Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fill in the blank: "I was so tired at one point during marathon training that I ________."

I think my best answers are:

...worked late, completed my second run of the day, then helped my daughter with homework, prepared and ate dinner, and did other random things at home, then quickly it was 9:00 p.m.  I went to bed wearing the clothes I'd run in, and then the next morning I woke up and ran in them again!

...almost ran 3 times in a day.  I had a double, and ran my second run at lunch, but all of my days were running together and I forgot I'd run it.  I got dressed to run after work, and then saw my lunch run laundry and double checked Strava to ensure that I was in fact done for the day!  But in the end this was winning, because I just slept in my running clothing and ran in it the next morning (clean this time!).

Clearly I am most likely to make tired errors on double days that result in sleeping in running clothing!

What's your fill in the blank?

However, I was NEVER as tired during marathon training as I was on
this Disney vacation!  Legs up the wall at the Animal Kingdom bus stop.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Never Satisfied Syndrome

Do you, or does someone you love, suffer from Never Satisfied Syndrome?  The primary symptom is always wanting more.  This is often shown by accomplishing a goal and immediately setting a new one, and also by always finding at least one thing that could have been better about any performance.  It is quite common in Type A endurance athletes, and I definitely have a case of it.

I once read an article that said runners like this are hard to coach, so sometimes I feel bad when I send an email to my coach describing that I am thrilled with a PR, and then in subsequent paragraphs tell him what could have been better and what bigger thing I want to work towards next ("I'm so happy, BUT...").  The day after the BMO Mesa-Phoenix Marathon, I was celebrating my PR, but I was also planning bigger goals.  I rode the high of that race for weeks, but at the same time I was very clear on my next big dream goal of 2:44:59 even at the post-race celebration.  Before Phoenix, 2:49 was a pipe dream, but afterward, it wasn't good enough; I decided I could do better.

I know I'm not the only one who operates this way, so how can we strike a balance?!  I think I'm pretty good with being thankful and content, but never satisfied.  I'm pleased with how my training is going, but I know I can do more.  I'm happy with my current PRs, but I think I can go faster.  On one hand, this outlook can diminish accomplishments ("It's never enough!"), but on the other hand I think it's part of what keeps me approaching training with abandon day after day (the other part of that is simply because I love running).

I put 2:45 as the label on my morning alarm some time ago, so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up to run every morning (during my Phoenix build, I had 2:49:59 as the label, but never told anyone).  After showing the alarm to Jon, I changed it to 2:44:59, saying, "Who wants to run 2:45:00 when you could run just 1 second faster so you can say you've run a 2:44 marathon?"  Then we both laughed and he said, "I think you'll take a 2:45:00", followed by more laughter and "Yes, I will, but then I'll spend the subsequent months wondering why I couldn't have found just 1 more second."

It's a slippery slope!  Don't get me wrong -- I will be elated if I hit 2:45:00 on the nose at any point, because that's what it takes; I will also be proud even if 2:49 stand as my forever marathon PR.  But I want to try to do better!  When I started this "work my marathon time down" journey, I genuinely oh-so-naively believed that if I broke 3:00 I would be completely satisfied and wouldn't even need to run another marathon.  We all know how that turned out -- I was ecstatic, but I knew I had a faster one in me.  I became obsessed with 2:49, and was very blessed for that one to work out.  Then in true form, it's been onto the next obsession with 2:44:59!

I told Jon that if I get a qualifying time then I won't run another marathon between running it and the 2020 Trials.  Then we had another good laugh about that; he acknowledged, "If you run a 2:44, you'll then want a 2:42."  At least he knows what he could be in for!  I like to think at some point I will acknowledge I'm at my max, and right now I really do think I would feel that way about 2:44:59.

Thankful and content, but never satisfied -- it's not the worst way to operate, right?  Dream big and then dream bigger!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

CIM Training Journal #6: Hello self-doubt my old friend

This continues CIM Training Journals #1#2#3#4, and #5.

October 24, 2017
My friend Amy ran with me on my second run at lunch today.  When she was waiting by the door at work someone asked her who she was looking for, and when she replied "Sara", that person asked, "Marathon runner Sara?"  I work for a huge organization, and found it humorous and awesome that the person knew I was a marathon runner but didn't know my last name (I am sure it helped that Amy was dressed in running attire).

I'm still on a bit of a trip from the Kansas City half marathon, but I'm trying to remind myself that what it all boils down to is that I ran 12.9ish miles at an average pace of somewhere between 6:15-6:20 (which is marathon goal pace), with uneven workout pacing, on a course with nearly 800 ft of elevation gain, when it was 68* with 25+ mph wind, during a 71 mile week.  I think in the big picture this is promising, and prior to other marathons I'm not sure I could have done the equivalent (prior to Phoenix I averaged 6:35ish pace for the comparable part of a similar workout on a much easier course in cooler temps, then went on to average 6:27 pace for that marathon). Even though I don't have my workout splits I know the effort was there, but I'm just still upset about how it all played out.  In comparison, though, I ran a little faster than I did at Rock the Parkway in April, and at RtP the wind was comparable, the temperature better, the course easier (280ish ft of gain), I was a more rested, and I was racing I have made progress.  I just going to keep rationalizing away until I get over it!

Also, at least it wasn't a goal race and a situation in which I thought I broke 1:20 only to find out I ran 1:21!

October 25, 2017
Right now I'm stuck on 2:47 for CIM.  This feels like a realistic goal.  I just don't think I'm quite ready for 2:45 unless this course is just ridiculously fast and being at sea level makes a dramatic difference.  I'll see how my half goes at Bass Pro on November 5, but I also don't anticipate great things there because I expect to have no one around me and the course has a million turns (also I do not expect to be rested for it).  The upside is that Bass Pro nearly always has perfect weather, and I get to sleep in my own bed and eat at home pre-race!

October 26, 2017 (my birthday)
The most exciting thing about turning a year older is that the Missouri state half marathon record for age 37 is currently 1:23:11.  I told my husband that all I wanted to for our anniversary and my birthday this year was a trip to CIM, so guess what, I'm going to CIM!  :-)

October 28, 2017
During every long run I think about CIM, and today's 22.4 miler was no different.  I continue to feel really good about going for a 2:46-2:47, but to not feel so good about trying for a 2:45:00 or better!  I don't know why those extra couple of minutes feel so insurmountable, but I think it is because maintaining 6:20-6:24 pace seems do-able, but maintaining 6:17 pace or faster doesn't!  Those 3-7 seconds/mile make a huge difference in my head.  I wish the standard was 2:51:16 like it was in 1984, 2:50 like 1988 and 2000, 2:48 like 2004, or 2:47 like 2008 - but I am also thankful it is not 2:42 like in 1996!! What was going on in 1996?!

October 30, 2017
I did some math on my mileage today.  Details are coming, but what I found is that in the 24 weeks leading up to CIM, my average weekly mileage will be about 14 miles per week (mpw) more than I averaged in the 24 weeks leading up to Phoenix (65 mpw vs. 51 mpw).  I've done the math on the 12 week lead-ups and the 20 week lead-ups to marathons before, but I wanted to look at 24 weeks this time since the week of June 19 was really when I started running more mileage to prepare for this focused marathon build.  I feel like this is a substantial increase, while at the same time not being too risky.  But 65 still seems awfully low (how perspective changes!), so this math simultaneously made me feel like I am ready for a marathon PR and like this is not good enough.  Surprise!

November 1, 2017
Marathon training can feel like a silly pursuit of believing, doubting, wondering, and hungering.

November 3, 2017
The weather is forecasted to be horrible for the Bass Pro half on Sunday, so I am not going to better my half PR before CIM (I am actually not sure I can even hit my marathon goal pace in the conditions we are supposed to get).  This kind of terrifies me, because I definitely don't feel like I should try for a 2:45 having not yet run under 1:20, but I also believe I am in 1:18-1:19 shape under ideal conditions on a fast course.  I'm trying not to worry too much about those comparisons; after all, the time I ran for the second half of the BMO Phoenix marathon was also my third fastest lifetime half at that time, so trying for a similar result at CIM (given ideal conditions and peak) isn't completely unreasonable.  I just want to whine a little bit about Bass Pro's weather (more whining coming post-race) and then I'll move on!

Follow-up:  I did 6:20 pace at Bass Pro in the awful weather, which is about or slightly under realistic marathon goal pace, but not quite big dream goal pace of 6:17.  At this time I remain stuck on around 6:22 pace as my most likely target for CIM.

November 12, 2017
I was too busy running 80.7 miles (!!!) this week to add to this journal, but Lemony Snicket said it well below!  I'm not ready for a 2:45 attempt, but I probably never will be.  I'm going to go to California and begin the race aiming for a 2:47.  A 2:47 would be a great PR and a fantastic step for me.  Maybe I can get hit with the same magic I was in the marathons where I tried for a 2:52 and ran a 2:49, when I tried for a 3:05 and ran a 3:03, or when I tried for a 3:10 and ran 3:08.  The extra time is always in the second half and especially in the final 10K!  If I can't run a given time going out conservatively and then picking it up later, then I can't run that time that day.  No one ever says, "Man, I lost that marathon goal time by running too slow in the first 10K" (MANY lose it running too fast in the first 10K, whether they admit it or not).  All I know for sure is that even if I DNF CIM, this training cycle was great for my development and even in the worst case scenario would not be for naught...not to mention it's been a fun training cycle!
Also, I ran 24.5 miles today!  I did 21 relaxed (these were pretty much all 6:5X, except for a few 7:0X at the beginning and a couple 6:4X), then 3 progressive fast finish in 6:35, 6:16, 6:10 (grade adjusted paces were 6:27, 6:14, 6:08; I did not pick the easiest route, especially for the first of those 3 miles).  Then I ran to 2:48 so that ideally I will not be running for a longer duration this season!  Just need to fit 1.7 more miles into that duration, or in a perfect dream world 1.7 more miles into 3 minutes faster.  My average pace for the whole pop was 6:50, which I felt really good about.  I averaged 7:11 for this same run before my last marathon, so I hoped to be sub-7:00 to show that I'm possibly ready to take 10 seconds/mile off of my PR pace on race day.  I have only run 24.5 miles faster 3 times, in my 3 best marathons, and in 2 of those it wasn't much faster than this run but I was working much harder during those races (although I was working very hard in the last 2 miles today!).  The course I ran had 725 ft elevation gain, i.e. waaaay more than CIM (CIM has 350+ ft net elevation loss, also).

The miles went by really quickly and I'm not sure it could have gone any better really.  I did not stop my watch at any point during the run, meaning that I grabbed my fluid bottles from various random places, including the ditch, without stopping -- so I lost a little time each time I did that, but the clock doesn't stop on race day (however, I also do not plan to be bending down in a ditch to collect my race day fluids; if I am we have bigger problems!).  I didn't have to stop to pee, a change from my other 20+s but something I've always worked out for race day, and the key to that seems to be getting up earlier, because I got up an hour before starting this run instead of my usual 30 minutes.

I drank 4 tabs worth of nuun energy before and during the run, and took 2 gels (I will take 3-4 during the marathon), and also drank Ucan before the run.  On race day I will also eat a solid breakfast 3 hours before the race, but I didn't want to get up at 3:00 a.m. to do that for this one, but this just basically means I'll be better fueled on race day.  If you are trying a new pre-race meal or running a marathon for the first time, I highly recommend you don't be lazy like me and practice it beforehand, but this will be my fourth marathon with exactly the same pre-race and during-race nutrition so I feel really good about the combination that's worked for me previously.


I was going to post this in a separate post, but decided to include it here and get this puppy posted:

I did the math on my mileage this marathon build, because I knew it was more than I'd ever done before but I wasn't sure how much more...and as per usual, I have been feeling like I'm not doing enough!  Here it is:

24 weeks pre-race CIM:
  1. June 19 - 56.8
  2. June 26 - 58.2
  3. July 3 - 60.8
  4. July 10 - 62.4
  5. July 17 - 64
  6. July 24 - 65
  7. July 31 - 64.7
  8. Aug. 7 - 62.4
  9. Aug. 14 - 66.4
  10. Aug. 21 - 68.4 (should've gone the extra 1.6!)
  11. Aug. 28 - 62.5
  12. Sep. 4 - 63.7 (Plaza 10K race week + Run for a Child 10K tempo)
  13. Sep. 11 - 71.5
  14. Sep. 18 - 71.3
  15. Sep. 25 - 51.6 (Indy Half race week)
  16. Oct. 2 - 70.1
  17. Oct. 9 - 77.1
  18. Oct. 16 - 71.6
  19. Oct. 23 - 76.7
  20. Oct. 30 - 70.2 (Bass Pro Half race week)
  21. Nov. 6 -  80.7
  22. Nov. 13 - 64
  23. Nov. 20 - estimated at 50
  24. Nov. 27 - estimated at 50
  • Total miles run:  1559.9
  • Average miles per week:  65.0
  • Weeks in the 80s:  1
  • Weeks in the 70s: 7
  • Weeks in the 60s: 11

24 weeks pre-race BMO Mesa-Phoenix (I forgot to write down the dates when I went through Strava for this data and I was too lazy to go back and get them):
  1. 61.3 (Prairie Fire peak mileage week)
  2. 53.9
  3. 41.5 
  4. 45.7 (Prairie Fire Marathon race week)
  5. 33 (Prairie Fire recovery)
  6. 51.5
  7. 50
  8. 45.7 (Bass Pro Marathon race week)
  9. 29.1 (Bass Pro recovery)
  10. 43.5 (White River Half race week)
  11. 45.1
  12. 50.6
  13. 55.7
  14. 65
  15. 60.3
  16. 57.1
  17. 62
  18. 54.7 (Rock 'n' Roll Arizona race week)
  19. 64.2
  20. 61.3
  21. 67.6 (Phoenix peak mileage week)
  22. 56.7
  23. 48.2
  24. 48.2 (BMO Phoenix Marathon race week)
  • Total miles run: 1242.9
  • Average miles per week:  51.8
  • Weeks in the 60s: 7
I'm happy with my increase and I think it will pay off.  My CIM build was longer, since Phoenix was also my third marathon within 20 weeks.  The tapers and recoveries from Prairie Fire and Bass Pro reduced my pre-Phoenix average mileage some, but I also felt like I'd recently run a marathon, whereas now I feel like it's been ages since I've run one!

I am prepared to up to week after week of mileage into the 80s for the next one, provided I'm staying healthy.  Whatever it takes!  I'm not confident that CIM 2017 is going to earn me a spot on the Trials starting line in 2020, but I am going to keep pursuing a performance that does before the qualifying window closes in January 2020.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bass Pro Half Marathon: Call it heat training!

The Short:
Based on the crap weather (72*, dew point of 70*, 15-25 mph south wind), my goal for this race shifted from aiming for a solid time to running it at goal marathon pace (6:17).  I also cut out the small taper for it, running 70 miles for the week instead of the planned 61, because there wasn't any reason to sacrifice marathon training volume when there was no chance at a fast half.  My goal that stayed constant was to get the overall female win, and I accomplished that one despite not being able to quite hit goal marathon pace (I averaged 6:20 pace...but let me tell you, 6:20 sure felt like 6:05 pace!).  However, I loved the hometown event and ran with a smile on my face the entire race!  God doesn't always give us what we want (such as nice race weather), but He always gives us what we need (perhaps the way things turned out will be more beneficial for The Big Goal).  The best part about the race was that two of the ladies I train with took the 2nd and 3rd overall spots, effectively giving our group the 1-2-3 sweep!  Oh, and Albani's shirt was also a hit, and she couldn't have worn it in cooler temperatures.
But her dad gives her junk food while her mom races!
All done = all smiles
The Long:
I included this half in my race schedule because it's local, the organizers do a fantastic job, and it was 4 weeks out from my goal marathon so I thought it would be a good checkpoint -- also because my coach recommended that I not run the Bass Pro full marathon as a B race like I usually do.  The course isn't fast because it has one million turns, the final 2 miles up inclines, and the field at my pace is always very thin/nonexistent, but those cons are usually balanced out by nearly perfect weather and by it being a hometown race (typical routines, no travel, sleeping in my own bed, eating at home).  But, alas, the 40*/sunny/light wind combination we usually get for this race was not to be in 2017!  Instead, it was 72* with a dew point of 70* (i.e., painfully humid) with 15-25 mph south winds.  Midwest weather is predictably unpredictable, but our high of 83* on this day set an all-time record, so it's usually not quite this extreme in November.

I knew I couldn't run a PR or anywhere near it in those conditions, because anytime the dew point is in the 70s my performance nosedives.  I've read that humidity that high reduces your VO2 max, and based on how my races go in those conditions I fully believe it (not where I originally read it, but it is mentioned here and here so I did not make this up!).  Pre-race my goals shifted from gunning for a fast time to mainly working for the win and running around goal marathon pace.  I also ran 70 miles during race week, so I figured to some degree this could simulate the second half of a marathon.

Race morning I woke up in my own bed after the time change (meaning an extra hour in bed!), headed to the race with my husband and daughter, and warmed up with my dear friend Missy.  It felt more like a workout day than a race, and I felt no pressure.  I hoped to keep my pace between 6:15-6:20, and I knew I shouldn't bank on a negative split because the course started off working its way north (tailwind) and finished working back south (headwind), plus the beginning has more decline and the end has more incline.

After the gun I found myself in first female position for the half (the first female in the full was just ahead of me, but I know her and knew she was running the full...she is also my coach's wife and he was running with her!).  This seemed like a great sign for me, because I was running around 6:20 pace.  There were a handful of men around too.  The half and full courses split just after the 1 mile mark, and I saw 3 men in front of me.  I also got a female lead cyclist at that point, and despite my experience with having a lead female cyclist without actually leading in Kansas City two weeks prior, I trusted that I was leading this time since it was a much easier gauge in less of a crowd and complete daylight.
Around 2.5
The race itself was pretty uneventful, while at the same time very enjoyable -- the awesome local race feeling!  I locked into the effort that felt sustainable for 13.1 and ran familiar streets.  I drove the course twice the week before this race to prevent any re-occurrences of The Bass Pro Wrong Turn Incident of 2016.  I thought driving the course beforehand helped me run the course tangents, but sometimes I couldn't run the tangents due to cars parked on the side of the road, aid stations, or huge mile marker signs blocking the path; however, I thought I did a much better job than my watch indicated.

I later learned that the current half course isn't certified anyway, so perhaps I did do a better job with tangents than my watch showed. There are two certifications on the USATF website for the event, but neither is the course we ran (see here and here for the certified ones), also making me not feel so bad about missing the Missouri State road racing record for age 37 (1:23:11), since it wouldn't have counted anyway.  Nor would a PR have really counted had I run one, so maybe I can even say I dodged a bullet there (just being optimistic)!

Excuse the tangent - pun intended.  My pacing was very consistent when considered with the elevation and headwind/tailwind situation, so even though I wasn't running my fastest I thought I did really well at zeroing in on the effort I could sustain for a half in these conditions.  I got to see my husband and daughter around 2.5 and 9.5, something that I don't get to do in non-local halves.

I really enjoyed all of the amazing spectators and volunteers out on the course.  Many took the time to shout "First female!", "Girl power!", etc. as I passed.  I am so thankful for our amazing running community!  Around the 15K, I heard one spectator say to another, "Wow, she looks so strong and fast", and that made my day.  I ran with a smile plastered on my face the whole race.  It's such a fun race to win.  Even though I never felt stellar, I loved being out there and having the opportunity to race locally and see so many people I knew.  My lead cyclist was awesome, and I asked him to let me draft off him going south, but we could never quite work it out -- I think it's difficult to maintain consistent 6:20 pace on a bike, because that's very slow cycling.
Around 9.5 - running into the wind & trying to draft
I have often struggled with the last 2 miles on this course, but I got a boost from my friend Danielle cheering around mile 11 and a man passing me a bit before mile 12 (he went on to beat me but I hung with him until the last half mile or so).  It felt great to hear the race announcer mispronouncing my name as the overall female winner for the half
Running happy around 11.5!
I look like I'm haulin' here (although I was not necessarily)
Sweet finish stretch
Clock shot
I then got to see two amazing ladies I train with come in 2nd and 3rd overall females!  I was so proud of them and that our group dominated this one.  I will also add that I know they are both in 1:25-1:26 shape and that this race did not show anyone's true fitness level (the overall male has run 1:12 recently).  Official results can be found here, and a news article about the race here.  After the race (and an I'm-dehydrated-and-starving cool down to make it an 18 mile day), I enjoyed socializing with our amazing running community.  Albani and I also volunteered at the expo the day before the race and enjoyed plenty of that there too.  Runners really are the best people!
Future marathon pacer

Missy's daughter Emma ran a 5K PR with Danielle's help!

Splits that reflect the headwind/tailwind miles well (7-10 headwind)
Although it would have been nice to have a confidence-boosting speedy half going into CIM, maybe I got more benefits from skipping tapering for this race and the heat training adaptations that I hope occurred from it (in a timely coincidence, I read this blog post regarding the benefits of heat training the day before the race).  On one hand, I think if I want to run a marathon at 6:17 pace, I ought to be able to hit a half at that pace under any circumstances, but on the other hand I averaged 6:10 pace for a 10K on Labor Day in similar weather, and then managed 6:07 pace for half a few weeks later with decent weather, so I haven't lost faith.  And, I ran far better at Bass Pro than I did at Dam to Dam, so I guess I can call this my 70* dew point PR!

Hopefully this also means that I'm due some really, really nice weather in 4 weeks!  I know that God will give me what I need, even if it isn't what I want, then too.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Post-Race Insomnia: The Struggle is Real!

The night of the Bass Pro Marathon in 2016, I did not sleep a wink (and one year later I've decided to write about it).  I ended up learning a lot about post-race insomnia that night via Google!  I specifically recall reading this article, this blog, and this plea to Runners World, among other information that night.  It was comforting to know that it wasn't just me, but if you have to have a night of not sleeping, the night after a marathon is one of the worst times to have it!

I slept very little the night after every marathon I've run since 2015, averaging 2-3 hours a night even with taking Melatonin and trying other sleep aid medications.  It was the worst after Bass Pro 2016, probably because I was berating myself about my wrong turn the whole night, but I've never been able to sleep anywhere nearly enough after my past several marathons.  I did not run any marathons between 2012-2014, but back in 2011 and before this was not a problem!  About half the time I've had continued difficulties sleeping 2 nights afterward, and I've never been able to nap the next day despite the sleep deprivation.  After half marathons, it's been about 50/50 on whether or not I'll sleep alright (this season it's been 100% sleeping, though, possibly because I've taken Melatonin every time).  After shorter distances I'm typically fine, except for if a 10K starts after 9:30 p.m.  This never happens to me after long training runs or workouts, thank God.

Apparently being unable to sleep after intense efforts is related to adrenaline and cortisol, as explained here.  To me it also makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective; surely no one would run that far at that intense of a pace unless her life was in grave danger, so surely sleep soon after would result in further risk to her life!  I go to a slightly higher level of exertion during racing than during training, as one should, so that explains why this only happens after races.  I am not the best sleeper in the world at anytime, but on a "normal" day if I take a Melatonin it will assuredly knock me out.  I only take it 1-2 times a month, though (after every half marathon these days!).  I rely on laying in bed reading to help me sleep -- and it does, provided that I have not raced a long race that day.

I'm not sure I'll find a solution to this, but I have certainly learned that I should always take the day after a marathon off work!

Have you had post-race insomnia?
The look of someone who does not suffer from insomnia

Friday, November 3, 2017

Prairie Fire & Bass Pro Marathon Thoughts 1 Year Later

Facebook has been reminding me recently that on October 9, 2016, I ran and PRed at the Prairie Fire Marathon.  It was the first time I broke the 3:00 barrier.  I ran the Bass Pro Marathon 4 weeks after that and managed my second sub-3:00.  I figured by the time I finished and proofread this post it would likely be the Bass Pro 1 year anniversary, so I decided to tackle reflections back on both races with this post.  (Note:  Bass Pro 2017 is coming up on Sunday, so I was correct!  I will be running the half this year).

First rewind to summer 2015.  I had a marathon PR of 3:03:47 (set in 2010), and had strung together nearly a year of uninterrupted running.  This was big for me, because I'd had many injuries before that time.  I was working on improving my half marathon PR, and decided that I wanted to try to break 3:00 in the marathon, because, really, who is content to let their marathon PR stay at 3:03?!  I fully believed it when I told my husband that once I broke 3:00 I would retire from marathoning.  I think I'd forgotten exactly how much I loved marathons and marathon training, since in at that time in 2015 I hadn't run once since 2011 (and not one competitively since my 3:03 in 2010).

Through a random chain of events that I'm thankful for, I ended up working with my current coach for my 2015 marathon build.  I told him that I wanted to break 3:00 and that I wanted to peak at 50 miles a week; God bless him for not laughing in my face at that oxymoron request!  I ended that cycle with a 3:01 marathon in Dallas in December 2015, a PR that sure left me wanting more (and who is content to let their marathon PR stay at 3:01?!).  I then tried to train myself for the Phoenix marathon in February 2016, and low and behold I injured myself and missed the race.  After that, it was back to my coach for another sub-3:00 attempt at Prairie Fire in October 2016.  I still truly believed that I would be satisfied if I hit 2:59:59 and wouldn't feel the need to keep chasing marathon PRs, but I was also already registered for Bass Pro in November 2016 and Phoenix in February 2017 when I toed the line at Prairie Fire, so it was certainly not to be my last marathon!

Going into Prairie Fire, I felt very unsure of myself, mainly because I'd tried to break 3:00 and failed at Dallas.  Before Dallas, I'd felt sure that I was going to hit my goal time, but before Prairie Fire I did not feel confident and was probably the most nervous I'd been before any marathon.  Although neither my taper nor the race went off without a hitch, I broke 3:00 for the first time with a 2:58:53.  I was elated with the blessings of the day and with hitting this major goal, but I also had a very unexpected thought:  "I can do better."

Post-marathon emotion at Prairie Fire
I'd decided to run Bass Pro 2016 as a B race, mainly because it's my local marathon and I love it, but also because I like to get two marathons out of one training cycle.  It was 4 weeks after Prairie Fire, and I didn't intend to go for another sub-3:00 at it until my coach told me he thought I could try it.  So, I went for it and succeeded, actually running a bit faster pace and a stronger negative split than I had at Prairie Fire.  However, the difference wasn't reflected in my official finishing time of 2:59:04, because I took a wrong turn during the race and ran about 1:30 extra.  While I was extremely hard on myself about this error, it ended up again boiling down to the thought, "I can do better."  I would have run a 2:57 at Bass Pro without the wrong turn, so it was clear to me that I could hit at least a 2:57, and probably a 2:53-2:55 on a course without a million turns (Bass Pro is not a fast course).

In addition to the links above, I wrote even more about Prairie Fire here, here, and here, and about Bass Pro here.

I now find it pretty humorous that I actually said and believed that I'd be through with my marathon time goal pursuits once I broke 3:00!  At that time, I really thought that was my maximum potential, but once I did it I knew I had faster ones in me.  I am floored by what God has done with my running in the span of a year.  Last year, 6:51.9 pace for 26.2 miles was my major goal; this year, my 18-22 mile easy paced long runs have consistently been 6:49-6:52, and I've generally finished them feeling like I could continue for several more miles.  The amount of thankfulness I need to have for this is never lost on me; each time I cannot believe that I could go on to run a sub-3:00 in training on my hilly training routes (although I admittedly also tell myself, "well, that had better be easy since you're trying to run 15 minutes under 3:00!".  I feel so blessed to have made these gains, but I still think, "I can do better."

I will always treasure the experiences I had at these two races, and they were very important steps towards my 2:49:20 performance (and current PR) in Phoenix.  I love remembering all of the training miles I shared with friends, and I am so thankful for my family supporting me during my training endeavors and during the races themselves.  I think God uses those times during races to bring us closer to him; something about pushing through the long races and training runs simply makes me feel more alive and more faithful.  Something about it makes me better, even if I still think, "I can do better."  Perhaps He makes me think that so that He can make me better, in non-running ways too.

I think the take-away is that we should all challenge our limits and not accept that a big accomplishment is our max, even if at one point that accomplishment was a far-reaching dream.  Maybe it is our max, but why not try to shoot higher?  What's the saying -- if you shoot for the stars and fail, you may still land on the moon.

Maybe I can't do better; maybe my PR will always be 2:49.  But I think that not trying to improve it would be a greater failure than trying and not succeeding.  No matter what happens, I am never going to wonder what would have happened if I'd tried, because I am going to try and try again until I either hit that 2:45:00 or the qualifying window closes.

I am thankful, but not satisfied; I can do better.  I felt that way after Prairie Fire, I felt that way after Bass Pro, and honestly no matter how CIM goes I suspect that I will feel that way.  That may make me annoying, but it also keeps me hungry and striving, and isn't that what our passions are all about?

"Run in such a way as to get the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:24

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Rocktober: October in review!

October 2017 in review!

Total mileage for the month:  323.6 - my biggest month ever!  In comparison, I did:  January - 261, February - 212, March - 203, April - 219, May - 249, June - 205, July - 275, August - 301, September - 271.
  • Oct. 2-8:  70.1
  • Oct. 9-15:  77.1 - a volume-focused week (only a tiny workout)
  • Oct. 16-22:  71.6
  • Oct. 23-29:  76.6 - my sixth week in the 70s!
  • Oct. 30-Nov. 5: 70.2 - a slight cut-back week with a half marathon race at the end
October 1st family photo...if only I'd worn a blue skirt on this day!
  • Oct. 7:  Panther Run 5K as a workout at steady 6:00 pace for 1st overall female
  • Oct. 21:  Kansas City Half Marathon as a split progressive tempo workout, in 1:21:36 (1:23:16ish adjusted) for 2nd overall female
  • Favorite race:  Any time the choice is between a half and a 5K, there is really no choice, even though I had some legitimate complaints about the race.  KC Half!
  • Oct. 4 - 5 x 1 mile repeats with 0.5 recoveries (3.2 warm up, 1.1 cool down) in 5:42.0, 5:38.7, 5:38.4, 5:35.8, 5:34.3 (average 5:37.8).  I was a bit shocked to see this workout on my schedule so soon after the Indy Women's Half, but I chalked it up to more getting used to trying to run fast on tired legs.  I was even more shocked that I nailed the workout (and look at those beautiful negative splits)!  My goal pace range from my coach was 5:38-5:42, and I was just hoping I could hold onto 5:42, particularly since it was 68* with a dew point of 68* (you'd think that type of weather at 5:30 a.m. would be over by October!).  This was a PR mile repeat workout; my previous best was a 5:40 average for 4 repeats (run on May 10 on the same course as this workout).  The last time I did 5 repeats I ran 5:57, 5:54, 5:57, 5:56, 6:02 (also the same course) -- I was unhappy with that workout and it was back in December 2016, though.  I ran these solo, so I was pleased with the implication that I am getting mentally tougher about pushing when I'm on my own.  It was also nice redemption after failing a mile repeat workout, and then re-trying it 2 days later with a medicore performance on August 22 and 24.  
  • Oct. 7 - Panther Run 5K at tempo in 19:01 via 6:00, 5:56, 6:04, 5:58 final bit (2 warm up, 3 cool down). After my October 4 mile repeat workout, I almost wanted to throw-down all-out race a 5K to try to break 18:00, and might have tried (and subsequently been disappointed) at this one if it had been on an accurate good course and in good weather.  But since I knew the course was turny and a shade long, and since it was over 70* and very windy, I had no problem sticking to my original plan of running it at 6:00ish pace in order to try for the win, get in a short tempo, and save my legs for my long run the next day.  Based on how I ended up feeling, presumably because of the October 4 workout and the Indy Women's Half being on my legs, I would not have raced a fantastic 5K anyway (6:00 felt harder than I expected it to)!
  • Oct. 14 - 21.4 mile long run with 5 x 1:00 pick ups (described below).
  • Oct. 17 - Fartlek of 2 x 4', 3', 2', 1' pushes with recoveries equal to the next push (2 warm up, 1.6 cool down).  My paces on the pushes were 5:54, 5:47, 5:42, 5:28, 5:44, 5:49, 5:33, 5:59 (incline), and I recovered at 7:00ish pace, giving me 5.77 miles at 6:16 pace for the pushes and recoveries all together.  Strava said the last 1:00 push grade-adjusted to 5:42 pace, but because of the incline it came very close to ruining my sub-6:00 streak!  I think this is the best I've run on this workout, but I was more excited about recovering at 6:58-7:05 than anything!  Farleks are always a nice lower-key way to get in fast running.
  • Oct. 21 - Tempos of 4 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile with 0.5 recoveries (2.5 warm-up and 4 cool-down), run during the Kansas City Half Marathon.  This workout requires a lot of elaboration, which can be found here, but seemed to have been successfully executed.
  • Oct. 25 - Fast finish mid-week long run (9 steady then cut down final 3); I averaged 6:55 for the whole 12.2 miles and the final 3 miles were 6:23, 6:12, 6:09.  The final half mile on the course I ran is up an incline we complain about call Mentor Hill, and I about had a coronary trying to keep it under 6:10 pace!  It's funny because every route my running group runs from this frequent starting location is rolling the entire way, but we act like this incline at the end is a mountain; I guess it is just the placement and length of it, because it's not at all steep.
  • Oct. 31 - 3 x 2 mile progressive split tempos with 0.5 recoveries (2.1 warm up, 2 cool down). Call this one practice negative splitting under cumulative fatigue!  My goal paces were 6:10, 6:00, sub-6:00 and I executed just under with splits of 6:08/6:06, 5:58/5:59, 5:57/5:53.  I could definitely feel the 22 miler from 2 days before on my legs (not to mention the lunges from the day before), but I think that was part of the point for this one.  It was cold (25*) and I tend to under-dress when I'm going to be running hard, but I think I erred a little too much on that side because I didn't actually warm up until I was almost finished with the first rep.  The first rep was also the hardest and I was really glad I got to start slower!  The last mile was a push but it felt good.  Overall I was happy with this workout, although it didn't inspire confidence about running 13.1 miles at a just slightly slower pace.
  • Doubles on Oct. 3, 5, 10, 11, 12 (the true miracle was that I ran all 3 of them at lunch that week!), 17, 18, 24, 26, and 31.
  • Strides on Oct. 7 and 21 (pre-race, even though they were workout races), and 27.
  • Bootcamp (full body strength workouts) on Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, plus enough additional strength here and there to hit at minimum 90 minutes of strength work total per week.
  • Favorite workout:  The mile repeats on October 4 felt like a huge victory to me!
Long Runs:
  • Oct. 8:  18 miles steady (6:52).  I ran the first 8 with Missy and Rebecca, and the next 10 with tunes.  The weather was beautiful (49* and no wind) and I felt fantastic!  I find that once I warm up, 6:50ish is my cruising relaxed pace now, which is super encouraging.  Feeling strong on this run solidified my confidence that I made the right decision about not throwing down all-out in the Panther run the day before.  I drank quite a bit of water with 3 tabs of nuun energy before and during this run, and I had to pee twice but the caffeine seemed to have me raring to go (with the run in addition to with the peeing)!
  • Oct. 14:  21.4 miles (6:52), with 16 steady then 1:00 pick-ups to 6:00-6:10 goal pace at the beginning of every mile the rest of the way (so 5 x 1:00 within a base run).  My paces on the pick-ups were 5:54, 6:01, 6:15 (uphill), 5:47, 5:45 (some decline).  Strava said my grade-adjusted pace (GAP) was 6:01 on the uphill one and 5:52 on the decline one; the others were all pretty flat with GAPs within 1-2 seconds.  This was faster than I ran the same pick-ups during my 20 miler in September, and they felt better this time, so I was happy about that.  The pick-ups certainly illustrate the importance of even pacing though, because picking it up like that blows me up a bit (e.g., the last 5 miles would have been much easier at the same overall pace with even pacing), but I think blowing up a bit is the purpose.  I felt good enough that I kept going until I got back to my house instead of stopping when my watch hit 21 (that's how I know a good day vs. a not good one -- on bad days I will stop the second my watch hits distance!).  I took one gel of the brand I will use in my marathon around mile 11, and also drank some nuun energy and water at miles 11, 15, and 19 while on the run (no watch stopping).  I ran this solo except for brief company from about miles 2-5, so it was a bit lonely but probably good for me to tick off consistent paced miles alone (most were around 6:55, with the end faster).  It was 65* when I started and probably over 70* when I finished, which is pretty amazing for mid-October -- I love this weather for training, but would complain if it was a race day (as exhibited in regards to the Panther Run and Kansas City half this month alone).
  • Oct. 21:  19.6 miles total, with the Kansas City half as a progressive split tempo workout, described here.  I was scheduled for 18 miles total, but ran a little longer warm up (because I like to keep moving until the gun) and cool down (because a friend had a 10 mile cool down after her 10K, and I was going to do 5 with her to help, but I got too hungry and stopped at 4). Had I done the math at the time I'd have probably gone 0.4 farther, but maybe not because I was absolutely starving!
  • Oct. 28:  22.4 miles (6:54), all base.  Going from long runs at 60-70* to this one at 26*/feels like 20* was a bit of a shock!  I over-dressed in an effort to maintain some of my heat adaptation and because being out in the cold for over 2.5 hours can be quite draining if you're not warm enough.  Overall this went really smoothly.  I had company for about 4 miles (miles 3-6), and was solo with music for the other 18.4.  The miles ticked off and I finished feeling good. Strava told me this run had exactly 700 ft elevation gain; I am not sure how I managed to hit that on the nose. Before this run I looked back at my 22 miler before Phoenix; it was the same run (all base, and I ran to 22.5 that day on the same area farm roads) and I averaged 7:26 pace on it.  I remember being a bit tired on it because it was a week after I raced the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona half, and likewise I was a bit tired on this one following the Kansas City half, but I was pretty pumped that I averaged 32 seconds faster/mile on this one!  I drank nuun energy and vanilla Ucan before, and during I had nuun energy and most of one Accel gel (my mitten had the rest of it), all of which I will have on race day (well, I will have 3 gels on race day).  I will also eat a solid breakfast about 3 hours pre-race on marathon day, but I didn't want to get up at 3:30 a.m. to do that before this run.  So basically I will be better fueled on race day, but I practiced some of my race day nutrition and it all went down well!
  • Favorite long run:  I loved them all -- it's a 3-way tie!
  • Wednesdays were 11-12 mile days (mid-week long runs).
  • I feel good.  I never knew I could run this mileage and feel so good!  Sure, I feel fatigued sometimes, and my easy runs the day after long runs are always significantly slower than my usual easy pace, but I think I feel better than I ever have during a marathon build.  Perhaps the increased mileage is helping me in this aspect.  Whatever it is, I'm thankful.  I am also completely injury-free (not even a niggle), which I am super thankful for.
  • I wrote an entire post about my October food cravings here.
  • No days off in October and it's getting redundant to report this (my last day off was June 19, and I expect my next to be post-marathon).
  • We got to watch my youthful training partner Jessi take 3rd in her conference cross-country meet, which MSU hosted right here in Springfield on October 28!
  • The weather was crazy this month; I ran a half in 70* on October 21 then a long run at 25* on October 28.  It felt like we skipped fall and went straight from summer to winter!  Where were those nice 40-50* morning lows?  The high on November 5, my next race day, is 78*.  Hopefully all my race day weather perfectness is just saving itself up for CIM.
Non-running life events:
  • We enjoyed a fun Saturday evening and Sunday with my parents, after the trip to the Indy Women's Half.
  • I turned another year closer to being a masters runner on Oct. 26.
  • Halloween, of course.
The new Wonders of Wildlife Museum at Bass Pro
Enjoying Grandma time at Wonders of Wildlife
She acts embarrassed about this shirt, but willingly wears it
Pumpkin painting
I was impressed with this!
4th grade fall pictures
4th grade fall pictures 2
Pumpkin patch or a plethora of pumpkins thrown into a field - you decide
Corn maze when it's 90* in October!
Halloween cupcakes
Wet hair for all - my only family birthday photo, oops
Birthday run with the pre-dawn crew (I had a second run at lunch too!)
Jon & Albani's first time spectating a cross-country meet
Trunk or Treat #1 - it was cold!

She got a free headlamp at the hardware store

Halloween #2 - again in her coat