Saturday, September 22, 2012

10 Miles at Pace/20 Mile Long Run

Well, I survived the hardest week of Hal's training program.  Feels good!  The big runs this week were back-to-back 10 miles at marathon pace and a 20 mile long run.  I knew that nailing these runs would be crucial to my training and my confidence.

10 Miles at Marathon Pace Friday, September 21, 2012
I had an unexpected blessing of a half-day for our school system today.  I still had to take my son into elementary school, but I did not have to work at the preschool or take my daughter in.  We were closed as we do whenever the city has half-days.  So I knew I could rest more afterwards than if I'd had to be on my feet all morning at the preschool.  We ended up going to the botanical gardens in the afternoon, and I sat and rested as much as I could there while I watched the kids play.

This run went well and was executed nicely---with a 7:35 first mile and a 7:05 last mile and an overall pace of 7:14.  I am proud of myself for getting out there and getting this run done.  When Rick looked at the Garmin data, he asked me, " many times did you do that loop??"  I did 10 laps of a route around my neighborhood since it was still dark out when I ran, and I guess the map of the route was just a big red oval!  The loop I do is out of traffic and well lit.  But it is not the most interesting route! 

Summary of Marathon Paced Runs
I have done 4 marathon-paced runs (9, 6, 10, and 10) with only one left (a 4-miler next week).  See here and here for entries.  I skipped the first 7 weeks of training and thus did not do the earlier pace runs (5, 6, 6, 7, and 8 miles).

The ones I did had the following paces:
9-miler-7:07 pace
6-miler-7:35 pace
10-miler-7:11 pace
10-miler-7:14 pace

Overall, I did well on these runs, and I have been able to find and maintain marathon pace easily.  But I am not sure I can maintain this pace for the whole run!  I suppose that is what following a training plan is all about.  You never "test out" the marathon pace for the entire distance until the day of the race.  You just have to trust that you will be able to do it.

20 Mile Long Run Saturday, September 22, 2012
I preferred to do this long run in the early morning.  I did not want to take any chances that the warm weather would present a challenge for me.  But that didn't happen.  Rick helped with a 5K this morning, leaving at 6 a.m. and returning at about 9:30 a.m.  I chose what I felt was the best option--to start when he returned.  No way could I handle 20 laps of that same route I did yesterday, nor did I feel that it would be safe for me to start at 3:00 a.m.

So I started at 10:00 a.m. in the 70 degree weather.  It was a sunny day, but there was a breeze.  I felt great until around mile 13 or 14, when I started to realize that I would need more water before the end of the run.  I did not want to stop.  I wanted to run this one all the way through---no stops.  My other 2 20-milers both had stops in them (1 in the first one and numerous ones in the second one).  But I knew today that I would need to.

When I did stop, it was at a water fountain near our local dog park.  I guzzled the water down.  Rick and the kids were fishing just feet away, so I stopped and talked to them for awhile.  I continued on but stopped one more time--around mile 18.  I needed to get myself together and talk myself into finishing this thing.  The temperature (80 degrees now) was really too much for me to push for the pace I wanted today, but I was too stubborn to adjust.  Finishing felt great.  Rick had put my Gatorade in some ice when I returned to the spot outside the house where I'd left it.  Delicious!  

Summary of 20-Mile Long Runs
August 23, 2012---8:46 average 
see entry here

September 8, 2012---8:25 average
see entry here

September 22, 2012---7:47 average

Pace improved with each run, and I finished today with a pace around 32 seconds off of my marathon pace. This is fast for me and well within the range of 7:45-8:15 that I was shooting for.  I also maintained pace even at the end of the run today, something I struggled with on the other 2 runs.  But all 3 of these runs involved stops for various reasons (and I stopped the Garmin when I stopped).  I did not run a 20-miler straight through in this training cycle.  I know that the weather today played a role in that, yet I also know that doing my run later in the day today was unavoidable.  I am just going to hope that on race day I will be able to run without stopping.  Rick says, "Just tell yourself not to walk beforehand."  Ummmm, it's not that simple!  But you can bet that I will be doing lots of mental preparation during this taper, trying to convince myself that I can do it.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fun Day of Kids' Running: Maverick Mile and Autumn Chase 2012

Today my son's elementary school had their annual Maverick Mile fundraiser run.  We are new at the school, so I did not know what to expect.  What I did know, I liked.  First, this is the school's only fundraiser for the year.  Each runner collected pledges before the race began, either in a one-time amount or based on the number of laps they would run.  Second, it promotes physical activity for each child at the whole school. What a better idea than some other fundraisers like cookie dough sales, etc.!  

There were four runs throughout the day on two different tracks (just places marked out on the grass).  Two grades came out at a time.  I decided to volunteer for some of the earlier runs since my son's was last.  I handed out waters at the station in the left of the picture below (green tent).  

When my son came out, the first graders were running on one track and the second graders on another.  It was a festive atmosphere, with shakers, clapping noisemakers, a really fun DJ, and loud music.  The DJ would encourage the children to have fun while running and even to skip a lap!  

The laps were counted in the most interesting way--on the back of the shirts provided by the school.  The children were encouraged to try to run 30 laps, and there were 30 spots on the back for volunteers to mark the shirts.  I heard that 30 laps was around 2 miles.  I didn't know if my son would do all 30, but he did!  I loved that the last lap was a cool-down where parents were encouraged to walk with the children (it was too crowded for us to run with them during the laps so we just cheered).  

At the Maverick Mile

My new Nikes happened to be in the
school's colors--blue with brown stripes on the sides :)

30 laps done!

Each child "won" a medal for finishing.
After school, it was on to the Autumn Chase 1 mile runs held in Huntsville, Alabama.  These runs are for preschool through 8th grade students, and they are a huge tradition for me.  I ran them as a child, thanks to strong encouragement from my school's p.e. teachers.  I remember proudly wearing my shirt to school the day after each run.  I even came back and competed when I was a teacher (they have a teachers' run too).  These runs are FREE, and children get a T-shirt and a ribbon for finishing.  Normally we would not have our son do two runs in one day, but we did not have a choice.  We figured if he was too tired, he could walk the mile or not go at all.  But we wanted our daughter to have a chance to run, since she did not do the Maverick Mile.

My daughter ran the kindergarten girls' race at 4:15 with Rick--easy to spot him in the picture below---tall guy in the middle.  :) She talked a lot about a nice volunteer who held her hand and chatted with her while she ran.  She was so proud of her ribbon, especially when she used her new reading skills to read that it said "WINNER" on it!  She talked a lot that night about how she was a winner!  She also said she can't wait to come back next year and run.

Race start

Running with her new friend :)

 My son was not too tired to run the race after all.  He ran the first grade boys' race at 4:30.

Then it was on to the misting tent (a favorite for my kids) and to pick up our shirts in a nearby building. We ran into lots of other people we knew at these races.  It was a great family activity!

I love that the shirts say, "I love to run."  I truly hope both of my kids do love running now and in the future. Days like this make me happy.  Seeing them enjoy running makes me happy.  Countless adults worked hard today to help my children enjoy our sport.  That makes me thankful to have these opportunities here in my area.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Speedwork Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Today's speedwork was the last 800s workout in a progression of 3, with each one increasing by an 800.  My aim is to keep these at 3:10 or below.

On August 6, I ran 6x800s.
3:03, 3:08, 3:07, 3:08, 3:09, 3:08

On August 29, I ran 7x800s.
3:07, 3:09, 3:10, 3:08, 3:09, 3:11, 3:02 (see here)

Today, I ran 8x800s.
It was the first really "cold" morning we've had---weather in the upper 40s last night!  That made a huge difference.  This workout felt very good and fairly easy.
3:01, 3:03, 3:03, 3:04, 3:02, 3:03, 3:01, 2:58

I got a kick out of looking up my times from last year's training in this entry.  I have come a long way in terms of speed and consistency.  I am happy with all three of these workouts.  Only one more---a 4x400--left before the race!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Does Running High Mileage Make You More Prone to Illness?

I got a horrible cold a couple of weeks ago.  I say it was horrible, but it was probably only ordinary.  I just seem to never get sick--except a couple of times a year during my marathon training cycle.  I work at a preschool and wipe noses all day, but I only get one or two colds a year.  When I do get them, they are bad. I am weak and sleep a lot at the beginning, along with feeling a tickle in my nose that means the cold is on its way.  Next, I have a few nights of bad congestion and can't sleep.  I lose my voice for a couple of days as the dreaded drainage occurs.  Finally, I have a chest cough for a few more days.  All in all, it is over a week of some pretty miserable symptoms.

I decided to look on the internet for articles about how runners seem to get more infections when they are running higher mileage.  This article does support the claim that running high mileage makes you more susceptible to illness.  From the article, "Although moderate exercise may help protect athletes from sickness, training for too long at too high an intensity appears to make athletes more susceptible to illness.  Laboratory research shows that athletes exercising at a high intensity for 90 minutes or more experience a steep drop in immune function that can last up to 24 hours."

Maybe more concerning was an article I found trying to make a connection between runners and higher rates of cancer.  This article called "Can Too Many Miles Make You Sick?" presents the idea that running high mileage affects runners at the cellular level, even drawing a possible link to runners and cancer, though nothing has been proven yet.

I guess I am a little bothered by all of this, thinking that something I am doing to be more healthy could actually be making me more susceptible to being sick.  Colds are one thing, but cancer?  

It was during the week that I was sick with my cold that Dink Taylor, owner of Fleet Feet Sports and avid runner here in Huntsville, was hospitalized for what he later learned was a stroke.  If you know Dink, you know that he is the last person you would think this could happen to.  He is in excellent shape and runs all of the time.  I think it made many runners in our area stop and realize that, even though we are trying our hardest to be healthy and physically active, sometimes that is not enough.  We are not immune to things; we are not building a wall around ourselves from germs and cancer and strokes.  We are trying to be healthy, for ourselves and for our kids, we are trying to be an example to others, and we are doing something we enjoy all at the same time.  And sometimes that has to be enough.

Tempo Run Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So I really don't understand how Hal wants these tempo runs done.  Here is the entry I wrote last year after I ran my first ever tempo run.  Since then, I guess I am still as confused as ever.  Here is what Hal writes: Here's how to do this workout. A tempo run of 30 to 40 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to peak speed during the next 10-20 minutes, then finish with 5-10 minutes easy running. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout and only for those few minutes mentioned above. 

I decided to just try for a run faster than a pace run.  That makes sense, right?  His way seems like the overall pace would be too slow for a tempo run.  And I haven't raced in awhile, so I need some more speed than a mere 20 minutes (especially since you are supposed to build to a peak speed within that time and not maintain one speed).  I wasn't interested 15 or so minutes of easy running in the beginning or 10 or so minutes at the end either, though I guess it depends on your definition of "easy."  I guess I will say that I looked at the program and knew I could do a faster run today and be fine.  So I did.

I averaged 7:03 for 6.5 miles.  I was at or near a 10K pace for the recommended 20 minutes (a little over that actually--miles 3-5).  This was a nice little workout, though maybe not what Hal had intended it to be.

Second Long Run Saturday, September 8, 2012

The first 20 miler on August 23, 2012 went okay but not great.  I dealt with a clogged ear and pressed "stop" on my Garmin at mile 16 to get more water.  I almost consider stopping during a long run and also stopping the Garmin to be "cheating."  After all, you can't stop the clock on race day so why get used to doing it during training?  Once I got more water, I was able to make it back to my car.  I realize now that running in the 90 degree weather with only one water bottle was not enough for me.  

I didn't think too much about that run.  Rick says not to put too much weight on your bad runs---or your good runs.  I usually DO put a lot of weight on my on my good runs!  But I also stress and stress over bad ones too.  So I set out on September 8 to do a better job on my 2nd 20 miler.  

Today's "excuse" was that I was recovering from a cold.  I had felt fatigued all week.  This run just felt off from the beginning.  I think around mile 4, I stopped my watch for the first time and just talked myself into running again.  I felt weak and even almost nauseous.  I never found my rhythm and just shuffled along for the entire run.  I also continued to stop every few miles and convince myself to try to go again.  Each time, I stopped my watch, so I really feel like I "cheated" on this run.  I don't think a run with this many stops is good for my training.

I managed to finish with some 9 minute miles at the end and an overall 8:25 pace.  I really hope that this run was not an indication of how I will feel during this week's 20 miler or the marathon itself!  It was a reminder to me that some days are just not your days.  Nothing I could have done would have changed that. When I arrived home almost 30 minutes later than expected, Rick told me that sticking it out like I did made me tougher.  That is a good way to look at it.

Here is the Garmin data.  I don't know how to show the stops I made, so it is hard to see why this run was a struggle for me.  Trust me, it was!  These numbers don't tell the whole story!

Monday, September 10, 2012

9 and 10 mile pace runs

Hal's program calls for longer marathon pace runs in Week 10 (9 miles) and Week 13 (10 miles).  There is one more 10 mile pace run in Week 16.  These are the longest pace runs that he calls for in his Advanced 1 Program.  So I felt that is was important to get both of these runs as close to marathon pace as I could.  They would be the best "practice" for race day that I could get.  

9 mile pace run Friday, August 17, 2012
I did the 9 mile pace run with my friend, Julia.  It is always easier for me to meet a friend in the early morning hours than to run alone.  I did end up running the last 2 miles alone, but she helped me a lot in the first 7.  My overall pace was 7:07.  

10 mile pace run Friday, September 7, 2012
This run turned out to be a big mental test for me.  Julia was supposed to meet me, but she got sick and sent me a text that I did not get until I had already driven to our meeting spot.  So I had a choice--run it alone or skip the run.  I had 3 things against me: no sunlight, no friend, and no music (I don't listen to music when I run in the dark).  So I did not think I would be able to do it.  Plus, I'd been battling a cold and wasn't feeling 100% back yet.  

I am happy to report that I really pushed through all of those obstacles and made the run happen.  I did mile repeats around a nearby shopping center for part of the run and did the rest along a major road, trying to stay in well-lit, visible places.  In the last 2 miles, I tried picturing my finish in Baltimore, imagining what the clock would say at Miles 25 and 26 and trying to use that as motivation for me on this run.  The overall pace was 7:11.  

Both of these pace runs went much better than the ones I did last year in preparation for Chicago.  I think I am learning more about why pace runs are important, and I am taking them more seriously.  They are good confidence-boosters.  They help me to feel more ready to run 26 miles at this pace.

The 20 miler I did the day after this 10 miler did not go so well, however.  I will post about that run later this week.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Training Week 12--Ramping Up

Hal's plan calls for a lower mileage week for Week 12 in between two pretty tough weeks (Weeks 11 and 13). Week 11 was tough since it was the first 20 miler (and it followed a 10 miler).  Week 13 gets even tougher as it repeats that pattern but calls for the 10 miler to be a pace run.  You have to be ready for such a tough back-to-back set of runs.

Week 12 gets you ready for it by a short 6 mile pace run and 12 mile long run.  I noticed that the pace run is half the distance of the long run, but I'm not sure if that is significant or just a coincidence (since the 10/20 milers follow the same pattern).  Also included in Week 12 is a 7x800 speedwork session.  This is the longest set of 800s in the program yet, but we will add one to those and repeat them in Week 15.

Several times this week and last, I have found myself saying, "Just do it."  Don't feel like getting up early to run alone in the dark?  Just do it.  Don't feel like running since you have a cold?  Just do it.  Don't feel like running in the heat of the day?  Just do it.  It really helps me look at each run as a step in my training--an important step.  And you do those steps even when you don't feel like it.  I also finally committed to the 7:15 pace for pace runs and am committing to 7:45-8:15 as my target long run pace (30-60 seconds off my marathon pace).  I am trying to keep a 3:10 as my goal for this marathon, but these workouts will be the test of that.

Speedwork 7x800s Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Aim 3:10 (you aim for your marathon time in minutes and seconds)
3:07, 3:09, 3:10, 3:08, 3:09, 3:11, 3:02

I accomplished these fairly easily and felt good at the end.  Getting a 3:02 as the last repeat was a good confidence boost, but I have to remember that the goal was a 3:10 and not any faster than this.  I have to be careful to not try to "outdo" myself with faster times than these next time.   I tend to compete like this with myself!  Julia and I ran this workout together, and we did a mile warm up and 2 mile cool down (she wanted 8 miles total).

6 mile pace run Friday, August 30, 2011

I am not too concerned with being far off pace (20 seconds) for this run.  First, it was in the dark and it was loops around my neighborhood.  That is never a good fit for me to go fast.  I don't listen to music in the dark, and I have a hard time finding my footing so I run more cautiously.  Also, my music and my light kept falling off of my belt.  The 8:15 mile was where I had to stop running, retrieve my light, and reattach it all while the Garmin was running.  I intended for the first mile or 2 to be a warm up and thus slower than pace.  The last 3 miles were on target, and Mile 4 was very close.  I am pretty confident that all miles would have been on pace if I hadn't had the issues mentioned above.
12 mile long run Saturday, September 1, 2012

I am very pleased with this run.  I was able to accomplish a run right at the pace I wanted (7:45-8:15 is my target, so 8:03 is right in the middle).  I was able to do a very small pace increase, starting with 8:14 and ending with 7:45 pace.  I felt great during the run, and it was during the late afternoon!  It was a hot day with highs in the low 90s and very humid.  I am pleased that I have acclimated to this weather so much that it wasn't a factor for me.  This will help the runs in the cooler weather feel much easier for me.

I am heading into one of the hardest weeks in the program.  I hope the runs above will give me the confidence needed to perform well this week.