26 Days of Easy

I am now in my final week of Marathon Recovery and I am so glad for it.  I’ve been bored, despondent, and really itching to get going again, but I know that rest & recovery are just as important to my running success as mile repeats.  I decided that a full month of (fairly) easy running, lower mileage, and no racing would be the most beneficial.  I came off of a very hard training cycle with the intent to tackle the next one with just as much vigor.  I need the down time to keep myself from getting hurt.

I’ve read a lot of different “expert” opinions on how to deal with recovery periods and have opted to go on my own this time around.  Some advice offered claimed that a day for every mile of a race was needed for recovery, but I don’t think I could stand 26 days off! 26 days of going easy was hard enough!  Some advised all cross training and no running, but for me, one bout on the bike and I was sore for days!  I also ended up with a bruised behind. It’s also recommended that the body be given a full 6-10 weeks to heal before beginning another training cycle.

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Since the race, I’ve taken a two on, one off approach.  This has kept me sane, kept me moving so I won’t lose fitness, while still offering a lot of rest days.  Most of my runs have been an easy to moderate pace (between 8:00 and 8:45 mile pace) and 5-8 miles.  My “long runs” have been 11 milers at conversation pace.  But, I do confess that I’ve been riding the marathon high all month and have struggled to keep the pace slow and easy.  Every time I look down at my watch I see the pace creeping toward marathon race pace and have to force myself to take it down a few notches.  I even went so far as to bust out 3Xmile repeats in the hopes of getting it out of my system.  Ah well, as long as the effort feels easy, I’m not getting tired, and I’m not feeling sore after, I think I’m okay with a slightly ramped up pace.

 

I will have three more runs this week (still haven’t planed out how we’ll deal with Thanksgiving…) before my recovery is officially over and I begin my Base Training for the next cycle.  Since my base will be some more of the same in terms of easy miles and slowly building up the long run, it will give me 4 additional weeks for my body to get ready before the real work begins for the next marathon.  So that’s 4 weeks of Recovery (low mileage, slow pace, lots of rest days) and 4 weeks of Base (increasing mileage, slow pace, two rest days a week), or 8 weeks of easy miles.  December, I am getting excited for you!  I’m also hoping & praying that all the moving, holidays, and illness go easy on me this year.  I have some pretty big things I am looking to accomplish in 2018 and hard work & dedication is the only way  to get them.

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House Limbo

We are still in the limbo phase of trying to move & “frustrating” isn’t even the half of it.  The lender is coming up with one silly (and seemingly unethical) issue after another.  Last week they were demanding an explanation of deposits in Hubs’ mother’s bank account.  Nope, she’s not a co-signer.  Nope, they don’t even have the same last name.  Nope, there is no reason for them to even care about what’s in her account.  This week they are claiming that the hard water in the house is inadequate (despite the water tests coming back & specifically stating that the water is perfectly fine for human consumption) and the sellers need to install a specific water softener before they will clear the loan.  Our broker keeps telling us ‘one more week!’, and that was five weeks ago!

I’ve got the kids’ new school hounding the old school for records and the old school hounding me for a release date.  Someone from somewhere called their school today trying to find out where they were…which led to a series of phone calls to verify that they really should be in the classrooms that they are currently in.

Half of our belongings (including all of the books and winter coats!) are in storage and I’m surrounded by stacks of boxes.  We had agreed to take a friend’s dog because his work had him traveling constantly & wouldn’t be able to care for him any longer.  We all assumed we’d be moved in time for his Vegas trip, but sadly, are still stuck in our apartment with a no-dogs-allowed lease.  Thankfully he’s a quiet dog, however the landlord is on his way over to pick up the rent check! Yikes, here’s hoping we don’t get busted.

I’m feeling a bit lost & overwhelmed myself.  We are scraping together as much money as possible for the down payment, the rental truck, and whatever repairs & cleaning fees we may encounter when the move finally does happen.  This means we’ve been eating super cheap (read: not very healthy), avoiding spending of all kinds (nope, not getting those new running shoes just yet), and trying to stay close to home (not registering or committing to any races for the time being).  And, I just don’t really know what to do with myself.  I’d love to go get a part time job since everyone is looking to hire holiday help, but I don’t know if I may close in the next week & move to the other side of the state.  Or I could end up staying here another 2 or 3 months twiddling my thumbs.  I’m recovered from my marathon, but don’t have anything to train for & I’m bored with base mileage already.  I’ve pretty much run out of “non-essentials” to pack, and can’t risk shopping for gifts just yet.  Home ownership is tough & we still don’t even own anything!

I’m hoping to throw in a few 5Ks & 10Ks next month, and of course, hopefully that means we’ll be settled into our new digs, but, like always, I need to be prepared to change the plan.  Things don’t always go the way you want them to, and sometimes there’s no forcing a situation.  You have to just ride it out (or run it out), recover, and get ready for the next one.  While the situation is stressful, we are trying to make the best of it and are super grateful for the people around us that are making it easier, like our landlord that is letting us go month to month & week to week, my parents who have counselled us through the process, & the fire department that pushed my husband’s paperwork ahead & voted on his acceptance early.  We know we will get to our dream home, the journey just might take a little longer than planned.  I know we’ll be moved & settled at some point, I know I won’t be living out of boxes forever, but it’s hard to stay optimistic when there is such little progress.

I Rode a Bike

With the anticipation of moving and coming off a hard training cycle, I have opted not to commit to any races for the rest of the calendar year.  I was really looking forward to some easy miles while enjoying the fall weather, and maybe even going on a few social runs.  But of course, then came falling down the stairs, which put me out a few days, followed by a treacherous storm that has left our town a mess & school has been out for two and a half days, forcing me to take more time off.  Yesterday I finally got to run again, and in my excitement I went a bit fast.  I felt great and I have no regrets, though I was mildly stiff this morning (though trick-or-treating may have played a role there!)  Since I’ve spent so much time off already, an every other day schedule didn’t sound fun at all, so I decided to pull out my bike & try out some cross training.

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My trusty, rusty Huffy.

 

My husband picked up this (semi) rusty bike from a yard sale several months ago so we could all ride the trail together as a family, but I hadn’t gotten around to taking it out yet.  It’s a decent bike in perfectly fine shape and it was a very affordable $25!  Now, I haven’t been on a bike since I was in high school, but I figured this would be an excellent tool for some nice, relaxed cross training.  An hour or so on the bike should be similar to 35-40 minutes running, right?

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I don’t know what I’m doing!

Oh boy was I wrong!  I was only able to pull off 40 minutes of (what felt like) incredibly intense pedaling.  I averaged 10 mph, which I think is decent, but because I kept my phone in my pocket, I’m not sure how consistent my pace was throughout (it wasn’t).  My quads were burning from the initial push-off, so really, I don’t see how folks do this as their sport on a regular basis.  It.was.just.so.hard!

Things I learned on my bike ride:
-It is just like riding a bike – you really don’t forget how to do it!
-My quads are not nearly as strong as I thought they were.
-Running is a lot easier.
-Cycling is a lot colder than running and your toes never warm up on chilly days.
-Sticks are your enemies.
-People who ride are hardcore.

I am excited to get back on it in a day or so & try again, mess around with some gears, and learn a bit more about the sport.  I’m looking forward to going farther, faster, doing better.  And I like that it’s hard, because that means it will make me stronger.

Do you cross train?  What’s your favorite non-running activity? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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Riding the Space Unicorns!

I must be addicted…

I haven’t run in 4 days & I’m starting to get cranky about it. I had intended to run every other day for a week or two as I recovered from the marathon, but that plan hasn’t worked out so well. The last time I ran was Thursday morning.

On Friday afternoon I managed to fall down the cement stairs from my house to the driveway. I dunno, I lost my balance somehow on my way back to the car to unload groceries. I went flying down the bottom four steps, hit the side on my head on the stone wall, landed squarely on my right knee cap, and slid on my outstretched hands across the gravel. The pain was unreal and is still holding me back. (Oh hello hip pain!) The day following the fall was significantly worse, so I opted for a second rest day & Ibuprofen.

Sunday showed up with intense wind & rain. Roads flooded, trees fell, and power outages covered the state. I opted to stay inside. Rest day number 3.

I looked forward to today being Monday. The kids would go to school, I’d have time to run, peace & quiet to do some work on the house, & do the finishing touches on Halloween costumes. But an early morning call from the school said otherwise. Due to all the storm damage there would be no school! Agk! Four days off! The wind & rain was so bad this morning that Wal-Mart last power twice while we were getting costume supplies. And, it turns out my trail is a bit flooded.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow works out. The kids have their Harvest Day Celebration & Parade and are looking forward to wearing their costumes to school. I’m also looking forward to getting in a little run time, even if it means muddy shoes! Unfortunately, not enough of the town’s power has been restored, so it’s still uncertain what’s going to happen.

This is where I’d even be tolerant of a treadmill…

Crunching the Numbers

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Strava data

I’ve been pouring over the data since I got back from New Jersey, and honestly, I don’t like what I see.  I always do this; over analyze every step of the race, the training miles, the pacing.  The mistakes seem so glaringly obvious once you throw it all into a graph.  But I know there is no sense in beating myself up over a race that’s finished.  There is nothing left to be done for the past, so I need to simply learn from it and move on.

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See where I smacked face first into a wall at 2.5 hours in? The last 5 miles were a serious consequence of starting too fast.

I know where I messed up in the race & I know where I failed in training.  The numbers don’t lie.  But I can take all this data and use it as a positive tool to train better for the next race.  When I run Boston I will be on top of my marathon game!

I’ve also realized that by compiling these numbers I’ve made a lot of excuses.  Of course, they are all legit; I really was running that race five months post-partum, I really had no choice but to train two days a week for a month, & no, I couldn’t get in any more miles in that cycle.  It was just life while being a runner.  But they are still excuses – reasons for holding myself back – and as I grow as a marathoner (and my desire to get faster grows), I am realizing that I can work around some of these reasons.  I can find a way to do it, I just have to get clever.  And, more importantly, I have to decide just how badly I want to achieve those goals.  I know I can get to a 3 hour marathon, but I also know just how many miles (and hours on my feet) that’s going to take.  Do I really want this?  Am I willing to suck it up & run?

Yes.

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Proof that miles & consistency matters.

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After looking over all the numbers I can see myself getting better.  I was smarter with each training cycle, which led to faster times.  It’s nothing but improvement and that is truly something to celebrate.  However, to be realistic, numbers show that I clearly need to run more…a lot more.  I need to focus on The Long Run and Easy Miles throughout the week to increase my weekly mileage.  If this data isn’t proof enough that more miles make you faster, I don’t know what is!  And so that will be my main focus has I build my training plan for Boston – lots of miles, lots of focus.

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From Burlington to AC, I’ve only made improvements. But I still have a ways to go!

Atlantic City Marathon Recap

AC7Sunday, October 22nd was the 59th running of America’s 3rd oldest marathon; the Atlantic City Marathon. This race is considered “pancake flat”, which makes it a great first marathon for a lot of people. It starts off on the iconic boardwalk alongside the water & grand hotels casinos before splitting off for a quick loop around the eastern portion of the city. Then it’s back to the boards for several miles before hitting the streets for a couple of loops through the western part of the city, and back to the boardwalk for the finish line. Straight forward, simple course – a PR in the making!

I chose to run this race after lots of research and consideration. I liked that it was fairly close to home & on a Sunday. This meant that we wouldn’t need as much in hotel & food accommodations & my husband wouldn’t need to take off time from work. I liked that it was flat. I had yet to run a truly flat course, and felt that this would really show what I was made of. I also liked my prospects. After going over the results from the previous years and taking note that it was two weeks out from the New York City Marathon, I figured that if I PRed and fought hard enough for it, I could make the podium. I was looking at 3rd place & the potential for prize money. But I would have to get under 3:20 to do it. So, when I started my training back in July, I set all of my paces to a 3:18 marathon & I focused on running hard, especially when tired. I knew I would need it.

I was staying at a hotel that was about a mile from the starting line. So at 7:20 I slowly jogged my way down to the start area, used the facilities, drank my water-downed Gatorade, stretched, attempted some drills (but the crowds of people ended up being too dense to get much in), and nervously paced back and forth until 8am. The race staff kept the starting corral closed off to runners, which was nerve wracking as the start time drew close. Throngs of marathoners and half marathoners pressed up against the metal barricades, watching the Pace Leaders wander back & forth, alone with their signs inside the corral. We kept asking each other what was going on, but no one knew. The pacers couldn’t give out any information, the police wouldn’t give out information, and we couldn’t find anyone that looked like they were officially with the race. Eventually we all just pressed through, many jumping the fences to get lined up.

I hemmed and hawed between Pace Groups. There was a very welcoming looking guy holding a 3:25 sign and an extremely chatty guy holding a 3:15 sign. I had met them both the day before at the expo & felt that the 3:15 guy had pretty much brushed me off. When I had stated that I planned on breaking 3:20, his response was “Aww girl, you just gotta get a 3:30!” I explained that I was already in Boston, but I got the feeling he didn’t think I could run faster. I didn’t feel like running with a guy who didn’t believe in me. I also don’t like chatty pacers, so I ended up deciding to try it out solo.

I lined up just behind the 3:15 group & realized that I was only three rows deep from the starting line. I had never started a marathon so close to the front before, and it made me feel a little nervous. I tried to take note of other women around me, but with backs to me, I couldn’t tell who was lined up for the half and who was there for the full. I decided that it didn’t matter; I had a long ways to go before it would matter & I would deal with it then. A few deep breaths. The National Anthem played. Bouncing. High knees in place. An air horn sounded followed by a barrage of hundreds of watches beeping and we were off!

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That’s me in the white crop top. Martin didn’t even know he was taking a picture of me!

I tried to stay in control. My head kept screaming at my body to wait, to hold back a bit. But my legs were fueled with nervous energy and they did not listen. I pounded away with the crowd off the boardwalk, through the streets, down the tunnel & toward the expressway. I flew through the first few miles too fast. I was running low 7s, but it felt like I was going for an easy stroll. Still, I knew this would bite me in the end. Marathon Rule #1: whatever time you take off at the front gets added on at the back with interest! I needed to be running even 7:35s, but I wasn’t able to slow myself down until the half way point, and I knew it was probably too late. This was now going to be a “hang on & hope for the best” run.

The boardwalk was slow, and tedious, and long. While it was a beautiful day for spectators, the incredibly sunny 70 degrees felt like torture to the runners. The boardwalk offered no shade and the pace felt harder and harder to maintain. The boards were soft and some were even loose and wobbly. The runners were all strung out, so it was a bit lonely. But then I saw the leaders finishing the half marathon. Two women who were running stride for stride passed & darted for the finish chute. They were halfers, which meant I was further up than I thought! As I reached the end of the boardwalk & was about to turn off, a spectator jumped up & down enthusiastically. “Go girl!” she screamed, “You’re the second one!” Second?! This was intimidating information since I still had 12 miles to go & no idea where 3rd place was.

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Pushing through the aid station at Mile 8.

The rest of the race was done in a panic. I was still running ahead of schedule, but I was starting to feel it. The water in the 2nd half of the race had a strange taste, almost like sulfur, so I couldn’t get it down. I was dehydrated. My stomach was cramping, my chest was hurting, my legs felt like shredded meat. The finish line felt like forever away, I still didn’t know where 3rd (or even 4th) were, my sports’ bra was chaffing.

And then came the positive splits.

Miles 20 & 21 were painful, but doable. Mile 22 brought on a massive wall. The only thing I could think about was stopping. I constantly argued with myself in my head. I was hurting bad, but I knew that if I walked I’d never get started again. Runners were dropping off the course around me and it took a lot of willpower to not join them. I counted ten steps at a time, pleading with my body to make it through the last five miles. My pace had dropped from sub 7:20s to 8:00, 8:09, 8:30. I wanted to cry. The last mile was incredibly difficult. Not only was it hot and painful, but now the boardwalk was crowded with people who didn’t seem to realize there was a race going on & I had to weave my way through them.

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I’m so tired, but trying to tough it out.

The inflatable arch marking the finish line was ahead, but didn’t seem to get any bigger. I was running and running, pushing the pace with what little umpf I had left, but it seemed as if I was running in place, not getting any closer. Suddenly I saw my family on the left side. My kids were screaming. My husband was screaming. People along the barriers were whooping and clanking bells. Did I blank out? This is the end. GO MAZY! I “sprinted” with every little thing I had left in my body across the timing mat.

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Giving it all I’ve got with only a few meters left to go. It will end eventually.

A finisher’s medal was draped over my neck and a Gatorade shoved into my hand. I limped toward the barriers. I wanted to beg for help, but couldn’t speak, and didn’t really know what I wanted anyway. Someone gave me a bag of ice, a chair. I sat down & iced my hamstring that felt like it was on fire. My children clamored at the barrier excitedly, my husband snapped pictures. He was teary eyed. I was the 2nd Female Finisher and 20th overall. 3:18.17. I finally admitted to him that there was prize money for me. Six minutes later they announced the finish of the 3rd Female.

It was over, finally. I made the podium after all, in fact, I placed even better than I had planned. And I had set a PR. But I was still dissatisfied. While I did do well by the numbers & ran my fastest race, I couldn’t claim it as my best race. I made a lot of mistakes. I wasn’t prepared adequately (not enough sleep, hydration, or food), and I ran with my gut, not with my head. I am thankful I had the strength to pull off the last five miles when it got tough, and I’m lucky I was far enough ahead that my wall didn’t affect my placing. The 3rd place finisher ran beautifully even splits and her last five miles were faster than mine! While I am proud in my achievement, I am more proud of the fact that I have this experience under my belt & the knowledge (and confidence) that my training worked. While I didn’t pace myself evenly, I still walked away with the time I had spent three and a half months preparing for. I will humbly accept this event as a lesson & learn from it. Oh, and I am really looking forward to some down time & a beer!

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1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Female Finishers.

4th Quarter Update & Marathon Taper Review

It’s Wednesday – Hump Day of Taper Week.  This is always the worst day for me.  I’m so close to race day, in fact, I’m so close there is no turning back now.  Yet, at the same time it feels like an eternity is looming between me and the starting line.  T-minus 3 days!!

My taper week has been shaping up rather nicely & thankfully we’ve finally had some cooler weather so I can actually enjoy my morning runs!  I’ve gotten through the first few days of light running without too much of a freak out & I look forward to taking a relaxed approach to running for the next couple of days.
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 10 min warm up, 4 by 5 mins at threshold (7:00 min/mile pace) with 60 second recoveries, followed by 10 min cool down.
Wednesday: Easy (8:45/mile) 30 mins, drills, strides, stretches.
Thursday: Easy 5 miles, drills, strides, stretches.
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Easy 20-30 mins (3ish miles) with strides & stretching.
Sunday: RACE

wp-image--163949751One step closer to being awesome.

To be honest, I am handling my taper much better than I have in the past.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve finally gotten my anxiety under control; if I don’t care anymore since I’ve already achieved my BQ; or if I’ve simply matured as a marathoner.  Of course, it is probably a bit of everything.  After my wonderful run in Toronto, I’ve let go a bit & accepted that I really do know how to do this.  I don’t have to be afraid – I GOT THIS!  I’ve also learned how to make better use of my pre-race jitters.  Instead of compulsively checking the weather, I’m focusing on things I can control, like my race strategy.wp-image-1165946964                                                     My color coordinated race notes.

I’ve committed the course map to memory & have decided which aid stations I’ll utilize, when I’ll take my gels, and just how conservative of a start I’ll aim for.  I’ve broken my race down into 5Ks, but of course we all know that will go out the window once the gun goes off.  My main goal will be to keep the mile splits between 7:25 (too fast) and 7:38 (conservative) with a half time under 1:39.  Because the elevation profile is pancake flat, I don’t have any hills to work off of.  Hills are my forte, so we’ll find out if this course will help or hinder me.

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I use FindMyMarathon to find races, but also because they have an awesome tool that calculates course specific split times based on a goal finish.  This has worked very well for me in the past in terms of getting to know a foreign course to prepare for hills, splits, aid stations, etc.

In the final quarter of training I sat back a little.  I still had some pretty aggressive workouts, but the mileage began to taper off as I approached the final week of training.  I’ve had several quality speed sessions, including some great hill work, as well as a five mile race thrown in.  I’m primed & tuned & ready to run!
So, here’s a look at the weekly breakdown:
Week 13: 46.4 miles – longest run was an 18 miler with 8 of those at marathon pace.
Week 14: 40.09 miles – including 5 mile road race, and an 11 miler with 6 at m-pace.
Week 15: 37.37 miles – 2 threshold workouts & an easy 10 miler.
Week 16: an anticipated 20ish miles, plus the marathon on Sunday.

So, all in all, I’d have to say that I’m feeling conservatively optimistic about this one.  I’ve put in a lot of hard work & there is just nothing left to be done.  In the past 15 weeks I’ve improved my fitness, increased my weekly mileage, and gotten faster.  In a few more days we’ll put it all to the test.

wp-image-640377122I got this.