Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 16: Chickamauga Marathon Training

Getting close! I'm over my blahs from last week and it's all starting to get real. I ordered pace bracelets on Friday for finishing times of 4:05 and 4:10. That covers my "realistic goal" range. Race-day attire is confirmed, but I'll bring a few extra items to cover any unusual weather issues. My daughter only has six more miles to cover for her junior marathon training, and I just bought her a new pair of shoes and some cold-weather running clothes. Game on!

Monday: I started my week off right with an easy run with my favorite running buddy. It was her first time out since she ran the Chicago Marathon, as well as the first time we'd been able to get together since her trip, so I enjoyed hearing her thoughts about the race.  I also picked her running-coach brain about whether I should run a 5k over the weekend. She said I could if I could hold myself to a little faster than tempo pace, and reschedule my long run for earlier in the week. 6.1 miles at 9:21 pace.

Tuesday: It was chilly and lightly raining when I woke up Tuesday morning. The rain let up a few miles into my run, and I really enjoyed the novelty of running in that weather compared to the hot, wet weather we had most of this training cycle. 7.2 easy miles at 9:36 pace.

Thursday: I got my long run out of the way. It was slow getting started before the sun came up, and it took several miles to get motivated. My plan called for 14-16 miles at an easy pace. I ran 14.65 at 9:37 pace and felt fine. 

Saturday: Normally I run a rowdy local Halloween 5k this weekend, but I opted for a more low-key event this year, running a small 5k that was a fundraiser for my boss's daughter's school. Everyone in my office participated. I originally planned to run it all out, but then scaled back my plans when my friend advised me to run it as a tempo run "unless of course you are in the lead and neck-and-neck with someone". There was a little confusion about the starting time and my son had a screaming fit when he couldn't come with me, so in my haste I accidentally left my Garmin at home, meaning I had to run by feel. It was a beautiful morning, and we ran a beautiful route out-and-back with beach views for most of the race. From the beginning, I was the lead female and quickly settled into 4th place overall. My effort felt slightly more difficult than tempo pace, and I felt great. Going through the turnaround, I realized there was another woman pretty close behind me. I did not want to lose my lead, so I pushed a little harder. I didn't look back until right around mile 3, and I could see that she was starting to pick up her pace, so I pushed harder and managed to hold her off until the end. I was the first female finisher and only three men beat me. I think my time was about 24:30, a little faster than the 25:00 tempo run I had planned. The course length was questionable --  a few people told me they measured it at 3.26 miles instead of 3.1, so I actually might have run it faster, potentially my fastest 5k. This was a personally rewarding run. I've never won a race before. My only complaint was that they only gave out age-group awards, so I didn't get any recognition for winning overall. I could have taken a much easier run and still won my age group. However, the personal satisfaction and the incredible post-race goodies more than made up for it. So this was either 3.1 miles at 7:54 pace or 3.26 miles at 7:30 pace.

Sunday: Another big day. I knew that I would hit 1,000 miles for 2013 at mile 3 of this run, so I went out for an easy 4-mile run. It was just so enjoyable, and the motion made my sore legs feel much better, so I kept on going past 4. I didn't hit 1,000 miles until Christmas morning last year, and I started 2013 recovering from an injury, so it was a sweet accomplishment to hit this milestone earlier in the year on healthy legs. I ran 6.3 miles at 9:31 pace.

Overall for the week: 37.35 miles, followed by a 3-mile Sunday afternoon hike with my smallest running buddies.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 15: Chickamauga Marathon Training

Just about every marathon runner I know hits a point in training when he or she is just over it, and I definitely hit that point this week. I ran 21 miles last weekend and I feel strong and well-prepared for the race. So why can't I just fast-forward a few weeks and be there? I am tired of waking up at 5 a.m. and having the same bedtime as my children. I've planned and I've re-planned. I am excited to see where this training plan will take me, but I don't have much patience for the upcoming weeks.

Week 15 wasn't a taper week in my training schedule. If I had run all of the scheduled runs, I would have logged 30-36 miles, slightly less than the week before, but the intensity of the workouts was still there. Instead, I struggled to get the training in -- some of it was out of my hands, but some of it was just lack of motivation.

Monday: I did not run on Monday. I had an optional short easy run scheduled but I was sore from Saturday's long run, so I decided to let it go.

Tuesday: Every week, I have one run that is marked as a "must-do". It has always been either the weekend long run or sometimes a speed workout. This week, it was Tuesday's 5-6 miles at an easy pace. I guess the most important thing was to get my body moving after my last very long run. I honestly don't remember very much about this one. My notes say: "Okay run. I was a little tired and distracted".  So there you have it. 5.31 miles at 9:33 pace.

Wednesday: Rest day.

Thursday: I was distracted again, for one thing. For another thing, I am still waiting for some crisp fall weather, and it still hasn't arrived. I am tired of humid mornings in October! This was supposed to be a fairly challenging workout: 1-2 mile warmup, 5-6 miles at tempo pace, then a cooldown. I ran a very slow warmup, and I didn't feel like picking up the pace at all. I forced myself to at least try one mile at tempo pace, figuring I'd feel better once I really got my body moving. I managed 8:22 for that one mile, but I didn't want to run any more tempo miles. I knew there was a local 10k race coming up on Saturday, and thought maybe I'd sign up for that as my tempo run, so I ran the rest of this training run at a relatively easy pace. Footnote: I didn't run the 10k. Overall: 5.02 miles at 9:14 pace.

Friday: My kids were supposed to go to a Kids Night Out at church, so I decided to sleep in and run an easy 3-4 miles in the evening. Something new and different to shake up my routine, right! Unfortunately, several of the church volunteers came down with a stomach flu that afternoon, so they decided to cancel the event. My husband was working and my kids were very disappointed in the change of plans. So it became a snuggly pizza and movie night with my little ones, and the run went out the window.

Saturday: After running 21 miles last weekend, I actually had it in my mind all week that this weekend's long run of 15-17 miles with a 15-minute strong finish would be a piece of cake. I was still hoping for that crisp weather, and once again, I was disappointed. I took a break at 2.5 miles in, then another at 4.75, just dreading yet another hot and humid long run.  Fortunately, the sky got cloudy around mile 5, so it never really got hot. From that point on, the run got better. I stopped for a Gatorade at mile 12, and had a nice long chat break with a friend outside the convenience store. After that I felt really revved up. When I hit 15 miles, I picked up the pace for my strong finish. I ran the next mile in 8:59, and then 0.7 mile at an 8:23 pace. That strong finish was a huge confidence booster. I felt like I could have kept it up longer. Overall results: 16.71 miles at 9:38 pace.

Sunday: I woke up early and was just about to head out the door for an easy 5-6 miles, when my 4-year-old son woke up and said "oh good, we're going running today!" He threw on his running clothes and shoes before I could respond, and I didn't have the heart to tell him no. We went to a neighborhood with fun trails, and he ran the first 1.25 miles, occasionally stopping to look at something interesting. Then we walked another very slow 0.75 miles with increased stick-gathering and silliness. Then I had to carry him on my shoulders for a hilly 0.4 mile. His running pace was decent, and the shoulder-carrying wasn't easy, so I am going to count this run as a workout for me. 2.4 miles of trails with no pace tracking.

Pausing to assess the bear threat (none). 

Total mileage was 29.44. Another random lesson learned (that I really knew already but ignored): don't try anything new close to the marathon. On Saturday night, I put on a pair of roller skates for the first time in 20 years and thought it would be like riding a bike. It wasn't. I have a giant multi-colored bruise on my bum as proof, and I am fortunate that's the only injury sustained.  Three weeks until the marathon!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 14: Chickamauga Marathon Training

Runners have strong opinions when it comes to music. I'm not talking about their musical taste, but whether or not it's okay to listen to music when running. There is a strong vocal group of running purists who insist that music takes something away from the running experience. They cite safety issues, loss of focus on the here and now, and in a racing context, the loss of camaraderie in a sea of runners too caught up in their tunes to engage with one another. Often, there is a hint of superiority behind the purists' comments in internet debates about music, that somehow a person is more evolved if he or she foregoes music. I say, to each his own. I understand the purist argument and I agree that there are times when it is best to leave the music at home. For me, however, music is as much a part of me as running, and I love to combine the two. Music can get me through a tough run, it can inspire me to push harder, and it can make me feel light on my feet. Through running, I have expanded my musical library to include a little hip-hop and a few pop songs that I would publicly deny owning (I've got a little of that purist snobbery too when it comes to my music, so I get it). I had one music-free run this week. It was a short one, and I was hyper-aware of the sound of my breath some of the time, but it was a run that allowed me to really contemplate some life challenges. In contrast, I had to change musical styles several times during my Saturday long run to get through it. It's just a matter of what you need on a particular day.

Week 14 was a good week. Here is the recap:

Tuesday: I woke to a beautiful, relatively brisk morning. The training plan called for 8 miles, with the mid-6 at marathon race pace. I felt so good that I pushed the pace a little, hitting those mid miles right around 9:00 pace instead of 9:14. The speed training has definitely made a difference in this training cycle. The hills that I used to dread are becoming more and more effortless. Including warmup and cooldown, 8.26 miles at 9:11 pace.

Thursday: An easy run including six 15-second sprints with 15-second recoveries. Thinking about the hills I'll encounter on race day, I looped around to hit the biggest hill on my training route three times, then started the sprints on my way back. Fifteen seconds is not a long time at all, I thought during my first 15-second sprint. After a few intervals, I started thinking, fifteen seconds is not a long time at all, but that was during the recoveries. It wasn't that hard overall, but I was pretty winded. Overall: 5 miles at 9:16 pace.

Friday: I didn't intend to go music-free, but my iPhone needed charging. It was a lovely run. The sun was just coming up, and the running path was quiet. I ran 3.18 miles at 9:27 pace.

Saturday: I'm going to have to break this one down. Things were a little off for my last really long run of the training season, and I still haven't quite put my finger on it.

Weather: It was a little hotter and more humid than I was expecting, temps in the 70s with humidity around 80% and very little cloud cover. From mile 8 to 15, I was running into a pretty bright sun with no sunglasses or hat. From 15 to 18, I ran into a headwind, nothing terrible but definitely present.

Attire: I test-drove most of the clothes that I will be wearing at Chickamauga, including my brand new CWX compression pants, for this run. I can't say that I felt an amazing difference in compression pants, but they were comfortable, so I'll be wearing them on race day. They don't have pockets so I had to stuff a lot of Gu in the pocket of my water bottle. I wore my Altra running shoes, always my long-run shoe of choice, with some New Balance socks. Those both made the cut - no blisters. The Moving Comfort Vixen sports bra was okay -- I had a little chafing on my ribcage, but that's been happening on all of my long runs in this hot weather, so I'll probably stick with it for race day, under a long-sleeved top instead of the tank I wore on Saturday (the shirt I have in mind does have a pocket for even more Gu). I suffered from not wearing a hat or sunglasses, so that's going to be a priority.

Fueling: On Friday, I had a big pasta lunch and a baked potato for dinner. Saturday morning, I had my coffee (with dairy milk instead of my usual almond milk) and a whole wheat bagel with almond butter. I felt pretty well-hydrated going into my run. During the run I carried a water bottle, which I refilled numerous times, took a Gu every four miles, and ate a little bit of apple in the 14th mile. I did not carry electrolytes with me, which I think was the biggest factor in my general sense of blah during the second half of the run. Despite drinking a lot of water, I felt unusually dehydrated the rest of the day. Post-run, I immediately had a chocolate milk and then sipped on Gatorade all afternoon.

Other runners: During the first half of my run, I made an effort to avoid other runners, and there were more runners than usual on the path for some reason. People would turn out of neighborhoods ahead of me, and I'd find myself picking up my pace in a subconscious effort to pass. Then I'd find myself slowing down so I wouldn't have to pass. Eventually, I would just turn off into side streets to get a little space between myself and the other runners. Around mile 11, I passed a small 5k race. They were running toward me, but I still found myself running too fast for a few miles. I met my God-send at mile 13.5 in a runner named Darla who offered to keep me company when I was at my lowest. She was on vacation and training for the New York City Marathon. A mile and a half of good conversation went by too quickly, as I had to turn around to head back in the direction of my car. She gave me a few electrolyte tabs, which were sorely needed and definitely helped.

Route: Having adjusted my route to avoid other runners, my inner sense of when to turn around got a little out of whack. I overshot my turnaround when I was running with Darla, and then I added even more distance by taking a detour to a restaurant where I knew I could fill my water bottle with ice for free (I don't mind paying for water, but I hate using a debit card for such a small purchase, and I had no cash on me). I was almost 5 miles from my car, but I was only supposed to run another 2.5 - 3.5 miles. I started taking walk breaks every half-mile. I hit mile 20 when I was 2 miles away from my car, so I made the walk breaks longer. When I hit 21 miles of running, I walked the rest of the way.

Pace: My average pace turned out to be 9:27, much faster than any of my previous long runs in this cycle.

This wasn't a really bad run. It had some great miles and some hard miles. Overall I felt pretty strong. I think my #1 issue may have been the electrolyte tablets that I left on the kitchen counter. Another major issue was the humidity. I had been psyched all week about running a 20-miler in brisker weather, but I could feel the thick air as soon as I stepped outside. That disappointment created a mental challenge from the beginning. Running a little faster than normal under those conditions didn't help. Music was crucial. When I found myself skipping over a few "downer" songs in one playlist, I switched to a more upbeat one. Then I switched to the real power tunes for the last 4 or 5 miles.

Total miles for the week: 37.44

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 13: Marathon Training

Fingers crossed, I've got all the sick out of my system for the rest of the training cycle. Strep throat was a bear. The urgent care center gave me a steroid shot and a Z-pack, but that didn't work. It took a second round of antibiotics, Keflex this time, and daily doses of prednisone to completely knock the bug out of me.

Training-wise, I was totally out of commission for five days. I don't think I've taken that many days off from running since last year when I was injured. I expected to have challenges with pace afterward, but the muscle soreness has been a surprise. My calves, glutes, and back have all been achy since I started back.

I did not run on Monday or Tuesday of week 13, but I ran in some form or another everyday for the rest of the week, including some fun runs with my kids.

Wednesday: I went out with no expectations. My training plan called for 9 miles, but I figured it would be best to keep it easy and short. It took a couple of miles to get my legs moving and feel back in the groove. 4.12 miles at 9:33 pace.

Thursday: Since 4 miles felt pretty good on Wednesday, I decided to try the 9 mile workout with 4 marathon-pace miles on Thursday. My first five miles were really slow, but then I think the prednisone might have fueled me to push a little harder than I should have on the last four.  Marathon pace was supposed to be around 9:15, but I ran 9:09, 8:56, 8:52, and 8:46. This run felt great at the time, but I had some muscle soreness afterward. Overall: 9 miles at 9:21.

Friday: Technically I took Friday off, but I did run with my children after work. We ran some trails near my daughter's after-school program which took us past the high school football field, where the team was warming up for Friday night's game, and found ourselves in a playground, where we stopped for a short play break. We ran/walked two miles total, with the kids taking turns setting the pace.

Saturday: The training plan called for 15 miles, but since I had missed a longer long run while I was sick, I decided to up the mileage to 17 miles and stick to an easy pace. I started slow, and kept thinking I'd ease into a faster pace, but it never happened. It was just a slow kind of day. At mile 13, I was so hungry that I stopped at a convenience store and inhaled a hot buttermilk biscuit. This wasn't a great run, but it wasn't so bad either. I never felt like I NEEDED a walk break, although I took a few near the end to savor some shady patches on the path. It was pretty hot and sunny for a tropical storm weekend! Overall: 17.05 miles at 9:49 pace.

Sunday: When my alarm went off at 5:30, I decided that my legs were just too sore for running. My husband was supposed to go to work around 9:30, so I had already mentally chalked the day off as a rest day. It turned out he didn't have to work after all, and once I had been moving around for an hour or two, my legs didn't feel so bad after all. So I hit the pavement at around 8:00, much later than I typically get out. We had some nice cloud cover from the storm activity, so the late start didn't translate to a hotter run. It poured for the last 4-5 minutes, sideways rain that made me thankful that I have more than one pair of running shoes, because those bad boys aren't going to be dry for days. That nice little shake-out run was 5.16 miles at 9:29.

Bonus Sunday run: My 4-year-old son loved our Friday run, and begged me all weekend to take him again. When I got home from my Sunday morning run, he was hurt that I hadn't included him, so I changed into some dry clothes and shoes, and we went back out. We ran a loop through a fairly hilly subdivision, where we got to cross two bridges -- very exciting stuff when you're four. We finished at a beach access just as another squall was coming in, and we played on the beach in the rain. We covered 1.3 miles with lots of stops to jump in puddles (another pair of shoes down and out for a few days).

Total training miles: 35.33
Total miles, including fun runs: 38.63

By far, the best of the bunch was the second Sunday run. We laughed, we held hands, we got drenched. My tiny son had a huge smile and a hello for everyone we passed. His joy was infectious, a perfect end to a week of recovery.