Monday, April 25, 2016

Cramming for Prairie Fire

I was never one to cram for tests, but I sure feel as if I’m cramming for this race!

My goals for the Prairie Fire half marathon have been ever fluid, to say the least.  In January it was a goal race, but after 5 weeks off with tendon issue #1, I decided I likely wouldn’t have any great races this spring and eased back into training.  Training went better than expected, progressed faster than expected (not necessarily smart!), and was uninterrupted for about 5 weeks, so I began thinking that I might just be able to run a solid half there after all, weather permitting.

Then tendon issue #2 occurred and I questioned whether I would even be able to run the race (I was already registered).  I immediately stopped running when my tendon bothered me just slightly, and didn’t start back again until it felt 100% because I was so paranoid following the previous injury.  This amounted to just 12 days off, which was much better than 5 weeks but still left me feeling soft and out of shape!

However, my first handful of runs back went better than I expected.  I was probably nicely tapered and rested, but I felt strong and like I might be able to race respectfully after all.  I went out for 12 miles on my third run back, because I figured that if I couldn’t finish that pain-free, then I had no business even trying to race a half.  The 12 miler turned into a 14 miler that I finished feeling strong with a 6:25 mile.  That was cram workout 1!

And that led me to today’s workout, cram workout 2:  an 8-mile tempo at half-ish pace.  Mondays are usually a cross-training only day for me, but my schedule hasn’t been “set” for a couple of weeks with the tendon issue popping up, and I figured it would be better to run it today than tomorrow in order to have more days between this workout and the race (normally I wouldn’t do a long tempo quite this close to a race, but I felt like I needed it mentally to have some idea about how to pace!).

I figured I would start at 6:40 pace and see what happened.  6:40 pace is a 1:27 half, so while off my PR of 1:24 it would still be one of my better times, as I have run far more halves in the 1:30s than in the 1:20s.

Lucky for me, Missy wanted to run this workout with me with me, and we decided to meet at a trail that is close to both of our homes.  At 5:15 a.m. we took off on a warm-up and psyched ourselves up.  Since I’d run a handful of miles recently faster than 6:40, including the 6:25 final mile in a 14-mile long run, I didn’t think that 6:40 would be too challenging, and for the first 2 miles it wasn’t (although they were a tad slow, with both at 6:42.X).  I knew it was a bad idea for Missy and I to run a hard run first after not running together for a couple of weeks, because we had a million things to talk about!  Initially talking was okay and although I felt residual fatigue in my legs I hoped I would loosen up and feel strong.

The course we ran is pretty much up gradual incline in miles 2, 3, and 4, then back down it on the way back.  When I’m in good shape I really like it, because once you turn around you speed up noticeably without even trying!  Well, I’m not in the best shape and my legs were feeling Friday’s long run plus Saturday’s double and strength work, and during mile 3 I started absolutely hating the course.  The incline was killing me!  I switched from trying to stay in the 6:40’s to just trying to hang on until we could turn around.  That looked like two 6:55.X’s in a row.

 I immediately felt better once we turned around, but I could still tell it wasn’t going to be my best day.  I’d initially hoped to run a huge negative split on the way back, with those miles in the low 6:30’s or high 6:20’s, but I could tell that wasn’t going to happen.  At that point I hoped I could hang on to 6:45ish and finish 8 miles at tempo, because I was sure having thoughts at stopping at mile 6.  But I was able to hang on for 8, fortunately!  My second half splits were 6:42, 6:44, 6:44, and 6:39.  Miles 5, 6, and 7 had declines that helped (running with Missy sure helped as well!), and the final mile I just gutted out and even sprinted in. I will note that Missy's Garmin splits we're faster than mine despite us running side by side the entire way, so I would like to claim hers for a little faster average! 😄

Splits rounded up
This felt like a heck of a lot more than 119 feet!!
Although it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, it gave me a baseline time for this course, as it is harder than my favorite fast tempo course (a half mile dirt loop at the YMCA).  And I think that 6:45ish is a reasonable pace goal for me at Prairie Fire at this point.  It’s a pancake flat course which is a really good thing right now!  I think I will start at 6:50, with the 1:30 pace group maybe, then drop to 6:45 after a few miles and hope to drop to 6:40 or under if I feel good as the race progresses.  If I can average 6:45 I’ll run a 1:28, but if I can run a little faster (6:42ish) I can run a 1:27.  Either would be fine, and if I stay at 6:50 and run a 1:29 that’s fine too.

 Heck, really at this point it’s all the same even if I run in the low 1:30s (which is a definite possibility!), because it’s not going to be a PR either way.  So my A goal is to finish strong and injury pain-free!  We will see what the weather does too – this race is super flat but Wichita is ALWAYS windy and often painfully so.  If it’s not 70 degrees it will be better than last year!  Last year I had a tough race there, as the wind was gusting up to 40 mph and I had an awful side cramp during miles 7-10.  I was racing for place, not time, due to the weather conditions, and really had to fight for 3rd female (the eventual 4th female and I passed each other back and forth several times, and I took 3rd by less than 10 seconds while listening to her hometown crowd cheer for her to overtake me).  I ran just over 1:30 for it, which was really disappointing because I was nice and fit then, so it will be ironic if I can beat that this year but I am going to try!

Final stretch of Prairie Fire 2015 - this is what pain looks like!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A More Positive Week in Review!

When my running isn't going well - particularly when I'm injured - my attitude and feelings about EVERYTHING seem to go downhill!  This is something I'm aware of and try to work on, but there has to be something to those endorphins!  As a behavior analyst, I would call running an establishing operation for a "positive attitude" and not running an establishing operation for a "negative attitude" (of course those terms would need to be operationally defined, but you see what I am getting at!).

This week was a lot better.  I ended up taking 12 days off for a cranky tendon, and it seemed like forever, but relative to the 5 weeks I had to take off earlier this year it was quick!   My missing week in review post from last week is because it was all cross-training!

Total miles:  33.3 (I did not plan that!)

Monday -  swam laps for 45 minutes with some intervals - I wanted an easy/no impact day before trying a run on Tuesday

Tuesday - 4 miles, with Garmin splits of 7:44, 6:38, 6:33, 6:31.  I did not plan to run 3 of these miles at tempo-ish pace, and it wasn't a smart thing to do on my first run back, but my Garmin was being funky at the beginning of the run (the first mile was probably about 30 seconds faster than it recorded, so around 7:15).  I thought I was running around 7:30 pace at the beginning, which is my standard base pace that I "fall" into, but when I looked at my watch it read 8:38 pace.  I almost started crying about my base pace getting 1 minute slower with my time off, and I sped up.  When my watch beeped at the mile, I knew it was long since I was on a course I run a lot, and then at 1.2 miles my pace was 6:40ish since I had sped up, so I decided to run one faster mile, which turned into 2, which turned in to 3.  It was nice though!  After this run I jumped on the spin bike for 18.5 miles.

Wednesday - 5 miles base pace (7:13 average for all), with my final mile in 6:38 (trying to gauge my half pace since I am registered for one on May 1), then HIIT bootcamp.

Thursday - Cross-training craziness: spin bike 20 miles and elliptical 30 minutes a.m., and 45 minute lap swim at noon because I was off work for adoption day (and my daughter went to school after the hearing because she is working towards a perfect attendance award)!  Adoption day photos here.

Friday - 14 miles base pace (7:16 average), with my final two miles in 6:45 and 6:25.  I was super pleased with how this went!  I set out to run 12 miles at 7:30-7:45 pace, figuring that if I couldn't do that pain-free I shouldn't race on May 1 even though I'd already paid.  This was just a play-it-by-ear kind of run, and I even carried my phone (which I never do) in case my tendon got cranky,and I was prepared to stop at any time.  Mid-way I knew that 12 miles wouldn't be a problem, and after my first 9 miles around 7:30 pace I dropped miles 10-12 to 7:10ish before dropping the final 2 miles into the 6:00s.  I could have definitely run farther, but 14 was as many as I could run and still get to work on time!  And that was probably good anyway because there was no need to run more.  I had quite a runner's high from this run all day!

14 mile splits

Saturday - 10.3 miles total -- 6.2 miles (7:21 pace) pacing Jon on his tempo for 5 miles, then ran 1 mile harder (6:18).  I was a good pacer and every mile with Jon got a tad faster - starting at 7:38 and finishing at 7:24.  Then I did 40 minutes of strength work in the morning.  In the evening, I went out with Albani for her 1 mile run (she runs them in 11-12 minutes, and I usually don't count them in my mileage but I did this week since my mileage was so low!).  Then I ended up running a 5K shake-out (8:04 pace) after running with her since I was in running gear anyway! She, on the other hand, ran in a dress!

She did not learn to train in dresses/skirts from me!

Sunday - road bike for 19 miles.

Tomorrow I am going to try a tempo to gauge where I'm for the Prairie Fire half, then short and easy runs before the race.  I am not expecting anything great for this race with how inconsistent my training has been, but this week was good enough to show me that my time shouldn't be horrible!  Worst case scenario, I ran a 1:35 half in my Friday long run not pushing until the final 2 miles, so even if I crap out and run that it's not the absolute end of the world.  We will just see what happens, and I am thankful just to be able to run it for sure!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Me Against My Body

As athletes, we should always give our bodies the best if we expect to perform our best, right?  The best training, the best recovery, the best food, the best sleep, the best gear, etc.  I always thought that I strive to do this, within the realm that I can (as a full time working mom, I am no professional athlete).
I was recently reading the blog of a pro runner, and she had written about a disappointing race and her training that followed.  She noted one of the biggest mistakes she could make after the race was to go into workouts upset about her sub-par performance and push too hard trying to “punish” herself for it.  She went as far to say that “doing that gains nothing but risks everything.”
When I read that, it hit me.  I have spent all of 2016 doing exactly that:  pushing hard to get redemption from the Dallas Marathon.  I never thought of it as punishing myself, but considered it ensuring that I would not fail again.  I want to work so hard that even if I don’t have a great race and have poor weather conditions again, I will still hit that sub-3:00 marathon.
It hasn’t worked for me.  I missed my February marathon and couldn't even walk without a limp when I should have been racing it.  I can’t manage to stay healthy – between viruses and injuries (both minor and more significant).  I push push push to get faster, but what I’m getting is inconsistent.  I train hard and then I have to take time off.  I push to get to race weight yet currently I’m heavier than I’ve been in 1.5 years.  I take Melatonin to sleep better but I’m awake and stressed at 2 a.m. (mostly not running related but still happening).
Patience has never been my strong suit, but I must break this cycle.  I am not going to expect anything this spring or summer.  I have goal races in October and after, and that’s what I am going to work towards.  That is a long time away and I want results now (and to run fast now, or rather, yesterday), so it’s going to be extremely hard.  For me, it’s always been easier to over-train than to under-train.  It’s always easier to push more and more, yet harder to back off.  I am a perfectionist, and to see my pushing leading to my falling apart is super disheartening.  I know I’m not alone in this as a competitive runner.
Right now, I hate my body for getting injured, for getting sick, for getting fat, and for not performing as well as I think it should.  I want to punish it for these things.  How about loving my body for what it can do instead of hating it for what it can't (or hasn't yet)?  It's a novel idea for me, and definitely won't be easy, but seems like necessary goal.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Thumbs Down for this Week in Review

If I had to very succinctly describe my running career over the past 24+ years (I started at age 11!), I would call it:  High highs mixed with low lows and consistently inconsistent.


This past week was a low.  I planned to take a cut-back week and run around 45 miles.  I actually ran 18.1 miles (6 of it on the AlterG treadmill).  My peroneal tendon in my left leg is bothering me.  My last injury was my posterior tibial tendon in my right leg.  Right now this is just a self-diagnosis, but if feels much like my last tendon issue did after it had healed quite a bit (e.g., it’s hurting but I can walk fine).  So I am hoping that a week off now will take care of it, and I am grinning and bearing it.  I am super grumpy and irritable, though, and all I really want to do is stay in bed and eat sweets.  It is a miracle I’m doing any workouts, because I have a pretty big case of the I Give Ups at this point.  I skipped a 5K on Saturday because I felt it was too risky and not worth extra time off, but I am super upset about missing it.


Monday – 5.1 miles base pace (7:33) and 45 minutes bootcamp (the tendon was a little tight during this run as well as during my Sunday shake out the day before, but I thought it was just a little thing due to coming off of a big week)


Tuesday – 7 miles base pace (7:42) with hill pushes (this was supposed to be 10 miles and a farlek, but the tendon was worse and I knew better than to run hard and after it got worse during mile 7 I called it), then 20 minutes elliptical since I called my run early and had more time


Wednesday – 40 minutes on the spin bike with 10 x 1 minute intervals, and 30 minutes elliptical (I can sure tell I haven’t done a hard workout on the bike since I resumed running)


Thursday – 6 miles on the AlterG treadmill at 80% body weight (5:53 pace)…annnnnddd this even bugged my leg so I stopped at 6 miles; also 25 minutes elliptical because I felt like a slacker (not that this really helped, but you know!)


Friday – swam laps for 60 minutes with a pyramid interval workout to keep from going crazy (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 lap pushes)


Saturday – 45 minute spin class, 50 minutes of functional strength training, 35 minutes elliptical – cross-training buffet at the Y while fighting back tears about missing a race!


Sunday – 40 minutes on the spin bike and 60 minutes elliptical


Honestly, at this point I am throwing the towel in on doing anything this season.  I will try to heal, get some base miles in my legs and increase distance and intensity gradually, and try to get back to race weight (these injuries and illnesses are not good for my waistline, because I turn to sweets in a seriously bad way!).  I’m registered for a half on May 1 and hopefully can still run it, albeit slowly.  Maybe my tendon will feel fine in a couple of days and I will take this back, but today it gets a big fat FAIL!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hungry & Healthy

Chickpea veggie burgers, kale chips, roasted red potatoes, roasted baby carrots, and cantaloupe. So delicious, nutritious, and so filling! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

It's April! - Week in Review

I'm getting back in the swing of things!

Weekly mileage:  61.2 (9 AlterG) - this is a huge week for me!

Monday 3/28 - 4.1 mile shake out (7:35).  My legs felt crappy until mile 4; I blame 10 hours in the car over the weekend!  Also did HIIT bootcamp after the run.

Tuesday 3/29 - 2 warm-up, 5 miles tempo (6:29), 1 mile recovery, 2 x 1 mile speed work in 6:10 and 6:12 with 0.5 recovery, 2.5 cool-down for 13 miles total.  Details here.

Wednesday 3/30 - 8 recovery miles with Missy a.m. (7:51); 4 recovery miles with Jon (his tempo) p.m. (7:53).  Every Wednesday is windy lately!

Thursday 3/31 - 9 miles on the AlterG treadmill at 80% body weight (5:56 pace).  I was told that for every 10% body weight you take off, you can run 0.6 mph faster.  So 10 mph on the AlterG = 8.8 mph (6:49 pace).  I swear it feels even easier than that!  But it is a treadmill and they always feel easier than outside and aren't really "real". I have 3 more passes left so there will be 3 more AlterG Thursdays for more mileage with less impact.

Friday 4/1 - HIIT bootcamp and elliptical (no running).

Saturday 4/2 - 1.5 warm-up, paced the 1:40 group at the Big Party Half Marathon, 1 easy, 1 MGP (6:51), 0.5 easy for 17.1 total.  I finished in 1:39:16 (7:33 pace for 13.14 per my Garmin), so wasn't the best pacer, but I also think the course was a tad short (it was not certified). Typically Garmin error is about 0.01 per mile on certified courses (making a certified half read about 13.24 on Garmin) so I was aiming to keep all of my splits 7:33-7:34 on my Garmin.  I was also planning to look at the course miles for splits to ensure I was right on, but the course miles were way off (as in, my first mile per the course markers was around 8:00 then my second was around 6:30!).  Pacing was fun and this was a perfect long run for me, but I also learned that I am too competitive to enjoy pacing 100%!  No one ran with me the entire race, but I had a man with me from about miles 4-10 and a woman from about 9-12, so I hope I helped them towards their goals!  The event was also for a great cause and fun to be part of.

Sunday 4/3 - 6 miles shake out (7:59), with 6 X 20 sec strides. I could feel Saturday's 17 miles plus 3 hours of hard work - but my arm was not sore from carrying the pacing sign (not to mention fighting the wind with it), which was a pleasant surprise!

Big Party Half Marathon pace sign & medal