Push Through

I had a track work out to do today. It was the last real hard workout before my taper begins. Since school has started for the kids, I’ve been doing all of my repeats on the trail. I like the packed dirt, I like the solitude, and I like the constant shade. But today I decided to run on the track for a reason. I did it because track workouts are hard. Track workouts, while the distance and paces are the same, are everything the trail is not. There are fewer variables on the track (so fewer excuses – no hills, fallen branches, etc!). There are always people (I know they probably aren’t watching, but I always feel like I’m being critiqued). The track is always hot. Even on cooler days, the direct sun and lack of breeze always makes the track feel ten degrees hotter.

It was a threshold workout with three excruciating parts; Set One consisted of 3 reps of 1000 meters below 6:00 min pace with 200 meters recovery (walk/jog) followed by 400 meters rest. Set Two was a step up with 3 reps of 200 meter speed bursts and 100 meters of recovery, also followed by a 400 meter rest. Set Three (the hard part) was another set of 3 by 1000 meters. I’ll admit it. I went out a little too hot on my first set and was a bit ahead of pace (we’ll also not talk about how I actually ran longer repeats – which was frustrating until I realized they were not 1000 meters!) I also crushed those 200s.

But the cloud cover that had shielded me for the first half of my workout dissipated, leaving me exposed to the sun. It became incredibly hot very quickly. By the time I started my third set my legs were feeling like tree trunks filled with lead. I just couldn’t pick them up. I was shuffling along. I had decided to cut the workout short. There was no point in pushing myself, dehydrating myself, potentially injuring myself if I wasn’t even going to be making the splits. I had already put in some good, quality work, so perhaps I should cut my losses and ditch the last rep.

As I came through the finish of my 5th 1000 meter repeat (which was slow, but faster than the one before it), I reminded myself that I came to the track for a challenge. I wouldn’t be able to just drop out of the marathon at the last mile simply because it was hot or because I was tired. I was here to work, damn it! I needed to work on my psychological toughness as much as my physical toughness and here was the test: 1000 meters of hot track, daring me to run it. Lane 5 taunted me. My legs may have been begging me to quit, but my head and my heart (those insane, annoying little cheerleaders of mine) told me to do it.

I know the point of the workout was to do the work while tired and depleted, which is why there was minimal rest between each rep. But I also knew I had to compromise somewhere. I wasn’t going to have any hope of actually completing the final rep on time if I stayed to protocol. And ditching it altogether wasn’t an option. So I walked the entire 200 meter recovery, taking double the time to rest, then went for my last run. I pushed through the lead legs & the sweat dripping in my eyes and did what I could to maintain goal pace. I pushed through the mental barrier that told me to give up.

A lot of people would have quit. A lot of people would have told me to quit. In many ways it may have been beneficial to do so, but I know I gained a lot by going just one more time. I walked away feeling accomplished, strong, powerful, and fast. I walked away with my fastest 1000 meter split as well. And I saw the workout all the way through. Sometimes you have to push through to the end and give it all up to know just what you’re made of. Mental toughness is being able to go around the track one more glorious time.


Slowing Down for a Fast Marathon

I have a bad habit of going too fast. I know, running fast sure doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but trust me — when training for a marathon running fast can be a very bad thing! Because I am focusing on TWENTY SIX POINT TWO miles (that’s a lotta miles, folks!), I’m not worried about speed. I need to train for strength and endurance. Speed work, running fast, and pushing the pace can lead to burn out and injury — and those will certainly slow you down!

The last few weeks have been pretty terrible in terms of workouts. I’ve felt awful, my legs have been tight, my hips have been locking up, and I’ve struggled to finish my repeats. I was so beat in my last track workout that I ended up missing a lap on my last repeat as well as cut the workout down from 5 to 3 repeats. I was beginning to dread lacing up my shoes and sorta, kinda hated the idea of running. At first I thought I was coming down with something (a cold, the flu, depression, boredom). Then I blamed it on the snow (can’t run on the trail away from traffic where I feel safe) and the never ending snow days (seriously, my kids will still be in school in July!). Then I figured it was probably my period, since hormones just suck. But yesterday I went back over some of my Garmin data.

I had been running well. At least the numbers said so. I was fast! All of my repeats were blistering and my distance was decent. So, why was I feeling so crappy if I kept setting PRs? Because I was running too fast for marathon training! Setting personal bests in the 400m, 800m, 1000m, and mile distances in workouts was a tip off. While I’m pretty damn ecstatic that I can do some of these things, that I’m faster now than I was in college (over 10 years ago!!), I know that these are not paces that will help get me through a¬† l¬† o¬† n¬† g distance race. I need to build endurance through long runs and the strength to run them with repeats at or **slightly** below race pace.

Today I switched things up. Instead of running my 1000 meter repeats at “hard pace” (to me that’s been “a bit more effort than 5k pace” which is generally about 6:00-6:30 or so, depending on length) I ran them at a conservative 10k pace. 7 minutes and 15 seconds per mile pace. I would have to adjust and readjust in the first 30 to 45 seconds to find the pace. I was always going too fast. It felt oddly slow…oddly rhythmic. I followed up 5 by 1000m with 10 minutes at marathon pace (so, about 2000m at a hair below 8:00 pace since a lot of it was down hill). I felt great! I felt like I could run the whole workout again. But at the same time I did feel like I had put in good effort — just not enough to make my body hurt or make my mind want to quit.

For the next (almost) six weeks I’m focusing strictly on PACE. That means I’m going to have to slow myself down. I’ll probably have to refrain from running on the track since I tend to move a lot quicker there than on the road. I’ll have to actually LOOK at my watch and SLOW DOWN when I’m going too fast. Repeats and strength work will consist of conservative 10k paces and half marathon paces only; not a step will be faster than 7:00, I swear!!¬† I am pretty confident that a month and a half of running slow will get me to a fast marathon. At the very least I’ll be fresh and injury free!

The Best Workout

Everyone has a different favorite or best workout. For me, it was today’s run.¬† For a run to be considered a “best workout” it needs to push wp-1472748849095.pngme physically and mentally, and it needs to leave me feeling strong and fierce at the end.¬† Personally, I love repeats. Hitting the track and cranking out repeats or speed-work almost always leaves me feeling like a super hero.¬† My training plan has had me doing longer and longer repeats, so I haven’t been on the track in several weeks, but they are still just as satisfying on the road or trail.

Today I ran 3 sets of 2 miles with a 2 minute recovery. My goal was to run the first of the two miles at 7:20-7:30 pace and negative split the second mile, on each rep. It sounds a little complicated, but it really wasn’t.¬†It was a great, challenging workout! Not only did I have wonderful pacing, but I was able to hit sub 7s on my second two reps. Talk about an ego boost!¬† I then finished off the rest of the workout with an easy, calming 5 miles at about 9-9:30 pace. All in all I finished up 12 miles in under two hours, and I feel like a beast!

What is your favorite workout? A long run, track workouts, hills? Leave some comments below!

Vacation & Running

My family took a vacation last week — a one last hurrah¬†before school started up again. An old family friend was moving from New Hampshire to Georgia and we helped out by pulling a trailer of his belongings down for him. Half way there we spent the night in Williamsburg to get our history on before passing off the trailer for unloading. Then we continued on our way to Florida to surprise the kids with a trip to Disney. We also got to see Hub’s family who lives in Daytona, and stopped by Hershey Park on the way back North. We also checked out a cave! It was a whirlwind week of doing all the things!


Barefoot Running at Ormond Beach!

While we had a lot of fun, one of the things did not get done, and that was proper training. I packed all my gear and brought all my good intentions, I really did. Between the extremely late nights driving, bouncing from hotel to hotel, and suffering from serious dehydration, I only managed to get in ONE actual workout. I did run, but my pace was all over and they were merely miles for the sake of miles.  In the end I decided that some movement was probably better than no movement, so I tried not to beat myself up too badly about it.

Here’s what my trip looked like:
Thurs: 5am, 6 miles from home (Connecticut) before packing the kids into the car
Fri: explored Williamsburg with three cranky, unimpressed kids (that counts as a workout, right?)
Sat: 5 easy miles in Pooler, GA. That was hot, sticky, and unpleasant.
Sun: Made it to the in-law’s in Daytona, FL and talked myself into 3×10 min intervals. 6miles total.
Mon: You can’t make me! We hit Orlando & had to get to Disney World by 8am to meet Rapunzel or my daughter would be heartbroken.
Tue: 4 miles to shake out the stiffness from spending ALL DAY at the park.
Wed: Back to the beach. This time I made our beach day a run day. Running on the sand felt great, except for the blisters and sore calves the next day!
Thur: So sore! Took the day off while we traveled north…stopped in Lumberton, SC, but no motivation to tie shoes.
Fri: Ran an up-tempo 4 miler in Hummelstown, PA. It was everything I needed to stretch out the legs! Wish I’d run the day before. Spent the rest of the day at Hershey Park.
Sat: Quick 6 miles and a cave tour before packing it all up and heading for home.
Sun: HOME! 14 mile long run.

There are some things to keep in mind if you plan on traveling AND running:
1. Bring ALL the socks! Because there was so much walking involved, I found my feet in sneakers a lot, which meant I was in socks a lot. I also had super wet socks after all my runs, so there was definitely no way I could get back in the car & go in them! We brought a Rubbermaid bin (with lid) to keep all my gross laundry in while we drove.

2. Protect yourself. I don’t usually wear a pouch or carry my phone on shorter runs, but I definitely did while traveling. I also carried my pepper spray along with me. If you don’t know the area (honestly, even if you do!) it’s better to run safe. **Before you carry something like pepper spray, be sure to be aware of the local laws of such items since they are different in different places.

3. Stuff your running shoes!.I keep the balled up paper that comes with new shoes, but newspaper works just as well. Stuff them in to the toes of your shoes when you aren’t running. It helps dry them out from sweat & moisture as well as keeping the rest of your luggage and vehicle from smelling like a locker room.

4. Check out running routes ahead of time. A lot of apps will show you routes other runners have completed. I like to use Route Runner. I can put in a distance and it will generate a random route for me, or I can customize my own.  This can save you from running into dead ends, strange circles, or boring out & backs on busy roads.

5. Unless your race is the following week, don’t beat yourself up about veering off your training plan. Enjoy your vacation!

Switch It Up, Up, Up With Hills

My local track is being resurfaced,which is great because it really needs it, but it means I need to do my interval and speed work elsewhere. And it turns out that that’s not such a bad thing. Some times is good for the legs (and the psyche) to get on some different terrain, surround yourself with different scenery. Last week I did my 800 meter repeats in the shade of the rail trail so today I opted for hill repeats.

I found a great hill, 250 meters up, with roughly 500 meters back down and across to make a loop. I ran an easy 1.5 miles to the base of the hill and stretched. I initially set out to do 8 reps up the hill, but both the hill and the heat sapped me. I wanted to quit at 5, but I completed 6 before deciding to head home. However, on the walk back down the hill, as I staggered with my hands behind my head, struggling for breath, I started bullying myself. 
“I really should stop. It’s so hot and I still have to run back to the car. It’s ok to stop now before I get injured,” I told myself. 

“No way! You know that’s just an excuse and excuses won’t get you up hills. Go run another!” I demanded.

“But I can’t. I’m done. I’m tired,” I complained. 

“That’s the point. You need to fight through being tired to get stronger and faster. That’s why we’re doing this!” I had a point, even though at this point I wanted nothing to do with it. Ugg. I deliberated with myself and by the time I’d reached the start of my loop I’d compromised to do one last hill charge as long as I didn’t care what pace it was.

I did two. And they were both my fastest reps. 

I jogged my cool down hot, sweaty, extremely tired, but rather pleased with myself. 

Sometimes getting the work done means ditching the track and finding a hill. Sometimes it means arguing with yourself in the middle of said hill. Keep pushing toward those goals and you’ll amaze yourself. 

Running Slow & Feelin’ Groovy

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.

I’ve taken a three week slow-down between training cycles and man, it does feel good! The first week immediately followed the Vermont City Marathon, and that consisted of (gasp!) no running at all. I did a little bit of light walking, but nothing strenuous at all. The second week was very light and slow running every other day for about 30 minutes and lots of stretching. Just very chill, checking out the scenery, enjoying some awesomely cool New England weather. Next week will be my third week “off”. I’ll run a little bit longer with a little bit more overall mileage, but keep my slow, easy pace.

I am a bit itchy to get back to business & I’ve caught myself creeping up on the pace a bit (this is why I¬†always run with my GPS watch!), but I know that taking this down-time is just as important to my marathon training as mile repeats or long runs. While I’m lucky I stayed healthy & injury free so far this year, I do need to let my body fully recover to effectively train for the next race, and hopefully bring my time down. Quality sleep, excellent nutrition, and body weight exercises have been my main focus to keep me healthy & strong and ready to go for another 16 weeks of training.

Sun 5/29 MARATHON DAY! 26.2 miles, 4:03.52
Mon 5/30 Light biking, stretching (travel home)
Tue 5/31 Rest
Wed 6/1 Walked 2 miles
Thur 6/2 Rest
Fri 6/3 Rest
Sat 6/4 Walked 2 miles

Sun 6/5 Ran 30 mins, 10:00 pace, 3 miles
Mon 6/6 Rest
Tue 6/7  Ran 30 mins, 10:00 pace, 3 miles
Wed 6/8 Rest
Thur 6/9 Rest
Fri 6/10  Ran 45 mins, 9:00 pace, 5 miles
Sat 6/11  Rest

Sun 6/12  Easy 5 miles
Mon 6/13 Easy 30 mins
Tue 6/14  Rest
Wed 6/15 Strides, stretches
Thurs 6/16 Rest
Fri 6/17  Easy 30 mins
Sat 6/18  Easy 6 miles

Closing Up Diastasis Recti

You know what ain’t pretty?¬†Diastasis Recti. It’s one of the less desirable side effects of pregnancy where the abdominal muscles separate. Normally the two sides of the abdominal wall come together and meet in the middle. During pregnancy, everything losens and the abdominals shift apart to make way for Baby. In most cases this space closes back up a few weeks after delivery and everything is hunky-dorey again. But, sometimes the space doesn’t close. This gap is what causes the mom-pooch (but there are other things that can cause that as well), back pain, even constipation. It is most common in women over 35 or who have had high birth weight babies, and/or multiple pregnancies, especially close together. Raise your hand if you meet any of those — yup, I knew it would be a lot of you.

I had my first baby when I was 25. I was young & fit & fantastic. I think I was back in shape before I even birthed the placenta. I got even fitter and even stronger, and 18 months later birthed my second baby. I was still young & fit, but he was a good sized baby; 9.5 lbs on my wee 110 lb frame. There was a little space there, but nothing serious. I could fix it. Only, it was harder to work out with TWO babies, and before I knew it, I was pregnant with my third. I was six months pregnant when I tripped in the woods while running. I yanked and pulled all sorts of stuff. The next morning I couldn’t stand and I certainly couldn’t walk. I tried to put on a pair of pants and simply fell over. My fall in the woods had resulted in Diastasis Pubis, a separating of the pubic bones. It.was.god.awful. Probably the most painful running injury I’ve ever sustained. It also put me out of running (and pretty much every thing else) for the rest of the pregnancy. It was a full six weeks post-partum before all the pain was gone, only to realize I had Diastasis Recti. But because I was still young (29!) and (sorta) fit, it would heal with sit-ups, lots of running, and will-power.

Diastasis Recti; you can see the gap right down the middle.

Wrong. As it turns out you cannot will your muscles to change locations. I didn’t properly rehabilitate my muscles, mostly because I didn’t know how, and despite the hundreds of miles I logged, I still had a flabby belly. I also could not do a single sit up. I could hold a plank for days, but not sit up. Now, doctors recommend that you rehabiliate the muscles before another pregnancy, but of course I didn’t do that! So, in my fourth pregnancy, my gap went from about two fingers wide to three fingers wide. Yup, that means that even though I can get on my college jeans, I have a flabby protrusion just above the waist band. Like I said, it ain’t pretty.

When the muscles are engaged (like in the plank shown above), the protrusion is more pronounced. ¬†After the surrogacy baby, Cedar, was born I was left with a size three, maybe slightly larger gap. Yikes! But, in my defense that was four births, three of them only 18 months apart (Cedar was 3 years after my last child), I’m now over 30, and my babies where all fairly heafty. Does that mean I’m doomed to walk around forever with a water balloon belly?

NO! Even after multiple births you can rehabilitate your abdominals. Nicole Crawford from BuildingMuscle.com has a 12 week workout plan that I’ve been following and it’s already gotten me all but cured! I started with about a three fingers’ width gap and only two weeks in I am about ONE fingers’ width. It really is amazing to see something that I had all but given up on, assuming that that was simply going to be part of motherhood, vanish. It does take patience and time, so don’t even think about rushing it. Put yourself back together, one piece, one day at a time.