Thursday, July 31, 2014

Life lately: July recap


July was a good month!  I'm really enjoying this training cycle.  The schedule is challenging, but I feel like I'm responding positively and it feels like it is working.  I'm running higher mileage than ever before and I love it.  

June 30-July 6

Mileage: 45
Speed work: 6 w/ 3 @ tempo; fast finish (6) long run
Long run: 16 w/ 6 @ MGP (marathon goal pace, 8:19)
Yoga: 1
Weights: 1
Core and body weight exercises: 3

July 7 - July 13

Mileage: 30 
Speed work: cutdown run w/ 10 @ 9:10-7:40; 6 w/ 5 @ MGP
Long run: 12 easy
Yoga: 1 
Weights: 1
Core and body weight exercises: 2

July 14 - July 20

Mileage: 45
Speed work: 10 w/ 3 x 2 @ tempo; fast finish (8) long run
Long run: 18 w/ 8 @ MGP 
Yoga: 1 
Weights: 1
Core and body weight exercises: 2

July 21 - July 27

Mileage: 47 
Speed work: 10 w/ 3 x 1m @ MGP, 1m @ HM; 8 @ MGP
Long run: 18 easy 
Yoga: 1
Weights: 1
Core and body weight exercises: 2

Total mileage for July = 186

What went well:
  • Weekly mileage - I love where it's at.  Love it!  I've never run mileage this high and to do it consistently and feel as good as I do is awesome.  
  • Long runs - They are also going so well.  I love long runs and haven't done this quantity long runs of this distance in a long time.  It reminds me of why I got hooked on marathons over 7 years ago.
  • The weather - I know I am in the minority here, but I have been really (really!) lucky to have been able to train in pretty much ideal running weather so far this summer.  We were at the Jersey shore before it warmed up too much and are now in Michigan where summer is still deciding whether or not it wants to come out and play and it is cooler than normal.  So that means I have been able to avoid training in the heat and humidity.  But don't be too jealous - we'll be returning to Arkansas mid-August and will have to get used to the heat and humidity real quick.  
What could go better:
  • Speed work - I have mixed feelings about this and am planning another post on it.  In short, I have been able to hit MGP miles during shorter runs (not as much in a fast finish long run…more on that in a minute), but I am not hitting the paces I want for most of my other speed work.  It isn't too discouraging because I am prioritizing higher mileage over speed and I also know that this training cycle is a process and I'll be excited to see where I am at the end of August.  
  • Fast finish long runs - I haven't hit my goal pace on my fast finish long runs yet.  After doing the 18 miler with 8 miles at MGP, I intended to do a whole post on what fast finish splits tell us….but I didn't get to it, so I'll include the main observations I had here.  
    • The course was rolling hills and my MGP is 8:19 (I'm giving myself a 2 minute cushion with my goal time), all but 1 MGP mile ranged from 8:16-8:28 and only 2 miles were below 8:19, most miles were in the 8:23-8:25 range.  The outside MGP mile clocked at 8:38…..going uphill at mile 17.
    • This was my longest long run of the training cycle and the highest amount of mileage at MGP so far….it was intentionally set up to be challenging, I wanted to test myself and see where I was.
    • I am going to repeat this exact run - same course, same mileage, same fast finish - before we leave MIchigan so I can compare the two runs and I *hope* to see some progress.
    • I was initially disappointed because I basically didn't hit my MGP miles and I was really discouraged as I was running them, but as the day went on, I realized I was pretty proud.  It was a challenging workout, it tested me, I resisted the temptation to change the number of MGP miles when I realized how hard it was, and I reminded myself that this training cycle is a intended to be a progression.  
  • Foam rolling - I'm not foam rolling as much as I should be.  That's about all I have to say about that, I should be doing it a lot more.  
  • Cross-training (yoga, weights, core) - My goal is to do weights and go to yoga each at least once a week and I have done that, so that's good.  I would ideally like to be doing both twice a week or at least one activity twice a week….it always seems doable in my head, but hard to make it happen   I also have a goal to do core work at least three times a week and it seems like twice a week is more the norm….something to work on. 
  • Brian and I celebrated our 5 year (5 years!) anniversary.  Between the boys being so close to turning 1 already (they are 11 and 10 months old) and celebrating our 5 year anniversary, I have a new appreciation for just how fast time FLIES.  Savor every minute!
  • As mentioned above, we are headed back to Arkansas mid-August and we'll be moving into a new home once we move back…..meaning we will be unloading and unpacking 3 PODS and will get our hands on all of our belongings that have been in storage since March.  Since we left in March, we have been in Florida, Mexico, Jersey shore, and Michigan and only spent a day or two in Arkansas twice since mid-March.  As wonderful as it is to have these opportunities to travel and as much as I love it, it will also be nice to get settled in our new home.  
  • So I'm coming clean and confessing that I have fallen hook, line, and sinker for The Bachelorette.  Yep, it's true.  Oddly enough (because I am one who thoroughly enjoys a good chick flick and all that nonsense), I never got into until this fall.  I had watched an episode here or there, but it was always kind of….meh.  Then we adopted two babies and I was up at night a lot and needed some mindless TV shows….and I got hooked.
  • We have two little beach bums who love to crawl around in - and eat - the sand…which is a good thing and means these boys will fit in very well in our family :D

Questions for you: 

How  did July wrap up for you?

Anyone else watch The Bachelorette?  What did you think of the finale?

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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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