Showing posts with label four seasons challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label four seasons challenge. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Been A Long Road...(4 Seasons Challenge is DONE!)


Well, you've been hearing about it since I signed up on October 1 of last year, so here it is: the FINAL phase of the Rochester 4 Seasons Challenge.  IT IS DONE!  And my leg didn't fall off!
4 Seasons mega medal!  The 4 squares are each medal I earned during the year, held together with the final piece in the middle.
For those that are just joining us, the 4SC is a challenge for runners in the Rochester area: to run the 4 Rochester half marathons in 1 calendar year.  January, April, July, and September.  All was well for me until right before the 3rd one (in July), when I started having some leg pain that ended up being a calf strain.  I was originally supposed to run the full marathon instead of the half this September, but because of the strain I pulled back to the 13.1 distance...but then still had to take almost 8 weeks off running to heal it.

Okay, you're all caught up!  The final race was the MVP Rochester half marathon yesterday (9/18).  Let's break this into 2 parts: recap, and lessons learned.

RECAP!
I went into the race having zero idea what to expect.  My husband was wondering when I might finish, and I gave him a range of 2:15 to 3:00.  When you haven't run for 8 weeks, it's real hard to guesstimate your time, even if you've run the distance many times before!

I ran 2 miles on Friday before the race, and that was the first time since the diagnosis that I had no pain while running, so fingers were crossed for a good race.

And guess what--NO PAIN!  I did the entire 13.1 miles with zero calf pain.  It was truly amazing.
Taken around mile 6.  No calf pain, but the struggle still got real there for a bit
So that was the good news, no calf pain.  The bad news is that everything else had it's own special brand of pain...haha.  Have you ever seen that running shirt that says "Everything Hurts and I'm Dying"?  Yes, that was my hamstrings/knees/right foot.  Again--I totally DO NOT recommend running 13.1 miles if you haven't run at all in 8 weeks!  But I was determined to complete this darn thing.

I started out feeling superhero-amazing (as one does at the start of a half), but around  mile 6 is when I felt how out of practice I was.  I started to get down on myself, and then mentally punched myself in the face.  Why am I getting upset about time??  I didn't even fully train for this race!!  Just have fun!  Stop worrying and enjoy yourself!

So that's what I did.  The Rochester half had a huge course change last year, so it was all new to me, and it's BEAUTIFUL!  It brings you through scenic parts of Rochester that I never even knew existed.  So it was easy to cruise through the race and enjoy the sights.  I stopped for pictures, took lots of selfies (texting my husband and friends along the way), walked when I needed to, high fived every little kid I could find.  It was a great time.
Selfie with a waterfall!  Totally necessary!
Favorite race story: this course is incredibly HILLY, and I decided early on to walk most of them, since I knew my lack of training would cause them to completely wipe me out.  However, while walking one I spotted a race photographer 3/4 of the way up the hill.  Crap, no one wants a race photo of themselves walking!  So I kicked myself into a run as best as I could.  As soon as I passed the photog, I walked and yelled, "I did that for you!  I hope you got it!"  He laughed and assured me he did.  Can't wait for that pic.  :)

My husband and kiddos were near the finish line, and when I got there, Small Fry jumped over to run the last .1 with me, which was the total highlight of the day.  I was so wrapped up in holding his hand across the finish that I didn't look at my time!  I found out later that it was 2:23:17, only 2 minutes slower than my slowest half (which was also my first, a total hot mess).  I'll take it!

Lessons Learned!
I was very excited for this 4 Seasons Challenge when I first signed up for it, but now that it's over, I have to say I took even more away from it than I originally expected.  I thought this would be a great way to test my running abilities and keep myself in shape all year long.  Yes, those things happened, but there was much more as well.

1. I learned what I want to do as a runner, vs what I think everyone else thinks I should do.
As I was training for the second race, I realized I hated the regimented speedwork and constant pace-pushing required to hit my then-goal time of under 2:00.  Furthermore, I realized I was only doing that because I felt like it was the next logical step for me--my PR is 2:05, shouldn't I break 2:00?  But then I thought, why?  If this doesn't make me happy, then why do it?  I started running more for the distance than the speed, and immediately started enjoying running more.  A simple but valuable lesson--if you love something, do it the way YOU want to, not the way you think others want you to!

2. I was forced to think of my fitness more holistically.
After getting so wrapped up in half marathon training the last few years, I think I lost sight of my larger fitness goals.  I was just running, running, running all the time.  And when that was taken away from me (with my injury), it was like I lost part of my identity.  I was totally depressed and had no idea what to do with myself.  Then I started trying new fitness areas: biking, swimming, group fitness classes, etc. and slowly realized that those were fun in their own ways too.  By the time the injury healed, I was thinking maybe...maybe?...I could do more than just run.  What a novel concept!  But a bright side of the injury is that it really forced me to look at my fitness goals beyond the next road race.

3. I'm tougher than I think.
My husband said to me after the race that he was so proud of me for completing 4SC, for a variety of reasons, but one was because I could have bowed out at any time when I hit obstacles to my training, but I never did, the whole year.  And he is right.  The opportunity to quit was always there, but I never took it.  I'm pretty proud of that, and those are exactly the sorts of lessons I hope my kids learn when they see me do stuff like this!

I could go on, but I think you probably want this post to end eventually.  The bottom line is that 4SC was an amazing experience for me.  Would I do it again?  Ummmm...get back to me about that.  But even if I move on to other challenges, I don't at all regret taking this one on!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Bye to the Marathon


If you follow me on Instagram, you already know this, BUT...there will be no marathon for me next month.

I know.  BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  Trust me, I'm right there with ya.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I've had a nagging injury since the first week of July, and an orthopedist finally made it official when he diagnosed me with a calf strain.  Which is pretty much exactly what I expected, though it does certainly suck to hear it, especially when it's followed by the prescription of NO running (like at all.  Like zero. Like NONE) for 6 weeks.

Let's see...6 weeks from my doctor's appointment puts me at...September 15.  THREE days before the Rochester Marathon.

Yeah, I emailed the race director that very day, and asked to move down to the half marathon.  And even that should be real interesting to complete with zero running leading up to it!  But since I've got several halfs under my belt already, at least it's a beast that I know how to fight.

That said, I'm handling this change of plans better than expected.  Don't get me wrong--I had my mourning period, though it took place well before the doctor's appointment (I knew deep down from the start that this injury was not going away easy).  I had a miserable couple of weeks when I couldn't BELIEVE that this year of hard work was going to end without me completing 26.2.  When I got down on myself and didn't want to work out at all.  When I wondered if I should give up running completely, forever.

However, right before we went on vacation, I promised my husband that I would use the time away to step back from my injury, and running in general, and try to clear my head.  And I did exactly that.  A week away in the beach air did wonders, and I came home feeling okay about the loss of the marathon (even before the doc made it official).

In fact--I will go so far as to say that this injury has been a blessing in disguise.  Let me count the ways:

1. Once I decided not to do the marathon, I realized that there was a part of me that was a tiny bit relieved.  I signed up for it as part of the Rochester 4 Seasons Challenge, which I was very excited about, but I was NOT pleased that my first marathon would be on a hilly, two-loop course.  The two loops bothered me the most--I've done two-loop 10Ks (running the same 5K route twice), and the mental challenge of completing a hard course and then doing it AGAIN is painful.  Now put that on a marathon...I was prepared to do it, but very nervous.  Now that I won't be running the Rochester full, I can choose a different first marathon experience that might play more to my strengths as a runner.

2. I have learned a LOT of patience.  I am not a patient person.  I tried a billion remedies to get rid of this injury...more foam rolling, icing, elevation, massage, compression, stretching, ibuprofen, blah blah blah.  But the ONLY fix for this calf strain is no running, and 6 weeks of waiting.  Patience required.

3. I have now learned the difference between a real injury and normal post-run soreness.  This is my first true running injury.  Every other ailment I've had while running has been an ache or pain that was easily remedied by taking an extra rest day or two, and foam rolling a bit more.  This pain felt different from the start, and now I know going forward what's worth trying to run through, and what's not.

4. If I had to get injured, this isn't the worst thing that could happen.  For a while I was concerned that this was an Achilles-related injury, which is NOT good news, as Achilles injuries tend to recur for runners.  But a calf strain, while slow to heal, WILL heal.  And then I can move on.  So I have to be thankful for that.

5. It's like a billion degrees outside right now, and I'm completely not jealous of those of you running in it.  ;)

So, just over a month til the Rochester half--what am I doing if I'm not running?  Well, the only activities that hurt my calf are running (duh) and jumping, which eliminates a lot of plyometric-based workouts from my regimen.  (I tried a BodyCombat class last week to cross train, and it was very no-bueno on my leg with all the jumping and kicking.)  However, there are a lot of other cross training activities that feel just fine.  I've put in a LOT of time on the stationary bike (both in spin classes and in the gym).  It's giving me a killer cardio workout, and I better be able to fly up some hills once I start running again, because my quads are killing me!!  :)  I've done some swimming as well, plus lots of yoga and strength training (I still love BodyPump!).  Plus, my friend Michelle just loaned me her road bike, so I might be able to take all this spinning out on the roads starting this week--woohoo!

At this point, I'm just trying to keep my fitness level up enough to finish this race without completely dying.  I am VERY interested to see how all this cross training plays out in the race...am I headed for success, or a hot mess?  Stay tuned, because we're gonna find out soon enough!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Midpoint Check-In for 2016

Hello, reader/runner friends!  Today marks the first day of the second half of 2016, so I thought it would be fun to check in with how I'm doing on the reading and running fronts so far this year.  I have also been admittedly absent around here lately, so it serves as a way for me to let you know what's going on in my little corner of the world these days.

Let's start with Reading:

So far I've read 25 books this year, not bad!  I didn't set a goal for 2016, but I've read a LOT of great books in that group of 25, and as such the reading has been easy.  It's nice when you don't feel like you're getting hung up on a lot of slow reads or DNFs.

It's hard for me to pick favorites, but a few contenders for the "best so far" of this year would be What Alice Forgot, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, and Alice & Oliver.


Running:

I went back in my Nike+ history and found that I've run 426.5 miles this year so far--woohoo!  I have never kept track of my yearly mileage or set a monthly/yearly mileage goal, but I went further back to 2015 and found that I ran 364.2 miles in the first 6 months of that year.  I think this Four Seasons Challenge is definitely helping me stay motivated!  Last year whenever I finished a big race, my 70-100 mile/month frequency would plummet down to 25-40 miles/month if I had nothing to train for.  Now that there's always a race on the horizon, I'm getting out there more often and am feeling more consistently race-ready.

Two of the Four Seasons races are done...the next is in just a few weeks (Shoreline Half on July 16), though I'm using it as a training run for the September Rochester Marathon.  Marathon training is going REALLY well, but the July training schedule amps up the mileage quite a bit, so check in with me again in August to see if I'm still so enthusiastic.  ;)
Me at the 19K finish line back in May...yeah, hoping I can look like that at the marathon finish too!
Personally:

My most significant news of late is that I am going back to school.  Yup, again!  A bachelors and a masters didn't seem like enough, so I decided to add an associates degree (haha).  This fall, I'll be starting classes to get my degree in Fitness and Recreation Management (with a concentration in Personal Training).  The eventual goal is to get a job as a personal trainer once Tater Tot is in school full-time.  That's not for several more years, so it gives me time to spread out the coursework.  You can get a personal trainer certification without going to college for it, but doing it that way does not require any hands-on experience, which I would like to get before heading into the workforce.  The degree requires an internship, so I'm pretty stoked about the opportunity to gain experience in the field before I (hopefully) get a job!

This is a huge career change for me (you may remember I was in higher ed administration before), but one that I am extremely excited about!

That's where I'm at these days.  I know I post less frequently, but I do so love my blog and all my bloggy friends--I hope that, as always, you'll stick with me through this new busy season in my life!  :)  While I know I'll have to trade some pleasure reading time for textbook reading time this fall, I have such a long list of excellent TBR books that I know I won't be ignoring it completely!

How's your 2016 going so far??

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Flower City Half RECAP!


It's recap day, runner friends!!  Who doesn't love a good race recap??

Well, the basic gist is that FLOWER CITY WAS AWESOME.  It was, by far, the best half marathon race day I have ever had...potentially my best race day, period.

As you may remember, I decided a few weeks ago to trash my original plan (to train for a sub-2 half) and just train to complete this race for fun.  And oh my--let me tell you, my running felt REJUVENATED!  It was no longer a chore to get up in the morning and run.  I still got all my miles in, but stopped pushing myself with race pace and tempo runs and Yasso 800s.  It was a beautiful epiphany for me.

Enter race morning (yesterday).  I woke up SUPER PSYCHED for a fun day.  After changing my training plan, I decided my best bet was to start the race with the 2:00 pace group (just to make sure I didn't go out any faster than that--which is my running kryponite), but then fall back as soon as I felt like I was starting to toe that line where I would end up miserable and vomity at the finish.

I got up at 4:30, had breakfast, made 1000 wardrobe changes (low 40's is great racing weather, but hard to dress for!), packed up and drove to my friend Mandy's house to pick up her and our friend Michelle.  I drove us into downtown Rochester and we were at the Blue Cross Arena by 6:30 (start was at 7:30).  I was glad we got there so early, because we had plenty of time to stretch, use the bathrooms, check out the set up in the arena, etc.

We headed out to Broad Street just before the start to line up.  Mandy and I were both starting with the 2:00 group while Michelle was heading further back, so we said our goodbyes and jumped into the crowd.  It was a beautiful (and packed!) starting line!:

Mile 1: 8:47

The gun went off right at 7:30, and...due to the push and pull of the huge crowd, Mandy and I crossed the start only to realize we'd been pushed wayyyyy back behind the 2:00 pacer.  Eeek!  We had some catching up to do!  First mile was fast because we were just pushing our way through the crowds to get to our pace group...haha.  The congestion was a little tough to handle in the early miles, but thankfully everything evened out about 3-4 miles in and we had more elbow room.

(I also noticed a completely barefoot runner during the first mile!!  I thought that was so cool/gutsy/insane!!  Couldn't help but take a pic):

Miles 2-6: 8:47, 9:01, 9:03, 9:02, 8:59

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS.  FOLLOWING A PACER CHANGED MY WHOLE LIFE.  After so many races where I just depended on my own pacing (and inevitably went out way too fast), at Flower City I tucked into the 2:00 pacers and enjoyed the ride.  Thanks so much to Wendy and Tom (especially Wendy, for whatever reason I ended up on her side of the street more often) for letting me be glued to their butts for 6 miles.  There were SO many times during these miles when I felt my legs saying, "Hey, I feel pretty good, I could go faster than this!"  And then my brain would say, "You shut up, legs!!  Just follow Wendy and SHUT UP!!"  As a result, these were the easiest 6 race miles I've ever done.  The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, lovely Roc City was waking up, I was high fiving everybody, and I felt FAB-U-LOUS.

Mile 7: 9:34

The slowdown begins!  We hit the first hill on Goodman Street towards the end of this mile.  I knew as soon as it started that I was done with 2:00 pace.  I waved a silent goodbye to my beloved pacers (and Mandy), kicked up my tunes, and got ready for the hills to roll.
Goodbye, wonderful pacer Wendy.  I found out afterward that she just ran the Boston Marathon on Monday.  WHAT!!
Mile 8: 10:56

HILLS WITH A SIDE OF HILLS!  We headed into Highland Park and Mount Hope Cemetery, and it was one roller after another.  Some pretty nasty ones thrown in there for sure!  One of the worst ones was on uneven cobblestones, for added pleasure on your ankles.  This was the point where I knew I would kill myself for the second half of the race if I pushed too hard.  So I dialed it down, enjoyed the scenery, waved to the crowds, and powered through.  I also had to make a fast Porta-Potty stop when we entered the cemetery, which explains why this is my slowest mile of the race.  (Mucho apologies to the girl I threw the door open on, but darlin', you gotta LOCK that thang!!)

Mile 9: 9:07

The second half of the cemetery was surprisingly flat/downhill.  I was so happy to be out of the worst hill section that I felt like I was flying!
Out of the hills and loving life!
Miles 10-12: 9:37, 9:44, 10:03

These miles were mostly along the Genesee River, and while they were pretty, they were very quiet (not many spectators here), and kind of mentally difficult because you could see downtown Rochester (where the finish line was) but it was VERY VERY FAR AWAY.  Physically I felt good here, but my paces reflect more of the mental challenge of staying in the game and not giving in to my desire for walk breaks.

Mile 13: 9:50

My most favorite mile!!  I could see downtown, the crowds were getting bigger, I knew I had run a great race, and I felt AWESOME.  I saw 4-5 race photographers, and I jumped and smiled like a goon for all of them.  My husband and kiddos were waiting just before the finish line with loud cheers and high fives.  I saw the 2:05 on the clock when I got close and grinned, because I couldn't believe that in a race where I consciously did not (often) look at my Garmin and tried to hold back, I still was running close to my PR.  That felt damn good.

View from mile 13!
I only missed that PR by 29 seconds: final time was 2:05:40!

(EDITED: When I wrote this post, the results on the race website only included gun times.  Afterwards, they posted chip times, and I found out I actually did PR, by 2 seconds!  Haha!  2:05:09.  A pleasant surprise!! (I know some people consider gun time as "official" since it is used for awards placement, but when it takes me 30 seconds to cross a start line--I'm going with the chip, thankyouverymuch.))

 And, the bling was pretty sweet: the Flower City medal is a bottle opener, and I also got part 2 of my Four Seasons Challenge medal:

On top of the awesome race experience, I have to say this is the best I've ever felt physically after a race.  My stomach did not rebel against me (as it usually does)--I pounded a bunch of water, a piece of pizza, and some cookies after the finish.  With no repercussions!  It was amazing!  I also got to run Small Fry's 1/4 mile race with him at 10:30, which was so fun--that kid is turning into a little speed demon.  He'll be smokin' his momma soon.  :)
Mandy and I at the finish
After we came home and had rested a while, I turned to my husband and said, "I had so much FUN today."  Not something I have ever uttered after other half marathons.  But I hope to do so again soon!

I hope everyone who raced this weekend had an excellent race day!  What race has been the most fun for you?  Why?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Changing the End Game


Hola, runners!  I just realized that it's been a rather looooong time since I did any updating on my training for the upcoming Flower City Half Marathon.  With only 24 days til the race (eeeek), I am at the height of my training right now.  It's safe to say that this training cycle has been full of roller-coaster-esque ups and downs.

You may remember that, back in Week 1 of training, I decided to try to go sub-2 (under 2 hours) in this race.  My PR is 2:05, though on a very flat course, whereas Flower City has a substantial hill section in the middle miles.  So I immediately went into heavy training mode: lots of track intervals, lots of tempo runs, lots of hill repeats, lots of race pace training runs.

At first, I was excited for this plan.  I'd never done dedicated hill training before, and it was fun to try.  However, the novelty wore off quick.  I started getting run down, feeling constantly tired, more sore than usual.  I started dreading my runs.

Then, this week, I had a revelation.

IT'S TIME FOR ME TO CHANGE THE END GAME.

This revelation came in 2 parts.  Part 1 happened on Tuesday morning, when my alarm went off at 5:15am for what was supposed to be a 9x400m speed workout.  I DID NOT want to do it.  I was THIS close to just rolling over and skipping the whole thing.

Then I thought to myself..."What if I just go out and run...for fun?  No intervals.  No speed work."

I jumped out of bed so fast, I almost sprained an ankle.

I went out and ran a totally carefree 3 miles.  Didn't even wear my Garmin.  Couldn't tell you what my pace was.  (Okay, I could if I looked it up on Nike + (which I always have on during runs), but I didn't even look at my pace on it afterwards.  So I really couldn't tell you.)  It was an awesome run.

Part 2: Wednesday the alarm went off at 5:15am again.  I had 9 x hill repeats on the schedule.  Nope, didn't want to do that either.  I went out and ran 4.5 miles for fun.  (I have started to LOVE running in the early-morning dark.  So quiet!  So peaceful!)  It was amazing.

It was during this second run that I had a serious mental talk with myself.  Do I REALLY want to run Flower City sub-2?  And if so, why?  I've run 3 half marathons so far, and at all 3, I have felt HORRIBLE at the finish line.  I'm not talking mentally (I've PR'd each time, which is a mental boost), but I mean physically--I felt like I wanted to puke.  I don't enjoy any of my post-race time because I'm so busy trying to keep myself from vomiting that I just want to go home and lie in a dark room.  After my last one (Winter Warrior), I finished the race at 6pm and ended up on my couch feeling like gastrointestinal death until 11:30pm.  I remember standing in line for my medal and willing myself not to be sick on the person in front of me.  Yes, I PR'd.  Was it worth it?  Is that what I want a race to feel like every time?

Some would say yes.  I mean, look at Shalane Flanagan at the Olympic marathon trials last month.  Girlfriend collapsed at the finish line.  She left EVERYTHING out on the course.  It was epic, phenomenal, inspirational.  But you know what?  That was for a spot in RIO.  I am not going to Rio anytime soon.  Like, not even on vacation.
This was an incredible finish to watch!! (Photo credit womensrunning.competitor.com)
I thought about the first "big" race I ever did.  It was the Boilermaker 15K back in 2008.  I had only started running in 2006, and had never done anything beyond a 5K up to that point.  My husband and I trained using a beginner Hal Higdon program.  It didn't call for any speed work--just putting in the weekly miles.  We had no Garmin.  We had no Nike +.  We just did our miles and high-fived every time we completed a training run.

You know what?  By my current standards, my Boilermaker time sucked.  1:44.  Roughly 11:09/mile.  But you know what else?  I.DID.NOT.CARE.ONE.BIT.  I ran 9.3 miles without stopping!!  On an 85 degree day!!  I got to enjoy free beer and cookies at the finish with my husband!  It was a freaking awesome day.
Went back in the archives for this one! Boilermaker 2008.  It was SO hot.  But I had SO much fun.
So I thought hard about my goals during this week's Wednesday morning run.  In the age of social media, it is easy to lose sight of what you REALLY want.  I follow a lot of running bloggers, and I love them--they are insanely inspirational, they give me new ideas for training, recovery, and racing all the time--they are amazing.  However, 99% of them are following strictly laid-out training plans for races almost all the time.  And it's easy, when you're reading their blogs and following their Instagrams and perusing their Tweets, to think that that's how running has to be all the time.  Hit it hard, #tracktuesday like a boss, leave it all on the road, and keep chasing those PR goals.

But maybe...the PR isn't MY current, deep-down goal.  I know, what a thought, right?

After thinking long and hard, here are my TRUE goals...the ones that I know would make me happiest on April 24th:

1. Finish with a smile on my face.  A smile that shows the fun I had on the course, and that shows how happy I was to run strong without making myself physically miserable.  I mean really--I JUST RAN 13.1 MILES!  That's something to really and truly smile about!
One of the only race photos that I have of me smiling...at a 5K, during which I did not check my pace once. I felt great...and I PR'd.  Coincedence?
2. Run the whole race without stopping to walk.  I know this may not seem like a big deal, but in all 3 of my past half marathons, I overdid it so much in the early miles that I had to walk in the later ones...even though I've almost NEVER had to walk during a training run.  Again, this is all because I push too hard during the race and burn out.  I don't want to do that this time.  I know I can run 13.1 miles without stopping--I KNOW it.

3. Run without my current pace showing on my Garmin.  I still want to wear it because it's fun to look at my race stats after the run is over, but I don't want to look at my pace during the entire race.  I want to run a comfortably strong pace.  If I feel like I'm overdoing it, I'll slow down.  If I think I have some gas left, I'll speed up.  End of story.
The only race pic of me at Winter Warrior...yup, checking my darn Garmin!!
4. Run the kids 1/4 mile run with Small Fry afterwards, and be able to enjoy it.  I've been so afraid that by trying to sub-2 this race, I will end up in Wanna Vomit Land again after the finish, and not be able to have fun with Small Fry when he races later.  I don't want that to happen.

So that's that.  I've decided that the last 24 days of my training will focus on mileage, not speed or hills.  I'll still put in the miles--long runs will continue as usual, and I'll still be running 3 weekdays in between them.  But it's time for me to find the fun in running again--and I think that means taking a step away from the limit-pushing.  It's time for me and the road to become buddies again, not adversaries.  I run because I love it...but for me (at least right now), loving it does not include constantly trying to reach that next level.  Sometimes, the level I'm on is just fine.

Maybe I will PR anyway (I PR'd in the 5K last September when I didn't care about my pace at all--another very telling situation).  Maybe I'll be slow as molasses.  But I'm determined to have a GREAT race day, no matter what.

Runners, have you ever struggled with your training goals?  Do you ever find it hard to focus on your true goals when social media barrages you with everyone else's?  What would you say was the most fun race you ever completed?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: Flower City Prep

Hi, running friends!  It's been a bit since my last running update, and I'll admit why: after Winter Warrior, I got lazy.  This is what happens when I don't have a race to train for!  I still ran (and ended up hitting 50 miles for the month of January--significant for me), but my frequency fell way off the rails and the junk food consumption went sky-high.
TRUE STORY.
One thing I did do post-race is start the Yoga Fix 90 program from Fightmaster Yoga on YouTube.  I'm still working through it (I usually only do yoga on days that I don't run, so my 90 days are not consecutive), but this has been SUCH a fun way to keep me pumped about yoga, and I can feel my strength and flexibility increasing!  Lesley Fightmaster (who I am now a total groupie of, LOVE HER) also has a 30 day yoga program for beginners, if you're looking for a lighter intro to the practice.
Scissor leg side crow!  So proud of myself for that one!
Despite my bit of laziness in January, February 1 turned things around as it marked the beginning of training for my next half--the Flower City Half Marathon on April 24.  My original goal was to just have fun with this one, because marathon training will start less than a month after this race and I didn't want to push too hard beforehand.  However, my friend Mandy is also planning to run it (her first half since giving birth to her second daughter last summer), and she said she thinks she can run it at about a 9:00/mile pace, which just HAPPENS to be fast enough to get just under 2 hours, and it might be fun to run with a friend, soooooo...

Yeah, I'm training for a PR again.

I TOLD myself I wouldn't do it this time!  I swore up and down!  Do this race for fun, I said!  Don't push so hard this time, I said!  But do I listen?  No I do not.

I put together a training plan for myself that draws from the lessons I've learned in past races about my limits as far as available time, and mileage.  Mondays are yoga days (though I also usually add yoga in at least 1-2 other days of the week as well).  Tuesday is speed work--I'm using Hal Higdon's intermediate plan for speed work, alternating 400m intervals one week and a tempo run the next.  Speed days are happening on the treadmill because I'm better at regulating my speed on the machine vs. out in the wild.
Post-speed work at the gym with Tater Tot.  It was his first time going to the gym's child care without crying!  Yeah!
Wednesday is hill work.  I've never done dedicated hill days, but Flower City has some nasty ones right around the midway point, and hills have been one of my worst downfalls (see: Mystic Half).  Unfortunately, I live in a super flat area, but the park near my house has one hill in particular that kicks my butt.  It's not super long, but steep enough that it's certainly a challenge for me.  I've been doing a 1 mile warmup (running to the park), followed by a series of hill sprints on that hill (walking down the hill serves as recovery in between), then 1 mile cooldown as I run home.  I started the first week with 4 sprints, thinking 4 sounded like not a lot...HAHA.  Was totally dying by the fourth one.  But at my fastest pace, I got up to 5:23/mile mid-sprint, which I felt pretty darn good about.  Hill sprints suck but I'm hoping they will pay off!
First hill work day was done in SHORTS!  Gotta love El Nino February!
Thursdays are a rest day, then Fridays I do a race pace run.  I'm glad I'm doing these because I am not great at holding a 9:00/mile pace yet during these runs.  The first week my average was 8:42...yup, too fast.  I need to get a better feel for this pace so that it's easier for me to dial in on race day.

Saturday is a rest day, then Sunday long run.  I'm making a conscious effort to throw in hills on the long run (not sprints, just at long run pace).  I often avoided the hills during long runs for Winter Warrior, but I knew the course was flat so I didn't feel bad about it.  Now I know I need to be able to handle a good hill when my legs are already fatigued--so long run hills will help with that.

Honestly, I still have some doubts about my ability to go sub-2 on such a hilly course, but as with Winter Warrior--there ain't no harm in trying.  At the very least, I'm challenging myself by adding in some hill work (new for me), and switching up my training routine is always fun!

I'll keep you posted as training goes on...I'm just happy to be back in a routine again!

What are you training for these days?  Do you have any good recommendations for hill training?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: WINTER WARRIOR Recap!

Hello, running friends!  Last night was my first half marathon of the year (and part 1 of the Rochester 4 Seasons Challenge): Winter Warrior.  Let's recap!

As you may remember, I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to try to run this race in under 2 hours.  I was nervous about this attempt, but after running a 10 miler at 9:04 pace two weeks ago, I felt confident that I could go for it.
One of my mantras going into this race (from one of my fave running Instagram accounts!)
Well, let's just get it out of the way now: I did not run under 2 hours.  BUT, I am still very happy with my time!  2:05:11, a PR by 9 minutes!  Can't be sad about that!  Also, I think I am going to start giving lessons on how to PR with positive splits, because I am becoming kind of amazing at it:

Mile 1: 8:44
Mile 2: 8:40
Mile 3: 8:46
Mile 4: 8:55
Mile 5: 8:49
Mile 6: 9:01
Mile 7: 9:33
Mile 8: 9:19
Mile 9: 9:32
Mile 10: 10:11
Mile 11: 10:15
Mile 12: 10:18
Mile 13: 10:37

This is totally NOT a pattern to aspire to, but I guess I still got the job done!!

Here's a look at the journey behind those numbers.

So, I got to the race site about 45 minutes early: enough time to get a snack and evaluate the weather to see if I needed to add/drop layers.  It was a 4pm start, so I'd been checking the weather all day, but it was about 45 degrees, overcast and windy at this point.  (That's FORTY degrees warmer than last year's Winter Warrior!!)  I ended up in my fleece Sugoi tights, a Nike dri-fit long sleeve tshirt, hat, gloves, and Darn Tough socks.  In the end, the tights and socks were a good call, but I was sweating my butt off in the shirt, gloves and hat!  Nothing I could do about the shirt (didn't have a layer underneath to strip down to), and I kept the hat because I had nothing else to keep the hair out of my eyes, but I ended up throwing my gloves at my husband at the halfway point.  :)

As for fuel, I was carrying about 12 oz of water in a bottle, with a plan to refill at a water station if necessary.  I also had 2 Gu's in the pocket of the bottle.  I had hydrated all morning but stopped drinking 2 hours before the start, which worked out great--NO potty stops this race!!
Another mantra for the day!
I got in line for the bathroom at 3:35, and started getting nervous because the loooong line was moving verrrrry slowly.  I finally got to the porta potty at 3:52, did my business, came out and had time to give my husband, kiddos, and friend Mandy a quick hug before heading to the start line.  The only thing I had to do was get my music started.  And wouldn't you know it, my wireless Yurbuds (which had been working FINE at 2:30pm when I tested them), would not turn on!!!  I tried and tried, but no luck.  I have to believe I was just flustered because the start was so soon, because they worked fine when I got home.  I was super bummed to not have my awesome playlist available, but oh well.
Photo from the start line.  Great turnout!
4pm and we were off!  Headlamps were recommended because sunset was a little after 5, but I get a headache if I wear my headlamp too long, so my plan was to hold it in my hand for the first half of the race and put it on around the 6 mile mark.  Gun goes off, I get about 20 feet past the start line, and the light from my headlamp pops off the band and falls on the ground!  "SHIT!" Luckily the girl behind me quickly picked it up for me and handed it back.

Okay, my earbuds aren't working, and my headlamp is broken.  Maybe we can be done with the technical difficulties now???

I put all that chaos behind me and started running.  The course was 4 laps (roughly 3.3 miles each) around a local industrial park.  My target pace for sub-2 hours was 9:09, but accounting for not running the tangents perfectly, I was shooting closer to 9:00.  I was feeling pretty amazing (as we all do in the first 5K of a half!), and of course went out too fast, as you can see from my splits.  TYPICAL.  I flew through the first lap with no problems, ended up throwing my earbuds and head lamp at my husband when I passed my cheering crew around 3.5 miles in.  (Really so appreciative of them catching all the crap I threw at them during this race.  Haha!)

Lap 2, things got a little tougher.  I started feeling hungry--ugh!!  I thought I had fueled okay during the day, but a 4pm start is so hard to plan for, and I guess I missed the mark.  I took my first Gu at the 5 mile mark.  Didn't really feel much of a boost from it right away, and was generally just feeling kind of junky in my stomach by the time I finished the second lap (6.6 miles).  Mile 7's slower time is a reflection of the fact that I walked through the water station to get some electrolyte drink.  Not something I had planned for, but I felt like I was sweating like crazy and could benefit from the extra electrolytes.  The drink plus the Gu started to give me a little boost at that point, and my stomach stabilized a bit.

The rest of lap 3 was pretty uneventful, though it is worth mentioning that there was 1 "baby" hill on this whole course, and the general consensus is that it was definitely about 100 feet taller during lap 3.  :)  Lap 4 was a real beast though.  For whatever reason, I started to feel super sore in my hips--not a place that I tend to get much soreness, so that was unexpected.  The race was counterclockwise the whole way, so I wonder if all the left-leaning turns aggravated it?  A day later, my left hip is definitely the most tender area on me.  But anyway, that pain explains much of my 10+ minute splits for the last few miles.

Once I started that last lap, it was so tempting to want to walk, given the pain my hips, but I kept telling myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other--if I started walking, I knew I wouldn't want to stop!!  I ran the whole final lap, which I was really proud of because it took some serious mental fortitude to keep going.  (Lap 4 was also when I had all the typical half marathon thoughts: why do I do this to myself, I am never running one of these again, there is no freaking way I am running a marathon later this year, etc. etc.  All forgotten within 10 minutes of finishing.  Haha.)

Despite the pain, and knowing before I reached the finish that I was not under 2 hours, I smiled big when I reached the line and saw 2:05 on the clock.  Major PR!!  I may not have run this race perfectly, but I still felt amazing for all the work I had done.
Snapchatting with Small Fry  :)
I met up with my family, and laughed as Small Fry ogled my race medal (which is definitely the biggest one I've gotten so far, it's pretty blingy!).  I brought him into the post-race tent with me to collect the first quarter of my 4 Seasons Challenge medal as well.  (Small Fry very solemnly placed it around my neck, which was adorable.)  My stomach was feeling awful at this point, but I managed to get some water and choke down an apple.  (Honestly, my stomach suffered for the rest of the night--it wasn't until about 11pm that it finally started to feel normal.  Why does this always happen to me post-race, but never after long runs??  Something I need to figure out...)

Today my left hip is in a world of pain, though a little time at the YMCA pool with our boys this morning helped a lot.  Otherwise my stomach is back to normal, and I'm looking forward to some foam rolling today (and yoga tomorrow) to help things along.

Another race done!  As always, it had its difficulties, and I continue to learn more running lessons with every race that I do.  But I'm happy with how this one went, and I look forward to the challenges ahead!
2 medals = bling bling!
Did anyone else race this weekend?  Any other chronic positive-splitters out there??  :)  (We need a support group!)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Well-Read Runner: 2016 Running Goals

Much like my 2016 reading goals, I am not calling my 2016 running goals "resolutions", because I don't feel like they are plans to "fix" anything.  With a VERY busy year of racing ahead of me, I'm more focused on remembering the lessons I've learned in past races, and keeping up with the positive habits I've picked up in training, racing, and recovery (while also, hopefully, picking up some more along the way!).

Just as a reminder for newbie readers, my racing plans in 2016 include the Rochester 4 Seasons Challenge, which has me running 3 half marathons (in January, April, and July) as well as my very first full marathon (in September).  I've also recently signed up for the Right to Run 19K in May, an inaugural race in Seneca Falls that is benefiting the National Women's Hall of Fame (the 19K, or 11.8 miles, is a nod to the 19th amendment).  Kathrine Switzer is going to be there!  I'm psyched!
Don't worry, I'MMA TELL ERRBODY
With that in mind, my 2016 running goals:

1. Avoid injury!  I know this is not always something that is easy to control, but there are positive steps I can continue to take to make this my reality.  In 2015, I was introduced to the magic of foam rolling--OMG, why didn't I start doing this sooner??  Foam rolling after long runs and races has reduced my post-workout soreness and knee twinges like you wouldn't believe.  I also started doing some strength training via BodyPump classes (though I do want to be more consistent with it) and yoga, which have served as helpful cross-training for my muscles when I'm not running.  With so many races to tackle in 2016, avoiding injury is my #1 goal (after finishing, of course!).

2. Eat smart.  I am a junk food junkie at heart, but in 2015 I tried to start making some changes to that sugary diet.  I cut out all sugary breakfast foods, which was a HUGE step for me.  I've switched over to more healthy carb-and-protein based breakfasts (featuring whole grains, eggs, fruits, etc), which has made a huge difference in my mornings (especially because I have also been more of a morning runner these days).  Now my new challenge is to become wiser about my carb/protein/fat ratio, especially during marathon training, when my carb intake is going to have to be HIGH (and not just full of unhealthy, processed carb sources...though you can pry my Oreos out of my cold, dead hands).
Basically me after every long run
3. Have fun!  While I am shooting for a half marathon PR at Winter Warrior this month, I don't have a lot of PR dreams in sight for the rest of the year.  (Well, other than the easy ones: I will get one at the Right to Run 19K (most random distance ever!), and at the Rochester Marathon, because FIRST MARATHON!)  Don't get me wrong, I want to race to my best potential, but I also don't want to get so bogged down in training, speedwork, etc that I lose the joy of the run.  I want to complete that marathon with a smile on my face, waving to the spectators, cheering on other runners...not with a sense of disappointment that I didn't hit my splits.

2016 is definitely the Year of Distance for me.  I am excited for the challenges that are in store, though it's already got me wondering what 2017 will be the year of.  The Year of Trail Running?  The Year of Speed?  The Year of Triathlons?  SO MANY POSSIBILITIES!  But let's do this year first.  :)

What are your 2016 running goals?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: Winter Warrior Training Update


I'm long overdue for a running update!  When we last chatted, I had finished the Monster Scramble 10K, and started up my training for the Winter Warrior Half Marathon on January 9.

I'll admit that this training cycle has been a bit weird.  I've had two competing goals: to successfully train with a schedule that is less demanding than the Hal Higdon plan I used for my last half, and also to PR.

Why did I want a less demanding training plan?  Higdon's plans are awesome (and I plan to use one for my marathon in fall 2016), but they often require workouts 6 days a week, and I knew that would be a strain on my family through the holiday season.  Therefore, I made my own training plan that only required me to run 3-4 days a week, with a yoga day and some strength training thrown in.  So far, I think this has been a great fit time-wise.  I never skip the weekend long run (definitely the most important part!), and the weekday runs usually have some speed incorporated to push myself.  I admit I've been skimpy on the strength training (as always), but the yoga has been amazing--I am really hoping to incorporate this into my weekly routine for good!
A gorgeous sunset training run in Connecticut over Thanksgiving
That said--can I still PR on such a skimpy run schedule?  At first, I was toying with the idea of shooting for a sub-2 hour half marathon.  Flat course?  Colder temps?  What could be better conditions?  Even so, after about 6 weeks of training, I realized that was not going to be a realistic goal.  I didn't set up a speedwork schedule with enough rigor to get me there, and running only 3-4 days a week was not enough to get me the type of gains necessary for that time goal (a 14+ minute PR).  My speedwork was not showing the results I needed.

So, I readjusted my expectations, and started hoping for a sub-2:10 half.  This would take 4+ minutes off my current PR, and given the course conditions (as long as it doesn't blizzard!), I thought this completely do-able.  Baby steps, right??  A sub-2 half is a serious dream for me, but I knew I needed more time (and a more rigorous training plan) before I could get there.
True Winter Warrior training!  My 12 miler was done at 27 degrees (15 with the wind chill).  Brrrrr
Then?  Friday happened.

Christmas day I did a 10 mile long run.  This was supposed to be 7 miles easy, and 3 miles at race pace (roughly between 9:30-9:45 for me).  I started the run at 2pm, unusual because I am normally a 5-6am runner, but we did Christmas morning festivities and I headed out during Tater Tot's nap.  I was feeling FANTASTIC, and mile 1 clocked in at 9:18.  Whoa there, captain.  I tried to dial it back, but I just couldn't.  That pace was feeling easy and it was hard to hold back.  Mile 5 clocked in at 9:09 (exact pace needed for a sub-2 half) and I said, what the heck.  I'll do the last 3 miles at a pace for a sub-2 half.

Last 3 miles: 8:38, 8:44, 8:51 (mile 8 was the fastest of the 10).  Final overall pace of 9:04.  I FELT INVINCIBLE.  I don't know if it was the fueling (I had a whole morning of carbs under my belt before running, something I normally do not have at 6am), the weather (45 degrees and cloudy, amazing!), or the time of day (I have often felt faster in the afternoon/evening than the morning, maybe because I'm more stretched out?).  Did I mention Winter Warrior is a 4pm start?

So now...barring any weird curveballs (bad weather, illness, etc) I feel like I want to go for it.  Under 2 hours.  I have to at least try.  OMG, I can't believe I'm even saying that.  I'm scared to attempt it (what if I start too fast and just burn out?  What if my stomach goes crazy (as it is known to do) and I can't get close to that goal?  WHAT IF I FAIL?).  But those fears just...fears.  The worst thing that could happen is that I don't hit sub-2.  Whatever, right?  At least I can say I tried.

With that said, I've got less than 2 weeks to go!  I am going to keep the euphoric feeling of Friday's run in my mind, and hope I have similar feelings on race day!

Do you have any races coming up?  What is your first race of 2016 going to be?  Do you run better in cold winter temps, or prefer the warmth of summer?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: BIG news...65.5 miles of it!

Remember a few weeks back, when I mentioned that one of my goals for 2016 is to complete Rochester's 4 Seasons Challenge (4 half marathons during the year, 1 in each season)?

About that.

My husband told me well before my birthday (September 24, in case you forgot!) that he was going to give me the entry fee for the 4 Seasons Challenge.  All I had to do was tell him where to make the purchase.  However, our local Fleet Feet (the owners of which also own the local race timing company) said that they were not opening registration for 2016 yet, because they had "new details" to iron out.  Oooooh, mysterious!

So my birthday came and went last week, with no news of 4SC.  The anticipation was killing me!  I just wanted to register already!!

Then, the news struck.  On September 30, Fleet Feet announced that the 2016 challenge will have two options: you can either do the 4 half marathons, OR you can do the first 3 half marathons, and then do the full Rochester marathon in September (instead of the Rochester half, which runs at the same time).

Registration was set to open the next day, October 1.

What's the difference between the two options?  Other than an extra 13.1 miles, not much.  You still get all the same 4SC swag, and the same giant medal at the end of all 4 races (at each race, you get the finisher medal but then also 1/4 of a GIANT 4SC medal, the 4 pieces come together once you have all of them).  The same feeling of SUPREME AWESOMENESS when you finish all 4.

But I just.couldn't.resist. the challenge.  So I woke up October 1 and signed up...for the marathon option.

I AM RUNNING A MARATHON NEXT YEAR!  MY VERY FIRST ONE!!!

I am SO EXCITED and also completely FREAKING OUT!

I have said for a while that I wanted to have my first marathon be a BIG one (Chicago, NYC, etc), because who knows if I'll want to do a second marathon?  But this opportunity was just too cool to pass up.  So now I have to do a second marathon too, I suppose!  But that's okay, because if marathons are anything like halfs, I'll enjoy the second one a LOT more than the first.  ;)

Many thanks go out to my husband in advance, as we did chat about this before I signed up, and he has expressed his full support for this endeavor...something I will certainly need as the mileage builds up next summer.  My husband and my kiddos are my biggest cheerleaders, and I definitely could not do this without them!

Sounds like 2016 is going to be quite the year for my running.  For now, I have to focus on training for the first of the 4SC halfs, Winter Warrior, coming up January 9.  Already ordered some new thermal tights to get me going (I ran the relay this year and it was -15 degrees)!  Stay tuned...

Anyone else committed to a big race for 2016?  Something you've never tried before?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: New Plans!

Hello, runner/reader friends!  After taking over a month off from this feature after the Mystic Half, I'm back with a little update on my running activities of late.

After taking a much-needed break, I've been back in the saddle, just running for fun.  I have a love-hate relationship with non-training runs.  I love them, because it's nice to just go out, ignore the Garmin, not worry about pace or distance, take in the scenery.  Sometimes when I'm in training, I'm so focused on whether I'm hitting race pace, or what direction I need to go in order to add that extra mile to my run, that I can't just enjoy the act of running.  So, running-for-fun has been rather excellent in that regard.

However, when I don't have a training goal, I get lazy.  It's hard to motivate myself to get up for early morning runs (the best time of day for me to fit them in).  It's hard to push myself to do more than 2-3 miles at a time, if I know I don't have to.  I don't want to lose the speed I've gained in race training, but it's hard to run speedy when you know you can just take it easy!

And so, new goals are now in place.  They are:

1. Set a 5K PR before year's end.
I don't think this is a particularly hard goal, seeing as how last week, after a REALLY REALLY bad day, I went for a run and beat my 5K race PR (27:02) by OVER A MINUTE.

What??  I signed up for the Shoreline 5K in Hamlin, NY later this month, which is rumored to be fast and flat.  Time to crush my sub-27:00 goal!  I'm also registered for Vino and the Beasts obstacle run 5K next month (basically an excuse for my friends and I to drink wine while running?), as well as the Summerfest 5K in Mendon on Labor Day weekend, but that one is partially on trails (which I've never raced before), so I'm doing it without PR goals in mind.

2. Run at least 1 race that is longer than 5K before the end of the year.
This will likely be the Monster Scramble 10K in Rochester in October--one of my close friends was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, and the race raises money for the National MS Society.  I plan to fundraise like heck and run my heart out!!

3. Sign up for the 2016 Four Seasons Challenge.
Here's why I'm not going very long in distance for the rest of 2015--because 2016 is gonna be killer!  I am dying to sign up for the Four Season Challenge, which requires you to run the 4 Rochester half marathons in one calendar year: Winter Warrior (January), Flower City (April), Shoreline (July), and Rochester (September).  In addition to making me into a certified bad-ass, completing the challenge also means you get a gigantic, bling-bling medal at the end (in addition to the ones you get at the end of each race).  I feel juuuuust a little crazy for doing this, but I am really stoked about it.  I believe registration will be opening around my birthday, so I already hinted to my husband that this would be a great gift.  ;)

So that's where I'm at.  Even though I'm fairly confident in my ability to get a PR at Shoreline in a few weeks, I'll be working on some speed work before then...and pushing myself to get up for those 5am runs more often!!

Now that we're at mid-year, how are your fitness goals going?
 
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