Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Rocktober: October in review!

October 2017 in review!

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

She got a free headlamp at the hardware store

Halloween #2 - again in her coat

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What I'm craving this month

I decided to do "What I'm craving this week" photos.  Because who doesn't have marathon training cravings, who doesn't like food photos, and who doesn't like creeping on what other people eat??!

October 1-7:
-Pineapple, and a huge bag of frozen is the best!  I eat this by itself (thawed a bit but not completely), and also put it in smoothies.
-Smoothies made with birthday cake protein powder, various types of frozen fruit, and almond milk (optional add ins:  ground flax seed, chia seeds, peanut butter, spinach, avocado).
-Habanero BBQ flavored almonds - I love almonds in general, but this flavor has been my recent favorite.  My husband loves them too so we had to start buying his and hers containers!
-Peanut butter, which is good on nearly everything (this is my most consistent craving, but I will only note it once to avoid redundancy).

October 8-14:
-Clif Bars, which I love but am too cheap to buy (I picked some up from the Panther Run post-race celebration).
-Spaghetti squash, after we bought many on sale for $1 each (they were huge ones too!) - if you're not shopping Aldi's produce sales then you really must start!  In the photo below it's topped with garlic salt, basil, and nutritional yeast.

October 15-21:
-Baked sweet potatoes with pumpkin pie spice smushed in.  I'm a huge fan of baked sweet potatoes, and I typically add cinnamon to them, but just discovered this combination.  Go try it!
-Pumpkin smoothies, which were another use for my pumpkin pie spice.  I blend almond milk, chopped frozen banana chunks, vanilla or chai protein power, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice.

October 22-28:
-Oatmeal, because I love a good warm bowl in cooler weather!  I do several add-in combinations; pictured is cinnamon, raisins, and ground flax seed.  I also like walnuts, apples, blueberries, chia seeds, and of course peanut butter.
-This indulgent cookie sandwich, because I don't want junk very often, but when I do it's of the high-quality bakery variety (no Little Debbie's here!).  I am not one of those people who can eat a bowl of ice cream every night, and most of the time I crave healthy food, but once in awhile I have something of this nature.  When I eat something like this in isolation I don't notice it too much, but if I string together multiple crappy food choices (such as on a holiday), I start feeling lethargic in my training and daily life.
-Roasted butternut squash with garlic salt.  I was in my 30s when I first had butternut squash, and it's a tragedy I missed out on it for all those years!  This was another $1 a piece for huge squash Aldi produce sale (seriously, shop at Aldi or price match their ad if your grocery store does price matching!).

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Well, that was a let-down: Kansas City Half Marathon

The Short:
The biggest lesson I learned from this one is that achieving your goal becomes a let-down if you first think you've exceeded that goal.  I ran this race as a progressive split tempo workout, and expected to finish in 1:23:40 if I executed the workout as written (yes, I did the exact math).  The weather was craptastic (68* and 25 mpw wind), the course is hilly (around 750 ft gain), and my Garmin freaked out, but I ran the workout the best I could under the conditions I had, and I finished the race in 1:21:36.  I later learned that the female lead cyclist guided me though a wrong turn that cut 0.28 off the course, meaning that I should have run a 1:23:16 (I did the exact math on this too).  Oh, and despite having that female lead cyclist with me from mile 2 through the end, and having her and multiple spectators tell me that I was winning the race, I actually placed 2nd overall female.  I would have been thrilled with hitting the challenging workout on the challenging course, and perfectly happy with 2nd overall when running it as a workout had I not thought I ran a 1:21 and won for hours (and posted it on social media).  Oy!
The smile of someone who *thought* she was about to win, hah
The Long:
I love the Kansas City Half Marathon and have run it 7 times now:  2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 (I ran the full marathon with the event in 2005, 2007, and 2011).  In what was perhaps the luckiest win of my life, I won a free entry for life into the race in a 2011 photo contest, so I will obviously keep running it every year!  I highly recommend the event and would run it most years even without the free entry too -- even after what happened this time, though it's going to take me a bit to get over it.

2017 was a year that this event didn't work as a goal race for me.  It's a challenging hilly course, but I've PRed on it twice in the past (with a 1:24 in 2015 and a 1:28:36 in 2010), and wouldn't be against trying that again, but the timing for that wasn't right this year. With the way the weather panned out I am so glad I did not make it a goal race.  When I sent my coach my list of races for this season, I noted "can be done as a workout" by several of them, including this one.  I expected to perhaps run this unrested at marathon goal pace, but I didn't exactly expect the workout I got, which was a split tempo workout of 4, 3, 2, 1 miles with 0.5 mile recoveries (and the last 1.1 with "all you've got left").  Essentially this meant the race was supposed to be 10 miles at tempo, 2 miles at recovery, and 1.1 of hammering.  The tempo goal paces were challenging (6:15-6:20 for the 4 mile, 6:10-6:15 for the 3, 6:05-6:10 for the 2, sub-6:00 for the 1), and I knew if I hit them I would end up with a pretty solid half time.  I had some pretty big concerns about being able to hit them in the wind and on the Kansas City course though!  I was still glad I was running the workout during the race, because I didn't exactly have any training partners jumping up and down to run this one with me, and I was also able to combine it with my once a month-ish work trip to Kansas City.
Getting ready to roll to the race solo
I treated the race like a workout day, but it's also hard not to get extra pumped in a race environment.  I tried to time my warm-up jog to go straight into the race, and ended up with 2.5 miles total plus some drills and strides.  Then we were off!  The 10K, half, and full marathon all started together, it's a huge race, and it's still mostly dark at the 7:05 a.m. start, so I saw a handful of women out ahead of me but I didn't know which event most of them were in, and then it was difficult to track as the masses spread out.  I was fully invested to sticking to my pace plan, but I also knew that 1:29 won the half in 2016 (the first year the race stopping giving prize money), so I thought I'd have a chance at a top spot.

I hit mile 1 in exactly 6:20, right where I wanted to be.  During mile 2, I looked at my Garmin to check my pace and it was reading 4:33 average pace for that mile, which I was definitely not running.  Just before the 2 mile mark the 10K course split off from the half and full, and a cyclist started riding just behind me.  I checked my Garmin again and it read 8-something pace, which I was also definitely not running.  I ended up using the course miles for mile splits 2, 3, and 4, because my Garmin was being funky.  I knew I was right around my range of 6:15-6:20 for those miles, because math was work-able off the course markers at this point.

I had my workout programmed into my watch, but since my watch was screwing up pace and distance, it made my half mile recoveries not fall when they should on my watch, and I started getting stressed out about not having my workout splits.  I thought about starting to manually lap by the course miles and just using my watch distance for the half mile recoveries, but since I was running the pre-programmed workout I thought I'd really screw it up by starting to manually lap, advancing it and making it end early, so I ended up just doing the best I could with doing the math on the course markers when I could (which is not easy when running hard!).  Because of all of this the splits my Garmin took were often a mix of hard running and recovery running (and also not even correct -- I think my Strava data were close to accurate but were also a mix of hard running and recoveries).  I don't have my actual workout splits at all, aside from knowing my first 4 miles were right on.

When I was on my first recovery, I asked the cyclist with me if she was for me, and she told me she was the lead female half cyclist.  I then got excited that I was leading, but worried that someone was going to pass me on my recovery jog.  But I stuck with the workout plan and did the recovery jogs!  The factors that really helped me stick to this was that I knew it wouldn't be a good day to race fast due to the temperature and wind speed, and no one (men or women) passed me on my recoveries, but since CIM is the big goal I think I'd have stuck to the workout regardless.

The miles went by pretty quickly, I think partially because I was focused on each segment of my workout and not 13.1 as a whole -- and probably also because I panicking about screwing up the workout due to my watch issues and trying to do math on my splits.  Several people on the course told me "first female", which spurred me along, and the cyclist complimented me several times, which was quite helpful.  I was also very ready to get out of the crazy wind, so anytime we were running into it I was pushing to get to the next turn for some relief.
The face of someone trying to do mental math on splits
 In the final 2.5 miles or so, the half course met back up with the 10K course, and then I was pushing to get to the finish and out of the 10K masses!  For the final quarter mile or so, the road was divided with the half finishing to the left and the 10K finishing to the right, so that was helpful.  The announcer said my name as I was coming in, and I kind of expected a finishing tape and a "first overall female" announcement, but there was none of that.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see a 1:21 finishing time; when I was a bit farther away I thought the clock was on 1:24 instead of 1:21!
Happy finishing stretch shot, with 10Kers on the left

I specialize in ruining finishing photos by stopping my watch

Forced smile for this one
My friend Michelle, who ran an awesome 10K, was at the finish waiting for me, as we had planned to meet there and cool down together (she had a 10 mile cool down and had already started it).  She told me that she got to break the finishing tape, although she actually placed 2nd (perhaps they thought the winner was in the 5K), and I commented that I didn't get the tape for winning either.  She told me that I was 2nd, with 1st female coming in at 1:18.  I then explained that I'd had the lead cyclist for the whole race!  I feel bad for the 1st girl, but I guess the cyclist missed her coming by.  It just pretty much sucked to think that I was leading for 11 miles only to find out that, nope, I did not win.
Michelle made it in my picture here!
Later, another friend who lives in Kansas City and who had been out on the race course told me that she saw me and many other runners make a wrong turn that cut some distance off the course.  From her description, the course map, and my Strava map, I was easily able to figure out where the error was made.  I used MapMyRun to determine how much we cut off the course, and we were 0.28 short or about 1:40.  I was extremely disappointed because the lead cyclist took me this route, several men around me also ran this way, and it meant that my 1:21:36 was incorrect.  I should have run about 1:23:16.
What I ran

What I should have run
Now, I would have been perfectly happy with hitting my workout and running a 1:23 as calculated, and with placing 2nd overall if I hadn't thought I'd run a 1:21 and won!  I felt like I got short-changed, because I would have been pleased with the actual outcome (especially considering the stupid wind), but with how it all played out I ended up unhappy with reality.  If I'd have known I was in 2nd (or at least just not thought I was winning) the whole race, I'd have felt fine about it.  I was coming in the final mile thinking, "I'm going to win the KC half!" and crossed the finish line thinking that, only to learn that, nope, I did not!  The race results initially had a bunch of 10K runners mixed in with the half, so for awhile I was listed as 11th, which I knew was wrong but I was wondering if there were others in front of me I didn't know about too.  I was also upset about not having my workout splits to know if I executed the workout well.  From my overall time, I know I had to have been close, but I also doubt I did the splits just like I was supposed to, especially not having the feedback.  I'd like to compare this to the similar workouts I've done before others marathons.  And the 1:23 that pre-race I thought would mean a super solid workout now feels sub-par since I thought "Wow, I had a really good day to run 1:21 in a workout on this crazy course in this crazy wind; maybe I can actually run a 2:45."  Nope!!!

For a couple of days I was also worried about posting anything publicly about this and made my activity view-able by only me on Strava, because I was worried I would get disqualified (I've since changed it back).  The cyclist provided by the race took me the wrong way, so I don't think I should be penalized, but if I'm out a plaque after writing this then so be it.  It did not affect my placing, as the third female ran a 1:29, and I was among many runners who made the same error.

Perhaps this is my race karma for running about the same distance too far in the Bass Pro Marathon last year. The universe owed me that 0.28 in my forever race results, hahaha!

The run really tired me out; I suspect it was a combination of running this during a 71 mile week, the wind, and the elevation, but I was much more tired in the 2 days after than I was after the Indy Half.  I'm thankful for another solid week in the books, and I'm thankful for this run (give me a few weeks and I will be more thankful).  I will definitely wear a pace band at CIM, which is helpful for many reasons but also really nice in the case of Garmin error.

This is not an easy course
Official results can be found here.

A fun article on the race, particularly the women's full marathon winner, can be found here (I'm listed at the end).
Well, the placing is correct
A few things Jon and Albani did while I was away for work in KC plus this race (I was jealous and sad I missed them):
Halloween cupcakes (I was there for the pumpkin decorating the week before)
A survival shelter
She's been watching some survival TV programs!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CIM Training Journal #5: Plan B

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

October 10, 2017
Here is my official announcement that I am registered for the Chevron Houston Marathon on 1/14/18.  Surprise!  I've had success running two marathons off of one training cycle every time I've tried it, so why not?  I qualified for their Athlete Development Program (basically sub-elite), barely, with a cut-off of 2:50.  The half cut-off time is 1:25, though, which I don't exactly understand, but regardless I applied for a marathon entry and I'm in!  I am currently trying to talk some of the girls I train with into running it as well, so we can make a girls' weekend out of it.

My exact path for Houston won't be decided until after CIM, but it will be one of these:
  • If I don't get a 2:45:00 at CIM but feel it's within the realm of possibility off of this cycle, and Houston weather is conducive to a fast race, I will try again at Houston.
  • If I get the standard at CIM and come away feeling good OR if I don't get the standard and don't think it's within the realm of possibility off of this cycle, I will drop to the half and go for a sub-80 at Houston.
  • If I come away from CIM simply not feeling up for it or the Houston weather is atrocious, I'll skip Houston altogether. Historically I have handled marathons well so I don't anticipate not feeling up for it to be the case (race day weather is always a crapshoot though).  I could also skip it if I think it's in my better long-term interest not to run it (for example, if after CIM I pick a spring marathon to build to and do a 4 week lay off before rebuilding).
I like knowing I have a Plan B/back-up race option.  So much goes into a marathon cycle, and it's not always possible to have everything come together on race day because so many variables are out of your control (weather being the biggest, but also flight issues, getting sick, just having an off day, etc.).  In the past I've been able to rally and have a stronger second marathon for one reason or another, so why not have this in my back pocket?  It also makes me feel more relaxed about CIM and more comfortable going out conservatively there, both of which are very helpful things.  So -- Houston, hopefully we do not have a problem!

October 12, 2017
I was so inspired by watching and tracking the Chicago Marathon!  21 women there hit the OTQ standard, including 2 who I know!  I was so excited for them and so happy that their hard work paid off (they both paced brilliantly, too).  It also made me so excited to run a marathon, and I started wishing I'd have chosen Chicago instead of CIM so that I could have been out there too and didn't have to wait 8 more weeks (on the other hand, less than 8 weeks, ahh!).

Then (ironically during my highest mileage week yet), I started worrying that I'm not running nearly enough mileage.  Those women killing it in Chicago put in 100-120 mile weeks.  My current mileage is big for me, and I think I'll end up with 7 weeks in the 70s during this build, probably averaging 66-68 mpw for the 12 weeks leading up to the race (comparatively, during my Mesa-Phoenix build I averaged 57.5 mpw in the 12 weeks before).  Prior to those 12 weeks leading up to the race, I had 10 consecutive weeks in the 60s, which I have never done before.  So all good for me -- but such a far cry from triple digits!  I'm trying not to let comparison steal my joy, because I am really happy with my increase in mileage and with how great I've felt and healthy I've been with it, but I'm also worried it's not enough.
Isn't that the mentality of a distance runner though; always wanting more and always wanting to add more to get there?!  I know that I couldn't run 100+ mpw currently (or possibly ever) and stay injury-free, and obviously an essential component to running a PR marathon is making it to the starting line healthy.  Putting things in perspective, I know this training cycle is a helpful step regardless of how I race at CIM.  This marathon build will help my future marathon builds, and I will be able to gradually and intelligently increase my mileage over time if I need to (with my coach's help -- I need him to save me from myself!).  I'd say there is a greater chance that I won't run 2:45:00 at CIM than that I will; however, this cycle helps my pursuit of that big goal either way.  I figure that it's far better to not run a 2:45 off of 65-75 mpw than to not run it off of 100 mpw, because I have room to go up from where I'm at now if I need to.

Also, I trust that what God has in store me is better than what I could dream up for myself, and that brings me great comfort with this goal and everything else in my life!

October 13, 2017
In a recent conversation I had about multiple races coming into the same finish line, the Dallas Marathon came up, because they did an excellent job with dividing the road so that full and half runners had separate sides when the courses merged for the final several miles of the race.  I commented, with slight exaggeration, that I probably would have quit in the last 3 miles of that marathon if I'd had to fight through the seas of half runners that I saw on the other side of the road, because I was on the struggle bus.

My friend commented that she couldn't imagine me struggling during a race.  I then realized that I think the same thing about professional runners and strong runners ahead of me:  that they aren't struggling and that it's easy for them.  Many make it look effortless!  But the truth is that everyone competing at 100% struggles at the end of a race; in fact if you're not struggling to maintain/pick up pace towards the end then you're not at race effort!  Now, the end of a race struggle is a different feeling when you're in shape vs. out of shape, you paced well vs. went out too fast, etc. (I've been on both sides of both of these!), but it's always a push.  I think it's nice to know that it's hard for everyone at the end.  In my good races it's a "hurts so good" type of thing, but I certainly hurt at the end of all of them!  I think that makes us all normal!  If it's truly effortless, you're running too slow, right?!

Thinking about Dallas also made me contemplate that if I aim for a 2:44:50 at CIM and end up struggling to maintain at the end, if I lose 2:00-3:00 (at Dallas I lost about 2:20 in the final 3 miles but was spot on until then), I would run a 2:46:50-2:47:50, which would be a nice PR and time I would be very proud of.  It would just be a much more painful way to run a 2:47 than via a negative split!  If 2:47 is what I'm going to run, I'd much rather do it via 1:24/1:23 halves than the other way around!  It's hard to know exactly how to target your exact maximum marathon pace.  Regardless, I'm looking forward to that end of the race struggle; few painful things are so very rewarding.  I am ready to push to my max and to embrace the temporary pain that will accompany every all-out marathon.

October 14, 2017
Today I am another long run closer to my goal!  A solid 21.4 miler (6:52 average pace) in the books this morning, solo aside from a 3-4 mile rendezvous with Missy and Rebecca.  I only have 2 more monster long runs standing between me and CIM, a 22 miler and a 24 miler!  I will also have two workout long runs (both 18 miles total I think) and two shorter long runs (during my taper 2 weeks and 1 week before the race).  It's crazy how base long runs at 6:5X have become my new "normal" this training cycle.  I am thankful.  The first time I had a 17 miler come in sub-7:00 I was worried I'd never match that, but now I feel comfortable that I'm in that zone.

Although it didn't work out for me to run much of the 21 miler with anyone, the majority of my runs are with company, which I am extremely grateful for (this week I even had a second run with Amy P. - my first ever company when running from work at lunch!).  God has brought so many amazing people into my life through running!  Running friends quickly become close relationships that are somehow different from other friendships; it's something about covering miles and miles next to someone and chatting away while never actually looking at one another.  No backdrop of a restaurant, bar, event, etc. is ever needed -- just a headlamp and farm roads most days!

October 15, 2017
Wrapping up my biggest week yet at 77.1 miles!  It was pretty much a pure volume week; I ran over 77 miles yet only 5 minutes of it was hard running (5 x 1:00 pick-ups within my long run)...funny.  Workouts are back next week, and one of them is a bear!  Today's recovery 7 miles turned 7.4 (because I thought I needed the 0.4 to hit 77 -- I could have stopped at 7.3) reminded me why I used to take the day after super long runs off; my legs were tired!  I was also thinking that if I had 10 miles today I'd have an 80 mile week, so now I almost know what one of those feels like and of course was tempted to run 10.

It's funny how what used to be huge becomes the new normal, and for me right now that is mileage in the 60s and 70s.  A year ago I would have never believed that I could run this kind of mileage without getting injured.  I work on doing the extras (foam rolling and stretching, proper nutrition and always eating soon after running, strength training, keeping my easy days easy, compression socks), and my coach structures my training far better than I ever did on my own (for both performance and staying healthy).  I truly thank God for every day I run healthy, because there was a time I questioned if I ever consistently would again.  If you are struggling with injuries please don't ever lose hope.  Anytime I am unhappy with my performance, I need to remember how fortunate I am to be able to train and race, period.  There's few things an injured runner hates more than healthy people whining about a few seconds in a race or workout.

October 18, 2017
We officially booked our flight and hotel for CIM!  Only 6 weeks and 5 days left on the countdown!  My husband and parents are joining me on the trip, which is really exciting and also comforting to know that even if I bomb the race I will have a nice trip with my family.  I hope I do not disappoint them, as this has not been the most minor financial investment for any of us...  My sweet mother-in-law will be staying with Albani while we are gone since she has school.  Suggestions on things to do in the Sacramento area aside from the marathon?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lazy Healthy Meal Prep

I'm a lazy cook who aims to eat very healthy to best fuel my running.  With a bit of meal prep on Sundays after our weekly trip to the grocery store, I put meals together for the week without much effort.  After waking up between 4:45-5:00 a.m., working 8-10 hours, sometimes running a second run in the evenings, Mom duties, and maintaining a home, I don't have much time or energy to deal with cooking on week days.

On Sundays, I:
  • Make a meal in the crock pot that I then divide up into containers for my lunches each day
  • Cook a big batch of a healthy grain (quinoa, red quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cous cous)
  • Roast a ton of veggies (whatever is on sale and whatever is ripe in our garden)
  • Cook salmon, tilapia, and/or chicken
  • Hard boil a dozen eggs
  • Often also make protein bars or granola bars, make trail mix, and cut up raw fruits and veggies
  • Ensure I have the following on hand:  fresh and frozen fruit, fresh and frozen veggies, yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, several varieties of nuts, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, protein powder, tuna, almond milk, potatoes and sweet potatoes, oatmeal, pretzels, popcorn, tea, coffee
During the week, I nearly always end up cooking more veggies and fish/chicken, but those are as simple as throwing them on a baking dish with seasonings and olive oil, so only take a moment (the key is remembering to put them in 45 minutes before you want to eat...do not wait until finishing that 4 mile shake-out run!).

Here is an example of how a few items can combine for different dinners each evening.  My healthy grain for this week was a huge pot of whole wheat spaghetti (3 standard packages).  My child complains about whole wheat spaghetti but she will eat it!

Night 1:  Whole wheat spaghetti topped with marinara (also homemade and homegrown, but not by me), roasted eggplant, roasted tomatoes, olives, and Italian seasoning

Night 2:  Whole wheat spaghetti with roasted tomatoes, steam-in-the bag asparagus, light olive oil/lemon sauce, and Italian seasonings
Night 3:  Whole wheat spaghetti with roasted tomatoes, olives, steam-in-bag asparagus, and cottage cheese
Night 4:  Whole wheat spaghetti with roasted zucchini squash and yellow squash, garlic, and lemon/garlic roasted salmon
Night 5:  Plain whole wheat spaghetti...the option when you're super exhausted after a 4:45 a.m. alarm, a day in Joplin for work, and a second run.  After eating part of this I found the energy to add some Parmesan.

Meal examples with baked salmon and roasted asparagus (just add a potato!):

I was going to use the title "What I ate for lunch every day for a week" and then include this picture 5 times, but I thought that be annoying.  Usually, I eat the same thing for lunch at work five days in a row.  I make different recipes each week, but during the week it makes it pretty brainless to just take a container full of it each day.  The pictured dish is a pumpkin curry prepared in the slow cooker - white beans, veggies, pumpkin puree, coconut milk, cumin, curry powder (I also put plain gelatin in every slow cooker meal I make to promote tendon strength; it is tasteless).  This curry can be served over rice, quinoa, or cous cous, or by itself.
I am pretty organized/routine about food-prep, so it usually goes off without a hitch and doesn't take very long at all.  The only time I struggle is if we are out of town all weekend!  Even then, omelets, baked potatoes with cottage cheese, tuna sandwiches, canned beans/soups, etc. are always super easy.  Peanut butter banana sandwiches are also always winners!