Thursday, August 27, 2009

Plan Your Run and Run Your Plan

I like the title of this post! I saw the phrase a few minutes ago on the Cool Running website. I recently joined the Cool Running community on Facebook. I'm getting TONS of great information sent to my FB page every day. It's kind of like getting a new issue of Runner's World, except much more often! I devour that stuff!

But before I saw it put into words, I did it! Since beginning marathon training 6 weeks ago, I've made it a point to get my miles in each day. Running five days a week is a huge commitment, but so far, it's worked out. Today was especially tough though. My three-year-old woke up with a horrible cough and fever at 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday. I tried to comfort her and gave her medicine. She insisted I stay with her for the rest of the night. I can't say we got much sleep in her twin bed from 3-6 a.m.! I eeked out a slow two-miler on Wednesday afternoon, feeling every bit of that sleep loss as I stumbled, I mean "ran. "

Today, I needed to get in a five-miler to meet my mileage quota for the week before my long run on Saturday. Five miles on a treadmill is a little more than I can bear, so I planned to get up at 5:50 a.m. and run before my husband left for work at 7:15. I dreaded getting up at 5:50, knowing I'd still be a bit tired from lack of sleep on Wednesday. But I laid out my clothes and my Garmin and my shoes before bed. I actually forgot to set my alarm, but woke up right on schedule somehow. I didn't want to get up. I wanted and needed more sleep, but I forced myself out of bed. I had a quick breakfast (can't run on carbohydrate fumes from the day before--it just doesn't work for me) of 1/2 bowl of Special K and 1/2 cup of coffee. I got dressed and out the door at 6:20 a.m.

My neighborhood was very quiet. The sun was still low in the sky. My legs felt like they were made of lead! I walked for a good 5 or 6 minutes to try to get the blood flowing and wake up, but I needed to start running pretty quickly if I was going to get in my 5 miles before 7:15 at a gentle 11-minute pace. I was already short on time. The first half mile of running was so awful. I considered going back home. I felt like I was barely moving and looked down at my Garmin: 12:15 pace-- and I was struggling to maintain that! But I kept going. Then, suddenly, within a few minutes, I felt ok, then good. I looked down and saw a 10:15 pace. Much better. I guess it took that long for the coffee and carbs to kick in and for my legs to WAKE UP!

I knocked out 3.5 miles at a faster pace than I was supposed to be running in this base-building phase, then did four HILL REPEATS*. You know you are feeling good when you add unscheduled hill repeats at the end of your run! I was at the four-mile point and decided I'd better get back home so my husband could leave for work. My trusty treadmill in the basement would allow me to get in my last mile while the little one watched Dora.

So, as most early morning runs, it started out unpleasant and turned out just fine. I planned my run and ran my plan! What gets you out the door?

*I have been neglecting the hill-repeats. Most of my running routes have some elevation changes and hills, but today was the first day since June I'd actually gone up and down a hill repeatedly. In lieu of squats/lunges/leg strength training, I decided to do hill repeats this week. I plan to do them every two weeks if not more often.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It Works!

Training lots of miles at an easy pace ACTUALLY DOES make you run faster races. Having not run any miles anywhere near a 9:00 minute pace in the last 5 weeks (more like 11-minute miles), I ran 3 at that pace today. I don't know how it works, but it works!

I have a new 5K PR of 28:01, a 9:01 pace. Goal one was met! I didn't meet the "super best day ever" splits of 8:59/pace, but I came pretty darn close! If I hadn't taken that 10-second walk break at 2.75 miles after the big hill or if I had lined up right at the start line instead of middle of the pack, I'd have a sub-28 5K in my name. (It wasn't chip timed, and it took me at least 5 seconds to cross the start.)

There is not much to say in the way of a race report. The weather was perfect--cloudy and about 65 degrees with a breeze---very unusual for August in Tennessee! I ran about 3/4 mile for a warm up. When the starting gun went off, I was careful to hold back in the first mile. It was still my fastest mile, but a significant portion of it was downhill. Coming back UP that hill in mile 3 was challenging! I maintained a very even pace overall, slowing a little on that hill in mile 3. I gave a strong effort, but I didn't leave it ALL out there. If I'd known how close I would be to sub-28, I'd have run a bit harder.

Three in my training group ran faster than me today, and I'm totally fine with that! Everyone finished in under 40 minutes, and I would say all had a great race. For some, it was their first real race ever! I had 3 of them place in their age group and 4 or 5 of them won door prizes. We cheered like crazy every time someone won something. We even came up with a little name for our team "Pitt Crew," and they decided they want to get matching shirts made for the half-marathon. I think that's an awesome idea.

I had my doubts going into this race. I have done no real speedwork in the last months. I've just run 5 days a week at an easy pace. Once or twice, I've added in a "stride" where I've picked up the pace a bit, but no intervals or even tempo runs. And yet I ran faster today than I have in a long time. The last thing I did before bed last night was get out my coach's training manual and find the sentence that has stuck in my brain, "Most runners are surprised to find that following this program leads to faster race times at all race distances." Count me as one of the surprised.

I can't wait to break 28 minutes next time!

After the race, I ran home, got a shower and we had family portraits made for the first time ever as a family of five. Here are a few proofs (my photographer's fast!):



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Notes to Self....

Hey, Self. Here are a few things to remember on Saturday:

1. Do NOT go out like a maniac when you hear the starting gun. If you look at your Garmin and see an 8:15 or 8:30 pace, immediately slow down! You are NOT THAT FAST!

2. Negative splits, negative splits. Practice what you preach! (On Monday evening, I taught the half-marathon training group about negative splits and then we ran a 2-mile run with negative splits.) If in the 3rd mile, you look down and see 8:30/pace, that's awesome!!

3. Run your own race! Don't get into the business of comparing yourself to other runners. It's not about THEM, it's only about YOU.

4. It's also not about getting a PR every time, it's certainly not about winning (overall or age group). It's about doing your BEST.

5. But remember, 5K's are supposed to hurt. When maintaining the pace gets tough and your breathing is ragged, think "This is what a race is SUPPOSED to feel like." (I got that little nugget from my Boston-qualifying friend Lana.)

I'm very excited to see how this race pans out. My last two 5K's were not good efforts on my part. I ran one in my childhood hometown exactly two weeks after the Country Music Marathon. I was not remotely recovered from the marathon! My toenails hadn't even fallen off yet. I still had aches and fatigue in my legs. My feet really hurt. Then a month later I did another one. I had recovered from the marathon for the most part, but I didn't run smart. I went out too fast and by 1.5 miles, it really caught up to me.

For the past 5 weeks, I've been training in a completely different way. I've been increasing my aerobic endurance by running 5 days a week, but all at an easy, conversational pace. I ran 25 miles last week, but at an average 11-minute pace. My goal pace for a 5K is more like 9:00-9:15 minute miles. Our trainers in the coaching seminar assured us that increasing endurance through those slow runs will translate into faster race times across the board. The theory is with increased endurance, you can run harder longer. The trick for me is going to be to find my lactic acid threshold--the fastest pace I can maintain without too much lactic acid buildup in my legs. That's why you slow down in later miles when you go out too fast---the lactic acid builds up in your legs and they get "heavy."

I'm hopeful that the science behind this training works. Running lots of 11-minute miles doesn't seem like it would help one run three 9-minute miles very easily. We shall see.

I'm having a mini-taper today and Friday for Saturday's race. I think I'm going to walk a couple of miles today instead of running and then take a yoga stretch class tomorrow.

Goal One: "Best day ever" Under 29 minutes. Running less than a 9:10 average pace for the race (my PR in this exact race last year) would be great. 8:59 would be phenomenal, but is probably not in my reach.

Goal Two: Under 30 minutes (Considering the slow training, this might be the most likely goal. It's a 9:39 pace/per mile, I believe.)

Goal Three: Under 31 minutes. I've run lots of 5K races and training runs under 31 minutes. If I don't get under 31 minutes, I'm officially kicking myself at the end.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

5K Redemption?

All is fairly well in the running world. I say "fairly" because I'm a bit worn out. The twenty-five miles I logged this week were fine, but I did struggle a bit on my 11-miler yesterday. Even with appropriate pacing, I felt a few twinges and aches and quite a bit of fatigue toward the end of the run. I think I'm ready for a "drop-back" week. I haven't had a week of low mileage in about 5 or 6 weeks and it's TIME. Since it's on the schedule anyway, I get to listen to my body and give it what it needs.

My half-marathon training group completed 7 miles yesterday! They are more than half-way and everyone still seems really excited. Even though most have been running for a while, there's something special about completing new distances and realizing for the first time, "Hey, I just ran SEVEN miles. I rock!"

On Saturday, I get to run my "anniversary" race for the 3rd time. It will always be a special race for me-- it was the first race I ever ran in 2007 (after only 6 weeks of running). Then last year, I got second in my age group and my 5K PR! I'm not sure how 2009 is going to go. I don't think I'll beat my PR, which was 28:24 or something like that, but hopefully I'll do better than my last 5K disaster. (The race report in somewhere in the June archives. Basically, I ran like a rookie and made the #1 racing mistake---going out too fast! And I really know better.) So, I'm hoping for some 5K redemption. I don't expect a PR (not a whole lot of speed work lately), but I've got an A. goal, a B. goal, and a C. goal.

The half-marathon training team is meeting me there. We are going to warm up for .9 so we'll be at 4 miles for the day (it's their drop back week, too). Then we're all going to run our own races and wait at the finish until everyone from our group has finished. I expect a few of them to take away age-group awards, too!

As for the PARENTING part of this blog, school is going wonderfully! I'm getting adjusted to getting all three kids up much earlier this year, dressed, fed, etc. and in the car to drive them across town to the magnet school. Both kids are happy with the new school, so that makes me happy. And my little one is finally potty trained! It was as if a switch went off. After trying unsuccessfully to potty train her for most of the summer, she was accident free from last Sunday on. She had to be potty-trained in order to attend preschool starting in September, so I'm thrilled she is done. My life is diaper free for the first time in 8 and a half years! (Except for night time ones, but those will have to go soon!)

When I find a minute between taking Julia to the potty forty-two times a day and trying to stay on top of this house and the kids' school work and my part-time job, I've been reading Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Running on a Prayer and Some Inspiration

I woke up bright and early on this Saturday morning to meet my YMCA half-marathon training group to run 10 kilometers (6.22 miles--a first time for many). I had 15 runners show up, plus one runner brought her husband and my neighbor Amy joined us.

I've started a tradition that before each run, I lead the group in prayer. Every week I say a brief prayer asking God to protect us from illness and injury and to bless our efforts to make our bodies healthier and stronger. I'm not usually a pray-in-public type of girl, so this is a bit outside my comfort zone. Oddly enough, I'd never thought to pray before a run (yes, sometimes DURING a run, but not before) until at a half-marathon back in February, my friend Cherilynne asked if she, our friend Suzanne, and I could pray before the race. It was her first half-marathon and she was a bit nervous. We formed a circle right there in front of all the other racers and she led us in a little prayer. The race pretty much stunk--- three miles of it were uphill in loose gravel (seriously!)--- but I had such a feeling of contentment and peace throughout it. I felt happy to be there and thankful to have legs to carry me for 13 miles. We continued the tradition at another half-marathon in March (the one where we ran 13.1 miles in pouring rain), and in all the pictures, I am soaked, but smiling. Anyway, since our training group is through the YMCA, where they try to nurture the mind, body, and spirit, I feel like it is something I should do.

After the prayer, our group of 18 made our way to the starting line of a 10K course from a race back in June. Luckily for us, the course was still marked in spray paint. I corralled them all behind the starting line. They waited expectantly. About that time I wished I had thought of some dramatic way to start the "race," but it more like... "Um, Go?"

And off they went. I ran with the leaders for a mile and a half or so, then Amy and I doubled back to check on the people in the back of the group. You see, we don't run in one big group due to all the pace differences, it's more like several small groups of two or three or singles; we just happen to start and stop at the same place. Some people have found their pace buddy, some people haven't, but we all feel better knowing others are at least out there. (And it helps to know others are waiting when you just want to hit the snooze button at 5:00 a.m. and go back to sleep!)

As we retraced our steps along the course, Amy and I ran into a bit of doggy trouble. There was a Benji-looking dog (I don't know breeds very well) who was CRAZY. He left his yard to our right, came all the way into the road and crossed into our lane, barking and acting like he wanted a piece of us. Most of the time, they are simply defending their territory and will stay in or near their yard and even obey the command "Go home" spoken firmly. Not Benji. Not today. He came at us SIX TIMES. Each time, Amy would sort of jump at him and he'd yelp and run home, gather up some more courage, and come at us again. He was a persistent little thing. It didn't take us long to realize he was more of an annoyance than a threat. And that little nuisance didn't so much as bark at any of the other 16 people on the route. Just us. Weird!

All were successful in completing their 10K today and a few even went up to 7 miles. At the end of the course, I had actually completed 7 from all the doubling back, so I stretched with a few folks and then headed out for my final 3. I hadn't done a double digit run since April 26, when I did 26.2. How soon the body forgets. Those last three were tough. But I stuck it out and got them done.

Marathon training week 3 of 20: check.

For anyone out there who has lost sight of why we do this, I'd like to share a little inspiration. I found these quotes in this month's Women's Running magazine. (Thanks for sharing, Amy G.!) I was reading the ads as usual, and one for Polar watches had a ad highlighting "Women Who Move."

Here's a quote from Sadie Best, whom I can totally relate to. She'd always been "athletically challenged" until right after the birth of her 3rd child, when she trained for a triathlon. Running is her love though. She says,

"I think if an activity builds your confidence, helps you understand yourself and maintains your health, you should find a way to make it part of your life. I am a better mother because running made me realize that I needed to do something for me. If I could wrap up the gift of running and give it to every girl in the world, I would do it today." Me, too.

Carrie Barrett described how it felt to finish her first full marathon. She says, "When I crossed the finish line, I felt INVINCIBLE. I kept thinking, 'I did this! Me! No one did this work for me. No one got me up at 5 a.m. to run 20 miles. I did this all by myself with passion, discipline, and determination.'" It REALLY DOES feel like that-- whether it's your first half-marathon, full marathon, or your first 5K!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mini-Marathoners and New Sneaks!

This afternoon I took my six and eight year olds to "track practice." The local running store has a FREE program for children 12 and under on Wednesday evenings at a nearby high school track. My son hasn't run since his 5K in April (other than normal little kid playing) and knocked out 1.5 miles pretty easily. My six-year-old daughter ran/walked 3/4 mile. My three-year-old even ran/walked about 1/4 mile! My son thinks he wants to run the half-marathon in November (there is NO way I'd let him at age 9---it's a couple of days after his birthday). But I have a feeling in the next five or six years, he'll be doing one. The Road Runners Clubs of America doesn't recommend long-distance running for children before puberty---so we'll wait a while. But my "mini-marathoners" had fun and want to go to track practice every week. (Good grief, could my life revolve any more around running???)

I got my new shoes in the mail today---New Balance 1225's. The colors are sort of different, but fun.I ran 3 miles in them and they felt good. I think they're keepers. I still have my Asics Kayano's to alternate with them. I'll do my 10-miler in the new sneaks on Saturday to give them a good tryout. I was feeling some heel pain lately with the Asics--as if they were not quite padded enough. I also felt they weren't very responsive---they didn't propel me forward with each step. These are still stability shoes (I overpronate), but they have a somewhat springier feel. They also have lots of traction on the bottom---something that might take some getting used to. I'll try them for 60 days and decide for sure. I ordered them a full size up (not just a half-size) so hopefully my toenails will stick around throughout marathon training and the marathon itself! That would be nice.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Life Is Good....

I don't actually own any "Life is Good" stuff--no t-shirts, no totes, no visors or hats-- but maybe I should. Life IS good.

First, the kids and I had a great last-full-week-before-school-starts week. We went to the pool, the museum, Chuck E Cheese, and out for ice cream all in the space of a few days last week. We even went to their new school and played on the playground one day. They start on Friday. They're ready. I'm ready. It's win-win.

Second, my new job, working with the YMCA half-marathon training group, is so much fun! It's really just a pleasure to go to work. They are excited, motivated, punctual, hard working... some of them are even a little bit HARD CORE. We'll run up a huge hill and most of them will NOT walk. We'll run six miles in 95% humidity and I encourage them to take walk breaks. But they don't. I keep telling them, "slow down!" because I think they might be, somewhere in the back of their minds, RACING one another on these training runs! And did I mention I'm getting paid? TO RUN?? It doesn't get much better than that.

Seriously, aside from the small stipend I receive from the YMCA, having an opportunity to invest in and encourage other runners is really the reward. On a running website the other day, I saw the question--"What are you doing to encourage new runners?" I think we runners have the responsibility to encourage newer runners, to share information, and to pay forward the GIFT of running (by "gift," I mean "present," not "talen"t--at least not in my case!). In the coaching seminar I took, my coaching mentor Janet's first words were, "Running is a gift. Don't forget that."

The neatest thing that has happened thus far in the training group is that one of the runners (whose identity I must protect) revealed to me that he/she is a closet smoker. AND that after the first week of training, he/she decided to quit smoking. To me, that's huge. I grew up in a family of smokers, and I know how difficult it is to quit. What a positive life change. I'm telling you---RUNNING CHANGES LIVES!

This week at training group, we are discussing "Eating Like A Runner," sampling several types of gels, beans, and blocks, and then running fartleks for about 25 minutes. Should be fun! Then on Saturday, we're running 10K-- a first for many of them.

As for marathon training, that's going just fine, too! I'm running 2, 5, 2, 4 and 10 this week. So far, the gentle running and slow increase in mileage is working out. I do think I'm developing a bunion (great--more things to make my feet look weird as I re-grow those pesky big toe nails!). But it's not really painful. And I'm taking a chance on some new kicks---I ordered the New Balance 1225's from www.roadrunnersports.com to try. They let you run in them for 60 days to decide if you like them! If not, just send them back. Can't beat that kind of deal.

Yep, life is good!