Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mid-Week Long Run

Tuesday, August 30 20 Miles (2nd in series of 3 in preparation for Chicago)

Splits: 9:32, 9:35, 9:30, 9:36, 9:27, 9:47, 9:28, 9:43, 9:34, 9:27, 9:44, 9:06, 8:05, 8:09, 8:38, 8:33, 8:14, 8:39, 8:30, 8:10, 7:18
Average pace 8:59
Elevation gain 600 feet (Rick says this was pretty good?)

I am racing this weekend and didn't have another good day to run my 20-miler this week, so I decided to run it today.  My friend, Jane (yes, the same one who's been with me on the tempos and track workouts I've done), offered to start with me at 4:15 a.m. so I could get in my needed miles.  Jane has been right there with me through these difficult miles--for conversation, for advice, and for laughs.  That is a true friend, and I am lucky to have her and the rest of my group! 

We both admired the stars twinkling in the darkness and enjoyed the coolness.  It was great having her company.  And how strange to be done with 8 miles before you have seen the sunrise!  She wrote about our 11 miles together here.

An interesting thing about her company is that she was successful in speeding up my first 3 miles.  I've had a lot of trouble with starting at 11 minute plus miles.  I'm not sure if it's the darkness (afraid of where my foot will land when I can't see) or the knowledge that I have to run 19 more miles (or 18 or 17), but nothing I could do was working to bring them down.  Then Jane did!

I pushed myself the last 9 miles and played a little game with myself to see if I could bring my average down to sub 9s.  I did it (it clicked down to an 8:59 during the 20th mile!).  And I wanted the last mile to be my fastest and also marathon-paced, just to help my confidence.  Well, even with all of the rush hour  people watching me gut it out, I was able to do it!  So this run was great at helping me build some confidence back.

I hydrated much better today than the last 20 miler, stopping at my car at 11 miles to get water and refill my bottle.  I ate gummy bears during the run and graham crackers before.  And the low last night was a glorious 61 degrees, so it felt cool and refreshing out there today!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Setting Your Bar

My friend asked me the other day whether it was realistic to take 20-30 minutes off of her marathon time.  I didn't have a great explanation for her at the time, just an enthusiastic, "Yes!"  I am always setting my bar pretty high, but I have the results to back it up though.  Stay with me.

Below is one of my favorite quotes ever.  It can apply to anything in life, but it is especially true for running:

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. – Michelangelo

Michelangelo says it's a danger to aim too low.  Why would he use that word?  Let's use my running as an example to test this merits of this quote.

I ran my first marathon aiming just to finish.  I got a 3:45.  From there, I went on to run 3 more marathons that same year with almost every one being slower than the one before it.  It would have been easy to "lower my aim," so to speak.  Maybe you are feeling like doing that in running or some other area of your life right now.  Below are the first four marathons I ran:

Rocket City Marathon Huntsville, AL December 8, 2001 3:45:43
Mercedes Marathon Birmingham, AL February 10, 2002 3:47:36
Country Music Marathon Nashville, TN April 27, 2002 3:55:07
Atlanta Marathon Atlanta, GA November 28, 2002 3:54:50

I guess you could say I raised my bar for the next marathon.  I wanted a Boston qualifying time (BQ, or a 3:40 for my age group at that time).  I remember putting in a lot of hard miles preparing for this one with the help of my now-husband, Rick.  Rick guided my training program, and we compared many of our run times (we were a long-distance relationship).  When we ran together, he pushed me.  I remember the feeling somewhere in the last mile of knowing that I had a BQ.  I hit it out of the park with a 3:30!  Take that, first 4 marathons!   I went on to qualify 9 more times, for a total of 10 Boston qualifying marathons.  Four of these were post-babies, as my aim had never changed.  I refused to slow down simply because I was a mother, though finding time to run was much harder now. 

See my list of BQ marathons below: 

(#5) Country Music Marathon Nashville, TN April 26, 2003 3:30:11
(#6) Rock 'N' Roll Marathon San Diego, CA June 1, 2003 3:21:54 
(#7) Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Phoenix, AZ January 11, 2004 3:22:09
(#8) Blue Angel Marathon Pensacola, FL February 28, 2004 3:30:06
(#9) Flying Pig Marathon Cincinnati, OH May 2, 2004 3:28:30
(#11) Rocket City Marathon Huntsville, AL December 11, 2004 3:31:24
(#18) Rock 'N' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon New Orleans, LA February 28, 2010 3:35:57
(#19) Marshall University Huntington, West Virginia November 7, 2010 3:29:25
(#21) Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon Myrtle Beach, SC February 19, 2011 3:18:05 
(#22) Go! St. Louis Marathon St. Louis, MO April 10, 2011 3:35:43

For many of these races, it was the bar I had placed very high that forced me to reach up on my tippy toes, so to speak, to try to get over it.  None of these races was easy.  But if I had never believed in myself, where would I be?

Everyone running a fall marathon, you probably know that Boston has decided to make its standards tougher for us this year.  My qualifying time is 5 minutes faster than before.  For those of you who've never BQed, maybe you're questioning whether you have what it takes to rise to the challenge, especially with the tougher times. 

I ask you to begin with believing in yourself.  Start now thinking that you can do it.  Have that dream that seems very distant.  And, then, hit it out of the park!  Make Michelangelo (and me) very proud.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Taking a Step Back Thanks To My Little Rapunzel

So I thought it might be a good idea to combine my recent lackluster running times with some pictures of my daughter's birthday party to put me in the right kind of mood.  It's hard to be down on yourself when you have the view I am privileged to have from here.  Yes, I wish my times were better these days.  Yes, I wish I was feeling confident about the 3:15.  Yes, I wish my legs felt good.  But I think I need to take a step back from all of that for awhile and just enjoy what I do have today.

Here is where I began writing this post:

Speedwork Wednesday, August 24 7x800s
3:26, 3:27, 3:20, 3:22, 3:17, 3:26, ? (forgot to hit stop)
My legs just felt off today.  My right leg wanted to limp a little (something in my lower calf?).  My left leg felt a little weak and burned for some of the repeats.  I just felt like I couldn't kick it into the right gear.  I sucked it up and ran them anyway, too stubborn to miss a key speed workout, getting madder at myself with each repeat. 

Hal's advice that "just because you can run 10 x 800 in 3:10, there is no guarantee that you can run 3:10 in the marathon. It works the other way around: If you can run a 3:10 marathon, you probably can do that workout without straining too much" rang in my ears.  These splits were killing me.  After each repeat I would try to shake out my right leg, but it kept feeling odd.  Like I said, I was too stubborn to quit, even when I should.  And I was mad that they were too slow.

I realized that I now am not training in any shape or form for the 3:15.  My speed workouts, my tempos, and my marathon pace runs have not been on target.  I was feeling down about that until my friend Julia told me that I probably wasn't "training" for my 3:18 either.  I shouldn't be too concerned about my training.  It's just one piece of the puzzle that is good marathon performance.  I seem to be able to sidestep my training and have done so in the past.

As I type in between these pictures, I am just feeling silly.  Who cares about my silly little training?  Me?

Isn't this what running is about?  The joy!  The fun!  The sun on your arms!  The wind in your hair!  The feeling of the grass between your toes (well, sometimes)!

Who do I want to be for her?  Someone who is intensely focused on each daily run?  Or someone who takes joy in the running that I am able to do?

I guess, in a small way, her present to me on our wonderful shared birthday lies right in the wisdom of the realizations I have just shared with you all. 

Happy running today!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tempo, 10 Mile Run, and Birthday 20 Miler August 16-20, 2011

My daughter's birthday party was on my birthday, Saturday, August 20th.  I went to bed with a sick stomach on Thursday night because I had so much to do for the party but also because I had to get up, run 10 miles, go to work, get ready for the party, go to bed, get up, and run 20 miles all before the party on Saturday.  So the running's been stressing me out.  Her party, however, was a huge success and deserves one of the sappy sentimental posts that I love to write!  Her (and my) favorite part was when she ran through the grass like Rapunzel, just to give you a hint about how perfect this party was for the both of us. 

Tempo Run Wednesday, August 16th
Splits: 10:58, 9:36, 7:52, 7:57, 8:51, 8:36 Average pace 8:58
If I have two words to sum up this run (and all of my runs this week), they would be too slow.  If you remember, tempo runs in this program are supposed to gradually build up to a 10-k pace for 6 minutes, or for 45 minutes of total running.  So mile 3 or 4 in there should have been a 7 minute mile (or faster).  I added an extra 10 minutes just because it was a 6 mile route.

I just don't have the power to get these runs faster.  Of course, when I mention this to Rick, he reminds me that I always train slow and race faster.  It just bugs me that now I am wearing a Garmin and I know how slow I am actually going.

10 Mile Run Friday, August 19th
Splits: 10:30, 10:15, 10:05, 9:50, 10:08, 10:03, 10:02, 9:47, 9:14, 8:03 Average pace: 9:48
Pace wasn't as important to me today-- just getting out there and getting the miles done was the goal.  I ran most of these with my friends, but did the last two alone and threw the 8:03 in there to prove to myself that I could go faster if I wanted to.  I still think it's kinda crazy to run 10 miles the day before a 20-miler...but I managed to do it!

20 Mile Run Saturday, August 20th
Splits: 10:27, 10:22, 10:29, 10:13, 9:47, 9:56, 9:38, 9:27, 9:27, 9:35, 9:25, 8:54, 9:15, 8:57, 9:10, 9:44, 9:08, 9:21, 9:22, last mile ? (Garmin died)  Average pace: 9:37
Factors that worked against me for this run were the lack of hydration (forgot to place a water bottle so used the gatorade I carried as my only drink), tired legs, and other things on my mind (the party!).  The worst part of the run was at the end of mile 19.  I found a water fountain and stopped the Garmin only to see that the low battery kept it from starting again to time my 20th mile.  I wear a Garmin and a watch for just this reason.  So I ran to my house and ran circles around the front of it until my watch said a time I was sure would have me good for the whole 20.  Yes, it was the kind of run where I would rather run back and forth in front of my house than run one extra step.

A good happy birthday present to me was a new pair of running sunglasses from Rick.  I won my old pair at a trail marathon years ago and have worn them daily since.  Yes, my running sunglasses serve as my everyday pair too.  I know, I am so stylish!  I had not realized how scratched up the old ones were.  Thanks, Rick!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Mom's Thoughts During the First Week of Kindergarten

Our running conversations are one of the best unexpected benefits of having a running group.  My group of girls talks about anything and everything.  I've have some of my longest uninterrupted conversations over the past couple of years with these girls.  If you are a stay at home mom, you know what I mean.  It's nice to talk without having two needy kids.  Even though I've taught mine that we don't interrupt  adults' conversations, those leave-in-the-middle-of-the-sentence moments still occur.  So I love our uninterrupted time while we run.

Kids were the topic of one of our recent runs.  It's been a busy week of back-to-school, and all of us are processing the fact that our kids are another grade older.  Inevitably, the topic turned to my ever present "third child" conundrum.  Here's the boat that I am in (and several of my friends too): Two kids, a boy and a girl.  Each child getting older and more and more independent every day.  My biological clock ticking LOUDLY in my ears (my 34th birthday is Saturday).  This year is a crossroads year for me, the precious last year before both of mine are in "big school."  So it's either stay at home and have another baby or start thinking of ways to fill the hours while mine are away at school.  There are pros and cons to having a third baby.  I could list them for hours (and have as we've weighed our choices).  But mostly, I just get sad thinking that all of the baby moments are almost gone.  There is nothing like these first five years.  I've watched two miracles grow from baby to child, and I'm not sure I'm ready to leave this stage behind.

My son started kindergarten at our preschool this week.  He's loving it.  I remember a song I first heard at his newborn baby session.  It was so fitting and true.  It became one of the lullabies that I still sing to my children as they go to bed at night.

It is "Lullaby" by Dixie Chicks

They didn't have you where I come from
Never knew the best was yet to come
Life began when I saw your face
And I hear your laugh like a serenade

How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough, is forever enough
How long do you want to be loved
Is forever enough
Cause I'm never, never giving you up

They really didn't have children from where I came from (though I was a school teacher, it is not the same).  I really didn't know that the best was yet to come.  And life really did begin when I saw their faces.  Nothing else seems to matter.

And yet, what is one of my biggest cons for having another baby?  ME!  Giving up my body, my sleep, my running, or at least putting it on hold for several months.  Of course, finances, time to devote to each child, and other issues are also at hand.  For now, we weigh the options.  And I savor what I've been given because, truly, I never knew what I was missing until I had them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Long Run and Marathon Pace Run

I had a 9 mile marathon pace run and a 19 mile run back-to-back last week.  Today I had a 10 mile run and then a bunch of other stuff to do, so here's all the post about them that I can muster.

Marathon Pace Run Friday, August 12
Somewhat successful, with an overall 8:22 pace.  Splits were 9:10, 8:37, 8:49, 8:51, 8:18, 7:53, 8:03, 8:00, and 7:28.  I remember feeling really triumphant that the last mile was near marathon pace (a 7:27).  Too bad the other 8 were not!  My friends and I who are marathon training have had SEVERAL conversations about how much time we can tack onto our runs due to the heat.  30 seconds a mile?  A minute?  It is so baffling to me that I can easily run a 7 something pace in a marathon, but on my own it feels impossible.  I also find it strange that I am having trouble finding the 7:27 pace, but that I can go faster (in races and even in speedwork) and, obviously, I can go slower (and do, most of the time).  I liked this day because it was very foggy.  I kept seeing my friends along my route but had trouble telling who they were, even from pretty close by.

Long Run Saturday, August 13
An interesting thing about this long run is that I found a York Peppermint Patty and used it to fuel before the run.  I think it worked well, and it was so tasty!  I DO NOT enjoy running in the dark.  It is hard to see where I am going, and every noise makes me jump out of my skin!  Just being real here, I almost turned the Garmin off and just called it a day around mile 3.  I think it is SO weird that I can start fast in a marathon, no problem, but in training, I start SLOW.  And then I take forever to warm up, during which time I think, "Maybe you should just stop now.  Can't you skip this long run and just run next week?  Your time is going to be SO slow."  So that happened for awhile, but I pushed on.  I have to remember that there are LOTS of ups and downs during a long run.  You might be feeling terrible at mile 3 or mile 13, but if you keep going, that feeling turns around. 

I met a friend for miles 4-10, and we were able to whittle my pace down (It helps me to actually picture myself with a block of wood just whittling it away with a chisel).  I finished much stronger than I started, and I felt GOOD.  That is the best part.  I only had a Gatorade bottle to hydrate with.  Not a good idea in this heat, when you are literally wringing your shirt out from sweat.

Overall pace: 9:17
Splits: 10:17, 10:03, 10:24 (thought about quitting), 10:10, 9:39, 9:15, 9:27, 9:44, 9:33, 9:32, 9:37, 8:43, 8:50, 8:51, 8:44, 8:17, 8:41, 8:17, 8:11 

Today was a COOL day (60s).  Running felt great.  I can't wait to see how I feel once the cooler temperatures hit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Last Week's Long Run (A Little Late) and This Week's Hill Work

Hill Work today--I did two pretty big hills in a 6 mile route, but my group continued on for a total of about 8 miles and hit one more big hill.  I kind of wimped out, trying to conserve for Friday and Saturday of this week.  Knowing that I have a marathon pace 9 miles and a long run of 19 miles is starting to wear on me.  I DON'T look forward to either of these training runs.  And I am preparing my classroom for Open House and school next week, so I am more tired than usual from that.  I have been working around 6 hours a day, preparing the room, attending meetings, and staying up late typing stuff we'll need.

Long Run Saturday, August 6---13 miles
Enjoyed this long run since the first 11 miles were with my friend, Jane.  Average pace for the run was 9:10, and the last two miles were 7:45 and 8:01.  It was supposed to be a half marathon race (I don't know why Hal scheduled it as such), but obviously I did not go half marathon pace for ANY of the run.  That is okay.  But somewhere in this training, I want to start feeling GOOD during the runs and not tired!

Bad News (Two Strikes)
Last year, I won three races (first overall female): McKay Hollow Madness, Run Through the Roses 10K, and Monte Sano 5K.  Part of the fun in winning is coming back the next year to defend your title.  So far, TWO of the three races have been CANCELLED.  McKay Hollow due to lightening, and Run Through the Roses (was actually rescheduled twice) due to scheduling conflicts.  I am starting to feel like bad luck, and I am disappointed that I won't be able to race in these events.  I was hoping for a course record in the RTTR!!  I bet I'm not the only one who's disappointed...but there's always 2012!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rest Day

Oh the glorious words REST DAY were on my schedule yesterday.  Let me tell you about rest days.  I had gotten to the point where I was doing something seven days a week for awhile there, even if it was just 30 minutes on the elliptical machine.  Hal's program calls for one weekly rest day, and he says that it is an important part of your training.  He writes:

Despite my listing it at the end, rest is an important component of this or any training program. Scientists will tell you that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches also will tell you that you can't run hard unless you are well rested. And it's the hard running that allows you to improve. If you're constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential. This is why I designate Friday as a day of rest even for Advanced 1 runners. It allows you to gather forces for hard running on Saturdays and Sundays. If you need to take more rest days--because of a cold or a late night at the office or a sick child--do so. And if you're tired from the weekend, take Monday off as well--or cut the length of your Wednesday run. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you are consistent with your training during the full 18 weeks of the program, you can afford--and may benefit from--extra rest.

The first week of the program, I heard Rick get up for his long run on Sunday, and I so badly wanted to get up to work out too.  I had to force myself to sleep in and relax.  Now that I am a few weeks into the program, I still hear Rick get up for his long run on Sundays, but I no longer feel the need to knock out 30 minutes of "junk miles" on my elliptical.  I can be happy with the fact that, by resting, I am still working towards my goal.  I am giving my muscles the chance to grow stronger.  And, frankly, I am giving myself a break from it all. 

So yesterday, on a day sandwiched between a 13 and a 10 mile run, the words REST DAY seemed pretty good to me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Baking...er Burning...a Cake

Photo from here
Today I spent the greater part of the morning trying to make a really nice bundt cake from scratch.  It had a secret ingredient---7 Up!---and the rest of it didn't seem too hard.  It had the most delicious lemon smell as I stirred it.  We all enjoyed licking the sweet batter from the bowl.

Well, I am known for my terrible cooking, so it should not be a surprise that I managed to ruin that cake!  I came downstairs to the smell of burning.  No, the cake was not burning, but little globs of it were dripping down onto the heating element, creating a terrible smell.  After the dreadful hour of "baking" had passed, the cake was still jiggly when I touched it, and I decided I had done something terribly wrong (actually, first I blamed the recipe and then I blamed myself!)  What a waste of time!  What a waste of money!  (5 eggs!  3 cups each of flour and sugar!) 

I was so disappointed with myself that I told both of my children not to say anything about the cake disaster.  I think they knew I wasn't kidding (they know when I mean business).  My sweet little son walked over to the "cake," which was now resting on the stovetop, poked his little finger into the runny, gooey mess, and then proclaimed, "It's still good, Mamma!"  And he proceeded to eat several licks of it.  I tried some too, and it really wasn't half bad--just dripping and gooey inside instead of hard like a cake.  I felt my disappointment fading away with each little swipe that his finger made into that cake. 

As I began the annoying process of cleaning the dried globs of cake on the bottom of the oven and on the two oven racks, I thought:

  • We should always watch ourselves, lest we get too prideful.  You see I later learned that I had made a very simple, careless mistake.  I thought I had the right amount of butter, but in fact I used only half of the amount.  This applies to anything in life--running, cooking, whatever.  Don't become too complacent in what you are doing.  Be diligent and careful.

  • Learn from your mistakes.  So what?  I burned a cake!  So what? I didn't finish a marathon.  It took my little child accepting my mistake for what it was for me to realize that we all make mistakes.  How we deal with them is what's important.  I hope to accept their mistakes with as much patience and kindness as he did today with mine today.

We all make mistakes.  What are you going to learn from yours today?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Speed Work Wednesday August 3

Today I was scheduled to run 6x800s.  I wasn't really feeling in the mood, and I wasn't meeting anyone.  So I slowly jogged on the roads for about a mile and a half before ssslllllllooooooowwwwwlllllyyy walking over to the track.  I think I was looking for a reason not to run them, but I couldn't find one, so off I went. 

I messed up my watch by mistake (just switched the placement of the different readings around).  So I thought my watch said 3:30 for the first 800, though I was actually seeing 33:00 minutes for the overall time.  I was bummed and mad.  Yes, I wanted 3:15s for each 800, and I was angry at myself for not going faster.  I "punished" myself by flying for the next two, getting 3:10 and then 3:08.  I kept pretending that, like Hal said, what I got on my 800s is what I will get in the marathon.  Of course, it takes more than a few 800s to make me ready for a 3:15, but it helped me to think that hitting the target on these 800s was at least a tiny step towards that big goal.  Also, I now understand why some people feel like throwing up when they run fast since I felt a little sick after each of those laps.  The 4th 800 was a 3:09, and then I messed something up with my watch (maybe failed to press start?), so I didn't get an accurate time for the last two 800s.

The best part of my run was seeing my friend Jane run up to the track after my first 800.  Just knowing that we were out there together helped me to keep going.  I told her that I didn't want her to see me quit in the middle of the workout.  And she was asked me if I'd later regret not doing the 5th one when I wanted to stop at 4.  And the BEST part of the workout was when we stopped running and just walked together, chatting for a couple of laps. 

Yes, we're runners, but sometimes I like walking (and talking) a whole lot more.

Times: 3:15, 3:10, 3:08, 3:09, ?, ? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This Week's Long Run

Saturday's long run was a 17-miler.  Maybe it would help if I had a pace in mind to run these things in.  On Saturday, I just drove to my starting point having EXACTLY enough time for 17 10-minute miles until I needed to get home.  I thought, "No problem.  I can do this with room to spare!"  Then I got running, and my first mile was 11:35.  Every time I start ramping up my weekly miles, things start hurting and feeling tight.  I attribute this to my lack of cross training and poor stretching.  Anyway, my right calf and my left shin have been bothering me, and neither one felt very good during that first mile.  I am also not used to having only one rest day a week.  Six days of running each week has been a challenge for me. 

Things got better, and by mile 4 I was running a sub 10 minute mile.  The good thing about long runs is that sometimes a warm up can take a few miles.  No rush!  As I was finishing my sixth mile, my friend Alice ran up to me.  We were able to run together for a little while.  It was nice having the company!  I was still trying to get my overall pace down to 10 minute miles by that point so that I'd have time to finish my whole 17 miles.  I had to leave her and continue alone. 

My pace ended up at 9:25, with my last mile being an 8:47, much better than the first mile and a good way to end the run.  I made it home just in time for Rick to go to volunteer at a race.  Finding time in our week to both get our running and volunteering in is still a challenge, but I am feeling better about it.