Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just Running....

On Monday evening, I was thrilled that everyone in the half-marathon program actually came back! And they even had to start paying their $5 a week this time. We talked about safety issues for runners and then had a hilly two-mile run. We went up a GINORMOUS hill toward the end. It is the kind of hill in which you at least THINK about walking, but I kept telling myself DO NOT WALK IN FRONT OF YOUR TRAINING GROUP! You know, if the coach can't make it up the hill without walking, something is wrong....

As for marathon training, this week is pretty light with 2, 4, 2, 4, and 9 miles. The first three runs are knocked out! I'm adjusting to running 5 days a week instead of 3 or 4. It's nice that running is a part of my life every day, as opposed to just a few times a week. I like having it as a regular habit--like eating breakfast or brushing my teeth. Hopefully, it will become second nature.

I have to admit I cheated on my run a little bit today. All my runs are supposed to be at an easy, conversational pace, but I have a 5K in 3 weeks. So, on my two-miler, I threw in a couple of 400's at 5K race pace. Couldn't help it. And WOW. 5K pace felt really, really hard. Uh-oh.

I will probably throw in a few 400's or 800's each week until the 5K. I may also experiment with ending my long runs on Saturdays with a couple of miles at half-marathon goal pace. I think as long as 95% of my running is at the easy pace during this base-building phase of training, it'll be ok.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bring on Week Two!

Will I always be this excited about this marathon training? Like in week 12 or week 16? Maybe not. But so far, it hasn't been too bad! (Yes, I'm just finishing up Week One, but I'm a "the-glass-is-half-FULL" kind of gal.)

Week One ended with an 8-mile/5-mile training run. See, I needed to run 8 miles, but my half-marathon training group only needed 5. We were supposed to meet at the local winery at 7:00 a.m. for them to run 5 (or 6 if they were feeling frisky). This was their first long run as a group. So, I got there a little early and ran 1.5 miles. Then I ran 5 with the 17 folks who showed up. Actually, I wound up with 5.5 miles because I started with the leader and tried to work my way back to check on every runner, so I doubled up on the course a bit. (Then I worked my way forward again to see how people were doing.... Whew!) I ran my last mile alone after the runners headed home. I still didn't get to chat with every runner, but I tried! Seventeen is a big group!

My pace was here, there, and everywhere! I tried to match my pace to whomever I was running with at the moment. If a runner I happened to be running with walked, I walked, too. But then I'd try to catch the next runner ahead, so I'd find myself running at 9:30 pace for a few minutes, which isn't what I'm technically supposed to do on a long run.

I'll figure it all out. Eventually.

Body-wise, I've had some soreness this week--not from the gentle running, but from some over-zealous squats and lateral lunges on Monday. My hamstrings have never really bothered me, but this week, they've been tight and achy. They were feeling better until the hilly 8 miles with so many pace changes today. Hmmm. I'll have a complete rest day on Sunday (maybe some light stretching?) and an easy day on Monday. Maybe they'll be fine after that. Sure hope so!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marathon Training, Week 1

What a busy week! On Monday, 17 brave souls place their half-marathon training in my hands. Seventeen! Many of them have been running longer than I have (I'm currently at 25 months as a runner), and a few of them have run half-marathons before. One actually completed a full marathon 8 years ago. The rest are beginners, 5K and 10K runners, who are ready for the next step. What they all have in common is they are seeking a group-training experience. The ones who have done this before KNOW and the ones who haven't SENSE that running 10, 11, or 12-mile runs will be much nicer in a group!

That same day was day one of marathon training. I have a pretty easy week with 2, 4, 2, 4 and 8 for 20 miles in all. I've had at least one 20-mile week in recent months, so it's not too much of a stretch. I LOVE the 2-mile days. I just hop on the treadmill in my basement and read a magazine or listen to SIRIUS music channels or watch a little t.v. and the two miles pass so fast.

I'm running between an 11 and 12 minute/mile pace which seems wonderfully easy. I know I'm in the base-building phase, but I wonder if I'm going to lose the ability to run an 8:35-9:00 minute mile. I guess since I'm training for a marathon, I don't really NEED to run an 8:35-9:00/minute mile. I suppose it's all in what your GOAL is. My goal is to finish a marathon at about a 10:20-10:45/pace feeling STRONG at the end. So, this is what I will do for the next 13 weeks--run a minute to a minute and a half slower than my goal pace. The last 7 weeks of the training program, I'll practice that 10:20-10:45 pace with some marathon goal pace runs. In the meantime, I imagine my August 5K is going to be seriously S-L-O-W!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I'm Ready. I Think.

In two days training for marathon #2 starts. A couple of weeks ago, I didn't know whether I'd be ready mentally or physically. However, a few things have changed for the better!

1. I'm excited about running again after two intense days of coaching certification class. (I passed the test, so after getting CPR/First Aid training next Friday, I'll be an official Road Runner's Clubs of America certified running coach.)

2. I'm chucking the old way of training for a brand new (hopefully improved) method of training that is high mileage, low pace. I went to the Macmillan Pace Calculator online and found out my long run and easy run paces should be between an 11-minute and 12-minute mile. I like running slow and easy. For the next 11 or 12 weeks, I'll just be building endurance with 5-days per week of slow running---getting up to 40-45/miles per week. THEN I'll spend a couple of months on speed training to sharpen up for the marathon. I ran 15.5 miles this week at my new slow pace and it was HEAVEN. I ran them alone mostly except for 5.5 with a new running friend and loved that there was no pressure to go faster than was comfortable for me. You know, participation in your hobby shouldn't make you feel bad about yourself! If it does, you are seriously doing something wrong.

3. I've set what I think is an attainable goal for the marathon: 4:40. There it is. Now it's set in stone. I'll be ok with anything under 5:00 hours and ecstatic with anything in the 4:30's, but I think 4:40 is doable. Yes, that is a 39-minute improvement over my last marathon, but I know now I went into that undertrained and then had that freak heat wave to deal with.

4. I let go of the fear. Yes, FEAR. The thought of another marathon beating up my body the way the Country Music Marathon did (I'm STILL regrowing toenails!) scared me. I had post-marathon fatigue for two months. My body "detrained" to the point that I'm running much slower post-marathon than pre-marathon. But with better training (i.e. higher mileage and bigger shoes!), post marathon will be a different story this time. Hopefully, the marathon itself won't be a test of simply survival this time, either. I'm planning on feeling strong up through mile twenty since I'm doing 3 to 4 twenty-milers in training. As any of you marathoners know, however, the last six miles are rather unpredictable.


5. I feel like I'm starting a new chapter in my life. I have felt lately like all the joy of life was sucked out of me from being overcommitted. I let go of some committments--my running club responsibilities, my bunco group to name a couple-- to make room for some new ones I'd like to focus on for a while. I am committed to volunteering at my kids' new school when they start in 3 weeks to help ease their transition and I'm starting a part-time coaching job on Monday at the YMCA coaching a half-marathon training group. I'm excited that I'll have a role in these new runners achieving such a lofty goal--running 13.1 for the first time. I remember how excited I was when I did it for the first time! I actually cried (on a training run, not in the actual race). Then, in August, I get to introduce a group of Couch to 5Kers to running. It will be an honor.

I'm feeling really blessed right now, and that's a good way to start the next 20-weeks.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Coaching Certification Class!

I just got back from 16 hours of running coach training! Training was very informative and I’m still digesting it all. My two buddies and I had a good time and learned an INCREDIBLE AMOUNT of well-researched, tested training methods. I learned a ton about how to handle the training groups, but we learned perhaps even more about how to handle OUR marathon training. (They “dissed” the “cookie cutter” Runners’ World plans we’ve been using. Apparently they are not based on sound research.) We had a published book author/exercise physiologist/college professor/personal running coach and an ultra-runner/running coach/exercise physiologist as instructors.

I’m not sure if we want to toss the marathon training plan we were planning to use, but I’m strongly inclined to do so. The two exercise physiologists who taught the class helped us put together a marathon plan. They want HIGH mileage but EASY pace. No speed work even starts until week 14 of a 20-week plan! It’s got us building a base of 40-45 miles per WEEK. All running is totally easy pace---easier than any long run we’ve been doing. No tempo runs, no intervals, just lots of miles at a really easy pace---for me about 11:40/mile based on my 2:11 half-marathon in March. That's INCREDIBLY SLOW!!! And I thought my regular 10:15-10:30 was bad! (The website with the Macmillan running pace chart has a similar chart to the one they created. Look up what pace you should be running those long runs!)

I will be running 4 to 5 days per week, alternating easy/hard/easy. (Hard refers to distance, not pace.) This week I’m going to do--- 2, 5, 2, 5 and 8 for long run. (Five is considered a mid-length run, not an easy run, and thus, "Hard".) That will put me at 22 miles—a good start in the build up to 40! Our first official training long run should be at 9 or 10 miles next week. Did I mention the FOUR twenty-milers?

They have had over 30 years of success with this program---high mileage, but low injury and burnout. And finish times apparently indicate that the program WORKS. I can do my training at an 11:40 pace with a few 6 miles or less runs at marathon goal pace, and on race day meet my goal of 4:45 to 5 hours. Allegedly. And you apparently cross the finish line with much less damage to yourself and recover faster. It's not a "just get across the finish line" plan. It's a finish STRONG plan.

There is very little time for cross training (where would you fit it in during a 5/day a week running plan?), but assured us that running easy is the number 1 way to build the endurance. Unlike my last marathon plan, they felt that running only 3X per week doesn’t build the endurance, connective tissue, blood volume, muscle, lung capacity, and VO2 max to be as successful during a marathon as you could on higher mileage. It’s kind of counter-intuitive to me to run 40-45 miles per week as a relatively new athlete, but I trust their research.

I'm in. I'm jumping on the bandwagon. It will completely change the way I planned to train, but I'm finally excited about it. That was really the first step, wasn't it?? Update: I finished my marathon in 4:45:51. This stuff works!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Woman Vs. Wild

Today I returned to the four-mile paved trail that I blogged about last week-- the one where I stated that I always worried about snakes but had never actually seen one-- the woodsy, wonderfully shady trail full o' nature.

My friend Shelly and I set out around 8:15 a.m. to run 8 miles on the trail. Around mile six, Shelly stopped for a bathroom break and I went on ahead. It wasn't the first time I'd run a portion of the trail alone, but it IS kind of creepy and isolated out there.

I was cruising along really enjoying my music when I noticed something black across the trail up ahead. I thought for a second it might just be another broken tree branch until it started moving. Or should I say "slithering." I froze. About the length of my arm, it was blocking part of the six-foot-wide trail. (Stop reading and stretch out your arm. That's a pretty scary snake, am I right??) I didn't think I should run by it or jump over it. Or spray it with my mace. So, I just waited. Finally, it slithered off the trail into to the underbrush. I cautiously ran on past.

I am so glad I was paying attention to where I was going! I could very easily have stepped on its tail, which was right in my path. I question what would have happened in that situation-- Would it have reared up and tried to strike me? Can a fairly slow human being outrun a medium-sized snake?

There are poisonous snakes in this area near the river--there are warnings posted with pictures at the trail head. (Perhaps I should look at these more carefully next time.) It was probably just a harmless black snake. Right?? My mom once told me of a snake she called a "black racer" that chased her as a child. Maybe that's a "rural legend" (as opposed to an urban legend since she grew up in the country), but she swears it chased her. Well, I'm just glad this one didn't chase me.

Then, not five minutes later, I hear all kinds of commotion coming from the woods. There are dry leaves and twigs being stepped on by SOMETHING fairly large. And it's coming quickly toward me. (You know how on Lost when they are hiking through the jungle and they hear something moving, and they don't know if it's a polar bear or the smoke monster or an other?? It was like THAT.)

But it was just a deer. She (or he??) saw me and went the other way.

Whew, that was enough nature for one day.

I wound up with 8.5 miles total because I got freaked out and doubled back about a quarter mile for my friend. I figured two helpless females in the woods were better than one. (I really shouldn't call my friend Shelly helpless. She could easily have kicked that snake's butt.)

It was the first time since April 25th that I'd run over 7 miles. And most of my lower body now hurts. Has it forgotten 18, 20, and 26 miles so soon? I guess it has!