Friday, July 18, 2014

What I'm doing differently this training cycle

Last week I shared my goal for Chicago - to BQ.  So the logical next question is what I'm doing to get there and, specially, what am I doing differently. 

My goals are bigger and more specific than ever before.  This is the first time I've ever trained to race a marathon instead of training to finish a marathon.  Prior to this, I wanted to finish and hoped to PR, but my mindset is very different this time and it has really influenced my training.  Here are some things I am doing differently.


  • Higher mileage: I've increased my average weekly mileage up from the mid 30's to the mid 40's.  I plan to get it up to the high end of the 40's and maybe low 50's by the end of the training cycle.  While it is tempting to go higher, I'm trying to be very cautious of how and when I increase my speed and mileage so I don't end up injured.   
  • More longer long runs: In this training cycle, I am doing more 16+ long runs and three 20-22 milers.  I have also tried to build more fatigue going into my long runs.
  • Running all runs at specific paces: My easy runs are easy and slow and my hard runs are hard and fast.  I used to go out and run however I felt and would often end up running most or all of my runs pretty moderately - nothing too slow and nothing too fast.  Now my runs are very pace specific, regardless of how I feel. 
  • Speedwork: I normally do some form of speedwork two times a week and I tend to stick to longer distance speedwork.  The workouts I am doing during this cycle include: tempo runs, alternating tempo runs, progression/cutdown runs, goal pace runs, and finishing long runs at marathon goal pace.  I haven't done much track work and, when I have, I keep my repeats between 800 and 1600. 
  • Not stopping during runs:  I feel like this seems so obvious and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, but this is kind of new to me.  I began running by taking breaks and, therefore, I always assumed I needed to stop….so I did.  When I started to test whether or not I really needed to stop, it turns out I didn't need those breaks as much as I thought (shocker, I know).  The biggest surprise to me has been during long runs.  I no longer stop at all unless I need to refill my water bottle or need to go to the bathroom.  When I do stop, it now feels like an interruption and I make the stop as quick as possible….whereas before I kind of welcomed them. 
  • Finishing runs strong: I try to finish all my runs strong with my last 1-2 miles being slightly faster than other miles, even on easy runs.  It's natural to slow down and assume you feel tired and are worn out at the end and that influences your thoughts and how you feel.  By finishing strong, your body gets accustomed to making the push at the end and it creates a subtle change in your mindset because it feels good to finish strong and it helps builds your confidence.  
  • Sticking to the schedule:  It has been a long time since I've had a specific training schedule and I picked up bad habits as a result.  I would plan out my week, but I frequently changed the plan based on how I felt, what I had time for, or any number of reasons.  This time I am sticking to my schedule and I do whatever it calls for.  Anytime I get tempted to change it the day before or morning of, I pretend I have a coach who I would have to answer to and explain why I didn't do what was on the schedule.  

Other than running

  • Recovery:  This is one area I have never been great at and I still have lots of room for improvement.  But I try.  I have always loved Epson salt baths as a means of recovery and still do.  I also try to eat within 30 minutes of finishing a run and wear compression socks/sleeves for longer runs and/or afterward.  Things I could still do a lot better at are getting more sleep and foam rolling.  
  • Weights: It's no secret I'm not a fan of the weight room and that I would rather run than lift.  But I know it is important for me to do some strength training on a regular basis so I can keep running, I can challenge myself with my mileage and paces, I can set big goals (like a BQ) all while minimizing my risk of injury.  My current goal is to do weights a minimum of once a week, but ideally twice a week.
  • Core and body weight exercises: I believe runners need a strong core and this is an area where I have tried to improve.  What I found works best for me is to fit in a few minutes of core and body weight exercises (push-ups, dips, mountain climbers, etc) several times a week.  My goal is to spend 5-10 minutes at least 3 times a week, but ideally 5 times a week.  
  • Yoga:  It's also no secret that I love going to yoga.  I wish I could go 4-5 times a week, but my goal is to go a minimum of once a week, ideally twice.  The classes I like the most are challenging power flow/vinyasa classes, preferably in a heated room.  So I consider that a bonus form of strength training and core.
  • Diet:  I haven't changed much about my diet, but I try to stick to how I like to eat best.  I really like Matt Fitzgerald's philosophy and try to keep it simple.  I like to eat foods that are good for you and as close to their natural form as possible.  I try to stay away from foods that are overly processed or have many additives.  I don't eliminate anything from my diet and I am a big fan of moderation.  I also like chocolate and have at least a little bit of chocolate almost every day :D

Questions for you:

What are some of the most important things you try to do in your training?

What things do you incorporate other than running?  

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Go big or go home: my goal for the Chicago marathon

Let's review: I've run 6 marathons and my PR is 4:32:58 from the Philadelphia Marathon in November, 2007 and my last marathon was the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI in May, 2013 where I crossed in 4:37:24.

The marathon times are the race times that I am most conflicted about.  I am proud of what I have run so far and I love the training and the distance, but I don't feel as if I've ever gotten to see what I can really do in that distance.  I ran the first 3 marathons for fun and ran each of them with other people even when I felt I could go faster.  When I finally broke away from running with others, I DNF-ed due to an injury.  Following my recovery, I started running again, but was then going through fertility treatments and I really struggled to maintain any consistency in my training and went into the last 3 marathons with insufficient training.

So here I am: no training partners, no injuries, and no fertility treatments and I'm throwing down the gauntlet…...

My goal for Chicago: to BQ with a qualifying time of less than 3:40.

That's right - I'm going for it!  It kinda sorta scares the bejeezus out of me and I know it's a long shot….a really loooooong long shot.  I get it.  But it can't hurt to try!

Over the past few months, I began to feel a BQ was starting to get somewhat tangible, but thought it was still a minimum of one or two marathons away and that the spring would be the earliest I would have a shot at it.  It was Brian who pushed me into thinking it was worth trying at Chicago.  I know it may easily still be one or two (or more) races away and it still might not happen until the spring (or later).  I feel as though a realistic goal for me right now is between 3:45 and 3:50 and if I'm that close to a BQ with 3 months left to train, then why not try?

I am ready for a challenge.  I want a goal that makes me cringe a bit, one that scares me.  I want to test my upper limits and really see what I can do.  I want to have zero regrets and make the most of my training and the race.

Is it realistic?  Maybe….but maybe not.  I'm ready to train hard and make the sacrifices.  But I'm also prepared not to get it and it won't take anything away from the experience for me.  I've wanted to run Chicago for years and, unless things really fall apart in a nasty way mid-race, I'll cross the finish line with a huge PR.  

I realize this goal is a big one and I'll have to have one incredible training cycle and everything will have to go really right on race day in order for me to reach it and have a 52 minute PR.  I know many runners strive for a BQ and hover close to their qualifying time for years before qualifying.  I get how hard it will be.  I've watched my husband as he has trained and competed to get a BQ for over 2 years and am continually amazed at his determination, focus, and perseverance.

I know it will be hard to achieve this and it is scary to admit this goal to myself, much less putting it out there on my little corner of the internet.  I've repeatedly wondered if it was crazy to go after this and, while I probably am crazy, I'm sticking to it and I am going to see where I go with it!

What's a goal you made that scared you?  

What goal are you most proud of?

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Fitting it all in

Hope everyone had a happy 4th!

We had a great weekend - my brother-in-law and his girlfriend came up for the weekend and we had a great time.  We basically crammed in everything they love about summertime in Michigan into two days and had a blast!  Plus we all got to celebrate the 4th in one of my favorite places to do so, had great weather all weekend, and got to eat out at all the best local places….it was a good weekend.

And I had a long run of 16 miles wearing LONG SLEEVES!  Granted I started early, but still….it's July!


Brian and I have had some changes in the past year…say one or two big changes.  Like with other big changes, after having babies, it can require a lot of creativity to figure out how (and when….and where) to fit running in.

Brian and I are both runners and we're both in the middle of marathon training…which means we both have to fit in our training and fit it in around each other's training.   Our summer schedule is drastically different from the academic year, but they both pose their own unique challenges and our ways at combating them differ depending on the time of year, but we figure it out.   Here are some of the things that help us fit it all in:
  • Home gym:  One big thing we wanted to do before having a baby was to create a home gym.  Once we started the adoption process, we did some renovations to make that happen and bought a treadmill and some weights.  The gym gets a ton of use between the two of us and we are able to get workouts in that might otherwise have been skipped.  I can get on the treadmill when the boys are napping or bring them in the gym to play while I run.  
  • Scheduling/communication:  We have to plan out who is running what and when they want to run.  We never used to do that and, instead, would just ask what the other was doing in the morning….but that doesn't work anymore!  By scheduling our runs ahead of time (either in the beginning of the week or just the day before) we can figure out how to stagger our runs and make sure we have someone to watch the boys.
  • Jogging stroller: As I mentioned here, getting a jogging stroller is one of the top investments I can recommend if you have kids.  I love it so much that we are actually trying to get a second (used) one for Michigan because there is a great trail system here. Personally, I loved running with our boys when we were home and I've missed it this summer.  Additionally, I always had the option of being able to run outside with them when Brian was working.  Plus, running with a jogging stroller is only going to make you a stronger runner!
  • Babysitters and visits with family:  It seems as if yoga studios haven't heard of child care…because I can't find one that offers it!  During the academic year I had a babysitter for the boys twice a week so I could go to Body Pump and/or yoga and would sometimes add a run on.  My babysitter even came over at 6:00am on a Saturday (and she's a college student!) so I could do a race while Brian was traveling for hockey.  Yes, it makes running, yoga, or "x' workout more expensive, but it's part of the new normal.  Likewise, when our family visits or we visit them, we are not shy about asking them to watch the boys….and they don't seem to mind *too* much :-D
  • Getting up early:  Unless I'm going to do a stroller run with the boys, the best thing I can do to get my run in is wake up and run before the boys get up.  And I love it.  I love, love, LOVE running first thing in the morning….I just don't always love getting up in order to do it.  Again, this take communication and, depending on Brian's schedule, sometimes I am back from my runs before the boys get up and sometimes Brian gets them up and does the morning routine with them.   This works really well in the summer when Brian is home and the sun is up early, but during the academic year it can be hard because Brian has early morning practices and it stays dark later.
  • Being flexible:  Being flexible is what has gotten me the majority of my miles since the boys were born.  Yes, I prefer running first thing in the morning, but that doesn't always work and I've learned to take advantage of whatever window I get to fit my run in.   Since Brian and I are both training for marathons, we have to plan - and be willing to juggle or move - our long runs and other key workouts.  Sometimes it's not ideal, but we make it work.    
  • Taking advantage of nap time:  The boys are on a very regular schedule and nap time is such valuable time.  I used to plan to run while the boys nap….but then I realized I didn't get anything else (as in nothing at all) done, another reason why I like to run before they wake up.  I also have no other choice than to run on the treadmill if I do that.  However, if all else fails, it's a GREAT back-up and I have been grateful for our treadmill for this reason over and over!

 Do you like running early or late in the day?

What obstacles do you face to getting your runs in, how do you get around it?

How did you spend your 4th?

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