Monday, February 27, 2017

BMO Phoenix-Mesa Marathon: The joy is in the journey, but a PR is sure a wonderful place to land

The short version:

If you love what you're doing, you've already succeeded! I love marathon training, but the marathon is a race that can leave you smiling for weeks or break your heart - it's done both to me. You train for months for a single event, and there are always variables you can't control that affect the outcome. When everything comes together on race day, it's truly a miracle; on February 25, that happened for me. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would see 2:49:20 on a marathon finishing clock (6:27.5 pace per mile for 26.2 miles), but with a solid training block, the right weather, a fast course, smart pacing, and blessings I can't even explain, I did!  I am so appreciative of my family for supporting me, of my training partners for friendships forged over mile and miles, and of everyone who has listened to me talk/write about my running dreams!  I am thankful for the journey and that God brought me to the starting line - and in turn to the finish line - healthy and happy. 

Final stretch with a 2:49 in sight!
 The long version:

Although the journey really is the reward when it comes to marathoning, it sure is sweet when everything comes together on race day and you get more sweet rewards in the forms of a joyful race and a PR!  The marathon is alluring because it is the cumulation of months and months of training, but this also makes it terrifying.  I became so enmeshed with the day to day training for the BMO Phoenix-Mesa marathon that I almost forgot that the end goal was a PR marathon - and in the end, I think that helped me.  I showed up at the starting line feeling like I'd already won.

My goal for this marathon was always to PR.  When I began training for it, I thought my time goal would be 2:55.  As my training block progressed, and I improved my half PR to 1:21:26, nailed the Hardest Workout Ever despite just finishing a round of antitbiotics and running in insane wind, finished a 24 mile run with a 6:17 mile also in insane wind, and played around with race time equivalent tools, I decided I could potentially run faster than 2:55.  I got 2:49:59 stuck in my head, and for awhile I kept vacillating back and forth between 2:49 and 2:55 as time goals, until one day I realized that there are several minutes between those two times and there was no reason I couldn't settle on a goal in between!  So with input from my coach, I decided to target 2:52 via a slight negative split.  However, I couldn't get 2:49 out of my head, even though it seemed too aggressive and scary, and I even put it as the label on my daily alarm so I saw it every morning bright and early when I got up to train.  But it was my "secret goal"; my public goal, and one I knew I would be beyond happy with was 2:52 - this was also the time I targeted with my pace band and for the first half of the race.

Course specific pace band
"2:49:59" has flashed at me every morning for awhile
Race week came, and for the first time I didn't experience any taper crazies or nerves beforehand.  I was so calm about it that I started to wonder if something was wrong with me!  I think that running the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona half 6 weeks prior went a long way in easing my mind, both because of the trip and the half PR I ran there.  I knew what to expect with traveling, I'd driven the race course, and I knew that I could perform well off of traveling.  Even when some travel snafus on Thursday evening resulted in a midnight dinner from the only restaurant open (McDonalds) and a 1:00 a.m. bedtime on Thursday night, I didn't freak out.  I figured that I'd been eating and sleeping well for the whole training cycle, so one meal and one night wouldn't hurt me.
Race expo with my supportive hubby
On race morning, I got on the bus to the starting line of the point-to-point course with a couple of guys from Oklahoma City who I'd connected with through a mutual friend.  One (Roger) had run the race last year and was very helpful in telling us what to expect, and the other (David) wanted to run about the same pace as me so we were planning to work together.  We chatted as we were bussed out to the starting line, sat on the bus to stay warm until about 6:00 a.m., then went out and started warming up.  I peed in the desert twice (the porta potty lines were far too long!) and begrudgingly checked my gear bag, as I was quite cold before I started jogging.  I kept a throw-away long sleeve shirt on until a minute before the gun, and questioned if I was doing the right thing starting in a sports bra, shorts, throw-away arm warmers, throw-away gloves, and a light headband at 38 degrees (i.e., perhaps I should have worn a full shirt).  I was extremely thankful for the perfect race day weather, but perfect racing weather is too cold to stand around in!

Before I knew it, it was 6:30 a.m. and the gun went off!  I saw a few women in pro racing kits on the starting line, but I really wasn't in this one for place, so didn't worry as seemingly 20-30 women were out ahead of me.  David and I had a pace plan and stuck with it, and many of the people in front of us we would soon pass.  Miles 1-4 of the course are down declines, and this results in many people going out far too fast.  In the beginning, everyone around us was talking about how they were going for their first sub-3:00s, and David and I were like, "Yeah, we are going for 2:52..."  We were pretty much right on our paceband pace and it felt effortless.  Then miles 5-6 climb about 200 feet.  Since I'm used to running in the Ozarks, the steady incline didn't bother me, but I did slow down my pace as planned in order not to expend too much energy too early.

As we came off of mile 6, we came onto two more miles of decline for miles 7-8, and my plan was to settle in around 6:30s from there to the end.  Around 6 miles, David and I got separated, with him slightly behind me.  The race was sorting out, and I hoped he would come back beside me and looked back for him at one point, but we didn't reconnect after that point; however, he went on to PR in 2:53 (and also used the paceband I made for him!)!  For the next 20 miles, I played look at the person in front of me and go get him/her.  From mile 9 to the finish, the course flattened out; and by flat I mean pancake flat (something I don't have on any runs except track workouts in the Ozarks!)!  I shed my arm warmers around mile 8 and my gloves around mile 12 (I took my headband off and put it around my arm around around the 10K; it was my favorite one and I couldn't bear to part with it and hadn't planned to start it in for that reason, whoops!).  The sports bra and not a full shirt was a good choice!

I was really happy with how relaxed my pace felt, and kept clicking off miles close to 6:30 pace.  Before the race, I'd had a hard time wrapping my head around running a marathon at 6:3X pace, even though I thought I had it in me, but once I was out there it felt so natural and I really knew I could do it.  I came through the half in 1:25:45 and grinned because a 1:25 half had felt so easy!  I felt really good about hitting a 2:50-2:51 at that point, but I was doubtful I'd be able to pull of a 2:49, as a 1:24:10 or faster second half seemed pretty ambitious.  At the same time, I felt great, and had to make myself hold back.  I thanked God for bringing me halfway through feeling so fresh, and asked Him for strength throughout the second half.  He and I had a lot of conversations throughout this race!

I didn't use my paceband or Garmin much; basically just looked at my Garmin when it beeped to monitor that I was staying right around 6:30 pace, but I paced by feel.  I picked up a few seconds here and there, but I didn't realize quite how much because my Garmin splits were also about 2 seconds slower than my course splits.  At one point I counted and my Garmin beeped about 15 seconds after the course mile mark.  Somehow I lucked out and got a conservative Garmin, as particularly on courses without many turns it always hits mile splits slightly after the course mile markers, which accumulates over the course of a marathon, and reads a tad shorter than the certified distance; my old one would always read a little faster than the course splits and therefore end up reading longer than the certified distance.  My Garmin was close enough that I knew I was going to be perfectly on pace for a low-2:50, but I didn't think I'd be under, and I didn't look at my pace band closely because I knew it was around 6:30 across the board once the elevation changes because minimal.

When I passed mile 18, I really thought I had it.  I've done enough marathons to know how I feel at that point in a good race vs. a bad one vs. a so-so one, and I felt really confident about running 8 more miles at 6:30 pace.  I was also pulling up on a female, and that spurred me along for a 6:19 mile 19.  I told myself not to go too much quite yet, but I also passed her with authority.  I was anxious to hit the 20 mile marker, as I knew at that point I'd have a good idea of my finishing time if I did the math on my final 10K.  The fact that I could still do math at that point was also promising!

I passed the course mile 20 in 2:10:05, and at that moment I knew I was going to give everything I had to run the final 10K in 39:50 or faster, and I felt like I could do it.  I told myself to stick around 6:25 pace.  As most runners know, on a good run when you're riding endorphins, you solve all of the world's problems.  At that point, for me, that high meant that I knew I could finish with a sub-40:00 10K.

Mile 20 was 6:27 by my Garmin, so probably 6:25 per the course.  Around this time, we started passing the half marathon walkers on the course.  Initially they were pretty thin, but as the miles passed the crowd became thicker and thicker.  This is my only complaint about the entire event; the last thing anyone wants to do at the end of a marathon is fight through seas of people walking!  I really like it when marathons separate the road if the half and full courses are the same at the end (one of my only positive comments about the Dallas marathon).

During mile 22 I starting pulling in another female.  I had no idea what place overall I was -- at some points people had told me "top 10" -- but when I saw her I knew I was going to push to move up one.  I passed her and like the gal at mile 19, she made no attempt to respond.  In my opinion, there are a million reasons to negative split your marathons (the most important one being that you'll run a faster overall time), and one reason is because you will pass, pass, and pass people - and on the Phoenix course it was even more pronounced because the net elevation loss in miles 1-4 and 7-8 made people take out irresponsibly.  Passing her gave me a 6:15 mile 22, and I also felt really good about pushing through to the end.

The half walkers got thicker and thicker in the final 4 miles, and the course also has more turns in those miles.  Going through the half walkers made me antsy.  For the most part, they were not in the bike lane on the inside of the road, but in places I had to weave around them.  After 22 I didn't try to take anything from the aid stations because of it, but I don't think I really needed anything either (before that I'd drank a little from every one, and also taken Accel gels around the 10K, half, and mile 19 marks).  In the final 2 miles, I stayed in the bike lane, which was the shortest route for the most part, and when it was blocked by a half walker I just said, "on your left, full runner" before I came by, and each time the walker moved over for me.  I felt like I was being rude doing this, but at the same time I was gunning for that 2:49 and I was NOT going to repeatedly run across 2 lanes of the road to go around groups.  I don't blame the walkers, as they have just as much right to be out there as I do, I imagine most/all of them have a different mindset about the event than I do, and I am happy to see them out there experiencing fitness and joy -- however, race organizers should at the very least disseminate information that a clear lane should be left open for the competitive full runners coming through, and more preferably they should have separate lanes for the two races.  Many blessings come in disguise, so maybe this whole conundrum actually pushed me on faster because I was so ready to get out of the masses!

As I passed mile 23, I reveled in how wonderful I felt for that point of the race!  The wall can come in marathons at mile 20, or even earlier if you pace poorly, but for me if it's going to hit it usually hits at 22-23.  I knew I had a good final 3.2 miles in me, and a quick check of my watch confirmed that even if I ran the final 3 miles in 7:30s I would hit my public goal of 2:52.  I know I already had a grin on my face!  I continued pressing on, and miles 24 and 25 were both 6:32 on my Garmin, so I was a little worried I was going to be too close for comfort on the 2:49/2:50 situation.  I felt like I had a good final mile in me though, and kept pushing with everything I had.  My head was cloudy, but it also felt so good!  I ended up with a 6:10 final mile, although I never looked at my Garmin during the mile so did not know until later.  I focused on going forward and getting to that finish line as soon as I could!

When I turned the final turn towards the finish, the full and half runners got separate lanes and I had a clear path in.  As per usual in the marathon, the finish felt so close yet so far away.  I felt simultaneously wonderful and depleted.  I felt better than I ever have at the end of a marathon though!  Marathoners know that typically when you finish a smartly paced marathon strong, it hurts so good at the end (if you bonk, it hurts so bad!).  When I could first read the finishing clock, it was still in the 2:48s, so I knew my 2:49 was in the bag!  I heard the announcer mispronounce my last name and note that I was another female coming in under 2:50 (I would be the 6th, and first in age group 35-39)!  I finished with a huge smile plastered on my face and halfway in disbelief!  Even when I imagined 2:49 as my time goal, I never imagined how fantastic it would feel.  I can't even describe it; I felt so exuberant and blessed!  I celebrated with a random stranger in the finish chute who felt the same way -- he excitedly told me that he'd broken 2:50 for the first time and I said "me too!!"  I never thought I'd be able to say that -- and I am still wrapping my head around it!  I don't deserve it -- none of us deserves anything really -- but by God's grace and strength I did it.  The whole race was such a joyful experience too! 

Official results can be found here, although the mile 20 split is wrong, as the mat was about 1:30 after the actual mile 20 mark (I only wish my final 10K had been 37:44 as it says here based on the misplaced mat; it was actually 39:15...but I am happy with that, especially considering that not that long ago my 10K PR was 39:13).

I had a dream and went for it.  I guess that 2:49 was stuck in my head for a reason.  I knew that I had to put it all out there and chance it; there is always a chance of a marathon not going as we plan, but there is also a chance that it will!  Never regret taking that chance (in a smart, calculated, and responsible manner of course)!  If you don't dream big, how can you ever expect it to come true?

“Anything is possible for one who believes.” – Mark 9:23

Jon nailed the clock shot, as per usual (that clock was 10 seconds off at 2:49:10, though)
Running joyfully around mile 20
The emotion of knowing I had it (pace is wrong on the professional pics though)
Smiling, crying with happiness, celebrating
I added my time to our sign from the expo (it was Jon's idea to leave a space for it)
I wasn't sure I could run 26.2 at 6:3X... I did it at 6:27 instead

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Heat of the Moment (Marathon Week!)

Week of February 20-26, 2017, i.e., BMO Mesa-Phoenix Marathon week!!!!!!!!!!!

Mileage:  48.2, via 6 days or not much/nothing, plus one PR marathon!

Monday - 4.1 mile shake out (7:41).  I usually don't run on Mondays, and I usually don't run 4 miles and do nothing else any day, so this was out of the natural order of things!  My glutes were still a tiny bit sore from Friday's bootcamp; often I get a little sore for a day after bootcamps, and I think the 20 x 400 workout I did on Saturday prolonged it this time.  Post-bootcamp soreness never seems to hurt my running (I was pretty sore from it when I ran the Hardest Workout Ever), and bootcamp is part of my routine, but nonetheless I didn't exactly like being a tad sore so close to my marathon!

Tuesday - 7.5 miles total, with my final tune-up workout of 2 miles warm-up, 2 miles at 6:30, 1 mile recovery, half mile at sub-6:00, 2 miles cool-down.  I ended up with 7.5 miles at 7:00 pace exactly, with the 2 mile tempo in 6:28/6:20 and the half mile in 2:46 (5:32 pace).  Although the tempo was a little faster than what my coach gave me, it was still not much considering that I was hoping to run 26.2 at 6:35 pace.  I kept telling myself not to push on the 2 miles, and that I would throw down when it came time for the half mile hard.  The half mile was fun and also the fastest I've run a half mile repeat as an adult, I think.  In high school I think I used to run 4 x 800 m at that pace or faster, back when I had speed for racing 1600 m and 3200 m.

Wednesday - 5.1 miles base pace (7:05) with Danielle and Amy R.  Amy had a 7 mile tempo at 6:55-7:10 pace and asked for my help, and I was happy to oblige for 5 miles of it (no taper cheating for me!).  Danielle went the whole way with her, plus warm-up and cool-down, so I was glad that worked out.  This run felt good - I was a little concerned about jumping right into that pace range, as my base runs often end around that pace, but start closer to 7:30-7:40, but I was fine.

Thursday - Off -- i.e., light elliptical for 15 minutes to keep up the workout streak (going strong since 1/1/14), along with my usual stretching and foam rolling.  This day also included a flight to Phoenix with some travel snafus (in the end, I ate dinner from McDonalds around midnight and got to bed at 1:00 a.m.).

Friday - 2.4 mile shake out with 4 strides (7:06). I know I'm tapered when my easy pace is 6:45, after a warm up mile. The journey is the reward, and I sure felt appreciative of this one.

Saturday - BMO Mesa-Phoenix Marathon in a massive PR of 2:49:20 (6:27.5 average pace)!  If you follow me on Strava, Facebook, or Instagram, this is old news by now, haha!  It was such a blessing to have everything align on race day.

My half splits were 1:25:45 and 1:23:35, and I was pretty proud of my pacing and that negative split, and I finished feeling strong with a 6:10 final mile.  I was 6th overall female and 1st in age group 35-39...and consistent with how I seem to pick marathons, my time would have won overall female in this race most past years, and would have placed in the top 3 every year except this one (it always just depends on who shows up)!  I'd have been ecstatic about a 2:49 even if it was dead last, however!  In case you're doing the math on my mileage, I also did a really easy paced 1 mile jog and plyometrics prior to the race.

It's still all sinking in, and I never in my wildest dreams thought I would see a 2:49 on a marathon finishing clock.  Multi-part race reports coming, but suffice to say I was thrilled with this result and it was truly by God's grace that I was able to cover 26.2 miles at that pace and feel good the whole way!

Fall in love with the process and the results will come!

Sunday - 2 mile recovery (9:06).   Bye, Phoenix - you've sure been good to me!

Happiness is a new marathon PR

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tapering 101

My definition of tapering: the art of simultaneously resting for a goal race and getting crazier; best done via an overall reduction in mileage while maintaining training intensity

Training hard wears your body down.  Although it recovers and adapts as you take easy days along the way, it is never 100% recovered or rested during a marathon training cycle.  Reducing the workload in the final 2-3 weeks prior to race day helps it prepare to perform the best it can.  Although it can feel like you’re losing fitness during the taper, you’re actually preparing to peak.  I always feel as if I’ve forgotten how to do long runs during the taper (heck, sometimes I feel that way with one week between long runs!), but I’ve done enough marathons to know that is not the case.

Research shows that everything in our bodies that is depleted by high mileage (muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones) returns to optimal ranges during a taper.  The damage to our muscles that occurs during sustained training is repaired, and muscular strength and immune system function both improve.  Then the best part:  tapering improves performance by 2-5%!  That’s a lot of time in a marathon -- 3.6 to 9 minutes for a 3 hour marathon (a little less time if you’re faster; more time gained if you’re slower!).  About any sacrifice is worth a 9 minute advantage on race day, right?!

Personally, I always do my longest long run 3 weeks out from my marathon, which is the strategy that is most widely recommended.  This training cycle that meant 24.4 miles (2:55 duration on my feet) on Feb. 4.  That run concluded my highest mileage week of this cycle (67.6 miles).  The following week (Feb. 6-12 this time), my mileage drops a bit, but I don’t feel it too much, as my daily runs are pretty similar; mainly my long run is shorter (this cycle that meant a 15.5 mile long run and 56.7 total weekly mileage).  This was also the week that doubles disappeared during this cycle.  The next week (Feb. 13-19 this time), mileage drops more (48.2 miles this round) and I start to notice that more, but with some challenging workouts it doesn’t bother me too much, aside from the lack of true long run (a workout of 12 miles 1 week before race day was it).  Race week is when I start feeling it, as I really don’t do much except for the marathon itself (45ish total miles, which means just 18ish outside of race day, with a tiny workout and some strides to keep my legs fresh). 

I typically do fine with tapering until the final week, when I really feel like I’m doing nothing.  And that’s how it should feel!  I don’t “cheat” on my taper like some runners are prone to do (e.g., running more than scheduled, increasing cross-training, or just forgoing the taper all together), because I know how much it helps me, but I can’t claim to love it either -- especially because I am a creature of habit/routine!  I think of it as an investment for the greater good.  I also try to sleep more (in addition to getting more rest for your race, when you're sleeping you are also not being crazy, bahaha!).  Overall I stick to my usual routines with eating, stretching, foam rolling, etc. --- this is not the time to try anything new.  I pretty much think of it as a time when you can't really gain anything for your marathon, but you can screw it up!  No pressure!

During the final days of the taper, most experts recommend carbohydrate-loading.  Contrary to popular belief, this doesn't mean just eating everything possible or stuffing yourself with pasta.  It means getting a higher percentage of your calories from carbs.  So for example, if you would usually eat one piece of toast with peanut butter, you should instead eat two pieces of toast without peanut butter.  I also swap snacks like a container of Greek yogurt for a bowl of oatmeal, a hard-boiled egg for a banana, string cheese for pretzels, etc.  The goal is to go into the marathon with your tank full (i.e., glycogen stores up), as you will burn through that glycogen and then some during the race.  Before a Saturday marathon, my coach tells me to up my carbohydrate intake on Wednesday and Thursday, then on Friday to eat fairly normally but lower fiber than usual, and also not to eat too much too late (that is the hardest part for me because my typical routine consists of a significant snack right before bed so that I'm not hungry when I wake up for my early runs).

It's common to feel "off" during a taper.  You may feel sluggish and tired.  You may experience "phantom" pains.  You may start to question everything about your training block, and panic about the race.  You may think you've forgotten how to run fast and/or far, or feel completely out of shape.  These are all in the range of normal, but are also why many runners dread the taper!

Pre-race panic and/or taper crazies haven’t hit me for this one at this point – maybe they're coming, but maybe they won’t.  I am extremely thankful that I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona half 6 weeks prior to the this marathon, because having both a half PR and a practice trip to Arizona under my belt are really easing my mind about this one.  Either way, I've done all I can to prepare for this one by this point.  Race day will bring what it will, whether I worry about it or not, and the outcome is all part of God's greater plan (yes, He even cares about our race times!).

As for my goal time, once I settled on it, the key has been to not over-think it!  I have a solid race plan that I believe I can execute, and a realistic time goal based on my half performance, my training, the course, and the weather forecast.  I feel good about it.  However, if I start thinking about the average pace I am going to attempt to run 26.2 miles at, I would freak out a little, so I am not going to!  Just like with the intimidating workouts and half race I’ve done during the past few months, I just need to get out there and do it.

During my taper, I always feel like I should probably live in a bubble in order to avoid any freak accidents or germs (suddenly, it feels like everyone I see is sick!).  I’ve decided I need to develop said bubble and sell it to other marathoners; I feel like there is really a big market for this out there.  “Get your very own taper bubble for 3 easy installments of $19.99!”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Do what you love & love what you do (#runlove for Valentines Day too!)!

Week of February 13-19, 2017

Mileage: 48.2 - sound the alarms, the marathon taper is truly here!  With a 2 x 2 mile tempo workout, a 20 x 400 m track workout, and two bootcamps.  No long run --- cue panic that I've forgotten how to run those!

Monday - Cross-training Monday usual, with strength bootcamp and elliptical warm-up.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel after my weekend with a Saturday track workout and Sunday long run, since that was atypical, but I felt great!

My love, who I met through running (happy Valentine's!)
Tuesday - 8.4 total, with 2 warm-up, 2 x 2 mile tempos with 0.5 mile recovery jog between, and 2 cool-down.  My tempo times were 12:03 (6:07, 5:56) and 11:49 (5:56, 5:53).  This workout was a huge confidence booster, because it wasn't that hard.  It came with instructions that it "shouldn't be all out, but hard enough that you get your legs rolling" and a pace range of 6:10-6:20.  I followed the first guideline; this felt like half marathon pace, and I was really trying to run by feel and by gauging my breathing.  I want to run hard efforts and races by effort and not by my watch as much as possible, because conditions like wind, temperature, and elevation influence pace on any given day (not to mention just differences in my body day to day!) -- I try to look only at my mile splits, or the splits at the end of whatever repeats I'm doing if they are shorter than a mile.  I expected that my legs would be tired from the weekend, so about a quarter mile in on the first tempo I violated this guideline and looked at my watch to see how I was getting out, and I was at 6:33 average pace.  At that point, I thought I was going to need to top of the pace range!  But I guess I just needed to warm up and loosen up, because from around there on, my hard but not all out pace was sub-6:00 (in retrospect, I did no strides or drills before this workout, oops!).  My first mile split of 6:07 came as a pleasant surprise after the slow start, and then I kept rolling from there.

I ran this workout on my usual tempo/speed loop that is almost 1 mile (Missy says it is exactly 0.86), and Ashley, Missy, and Danielle also ran workouts on the loop!  Danielle did the same workout that I did, and she really nailed it - her best tempo of the year by far.  Missy ran a 4 mile tempo straight (which I would have actually preferred over my split tempo!), and also nailed hers.  Ashley is in a base phase right now, so we did the warm-up with her.  I loved having all of them out there with me!  These girls are an amazing support system and I am so blessed to have them.  I saw a quote that said something like, "Behind every successful woman is a tribe of successful women who have her back," and I am so thankful for this tribe and I love seeing them succeed!

In the end, I was really pumped about this workout.  Conditions were perfect at 39 degrees and with no wind, and I think I'm so used to running in crazy wind as of late that this is just what it's like to run without it (the other girls said the same)!  This made me feel good about my upcoming marathon, but also really excited about my 10,000 m in April.  My half marathon PR indicates that I should be able to run just under 6:00 pace for a 10K, and after this workout I actually think perhaps I can!  I'm even excited to race some 5Ks, so I am clearly still on a runner's high and don't have the best judgement - bahaha!
2 wu, 2 x 2 tempo w/ 0.5 recovery, cd
Wednesday - 9.1 base pace (7:16), primarily with Danielle (Amy R. and Jeff also started with us).  Nothing really to note about this one, except an amazing normal run with amazing company!  I also did 15 minutes of core work.

Thursday - 6.5 base pace (7:09) with Amy R.  I felt amazing on this run!  I hoped that meant things were coming together nicely for me -- or maybe it just meant I was only running 6 miles!

Friday - 4.1 shake out (7:16), then my last strength bootcamp until March!

Saturday -  12 total, with the infamous one million x 400 m workout I also did before the Prairie Fire Marathon and before the Bass Pro Marathon.  Technically, it is 20 x 400, but what's the difference when you're running that many, right?

The 400s are run in 5 sets of 4 reps, with 200 m recoveries between reps and 400 m recoveries between sets.  Having the sets breaks it up and also helps me keep count!  Plus, 200 is a short recovery (about 1 minute), so the 400 recoveries give me a little extra breather.  Each set is supposed to get faster, this time with goal times of 1:29, 1:28, 1:27, 1:26, and 1:25 - nice negative splitting practice.  These aren't super fast per se, but the sheer volume of them makes this a big workout!  Plus, speed is not my forte; as I said with the Yassos, I think it would be easier for me to run 5 miles at 6:00 non-stop than to run this workout.

The first time I had this workout, I was terrified of it, and the second time I was frightened, but for this one I wasn't worried -- especially since my split goals were almost the same as last time (just 1 set that was 1 second faster) and I am currently in better shape -- also I was not at Urgent Care this week as I was the Wednesday before running this workout before Prairie Fire!  I figured this would help me fine-tune leg turnover for my marathon, but would also end up being helpful for my shorter races later in the spring.

My splits were all 1:2X, so I've just included the seconds:
Set 1 (goal 1:29) - 6.9, 8.1, 9.6, 8.2 - average 1:28.2
Set 2 (goal 1:28) - 7.1, 7.4, 6.9, 7.5 - average 1:27.2
Set 3 (goal 1:27) - 6.1, 6.8, 6.1, 4.4 - average 1:25.9
Set 4 (goal 1:26) -5.4, 4.7, 6.4, 5.3 - average 1:25.5
Set 5 (goal 1:25) - 5.0, 4.3, 4.6, 3.6 - average 1:24.4
Average for all 20 repeats:  1:26.2
This was the first time I computed my averages including the tenths of a second, but they are more accurate this way (and possibly I am becoming even more OCD about my running, which who even knew was possible, bahaha!) - I also did the calculation with only whole seconds, because in the past I never included tenths in the calculation, and it was 1:25.6 without tenths included, so it was a more conservative way to calculate it.  During the workout I wished I had someone out there timing me to possibly get even more accurate splits, as on a few of these I didn't hit the stop button the first time I tried to, so they may have a extra half a second on them or whatever (yep, I must be getting even crazier!).

I had 3 reps that were right on my target times, and the rest were 1-2 seconds under.  The best part about this workout, though, is that I finished feeling like I could run another set!  I had a moment after I finished where I thought I actually had another set left, but I scrolled through my splits to realize that my first thought that I was finished was the correct thought.  This was my first time running this workout solo, and while I would always prefer the company of my amazing training partners, I got it done without a problem.  When I was about halfway through the workout, a high school football team came out to practice, so there was that -- on my last two reps I even got to listen to their bad country music playing on the loudspeakers!  It was a beautiful morning for this run (sunny and in the 50s), and I ran in a sports bra (the one I'll wear for the marathon) after the first few reps of the workout.  My glutes were a tad sore from Friday's bootcamp (which is common), but they didn't bother me when running (also the norm).

Sunday - 8.1 recovery (7:32) with Amy R.  Another recovery run with pretty progression-run like splits without trying.  My glutes were still a tad sore from Friday's bootcamp; I often get a bit sore for one day after bootcamps, and I think the track workout prolonged it this time.  I did some extra rolling on them!

So that's a wrap until my marathon!  I fly out on Thursday evening, and the race starts at 6:30 a.m. Arizona time on Saturday morning.  Right now the weather looks ideal:  46* at the start and very light wind.  You can sign up to track me here.  It feels simultaneously like I've been working towards this for a long time, and like it came fast -- as they pretty much always do.  I'm feeling extremely thankful and blessed to have experienced a healthy and happy training cycle!

I'll end with a few pictures from our Saturday zoo trip in the beautiful February weekend we had (i.e., not typical Missouri winter weather!).  I'm also thankful for the weather this training cycle; I had a grand total of one run on the treadmill the whole winter, which is the least I've ever had (for safety reasons, e.g., ice on the roads) when running this much during a Midwest winter.

She was happier than this photo indicates!
Jon made her pose for this
My loves
Petting zoo

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Race Time Equivalents

The worldwide web boasts a handful of race time predictors.  The premise is simple: enter a recent race time, click on "calculate", and the predictor gives you a slew of equivalent performances at other distances.

Obviously, there are a lot of factors these calculators don't take into account, such as race courses, weather conditions, training peaks, training focuses, tapered vs. un-tapered performances, individual strengths for certain distances over others, etc.  To me it seems like they are typically more accurate for men when going down in distance (i.e., a male inputs his 10K time and it will pretty closely predict his 5K time), and for women when going up in distance (i.e., a female puts in her 10K time and it will pretty closely predict her half marathon time).  In general, I think they are more accurate one way or the other (going up or down in distance) for each person, but usually not both.

For me, they have always been more accurate going up.  I used to be able to put in my half marathon time, and the equivalent marathon time would be pretty close to, or just slightly slower than, what I'd end up running in the marathon.  For example, in 2010 I ran a 1:28 half and the calculator predicted a 3:04 full; I then ran a 3:03 full.  The predictor also said I could run a 19:15 5K with that half time, and at that time any day I saw 19:5X in the 5K was a good one!  As I've worked my half marathon time down in the past 1.5 years, I haven't run an equivalent marathon.  I've also had pretty ideal conditions and courses for a few halves, but have not had ideal conditions or run a great course for a marathon, so I'm hoping my marathon day is coming - if not in Phoenix, in the fall...if not in the fall, in spring 2018...(I am persistent if nothing else!).  The same goes for my official 10K PR, especially because I keep beating it in tempos and half marathons!

My favorite predictor is Jack Daniels' VDOT Running Calculator.  I obviously take its advice with a grain of salt, but at the same time I'm always excited to plug new PRs into it and see what it spits back at me!

When I put in my half marathon PR of 1:21:26 (run on 1/15/17), this is what I got back:

Initially I laughed, and said, "I don't have any of those other times in me!"  Looking a little closer, I decided I think I do have that 15K in me since I've done an 8 mile tempo solo at a 6:06 average.  I am still pretty skeptical about the rest, but my half PR also taught me that I need to stop being afraid to go for it.  When I ran that half, I basically went out with the goal of running 13.1 miles at 1 second per mile slower than my official 10K PR, which seems like something anyone with half a brain would be skeptical of.  I hadn't raced anything that indicated I could do it - but I knew I could do it, and I did (actually 1 second faster per mile than my 10K PR average pace in the end).  I think under ideal conditions and on good courses, I do have those times in me for the 10K through the marathon.  Now that 5K prediction - absolutely not, haha!  I'm just looking to break 18:25 there (this will most likely first, and possibly only, occur in the second 5K of a 10K).

This calculator also shows that my half PR is currently my strongest PR, which I kind of already knew, as all of these equivalents are faster than my PRs at other distances.  My current training has made me strongest for halves, which is kind of humorous since it's actually marathon-focused.  I think it comes down to the tempo work I've done helping my stamina and speed, the marathon-training long runs giving me strength to power through 13.1, and my mileage being most conducive to a strong half but not enough for my strongest marathon.

I recently read an article regarding training to break 3:00 in the marathon, and it recommended running 90 miles per week (mpw) and running every single day in order to do it.  I did not do anywhere near that before my sub-3:00s; I averaged in the mid-50s for mileage and alternated weeks of running 5 days with weeks of running 6 days a week...just this training cycle is the first my coach has had me run 6 days a week every week, and my Friday runs are a measly 3 miles, which I am not even sure counts (I really appreciate his conservative approach, though, and it's keeping me healthy).  Then I used this calculator, which gave me a marathon predicted time of  2:49:47 from my half time when I did not input mileage, but the prediction jumped to 2:57:28 when I put in an average of 60 mpw, which is about where I'm at this cycle (later note:  my average was actually 57).  Then I played with it and basically found out that I am supposed to average 90 mpw to be able to run a 2:49.  Oy! 

Anyway, we will see what I can do in regards to these marathon and 10K equivalents on February 25 and March 31, respectively.  Then I'll re-visit my hypotheses on these things.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

I don't like it; I love it

Week of February 6-12, 2017

Mileage:  57.6, with a tempo/fartlek combo workout, my first ever successful Yasso 800 track workout, a shorter long run, two bootcamps, and crazy Missouri weather.  It is a rarity for me to have three hard days in a week (my coach considers my long run a hard day even if it's easy paced), but I felt like I handled the rarity well.  This also combated taper madness, although I missed having a double and a longer long run!  Stay tuned for taper madness next week...

Enjoying Saturday's unseasonably warm weather at Top of the Rock
Monday - Cross-training Monday with 35 minutes elliptical warm-up and 55 minutes strength bootcamp.

Tuesday - 8.5 miles total with a combination tempo/fartlek workout that was called "Ice Cream Sandwich" on my training schedule.  It was 2 miles warm-up, 10 minutes tempo at half PR pace, 6 x 1 minute on/1 minute off, 10 minute tempo at half PR pace, cool-down to 8 miles.  I felt like I executed this workout well, and I think it was helpful to practice changing gears and also helpful training for efficiency with glycogen use.  My average for all 8.5 miles was 6:39, which really made me appreciate how far I've come since I began working with a coach.  In spring 2015 when I was making my own training plan, my big goal was to run a straight 8 mile tempo in the 6:30s.  When I accomplished that I thought it was one of the best workouts of my life, and that was pretty much my ceiling/the best I'd ever be; on this run I averaged in the 6:30s for over 8 miles when over half of the duration was easy running.  However, then I think about how I'm going to try to run a marathon in the 6:30s and the overall average pace doesn't seem that good any more, haha!  It's all relative, right?!

My average pace for the first 10 minute tempo was 6:08.  I was aiming for 6:10, even though technically my half PR pace is 6:13 (6:12.7 if we are getting really technical).  Just dreaming bigger about running 6:10 pace for my next half!  My 1 minute "ons" ranged from 5:30-5:54; the two in the 5:50s were up inclines, which is also shown by the recovery between them being at 6:29 pace, as that was going down a decline between (during the workout I was thinking I sure timed the placement of those wrong, but it was good for me, just not for my splits).  Then my second 10 minute tempo was at 6:02 pace.  I was aiming for 6:06ish so it would be faster than my first (and also so it would be at 1:19 half pace...still dreaming big here!), but I guess I should have just went ahead and tried for sub-6:00, because who wants 6:02?  Hindsight!  Overall I felt good and I was happy with this workout, especially considering I was coming off of my 24.4 miler on Saturday.  I screwed up the workout when I programmed it into my Garmin, so it was missing a 1 minute segment, and that's why split 15 below is 1:14...I felt like my recovery had been longer than a minute so looked at my watch and sure enough, it had started the 10 minute tempo portion, but I figure 14 seconds extra recovery probably didn't break the workout...the perfectionist in me didn't like that though!  That's also why my second 10 minute tempo was 10:06.

It was 63 degrees at 5:30 a.m. for this run - sports bra running weather in early February when we usually have snow storms!

Ice Cream Sandwich Splits
Wednesday - 9.3 base pace (7:16).  I did the first 3-4 miles with Amy R. and Jeff, and then we kind of all did our own things, but it is always nice to have others out there!  It was a nice negative split day, where easy pace was 7:30 at the beginning and 7:00 at the end (the elevation on the course we ran also promotes a negative split).  I also did 15 minutes of core work.  It was 40 degrees for this run at 5:30 a.m., which was also the warmest it was all day.

Thursday -  8 base pace (7:09), in theory, with Danielle and Missy.  This was a bit quick, because Missy's newest canine addition, Rolo, ran with us for the first time.  We learned that Rolo has one pace, and it's 7:08!  Pretty impressive because when Missy's family first adopted him in December, he could barely run one 9:30 mile.  He needs some practice in not pulling her, but on this run he dragged her and in effect all of us along.  The wind chill was 8 degrees for this one (around 18 degrees and 12 mph wind), probably the most typical Missouri February weather of the week.

Friday - 3.1 shake out (7:29), before 50 minutes of bootcamp.  It was around 30 degrees with a 22 degree wind chill for this one; again, pretty typical Missouri February weather.

Saturday -  12.1 total with Yasso 800s.  The goal was 10 x 800 m on the track in 2:55-2:56, with 2:55 jog recovery between (800 m = 2 laps on a standard track).  I wasn't particularly looking forward to this workout because it was a strugglefest last time I ran it (see Saturday here).

If you're not familiar with Yassos, essentially you're supposed to run ten 800 m repeats in minutes:seconds in what your goal marathon time is in hours:minutes - so if you want to run a 3 hour marathon, you run 3 minute 800 m repeats.  Many people, especially men, can run faster Yassos than they can run a marathon (e.g., they can average 2:55 for Yassos, but their marathon is 3:05).  I'm the opposite/oddity; mine are actually usually pretty close or a tad slower than my marathon time (e.g., I'd average 3:05 for Yassos and run a 3:03 marathon), although I still don't believe in them as a predictor for anyone since the physiological systems used for a speed workout vs. a marathon are so different.  Plus I know I cannot currently (and did not) run Yassos as fast as my Phoenix goal time, so I'm going to cling to my recent half time, my "Hardest Workout Ever", and my 24.4 miler with a fast finish being better predictors for me than Yassos!  However, even though I don't think they are a predictor, I do think they are a very solid and challenging workout.

And, I nailed my Yassos for the first time ever!  My splits were 2:54, 2:55, 2:54, 2:55, 2:55, 2:56, 2:55, 2:55, 2:55, 2:53 - which is an average of 2:54.7.  I was most excited that I finished strong, with my last rep being my fastest, and I actually felt like I could've done 2 additional reps at 2:55 had I needed to!  The other times I've done this workout, I've barely been able to cling on to 2 seconds above my pace range on the final 2 reps, and because of my past difficulties with this workout I was scared of failing at it this time, especially since my pace range was faster than last time.  It wasn't until I was finishing repeat #7 that I realized I was actually having a good workout and was feeling great (I was just so used to running crappy Yassos that I thought I was again running crappy Yassos); then I kind of turned a corner and finally felt like I could do it.  The whole run all together was at an average of 6:40 pace; refer to Tuesday's lamenting about overall average paces.  It was 55 degrees with 12 mph wind (lighter wind than expected, whew!), and right now it looks like it will probably be around 50 degrees at the start of my marathon, so it was perfect to run hard in the 50s!

Another first for me on Saturday happened when I was running my warm-up around the residential streets near the track.  A lady walking her dog told me "there's a dead body up there" while gesturing to police cars up the road by an apartment complex (side note:  I was on part of the Bass Pro Marathon course).  She looked a little crazy herself, and didn't specify whether it was natural causes or suspected foul play, but I went ahead and turned around and found another route!  I haven't yet seen anything on the news about it, which I'm taking as a good sign.

Sunday - 15.5 mile final "long run" (7:16).  Since my last five weeks of long runs have been 20, 18 (with a half race), 22, 20, and 24, I felt the need to put "long run" in quotes here.  Kind of crazy this was 9 miles shorter than last week's long run!  Amy R. had a 25K tempo at her marathon goal pace (7:20-7:27), and I offered to pace her.  We were right on throughout, and I ended up with 3 faster miles (7:0X) from 9-11 because I stopped to pee and she kept at it and I had to catch back up - she nailed those miles without me though.  I knew she had a negative split in her, so I dropped to 7:10ish for the final 2.5 miles, and she nailed that as well!  She ended up with a 7:18 average pace, and I was so proud of her for such a strong performance.  She is right on track for a 3:15 or better at Boston!  We had a powerful north wind on this one (20+ mph), but we ran out and back east and west only, so it wasn't too much of an issue; just a little chilly, but at 49 degrees it could have been much worse!

Final fun news for the week:  in honor of Valentine's Day, you can get 25% off your order of nuun though their website by using the code NUUNLOVE25!  nuun energy is my favorite pre- and during-run electrolyte drink, and I've sure been going through a lot of it lately!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Counting Blessings

This blog post by Sara Hall is one of the best posts I've ever read.  I’ve started a "running and faith" post myself multiple times, but it’s never even close to up to par with what she wrote, so just go read hers and know that I feel similarly but am far less eloquent and insightful!

As a Christian, faith is intertwined in everything I do on earth, including running.  I can tie faith to running in so many ways.  Some big ones:
  • We are all given talents and passions, and we are called to use those for God.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly how to do that with running, but I often think about all of the people I come in contact with through running.  I hope they see the joy that running brings me, and also the joy and fulfillment that having Jesus in my heart brings me.  I also hope I am able to help others, whether through helping with a training plan, as a pacer in a race, as a training partner, as an example that over-coming injuries is possible, as a OMRR board member, etc. (plus let's face it, runners in general are just amazing people, and having more and more of them in my life is wonderful!).
  • I find that running alone is a great time to pray and to listen to Christian music.  I typically feel closer to God during and after running.  
  • Running is enjoyable!  Sometimes I think of the things that bring us joy as “Jesus in disguise.”  He wants us to be happy.  He delights in the details of our lives – and that includes training and racing! 
  • Running makes me a better Christian.  Running can feel like a selfish endeavor, but it really does overflow into other areas of my life and makes me a better wife, mom, employee, etc.  I think any runner can relate to this; that time spent training makes us better at our time spent doing everything else.
  • Even running is part of His greater plan, and will go according to His plan - even though I don’t understand exactly how.  Learning to trust this has been big for me, although it’s particularly hard to understand when training and racing go poorly, when injuries happen, etc.  I remind myself that when my plans don't work out, it's because God has better ones, and I wholeheartedly believe that (even though I am still a crazy planner!). 
  • I never feel like I'm doing enough, but with Jesus we are enough.  His grace is enough! 
I try to live by:  “Count your blessings, not your complaints!”  I’ve truly found that the more I do this, the better everything isBad things happen to all of us every day, and much of life can be mundane, but I try to look at the blessing on the flip side (e.g., if I think, "Ugh, I hate cleaning", I flip it around and think, "I'm thankful that I own a house to need cleaning, and am so blessed to have a family that makes the home 'lived in'").  I'm not sure why it's easier to moan and grumble about the bad things than to focus on the good ones, but I recognize this is my career in ABA as well.  Being a behavior analyst in addition to being a Christian goes a long way in shifting my focus to the positives!

It’s amazing how many blessings we are given every single day that we don’t even think twice about.  Just to be able to get out of bed in the morning, to be able to walk across the room, to drive safely across town, to be generally healthy, to be around loved ones, to have jobs, to have hobbies and free time; the list is endless!  Every mile is certainly a blessing, and in relation to this marathon training cycle, there are some HUGE ones:
  1. God has given me so many wonderful women to train with.  I love running, and I can’t even express how much I love doing it with these girls!  They are all so supportive and I value their friendships more than any PR.  I am so thankful for my running friends and the opportunity to spend time training and socializing with them.
  2. I am injury-free, and based on my history this truly is a small miracle.  I need to think of this before I complain about anything related to any run...because I am running!
  3. I am currently healthy.  I had a bout with bronchitis a few weeks ago, and that was certainly a reminder that I need to be uber-thankful for my health.  In early 2016 I had an episode of bronchitis/walking pneumonia/wheezing/who knows that lasted weeks.  I was so worried the bronchitis I had recently would turn into that, and I am so thankful that it didn’t.  I need to think about this before I complain about a missed workout due to bronchitis, or about being tired or having the sniffles.
  4. God has blessed me with a wonderful and supportive family.  I am so thankful for my husband and daughter, as well as my parents and extended family.  Everyone is supportive of my training, and I know that not all runners have that in their families, so I am very appreciative.  I need to think about this before I complain about lack of time to "do it all".
  5. The winter has been quite mild in Missouri!  I haven’t had to take my training inside except for one 6 mile recovery run on the treadmill.  That is really pretty amazing; there are typically at least a handful of days each winter where road conditions aren’t safe or morning low temperatures are far below zero.  I need to remember this before I complain about the weather any day!
  6. I have the ability mentally and physically to push and challenge myself.  Who am I to fret over a mile split here and there?  
To end with, this blog post has 26.2 (actually 27) bible verses for running and racing, and I also highly recommend it.