On the Road for Training Week 11

From Queens, NY to Pittsburgh, PA to Deerfield, MA and back to Connecticut between each trip –  I swear I’ve spent more time in the car this past week than I have in the past several months! And I just know all that sitting is bad for my bones.

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Cool + Rainy = Perfect Running Weather

After last week’s half marathon effort and this week’s need for insane travel, my only goal was to just get through the week up right. My husband needed to make yet another work trip to Pittsburgh and since he’s been home maybe seven days out of the last two months, he asked us to come with him this time. This meant we could force some family time while driving, find something educational for the kids around the city while he worked, then hang out for dinner and at the hotel pool in the evening. We also took our time on the last day to walk around and check out the main drag, eat some awesome pancakes, & do a little shopping before leaving. On the way home we stopped at Penn’s Cave and drove through Amish country. I also got in a wee bit of running tourism by visiting Canton Avenue, the steepest street in the US (and according to some sources, the world). I ran up it (twice!), but because I had to wait until Martin was done with work, and then dinner, it ended up being late and got very dark very fast. I probably would have attempted it a few more times, and certainly gotten better pictures, had it been day light. Something for next time.

The kids and husband had a Revolutionary War Reenactment on Saturday in Deerfield, MA. Because my husband had plans for throwing early on Sunday morning with his trainer, I figured I’d push my long run up a day and run in a new place. I wasn’t sure quite how well I could pull this off, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

I never do well with hard workouts on the road, plus I was flat out exhausted from not sleeping well. So, I kept all the runs on the lighter side. I even skipped out on my social running group because I was either on the road or too beat after dinner to even find my running shoes.  Adding up easy miles was really all I was going for, so I was actually a bit surprised to see that I had tallied up a full 50 miles! In Pittsburgh I ran mostly on the North Shore and Chateau Trails along the Ohio River and the Canal Side Trail in Deerfield. This was a lot of pavement and concrete, but at a slow pace it didn’t kill me. When I was home, I did try to stick to the softer trails to give my body a break from the pounding. My hip and knee gave me a little bit of trouble at the beginning of the week, but did get better with each day and seemed to resolve itself by the weekend.  I did gain quite a bit of weight with all the restaurant food, so I will have to clean up my diet in the coming weeks. But, I’m not too concerned since I am sure that my body will be right where it needs to be come race day.

All in all, it was a solid week of training, despite the lack of speed.

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Heading up Canton Ave!

Monday: My body was still feeling trashed after the half marathon over the weekend, and I had an 8+ hour drive to Pittsburgh ahead of me. Thankfully I was able to get to my massage therapy session before traveling and man, oh man, was it wonderful! She spent pretty much the full 90 minutes on my left glutes. She also paid some attention to my knee, but felt that the knee was probably a bi-product of the glutes & hamstrings acting up. Thanks to driving, this was a Rest Day.
Tuesday:
M had a very important meeting in the morning, so I had to be up early if I wanted to get a run in. I was out the door by 6:45, which for me is crazy early. The goal was easy & just get in an hour (or close-ish) of running. Unfortunately the bike bath near our hotel was all concrete, which really didn’t feel great. My jaw was still very sore & the Advil I picked up at a rest stop was not helping. My hip was feeling much better thanks to my massage, but now I was dealing with knee pain. Also, at 55 degrees and humid, it felt a lot hotter than what I’ve been used to. I covered 6.5 miles and was happy to get back to the hotel.
Wednesday:
I decided to go in the opposite direction on the bike path and do a little exploring and was happy to find that most of the run was on pavement instead of concrete. Still hard, but somewhat better. The knee wasn’t perfect, but better. Also, I was much more comfortable at 37 degrees. Covered another easy 6.5 miles. We also traveled home later in the day.
Thursday:
Finally home, I decided to try to tack on a few more miles. I was exhausted, but managed 8 miles on the bridal trail. This really hurt my knee for some reason. I wasn’t sure if it was mental (getting nervous about race day closing in) or due to the conditions of the trail (very soft, unstable).
Friday:
I knew I should try for mileage and the idea of attempting a speed session on the track sounded absolutely miserable. But it was cool (almost 40 degrees) and slightly drizzling (my favorite) & I didn’t want to waste the perfect running weather. I decided to run my favorite mildly hilly (676ft of elevation gain with a couple of really good hills) route with the middle 5 miles at a good clip – almost a tempo at 7:45 pace, 7:32 when adjusted for hills. 8 miles total.
Saturday:
Had to switch my long run to today and due to a lot of miscommunication and child wrangling, I wasn’t able to get around to it until almost noon. This ended up being awful because it was a brilliantly sunny and 75 degree day and, since the trees haven’t filled in yet, I was fully exposed to the sun the whole way. I set out to do 18 miles, and was going along at a great clip (right around 7:40 pace), sipping water every mile and taking in my bee pollen and electrolyte tablets every three miles. But I started to really feel the heat when I turned around and started heading back. Mile 9 was tough, but I could hold the pace. Mile 10 I began to feel queasy. It was becoming more and more of a struggle to hold the pace, so rather than end up being sick on the side of the road, I decided to cruise in at a slower cool down pace and cut it short at 15 miles. It may have been a shorter run, but it still held the effort and spirit of an 18 miler. Also, surprisingly, it didn’t hurt my hip or knee!
Sunday:
Woke up amazingly okay. I was expecting soreness or at least tiredness. But I felt fine. I did have to wait until later in the afternoon to get my run in, but thankfully it cooled down by then (still a warm  73 degrees though) and it even began to rain a bit. I covered 6 easy (but under 8:00/mile pace!) feel good miles.

Totals Week 11: 50 miles

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Rockapulco Run Half Marathon

Running a half marathon race about 6 weeks out from the main event is often recommended in most marathon training plans. It’s a great way to work out some race day kinks such as practicing fueling while running hard, testing out gear (will these shorts chafe?!), as well as dampening a bit of the nerves. That being said, I’ve never actually raced one during a training cycle. I’ve raced halves after a goal race for fun, and I’ve run a half as my target race. But, typically in my training cycles I just run a hard 13 miles and call it good enough. But I can’t get the same type of effort off of a hard run alone and I wanted to do things “right” this time and decided to actually sign up for and race the distance. I had to dig a bit and did have some trouble finding something in my area in the time frame I needed. But, I did eventually find a small race in Queens, NY exactly 6 weeks from my marathon. This would have to do!Coming from Connecticut, it wasn’t too far away, but just far enough that we decided to get a hotel the night before. This meant we could get up at 6:30 instead of 4 am. The race headquarters was at the Rockaway Gliders studio, a wonderful little fitness studio run by a father-daughter team. This was where we could park, check in and pick up bibs, as well as stash extra clothes. The race itself was just a few blocks over at Rockaway Beach along the boardwalk. My family and I arrived much earlier than necessary, but this did give us plenty of time to grab some delicious bagels next door and leisurely walk over to the starting area. The start/finish line was across from Beach 116th at the Flight 587 Memorial Park. The course was simple; head West for a half a mile to the end of the promenade and turn back (there was a barrel trash can as a marker), cross the start-finish line and head East for almost 3 miles to Beach 55th (go around the water station table) and head back to the start-finish line. That’s loop one. Do the whole thing a second time & you’ve completed the course!

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Now, there are a few things I should probably warn you about with this race if you are looking to run it for the first time.
#1 It is a VERY small race – only about 100 runners – so there is VERY little in terms of course support. The race director rides his bike out & back encouraging runners on the first loop, but then you are pretty much on your own.
#2 There is one water station at the start-finish line and one water station at the far turn around (about 4 miles from the start). Being early April and not that hot, I was fine with forgoing the water since it was in bottles, which would have been difficult for me to handle. There is no Gatorade, food, or gels available.
#3 I assumed when reading “boardwalk” that I would be running on planks of wood. I didn’t realize that the boardwalk had been washed away in Hurricane Sandy and rebuilt as a concrete bike path. This means that the entire race is very hard, very unforgiving concrete. This can be hard on the body, so be prepared and wear some good shoes.
#4 Bathrooms aren’t guaranteed. I went to the toilet at the fitness studio, but I always have to go again after a “poop jog” and a warm up. We were assured that the public restrooms along the boardwalk would be open, but everything was locked up tight when we got there. This was slightly panic inducing for me. The coffee from the bagel shop was starting to get to me. I had to go to the bathroom! But, I would have to hold it until after the race.
#5 This is an awesome race for spectators! While there was some random cheering from a few folks out walking the boardwalk, there was a good cluster of family and friends forming a small tunnel at the start-finish area. Since you pass through the same spot four times, they don’t have to run all over the course to see you run!

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Waiting for the last handful of runners to make it to the start line.

The race went off at just after 9am (we were waiting for a few late stragglers that were making their way over from the studio). It was overcast and a cool upper 30s. I was agonizing over what to wear. I came in a crop top & shorts, my favorite go-to race outfit, but feared the chill and decided to keep my tank top on. I warmed up in sweats and an older pair of trainers, but ditched them at the last minute and tossed on my New Balance 1400 race shoes. I probably should have stuck with the trainers since they were a bit cushier and would have saved my legs on the concrete, but I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I felt awkward on the starting line. Everyone else was carrying water bottles on belts & in back packs, wearing long sleeves & tights, and hovering away from the start line. I stood practically naked on the start line, my breath billowing around my shoulders as I bounced up and down trying to keep warm. I did keep on my headband to keep my ears warm, but decided against wearing my gloves. Only one other runner, a quiet Englishman named Will, seemed willing to toe the line. I admitted that I wasn’t in the best of shape; my hip and knee had been giving me issues lately, and this was only a test for a later marathon, but still, I was aiming for a 1:28 to possibly a 1:25 finish. He, too, was targeting a 1:25 goal. Having already run a 1:25 in the Fall, I figured that I was lucky enough to have someone to pace with.

The gun went off and we moved forward. And that’s when I noticed that my sport watch was asking if I wanted to connect to GPS. Dang it! I mashed at buttons and it didn’t start. I had to run, and keep my eye on the front pack, and try to back out of whatever settings my stupid watch was stuck on. I had gone about a tenth of a mile when I finally got it all figured out and had the thing running properly. This suddenly made me feel flustered and I surged to the front of the pack, just behind Will. I had 13 miles to go, I had plenty of time to make up those few seconds, but of course the excitement of racing sometimes keeps me from thinking logically.

Will and I quickly pulled away from the rest of the runners and strode through the first mile much too fast at 6:13. I was already feeling a bit warm & tossed my headband to my kids as I went by. My goal was to run mid 6:30s if possible – or at least under 6:40s. I knew this was too fast for me. I eased up a bit and mile 2 clicked by in 6:25. Still a little too fast and Will was slipping ahead of me. I quickly realized that I would not be able to pace with him and would have to run my own race. I settled into a 6:30 pace, and while the effort was easy, my back and hip did not cooperate. By the end of mile 5 I had to let go by 10 seconds. A one mile breather, I promised myself. I valiantly picked the 6:30 pace up again for mile 7, only to have my pelvis sway side to side. I felt like I was lacking structural support and my pelvis and hips would give out & crumble on the slightest misstep. I could tell that my stride was being impeded by my aching hip that felt like a rusty hinge that was stuck only bending half way. I contemplated stopping at the start-finish line, but that would only be half of the race, and I was doing well. I would just have to grind this out.

It was very lonely on the second loop of the course. I was approximately two minutes behind the first place runner and two minutes ahead of the third place runner. I had no group support, no one to pace or work off of, no comradery. I was alone and working on a pace that I hadn’t been able to reach in workouts since October. Every step jarred up through my body and my shins and calves were beginning to tighten up. The concrete was crushing me! But as I passed back by all the other runners behind me I was met with smiles and waves and cheers of encouragement. They were all so happy to see me plowing through as the first female. They were so happy to see me in second place. Every whoop and “you go girl” propelled me forward. I felt like I owed it to them to keep trying, to just get to the finish as hard as I could. So I pushed on.

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Holding a pace solo is tough work.

The clouds had now given way to brilliant sunshine and the temperature jumped from mid 30s to a sweltering 55 degrees. I knew I should have run in the crop top! I tried to tuck the bottom half of my tank top into the band of my sports bra, but it wouldn’t stay and the flopping fabric annoyed me. I opted against grabbing a water bottle at that last turn around. I didn’t want to waste a precious second. Mile 10 was the hardest and slowest at 6:55. But I knew I only had a 5k from there – shorter than a typical workout. I counted down the street signs as I made my way back to 116th. I picked up a little speed with a 6:51. Then a little more at 6:49. I wanted to crush the last mile, but my body hurt too much and all I had left was a 6:40. I did have a wee sprint to push through the finish line and grabbed, to my surprise, a 1:26.26 time.

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Pushed it all the way in.

The prize for the top finishers was a new pair of Rockaway Gliders sneakers. How cool! Winning shoes was an awesome deal. And, the race director was so impressed with my kids helping out in setting up the water station, handing out opened water bottles, and cheering on every runner that he gifted them a fresh set of sneakers as well. See kids, it pays to behave!

I cheered on the runners finishing up behind me, very impressed with their efforts. The man who came in third told me that it was his first race. Fourth, third among the men, was excited because he had won a pair of sneakers as well and it was his first time winning a prize. Others were beaming with the pride of new PRs. It was infectious to see so many happy runners. I did a slow short jog on the beach as a cool down before we headed back to the studio to share a Rockapulco beer, grab our new shoes, and pick up the truck before finding food & the route home.

This run was not a PR for me – though I was only 42 seconds short! However, with all the things that went on in this race, I do think that it was one of my strongest runs. This was a sheer guts, all mental effort and I actually think I pulled through rather well. There are a few things I’d do differently, like starting out a little more conservatively. Going into the race I wasn’t convinced that I was ready to do a 1:28 (though I was most definitely going under 1:30) due to my fitness and hip woes, then piling on the discomfort of the concrete, the struggle of pacing solo, and forgoing water stations, I am rather surprised that I had underestimated myself by so much. This race gave me a huge confidence boost and I am feeling a bit more at ease about running in the Poconos. I am ready to crush the next six weeks of training and chase down a new marathon PR!

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13.1 Fitness Test: Week 10

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Ah, another week of hip pain. And illness. And a serious bout of nerves.

I had scheduled a therapy massage session for Tuesday morning and was really looking forward to it. Laura is amazing and I was confident that she’d be able to fix all my hip & back woes. Unfortunately, illness has reared it’s ugly head yet again in our household. My middle child was struck down with a fever on Sunday night, and had to stay home from school Monday and Tuesday. I finagled help from neighbors and my sister so I could get my runs in and leave the little man at home to rest. I was on my way to my massage appointment when the school called to tell me that my youngest had also succumbed to a 103.4 fever and needed to be picked up immediately! I rushed to my appointment so I could reschedule it, then went to get my daughter. I was seriously bummed because I really needed that massage! But of course my babies come first – my hip would have to wait. Sadly there weren’t any appointments available for the rest of the week. I would have to rely on foam rolling and just go with it.

With my youngest staying home from school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I began to get worried about my up coming half marathon. I was supposed to race on the weekend, but the kids were dropping like flies. I was afraid of getting sick myself and was chowing down on raw garlic & Airborne in an attempt to avoid catching the plague myself. The weather reports were saying it would be chilly and raining on race day. Were the kids going to be well enough to travel and then stand around in the yuck? Would I be well enough? My body was screaming no. I was so nervous about even attempting it. I used a massage stick, foam roller, and lacrosse ball daily. I did light weight strength training, and slightly tapered my week. I was doing okay running wise, despite the stiffness in my hip and back. My husband kept reassuring me that I would be okay. After all, it was just a test to see how I might have to adjust the rest of my training.

I would be okay.

Monday: Very slow, plodding 4 mile recovery run on some nice soft trails & grass. My entire left side is jacked up, stiff & cranky, and my legs felt like they were burning. The weekend’s extra long run has left me a bit sore with some lactic acid build up. I also did some weight lifting and focused on core strength.
Tuesday: I needed to get some hill work in, and I’ve been trying to claim that hilly runs count. Of course I know they don’t, I just didn’t want to do it. I decided to do this workout as a tempo-hill run since I find hill repeats to be incredibly boring. I found a big hill (steep – 10 to 16% grade, long – almost a continuous 2 miles, and very hard). I did a two mile very easy warm up, then went straight into the hard part. I went at it hard for two miles, most of which was up hill. Due to the steepness, my pace did slip to 9+ min/mile, however my grade adjusted pace (effort) was close to 6:30/mile for most of it, better in some spots. I then did a two miles controlled pace down the hill. The point here was to 1. keep it around 7:00-7:10/mile and 2. not be so afraid of running down hills! This was then followed up with two more very easy miles for a cool down. It was a hard workout, but a good confidence booster – 8 miles in total.
Wednesday: Hip, back, and pelvis are still really cranky, so I did some glute activation exercises, foam rolled before and after, and did a nice easy 6 mile run.
Thursday: Back at the track with a 20 minute warm up, leg swings, drills, etc, plus some trigger point massage with a LAX ball I found on the in field. The goal of this workout was to work on turn over & form, as well as work a few kinks out. Nothing too strenuous, just some build ups to feel good. 4 by 400 meters with 200 meter walk/jog recovery (about a 1:25 each), and 4 by 200 meters with a 100 meter walk/jog recovery (about 40 seconds each), followed by a 20 minute cool down. My leg, thankfully, worked with me on this workout and my legs felt pretty snappy. I also met up with my running group in the evening for a fun run of just over 4 miles. The easy run in the evening actually felt pretty great! About 11 miles for the day. There was also some weight lifting involved, but not too heavy.
Friday: Another easy 5 miles just to shake things out. I did more glute activation exercises, but without weights or bands, lots of dynamic warm ups, and foam rolling.
Saturday: Race Day! I had signed up to do the Rockaway Half Marathon as a test on my legs to see how my training was going. It was really the only race I could find that was far enough out from my marathon. But, as we got closer & closer to this race, I started second guessing everything and really wanted to drop out. I’m glad my husband convinced me to stick with this. It was tough to run because of my hip and back issues, but I got through it okay. I knew I wouldn’t PR, but I did have a conservative goal of 1:28. I easily hit that mark with a 1:26.26 (about 40 slower than my PR!) and taking 2nd place overall and first female. This ended up being more of a mental race than a physical one, which gave me the confidence I’ve been needing lately. It was also nice to run a very small race for a change.
Sunday: An easy 4 mile shakeout run to get the blood flowing. Unfortunately, my hip, pelvis, low back, and left knee are very stiff (feels like a rusty hinge) and fairly painful. Thankfully I’ve got a therapy massage for tomorrow morning!

Totals Week 10: 54.5 miles

I actually got through the half marathon okay – not great, but really not bad either. I was pleased with my over all effort & know where I need to focus for the remaining weeks of training. I also put away another 50+ miles, which will help me in the long run. This next week I start going hard, focusing in on marathon race pace miles. It’s all about honing in on the speed now. I’m also really excited to get that massage in this week!

What if I fail?

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I struggled through my long run like I’d been struggling through all my workouts lately. I just couldn’t get my body to work with me; I couldn’t hit paces and my limbs felt awkward & flailing. It was disheartening. This 20 miler was a key workout in my training. I hadn’t gotten in enough really long runs (I like to have at least two 20 milers and one 22-24 miler) and it was starting to look like this would be my only one in the training block. I had to make it count.

But instead of zipping through the middle miles at goal marathon race pace, which should have been easy, I slogged on and on for what felt like forever in a death march to 20 miles back to my car. There were fleeting moments where I could pull myself together and bang out a mile in just under eight minutes, but most of them were slower than 8:10. I was basically running warm up pace for the whole dang thing. I had to slow way down and talk myself up a hill (something I almost never have to do) and stopped to stretch twice (something I never do).  When I finally finished, I felt defeated. But I also felt anxious. Instead of my training coming together and feeling faster and stronger, I felt like I was unraveling. I was losing control of the whole thing and running was getting away from me.

I climbed into my car and thought about calling my husband. I wanted to vent. I wanted to cry. I was crushed that yet another workout and gone by and I hadn’t been able to do what I needed to do. But I knew that he was busy driving around town with the kids doing errands, working on the truck, or fixing something in the house. He was busy and if I called him and actually got ahold of him, I’d be on speaker phone, and I hate the feedback from his speaker phone. My tears could wait the twenty minutes until I just got home & I’d tell him all about how much I sucked then.

On the drive I started playing out the conversation that we would probably have. I’d tell my husband about my running, what I was doing vs what I felt I needed to be doing. I’d tell him about my fears of failing & complain about the aches & pains. He’d patiently hear me out. He’d say, “Yeah, so?” and shrug. And I’d whine, “But what if I can’t do it?!” The “it” being my goal times. And he’d probably say, “Well, what if you didn’t?” I was already a little angry at him for not sympathizing, for not really listening or helping. But did I even have a come back other than more emotion?

I really thought about that question. Well, what IF I didn’t hit my goals? What IF I didn’t run fast enough? What IF I actually “failed”? What exactly would that mean? If I have a bad race I am not at risk of losing a sponsorship or getting fired. Sure, I may or may not miss out on prize money, but I’m not expecting to win any. My kids won’t think any less of me and my husband won’t divorce me. It turns out that I really have absolutely nothing to lose by running this marathon if I “fail”. I may end up disappointed and sore, but I can come back from both of those. But I can get a great time. I can get a PR. I can have a lot of fun. I can meet new runners & see new places. In reality, I can only gain from running – so why am I so worried about failing?

I’ve been struggling, really struggling mentally the last few weeks, months, damn near a year, when it comes to running. I expect a lot out of myself. I have incredibly lofty goals that I know I can eventually hit, but I don’t have the patience to get there. And, I’ve lost sight of the main focus here; it’s supposed to be fun! I haven’t been having much fun. I’ve been working hard, grinding myself down to be the best I can be, but I don’t really know why. I’m guessing that all my tight muscles and stunted pacing may have a lot to do with my mental state. I can’t loosen up & run freely because I am just too uptight about it all.

So, I’ve decided to have fun. I’m going to push myself to the point of fun and no further. This might mean adjusting the pace a little or varying the miles. This might mean ditching workouts to frolic in the woods. It might mean an extra rest day or an extra social run. I honestly don’t know what the rest of my training plan is going to look like. For me, that’s a little bit intimidating because I like schedules and routine. I like work and results. But, I think this new approach is something I need right now. What’s the point in running faster if I’m hating every minute of it? I might not hit my goals this time around, but I’m not going to fall apart over it either.

Painful & Disappointing: Week 9

While a lot of runners, especially female marathoners, will suffer from amenorrhea, I suffer from dysmenorrhea. While the basic advice given for painful periods is to eat healthy & exercise, this can be an aggravating bit of advice. I’m already doing that, damn it!  How else can I make the pain stop? So far, for me at least, I have not yet found a way to lessen the pain and instead just push through. I know what it is and I know I’m not injured or sick, so mentally that helps.  But, it still greatly affects my running.  The day before and (generally) the first two to three days of my period are accompanied with extreme pelvic and low back pain similar to labor pains, as well as migraines, hip pain, vomiting, and body temperature issues (sometimes it’s a fever of 99ish, sometimes it’s low at 95ish). Basically, every month I get a week of being wickedly uncomfortable. Thankfully, these hell weeks tend to land in the middle of training and not during a race week. I’ve been lucky so far.  Unfortunately, this week was one of them, adding on yet another week of unsatisfactory training.

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Monday: Legs were still very sore from the long hilly run from the day before, so this was just an easy 5 mile jog (8:45/mile) and some drills to loosen up the hips. Followed by upper body lifting, fairly heavy.
Tuesday:
Track day – 8 by 800 meters at 3:05 with a 200 meter walk/jog recovery.  This workout sucked. It was really, really awful. And hard. And I just flat out didn’t wanna do it!  The wind was so bad I contemplated quitting by the third one, but I forced myself to do at least 5.  Once I’d done 5 reps, I figured I might as well do all 8. I was able to hit the target when the wind died down, which was only about half the time. 3:06, 3:07, 3:04, 3:03, 3″04, 3:05, 3:09, 3:03. I did an easy 20 minutes on the track as a warm up and a cool down with some drills. In the evening I went to meet up with my running group, but no one showed, so I did another easy (8:52/mile) 5k solo, totaling 12.82 miles for the day. I didn’t feel great on my morning workout and I started getting a killer headache in the evening run – which is odd for me. Usually running gets rid of a headache, so I was ok with going slow & keeping it short.
Wednesday:
I felt like absolute crap and spent the afternoon succumbing to a migraine. So, this ended up being a rest day. This ended up being Day One of my cycle.
Thursday:
I still felt pretty terrible and my head was still screaming, but felt that running through it was important. The spotty vision had died down & the tender scalp was ok if I didn’t wear a headband, so running was a must. My plan was to at least do a one hour easy run at roughly 8:15/mile. But, every muscle in my legs were burning (hills, track, random rest day that probably should have at least been a shakeout…) and they just wouldn’t loosen up. My hip and low back were also hurting. My overall fitness felt flat. I was running slow, very slow, and it just felt awkward at best, painful at worst. So, I cut it short at 45 minutes, giving me just over 5 miles.
Friday:
I’ve started to get a little nervous about the hills that will be involved in this marathon, so I decided to do this workout on my regular semi-hilly route. And, I was sorely disappointed. I mean, I knew it would be harder than running on the flat road by the river or doing this on the track, but I didn’t know my body would basically shut down & it would be nearly impossible!  It was supposed to be a 6 mile tempo run (6:35/mile pace) but I just couldn’t pull it off. I felt like shit. So, I decided in mile 2 to break it up into a mini-workout & do 2 by 3 miles (with a 1 minute walk rest) instead. I still couldn’t hit the pace. I ran my heart out and couldn’t even touch on 6:45. I barely hit 7:00. Most of the run I was significantly slower than marathon race pace. I just focused on getting through the miles at effort. With 2 miles warm up and 2 miles cool down this ended up being a tad over 10 miles. I was very disappointed with this.
Saturday:
I was forced into moving my long run up a day due to my husband needing to leave for Pittsburgh, again.  I was supposed to incorporate some marathon paced miles into this, but I was struggling from the moment I hit start on my watch. My hip hurt. My breathing was off. It was just so incredibly hard to move forward. But, I had to get in my really long run, so I ditched the idea of pace and just logged the miles. I did have to stop twice to stretch and a third time in the last 3 miles to strip my shirt off. I felt like walking through much of it. The temperature increased 17 degrees F from start to finish. But, I got through all 20 miles and averaged an 8:05/mile pace.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see my car!
Sunday:
Martin had to leave for work this morning and my legs are still shot, so it was a very easy decision to make this a rest day.

Total Week 9: Just over 53 miles. It’s a miracle I made it this far!

I did accomplish a lot, despite being miserable.  And I recognize that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.  But still, it is so disheartening to add on another week of hip pain. I’ve also started questing my marathon goal and am contemplating adjusting it. I am struggling to hit paces in training, so I fear that I won’t be able to hit those paces once the gun goes off.  I am able to complete the runs, but hardly able to do actual workouts. It feels like a disappointing set back, and I’m not really sure how else to fix it.  I am going to see how the following week goes (with a race to test out the legs!) and then I’ll go from there.

All The Small Things: Week 8

I had a good week, despite a few personal hiccups. I felt like I was running with power, especially after last week’s slump. My hip and back started giving me some issues near the end of the week, and it certainly was a minor issue on my Sunday long run, but I’m confident I can get ahead of it before I head into injury territory. Spring started this week, but so far it’s been very cold & wet. I ordered some new shorts in anticipation of warmer weather, but had to return them for being a lot too big! I guess I still have time to find something that fits.

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Some drills & strides before speed work.

Monday: An assigned rest day, but I still decided that it would be best to get into the weight room ASAP. I focused on squats, lunges, and glute activation exercises.
Tuesday: This was a speed work day, something I haven’t had in a very long time, and thankfully the track was finally clear of ice! 4x200m at 40s, 3200m at 5:45, 4x200m at 40s with 200m walk/jog recovery between each. NAILED IT. With warm up (2 miles) and cooldown (3.5 miles), I covered 9.5 miles.
Wednesday: Easy 5 recovery miles at 8:30 pace. I’m tired, thing hurt, my quads are stiff. Something is very off.
Thursday: This workout was a threshold/speed workout, but I chose to do it on a mildly hilly dirt road because it would be hard. I didn’t want the ease & predictability of the track; I wanted to work for this. 2 miles easy warm up, straight into 3×1 mile hard (sub 6:30 was my target) with one minute rest, followed by 2 miles cool down. The terrain, the pouring rain, and the fact that I’d just come from a less than ideal parent-teacher conference made this a wee bit difficult. But, I got through it. 6:37, 6:26, 6:28 – 7.2 miles total. Later in the evening I met up with  my running buddies for an easy run that ended up being a wee bit more than anticipated, 5.6 miles. But it was at a very relaxed pace & felt good to shake off the effort from earlier in the day & thankfully the rain had stopped.
Friday: Some snow in the morning that turned to rain left the day feeling raw. Add in bursts of wind & it just wasn’t fun. My training plan keeps telling me that my “maintenance” or “easy” runs should be at 7:38 pace & I’ve been pretty much ignoring that. It’s seems just a hair too fast for me. But, today I wanted to give it a shot & see if I could actually do it. I waited until later in the day when the rain had let up a bit and opted for another route with hills. The sub 7:40 pace was hard to maintain, though I could do it. I worked extra hard on the hills to try & keep the pace closer to 8:00 on the steep parts (this didn’t always work out for me). I intended to go somewhere around 8 miles, but by 4 miles my hip and low back were screaming with each stride and by 5 miles my right heel felt like pins & needles were in my shoe, so I decided to call it a day and headed back to the house at 6.5 miles  with a 7:42 pace & 520 feet of elevation gain.
Saturday: A forced rest day due to lack of childcare. Not ideal, but it’s all part of the mom game. Go with the flow, adjust along the way, make up for discrepancies later.
Sunday: Long run, as usual. This run was 2 hours of hills. It was early (7 am – ouch!), it was cold (27 degrees – double ouch!), and it was hard. I had a hard time getting going & maintaining an 8 min/mile pace, but the main focus of the run was to work hard on some serious hills & to maintain good form both up & down. I need to get comfortable on both up hills & down hills and what better way to do that than on a torturous 1353 ft elevation gain route. You can check out my Strava data here. After I uploaded my run to the computer I found that at least my GAP (grade adjusted pace) was pretty decent, but I do need to work on having more confidence on the down hills. 15 miles total.

Week Eight: 50 miles

I have 10 weeks left to my training and 2 weeks until I test my legs out on a half marathon.  This is when my training takes a turn & it gets really fun. I’ll start picking up speed and putting in some longer long runs, as well as adding in marathon paced miles. I’m going to have to focus more on hill work (both accents and descents) and taking my recovery runs more seriously. I will also be adjusting my lifestyle for the next two months (as I always do when coming up on a marathon) to include a lot more water, a lot less coffee, and no alcohol. Red meat, high fructose corn syrup, most dairy, and pretty much all packaged foods become banned. I’ll be going to bed earlier and starting my long runs by 8am (7am if I can really motivate myself) to mimic the race. It’s all the small things that really add up to great things down the road.

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Rainy mile repeats.

Training on Pause for Illness: Week 7

Yup, I got sick last week and I paid for it this week. I did not see a doctor so I didn’t determine if it was the flu or just a cold, but I’m pretty sure it was just a bad cold with possibly a sinus infection. Sunday of last week and Monday of this week were by far the worst two days, but most of the week I was in an exhausted fog. I did not marathon train this week. I ran, but it was more for the benefit of warming my body and loosening up some junk than accomplishing much else. When I ran, I ran slow and easy (9:00 miles and slower). I stayed out of the weight room which did effect my knee and by the end of the week it was screaming at me. Apparently I need strength training to keep the pain at bay. I spent a great amount of my time sleeping, dozing in front of the TV, sipping tea and bone broth, and blowing my nose.

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Most of the week was quite cold, quite windy, and I felt miserable. There was no reason to push myself, but rather let myself recover & focus on running hard again once I felt whole.

Monday: The dreaded “flu-like symptoms” hit even harder today and I felt like I was barely alive. My muscles hurt, my joints ached, and my head was pounding. The incessant sneezing didn’t help any of that. I did manage to slide my car out of the slushy driveway without hitting a tree and getting to my dog walking jobs. The 2.5 miles I covered with the pups was enough of a workout for me! I spent the rest of the day sleeping on the couch.
Tuesday: The extreme congestion finally let loose and the pressure in my face was gone. This was a good sign! I figured I’d be okay to get a few miles in as long as I took it really easy, so I ran. I did have to be careful because huffing & puffing in the dry, cold air exacerbated my already very sore throat. My muscles, especially my quads, were also still very stiff & achy. I covered about 4 miles at a snails’ pace, but it did help warm my body up and expel some of the gunk in my chest.
Wednesday: All the gunk has moved from my head (yay, I can breathe again!) to my chest (crap, now I’m coughing non-stop). I found that a half a dose of children’s cold & flu medicine helped tame my cough without making me feel loopy. It also enabled me to feel well enough to get out & trudge through a few more very easy miles (while spitting up green gloop the whole way). My hamstrings and knees are really tight from the lack of strength training, so I am really looking forward to that for next week. I completed 6 miles at a warm up pace, which still felt a bit strenuous.
Thursday: I ran my first social run in a very long time with the Rat Pack Runners in the evening. It was a very comfortable 4 miles at conversation pace followed by some good food & beer. The fatigue is starting to let up, which is making me feel that there just might be a light at the end of this illness tunnel.
Friday: Due to my persistent cough, I’m still taking it very easy, watching a lot of TV & napping during the day. While I am on the way to feeling better, I know I’ll only prolong it all without taking care of myself, so I decided, even though I really wanted to run (and it was 60 glorious degrees!), to just take this as a full rest day.
Saturday: Because I am beginning to feel human again, but have had very low mileage all week, I’ve decided to adjust my long run goals for the week. Instead of jumping from easy 4 mile runs to 16, I decided to do two medium long runs back to back, and then getting back into the groove of regular training next week. I wasn’t sure how an 8-10 miler would feel and assumed I’d be stiff & rusty. But boy was I wrong! After a week of easy runs and rest day I had quite the pep in my step.  After flying through mile 4 in 7:28 and feeling like it was a walk in the park, I decided to go ahead & run it as a “comfortable tempo” workout. This meant running hard without using all the gas in the tank and keeping it just a tad slower than race pace. With all the hills, this felt perfect. I’m still spitting up yuck & blowing my nose often, but I’m feeling world’s better.
Sunday: Steady MLR of 10.5 miles (matched yesterday’s run) but took to the trails for the first time in months. It felt great to be off the hard pavement! Trails are still sloppy since we had some intense rains Friday night followed by a freeze (mud, ice, flooding), but I wasn’t looking to go fast today and the slow down felt good. My intent was sub 8:00 miles, which I accomplished. Still a bit of muscle stiffness (looking forward to lifting tomorrow!) and only a little coughing & mucus left. I think it’s safe to say that I am better!

Week Seven: 35.5 miles of mostly easy runs.

I didn’t run much, but I ran enough. I don’t feel that I’ve lost any fitness by taking an easy week, and even if I did, I feel confident that I can quickly gain it back. I’d rather lose a week of fitness than prolong an illness for who knows how long. In the past I would have pushed myself through illness to stick to a training plan, only to end up with the flu or pneumonia, which would keep me from running my full potential for weeks. Thankfully I have matured past this & haven’t endangered my marathon with a silly cold. I’ll be ready to get back to my regularly scheduled training next week!