Thursday, September 14, 2017

How do you know whether to call it or to push through?

Every runner has off days, and these are part of the training process and part of life.  Some runners will continue on and finish an off workout or race even if it means walking and finishing grossly off any time goal, and others will cut it in order to have another chance at the workout or to recover faster to give another goal race a try.  I don't think there is a right or wrong approach, and many factors come into play when any of us make the decision.

Generally, I lean towards the first option:  finish no matter what.  In my 25 years of running, I have one DNF (did not finish) race to my name, in a half marathon that certainly should have been a DNS (did not start).  At the time I didn't know what was ailing me, but when I was finally diagnosed it was cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes intense stomach and intestinal distress (and that also left me unable to run much more than 3 miles at 9:30 pace for several days).  On the other hand, I once finished a marathon when I had walking pneumonia, and the feat of finishing entailed walking during the race (not my smartest life decision).

I've had workouts here and there over the years that I've called in, typically because of illness, pain, or knowing I was going to be so far off my time goals that the workout would do more harm (as far as wear and tear on my body) than good.  I've had workouts that felt off but that I pushed through and completed.  I had one of each in August, and it made me starting thinking about how I make the decision to call it a day, to push through, or to not start at all.

In hard workouts, if:
  • I feel crappy and it's a key workout - push through; I may feel crappy on race day.
  • I'm slightly off pace -  push through; they can't all be perfect!
  • I'm grossly off pace - call it, especially if I can re-do it later in the week; at this point I don't think the training benefits I'm getting are worth the fatigue and wear and tear on my body (or the hit my confidence will take).  Calling it will allow me to recover faster and get back to training like I should be, plus if I am grossly off pace something else is most likely also going on (getting sick, sleep deprived, etc.).
  • I feel like I'm getting heat illness - call it!  Once you have heat stroke it changes how your body deals with hot conditions for the rest of your life, and no one workout is worth that.
  • Something hurts (suspected injury) - call it or DNS!  If it didn't loosen up and disappear on my warm-up, I'm not risking it.  Once lost workout is better than months of them.
  • Confirmed injury - DNS, unless a medical professional has told me otherwise.
  • I'm sick - DNS.  I run through about anything illness-wise, but I keep all of my running easy if I have anything worthy of calling an illness, so no workouts.
In races, if:
  • I can continue without risking harm to myself, even if it means walking - push through.
    • The only exception that might make me reconsider this is if I knew I was going to miss an important and realistic time goal, and would have another reasonable chance at it much sooner if I dropped, which would really only happen in a marathon.  Recovering from, for example, 14 miles is much faster than recovering from 26.2!  I can understand why elites drop marathons on off days.  I'm still not sure I'd do it, but it would enter my mind.
  • I am risking my health - call it!  I would DNS a race if I were injured or sick beforehand, but if I suffered an injury or heat illness during an event I would not be ashamed to stop, because my long-term health and performance are more important than one day that would end in a crappy finishing time.  I mentioned above that I ran a marathon with walking pneumonia, but I was young and dumb, and would NEVER do that or anything close again.
There are plenty of unique situations I didn't cover here (e.g., if I were injured at mile 26.1 of a marathon, I would get in somehow!), and typically many factors are at play instead of one at a time, but this is generally how I would know.

How do you know whether to call it or to push through?  What scenarios did I forget to list?

The look of someone too tired to push through

Monday, September 11, 2017

Plaza 10K: That's more like it!

The short:
When I put this race on my schedule, my goal was to hit 36:59, but as go-time neared and the forecast refused to cooperate, I revised my time goal to 37:30ish.  I believe I'm in shape to break 37:00, but I'm going to need 45* to do it; temperatures in the 70s with high humidity isn't going to cut it!  I finished in exactly 37:30.  This is a new road PR for me, and while it is not as fast as my track PR of 37:09, I believe it was a stronger performance due to the weather (it was in the 40s for my track PR), the course (this one had 170 ft of elevation gain), and running this during a 64 mile week (also it was kind of my third race in 8 days).  The field was deep, and I was 8th overall female and 1st in the 35-39 age group.  I ran smart and strategically with my competition, and could really only be happier with this one if I could have found 5 seconds more in the last mile and/or it had actually been 45*!  It was a huge relief after not feeling like my fitness showed at the Run for a Child 10K on Labor Day, and I am now ready to tackle my half marathon goal (which I get a taper for!) on September 30, weather permitting.
Clock shots are my husband's specialty
The long:
I was oh-so-hopeful for cool weather for this one, because we saw morning lows of 45-50* during the week preceding the race, but Mother Nature wasn't ready to hand me those conditions yet.  I contemplated pulling out of the race because I wasn't pre-registered, I was coming off of a fatiguing week at work (hello, 10-11 hour days!), and the main reason I put this one on my schedule was for a PR attempt, which would not be happening in the 70s (my Labor Day race had sure reminded me of that!).  I decided it would still be good for me to run it in order to race in a competitive field, and with the pressure of a PR attempt lifted I got pretty excited to just get out there and compete!

Race morning I did all of my usual routines and lined up at the starting line ready to roll.  There were a lot of very fast women on the starting line; some who I knew, others I knew of, and a few who just looked super speedy.  I knew pretty quickly that I wouldn't place in the money (top 4), but I also welcomed the competition because I always run best in races I do not win.
10Ks make Albani yawn
I got off the starting line behind a large group of Kansas City Smoke girls.  I knew there were several in the group who would likely be right around my pace (deja vu of the Big 12 12K).  In the first bit I was behind them all, but I felt like I was pacing well, so I looked down at my watch for confirmation and it read a big fat 0:00.  I'd pressed start at the gun, but clearly I hadn't gotten it started, and I hadn't noticed with thousands of other Garmins beeping.  I started it at that point, and then lapped it at the mile marker so I would have my real course splits from then on.  That was also the last point in the race I looked at my Garmin.

Start -- Can you find me?
The whole race was a "spot a ponytail, work to reel her in" endeavor for me, so with that strategy and the elevation variations I ran by feel.  I always seem to race better this way, but I'm always afraid to do it when I'm gunning for a certain time goal.  The race was large (5,000+), but it was still pretty thin out front so I really never ran with anyone, but there were always others in view.

If you look good in your race photos, you're not running hard enough!
There was a huge clock at the 5K, which I came through at about 18:38, feeling so much better than I had at halfway in Monday's race!  I knew ahead of time that the course would be difficult to negative split due to the elevation (chart below).  Mile 4 had a lot of decline, which I simultaneously enjoyed and worried about, because I knew we would go back up it on a road a few blocks over in mile 5!  Mile 5 was tough and I was surprised my split wasn't slower than it was, but I think it's what took a strong finish out my legs for the final mile (plus the final mile also had a lot of up!).  I'd been working on pulling a gal in front of me in, and I gave it my all to pull up on her at the end, but I ran out of real estate and she finished 2 seconds ahead of me.  Although I wished I'd have had a stronger 6th mile and moved up a place, I was still happy because I gained about 30 seconds on her in the final 2 miles.

I went pretty deep into the pain cave in the final 2 miles.  Dropping to 10K pace is challenging during marathon training, and doing so without being rested even more-so.  However, it is amazing what a difference small variables and a different day can make.  There was no difference in my fitness on September 4 vs. September 10, but there was a huge difference in my performance and how paces felt, and about a minute difference in my 10K time.  6:10ish felt like death on September 4, and 5:59ish felt maximal but do-able on September 10.  This further illustrates the need for ideal conditions for any of us to run our best, and also shows the benefits of being rested.  The Plaza course and weather were slightly better than the Run for a Child course and weather (85% humidity vs. 100%; 170 ft of gain vs. 240 ft), and I was a tad more rested for this one, but I sure can't wait to see how an actual taper feels!  This was a great check-point in my training cycle that showed my training is working; I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to find that out and I am ready to push forward to my next step.  I also still believe I have a 36:50 in me, but it's going to take 45* and a taper to find it (and perhaps also not running 3 races in 8 days!)!

Official results are here (the 5K splits are about 15 seconds fast for everyone, though).  Look at those smokin' top 4 ladies (33:57-35:15!).

"Anything is possible if a person believes." - Mark 9:23
Splits shown one way (missing first 0.4)
Splits shown another way (also missing first 0.4)

Elevation chart
It pays to be old
One thing Albani and Jon did during my 7 mile cool-down...
This trip to Kansas City also included our first trip to IKEA, a hotel pool, and fantastic family time with my sister's family!


Also in our hotel, hah
Cousin love

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labor of Love: Double Race Weekend

The Short:

2017 was my 3rd annual KLife Stars & Stripes 5K + Run for a Child 10K Labor Day weekend combo.

I pulled off an overall person win in the 5K, despite the lead bike taking me on a detour that cost me about 0:20.  I ran my first mile at about goal marathon pace (6:15) and miles 2-3 at about goal half pace (6:05 and 6:07) for a 6:08 average (official time 19:26) -- I was pleased with how controlled the paces felt during the race, but it's hard to judge much from running such a short distance at those long race paces.  Results are here.

I netted an overall female win in the 10K; my first overall win in this competitive race in my three times running it.  In the heat and humidity, 6:10 average pace did NOT feel controlled in this one (it felt HARD!), especially running the entire race solo.  I'd hoped to break into the 37s on this challenging course, but had to settle for 38:18.  It was still a course PR (and actually a road PR, although I've run about this during the final 10K of half marathons), bettering my 38:43 from this race in 2016, but I wanted more from myself.  I'll chalk it up to a good effort on tired legs and look forward to better racing weather!  Race results are here.
Action shot that I do not hate!
The Long:
These races and associated travel have become a Labor Day tradition for my family, and this was the third consecutive year we made the short treks to both (both 2016 races are described here, and Run for a Child is detailed further here).  It's a pretty easy combination, with the 5K on Saturday and the 10K on Monday.  We usually do several other family activities along with the races, including spending Sunday night in a hotel with a pool, so the child loves this tradition too!

My goals going into the races were to run the "5K" (which has ranged from 2.95 to 3.3 miles) at marathon goal pace, to beat my 2016 time in the 10K, and to net some cash at both (this was my husband's biggest goal).  I have a goal 10K next weekend, and my coach kind of nicely asked what I was thinking with scheduling 3 races in 8 days (and really, what WAS I thinking?!).  Since CIM training trumps everything, it made sense to train through all of these races, and running the 5K at goal marathon pace gave it a purpose that I was content with while saving my legs for the two 10Ks.  My coach mentioned that this first 10K would be more like a tempo run than a race also.
KLife Stars & Stripes 5K
I started off Saturday's 5K at a pace that felt about like marathon effort.  I looked at my watch less than a half mile in to see that I was averaging 6:10, so backed off a bit.  Marathon goal pace is always such an awkward pace - not fast but not slow, but always work - and right now mentally it's really weird to me because when I think about running 6:17 I think I'm going to be huffing/puffing/dying, but on this day I was not.  I passed a few men to move into first overall a bit before the mile, which I came through in 6:15.  The lead cyclist led me a bit off course around that point, and if he had not I think the course would have been exactly accurate this year (my Garmin had 3.17 with the course error; usually I get 3.08-3.11 in certified 5Ks).

I had a hard time staying at marathon goal pace, in part due to having a lead cyclist pushing me, and in part due to feeling like I was running way too easy for a 5K.  I ended up speeding up a touch and came through mile 2 in 6:05, which is about my half goal pace.  I did the same for mile 3 (6:07), and then the lead cyclist was giving me a hard time about chatting with him and told me he was going to pull off to the side and let me kick in.  So I kicked the final bit, with a Garmin reading of 5:36.  I always enjoy an overall overall win, and the race organizers of this one are very kind.
Being heckled (in a nice way) by the lead cyclist
I was encouraged by how comfortable my pace felt.  I felt that I could have sustained the pace for a half that day (my average was 6:08, and I want to average 6:06 for my next half).  The weather was great -- about 60* (not sure on humidity, it's always humid here but when it's that cool it's not bothersome) and no wind -- so that certainly helped.  I finished off my mileage for the day with a 4 mile cool-down at 6:50-7:00 pace, and felt good about that too (my warm-up was 3 miles).  After the race we played around Branson Landing and took a train ride on the Branson Scenic Railway.
Celebrating at the awards
They had free Chick-Fil-A, & I won coupons for 3 free meals & desserts
Kicking back & relaxing on our train ride
Monday's weather was not nearly as nice as Saturday's.  It was 78* with 95% humidity at race start, and based on how this weather has affected my performances this summer in training and racing, I knew I was not in for the greatest race, but everyone has to deal with it so I hoped to get out there and compete.  This race offers prize money to the top 3, and in both 2015 and 2016 I placed 3rd overall in it.  My parents surprised me and showed up at the starting line, so I was pleasantly distracted from thinking too much before the race!  My dad's video of the race start is here.
Surprise!  Best cheer crew ever (photo by my mom so she isn't in it though)!
I started with a 6:15 mile, according to plan.  This put me in 1st female position, which was a welcome surprise.  This course's elevation is challenging, with the first mile being nearly all uphill before rolling ups and downs the rest of the way, so I'd hoped to start around 6:15 and then drop to 6:00ish, but it's really one you have to pace by feel because your pace will vary throughout each mile.  Mile 2 was 6:09, and in sharp contrast to Saturday, the pace sure did not feel comfortable!  I also heard people cheering "Go Aubrey", and I could tell the second female was right on my heels.  This made me even more uncomfortable, because I hate leading in a close race and I didn't feel like I was going to be able to speed up if she challenged me.  I was also running completely alone, with the men in front of me too distant to be beneficial to me.  I kept telling myself that I needed to catch the one closest to me to be in the 37s (which turned out to be accurate), but that didn't seem to help; my body was more for trying to hang on than to speed ahead in this race (again, in contrast to Saturday).

It would be nice to run the first 1.5 miles in the opposite direction
My third mile was also 6:09, and I was becoming even more sure that I was not going to be able to speed up.  I thought about the irony that I was running almost exactly the same pace I'd done on Saturday, when I'd felt like I could run for 10 more miles at end of that 5K, but at that point on Monday I wasn't sure I was going to make it another 3 miles (my breathing was much more labored on Labor Day)!  I told myself to just lock into that pace and reminded myself that the gal behind me probably felt just as bad as I did.  I made it through miles 4-5 in 6:08 and 6:13, but it was tough!  I dumped water on myself at 3 aid stations, which seems pretty excessive for a 10K, but I just wanted something to cool me off (not sure it actually helped).  I even turned and looked at how much lead I had on turns around mile 4 and 5.5, because I was not sure I could hold off any advances by #2.  She was not far back at mile 4 (probably the only reason I did not run mile 4 in 6:30!), but at 5.5 I knew I had the win and was able to breathe a sigh of relief.  The final mile has a lot more downhill than up, and going into the race I thought I'd be able to hit a 5:45 on that mile (nope -- about 20 seconds slower!).  I was able to close at 5:23 for the final 0.22, mainly because I just wanted it to be over.

My dad's video of my finish is here, and one of the awards ceremony here.

Despite my disappointment about how hard this effort felt, I enjoyed the overall female win, with a time of 38:18.  The second female ended up running 38:53.  I ran 38:43 in this race last year, and I thought I would be able to run at least 10 seconds/mile faster than that this year, but I did not have that!  It's hot and humid every year at this race, but since we've had such nice morning temperatures recently, I felt like this year I wasn't as adapted for it.  I also seem to be more affected by this weather than I used to be for some reason - or at least I notice and complain about it more!  Last year I spent much of the race chasing down the female who ultimately placed 4th, while this year I was in no man's land the whole race.  Last year I had a fantastic day and this year was average.  Final excuse, last year I had a little rest for this race, and this year I was coming off a 62 mile week (I also ran 14 miles total on race day).  My coach said this would be more of a tempo than a race, but my tempo range is 5:57-6:10 so it was barely that!  I guess I am just trying to rationalize why I didn't run faster than I did, because I thought I could get into the 37s.  This is my second best 10K ever and best road 10K...just quite a far cry off my track PR of 37:09, and mainly a testament that I don't run many goal 10Ks.  I didn't expect to rival my track PR that I ran at 45* in a deep field, even though I think I'm in a little better shape right now; I would not tell anyone to go for a PR on this race's course.  My coach reminded me that we separate road and track PRs for a reason; I just think I have a much faster road 10K in me than this!

I was NOT encouraged by how uncomfortable my pace felt.  What a difference a different day makes, eh?!  6:10 pace did not feel maintainable, and I certainly could not have run a half at that pace on this day (I barely made it a 10K!)!  But I'm working on being thankful for the win and moving on! Admittedly it is shaking my confidence for my next races...and how can I even think about 26.2 at 6:17 pace when all I had for 6.2 was 6:10?!
My expression here is hilarious
I love an oversize check!
Dr. Bob is a local running legend & this was his birthday!
After the race, we went to Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, which is something I've wanted to do every year after this race but have usually been too tired to handle!  My friend Mary and her daughter Ro joined Jon, Albani, my parents, and me.
Crystal Bridges

My sweet husband with the girls

Best mom and grandma

Crystal Bridges cuteness
At the end of the day, I feel extremely grateful and blessed with this weekend for many reasons.  I treasure the family and running memories, and the step in the journey.  Nothing is always easy or perfect in this world, but it's exactly where God wants us to be, and we can give glory to Him for the comfortable and the uncomfortable!  Clearly 6:10 pace falls into both categories for me!
Professional photo (late addition)

Friday, September 1, 2017

August was a time for doing things I've never done before!

August 2017 in review!

Total mileage for the month:  301.6 -- I've never done a monthly mileage starting with a 3 before!  Well, unless perhaps at some point I was injured and it was 30, hah.  In comparison:  January - 261, February - 212, March - 203, April - 219, May - 249, June - 205, July - 275
  • July 31-August 6:  64.7
  • August 7-13:  62.4 (this was a cut-back week, and the mileage drop was tiny, partially due to a long run swap, but I had no scheduled workouts)
  • August 14-20:  66.4
  • August 21-27:  68.4
  • August 28-Sep. 3:  62.5
August = back to school
  • Nada...however, I will be starting September off with abandon, with races on September 2, 4, and 10, plus a goal half marathon on September 30.  A month of no racing when I'm 100% healthy may be something I've never done before, or at least not done often!
  • August 2:  3 x 2 mile tempos in 11:53 (5:57, 5:56), 11:47 (5:51, 5:56), 11:43 (5:52, 5:50), with 0.5 recoveries and 2 warm-up and 2.2 cool-down.  Ben ran this one with me, which was very helpful.  Although I felt somewhat fatigued going into this workout, I felt strong once I was running it and like I had 5+ more seconds/mile in me.  I finished feeling like I could run one more repeat at a similar pace, which is technically how you are supposed to finish speed workouts (the most training gains for the least effort and stress on the body, but easier said than done!).  After my 6 mile tempo and fast finish long run during the last week of July, my coach told me to stop trying to set workout PRs every hard day, and to stick to the paces he gives me; so I tried to do that better, because as much as I love pushing workouts, I don't want to over-train or peak too early.  My pace range was 5:55-6:05, so I was 50% within the prescribed range, but the course is fast so I say it evens out (it was a workout PR, and having every mile under 6:00 is something I'd never done before). When looking at my splits afterward, I noticed that both my half mile recoveries were at 7:42 pace; not sure how I managed that consistency, but it made me laugh!
  • August 12:  progression run within a long run, described below, and technically Jessi's workout and not mine
  • August 16:  8 mile tempo in 49:04 (6:07 average via 6:09, 6:07, 6:00, 6:05, 6:09, 6:08, 6:15, 6:08), with 2 warm-up and 2 cool-down.  This was not the tempo I was hoping for (that was a sub-6:00 average), and this was not a workout PR (I've done 6:06 average for this workout). But, based on how I felt during this run I was glad to complete it and to keep all of my miles except for mile 7 within my goal tempo pace range of 5:57-6:10. Going into the workout, I hoped to run splits something like 6:10, 6:05, 6:01, 6:00, 5:59, 5:58, 5:57, 5:55, 5:50, but when I passed mile 3 my goal changed to just keeping it under 6:10 the rest of the way.  8 miles is a long grind when you're not feeling it at mile 3 and are running alone; I wanted to stop at mile 4 and I really wanted to bag it at mile 6, but I reminded myself that I would never quit with 2 or 4 miles left in a half of full marathon, so this was good practice hanging on the best I could. This workout felt an awful lot like the Dam to Dam half marathon (and no one wants to re-live that!), so I was happy to just get it done.  Funny how the slower paces on bad days take so much more out of you than faster paces on fantastic days! What went wrong after 3 stellar tempo workouts (August 2 as described above, here, and here)?  It was 71* with a dew point of 70* (96% humidity), I was running solo after having company on the other 3 tempo workouts, I felt like my glycogen stores were down (possibly due to a second run the evening before), and simply not every day is my best.  Although I didn't meet my goal, I can't be completely unhappy with a solo 8 mile tempo that ended up being 1 sec/mile slower than my goal half marathon pace; I think I was just mainly disappointed that I had to fight for the goal pace the whole way.  My coach said he thought this was a fine tempo, and that I was probably feeling my mileage.  I averaged 6:24 pace on the 8 mile tempo I ran about a year ago, so my current bad day was still 16 sec/mile better than my 2016 really good day.  I'll get you next time, sub-6:00 8 mile tempo!
  • August  22:  Mile repeat workout fail...I don't really want to include this, but it felt like a lie to leave it out.  I ran one 1600 m. repeat on the track in 5:42, and then things went sharply downhill and I pulled the plug halfway through repeat 2 when I was at 3:04 through 800 m.  Cutting a workout isn't something I've never done before, but it's something that's pretty rare, fortunately...although I also cut my long run distance on August 5, which makes this month seem pretty pathetic in this regard.  A thunderstorm was rolling in when I stopped (it was also 76* with 100% humidity), so I blamed that, but I also did not have it mentally or physically this day; honestly, I think I was defeated in my own head before I even started.
  • August 24:  Mile repeat workout re-do - 3 x 1 mile repeats with 3:00 recoveries in 5:48, 5:44, & 5:46 (2.1 warm-up and 2.4 cool-down).  After my failure on the track two days prior, I didn't want to go back so I ran these on the road instead.  My goal was to keep them all in the 5:40s, so I was pleased with the outcome, even though my original goal time for them on the track was 5:35-5:40.  A 5:46 average is my second best mile repeat workout ever; my best was 5:40 back in May, but this time I was on tired legs so I didn't expect to rival my PR workout (the May workout was also 4 x 1 mile repeats, but I had longer recoveries of 0.5 mile jogs on that day, which I think my coach did on purpose to make them not exactly comparable!).  I was coming off of 25 miles in two days (13 with my failed workout and a double two days before, and 12 in a single one day before), and I ran alone, so I think this went as well as it could have -- especially considering that it's mentally very difficult to re-try a workout only two days after pulling the plug on it!  It was 56* and that sure helped!  It amazes me how much different 5:45 pace is than 5:55 pace.  5:55 pace is challenging for me but it feels maintainable during most workouts; when I drop 10-15 seconds I feel like I'm dying!  I have not done speed work since my last mile repeat workout on May 10, so it makes sense that I'd be more comfortable in my tempo range than below it, but oy!
  • August 29:  4 mile fartlek of 2' on/2' off (2 warm up and 2 cool down).  A no-pressure fartlek was just what I needed this week!  I ran this on a course with rolling hills -- the same course I ran it on last time (July 18 here).  I kept all of my pushes under 6:00 pace for the first time ever on a fartlek on this course, with them all between 5:42-5:54, and I was pumped about that.
  • Doubles on August 1, 3, 8, (not on August 10 due to the cut-back week), 15, 16, 22, 24, 29, and 31.
  • Strides on August 7, 10, and 31.
  • Bootcamp (full body strength workouts) on August 7, 14, 21, and 28 (plus enough additional strength work here and there to get to a minimum of 90 minutes total per week).
  • Yoga on August 9, 23, and 27; I know, I can't believe it either!  I'm dabbling in a calf release routine.
  • Favorite workout:  the 3 x 2 mile repeats on August 2 was hands down the smoothest workout of the month!  In theory I like the 8 mile tempo better, but it didn't go quite as well.
Long Runs:
  • August 5:  13 base pace miles (7:29).  Just checking off my bad long run of this training cycle with this one!  It was supposed to be 16 miles...  I'd spent Thursday and Friday in Kansas City for work, so I expected to be tired from that trip, but I felt decent enough until shortly after 10 miles when I was hit with stomach pain!  I made a couple of pit stops, but it kept getting worse instead of better, and my pace kept getting slower.  At 12.9, I started dry heaving.  I made it to 12.99 before throwing up on the side of the road.  I ran the 0.01 to 13 (obsess much?) and then walked it in; I was only 0.6 from my car at that point, fortunately.  I was upset about this, and it has never happened to me before (another thing I've never done before, hah).  I'm blaming eating out for all meals for two days and moving on...  I got to bump up my mileage on my August 12 long run -- I kind of flip-flopped this run and the next week's scheduled cut-back long run -- so nothing was lost except for my stomach contents!
  • August 12:  16.1 miles (7:02) with 7 base pace, 7 progression, 2 base pace.  This was scheduled as 15 base pace, but Jessi had a progression run that was 8 miles total, with the first mile at easy pace and then progressing down to around 6:20 pace.  I love progression runs so I told her I'd do it with her within our long run if she wanted, by doing 7 easy first instead of just the 1.  Our first 7 were between 7:18-7:35 (although they were kind of a progression too, just not as pronounced), then the progression miles were 7:10, 7:04, 6:55, 6:42, 6:33, 6:14, 6:04.  This was a bit faster than planned, but it felt good to cruise in.  The last half mile was up an incline, so I am calling it sub-6:00 effort (the run as a whole had 564 feet gain).  It was also a fast finish mile PR on that route, bettering my previous long run fast finish final mile of 6:09 on it.  I then went 2 more miles for 16, to avenge the previous week's crappy long run and get in a 16! 
  • August 19:  18 base pace miles (6:57).  Running an 18 miler made me feel like I was officially marathon training!  This was a base pace run, which we started with a 7:40 mile and finished with a 6:30 mile.  Zach ran this with me and gave me the push I needed to average sub-7:00.  My go-to easy pace isn't quite that fast, but it is a relaxed pace when I am running with someone else doing that pace (my ideal long run pace is 6:57-7:07 after I get warmed up, per my coach -- marathon goal pace +40-50 seconds).  Missy ran the first 10 with us, and Rebecca the first 6.  I ran this fasted, having just water and 2 nuun tablets - electrolytes and a mere 20 calories - before and during, because doing my relaxed long runs like that up to 20 miles pays off for me on marathon day (plus I don't want to get up any earlier than I already am at 4:45 a.m.!), but I was dreaming of breakfast buffets in the final couple of miles!  It was 69* and 98% humidity, so I can't wait to see how my long runs feel when it's 45*!  We ran one of our normal courses, with 537 ft elevation gain.  Afterward, it struck me that I could have run a sub-3:00 marathon in training if I'd have kept going on this run, if I'd have done 8 more miles at 6:35-6:40 pace, which I believe I could have (our final 4 were 6:39, 6:40, 6:36, 6:30, talking the whole time).  The gravity of this was not lost on me, because last year at this time breaking 3:00 was my huge goal!  God is amazing.
  • August 26:  17.2 base pace miles (7:01).  I felt really good about this run because it was truly relaxed the whole way, and most of my miles were 6:55-7:05 (the first 2 were slower, the last 2 a little faster but not as fast as the previous week).  Zach ran with me again, and it went by very quickly!  I ran this fasted like the previous week, and on a similar course.
  • August 30:  15 base pace miles (6:57).  I traded my midweek short long run for a longer one this week due to impending weekend races, and I was glad I did because I felt like a million bucks on this run!  I also think this arrangement was better for both my long run and race, because trying to get in 15 miles when racing a 10K means a long run that is a bit split up and a slower pace on the miles run before and after the race -- not to mention an impending 7 mile cool down hanging over my head during the race!  I started at 5:04 a.m., ran 4 miles solo, picked up Ben just after 5:30 a.m. (I told him beforehand that he had to jump in when I came by, because I wasn't stopping, hah), and we did an 11 mile route together.  After I got warmed up, it felt great to knock of 6:5X miles that felt like they were 7:15 pace.  It was also only because of this long run swap that I made it over 300 miles in August, because I was originally scheduled for 11 miles on this day and 15 on Labor Day!
  • Favorite long run:  All of them except for August 5!
  • I also had midweek runs that were short long runs every Wednesday (11-12 milers); these went well with average paces of 6:59-7:03 on the non-workout ones.
  • I was excited to have some base pace runs dip below 7:00 pace while keeping it easy, which is always exciting! Why is 6:59 vs. 7:01 such a big deal (same with 5:59 vs. 6:01)?  Really the difference between those paces could just be Garmin error!
  • This was another month of NO days off running -- the second month for that, as my last day off was June 19!  I haven't noticed any difference with adding a 7th day of running, probably because two of my days are short (Mondays and Fridays).
  • When I was thinking about my August mileage, I thought about the song lyric "Count your blessings, name them one by one," and how in one month of running I had 301 miles of blessings.  I am so thankful for all of the things running brings to my life:  wonderful friends to train with, a passion for competitive goals, a hobby with a purpose, opportunities to travel, endorphins, and health benefits.  I pray I am using it as I am supposed to!  I count every run as a blessing, for certain.
Non-running life events:
  • My little started 4th grade on August 15!  
  • I started teaching as an per course faculty member for the 6th semester on August 22.
  • Our family expanded with the addition of a fish tank, an early birthday present Albani talked Jon into.  We already had our first death, with a frog named Croaker not making it (Croaker was the first to croak, aww!).
  • We had 96% coverage in the eclipse, which was simultaneously amazing to watch through eclipse glasses and unimpressive because it did not get dark, at all.
  • This was also another month of garden goodness in the Ibbetson household!
First day of 4th grade

Posing with Papa

Waiting at the bus stop

I finally got a Bear Pass

We went to Talking Rocks this month

Excitement at PetSmart
The fish aren't in the tank yet here

Bandit enjoyed the eclipse, maybe
Eggplant, pre-roasting
Zucchini and another type of squash

Sweet mini-bell peppers

Eggplant & tomatoes

Saturday, August 26, 2017

CIM Training Journal #2

This continues CIM Training Journal #1.

This training block is a step in my journey, regardless of the outcome, and I am enjoying it.  I have big goals for CIM, but it's not the be-all end-all of my running.  Whether or not I hit my goal, I will still love running, and this build will help me with future builds.  God-willing, there will be future builds!

A day in the life (Meet the Teacher Night)
August 8, 2017
I had a tired break-down last night where life, including training, just got overwhelming. Sleep has improved my perspective on things (as it always does), but I sometimes feel like I am doing so many things that I'm not doing my best at any of them.  These include working, Mom-ing, training, maintaining a home, weekend activities/memory making, etc.

After a power-packed weekend during which we hosted 5 family members (including 3 children age 5 and under), I awoke sleep deprived on Monday morning to run and strength train.  Then I worked my usual 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. workday, and while I was working my husband took my daughter to buy school supplies since we hadn't had time to go over the weekend.  They also bought her an early birthday present of fish tank and accessories.  I felt like I missed out by not being a part of any of this (I was also mad that he didn't ask me about the fish tank first), and then after I spent an hour that evening catching up on cleaning and laundry, I started noticing that my house's baseboards needed cleaning, the cabinets needed wiped down, the blinds were dusty, etc.  I waited until too late to eat dinner and got hangry, then stayed up until 10:00 p.m. (too late for my 4:50 a.m. alarm).  I was also coming off a sub-par training weekend, and it all suddenly just became too much.  I felt like I had too many balls in the area and I was dropping them all.  I don't feel like I'm doing a lot of things I can "give up" (the irony of writing that on a blog; I could give up blogging obviously!), but for that evening I felt like pursuing a 2:45:00 was just too much.

Today I'm feeling back on track, and I had two solid runs; both were just base runs, but my 8.1 miles this morning was 6:58 average pace while keeping it easy, and I am always pumped when my relaxed pace dips under 7:00 (some days it is closer to 8:00; I really try to go by feel).  Strava also informed me that the route I did on my second run (4.2 miles) on was "trending faster", so I looked to find out that run was the fastest I'd ever run that route, which I've only ever run on second easy runs.

So, another hill and valley.  I once read a quote about running hills that made me laugh:  A hill is like a break-up; eventually, you'll get over it.  Marathon training is not the top priority in my life, but it is my top leisure pursuit and undeniably a major personal goal.  I can't do it all, in training or in life, so I guess I will just wait until they add more hours to the day and I'll be able to come closer.

August 10, 2017
The joy is in the journey, and I am very much enJOYing my miles with friends this week!

August 14, 2017
Last week was my 6th consecutive week of mileage in the 60s!  I looked back at my training logs from my Phoenix build, and I had 5 weeks total that were in the 60s, so I have already surpassed that.  Provided I can stay healthy, this is very confidence-boosting since I am still 16 weeks out from CIM. This mileage is the highest I've done, although I often have whomp whomp moments when I realize that others who are marathon training are running triple digit mileage!  But don't let comparison steal your joy, right?!

August 16, 2017
Today's tempo was a grind, and felt far too much like the Dam to Dam half marathon for my liking!  I probably should have adjusted my expectations for the workout based on the weather (71*, dew point of 70*/96% humidity, breezy, storms in the area), but I didn't.  I wanted 8 miles at 5:59 or better, but I got 8 miles at 6:07 via 6:09, 6:07, 6:00, 6:05, 6:09, 6:08, 6:15, 6:08 (also no pretty negative split!), and I had to fight for it the whole way.  Although it wasn't what I wanted, I was glad to just hang on and to keep all of the miles except for mile 7 within my goal pace range of 5:57-6:10; it was good practice gutting it out when I wasn't feeling it.  I was ready to stop the workout at the beginning of mile 4, and at mile 6 I was really done, but I'm not going to quit if I go through rough patches or can't maintain goal pace during races, so this was practice at doing the best I could with what my body had to give today.

I also reminisced on an 8 mile tempo I did in 2010; I remember it well because I could not even hit my goal marathon pace for really any of the miles that day, but a month later I ran a marathon faster than that goal pace. Compared to that workout, this 8 mile tempo at 1 second/mile slower than goal half pace was not that bad (although mile 7 was bordering on marathon goal pace!)!  I think my confidence is in a much better place now than it was a couple of months ago, because in spite of this off day I still feel good about my overall trajectory.  For awhile, I was fragile enough that one sub-par performance made me feel like I would never run anything good again!  I know I have more to give on a long tempo, and when I run my 10 mile tempo I'll get the chance to show it!  I am also aiming to appreciate what I got out of this one, which was practice hanging on when not feeling good; lucky for me I hadn't practiced this in my previous 3 tempo workouts.

August 19, 2017
Well, this week contained the previously described non-stellar tempo, then a fantastic long run.  I had an 18 miler, which was my first long long run of this training cycle -- I consider 13-16 milers long runs, but not long long runs.  It was a base pace long run across the board (no workout or fast finish), with the goal of having most of my miles between 6:57-7:07, or goal marathon pace + 40-50 seconds. My coach told me to think in terms of mode vs. mean on pace, because my first 1-3 miles will probably be slower as I warm up, but then I should try to keep the others miles in that pace range. My go-to easy pace isn't quite that fast (at least not in 70* and 98% humidity), but I knew I could run it, particularly running with Zach, who is faster than me.

I ended up with 18 at 6:57 average (even though I was instructed not to worry about the mean, hah)! My splits were:  7:39, 7:27, 7:10, 7:09, 7:15, 7:07, 6:59, 6:57, 6:53, 6:57, 6:55, 6:49, 6:51, 6:48, 6:39, 6:40, 6:36, 6:30.  Although I could feel that the final 4 miles were faster, they were still conversational, and being able to carry on a conversation at 6:30-6:40 is a relatively new thing for me.

I felt very strong, and afterward I realized that if I'd have run 8.2 more miles at an average of 6:38 pace, I could have run a sub-3:00 marathon in training.  I got really excited about this, because I believe if I'd fueled I could have done that (this was an intentionally fasted run; I did not fuel before or during aside from nuun in water, which is hydration/electrolytes but not calories). Last summer, I was training for a sub-3:00 marathon as my goal race; currently, I could do it in training on a rolling course.  On the other hand, since I'm currently training to run 15 minutes faster, I suppose a sub-3:00 should be fairly easy.  Whomp whomp.  #neversatisfiedsyndrome  Nonetheless, this made me very happy.  I also had a 66 mile week (week 7 in the 60s)!

I'm looking forward to testing my fitness in a couple of 10Ks in early September (one will be run un-rested, but the other will be slightly tapered).

August 26, 2017
I had another solid long run today! 17.2 miles at 7:01 average per my watch/6:59 average per Zach's (so clearly I am going with his).  My splits were a little more even than last week; after 2 slow beginning miles almost all were 6:50-7:06 (the final mile was 6:47, so we did not fast finish, which is good since I was not supposed to).  It was really confidence-boosting because it felt relaxed the whole way and it flew by.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I failed at my track workout on Tuesday - basically I ran one good 1600 m. (5:42) and then quit.  I got the chance to re-do it on Thursday, but on tired legs (13 miles with a double on Tuesday, 12 miles in a single on Wednesday).  I couldn't hit my goal range of 5:35-5:40 (I did 5:48, 5:44, 5:46 for full miles on the road because I couldn't mentally get myself back to the track either; 3:00 jog recoveries between), but considered it a success that I got back out there and tried.

I need to write a complete post about this, probably titled "If you don't believe you can do something, you're probably right," because I really mentally defeated myself over this workout, twice.  A friend told me that it's only failure if you don't learn anything, and I suppose what I learned is that I am not ready for a sub-18 5K - at least not un-rested!  I could not have run 3 miles straight at the pace I did these repeats.  Otherwise the day confirmed what I already knew:  I'm stronger at tempos and long runs than at speed work and 5:4X pace is HARD!  5:55 is fairly sustainable for me, but when I have to drop 10 seconds off of that I am DYING.  Whew.  I tried not to let this workout get me down too much, and in the end I don't need to be able to run good mile repeats to run a good marathon, but it worries me for my upcoming 10Ks.  Luckily I am not trying to run 5:45 pace in them (I need 5:57 to break 37:00 and PR), but it is hard to believe in myself when I can't hit my workout times.

On to the next - still trying to dream big, even on days my legs are sloshed!
This was how I felt about the mile repeat workout

Friday, August 18, 2017

Why does marathon pace feel like so much work during training?

When I’ve targeted the correct marathon pace for my fitness level and race day conditions (which I have in all of my recent marathons), on race day that pace feels smooth and maintainable.  I wouldn’t say it feels easy, but it feels very sustainable.  I get into a groove and feel like I could keep going and going at that pace.  It doesn’t feel like work or pushing until the final few miles.

In training, I don’t run a lot at marathon pace.  Most of my runs are slower; I never drop a marathon pace mile, or even close, during an easy run.  My tempo runs and speed workouts are faster.  When I do marathon pace running during long runs, it’s typically either fast finish miles or interspersed pick-ups; I have never run an entire long run at marathon goal pace.  I’ve done a 20-mile workout, “The Hardest Workout Ever”, that contained some marathon pace running and some faster running, along with 5 miles of easy running for warm-up/recoveries/cool-down; when I ran that workout before BMO Mesa-Phoenix, my average pace for the 15 effort miles in combination was 6:27, and I went on to average 6:27 pace in the marathon.  That workout did not inspire confidence that I could run 26.2 at 6:27 pace -- 15 miles at that pace with recoveries < 26.2 miles straight at that pace -- but it did make me feel good about trying for 6:3X pace.

Basically, whenever I run marathon goal pace in training, one question comes to mind and that is:  How can I ever sustain this for 26.2 miles?!  I felt that way about 7:15 pace when I was trying for a 3:10, about 7:00-7:05 pace when I was aiming for 3:03-3:05, about 6:51 pace when I was trying to break 3:00, and about 6:33 pace when I was trying to run in the low 2:50s -- and certainly now about 6:17 pace.  But then race day comes, and the magical combination of peaking and tapering and a goal race happens, and I can do it, or sometimes a bit faster.  Because this has happened to me before, I trust the process, but it still flummoxes me.  I am pushing anytime I run marathon pace in training; it does not feel sustainable, it feels like work.

It seems that many other people drop marathon pace miles all of the time, and thanks to Strava and Instagram I guess I am more aware of this.  It seems like that pace is easy for them.  Some people seem to do all their long runs at marathon pace.  Obviously, there are a lot of factors at play, including overall volume and workouts, and the percentage of VO2 max that we are running our marathons at, but it blows my mind!  I never come anywhere close to 6:17-6:27 on easy days; a fast easy day for me is when I’m running 6:55s (and that is the exception, not the norm).  I know that I am doing the training that is best for me, but sometimes I start questioning why my easy pace isn’t faster!  Why is the pace I can run for 26.2 so much work?!
Preparing to work during my Phoenix build

Saturday, August 5, 2017

CIM Training Journal #1

Embarking on what's going to be a lengthy build to the California International Marathon on December 3, I decided to keep a little journal about my thoughts.  I keep a detailed running log with my precise mileage, workouts, paces, and little relevant notes about the weather, my health, etc., so I'm surprised I've never done anything like this; my monthly or weekly training recaps on here are the closest I've come.  So much about accomplishing big goals is believing you can, so this is me working on that component.  I'm not exactly sure how often I'll publish these or what direction they will take, but here goes nothing!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017
This felt like my first official day of the training block since June 19 was a non-running day (although I did bootcamp, as typical for Mondays).  I ran an easy 8.6 miles in the morning and 3.4 miles in the evening.  I didn't feel too chipper starting out in the morning, as I was suffering from a "vacation hangover" and fighting off catching my husband's post-vacation sickness, but every mile got better.  About halfway through the run, which was solo, the song One way or another came on the radio, and I realized what a perfect theme song it was for my 2:45 pursuit.  "One way or another, I'm going to get you, 2:45!"  It may not be at CIM, but I will try and try again -- either until I get it or until the qualifying window closes in January 2020.  If this goal is not accomplished, it is not going to be for lack of trying; it will be because it is outside of my ability and/or I get injured trying.

I'm not feeling very fit or fast right now, and the reasons for this are:  1)  summer is here, 2) I recently ran 6+ minutes slower than what I thought I was in shape for at Dam to Dam, 3)  I haven't done any real workouts since May 30, 4)  I just had 2 weeks of relatively low mileage (e.g., a recovery phase).  I'm working on accepting that I simply won't run as fast in hot and humid weather, but it's sure not as fun to go this direction as it is when paces start dropping in the cool weather of the fall! I feel like I am so grossly far off of the fitness I'll need to run a 2:45, and I'm feeling like I'll never get there -- but I'm trying to focus on doing what's scheduled day to day and trusting that the results will come in time...easier said than done.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
It's a lot easier to perceive a 2:45 marathon in the realm of possibility soon after running a 2:49:20 than 4 months later at the beginning of summer...

Sunday, June 25, 2017
I read a quote from Arthur Lydiard about big training cycles, and it was something I needed to hear! "You will be running in last when others are running in first.  But, when it matters most, you will be passing them."  You can't be in PR form all of the time; peaking at one time usually comes at the expense of something else.  You have to pick the right time to be 100% and accept that the times when you're not are part of the process.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
It's impossible not to play the comparison game, so I am trying to play it in ways that are optimistic; comparing where my fitness is at now to where it was in June 2016.  I may not be PR-sharp right now, but I'm way ahead of where I was in June 2016 and I'm farther from my goal marathon (then I was under 4 months out from an early October race, and now I'm over 5 months out from a December 3 race).

Monday, July 3, 2017
Training to break 3:00 last summer was less stressful, and I think that's because I'd come close (3:01:45) in a race that I classified as so-so.  For a 2:45:00, I need to find 4:20 (260 seconds) more than I had in a race that was pretty much perfect (Phoenix and CIM courses are supposed to be similarly fast, which is a very good thing).  I'm doubting myself every day and kind of wondering if I shouldn't try.  It feels like too much pressure and like I'm not good enough.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The 2:45:00 B standard is official and I ran a 5:53 average on my 4 mile tempo!  It was a very promising running day!  It sounds crazy or pathetic, but I almost cried when I got the news that the standard was set at 2:45:00 officially and not any faster -- a blessing for sure!  I've had 2:45 in my mind for so long, even a standard of 2:44:00 would have shaken me, and something like 2:42:00 probably would have stopped my dream in its tracks.

Monday, July 24, 2017
Balancing being happy about improvements with striving for more is hard!  I ran the Access to Health 5K 15 seconds/mile faster than in 2016 (5:57 vs 6:12), which I was stoked about.  However, I also think I *ought* to be able to run a lot faster than that for 3.1 miles if I want any chance at running 6:05 pace for 13.1 and 6:17 pace for 26.2.  Oy!  But then I felt super strong on my long run the day after the 5K, running "out" around 7:20 pace and coming back around 7:00 pace, and feeling effortless the whole run.  I told my coach that I always feel much stronger on long runs than on 5Ks, which I suppose is a really good thing!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
My 6 mile tempo today has me feeling like building up to running 13.1 at 6:00 pace is a real possibility!  Still a terrifying possibility, but if your pace goals don't scare you, they aren't fast enough, right?

Friday, July 28, 2017
I set a fast finish long run final mile PR today with a 6:05 at the end of a 15 miler.  Now, to replicate that at the end of a 24 miler and at the end of CIM!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
My coach told me NOT to try to PR every workout after I sent him last week's runs, which included a workout PR 6 mile tempo and a PR fast finish mile in my long run (both mentioned above as big confidence-boosters for me).  My first thought was, "But I should be running workout PRs since I am trying to run a marathon faster than I ever have before (not to mention a 5K, 10K, and half marathon along the way!)", but I have since acquiesced that I will stick precisely to the pace ranges he gives me and not try to dip under.  We all know that I am a pro at over-training, and he doesn't want me to do too much too hard too early.  I also have some fear about peaking too early, so I will listen to his expertise.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
I came close to staying exactly in my pace range on my 3 x 2 mile split tempo workout today with tempos in 11:53 (5:57, 5:56), 11:47 (5:51, 5:56), and 11:43 (5:52, 5:50), only a tiny bit under my range on 3 of the mile splits.  I finished feeling like I had another repeat in the tank.  That is technically how you are supposed to finish workouts, to maximize training gains while minimizing stress on the body, but it's easier said than done because I love pushing.  This was still a workout PR, within following coach's orders, so yay!

I just read back over the beginning of this log, and what a difference 6 weeks can make!  I'm now feeling much better about my fitness and progress towards my goal than I was on June 20, and I'm also feeling fully adapted to sticky summer weather conditions (although I've had some pretty nice weather for my past couple of workouts).  I know I'll wax and wane, have bad workouts when I don't feel fit, and have many days where a marathon PR seems impossible, but I'm happy with my progress and also believe the recovery phase in June did me good.  Regardless of the outcome, I believe that God places dreams in our hearts and goals in our heads for a reason, so however CIM goes, there is a reason for this build.

Saturday, August 4, 2017
Today I got my "bad" long run of the training cycle out of the way, cutting a 16 miler at 13 due to serious stomach issues (the first time in my life I have ever thrown up during a run).  Since this was a novel occurrence, I've chalked it up to something I ate while traveling for work on Thursday and Friday disagreeing with me, and am moving on.  I've actually surprised myself with how non-upset I've been about it, but since it wasn't a key long run or workout, it was good timing to have a bad day.  I was supposed to have a shorter long run next week, but now I'll call this my cut-back one and do the 16 next week, provided my coach is good with that.  I was torn between going back out this afternoon for the extra 3 miles or adding it on tomorrow in order to keep my weekly planned mileage, and I decided on the latter since I only had 6 scheduled for tomorrow (now 9).  I'm feeling depleted but mostly okay now, I think.

I've decided this one is long enough that it's time to hit "publish"!  Until part 2...