Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dear Bloggy World,

I have not forgotten about you. The busyness of life the past couple of weeks has finally settled down. The kids are all out of school, and I'm trying to figure out how to fit in runs and workouts while wrangling a 9-, 7-, and 4-year old--- all of whom complain when I say, "Hey, let's go to the Y!"

This is day 3 of summer vacation. So far, we've had 1 or 2 big fights per day, but it could be worse I suppose. They tend to get it out of their system first thing in the morning and do pretty well the rest of the day. Oh, the joys of parenting! The key is having at least one activity that gets us out of the house every day.

I've run a whopping 4 miles this week-- all treadmill miles. The past 3 weeks have been sorta awesome on the running front. I've got a 10K coming up in 3 weeks. I have only been running 3 days per week and have averaged 15-19 miles per week. This is a down-time for me regarding long-distance racing, so I'm focusing on building strength and speed. Three days per week feels like a vacation.

I've been doing strength training exercises, hill sprints, intervals, tempo runs, and even a few easy runs (and cross training once per week). Perhaps the runs have been going TOO well, encouraging me to do too much. I find myself with a sore right calf. It had been bugging me just a little for a few months (maybe since the marathon?). I admit I am TERRIBLE about stretching, and I think it had been getting tighter and tighter. You know what happens when you get a tight calf muscle? Shin splints. (A physical therapist explained the connection to me.) On Monday, I was doing some pretty intense intervals with a few hill sprints thrown in and I had a shooting pain in my right shin. Twice. After the second time, I had sense enough to stop!

Since then, I stretched a ton and ran a slow, easy 2 miles. It felt ok. I swam for 10-15 minutes at the Y. (Wow, that's hard! I swam the length of the pool 10 times and thought I was going to die!) I took a 55-minute yoga class and walked for 30 minutes on the treadmill. Today, I'm going to try to run 4 easy miles. On Saturday, I have a big run planned---an 8-miler with 6 miles at tempo pace---10K pace+ 10 or 15 seconds. The tempo portion is on the actual 10K course I'll be running in 3 weeks. If my calf is hurting, I'll definitely back off and run slower and shorter though. We'll see how it goes!

Next week, I start a new running class at the YMCA. It is a regular group exercise class called Intermediate Running. I'll be doing form drills, speed work, hill training, and a 2-4 mile run with whomever shows up each week on Thursdays at 8:30 a.m.. That's my summer job---one hour a week! I think I can handle that! This class has never been offered before. It's hot. There are lots of classes at 8:30. But what if NO ONE shows up???

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good Runnin'

It's a little LATE, but my running has been going really well these last three weeks since the half-marathon. On Monday, I ran 8 miles, 6.5 in a cool rain and 50-degree temperatures. It was one of those great, effortless runs. I felt like I could run many more miles at the end. I didn't gel, didn't drink sports drink, hardly had any water. I just enjoyed the refreshing cool rain-- that is, until the end! About 2 seconds after I stopped, I tried to text my husband and I realized my hands were chilled and stiff and every stitch of my clothing was wet. It took me about an hour, one change of clothes, and one Starbucks latte to finally warm up. But it was a GREAT run.

I took Tuesday off, then yesterday I went to the track at a local college to run a "Magic Mile" time trial (that's what Jeff Galloway calls them). I had not run a mile time trial (that I can remember) since June of last year on this same track. I remember running the mile in about 8:38 (I'll have to check in the archives). Then about a week later, I ran a 5K race and clocked the first downhill mile at 8:36, my fastest mile yet at the time. (Not the best plan in a 5K--to run mile 1 at faster than one-mile pace! I subsequently slowed WAAAAY DOWN and had to walk. A lot.)

Yesterday, I really wanted to beat that time from last summer. I don't know why. Maybe those thirty-second 7:30 strides I've been doing at the beginning and end of some workouts gave me confidence. Or just maybe I wanted to see where I am speed-wise. Anyway, I ran a mile in 8:33--a new one-mile PR! To most, if not all of you, that probably sounds like a slow mile time, but I'm working on it. I'm primarily an endurance runner, not a sprinter. I would actually RATHER run 10 slow miles than 2 or 3 fast ones!

My hope is that before the end of the summer, I can finally get a sub-28-minute 5K. That would require an 8:59 pace or better overall. If I can run one mile in 8:33, maybe I can run 3.1 miles at an 8:55 or so pace? Consistent speed work will be the key over these next few months.

I'm supposed to cross train and do abs and arms today. Then, Saturday I'm doing a 10K tempo run. I'm really enjoying this informal schedule I've built for myself!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

5K Fun and My Kid is Fast!

I ran the Adairville Strawberry Festival 5K this morning in the town where I spent the first 18 years of my life and where my parents and many aunts and uncles still reside. The three kids and I made it an overnight trip. They camped out in Nanny and Papaw's living room in sleeping bags while my four year old and I took the guest room. My four year old is a very restless sleeper and very pointy, apparently, so little sleep was gotten with knees, elbows, and little feet in my back most of the night. It was so hot (they won't turn on the AC before June), but she had to sleep as close as humanly possible.

This morning a cool front came through and it was PERFECT RUNNING WEATHER. It was 50 degrees around 7 a.m. with a breeze and sunshine. I could not have asked for a more perfect running day. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself to beat the PR I had in August. After a month of not-so-great runs and races, I figured it was pretty much impossible. I just said to myself, "I'll do the best I can in this race on this day." And I did.

I goofed up my Garmin at the start and must have missed the start button because about 20 seconds in, I looked down and it was still on 00:00. Hmmm. I actually smiled at that, knowing it would help me NOT to stress as much about my time since I would only know my approximate time and mileage. My first mile was around an 8:57 pace. I was careful to hold back a little in this mile and not mess up and go out way too fast. It was only a little too fast. My goal was 9 to 9:05 pace, but I was running blindly, as I just said....

In mile 2, my mind wandered a bit and I got off pace. There were also a couple of hills and a water stop. 9:18 pace. I wanted to DEFINITELY keep things under a 9:30 pace, preferably under 9:15, but whatev. When my split popped up on the screen, I missed it, so I didn't know I had done mile 2 quite so slowly. Mile 3 was a fairly strong one. We had the last hill in the first .25, then the rest was flat. (Cute sign on the course: NO MORE HILLS!). I was giving it most of what I had (can't say I gave it ALL I had, but close). I tried to really pick up the pace the last 1/2 mile. Pace 9:05 for mile 3. Pace for .11 7:36. It all averaged out to a 9:05 pace overall. 28:10 finish time-- 10 seconds from a PR. But that's ONLY 10 SECONDS FROM A PR. I'm happy.

Then my two older kids did the 1-mile fun run for children ages 4 to 12. I coached them not to go out too fast. My son took off crazy fast, I couldn't catch up to him. After about 1/10 of a mile I caught up to my daughter. I ran the rest with her. She only walked about 4 times for just 8 or 10 seconds each. She finished in 10:18. She got first place in the 7-9 year old age group and was the youngest in the group! One 9-year-old was right on our tails at the finish, but we held her off! I was so proud of her and she was so proud of herself.

My son also had a great race. He placed 4th OVERALL, and ran an 8:05 pace! No wonder I couldn't catch him! I can't run an 8:05 pace for a mile that I know of (but I'm sure going to try. We have a little mother/son race coming up soon). He got 1st easily in his age group, males 7 to 9. I thought he was going out too fast, but it turns out it was just fast enough. He ran his little 9-year-old heart out. At the finish line, he just lay down on the grass and said he felt sick. I knew he'd left it ALL out there. **He's already faster than me. How much longer until he's TALLER than me, too??**
It was a GOOD DAY. I wound up with 3rd in the 35-39 age group, the kids both won door prizes (toys), and we got to hang out where I grew up.
I wore my new Zensah compression socks and many people asked me about them. I was hoping they'd make me run faster as promised in this month's Runner's World. Maybe they did! Who knows what the results would have been without them?
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! I enjoyed taking mine out to dinner last night and seeing her at the finish line today!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shake It Up, Baby!

So far, I'm enjoying my summer shake up in terms of training/working out! I think I was just bored with the same ol' same ol'. CHANGE IS GOOD!

I've recently started reading Running Times magazine in addition to Runners' World. Both are good, but Running Times is much more technical and focuses more on elite high school, college, and even masters runners. If you wade through all the technical/elite stuff, you can still glean some great information for the recreational runner, however.

I discovered a great set of general strength exercises by reading this month's issue of Running Times. They were mentioned in an article, then I had to look them up on their website. It was an article about running faster--something I'm a little obsessed with at the moment, as I seem to be traveling in the OPPOSITE direction. It was refreshing to read the story of an elite masters runner who said something like, "Speed doesn't come naturally to me. I have to overcome that with training."

I came to the conclusion that my weak spot is leg strength. I have been doing much too little lower body strength training. These exercises include plyometrics, squats, and lunges. My goal is to do them twice per week. (A little discovery about doing plyometrics after the non-cesarean birth of 3 large babies--wear a diaper! Jumping up and down is not my friend.) I also found a group of form exercises--bounding, skipping, etc. to do once a week before or after a run. They look rather ridiculous, but I can do them in the front yard while my 4 year old plays.

Running Times has made several things clear about building speed that were unclear before. I have a much better understanding of strides and have been running 20-second ones at about a 7:30 pace at the end of some runs. I don't think I had ventured up to 8 mph on my treadmill before this. I didn't know I could run that fast for 20 or 30 seconds. The goal is to recruit/activate fast-twitch muscle fibers and to do that, you have to run faster than 5K or even 1 mile race pace in short bursts. Good to know.

Next on my agenda: hill repeats. The article said to build some strength with the strength exercises mentioned above for a few weeks BEFORE starting some regular hill training.

In terms of training phases, this is my strength-building phase. The emphasis is getting stronger on hills and in general, not mileage. I'm probably going to average only 15 miles per week with 3 days of running and one day of crosstraining on the arc trainer or bike. I will run a tempo run, intervals, and a long run each week and that's it. I can't remember the last time I only ran 3 days per week!

Around July 1, I will start with a mileage build up by increasing distance and maybe adding in a 4th day of running. I'll begin adding serious distance in August and September, culminating with half marathons on Sept. 25 and October 16 on the road to a November or December MARATHON!

Well, I guess the rest of my year is planned out.

Tomorrow is my first 5K race since August of last year--the one in my hometown. Last August's race was a PR day--28:01. I'm tempted to go for a PR again, but after my performances this past month in the 10K and half-marathon (going out at an aggressive pace, then falling apart), I'm thinking MODERATION is key. I plan to go easy-ish on the first mile (not so easy that I put myself totally out of PR range if I'm having a good day, but not fast enough to cause pain later in the race), then gain speed throughout. My main goal is just to beat the time I ran this course in one year ago. That's doable for sure, as last year I was only 2 weeks post-first marathon and my bruised toenails hurt throughout the race! My legs were still smoked for sure. It's even going to be much cooler tomorrow, which works in my favor. I can handle the low 60's!

Sadly, my mom backed out of the race. She worked up to walking 2 miles at a time, but never made it to three and was afraid to attempt to walk 3 miles for the first time in the race. :-( But, she will be sitting on the front porch cheering me on as I pass right in front of her house during the race, and she'll probably bring my kiddos across the street to the finish to see me cross. I'll get to run past my parents' home, the home where my grandparents lived, my elementary school, the church I attended as a child and where I was baptised---it'll be a fun hometown race.
The kids and I are traveling to spend a couple of days there later this afternoon.

On a side note, my community has been devastated in the Tennessee flooding this week. So many businesses and families lost everything. My children have been out of school the past 5 days as many, many road and bridge closures prohibited the running of school buses. Please keep the flood victims in your prayers. Two older women about my mom's age lost their lives when their vehicles were overcome by water. As this Mother's Day approaches, I'm really thankful to have my mom.

10 Years of Running: Confessions of a Declining Runner

Two months ago, I hit a pretty significant milestone:  ten years of running.  I began in June of 2007 at the age of 36 .   On day one, I tho...