Reformed Runner

We are having another (near) 50 degree day here in New England and I’m not running. I feel like I’m wasting it, like I’m passing up this random gift from Mother Nature by not hitting the road and getting in a few miles with less layers on. But, as much as it pains me to sit this weekend out, I must resist the urge.

My hamstring and Achilles tendon started bothering me a few weeks ago.  I tried to ignore it, but we all know how that ends up. A wee niggle morphed into a full on pain, and in no time I was barely able to hobble out a 3 mile recovery run. With the distractions of moving, holidays, sick kids, etc, etc, I had neglected to take care of myself properly & it has affected my training. Because I slacked with proper warm ups, drills, and the like, my hamstring issues from last summer have returned full force and I was forced to take the week – the WHOLE WEEK – off. As someone who is in the throws of training for Boston with a serious goal in mind, this was a hard pill to swallow. What about fitness, what about strength, what about my pacing?! I’ve worked so hard, I can’t bear to lose any of it!

But a step back from running is what I needed.

So, this week has been spent on strength training (hello weight room, I’ve missed you!), gentle walking with the dog, and back to physical therapy. While I’m itching to run, I do know that this short amount of time off really won’t hurt my over all training. After all, what’s the point in limping through a few junky miles & causing real damage instead of sitting still for a few weeks and healing properly. I’d rather go into the race a little under trained than wind up injured and not race at all. And these past few days off have given me the time to reassess my running goals and restructure my training plan. I’ve taken a long hard look at my progress so far & I’ve made a few determinations:

  1. I’m running too fast. It feels good to fly, and it feels like progress to grab those little Strava crowns on every training run, but it’s been hurting me. I looked over my data & found that on most runs I’ve been at or near race pace when I should be going easy. This is extra strain that is tearing down my body. I need to run slower, a lot slower, and a lot more often. Easy does not mean a new course record on a segment.Screenshot (4)_LI
  2. I go up, but don’t train for hills. I really like hills. I am solidly in the #TeamHillYes camp. It’s not that I like the hills, it’s that I like that others don’t like them. Other people’s weaknesses are my strength, so I’ve convinced myself that hills are my friend. And, because of that, I tackle every one full on. We’ve moved to a significantly hillier area than what I’m used to; every run is a hill workout – even my driveway! I’ve slacked on doing hill specific workouts, thinking my regular ups & downs would suffice (they don’t). But after reviewing the GAP (grade adjusted pace) data on Strava, I’ve found that I hit the hills hard, much harder than I should, and much more often than I should. This has been shredding my Achilles. I need to go back to training for hills the proper way & cooling my jets every time I see an incline in front of me on an easy run.Screenshot (11)Screenshot (21)_LI
  3. I need to warm up properly. I know I’m supposed to do a warm up and a cool down. I know I need to do the dynamic drills, the strides, the stretches. I know, I know, I know. Those are the boring details about running that I’ve been neglecting, and those are the details that are coming back to bite me in the butt. After my Fall race I went into recovery mode, which meant slow, easy runs, if I ran at all. I didn’t bother with all the little extras and fell into the bad habit of just running. And then I didn’t change my habits when my training picked up again. And now my butt hurts. With colder weather, proper warm ups are even more of a must, so it’s no wonder my body is revolting. Yes it’s time consuming. Yes it’s boring. But it is oh-so necessary and I will be doing them from now on.

I’ve caught my injury before it was a “real” injury, before any true damage was done, so I will be able to return to training very quickly. Heck, the rest may have even done me some good. But it did wake me up. I need to do things the right way, the smart way, or I could be out. A week off was punishment enough and I have certainly learned my lesson & have changed my ways. I am a reformed runner!

Take it easy my friends, and stay safe out there!

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Boston Marathon Training Week 3

With the kids in the school this week – all week – I had was able to slip back into the routine of running. I also added some weight training this week in the form of a Bowflex and body weight exercises. The cold weather gave us all a break, warming up to a sultry 55 degrees and melting all the snow. While the lack of snow was exciting, it meant lots of dense fog, a day of rather intense rain, and all that water freezing again over night.

I got a lot of running in this week, just over 55 miles, which I haven’t done since September. But with the time and the weather I felt compelled to log those miles!

Monday: My first Long Run with Marathon Pace running, was difficult due to the hills, the continued frigid weather, and a nagging Achilles tendon. Still, I pulled off 6 easy miles followed by 4 at goal marathon pace, with 2.5 more easy miles as a cool down, 12.5 in all.

Tuesday: An easy recovery run through the neighborhood to follow the previous day’s effort and some quality time with the Bowflex machine.

Wednesday: The weather was considerably warmer – delightfully warmer – and I went in search of some flatter ground to do my repeats on. I parked at the library and ran some back roads near the center of town. There were some inclines that required effort, but they felt like speed bumps compared to the roads around my house. My 3×10 minute at threshold pace workout felt like cake. I was close to hitting a mile and a half on each set and hit my paces perfectly!

Thursday: 7.5 miles of easy running to recover from the day before with another session with the Bowflex. Felt good & strong, however the dense fog that settled between the hills made running on the road very dangerous. I was happy for my florescent green jacket.

Friday: Rest day. The rain fell so heavy that at times you couldn’t see more than 50 feet ahead. It would not have been safe to run outdoors anyway.

Saturday: A very short & sweet tempo run to get the blood flowing. I called this “Tempo Lite” because the idea was hardish – really, I didn’t even want to go marathon pace. 2 miles easy, 3 miles up tempo, another mile easy to cool down.

Sunday: I moved Monday’s long run to today because the kids have tomorrow off for MLK day and I am NOT getting up early enough to run before Hubs goes to work. I’m just not. So, today I put in 16 miles, the first of my truly long runs. Because I was running a rather hilly course, I opted not to bother with pacing & focus on just staying relaxed & comfortable. I stayed mostly in the 8:00 mile range, but there were a few larger hills that took me by surprise & sobered me up a bit. I’m not ashamed to say it, either. I walked between driveways on one incredibly tough hill. Whatever keeps you moving forward!

And that’s my week! I hope your training is going well, you are staying safe & staying warm.

Boston Training Week 2

My second week of marathon training came with a lot of bad weather.  The New Year swept in with a blast of frigid temperatures in the single digits with the wind chill bringing it below zero.  Bundling up in layers made movement a bit less than ideal, and condensation and sweat freezing to clothing was rather uncomfortable.  Then, as if a “real feel” of -4 wasn’t enough, we were smacked with what the meteorologists referred to as a Bomb Cyclone, followed by a Polar Vortex which brought actual negative degrees.  Yup, it was a bit on the miserable side, but, I made it out alive and without frostbite!

My main workouts this week were, of course my first long run of training (11 miles at a constant easy pace), 2 mile repeats (a slippery experiment on the bridal trail that I won’t attempt again until Spring), and a strong up tempo with lots of hills.  The kids were only in school Tuesday and Wednesday due to New Year’s Day and then weather, so I wasn’t able to double up on runs, and I was forced to take three days off.  Not ideal, but I still got in some quality sessions, was able to hold a decent pace despite the cold and ice, and wrapped up the week with just over 34 miles.  Thankfully next week’s forecast is predicting a break from these bone chilling temps and I’m looking forward to it.

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Boston Training Week 1

After completely messing up my Base Training segment (December was a terrible month!!), I decided to switch direction back to my tried & trusted Garmin training plan (Level III).  While I have every confidence in the BAA marathon program, I already know my Garmin plan.  And, honestly, I was a bit intimidated by what the BAA prescribed! It was more miles and faster paces than what I’ve been used to.  Coupled with the fact that I’m still trying to get over a head-turned-chest-cold & the insane weather we’ve been having, I figured that I’d play it safe.  So, I’ll be sticking with what I’m used to, but kicking it up a notch by incorporating some elements from the BAA plan.

So, Marathon Training started the day after Christmas.  The week was fairly laid back with some easy miles, one interval workout of five by five minutes at threshold pace, a frightening tempo run in the dark, and an attempt at a fartlek.  Because the Boston Marathon takes place on a Monday, all of my long runs are scheduled for Mondays.  I eased through the first week of marathon training with 24 miles.  But don’t worry – I’ll be working up the mileage in the next two weeks.

New England is in a deep freeze with single digit temperatures and “real feel” in the negatives. Needless to say, it’s not been a lot of fun.  I’m sure saner people are utilizing treadmills, but as long as I’m not in the dark, I will suck it up and run in the cold.  This does mean that sometimes my neck gaiter freezes to me. Or my gloves frost over.  Or the snot freezes to my face.  But I’ve found that layering keeps me toasty: layering socks, leggings, shirts.  I even layer my moisturizer.  A couple of years ago I got a little bit of frostbite (frostnip?) on my cheeks from running in sub 0 temperatures.  Since then I’ve been a bit smarter about taking care of my skin.  Whatever skin is exposed (around the eyes, nose, cheek bones) I slather in a heavy moisturizer (I used Clarins Overnight Mask) and then layer Vaseline over the top.  I also spread Vaseline on my chin, lips, and hands before I put on my face mask & gloves.

Since the move I am without a Long Run Buddy, so I’m on the lookout for local groups & runners to meet up with.  I may have to get through the training cycle alone, but I’m hoping there’s someone out there to run with.  I’m also researching which shoes will be next in my rotation & playing with the idea of racing flats.  I’m also hoping to get over to the bookstore & find some inspiration since Santa didn’t bring any books this year.  It’s time to get serious and focused & I’m excited to run my first Boston Marathon!

One week down, 15 to go!

2017 Year in Review

2017 has had it’s ups and downs and has been a seriously tough year.  However, my running year has been fantastic.  While getting the time to run has been tricky at times, I’ve been pretty good at being consistent, getting the hard work done, and staying focused.

I didn’t run a lot of races this year, instead I focused on a select few and put my all into them.  I completed one 5K, two 10Ks, a 5 miler, a half marathon, and two marathons.  Each race that I did run was a personal best, from the 5k to the marathon. I just kept getting faster & faster all year.  While some of the distances were improved while on training runs or in a marathon, here are my new PRs for the open races:

5K:  4/9/2017 Chicken Run 5k, 20:01 – 6:30 min/mile
10K: 8/5/2017 Hop River Run, 41:32 – 6:36 min/mile
5M: 10/8/2017 Andover Lake Race, 33:01 – 6:32 min/mile
1/2 marathon: 2/25/2017 Colchester Half, 1:39.35 – 7:34 min/mile
Marathon: 10/22/2017 Atlantic City, 3:18.23 – 7:32 min/mile

Garmin Connect has given me a whole bunch of other awesome data for the year as well.  In 2017 I ran a total of 1668.73 miles (that’s like running just over 538 local 5Ks).  That ended up being 237 hours, 55 minutes, and 49 seconds on my feet (almost 10 solid days of running).  I made good use of my time too, averaging 7.0 mph (or 8:34 min/mile).  I also climbed a total of 58,253 feet of elevation.  That’s like climbing Mount Everest twice!

This year I also started using Strava & utilizing some of the data on their site as well as connecting with some wonderful running friends.  I’ve learned a lot about running this year, and learned how to be a better runner and be more patient with the marathon distance.  This growth as gained me two Boston qualifiers.  I met one of my idols, Kathryn Switzer, and have plowed through a handful of books.  Despite some of the hard stuff (living separate from my husband and flying solo with the kids, illness, moving, and making it a whole year without anxiety meds!) I have had one awesome year.  And, with all my new PRs, experience, and mojo, I am really looking forward to seeing what I can pull off in 2018!

I hope you had a great 2017 and I hope you have an even better 2018.  Happy New Year!!

Building Miles from the Base Up

We hear about base training all the time, but what exactly is it?  If I’ve been running for over 20 years, doesn’t that count as enough base?  Does my last training cycle count as base?  I have the endurance, can’t I just get on with my training?

The Base Phase is building the running foundation of your training program.  During this time you are teaching your body how to use oxygen efficiently & prepping your muscles for the grueling work that will come in the weeks ahead.  This means that Base Training is a lot of steady miles, slowly and gradually laying the ground work. If you’ve recently come off a training cycle, focusing on Base before the next cycle is a great way to recover and keep fit.  I’ve rolled off of one marathon right into a new training cycle, and while I had all the previous miles under my belt, I still made sure to get several weeks of long, easy miles in before hitting it hard again.

Personally, I find Base Training to be a lot like Tapering; slow, tedious, and kind of frustrating.  I’m the type of runner that likes the speed work, the repeats, the testing of physical fitness.  Taking it easy, going slow, plodding along to add up miles is just not my thing, which is why I’m taking a slightly different approach this time around.

Four out of five of my last marathons were run off the Garmin marathon plans (levels 1, 2, and 3).  They were fantastic for me and I’ve had nothing but success with them.  However, I have decided to use the Boston Athletic Association’s marathon plan for this Spring’s race.  I have decided to switch because this is a Boston specific plan and it includes a Base Phase.  This plan includes a three week Base Phase, making it a 20 week plan, opposed to a standard 16 week plan.

Now, I don’t need a plan to tell me what to do during the build up to marathon training, but it sure is nice.  At first I found a 20 week plan rather daunting.  20 weeks sounded like such a long time to be preparing for a race.  But, I realized that I’d be waiting out those 20 weeks whether I was following a plan or not, so, why not go for it.  It is reassuring to be able to look at my workout laid out before me and not have to second guess what I’m doing, my pacing, or my mileage.  I trust this plan, and while I’m not into the nitty gritty of actual marathon training just yet, I feel like I am more focused with my running.

If you are prepping for a Spring race, I highly recommend finding a training plan that includes Base training.  Don’t be intimidated by the length of the plan and know that during the Base Phase it is okay to tweak and adjust (and rest) as needed.  This is the easy part, so it should feel easy & fun!  If you need help with a Base Training plan, shoot me a message and I can help you out and tell us your Spring goals in the comments below.

Not According to Plan

I’ve learned something over the last couple of weeks: marathon training and moving don’t go well together.  We finally closed on the house on the first, which was a major feat in and of itself.  We’ve had one set back after another regarding this move, but we weren’t about to give up.  I was barely getting over an illness when it was time to get going.  I had done little packing in the week before the papers were signed, in fact, I did little of anything other than lay in bed with a fever begging for Death to take me quickly.

We started moving boxes and some of the furniture right away.  Hubs even took the following Monday off to make trips back and forth, to spend endless hours in Home Depot, and scrambling to get the water in the kitchen to stop pouring all over the floor.  This wasn’t our moving plan at all.  We figured we’d have several days to get the new house deep cleaned, repaired, and possibly some paint on the walls before we started hauling our belongings in.  We also had planned on using the four day weekend during Thanksgiving to do most of the heavy lifting and multiple trips.  We had planned on doing this all in a nice orderly fashion on a fairly reasonable timeline.

But things don’t always go according to plan.  The bank had their issues, our lawyer was hard to get ahold of (and even out of the country when it was time to close!), and our closing didn’t line up at the beginning of the week but at the end of one.  We had to roll with the punches and just make it work.

Between illness and moving, my running has been all over the place.  I’ve missed some long runs, I’ve taken extra days off, I’ve done hodgepodge workouts on what should have been rest days.  I have decided to follow the BAA’s marathon training plan, and am currently in the Base Phase, but my plan has all but derailed.  However, I have no other choice but to roll with it and just make it work.  With illness behind me (nothing more than a few sniffles now), I know that things will settle down soon and I’ll be right on track once it’s time to put some serious work in on the roads.  I’m following the plan as best I can, but also listening to my body and taking a rest or an easy day if I feel I need it.  It’s more important to stay healthy & get the mileage in than it is to be strict about plans & pacing.  So, I suppose I am more on track than I’ve given myself credit for.  If the plan is to run, be happy, and stay healthy, I would say that I’m doing just that.