Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Running--The Year in Review

It's time for my annual running year in review.  I'm keeping a record of my running life in this blog for when I'm old and can't remember.  It's like my journal.

2014 Running Goals WERE--
1.  To run in new races and places.  (Done and Done!  Chuckanut Mountain in Washington State was the most awesome one.)
2.  To run happy and healthy. (Mostly.)
3.  To tackle some long distances. (Yep.  26.2 X 4 plus two ultras--a 41-miler and a trail 50K.) 
4.  To use running for stress relief and renewal.  (For the most part.)
5.  To enjoy each and every race, even when it's hard, even when I'm slow and to have gratitude for running.  (Not at the Southern TN Power Classic marathon.  Misery after mile 11. Personal worst!)

Overall, I'd say this was a more successful year than 2013, at least as far as my attitude toward running as I come to the close of the year.  I'm definitely running slower, but I've run happier.

The races:

January--No races!  

February-- Dry Creek Marathon.  This was a really fun race with my friend Andrea in a hunting preserve.  It was the most beautiful February day--blue skies and 65 degrees.  The course was a little hillier than expected, but I enjoyed running the first half with Andrea and battling it out on my own in the second half.  One of two trail/unpaved marathons this year.

March--  LBL 23K Trail Race.  This was definitely an adventure.  Grand Rivers, KY had received a 7-inch snowfall earlier that week that just wouldn't budge.   I ran on hard packed snow, waded through slush, and skated on icy pavement.  I was lucky to only fall over once.  The whole time, I focused on being careful and the novelty of running on snow for the first time.  My feet were numb by mile 10 or 11!   I finished this race much stronger than the year before.

Two weeks later--- Greenway Marathon.  This was another hilly race.  I ran a little faster than planned in the first half and paid the price in the second half.  It was in this race that I realized the truth of marathons---once you get to mile 20, you know you are going to be ok.  I struggled in 14-20, but passing that mile 20 marker let me know I'd survive.  My IT Band was not my friend that day.  After this race, I took some time off to rest/recover the IT Band.  One of two road/pavement marathons this year.

April--  Oak Barrel Half Marathon.  I ran this with my husband.  I tried to pace him conservatively, but really 2:16 was about all I had that day.  He had a great race and  could have run faster.  My legs were tired from the above races, as all of these were spaced about two weeks apart.

May-- Viola Valley Half Marathon.  This was another hilly (I see a theme here!) race in the countryside near Manchester, TN.   I ran a total of 3 races within an hour of Manchester (where my inlaws live) this year.   I had an ok race.  I walked on some of the hills.  I can't say I ran strong, but I didn't run terribly, either.

Then my SUMMER OF RUNNING, the best part of my year! 

June-- Run Under the Stars.  Despite some blister issues, I got a personal long of 41 miles!   I had the BEST miles between 30 and 40.   I truly felt like an ultramarathoner. 

Backass Jackal Trail Marathon.  My 2nd of two trail marathons.  I PR'd by 26 minutes over my time the year before.  I paced smart and finished strong.  It was HOT, and I got dizzy/woozy the last 2 or 3 miles.  The 2.5 hour drive home was LONG after that.

July-- Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon.  My destination race of the year!!!   It was a gorgeous course spent with my close friend Rebecca and high school classmate Stacey.   Our time was slow, but we stopped for pictures often and took our time.  This was my first time to climb a mountain!  It made me realize I want to climb more mountains in my lifetime.  

August-- Wild Thang 9-mile trail run.  The heat got to me.  I felt dizzy and nauseous and my legs didn't work too well.  The one blight on an otherwise great summer!   It fell in the middle of a high mileage month.  I could tell.  August 2014 was my highest mileage month ever.

September-- Stanky Creek Trail 50K.  Another highlight of my year.  I LOVED this race.  I tapered well the first part of September.  This race fell the day after my 44th birthday.  I think I enjoyed every single step, every creek crossing, climbing every muddy embankment!   My first 50K trail race with a strong finish.  Good company on my trip to Memphis and perfect weather, too!

And things started going downhill......

October--  Southern TN Power Classic.  Worst. Race. Ever.  Just three weeks after Stanky Creek, my body was NOT ready for 26.2.  I was ok up until about mile 11 or 12.  Then my race went downhill.... and by that, I mean it continued to go UP and UP and UP more hills.  Every step was painful.  My muscles were tight and sore.  Running simply hurt.  Stomach upset, too. Ugh. Personal worst.  A nice gentleman I met at mile 21 really helped get me to the finish.   I felt like my body was breaking down. It was after this HORRIBLE race, I decided to let the Tunnel Hill 50 miler go.  It was the right decision.  I was very burned out at this point.  

Go Commando Half Marathon.  Two weeks after Power Classic.  I actually had a slow but steady race.  I ran every hill.  I was happy about that.  All of my trainees finished this tough course.  My finish time was 8 minutes slower than last year. Fatigue had compounded in my legs over the last few months-that much was evident.  I knew my body was telling me to back off a bit.  I was relieved to be done with long races for the year.

Halloween Hunt 5- Miler.  I ran this on the week after Go Commando with my husband.  We dressed as "early morning trail runners" (covered in spider webs).  My legs had NADA that day.  I struggled.  I had a few weeks of rest after this one.  I ran just a few miles per week.

November--Farm Bureau Holiday 10K.  I ran a strong five-mile race!  :-)  I enjoyed it until the last mile and the hills at the end.  My time was slower than I expected, but I hadn't run 10K pace pretty much all year!

Turkey Trot 5K.  I had a GREAT race.  27:16.  How I ran just 17 seconds off my PR, I don't know.  Lucas pacing me the first two miles might have helped.  I maintained pace alone that last mile though!   

December-- No races!

Those are my 15 official races for 2014.  I left out two "unofficial" races I did with friends---both were half-marathons on trails.  One was at Rotary Park with Andrea and the other was at Beaman Park with Middle TN Trail Runners.  We almost got arrested for our unofficial "not a real race but with bibs and medals" and lacking park permission, but it was still a fun day.  

What a GREAT YEAR overall.  BLESSED!!!

One of the greatest blessings just kind of fell together in June.  Middle TN Trail Runners formed and quickly became my local trail running family.  My trail brothers and sisters have given me so much support and encouragement as we have run, tripped, laughed, and face planted together (and nearly got arrested....).  With this group, I went on my first night trail run, another highlight of the year.

I'm happy to have had my running community grow much larger this year with new friends from far and near!   I think when it comes down to it, running is really more about the people you meet and spend time with than anything.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Marathon Training Has Begun.... Sort of.

I have had a fun few weeks of running.  Operation Regain Speed has been in full effect.  

On Thanksgiving morning, I ran the Pass the Turkey 5K, a race I helped create, here in my hometown.  I not only passed the (very pregnant) turkey, I was only 17 seconds off my 5K PR from three years ago.  Happiness!!!!

I started out in the middle of the pack, and that forced me to go slower for that first mile.  I think it was around an 8:54 pace.  I ran with a couple of friends in mile 1.  In mile 2, my friend Lucas and I chatted (well, he chatted, I cannot really talk at an 8:40 pace very well) and finished that mile in 8:42.  My legs were feeling great, but my breathing was once again very heavy and ragged.  After mile 2, Lucas jetted ahead to try to catch a friend, and I was on my own.  I thought maybe I would slow down, but I didn't.  At one point, I was running an 8:22 pace.  I backed off a bit.  At 2.77 miles, I was running hard enough to feel nauseous.  Then things got confusing.  Those of us on the course were running blindly.  There were no volunteers or course markers, and we weren't sure where to go.  Some went one way, some went the other.  I saw my friend Ashley take a sharp left turn, and I followed her.  There was probably supposed to be a marker or volunteer there because I finished with exactly 3.11!  My 3rd mile averaged 8:42, and my .11 was 8:25.  I finished in 27:16.  That was a victory for me.  I know I can break 27:00 in 2015.   I'm just happy to see some 8s in my running.  It's been a while. I think I ran only one 8:40 mile in all of 2014 until these last weeks.   Two days later, I ran an 8-mile long run with very tired legs.  Those fast miles took alot out of me! 

I am digging running only 3-4 runs per week, but running harder.  I am still averaging 20-24 miles per week.

I officially started my marathon training plan two weeks ago.  It's a Strength Running 20-week plan.  However, I am tweaking it somewhat.  If I've learned nothing else over the last couple of years, I've learned that a training plan is a mere suggestion, and I know my body BETTER than anyone else possibly could.  For now, I have found a way of running that is making me happy and is getting results. Plus, the marathon isn't until April 18, 2015 anyway, so I'm only sort of following the actual plan.  I may get more serious about it in January.  

My left knee continues to plague me. I started day 1 of the plan with it bothering me.  The plan had me bumping up to 26 miles per week or so the first week, but I didn't.  I ran my runs very easy the first couple of days to help the knee.  For the 5-mile speedwork day, I ran at a park fully on the grass.   It was FUN doing 8 one-minute intervals at 5K pace in the grass.  I had to work harder since the grass was so thick and did not provide energy return.  I managed to run them at around an 8:30 pace though.  Then I eliminated the 3 mile run the day before the 10 mile long run because I didn't want to run that day.  I fast walked two miles on the treadmill on an incline while watching The Tonight Show instead.  Crosstraining!  My first long run on the plan wasn't great last Saturday.  My friend and I were both not feeling great, and we walked a lot.  The plan called for 11, but I thought 10 sounded more reasonable. I didn't keep the long run pace between the prescribed 10 and 11 minute mile pace like I was supposed to.  

This week was supposed to be a repeat of week 1, but I shook it up a bit.   I ran 3.1 on Monday at tempo--a 9:30 pace in a very hilly neighborhood.   I also walked 3 miles that day.  Honestly, I felt bad on Monday, too.  I was about to get discouraged.  I didn't run at all on Tuesday.  Life intervened.  Finally, on Wednesday, I went back to the same park where I'd done the grassy intervals.  This time, I ran on the pavement, but still did 6 of the 1-minute intervals in the grass.  Running in the grass is just FUN!  I still kept the intervals around an 8:30 pace, and I enjoyed the run.  On Thursday, I did strength training and core.  I didn't run at all.  I had to move my long run to today-Friday- due to work, and  I had a much better 10 miler.  I ran alone in 24-degrees and maintained an average 10:24 pace.  That doesn't sound fast, I know.  However, for a training run, it's fairly fast for me.  I didn't stop once.  Many times, I find myself stopping by the car or jumping into a port o john on a long run.  There was no stopping today.  Actually, I ran the first 7 fairly relaxed and picked up the pace in 1/2 mile intervals in the last 3.  It was neat to remind my body to switch gears in a long run.  I hadn't done that in a while. So, I'm at 19 miles for the week (not counting the walking miles), so I may try to get in 2 or 3 tomorrow before or after work.  

So, I guess it's marathon training---lite.  No stress.  No pressure.  Run what I feel like while maintaining a bit of structure.  Strength train at least twice a week. Add some quality to the long runs. 

I wonder if running every other day is really what my body prefers?  Hmmmm.  In Run Faster by Brad Hudson, that's what he suggests for masters runners. He says after 40, our muscles lose their elasticity and ability to recover.    I'm so married to mileage though....  It would be a big switch.