Friday, April 20, 2018

Rock the Parkway Half Marathon: You can't always get what you want; but you get what you need!

The short:
I managed a course best, a 3rd overall female placing, and a new single age Missouri state road racing record at the Rock the Parkway half marathon with a 1:22:42 finish (1:22:43 gun time).  I also accomplished a goal I've had for about a year, which was to finish a half marathon with a sub-6:00 mile, when I ran my final mile in 5:52!  While the time isn't near my PR of 1:20:50, considering the course (508 ft of elevation gain), the weather (insane headwind for the final 5.5 miles), my lack of taper (including a 20 mile workout 6 days prior to this race), and all of the workouts I've bombed this year, I was elated with my performance in this race.  I also ran the whole way with smile on my face and thankfulness in my heart!  Based on this race, the Easter Sun Run "10K", and that 20 mile workout, I'm starting to re-gain some confidence and also a kernel of hope that, maybe, just maybe, I will be able to pull off a strong marathon in 9 weeks.


The long:
It's never easy to race a half in the heat of marathon training, and mustering the confidence to do so becomes even more difficult when the course is hilly and the weather windy!  I never expected to run a PR at Rock the Parkway; even in ideal weather conditions it would be unrealistic to think that I could improve my time from a nearly pancake flat course on the hills of Kansas City, and the 20+ mph winds assured me that they'd steal a lot of precious time from my final 5.5 miles.  I went into the race focused on placing as high as I could (hopefully in the prize money), and disregarding my watch.  There was a little part of me that kept thinking that maybe I could beat my Rock the Parkway 2017 time, though, since 2017 was similarly stupid windy.
Not flat
In the elite starting area, I knew one woman who would be miles ahead of me (she is a pro who runs for the Army and was 6th in the USATF National Cross-Country Championships), and she was with another woman who looked just as fast but was unknown to me.  After the gun, those two were out fast, along with a blond ponytail.  I settled into pace with three ladies I knew, Janell, Michelle, and Liz.  I follow Janell's training on Strava and hypothesized that her fitness and mine were very similar, I keep in touch with Michelle and did a training run with her on March 24 in Kansas, and I'd raced Liz in the Big 12 12K.  In my head I called us "the chase pack."  We got out nice and relaxed and chatting.  My split for mile 1 was the only time I looked at my watch during the race, because I felt like we went out very conservatively (we did, it was 6:34)...then I embraced effort-based/competition-based racing!

Janell started to speed up a bit as we eased into the race, and I went along with her, leaving Michelle and Liz.  A man around us asked Janell what she was aiming for pace-wise, and she said 6:15ish.  I told her I had about the same pace in mind and asked if she wanted to work together.  She did, and we fell into running side by side, and picked off the unknown fast looking girl around mile 3 and the blond ponytail around mile 4.  That put us in 2nd and 3rd female positions.
This pretty much summarizes the entire race - all smiles!
We chatted about training, racing, coaches, work, mutual running friends, etc. and the miles flew by.  The pace felt brisk but relaxed.  I felt cautiously confident, but racing a half on marathon training legs is always a little risky; you might go from good to the wheels coming off from cumulative fatigue in the blink of an eye.  Running with Janell was very enjoyable, we talked and encouraged each other, and countless people cheered "go girls!"/"2nd and 3rd women"/"you're beating most of the men", etc.  As we passed the 10K mark and continued onto a loop around a park, I reveled in how much better I felt than at that point in the race last year.  I also was very thankful to work together with Janell after a bad experience last year in this race where a female competitor sat on me and would not work with me or go around me until mile 12.  I knew that in the end, we would each be gunning for 2nd place, but I also knew that by working together we were going to both come away with faster times, and I'd take a faster time over moving up a place any day.
When you run a race with someone 6 inches
shorter than you & probably 40 lbs lighter,
you look like a giant in all of your photos!
As the course turned around mile 7.5, we were hit by the brutal southwest wind.  To add insult to injury, that point on the course has a hill that I've always struggled with in this race (in addition to 2017, I also ran it in 2015, pre-blog).  Janell was pushing the pace so we could catch up to some men to potentially draft off of, and I was hanging onto her but starting to doubt myself.  We flew by the men so they were of no drafting help.  For the next several miles, we battled the wind mostly side by side.  At some points she'd pull a little ahead of me, and at others I'd pull a little away from her.  I think we both went through tough patches at different points, and kept pulling each other through.  We continued to pick off man after the man as we ran 5.5 miles into the brutal wind.  No one passed us the entire race!
Into the wind during the final 5K
I knew that Janell has more speed than I do, so the competitor in me knew if I wanted to grab 2nd overall I was going to have to go sooner rather than later.  During the last 5K our talking had slowed down as we fought the headwind, and I vacillated between trying to surge ahead and not wanting to disrupt working with her.  The wind made it difficult to make a move, and although I'd pull a little ahead at times, she was always right with me.  At the mile 12 sign, I knew I had to go then to have a chance.  I started pushing with all I had, telling myself "just 1 mile", willing my legs to turn over.  I pulled away somewhat, but with about a half mile left she really turned it on, pulling me back in and passing me, and I couldn't hang onto her.  She pulled me along through a 5:52 final mile and a 5:18 pace final 0.1, something I'd have never done on my own (Strava said the GAP for the final mile was 6:00 exactly with the downhill, but I'm still counting the sub-6:00!).  She grabbed 2nd overall (and a new PR!), I claimed 3rd, and we hugged in the finish chute.  Runners really are the greatest people.  I then watched Michelle come in in 4th overall position!

Double chin finishing shots are my specialty
As I was changing my shoes for my cool down in a parking lot, two ladies walked by laughing (albeit painfully, as it had started to lightly rain at 41 degrees with 20+ mph winds!) about how they couldn't find their car.  One was in running gear and looked cold, so I offered her my space blanket.  She accepted and exclaimed, "Runners are the greatest people!"
Michelle and I after our cool down together
Official results can be found here.  My state record for age 37 can be seen here.  I'd completely forgotten that the state record was attainable for me (it was 1:23:11); I'd unsuccessfully tried for it when I first turned 37 at the Bass Pro Half Marathon, which ended up not being a certified course that year anyway.  I was running with Jessi the day after the race, also the day after after she set the Missouri State University school record in the 3000 m (9:41 - so fast!!), and she humbly said it was a weaker record because it was a less common distance.  I said, "That's why I broke the 12K state record when I ran only about the same pace as the half marathon state record..." Then I realized, "I broke the half marathon state record yesterday!"  I am glad I didn't remember it beforehand, because I probably would have put pressure on myself to get it, and that mindset rarely goes well for me.
Just keeping up my pre-race tradition when I go
to an event solo
God knew I needed someone to run this race with to keep me out of my own head, and he gave me that.  While I've spent the past 4 months desperate to run as well as I was running leading up to CIM, I've also learned to accept that I'm not going to nail every run, I'm not going to PR every workout and race, and I'm not guaranteed another solid marathon (or even another marathon finish) this season, or ever.  But, I am getting what I need, whether I understand it or not.  I'll continue to do my best and let Him handle the rest!
Now to run 1 second/mile faster for twice the distance...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Believe you can and you're halfway there

I've heard the claim that distance running is 90% mental and 10% physical, and although I'm not sure those percentages are exactly accurate, I think we can all agree that the mental aspect of training and racing is huge.  I have yet to figure out how to strike a balance between being realistic but not pessimistic, and being confident but not over-confident.  Running beyond your capabilities early in a race or workout is nearly always a recipe for disaster, especially with long races.  No one ever says, "I'm sure glad I believed I could go out 45 seconds faster per mile than I'd trained for in that marathon!"  But, on the other hand, believing you can accomplish something is typically a prerequisite for actually accomplishing it.

My running in 2018 has had it's ups and downs, but overall it simply has not been as fast, strong, or consistent as I ran during my CIM build up.  While I believe that the mileage I'm putting in is going to help me pursue my big marathon goals, I also can't force paces that currently aren't there.  I had a couple of good races in March, and also some workouts that have reassured me that I haven't lost everything, but those have been the exception rather than the norm.  Realistically I know that it's unlikely I will match or better my marathon PR this build, and I'm okay with that.  I enjoy the training process, and even if I knew I'd never run faster than 2:47:14 I would still keep racing marathons.

I had a big key somewhat scary marathon workout over the weekend.  Workouts like this are extremely important because they are few and far between.  If you nail them they are very confidence-boosting; if you fail them you may have to re-evaluate your marathon goals.  I thrive on these long workouts and I was so excited for this one that I didn't consider that everything was stacked against me until after the workout.

The workout was 3.5 mile warm up, 2 x 4 mile tempo + 2 x 2 mile tempo with 0.5 recovery jogs between the tempos, 3.5 miles cool down.  That's 12 miles of work within a 20 mile long run (the 20.5 was me over-achieving on the warm up that only had to be 3 miles).  My tempo range was broad:  6:03-6:26, aiming to start at the top of the range and work down.  When I saw the workout on paper, I knew I could do it.  I kept coming back to one of my favorite verses before and during the workout, "God is within her; she will not fall." - Psalms 46:5

In retrospect, really nothing I've run lately indicated that I could actually do it, so I have no real explanation for why I believed I could (especially because I've looked at most other workouts on my schedule lately and known that I couldn't do them).  In all of my past training cycles, before running a workout like this I've run an easy 20 miler, but due to how my half marathon races lined up this season, I hadn't done that this time around.  In fact, the farthest I'd run was 17 miles, and it wasn't even a good 17 (I was supposed to fast finish it but it was all I could do to hold onto 7:15 pace through the end)!  This workout also came earlier in the cycle than it typically does, being 10 weeks before the marathon compared to it usually being about 6 weeks out.  I've failed more workouts than I've hit this season.  Really the only indication that I might be able to pull this off was my solid 6.5 mile 10K the previous weekend.

Here is what I did for the split tempos and recoveries (I split off the warm up and cool down miles):

All of my splits were in my target range, starting at 6:25 and finishing at 6:04.  As with every split tempo I ever run, the hardest miles were the ones after the recovery jogs (the split is really more for your mind than your body, and my body sure doesn't like slowing down then re-starting, but it does help me run the final mile of each portion a little faster).  I averaged 6:18 pace for the tempo miles, and even with having 1.5 miles of recovery jogging in there I came through the half marathon point at 1:24:50ish.  This was significant to me since I have only run under 1:25 in 5 halves - one time each at 1:20, 1:21, 1:22, 1:23, and 1:24 (although I have done it 4 other times in one or both halves of a full marathon).

I've run similar workouts in all of my recent marathon builds, and typically my average on the work portions is quite close to what I end up running in the marathon.  Before CIM, I averaged 6:20 on the work miles (then went on to average 6:22 in the race); before Phoenix I averaged 6:27 on the work miles (then went on to average 6:27 in the race); before Prairie Fire/Bass Pro I averaged something like 6:45 for the work miles (then averaged 6:42-6:47 in those races).  In all fairness, this time around the weather was the best I've ever had for this workout at about 30* and only 6 mph wind, so that sure didn't hurt.

I don't think this one workout means I'm out of the woods as far as running hot and cold this build, but it sure made me happy!  I've been desperately searching for a pattern of what results in good runs vs. bad runs for me this year, and I can't really find any reliable one.  I do know, though, that believing I could run this workout, as unrealistic as that probably was, didn't hurt.  When Grandma's gets closer, I'll know realistically what pace to target, whether it's 6:17 or 6:40, and I will believe I can run it.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Embracing effort-based racing: Easter Sun Run "10K"

Easter Sun Run Races

Post-race pose
As with the Big 12 12K, I changed my mind about running this race about 500 times, due to lacking consistency in training and confidence.  I went into the race un-rested and expecting very little out of myself, but my coach suggested using it as tempo effort and I figured I would aim to enjoy myself and try for an overall placing.  I decided before the race that I would run by effort and with my competition, without looking at my splits, because I imagined myself getting discouraged when my times weren't what I'd like to see, which has happened in several recent workouts.
My mom said my ponytail was on fire on the starting line
I went out conservatively, and quickly found myself in second place female, behind last year's female winner who I knew would again dominate.  Being in second early surprised me, especially because I felt like I went out pretty slow.  Around a half mile into the race, Curt, a man I've raced and trained with when in Wichita before, pulled up beside me.  I could feel my effort level increase as I fell into running with him, but it still felt sustainable and I was able to talk, so I decided to pace with him.
Trying to hang on to Curt
When the course had an out-and-back section around mile 4, I saw that I had almost as much ground on the third woman as the first woman had on me (e.g., a lot!), so baring disaster there was not going to be any female place changing.  Curt and I passed a couple of men, moving him into 5th male, which I'd been encouraging him to go get since the top 5 places received prize money.  He then left me in the dust in the final mile, but I maintained my effort and felt good about giving what I had.  When I neared the end and saw the finishing clock still in the 38s, I was surprised, because the course measures closer to 6.5 miles (some 10K, right?!), and last year I barely broke 40:00 on it.  My official gun time was 39:11 (official results are here), but I would have run in the mid-37s on an accurate course, rivaling my 10K road PR of 37:30.  I was also happy to take second overall female, even though it was a very distant second (first ran around 5:30 pace).
Great scenery near the finishing chute
This makes me 2 for 2 on March races that ended up a lot better for me than I thought my training indicated I'd run.  The Tuesday and Thursday before this race I could barely run 400 m. and 1:00, respectively, at 6:02 pace, and on this race day I ran 6.5 miles at that pace with almost completely even pacing (my Garmin splits were all within 6 seconds of each other, which I was extremely pumped about).  The weather was far better for the race than for either of those workouts, and latching onto Curt certainly helped, but I am starting to feel like I just need to get out of my own head and ditch my watch.  I also do truly believe that racing by effort and feel is the best way to race, but I am just not brave enough to do it in a goal race!
Albani's favorite part of the event
Creepy Easter bunny
An octopus may be an uncommon face paiting request
After my race and cool-down, I watched Albani run her first 2 mile race.  She'd been really optimistic about it since she'd run a 5K without walking in January.  My parents were spectating, we were all excited to see her run, and she was insistent that she didn't want me to run with her.  For whatever reason (possibly Easter candy, since she did an egg hunt during my race!), she didn't have as enjoyable of an experience this time around and had to walk.  She told me next year that she wanted to just watch me run and do the egg hunt at this race.  I think she was also disappointed that she didn't win an award, so I gave her my medal, which cheered her up some.  I always leave it up to her whether or not she wants to run races, because I want her to enjoy running and not feel like she ever has to do it, but I hope this experience doesn't dampen her outlook on running.

I also hope she is not paying attention when I change my mind 500 times about running races!
Pre-race excitement

I wouldn't let her go farther up than the 8 minute mile sign
Just look at those big blue eyes!

My dad's videos from the race:
Start
Around mile 5
Awards Ceremony

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Books in 2018 - First Quarter

I decided to keep a list of my 2018 reads.  I read every night; I have a difficult time falling asleep if I don't.  Some of my friends kept lists of the number of books they read in 2017, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?  I was going to publish my book list at the end of the year, but I guess I read more than I realize, especially during cold weather, so I decided to break it up into quarters so my posts didn't become excessively long.

January:
  • Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans - I actually finished reading this on New Years Eve 2017, but I'm counting it anyhow!  I picked up this one after reading The Gift by the same author.  I recommend both.
  • Evergreen by Susan May Warren - A quick touching winter read.
  • The Last Word by Lisa Lutz - This is the 6th book in the Spellman Files series. I read books 1-3 in the series in 2017 and ideally would have continued on in order, but 4-5 seemed to never be in at my library so I jumped ahead.  This is a series that you can read out of order and still understand, although the OCD in me hated doing this (the impatience in me won out though!).  These books are set in San Franciso, which I enjoyed after visiting there in December.
  • Catching Moondrops by Jennifer Erin Valent - Nice story that I read on my trip to the Houston Marathon.
  • A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans - Another great read from this author, and another one I read on the Houston Marathon trip.
  • Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren - I didn't realize this was the third book in a 3-book series until I finished it and read blurbs on the other two books in the appendix.  Oops!  But it was fine to read as a stand alone, because each book focuses on a different character in a sibling set of three.
  • Grace by Richard Paul Evans - I'm going to read all of his books.  They are well-written, moving, and thought-provoking.  They also have Christian undertones, some obvious but more subtle.
February:
  • The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz - The 4th book in the Spellman Files series (mentioned in January).  I had to put this one on hold at the library to finally get it; I was inspired to do this by Albani placing a couple of books on hold there.
  • The Letter by Richard Paul Evans - Like I said, I'm reading every book he has written!
  • Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz - Finishing off the Spellman Files series with "Document #5", which like the fourth book in the series I had to put a hold on to get from our library.  I highly recommend the series.
  • Lost December by Richard Paul Evans - A good read even in February!  It's all part of winter...
  • One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline - She is another of my favorite authors, and I couldn't put this one down.  She is good at actions and unexpected twists.
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling -  I thought The Mindy Project TV show was hilarious, so gave this one a go.  It was funny but I've read better memoirs.
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - Guess I'll have to watch the movie now (I am sure it is not nearly as good as the book!). 
  • The Locket by Richard Paul Evans - All of his books are winners, and I'm sorry if I'm being redundant about that.
  • Last Meal by Paul Ibbetson - Paul is my brother-in-law and has published several books!  I thought I'd read all of them, but my husband pulled this one out after Paul was approached about making it into a movie, and I'd missed it somehow so picked it up.  It's set in Southeast Kansas, where I used to live, and fiction based on a true story.  Buy it on Amazon!
  • You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Kline - This one was recommended to me somewhere, but I can't remember where...I also recommend it because it was pretty humorous.
  • Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans - Another great story by this author!  I continue to enjoy his style of writing and themes.
March:
  • The Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans - Clearly a Christmas read, but I think I've already demonstrated that I am not waiting to finish these amazing books.
  • The Looking Glass by Richard Paul Evans - This is the second book in a trilogy, with The Locket being the first book.
  • Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline - Another twist-filled story by this great author.
  • A Perfect Day by Richard Paul Evans - I think it's become clear I'm going to read everything of his that my library has.
  • The Grownup by Gillian Flynn - This is the author of Gone Girl, and that is clear form her story-telling style.  It was a little vulgar for my taste, as was Gone Girl.
  •  Haddassah The Girl Who Became Queen Ester by Tommy Tenney - Historical fiction, which I enjoyed for the most part, but some inaccurate additions from the biblical story made me cringe.
  • The Orange House by Paul Griffin -  I finished this one because it was short, but I didn't love it.  Normally if I don't love a book I don't force myself to finish it just for the sake of completing it, because there are so many great ones out there I could be reading instead!  10 years ago I always made myself finish books I started, so I like to think I've evolved.
  • The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green - I recommend everything by Jane Green and was happy to find one I hadn't read yet!
Part 2 coming at the end of June!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Nevertheless, she persisted: March in review

March 2018 Re-Cap

Total mileage for the month:  297.8 (in comparison:  January - 207, February - 254).  Your body doesn't really know the difference between 297 and 300 miles, but your mind sure does!  Same for 68ish and 70 miles in a week...
  • Feb. 26-March 4:  66.7
  • March 5-11:  67.9
  • March 12-17:  72
  • March 19-25:  68.2
  • March 26-April 1:  71.1
Races:
  • March 10:  I broke my racing hiatus by competing in The Big 12 12K in 47:02, which, despite the very challenging race course, was good enough for a Missouri single age state record for age 37 (only because there are very few certified 12Ks in Missouri, because it's not a great time).  I placed 3rd overall female (the best I could have in the field), and I was glad I made the last-minute decision to compete.
  • March 31:  The Easter Sun Run "10K" as a tempo.  This course is off on distance, so my goal for it is always to run it as a workout while visiting my parents for Easter and try to place overall.  I accomplished both, keeping all of my splits within 6 seconds of each other without ever looking at my watch (I'm probably most proud of that part!) and placing 2nd overall female with 39:09 (Garmin 10K split in the 37s).  Albani ran the 2 mile race at the event and I got many great photos of her!
Start of the Big 12 12K (I definitely beat the man with the
headphones, and that is my friend Michelle's arm)
How the end of a 12K feels when mile 7
has 140 feet of elevation gain
Workouts:
  • March 7:  Fartlek of 3' on/3' off (2.2 warm up, 1.2 cool down for 7.5 miles on the run).  My push paces were 5:46, 5:48, 5:47, 5:49, 5:46.  I was happy with the consistency in pacing and to keep them all sub-6:00.
  • March 14:  5 x 1K in 3:39, 3:39, 3:41, 3:41, 3:39 with 0.25 recoveries (3.1 warm up, 3 cool down).  My goal was 3:30 for these, so I was off that, but I ran consistent splits and with all I had that day.  I was disappointed about being nowhere near 3:30 on them, but then I looked back at my training logs to see what I'd done previously, and this was the first time I've ever run under 3:40 on 1K repeats (and I did it 3 times!)!  While it's still a relatively weak performance for me, considering that I've run mile repeats and even the final mile of tempo runs at a faster pace, it was still a PR workout and my coach was perhaps overly ambitious with the 3:30 goal.  It was kind of like when he told me to run 10 x 800 m in 2:45 and I averaged 2:56!  I did remind him after CIM that it was, in fact, possible to run 2:56 Yassos and a 2:47 marathon, so I'm filing this workout in that same category (see also:  my marathon pace and 5K pace are nearly the same).  This is also a lesson on why keeping a training log is valuable; I was thinking that I'd run them in 3:25 before, but it was really 3:45 previously, which is obviously a huge difference.
  • March 20:  4 x 1 mile at tempo in 6:01, 6:00, 6:03, 6:05 with 0.5 recoveries (3.1 warm up, 2 cool down).  I'm 99% sure I'd have pushed this workout back a day had my friend Amy not been coming to run what we call "hot loops" for her workout too (we run a relatively flat 0.83 road loop for a lot of speed and tempo work since our normal routes have so much elevation variation).  It was 40*, feels like 33*, with light rain.  I have no problem running in the rain, but running in the rain with a windchill of 33* is pretty much the worst!  Nothing about this workout felt good, aside from checking it off the list.
  • March 27:  10 x 400 with 200 recoveries (2.1 warm up, 2.2 cool down).  I ran this in a monsoon, on a track with standing water in lanes 1-4 in several places, e.g., how to run interval effort but only hit tempo pace (I averaged 1:31, all between 1:30-1:32).  My shoes and clothes felt like they were holding 20 lbs of water.  In a normal week I'd have bumped this a day, but it was supposed to rain pretty much non-stop all week, so I just did it.  The body knows effort, not pace, but this sure didn't help my confidence (after the Easter Sun Run I pointed out the irony that I ran pretty much the same pace for over 6 miles that I could only hold for 400 m a few days previously!).  That evening I ran a second run also in the rain.  It was like Mother Nature called my bluff on saying the weather for my previous workout was the worst!  At least it was 52 degrees...
  • March 29:  10.4 miles with 1:00 pick-ups at the beginning of each mile, in more cold rain.  I didn't have this workout programmed into my watch because it was a last minute addition, so I don't know my exact paces on the pick-ups.  But, when I looked at my watch during the run my paces were basically along the lines of the March 27 workout as far as providing the opposite of a confidence boost (6:30+)!  Again, it flummoxed me that I was able to run 6.4-6.5 miles at a much faster pace on March 31 than I could run for 1:00 during this workout.
  • Doubles on March 7, 14, 20, 22, and 27 (the 3 days I had both doubles and strength workouts were tricky because they were also work days!).
  • Strides on March 1, 15, 22, and 28, and at least a few before all workouts and races. 
  • Full body strength workouts on March 3, 7, 11, 14, 17, 20, 24, 28, and 31, and 5-10 minutes of core work nearly every day.  I do either core work or foam rolling while microwaving my lunch at work, and my microwave there takes forever to heat up food!
  • Favorite workout:  If I can count the Easter Sun Run race/tempo (and this is my blog, so I can make the rules, right?), then it wins.
Long Runs/Medium Long Runs:
  • March 4: 15.3 miles (7:45).  I wasn't feeling well on Saturday (sore throat and congestion) so I bumped this one to Sunday, and I still wasn't feeling well but I got the miles in.  I typically try to run easy mileage through about anything.  This was scheduled with 4 miles progressive fast finish, which I still accomplished with 7:30, 7:22, 7:14, 6:48 (after running 11 miles at 7:44-8:10), but every mile of this run was about 40 seconds slower than I'd have liked.
  • March 6:  10.5 miles (7:41).  This week my schedule was atypical and I had two double digit easy long runs, with a workout day between them.  I run double digit mileage on Tuesdays and Thursdays often, but it's usually split into two runs (e.g., 8 and 4 milers).  I felt somewhat sickly for this run, but was okay with getting in the miles at a somewhat slower pace, much like March 4.
  • March 8: 11.1 miles (7:11).  See March 6 note on two easy double digit singles this week.  I felt over being sick on this run!
  • March 10:  15.3 miles, via 2.3 warm-up, 7.5 race, and 5.5 cool-down.  All of this was terribly hilly, and I was about to die of starvation during the cool-down.  I know I need to take a gel between the race and cool-down when I make races like this into long runs, but I didn't actually think I was going to run this race when I packed for the work trip it occurred in conjunction with, so I didn't have a gel, and the banana piece I ate did not cut it (clearly it needed peanut butter smeared on it).
  • March 15:  12.1 miles (7:11).  This came the day after a workout + double + full strength workout.  If you're keeping track (and I am!), that's about 2.5 hours of working out on a work day, so I was a bit concerned that I'd be exhausted for this run, but I surprisingly felt great!  So much of marathon training is just continuing to run on tired legs, so...
  • March 17:  17.2 miles (7:19).  "Average" is the best adjective for this one.  It wasn't bad, it wasn't great.  The mileage wasn't an issue but I didn't have much pep.  It was a day I would have struggled with getting out the door on my own, so I was thankful that Rebecca ran the first 10 miles with me.  I practiced drinking mid-run with no watch-stopping - grabbed a bottle off my car trunk, ran a short out and back with it, then dropped it back off.
  • March 24:  16.2 miles (7:10) with 3 warm-up, 10 at my friend Michelle's marathon goal pace (6:45), 3.2 cool-down.  This run produced so many inside jokes, because it all started with her texting me that she had 6:45 pace miles within her long run and she wished I could run the workout with her (we live nearly 4 hours apart).  I jokingly asked back how far she was from Southeast Kansas, because we were visiting my in-laws there over the weekend and I knew it would be quite a bit closer.  We figured out she lives just over 2 hours from my in-laws' house, and I told her I'd drive an hour to meet her if we could find some place in the middle to run.  She found a little town for us to meet in and mapped out a route for us, starting at a hair salon called "Bob's Hair."  This ended up being one of those runs where the miles just flew by, and the 10 faster miles were 6:46, 6:46, 6:41, 6:46, 6:44, 6:37, 6:38, 6:45, 6:44, 6:47 so our pacing was on point even in the 20 mph wind (she is so ready to break 3:00!).  I'm not sure they see too many runners in Burlington, Kansas, and after the run when we were stretching a guy asked us if Bob's Hair was open on Saturdays (spoiler: it is not).  I was happy with this run because I thought in my current state the 6:45 miles would be hard, and although I wouldn't have settled into them for an easy pace, they were conversational the whole way and much easier than tempo effort.
  • March 29:  10.4 miles (7:22).  This put me at running 4 out of 5 runs in cold rain for the week (fortunately at the end of the week the record was 4 out of 8).  This may have been related to the stat that I was also at 4 out of 5 runs solo for the week at that point.
  • April 1 will be my next - a Sunday long run due to Saturday's race.  I'd like to point out that if I'd had a Saturday long run as usual instead, I'd have been over 300 miles for the month...but I guess I will have some extra mileage in April now!
  • Favorite long run:  I felt good about the March 24 one and I loved helping Michelle crush her workout (although I also have no doubt she'd have done it without me there, just not from Bob's Hair)!
Highlights/thoughts/randomness:
  • Strava and I are on break.
  • I'm currently not running the best I have, but I'm not running the worst either.  I keep meaning to write a post about it, but I have been insanely busy at work and have just barely kept up with updating my monthly posts, which I do a little at a time as I go.  I have similar intentions to start a Grandma's Training Journal series here, but file this all under "things I neglect when I have a BCBA out for 6-12 weeks and am covering her caseload."  It's amazing what difference getting home 1-1.5 hours later on a weeknight makes, because I feel behind on everything.  I've been super overwhelmed and stressed at work, which I am sure isn't helping my training either, but this too shall pass!
Non-running life events:
  • Albani had spring school photos on a terribly windy day.
  • Albani participated in Awana Games, where her team placed 2nd.  I learned a lot about Awana Games by watching this competition.  I highly recommend the Awana program for kids - it starts with pre-K and goes through high school, so all ages are welcome!  Albani has done amazing things in it, such as memorizing all of the books of the Bible in order.
  • Albani had spring break from March 12-16, which was the week after Daylight Savings Time began...whoever made that scheduling call sure knew what they were doing!  I suffered the whole week as per usual with this time change. 
  • St. Patrick's Day, although we didn't do anything aside from wear green.
  • We had a lot of Easter fun 1 week early at my in-laws'.
Picture day pre-photo
Professional photo
Awana Games
I wear these year-round, but this month they are actually
seasonably appropriate!
Opening the chicken tractor at Grandpa's farm
Pre-Easter egg hunt #1
This was an intense search with some Fear
Factor-esque components thanks to Aunt Amy

Thursday, March 29, 2018

What I'm Craving This Month - March

I did somewhat better remembering to take food photos this month!  In April I hope to feature some homegrown garden produce.

Stuffed baked sweet potatoes are my current thing.  Bake a washed sweet potato in the oven (they can also be microwaved, but they aren't as good), cut in half, and smush up the insides.  You can then mix in pretty much whatever you want.  The picture below includes broccoli and cheese.
This one includes cinnamon and cottage cheese, along with a side of my favorite vegetable that was on special at Aldi a couple of times this month, asparagus.  If you don't shop at Aldi, you should!

This one has spinach and melted peanut butter mixed in.  I know it sounds gross but I promise it will actually blow your mind...think of peanut sauce on Chinese food.

Baked "fries" are a hit with everyone in my household.  Simply cut up any variety of potatoes (these are Russet), toss on a baking sheet that's been sprayed with olive oil, season to your liking (I typically do garlic salt), then bake at 400* for about 45 minutes.  This works great with sweet potatoes too!

These artichoke hearts were a delicious Aldi find.

Dried green beans aren't something I ever thought I'd try since I prefer fresh produce, but they have a great crunch to them.

More veggie chips...I am not actually sure if these are even healthy (they probably aren't).

My favorite brand of protein powder in one of my favorite flavors in the world:  peanut butter!

But, why????  For the record, I am not a fan of M&M's, but this only had a few on top; the ah-mazing thing was the peanut butter rice crispie treat with chocolate peanut butter drizzle and peanuts.

Okay, back to my healthy options.  I love all types of squash.  This is roasted yellow squash.  Roasting any vegetable is winning!
Frozen dark sweet cherries.
And that's all I've got!  I wish I'd have taken pictures of my restaurant meals when I was in Kansas City for work, because they were all fantastic (Tasty Thai, First Watch, Panera, and some grill that had amazing salmon and ciabatta bread).  Next time!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Strava Hiatus

I love Strava!  I'm inspired by seeing other runners' training, I like the ways in which it allows me to analyze my own training, I enjoy watching my friends kill their races and workouts, and I love interacting with other runners.  I'm pretty addicted to posting my runs and watching my weekly mileage build, and I'm also not sure how I managed before grade-adjusted pace.  However, like all social media platforms, pieces of it can become problematic during certain seasons of our lives.

My running hasn't been fantastic in 2018.  I've been inconsistent, hot and cold, and just haven't seen the results from my training like I did during previous cycles (more details on this are here, here, and here - plus it's no secret that I bombed the Houston Marathon).  I'm not running terribly, and it's an odd paradigm because my current bad runs/races are better than I was doing in 2016 and before, so I feel somewhat greedy/guilty calling it a bad phase.  But I'm not running as well as I was in 2017, and I've been getting really discouraged about it.  After all, for my big goal I need to knock 144 seconds off of my marathon PR, and I seem to be going in the opposite direction.  I am probably being overly dramatic about it, but I feel like I am getting slower every week!  During my CIM cycle, I felt stronger every week and like the workouts and long runs were building, but during this build I haven't felt like that's happening...I'm just hoping to make it through each week!

I try to not let comparison steal my joy, but I fail at this often, particularly when comparing my own performances.  This season as I've seen my runs not measure up to what I was doing when building for CIM, I've been getting very down on myself.  My CIM build wasn't enough to get me the 2:45:00, so a build with almost everything being slower surely isn't going to be enough.  My body isn't responding to training in the same way, and I'm having a difficult time staying positive about this training cycle.  Currently, I really enjoy the process of running every day, but not the numbers (paces, splits, etc.).  I used to salivate for my hard workout days, and now I'm instead terrified I won't be able to hit my paces.  Some days I don't even look at my splits during or after the run, which 2017 Sara would have thought unfathomable!

After a conversation with my coach, I realized that Strava might be making me more negative about my recent training.  I'm looking at my own matched runs, my previous workouts, and my previous mileage and getting down on myself.  I also look at what other women who are chasing or have recently achieved the 2:45 standard are doing, and I always feel like I'm running way less mileage far slower than all of them (I felt this way before CIM too, but at that point I was running workout PRs and mileage PRs often, so I felt like I was on my way to a higher level and didn't feel discouraged).  It is also easy to compare relatively to everyone, for example seeing others' speed work be X amount faster than their races paces, or seeing others run long runs closer to marathon pace than I do (let me also note that I am flummoxed when people run all of their long runs at their goal marathon pace - I could never hit that week after week!).  Although I still see many positives from Strava, at the current time I don't think it's helping my slump.  So today was my last upload, and as of 3/26/18, Strava and I are on a break.  I don't think this is a complete solution to my 2018 issues, but I think it's worth a try and I am pretty open to trying anything that could help even slightly.  I'll definitely be back to Strava, and I'll definitely still be training!
Well, I'm not un-linking my Strava & Garmin accounts, so my runs will
still automatically upload to Strava (they will be private though), so it
still all happened, haha!