe area with my parents for Labor Day Weekend, and I drove out to Cape San Blas for some easy miles and strides. The bike/pedestrian path in CSB is similar to the one I run on at home on 30A. Beaches on one side, marshland on the other. It was so peaceful. When I finished the easy portion of the run, I looked behind me and I could see that it was pouring rain about a quarter mile down the road. I raced the rain, occasionally getting out in front of it, but overall getting soaked. And that was just fine - I'd much rather have a little rain at the end of my run than the beginning. Overall: 5.44 miles at 9:07 pace.

Tuesday: Rest. It felt too much like a Monday after the holiday.

Wednesday: I ran my Tuesday tempo workout. Warmup, 4x1 mile at tempo pace with 0.25 mile recoveries, cooldown. I hit the target paces but just didn't feel that good about it. This was where the "blah" began. Overall: 7.86 miles at 9:20 average pace.

Thursday: This week called for a comparatively "short" long run of 13 miles. My running buddy and I were having trouble meshing our schedules this week, so I moved my long run up to Thursday to correlate with her medium-long run. We ran 11.5 together, and felt pretty good. She had to get home to her kids, and instead of finishing my miles on the running path, I decided to see if I could catch my kids before they left for school. I just missed them, so I figured I would finish on the dreadmill. It didn't go well. I only got my mileage up to 12.15 before deciding that was good enough. Again, the blah. 12.15 miles at 9:19 pace.

Friday: Blah. Rest day #2.

Saturday: I still had a speed workout and an optional easy run on my agenda. My daughter had been asking me to take her to the track, so I figured she could run her mile, then read a book while I worked on some 800s. Saturday morning however, my 4-year-old son decided he wanted to run too, so I decided to take the easy run to the track instead (no way he would have let me run alone for over an hour). They each ran a mile in spurts, and we just had fun with it. I'd pause while they ran ahead, then tried to catch up with them. My son insisted on wearing his Spiderman pajamas and mask to the track, to the great entertainment of the soccer team warming up on the field next to us. I had 3.77 easy miles at 9:40 pace.

Sunday: I had already ditched my plan to run speed intervals in favor of keeping my running buddy company for eight miles in the middle of her 20-mile run, but I felt under the weather when I woke up, and the blahs won again. Unplanned rest day.

Still feeling blah. I know this happens a couple of times per year after a tough couple of weeks, so I just need to get through it. Cooler weather is coming, and it's been a strong training cycle so far. Good things are ahead.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Marathon Training Week 8

I'm coming off a three-day weekend that just didn't last long enough. After my long run on Saturday morning, I loaded up my kids and dog to spend the rest of the weekend at my parents' vacation house near Port Saint Joe. It's just a 2-hour drive down the coast from our home, but it's not a major tourist destination. We enjoyed quiet times, uncrowded beaches, and a bonfire with roasted marshmallows. We came home Monday afternoon and enjoyed our own beautiful South Walton beaches. I slept terribly Monday night, with nightmares of crazy busy work deadlines and crazy hard speed workouts. I really ought to start buying lottery tickets, because if I had the opportunity to drop one of the balls I am juggling, work would be the first to go. But this is not a blog about the challenges of practicing law, this is a blog about the joys of running, so I'll get to it...

Week 8 of marathon training included some rewarding speed work, and pushed me to 171.48 miles for the month of August, which is a new high for me. It certainly doesn't feel like that many miles, because I haven't had sore, tired legs like I have before during marathon training, and I haven't felt exhausted during the day. Hopefully, this means I'll be ready for a strong race come November.

Monday: An easy short run. The heat and humidity eased up a bit, so this was a beautiful start to the week. 3.45 miles at 9:35 pace.

Tuesday: rest

Wednesday: I ran 7 miles with my favorite running partner. Running with a friend is the icing on the cake. When else would we have a chance to take an hour out of our busy days and just chat with no interruption? 7 miles at 9:12 pace.

Thursday: My favorite run of the week -- a track workout with my BRB -- two days in a row, that's got to be a record for us! We ran 800s. I ran 5 ranging from 3:52 to 3:54, and I felt like I could have kept it up at least a few more laps. If I could run 10 800s at that pace, I would supposedly be looking at a sub-4 hour marathon time. That's not my goal for this race, but it makes me want to run a nice, flat marathon in the spring to see what I've got then. Total mileage, including warmup, cooldown, and recovery: 5.03 miles.

Friday: Another easy relaxing run. I could feel my right quad talking to me, a little sore from the track workout, but not too bad. 3.25 miles at 9:24 pace.

Saturday: I was dreading this run: 16 miles with the mid 10 at marathon race pace. Running near the beach, there are sometimes little pockets of extra intense humidity. I hit one of those about two miles in, and by 2.25 miles I was drenched and ready to go home. I stopped at a beach access to reset my attitude, and by the time I started running again, the humidity was a little better. Picking up the pace to marathon goal pace wasn't too bad. My goal pace is 9:14, but I found myself running a little faster, more in the 9:06-9:10 range. Focusing on pace for so much of the run was tiring, as I normally love the opportunity to zone out and just run. Instead, I was constantly looking at my watch to make sure I was on target, and I knew the slightly faster pace I was gravitating toward would eventually catch up to me, as it did in the last couple of pace miles. I managed to maintain the target range for 10 miles, but it required a couple of convenient store stops for icy-cold water. I took a break when I got to the end of the 10-mile segment, and it was incredibly hard to get back running. By this time, the sun was high in the sky and the humidity was still brutal. My clothes were soaked through and my brand new shoes were squishing with every step. I took several walk breaks and turned off my Garmin during those breaks, so while I am certain I covered 16 miles when you include the walk breaks, my official total was 15.55. Average pace 9:24.

Even with a less-than-stellar long run, I'm feeling good about the training. I'm not quite half-way through the plan, and I am still feeling strong and most importantly, healthy. The upcoming week is heavy on speed training, which will be a challenge, but it's always a confidence-booster. And with Labor Day behind us, I can almost see the light at the end of this humidity-ridden tunnel that is called running in Florida.